Photo

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

June 19, 2019

By Toby Sterling and Anthony Deutsch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSSIAN MISSILE

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

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

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

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

Moscow has said it does not trust the investigation.

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

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

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

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

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

Source: OANN

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

June 19, 2019

By Philip Blenkinsop and Belén Carreño

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEBER’S LAST DANCE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

June 19, 2019

By Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures pointed to a flat opening for Wall Street’s main indexes on Wednesday, as investors refrained from taking positions ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy statement that is expected to open the door to future interest rate cuts.

Bets of a rate cut have helped markets climb in June, with the S&P 500 index gaining 6% so far and about 1% away from its all-time high hit in early May.

The Fed’s statement and new economic projections are to be released at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT), giving investors an idea on how a prolonged U.S.-China trade conflict, President Donald Trump’s demands for a rate cut and softer-than-expected economic data have impacted monetary policy thinking.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. ET (1830 GMT).

“Expectations remain elevated over a rate cut in July and investors will be closely scrutinizing the statement for confirmation of a cut next month,” said Lukman Otunuga, a research analyst at ForexTime Limited in London.

“Should the Fed sound less dovish than expected or completely omit any hints about taking action next month, it could send equity markets sliding.”

Global financial markets have been fired up by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s Tuesday volte-face on policy easing and as investors bet on a worldwide wave of central bank stimulus.

At 8:27 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 17 points, or 0.06%. S&P 500 e-minis were up 0.5 points, or 0.02% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 8.75 points, or 0.11%.

Sentiment was also buoyed by hopes of progress on U.S.-China trade dispute, with Beijing hinting that positive outcomes were possible in negotiations with Washington, after the world’s two largest economies agreed to revive their troubled talks at a G20 meeting this month.

Trade-sensitive industrial giants Boeing Co and Caterpillar Inc rose in premarket trading, while semiconductor companies, which source and supply products to China, also moved higher.

Boeing shares inched up 0.5% as the planemaker secured orders from Taiwan’s China Airlines and Qatar Airways at the Paris Airshow, a day after IAG placed a lifeline order for the grounded 737 MAX jet.

Among other stocks, Adobe Inc jumped 4% after the Photoshop software provider beat analysts’ estimates for quarterly profit and revenue.

TripAdvisor Inc gained 3.4% after SunTrust Robinson upgraded the company’s stock to “buy.”

(Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

June 19, 2019

By Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures pointed to a flat opening for Wall Street’s main indexes on Wednesday, as investors refrained from taking positions ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy statement that is expected to open the door to future interest rate cuts.

Bets of a rate cut have helped markets climb in June, with the S&P 500 index gaining 6% so far and about 1% away from its all-time high hit in early May.

The Fed’s statement and new economic projections are to be released at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT), giving investors an idea on how a prolonged U.S.-China trade conflict, President Donald Trump’s demands for a rate cut and softer-than-expected economic data have impacted monetary policy thinking.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. ET (1830 GMT).

“Expectations remain elevated over a rate cut in July and investors will be closely scrutinizing the statement for confirmation of a cut next month,” said Lukman Otunuga, a research analyst at ForexTime Limited in London.

“Should the Fed sound less dovish than expected or completely omit any hints about taking action next month, it could send equity markets sliding.”

Global financial markets have been fired up by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s Tuesday volte-face on policy easing and as investors bet on a worldwide wave of central bank stimulus.

At 8:27 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 17 points, or 0.06%. S&P 500 e-minis were up 0.5 points, or 0.02% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 8.75 points, or 0.11%.

Sentiment was also buoyed by hopes of progress on U.S.-China trade dispute, with Beijing hinting that positive outcomes were possible in negotiations with Washington, after the world’s two largest economies agreed to revive their troubled talks at a G20 meeting this month.

Trade-sensitive industrial giants Boeing Co and Caterpillar Inc rose in premarket trading, while semiconductor companies, which source and supply products to China, also moved higher.

Boeing shares inched up 0.5% as the planemaker secured orders from Taiwan’s China Airlines and Qatar Airways at the Paris Airshow, a day after IAG placed a lifeline order for the grounded 737 MAX jet.

Among other stocks, Adobe Inc jumped 4% after the Photoshop software provider beat analysts’ estimates for quarterly profit and revenue.

TripAdvisor Inc gained 3.4% after SunTrust Robinson upgraded the company’s stock to “buy.”

(Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Homes are seen for sale in the southwest area of Portland
FILE PHOTO: Homes are seen for sale in the southwest area of Portland, Oregon March 20, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola/File Photo

June 19, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. mortgage applications declined last week from about a 33-month peak as most home borrowing costs moved up from their lowest levels since September 2017, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Wednesday.

The Washington-based group’s seasonally adjusted index on loan requests, both to buy a home and to refinance one, fell to 511.8 in the week ended June 14. It fell 3.4% from the prior week’s 529.8, which was the highest reading since September 2016.

Interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate “conforming” mortgages, or loans whose balances are $484,350 or less, averaged 4.14% last week. They were up 2 basis points from prior week’s 4.12%, the lowest level since September 2017.

Other 30-year mortgage rates MBA tracks were unchanged to 3 basis points higher from the week before.

Meanwhile, 15-year mortgage rates averaged 3 basis points lower at 3.50%, while the average borrowing costs on five-year adjustable home loans rose 2 basis points to 3.45%.

Mortgage rates generally increased in line with higher bond yields last week as traders pared their safe-haven bond holdings after U.S. President Donald Trump called off threatened tariffs on Mexico and encouraging data on retail sales and industrial output.

MBA’s seasonally adjusted gauge on refinancing applications fell 3.5% to 1,888.8 from prior week’s 1,956.5, which was the highest since November 2016.

The refinance share of mortgage activity grew to 50.2% of total applications from 49.8% the week before.

“Borrowers were sensitive to rising rates, but the refinance share of applications was still at its highest level since January 2018, and refinance activity was at its second highest level this year,” Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said in a statement.

The group’s barometer on loan applications for home purchases, which is seen as proxy on future housing activity, slipped 3.5% to 268.6. The latest figure was up almost 4% from a year ago.

“Strong demand from first-time buyers and low unemployment continue to push this year’s purchase activity above a year ago,” Kan said.

(Graphic: U.S. mortgage applications interactive – https://tmsnrt.rs/2RnEpRD)

(Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. investor and founder of the Baring Vostok private equity group Michael Calvey leaves a court after a hearing in Moscow, Russia
FILE PHOTO: U.S. investor and founder of the Baring Vostok private equity group Michael Calvey leaves court after a hearing in Moscow, Russia. April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

June 19, 2019

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian private equity fund Baring Vostok said on Wednesday it has ceded a 9.99% stake in Vostochny Bank to the lender’s other big shareholder following a legal battle, meaning it is no longer the majority shareholder.

Baring Vostok, whose U.S. founder is under house arrest in Russia on embezzlement charges, has been locked in a legal battle with businessman Artem Avetisyan’s Finvision over control of the bank. The case is being closely watched by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A court in Russia’s Far East ruled last week that Baring Vostok must relinquish a 9.99% stake to Finvision after Avetisyan went to court, claiming Finvision had an agreement with Baring Vostok that it could exercise an option to increase its stake by 10%.

The fund’s share in Vostochny Bank has now fallen to 41.6%, while Finvision’s share has risen to 42%, according to Reuters calculations.

A spokesman for Baring Vostok said on Wednesday that the fund did not plan to appeal the ruling and that it had already handed over the stake to Finvision.

Baring Vostok was founded by prominent U.S. businessman Michael Calvey, who with other fund executives, has been detained in Russia since February pending a trial on embezzlement charges. They all deny the charges and say the case is a way of pressuring them in a dispute over control of a Russian bank.

The case against Calvey rattled Russia’s business community and in April he was freed from jail and placed under house arrest.

Putin said earlier this month that he was closely following the embezzlement case against Calvey and that Russian law enforcement agencies should work to establish whether he was guilty or not.

(Reporting by Tatiana Voronova; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Susan Fenton)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Outside view of a restaurant's wall decorated with hundred of bottles in Paris
FILE PHOTO: Outside view of a restaurant’s wall decorated with hundred of bottles in Paris, France, July 5, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

June 19, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – Sales of spirits in France fell last year, hurt by “yellow vest” anti-government protests that were at their peak during the end of the year period that accounts for a bulk of sales, French spirits association FFS said on Wednesday.

Protests late last year, which saw some of the worst street violence in Paris in decades and blocked access to shopping malls around the country, cost 0.1 percentage point of French growth in the fourth quarter last year, the INSEE statistics agency said in March.

The weekly protests gradually waned this year.

In 2018, spirits sales in French supermarkets fell 2.1% in volume to 275 million liters, and fell 1.34% in value to 4.72 billion euros compared to the year earlier, FFS said.

Not all spirits performed poorly. Sales of rum showed a 5.7% rise in value and 3.3% rise in volume, while sales of gin increased by 7.6% in value and 2.4% in volume, boosted by innovation and higher qualities.

Spirits exports hit a record high of 4.3 billion euros in 2018, up 1.8% on 2017, mainly boosted by Cognac, liqueurs and rum sales. The volume exported stood at 445 millions liters, or 53 million 12-bottle boxes, up 1.9% on the year.

This confirmed data from wine and spirits exporters group FEVS in February.

Looking ahead, FFS warned that a food law implemented in February raising the minimum price at which retailers can sell goods had added between 5% and 8% to spirit prices, but that only benefited retailers and not producers.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, editing by Inti Landauro and Deepa Babington)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Outside view of a restaurant's wall decorated with hundred of bottles in Paris
FILE PHOTO: Outside view of a restaurant’s wall decorated with hundred of bottles in Paris, France, July 5, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

June 19, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – Sales of spirits in France fell last year, hurt by “yellow vest” anti-government protests that were at their peak during the end of the year period that accounts for a bulk of sales, French spirits association FFS said on Wednesday.

Protests late last year, which saw some of the worst street violence in Paris in decades and blocked access to shopping malls around the country, cost 0.1 percentage point of French growth in the fourth quarter last year, the INSEE statistics agency said in March.

The weekly protests gradually waned this year.

In 2018, spirits sales in French supermarkets fell 2.1% in volume to 275 million liters, and fell 1.34% in value to 4.72 billion euros compared to the year earlier, FFS said.

Not all spirits performed poorly. Sales of rum showed a 5.7% rise in value and 3.3% rise in volume, while sales of gin increased by 7.6% in value and 2.4% in volume, boosted by innovation and higher qualities.

Spirits exports hit a record high of 4.3 billion euros in 2018, up 1.8% on 2017, mainly boosted by Cognac, liqueurs and rum sales. The volume exported stood at 445 millions liters, or 53 million 12-bottle boxes, up 1.9% on the year.

This confirmed data from wine and spirits exporters group FEVS in February.

Looking ahead, FFS warned that a food law implemented in February raising the minimum price at which retailers can sell goods had added between 5% and 8% to spirit prices, but that only benefited retailers and not producers.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, editing by Inti Landauro and Deepa Babington)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Outside view of a restaurant's wall decorated with hundred of bottles in Paris
FILE PHOTO: Outside view of a restaurant’s wall decorated with hundred of bottles in Paris, France, July 5, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

June 19, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – Sales of spirits in France fell last year, hurt by “yellow vest” anti-government protests that were at their peak during the end of the year period that accounts for a bulk of sales, French spirits association FFS said on Wednesday.

Protests late last year, which saw some of the worst street violence in Paris in decades and blocked access to shopping malls around the country, cost 0.1 percentage point of French growth in the fourth quarter last year, the INSEE statistics agency said in March.

The weekly protests gradually waned this year.

In 2018, spirits sales in French supermarkets fell 2.1% in volume to 275 million liters, and fell 1.34% in value to 4.72 billion euros compared to the year earlier, FFS said.

Not all spirits performed poorly. Sales of rum showed a 5.7% rise in value and 3.3% rise in volume, while sales of gin increased by 7.6% in value and 2.4% in volume, boosted by innovation and higher qualities.

Spirits exports hit a record high of 4.3 billion euros in 2018, up 1.8% on 2017, mainly boosted by Cognac, liqueurs and rum sales. The volume exported stood at 445 millions liters, or 53 million 12-bottle boxes, up 1.9% on the year.

This confirmed data from wine and spirits exporters group FEVS in February.

Looking ahead, FFS warned that a food law implemented in February raising the minimum price at which retailers can sell goods had added between 5% and 8% to spirit prices, but that only benefited retailers and not producers.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, editing by Inti Landauro and Deepa Babington)

Source: OANN

File photo of clouds over a Tesco Extra store in London
FILE PHOTO: Grey clouds hang over a Tesco Extra store in New Malden in southwest London, Britain June 4, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/File Photo

June 19, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Tesco, Britain’s biggest retailer, said it is considering a trial of an upmarket convenience store under the ‘Tesco finest’ banner but has not disclosed when or where a pilot will be launched.

Tesco hosted a capital markets day for analysts and investors on Tuesday at which it presented a slide flagging an opportunity for a ‘Tesco finest’ store concept with a 7% operating margin – significantly ahead of the group-wide target of 3.5% to 4%.

The premium ‘finest’ range of grocery products is Tesco’s most expensive.

“‘Tesco finest’ as a brand is one of the largest food brands in the country. We have a very high percentage of more upmarket customers,” Chief Executive Dave Lewis told reporters on Wednesday.

“The opportunity to curate that range and bring new things in a more convenient outlet is something that we have tested, is something we’re interested in.”

But Lewis said Tesco is: “Not at a place where we are saying we’re going to open this shop or this many shops.”

The CEO said the point of the capital markets day was to share with investors a number of growth opportunities Tesco is actively looking at without giving specific details on timings.

“No dates for any of the initiatives were given yesterday,” he said.

News of Tesco’s new concept sent shares in upmarket food retailer Marks & Spencer down as much as 4.5% on Wednesday on competition fears.

Last year Tesco launched the Jack’s chain to compete with German-owned discounters Aldi and Lidl.

Other initiatives Tesco discussed on Tuesday include opportunities to sell more unique brands and online meal subscriptions, developing its Clubcard loyalty program with a subscription model, setting-up mini fulfillment centers at the back of stores for online grocery, and delivery robots.

Celebrating its 100th year, Tesco is deep into a recovery plan under Lewis after a 2014 accounting scandal capped a dramatic downturn in its fortunes.

He said in April Tesco had met, or would soon meet, most of the turnaround goals he set in 2016, including a key margin target of earning 3.5 to 4 pence of operating profit for every pound customers spend by the end of its 2019-20 financial year.

Lewis said on Wednesday he did not issue a new margin target at the capital markets day.

“We said there was more opportunity for us to lower cost and that gave us the opportunity to invest back in the customer offer (and) new propositions, or if none of those were available then the opportunity would be to improve margin,” he told reporters.

(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Costas Pitas and Louise Heavens)

Source: OANN

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

June 19, 2019

By Johan Ahlander and Esha Vaish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A Harley-Davidson Inc. logo is seen at the Paris auto show in Paris
FILE PHOTO: A Harley-Davidson Inc. logo is seen at the Paris auto show in Paris, France, October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

June 19, 2019

(Reuters) – Harley-Davidson Inc will partner with Qianjiang Motorcycle Co. to produce a new range of smaller bikes, adding to moves to build more motorcycles outside the United States that have angered President Donald Trump.

The company said the new bike would have an engine displacement of 338 cubic centimeters, by far the smallest-powered engine Harley has ever made and would be sold in China from the end of 2020.

Most motorcycles sold in the U.S. are far larger, with engine capacities of more than 601 cubic centimeters.

(Reporting by Rachit Vats in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah is seen during the Arab summit in Mecca
FILE PHOTO – Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah is seen during the Arab summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia May 31, 2019. REUTERS/Hamad l Mohammed

June 19, 2019

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Kuwait’s ruling emir arrived on a state visit to Iraq on Wednesday and is expected to discuss escalating regional tensions after attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz.

Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah was met by Iraq’s president, oil minister and other senior Iraqi officials and will discuss bilateral ties and recent regional and international developments, Kuwait’s state news agency KUNA said.

The two OPEC member states transport most of their crude through the Strait of Hormuz, through which almost a fifth of the world’s oil passes, and near where six tankers have been attacked in the past month.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of being behind the attacks, which Tehran denies. Kuwait has described the tanker attacks as a threat to international peace and security, without assigning blame.

(Reporting by Iraq Newsroom; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul
FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo

June 19, 2019

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – Evidence suggests Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials are liable for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a U.N. rights investigator said on Wednesday.

There was no immediate reaction from Riyadh which was sent the 100-page report in advance – but the kingdom has regularly denied accusations that the prince was involved.

Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, called for countries to widen sanctions to include the Crown Prince and his personal assets, until and unless he can prove he has no responsibility.

Khashoggi, a critic of the prince and a Washington Post columnist, was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2 where he was to receive papers ahead of his wedding.

His body was dismembered and removed from the building, the Saudi prosecutor has said, and his remains have not been found.

“It is the conclusion of the Special Rapporteur that Mr. Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law,” Callamard said in her report based on a six-month investigation.

Callamard went to Turkey earlier this year with a team of forensic and legal experts and said she received evidence from Turkish authorities.

“There is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s”, she said.

“Indeed, this human rights inquiry has shown that there is sufficient credible evidence regarding the responsibility of the Crown Prince demanding further investigation,” she added, urging U.N. Secretary-General to establish an international probe.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: New Toyota cars are transported from their manufacturing facility in Burnaston
FILE PHOTO: New Toyota cars are transported from their manufacturing facility in Burnaston, Britain March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples/File Photo

June 19, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – British factory orders slid in June against a backdrop of stoppages in car production following uncertainty about when Britain will leave the European Union, the CBI’s monthly industrial trends survey showed on Wednesday.

The Confederation of British Industry survey’s total order book balance sank to -15 this month from -10 in May, the weakest reading since October 2016 and a steeper fall than expectations of a reading of -12 in a Reuters poll.

June’s production index sank to +2 from +14 in May, which the CBI said reflected the sharpest contraction in car manufacturing since March 2009, as producers brought forward seasonal plant closures.

“There’s clear evidence that Brexit uncertainty is really biting, with our surveys showing volatility in both stocks and output in recent months,” CBI economist Alpesh Paleja said.

“Firms are desperate to see an end to the current impasse. That means securing a Brexit deal that can not only command the support of parliament and the EU, but prioritizes the protection of jobs and the economy,” he added.

(Reporting by David Milliken, editing by Andy Bruce; London newsroom +44 20 7542 7947, uk.online@reuters.com)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - A Republican supporter wears a party logo on her denim jacket before a sunset cruise with the Belknap County Republicans in Laconia
FILE PHOTO – A Republican supporter wears a party logo on her denim jacket before a sunset cruise with the Belknap County Republicans in Laconia, New Hampshire, May 29, 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

June 19, 2019

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Republicans chagrined by how few women their party has serving in Congress are launching an initiative on Wednesday aimed at reversing the trend in the 2020 elections, though steep fundraising, recruitment and policy hurdles lie ahead.

The WFW (Winning for Women) Action Fund, which raises money to support female Republican candidates for Congress, is announcing a goal of electing 20 Republican women to the House of Representatives next year.

There are 13 Republican women serving in the House now, down from 23 in the previous Congress and the smallest number since 1995. Democrats have 89 female representatives after a record number of women ran for office in 2018, many of them motivated by a dislike of President Donald Trump.

“Our numbers are so low, it’s become appalling,” said Olivia Perez-Cubas, spokeswoman for the WFW Action Fund.

The fund will ramp up recruitment efforts and offer more financial support to help women get through primaries, where they sometimes struggle against men who are viewed as more conservative by the party’s base.

Some party activists report a high level of early interest from Republican women thinking about throwing their hats in the ring for Congress in 2020.

Julie Conway, executive director of VIEW PAC (Value in Electing Women Political Action Committee), another group that supports Republican women candidates, said she has already met with as many as 85 women considering a bid.

“At this point in the 2017 cycle, it probably would have been a third of that,” Conway said, noting many of the women are looking to run in the competitive swing seats Republicans lost when Democrats seized control of the House in the mid-term elections last year.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the party’s official congressional campaign arm, has engaged with 172 women interested in running, and 50 have filed papers to run, spokesman Michael McAdams said.

Republicans suffered a setback last week when Representative Susan Brooks, who heads NRCC recruiting efforts, announced she would take herself out of the re-election game by retiring from Congress next year.

Democrats pounced on the news about the Indiana lawmaker. Representative Cheri Bustos, chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said it underscored the problem Republicans had created “in a party whose leadership continually marginalizes women’s voices.”

HISTORIC DISPARITY

The disparity between the number of Republican and Democratic female lawmakers has never been greater, said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

“You are talking about a situation where of the 127 women who serve in Congress, House and Senate, 106 are Democrats and 21 are Republicans. That’s the biggest difference we’ve ever seen,” Walsh said.

Republican women lag far behind in financial resources compared to their Democratic counterparts. Organizations such as Emily’s List spent $24.4 million last year to back female House Democratic candidates who support abortion rights.

By contrast, VIEW PAC says it has directly contributed and helped raise over $6.5 million for Republican women candidates since it began operating more than 20 years ago.

Republican women in 2020 may also have to grapple with a voter backlash to new laws in some states restricting abortion and could find it difficult to disentangle their candidacies from the impact of Trump’s rhetoric and policies, Walsh said.

“Women’s underrepresentation (in Congress) has been a problem within the Republican party for a while, but I think Donald Trump’s presidency has only exacerbated that situation,” Walsh said.

In the near term, Republican women activists are hoping their preferred candidate prevails in a special election in North Carolina’s third congressional district, to replace long-time Republican Representative Walter Jones who died in February.

The July 9 Republican primary runoff pits pediatrician Joan Perry, who has never before run for political office, against state lawmaker Greg Murphy.

All 13 Republican women in the U.S. House have endorsed Perry. The WFW Action Fund has spent almost half a million dollars on advertising on her behalf, and Women Speak Out PAC, linked to the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, has spent $75,000 backing her.

However, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Republican Representative Mark Meadows, has endorsed Murphy, saying he has done more to advance conservative policy.

Perry agrees more Republican women are needed in Congress. But she is urging voters to elect her for her conservative stances, including her opposition to abortion and support for Trump’s wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I am running for whom I am, and the values that I embrace,” she said.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the upper house of the Italian parliament, in Rome
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)

Source: OANN

Cars stand on closed highway A9 at the crossing to highway A10 after a car accident near Mischendorf
FILE PHOTO: Cars stand on closed highway A9 at the crossing to highway A10 after a car accident near Mischendorf, 40 km south-west of Berlin, Germany, August 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

June 19, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission said on Wednesday it had cleared 431 million euros ($482.8 million) of public support by German authorities to cities to adapt diesel-powered municipal and commercial vehicles to reduce their nitrogen oxide emissions.

The measures are designed to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 1,450 tonnes per year and will be available in over 60 municipalities where national limits for the emissions were exceeded in 2017.

“Tackling air pollution is one of Europe’s greatest challenges,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. “So these three schemes provide a good incentive for vehicle operators in Germany to invest in cleaner vehicles in the most polluted German cities.”

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop)

Source: OANN

A North Korean flag is seen on the top of its embassy in Beijing
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)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping meet business leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping meet business leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

June 19, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Wednesday positive outcomes were possible in trade negotiations with the United States, after the presidents of the world’s two largest economies agreed to revive their troubled talks at a G20 meeting this month.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. China, which previously declined to say whether the two leaders would get together, confirmed the meeting.

The two countries are in the middle of a costly trade dispute that has put pressure on financial markets and damaged the global economy.

Talks to reach a broad deal broke down last month after U.S. officials accused China of backing away from agreed commitments. Interaction since then has been limited, and Trump has threatened to put more tariffs on Chinese products in an escalation that businesses in both countries want to avoid.

News that the negotiations were back on the agenda cheered China’s stock markets with the blue-chip CSI300 index ending 1.3% higher while the Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.0%.

Speaking at a daily news briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said it was important to find a solution that was acceptable to both sides.

“I’m not getting ahead of myself, but communication over four decades shows it is possible to achieve positive outcomes,” he said.

Lu said he could not give an exact agenda for the meeting.

“The two leaders will talk about whatever they want,” he said. “A deal is not only in the interests of the two peoples but meets the aspirations of the whole world.”

In another possible sign of a pre-G20 thaw, China’s state television’s movie channel, which has in recent weeks broadcast old patriotic films about China’s heroics against the United States in the 1950-53 Korean War, on Wednesday showed a movie that put the United States in a far more positive light.

The channel showed 1999’s “Lover’s Grief over the Yellow River”, about a U.S. pilot in World War Two who was rescued by Communist guerrilla forces in China and falls in love with one of the young women fighters.

The overseas edition of the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said on its Weibo account the movie was “deeply moving”, and showed a picture of the lead Chinese actress and lead U.S. actor locked in an embrace.

“It’s better to fall in love than to fight,” the Beijing office of the Communist Youth League wrote approvingly of the movie on its Weibo account.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Additional reporting by Beijing newsroom and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Darren Schuettler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Austrian oil and gas group OMV is seen at a gas station in Vienna
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Austrian oil and gas group OMV is seen at a gas station in Vienna, Austria, October 30, 2018. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader/File Photo

June 19, 2019

(Corrects name of Borealis CEO to Alfred Stern (not Achim Stern) in paragraph 22 in June 18 story.)

By Kirsti Knolle

VIENNA (Reuters) – After years of largely banking on low-cost Russia for growth, OMV is shifting attention towards the Middle East as its chemist chief executive chases his vision of making the Austrian oil and gas group a major supplier of plastics.

OMV boss Rainer Seele has spent more than 4 billion euros ($4.5 billion) – 40% of the group’s M&A budget until 2025 – for oil and gas concessions in the region, a 15% stake in Abu Dhabi National Oil Co’s (ADNOC) refining business and a to-be-formed trading joint venture with ADNOC and Italy’s Eni. 

“We want to have a fully integrated business model in Abu Dhabi – from the well via the refinery and the petrochemicals all the way to marketing and trade in international markets,” the chief of Austria’s second-largest listed company told shareholders last month.

OMV traditionally earns its money from producing, distributing and refining oil and gas in Europe. A focus on low-cost oil and gas fields in Russia – a source of investor concern due to U.S. and EU sanctions – helped the group get back on its feet financially in recent years and become one of the best cash-flow generators in the sector.

After fixing a price this month for the purchase of Siberian gas assets from Gazprom, OMV has largely achieved its Russian expansion plans.

The Russia-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, of which OMV is a financing partner, could face delays. However, OMV’s downside risks are limited to the 950 million euros it has committed, of which it has paid 644 million euros so far.

“This is already captured by its discounted valuation relative to its peers,” analysts at Berenberg said in a note.

Seele’s new, Middle East-focused strategy stems from a shift in the environment surrounding OMV’s business model, with challenges created by the politically promoted rise of renewable energy and increased use of electric vehicles.

Consultancy Wood Mackenzie forecasts that demand for oil in developed countries will revert to structural decline next year and drop by about 4 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2035. In contrast, it expects demand in developing economies, mainly in Asia, to increase by nearly 16 million bpd in the same period.

The rise in developing-country demand is seen largely driven by the petrochemicals industry, which uses oil to make the plastics needed for fertilisers, packaging, detergents and clothes, as well as for electric-car parts, solar panels and wind turbines.

This is where Seele gets excited. Refraining from expanding into renewables like BP and Royal Dutch Shell, the CEO plans to monetize his oil with the expected surge in demand for plastics and also jet fuel, especially in China.

For Seele, the new focus is a journey back to his roots. The 58-year-old German holds a PhD in chemistry and started his career as a chemical research scientist.

He has chosen the United Arab Emirates as a base from which to secure a big piece of the Asian petchem pie, aiming to maximize profit via the entire value chain.

“What I am always preaching is, hey guys, try to think integrated,” he told Reuters when asked why he did not simply buy into China. “I cannot come up with an integrated business model in Asia if I buy into a petchem unit there. It would be an isolated investment.”

The UAE, a strategic investor in OMV since 1994, has aggressive energy ambitions for the coming decade. It is cooperating with international groups including Shell, Germany’s Wintershall DEA and U.S. investment firms KKR and BlackRock to pioneer approaches and technologies.

Last year, the UAE launched a $132 billion capex program to become self-sufficient in gas by 2030 and establish itself as an exporter of petrochemical products. It plans to invest $45 billion alone into the Ruwais complex, which is located 240 km (150 miles) west of Abu Dhabi, to make it the largest integrated refinery/petrochemicals facility in the world.

CREATING A “BORDEAUX”

ADNOC Refining plans to spend $1.9 billion annually, according to its five-year business plan. As OMV holds 15%, its share would be 285 million euros per year.

A cost optimization of Ruwais operations will be followed by investments to enable the use of different feedstocks and the processing of heavier, more sour crude at the site, Seele said in explaining the plans for ADNOC Refining.

“We will create a Bordeaux,” said Seele, a connoisseur of red wine. “Right now we are only running with Cabernet Sauvignon in Abu Dhabi and we will add some Merlot.”

One challenge will be to export to Ruwais OMV’s European model of bundling refining and petrochemical production in integrated hubs.

“We are transferring our European refineries now from predominantly fuel refineries to jet fuel and petchem units,” Seele said. “That’s the transformation we have in mind (for Ruwais as well).”

To deliver on its goal, OMV is working closely with its subsidiary Borealis, which partly runs the Ruwais refinery via its Borouge joint venture with ADNOC. Seele and Alfred Stern, chief executive at Borealis, plan big.

Borouge hopes to give the final go-ahead for the construction of a fourth petrochemical complex at the site next year, Stern told Reuters. He did not disclose the cost of the new complex, but said it would be a “multi-billion” decision.

OMV’s purchases of a 20% stake in Abu Dhabi’s SARB and Umm Lulu offshore oil concessions and a 5% stake in the Ghasha offshore gas and condensate fields from ADNOC were crucial for growth as they secure access to cheap feedstock, Seele said.

OMV also plans to recycle used plastic and convert it into synthetic crude oil at the Abu Dhabi complex. It is testing the patented, so-called ReOil technology at home.

“What we see in the market is a clear signal. If we don’t find a solution to recycle plastics, our polymer business will be negatively impacted,” the CEO said with a view to investors, who want the industry to work harder against climate change.

“At the latest, in 2025 we would like to have a commercial plant.”

Analysts have praised OMV’s plans, saying major players in the oil and gas industry may envy the company for the deals with its financially strong shareholder ADNOC.

However, risks remain: The emirate’s gas fields have proved challenging to monetize in the past due to high operating costs and artificially low local prices for the fuel.

“New technologies and development plans can improve this, but the fields still remain relatively difficult,” said Robin Mills, chief executive at energy consultancy Qamar Energy in Dubai.

Another challenge is inadequate infrastructure. The pipeline network needs to be extended, Seele says, at the same time indicating a solution is under way. “If you identify a problem, solve it.”

($1 = 0.8897 euros)

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Additional reporting by Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich; Editing by Dale Hudson and Jan Harvey)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe holds a joint news conference with visiting U.S. President Donald Trump (not pictured) in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe holds a joint news conference with visiting U.S. President Donald Trump (not pictured) in Tokyo, Japan May 27, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

June 19, 2019

By Linda Sieg and Kiyoshi Takenaka

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faced stiff opposition criticism on Wednesday after a report warned that many retirees won’t be able to live on pensions alone, a topic likely to become an issue in an election for parliament’s upper house.

Abe has made reform of the social security system a top priority to cope with Japan’s fast-ageing, shrinking population.

But the furor over the report and Finance Minister Taro Aso’s refusal to accept its findings have created a headache for Abe’s coalition ahead of the upper house poll and amid speculation that the premier may also call a snap election for the more powerful lower chamber.

A report this month by advisers to the Financial Services Agency (FSA) said a model case couple would need $185,000 in addition to their pensions if they lived for 30 years after retiring.

The report was meant to highlight the need to plan ahead for retirement but instead gave opposition parties ammunition to blast Abe’s government.

“What is making lots of people angry is that you are simply stressing stability (of the system) and not addressing their anxiety head-on,” Yukio Edano, leader of the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, told Abe during debate before a parliamentary panel.

Abe said the report had caused “misunderstandings” and reiterated the government’s position that reforms to the pension system implemented in 2004 had ensured its sustainability.

Pensions are a particularly sensitive topic for Abe.

His Liberal Democratic Party suffered a massive defeat in a 2007 upper house election during his first stint as premier partly because of voter outrage over misplaced pension records. Two months later, Abe resigned.

Abe’s ruling bloc is unlikely to lose its upper house majority but the fuss has trimmed his support and a weak performance would hamper efforts to cement his legacy.

Aso, 78, the wealthy scion of an elite political family, also said he’d never worried about supporting himself as he aged and didn’t know if he was receiving a pension.

“INCONVENIENT TRUTH”

That many retirees cannot subsist on pensions alone and will outlive their savings is one of Japan’s worst-kept secrets and one reason Abe is considering raising the retirement age.

“The FSA has done exactly what it is supposed to do — not be afraid to uncover inconvenient truths,” said Jesper Koll, CEO of asset manager WisdomTree Japan.

Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the opposition Democratic Party for the People, said Aso’s rejection of the report had deepened public unease.

“Holding back, hiding or even falsifying information just because an election is near does not help you win trust for the government nor for the pension system,” he told Abe.

Japan’s life expectancy is the highest among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries at 87.1 years for women and 81 years for men. The World Economic Forum last week forecast Japanese men could be expected to outlive their savings by 15 years and women by almost two decades.

About 54% of Japanese who get public pensions rely on them for their entire income, according to 2015 government data.

Opposition parties have also used the FSA report to renew questions about the sustainability of the public pension system.

The government in 2004 adopted reforms it said had made the system sustainable for the next 100 years, a pledge many private economists, opposition lawmakers and ordinary Japanese question.

“People knew, even before the release of report, that there will be many economic problems after their retirement,” said Yu Nakahigashi, 40, a self-employed businessman. “I don’t want them to hide the truth from the public.”.

(Additional reporting by Yuri Harada; editing by Darren Schuettler and Nick Macfie)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Southern EU Countries Summit in Valletta
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)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: People pass by an entrance to Google offices in New York
FILE PHOTO: People pass by an entrance to Google offices in New York, U.S., June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

June 19, 2019

By Paresh Dave

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Shareholder activists want Google parent Alphabet Inc to break itself up before regulators force the world’s biggest internet ad seller to split into different pieces.

SumOfUs, a U.S.-based group that aims to curb the growing power of corporations, is set to make that proposal at Alphabet’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday at an auditorium at the company’s offices in Sunnyvale, California.

“Officials in the US & EU continue to be concerned about Alphabet’s market power in view of restrictions on monopolies,” the proposal reads. “We believe that shareholders could receive greater value from a voluntary strategic reduction in the size of the company than from asset sales compelled by regulators.”

The proposal has no realistic chance of success as Alphabet’s top two executives, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, hold 51.3 percent of shareholder votes.

Nevertheless, it shows a growing focus on the prospect of antitrust action against Alphabet and other big technology firms such as Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc as they face a political and public backlash over privacy issues and the power they now wield over the world’s information.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been a frequent critic of Google, claiming without evidence that its search engine unfairly produces results unfavorable to him. He has suggested that U.S. regulators should follow Europe’s lead and look closely at tech companies’ monopolies, but has not suggested any specific remedy.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are gearing up to investigate whether Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook misuse their massive market power, sources told Reuters earlier this month.

The breakup proposal is one of a record of 13 on the ballot at Alphabet’s Wednesday meeting. A group of Google employees is backing five of the proposals, which it helped craft, but not the proposal to split the company.

Tibetan and Uighur ethnic group leaders concerned about Google’s work in China are among speakers expected to speak at demonstrations outside the auditorium before the meeting. Community activists pressing Google to address housing shortages in Silicon Valley also planned to rally.

Alphabet said in shareholder materials its existing policies address issues raised in the proposals and declined to comment further.

Although none of the proposals is likely to pass, Google may respond to issues raised. The company stopped working on a censored Chinese search engine and banned use of its artificial intelligence tools for weaponry after petitions from employees and outside activists.

“We started as a voice in the wilderness on some of these issues, but conversations have come more to the fore,” SumOfUs campaign manager Sondhya Gupta said.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Bill Rigby)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Rohingya refugees gather at a market inside a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar
FILE PHOTO: Rohingya refugees gather at a market inside a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, March 7, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

June 19, 2019

By Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Human rights groups on Wednesday called on Southeast Asian leaders to rethink their approach to the Rohingya refugee crisis ahead of a regional summit in Bangkok this week.

Myanmar regards Rohingya Muslims as illegal migrants from the Indian subcontinent and has confined tens of thousands to camps in its western Rakhine State since violence swept the area in 2012.

More than 700,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh in 2017, according to U.N. agencies, after a crackdown by Myanmar’s military sparked by Rohingya insurgent attacks on the security forces.

The Rohingya issue, especially their repatriation from Bangladesh, is expected to be a major topic during four days of meetings among leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Thailand from Thursday.

Human rights activists say the bloc should not rush to get involved in the repatriation without addressing the root causes of their displacement.

“ASEAN needs to stop turning a blind eye to Myanmar’s atrocities against the Rohingya, and cease lending legitimacy to the repatriation process,” Eva Sundari, an Indonesian lawmaker and a board member of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, said in a statement.

U.N. investigators have said the 2017 Myanmar military operation that drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh 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 the north of Rakhine State was in response to the attacks by Rohingya insurgents.

But rights groups say conditions in Rakhine State are not conducive to the safe return of refugees.

“ASEAN seems intent on discussing the future of the Rohingya without condemning – or even acknowledging – the Myanmar military’s ethnic cleansing campaign against them,” said Brad Adams, the Asia director of the Human Rights Watch.

“It’s preposterous for ASEAN leaders to be discussing the repatriation of a traumatized population into the hands of the security forces who killed, raped, and robbed them.”

Mostly Buddhist Myanmar is a member of ASEAN. The grouping includes Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia, where the plight of the Rohingya is of particular concern.

Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai rejected any suggestion the grouping, which is under Thailand’s chairmanship this year, would gloss over Myanmar’s action, but at the same time, said ASEAN would not be apportioning blame.

“This is not about whitewashing anyone,” he told Reuters.

“ASEAN is not here to point to who is right or wrong, our concern is the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in refugee camps who should begin to take their first step to making a return”.

Repatriation would only take place on a voluntarily basis, and with the consent of both Myanmar and Bangladesh, he said.

Thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar by sea in an exodus that peaked in 2015, crossing the Andaman Sea to Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Last week, a boat carrying 65 Rohingya arrived at a southern Thai island, raising concern that there could be a new wave of people smuggling by sea after a 2015 regional crackdown on trafficking.

(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph at the stock exchange in Frankfurt
FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, June7, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

June 19, 2019

(Reuters) – European stock markets were flat on Wednesday after posting their best results in five months a day earlier thanks to a strong policy speech from European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi that flagged a potential return to bond-buying and lower interest rates.

Draghi’s speech sank the euro and drove major euro zone bond yields back below zero, slashing effective market borrowing costs, giving a boost to companies worried by sagging growth and driving the pan-European STOXX 600 index almost 2% higher.

It was flat compared to Tuesday’s close by 0709 GMT, although interest rate sensitive banking stocks outperformed with a 0.7% rise.

Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group bucked that trend to gain 2.8% after the British lender pledged to make an additional 50 million pounds ($62.75 million) in savings from its takeover of rival Virgin Money.

Also keeping markets afloat was news that China and the United States are rekindling trade talks ahead of a meeting next week between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit in Japan, sparking hopes that the tensions between the two sides would abate.

Draghi’s speech has also further upped the stakes for a Federal Reserve policy meeting that will be Wednesday’s main market event, already expected to point the way to interest rate cuts for the second half of this year.

(Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham)

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FILE PHOTO: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at his official residence after an earthquake, in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: 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

June 19, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday said he did not have the slightest idea of dissolving parliament’s lower house for a snap election.

He was speaking in parliament in reply to an opposition question. Speculation has swirled that Abe may call a poll for the lower chamber to coincide with an election for the upper house that must be held this summer.

(Writing by Linda Sieg)

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FILE PHOTO: Headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) are illuminated with a giant euro sign in Frankfurt
FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) are illuminated with a giant euro sign in Frankfurt, Germany, March 12, 2016. EUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach//File Photo

June 19, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Commerzbank said on Wednesday that it has now bought forward its expectations for an interest rate cut from the European Central Bank to July from the fourth quarter of this year.

The change in forecast follows comments by ECB chief Mario Draghi on Tuesday that the central bank will ease policy again if inflation fails to accelerate.

“Yesterday’s speech in Sintra may well be remembered as opening the door for the next round of large-scale stimulus, similar to his Jackson Hole speech in 2014,” analysts at Commerzbank said in a note.

“In essence, the ECB could no longer tolerate the adverse mix of collapsing inflation break-evens and rising real yields since the meeting two weeks ago.”

(Reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe, editing by Karin Strohecker)

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FILE PHOTO: G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in Fukuoka
FILE PHOTO: Italy’s Economy and Finance Minister Giovanni Tria speaks to reporters during the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in Fukuoka, Japan June 9, 2019. Franck Robichon/Pool via REUTERS

June 19, 2019

ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s public account could benefit from 3 to 4 billion euro ($3.4-$4.5 billion) of lower than expected uptake of welfare measures next year, finance minister Giovanni Tria was reported as saying in a interview with the Financial Times.

The European Union looks increasingly likely to impose disciplinary procedures on Italy over the management of its huge public debt.

Tria is expected to discuss later in the day how to avoid the EU infringement with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the leaders of the ruling coalition.

(Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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FILE PHOTO: Japanese Vice Minster of Finance Asakawa, Finance Minister Aso, and Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda hold a news conference at the IMF and World Bank's 2019 Annual Spring Meetings, in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Japanese Vice Minster of Finance Masatsugu Asakawa, Finance Minister Taro Aso, and Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda hold a news conference after the G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ meeting at the IMF and World Bank’s 2019 Annual Spring Meetings, in Washington, April 12, 2019. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

June 19, 2019

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – Substantial discussions on trade, including reform of the World Trade Organization, will likely take place at a summit of Group of 20 major economies next week in Osaka, a senior Japanese finance ministry official said on Wednesday.

Japan, which chairs this year’s G20 gatherings, will take a neutral stance in the U.S.-China trade row and urge countries to resolve tensions with a multilateral framework, said Masatsugu Asakawa, vice finance minister for international affairs.

“With regard to differences (on trade) between the United States and China, Japan of course won’t take sides. We will also not take any steps that go against WTO rules,” said Asakawa, who oversaw the G20 finance leaders’ gathering earlier this month.

“Japan will continue to take a multilateral approach in promoting free trade,” he told a news conference.

China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, are in the middle of a costly trade dispute that has pressured financial markets and damaged the world economy.

Markets are focused on whether U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping can narrow their differences when they sit down at the G20 summit.

The bitter trade war has forced the International Monetary Fund to cut its global growth forecast and overshadowed the G20 meetings that conclude with the Osaka summit on June 28-29.

At the finance leaders’ gathering, the G20 issued a communique warning that trade and geopolitical tensions have “intensified” and that policymakers stood ready to take further action against such risks.

“The macro-economic impact (of the trade tensions) is an issue of concern,” Asakawa said, conceding it took considerable time for G20 finance ministers and central bank heads to agree on their communique’s language on trade.

More “concrete” discussions on trade policy will take place at the G20 Osaka summit, he added.

The row over trade appeared to spread to currency policy when Trump criticized European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s dovish comments as aimed at weakening the euro to give the region’s exports an unfair trade advantage.

Asakawa rebuffed the view the Bank of Japan’s massive stimulus program could also provoke the ire of Trump.

He also said the G20 shared an understanding that members would accept any exchange-rate moves driven by ultra-easy monetary policies as long as the measures are not directly aimed at manipulating currencies.

“The BOJ’s ultra-easy policy is aimed at beating deflation, not at manipulating exchange rates. That’s understood widely among the G20 economies,” he said.

Fears of the widening fallout from the trade war have heightened market expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates this year. Draghi said on Tuesday the ECB will ease again if inflation fails to accelerate.

The dovish tone of other central banks have piled pressure on the BOJ, though many analysts expect it to keep policy steady at least at this week’s rate review.

(Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Chris Gallagher & Shri Navaratnam)

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FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell holds a news conference in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell arrives at his news conference following the closed two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting in Washington, U.S., May 1, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

June 19, 2019

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday kept up pressure on the head of the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates, following a report that White House lawyers earlier this year explored whether they could legally strip Jerome Powell of the Fed chairmanship.

Asked by reporters outside the White House if he wanted to demote Powell, Trump said: “Let’s see what he does.”

Trump has repeatedly attacked Powell for raising interest rates, claiming that the Fed’s four rate hikes last year were undercutting his economic and trade policies, particularly as he battled over trade issues with China. Last October Trump said the Fed had “gone crazy” under Powell.

The Fed wraps up a two-day policy meeting in Washington on Wednesday. Powell and fellow U.S. central bankers are expected to leave interest rates steady but potentially lay the groundwork for a rate cut later this year.

“They are going to be making an announcement pretty soon, so we’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters.

Earlier Tuesday, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi signaled he would ease policy to deal with low inflation across the Atlantic, a move that Trump said benefited Europe and was unfair to the United States.

“I want to be given a level playing field, and so far I haven’t been,” Trump told reporters.

The comments add to pressure on Powell, who is facing financial market expectations for three rate cuts by year’s end as economic data has weakened, though the data still points to continued, though slower, growth.

Trump, who picked Powell to replace Janet Yellen as the Fed chair, told ABC News last week: “I’m not happy with what he’s done.”

Bloomberg News, citing people familiar with the matter, reported Tuesday that the White House’s counsel’s office had looked into the legality of demoting Powell to a Fed governor in February, soon after Trump discussed firing the Fed chairman. Such a move would be unprecedented in the Fed’s 100-year history.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow declined to confirm or deny the report, but told reporters that Trump is not considering any changes to Powell’s status. Powell’s four-year term as Fed chair expires in 2022.

“The Fed is independent. They’ll act on their own time, in their own way,” Kudlow said.

Powell has said he does not believe the president has the power to fire him, and that he would not resign if asked.

A spokeswoman for the Fed Board of Governors on Tuesday said, “Under the law, a Federal Reserve Board chair can only be removed for cause.”

Robert C. Hockett, a law professor at Cornell Law School, whose research includes monetary law and economics, said demoting Powell might not be considered removal. But any move by Trump to do so would probably be contested by members of the Senate, which must confirm nominees for Fed chair and to the Fed’s Board of Governors, and could lead to a legal challenge over the limits of the president’s power, Hockett said.

He also said the Fed’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee, known as the FOMC, could act to preserve Powell’s authority.

“Even if Trump could ‘demote’ Powell, the FOMC could nevertheless vote to keep him on as FOMC chair, thereby neutralizing Trump’s move,” Hockett said.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Trevor Hunnicutt, Dan Burns; writing by Ann Saphir; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at his official residence after an earthquake, in Tokyo
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)

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FILE PHOTO: Women's World Cup - Scotland Training
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football – Women’s World Cup – Scotland Training – Allianz Riviera, Nice, France – June 8, 2019 Scotland manager Shelley Kerr during training REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo

June 19, 2019

(Reuters) – Scotland must “bring their A-game” to their final group stage match of the women’s World Cup against Argentina on Wednesday if they are to have any hope of reaching the last-16, coach Shelley Kerr has said.

World Cup debutants Scotland are bottom of Group D after defeats by Japan and England, but victory over Argentina in Paris could help guide them into the knockout rounds as one of the four best third-placed teams.

The stakes are as high for Argentina, who have one point so far and will be guaranteed a spot in the last-16 if they beat the Scots, and Kerr wants her players to take the game to their opponents.

“We have to be more attacking against Argentina and they will have to at some point as well,” she told a news conference on Tuesday.

“It’s something we’ve been good at throughout the campaign to get us here. And I’ve no doubt that our players are prepared well enough and (if they) bring their A-game, I’m sure it will be a positive result for us.”

With England and Japan both ranked in the world’s top 10, Kerr said 20th-ranked Scotland knew their chances of reaching the knockout rounds would rest on the game against Argentina, who are 17 places below them in the world rankings.

“Not in a negative way, but we probably planned to be in this position,” the 49-year-old added. “We were hopeful we’d have taken something from those first two games but realistic that it would probably come down to the Argentina game.”

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Jennings)

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FILE PHOTO: Japan's SoftBank Group Corp Chief Executive Masayoshi Son bows his head after his presentation at a news conference in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp Chief Executive Masayoshi Son bows his head after his presentation at a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

June 19, 2019

By Sam Nussey

TOKYO (Reuters) – Most investors in SoftBank Group Corp’s $100 billion Vision Fund want to join the group’s forthcoming second fund, founder and Chief Executive Masayoshi Son said on Wednesday, adding discussions would begin soon.

The entrepreneur said in May a second fund would launch “soon”, with SoftBank likely to be the only investor initially.

Raising further funds is essential if Son is to extend his spending spree on late-stage startups around the world.

Investors in the first fund include the sovereign wealth funds of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, Apple Inc and Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd.

The Vision Fund will ramp up its employee numbers to 1,000 from 400 currently, Son said at the group’s annual general meeting.

The fund’s head, Rajeev Misra, said he sees investment rising to 100-150 companies, from around 80 at present.

Internet firms now dominate rankings of the world’s largest companies but have transformed just two industries, advertising and retail, which make up only a small part of the economy, Son told investors.

While SoftBank has invested in those industries in less mature markets – in, for instance, South Korea’s Coupang and Indonesia’s Tokopedia – its tech bets have been focused on startups looking to disrupt other industries like transport, insurance and healthcare.

Son also said he wants to be the conductor in an AI-driven technological revolution.

“The conductor doesn’t play anything but actually he plays everything,” Son said.

Shareholder responses at the meeting included a plea for Son to take care of his health, concern over the number of injuries at the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks baseball team, and from one father who said he had taken his son to SoftBank’s headquarters in the hopes of glimpsing the founder.

Outside the venue in Tokyo, Japan’s taxi lobby protested Son’s support for the ride-hailing industry, which remains strictly regulated domestically.

SoftBank portfolio companies including recently listed Uber Technologies Inc and China’s Didi Chuxing control 90% of the industry globally.

(Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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FILE PHOTO: Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at the Istana in Singapore
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)

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FILE PHOTO: Labourers work at Maxport garment factory in Thai Binh province
FILE PHOTO: Labourers work at Maxport garment factory in Thai Binh province, Vietnam June 13, 2019. REUTERS/Kham

June 19, 2019

By Sachin Ravikumar

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Confidence among Asian companies in the June quarter fell to its lowest since the 2008-09 financial crisis, as a U.S.-China trade war disrupts global supply chains and shows little sign of easing soon, a Thomson Reuters/INSEAD survey found.

The Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asian Business Sentiment Index tracking companies’ six-month outlook worsened in the three months ended June to 53, versus 63 in the previous two quarters.

A reading above 50 means optimistic respondents outnumbered pessimists, but worries about the threat of a prolonged trade war drove the index to its lowest since the June quarter of 2009, when the first edition of the survey was released.

“There was a big dip (in the index) three quarters ago, and we felt it was the uncertainty about the trade war and people were worried about the future,” said Antonio Fatas, a Singapore-based economics professor at global business school INSEAD.

“We get a sense after four quarters of low numbers that now, it’s not just uncertainty. This is a true slowdown in growth. We see activity declining — it’s not just the expectation that activity will decline,” Fatas added.

For a fourth straight quarter, survey participants cited the global trade war as the chief risk to business, followed by Brexit and a slowdown in the Chinese economy.

The survey interviewed 95 companies in 11 Asia-Pacific countries that together contribute about a third of global gross domestic product and are home to 45% of the world’s population.

It was conducted from May 31 to June 14.

RISING CAUTION

The index staying above the neutral point of 50 suggests companies in the region are not expecting an imminent global recession, but the decade low indicates caution was rising as trade tensions mount.

The United States and China have been embroiled in a trade standoff since last year, marked by tit-for-tat import tariffs, as Washington looks to force Beijing to make changes to its business policies. Talks between the two to reach a detente ended last month without a deal.

Washington’s move to put Huawei, the world’s No.2 maker of smartphones, on an export blacklist that bars U.S. companies from doing business with the Chinese firm without special approval further ratcheted up tensions.

Still, U.S. President Donald Trump has said that a deal would “eventually” be struck.

BNP Paribas, however, does not expect a resolution to the trade war this year, said Hong Kong-based Manishi Raychaudhuri, Asia-Pacific equity strategist at the banking group.

The trade tensions are hurting supply lines, especially that for higher-end smartphones, with many manufacturers looking to move production out of China and into countries such as Vietnam, Taiwan and Bangladesh, Raychaudhuri noted.

These changes, however, “can’t be made overnight”, he added.

U.S.-based Broadcom Inc, which makes radio-frequency chips used in Apple’s iPhones and iPads, last week forecast a $2 billion hit to annual sales from the trade tensions and the U.S. ban on Huawei.

Huawei has acknowledged a harder-than-expected hit from the ban and slashed its revenue forecast for the year.

China’s economy is also feeling the heat, with industrial output growth sliding to a 17-year low in May.

Respondents to the survey included Japan’s Nikon Corp, South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, India’s Tata Consultancy Services and Reliance Industries Ltd, as well as Thailand’s PTT PCL.

Note: Companies surveyed can change from quarter to quarter.

(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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General view of a landscape of partially thawed Arctic permafrost near Mould Bay
General view of a landscape of partially thawed Arctic permafrost near Mould Bay, Canada, in this handout photo released June 18, 2019. The image was captured in 2016 by researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks who were amazed to find the permafrost thawing 70 years faster than models predicted. Louise Farquharson/Handout via REUTERS

June 19, 2019

By Matthew Green

LONDON (Reuters) – Permafrost at outposts in the Canadian Arctic is thawing 70 years earlier than predicted, an expedition has discovered, in the latest sign that the global climate crisis is accelerating even faster than scientists had feared.

A team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks said they were astounded by how quickly a succession of unusually hot summers had destabilized the upper layers of giant subterranean ice blocks that had been frozen solid for millennia.

“What we saw was amazing,” Vladimir E. Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the university, told Reuters by telephone. “It’s an indication that the climate is now warmer than at any time in the last 5,000 or more years.”

With governments meeting in Bonn this week to try to ratchet up ambitions in United Nations climate negotiations, the team’s findings, published on June 10 in Geophysical Research Letters, offered a further sign of a growing climate emergency.

The paper was based on data Romanovsky and his colleagues had been analyzing since their last expedition to the area in 2016. The team used a modified propeller plane to visit exceptionally remote sites, including an abandoned Cold War-era radar base more than 300 km from the nearest human settlement.

Diving through a lucky break in the clouds, Romanovsky and his colleagues said they were confronted with a landscape that was unrecognizable from the pristine Arctic terrain they had encountered during initial visits a decade or so earlier.

The vista had dissolved into an undulating sea of hummocks – waist-high depressions and ponds known as thermokarst. Vegetation, once sparse, had begun to flourish in the shelter provided from the constant wind.

Torn between professional excitement and foreboding, Romanovsky said the scene had reminded him of the aftermath of a bombardment.

“It’s a canary in the coalmine,” said Louise Farquharson, a post-doctoral researcher and co-author of the study. “It’s very likely that this phenomenon is affecting a much more extensive region and that’s what we’re going to look at next.”

Scientists are concerned about the stability of permafrost because of the risk that rapid thawing could release vast quantities of heat-trapping gases, unleashing a feedback loop that would in turn fuel even faster temperature rises.

Even if current commitments to cut emissions under the 2015 Paris Agreement are implemented, the world is still far from averting the risk that these kinds of feedback loops will trigger runaway warming, according to models used by the U.N.-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

With scientists warning that sharply higher temperatures would devastate the global south and threaten the viability of industrial civilization in the northern hemisphere, campaigners said the new paper reinforced the imperative to cut emissions.

“Thawing permafrost is one of the tipping points for climate breakdown and it’s happening before our very eyes,” said Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International. “This premature thawing is another clear signal that we must decarbonize our economies, and immediately.”

(Reporting by Matthew Green; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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FILE PHOTO: Basketball - NBA New Orleans Pelicans training
FILE PHOTO: Basketball – NBA Global Games – New Orleans Pelicans training session ahead of preseason game against Houston Rockets – Beijing, China – 11/10/16. New Orleans Pelicans Anthony Davis shoots the ball. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

June 19, 2019

The Los Angeles Lakers, with LeBron James in place and Anthony Davis on the way, reportedly are attempting to clear enough salary-cap space to make a run at a third star player this summer.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks, the Lakers are looking to expand the agreed-upon trade that would bring in Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, hoping to add other teams who might take fringe players off their hands.

It’s all part of the Lakers’ efforts to boost their available money from the current $23.8 million up to $32.5 million.

Those who could be on their way out of Los Angeles, according to the report, are Moritz Wagner, Jemerrio Jones and Isaac Bonga. The Lakers also would need Davis to waive the $4 million trade bonus that he is contractually due to receive in order for his new team to reach its desired salary-cap level.

–Kawhi Leonard is ready to head home and is reportedly focusing on signing with the Los Angeles Clippers.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski dispelled reports that Leonard might be interested in joining the Lakers, who will add Anthony Davis when trades can become official next month. Per Wojnarowski’s report, it’s the Clippers that Leonard wants to join.

Leonard attended San Diego State and is an L.A. native. He had almost an entire section of Oracle Arena filled with family in Oakland to watch the Toronto Raptors claim Game 6 against the Warriors and win the NBA Finals last week.

–Boston forward Al Horford will turn down his 2018-19 option of $30.1 million and no longer intends to re-sign with the Celtics, multiple media outlets reported.

After he opts out, the 33-year-old will be able to discuss contracts with other teams starting June 30. Players can sign or re-sign contracts beginning July 6.

Horford has spent the last three years in Boston since arriving on a free agent deal from Atlanta, where he played the first nine seasons of his career. The nine-time All-Star averaged 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 68 games for the Celtics last season.

–Rockets All-Star point guard Chris Paul wants out of Houston, and his relationship with MVP candidate James Harden is “unsalvageable.”

According to Yahoo Sports, Paul approached management to demand a trade following the season-ending loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals.

Moving Paul and his three-year, $124 million contract will not be easy, though general manager Daryl Morey has been open about having trade discussions involving all of his players other than Harden this offseason.

–Should you know the whereabouts of Kyrie Irving, the Celtics would like a word.

Irving, who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent June 30, has reportedly gone silent and given president Danny Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens no choice but to assume he will move on to another team.

Reports last week indicated Irving was “preparing to sign” with the Brooklyn Nets not long after splitting from his only professional agent to join the stable of Roc Nation. Because Irving has no active agent — his change from Jeff Wechsler cannot be official until June 29 — the Celtics have no conduit to the six-time All-Star.

–The Pelicans picked up the 2020-21 option for head coach Alvin Gentry, who is now under contract for the next two seasons.

“We couldn’t be happier to extend our relationship with Alvin,” executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said in a statement.

Gentry, 64, has spent the past four seasons coaching the Pelicans, going 145-183.

–Harrison Barnes is set to opt out of his contract with the Sacramento Kings and become an unrestricted free agent.

Barnes’ agent, Jeff Schwartz, told ESPN of the pending move that will allow the 27-year-old to pursue his fourth NBA team since entering the league with the Golden State Warriors in 2012.

Traded from the Dallas Mavericks to the Kings in February, Barnes averaged 16.4 points per game between the two clubs.

–A sheriff’s deputy sustained serious injuries and is considering a lawsuit against Masai Ujiri after an altercation with the Raptors president following Thursday’s title-clinching victory in Oakland, the deputy’s attorney said.

David Mastagni, the deputy’s attorney, told Bay Area CBS affiliate KPIX late Monday that his client has a “serious concussion” and a “serious jaw injury” after an “unprovoked, significant hit to the jaw” caused by Ujiri.

“No options are being ruled out as to how to rectify the situation,” Mastagni added.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

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

June 19, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: California's Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during the California Democratic Convention in San Francisco
FILE PHOTO: California’s Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during the California Democratic Convention in San Francisco, California, U.S. June 1, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo

June 19, 2019

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday apologized to Native Americans for violence and other wrongdoings they suffered during the state’s history and called their mistreatment genocide.

The Democratic governor, in an executive order, called for the creation of a Truth and Healing Council to produce a report before the end of 2024 on the historical relationship between the state and Native Americans.

Newsom delivered the apology during an appearance with tribal leaders at the California Indian Heritage Center near Sacramento, the state capital.

“It’s called a genocide, that’s what it was, a genocide,” Newsom said, citing the $1.3 million in state funding authorized in the 1850s to subsidize militia campaigns against Native Americans. “No other way to describe it, and that’s the way it needs to be described in the history books.”

Tribal leaders who appeared with Newsom on Tuesday thanked him for the apology.

“It’s healing to hear your words, but actions will speak for themselves and I do look forward to hearing more and seeing more of you,” Erica Pinto, chairwoman of Jamul Indian Village in San Diego County, said.

“WAR OF EXTERMINATION”

In discussing the history of California’s treatment of Native Americans, Newsom cited an 1851 address to the state legislature by California’s first governor, Peter Burnett.

“That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian race becomes extinct must be expected,” Burnett said then.

The state of California had never previously formally apologized for its role in wrongdoing against Native Americans, according to the governor’s office.

Newsom’s predecessor, Democrat Jerry Brown, did endorse a 2016 book by historian Benjamin Madley, of the University of California, Los Angeles, titled “An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873.” The book detailed how California’s indigenous population fell from as many as 150,000 people to about 30,000.

Madley estimated that between 1846 and 1873, up to 16,000 Native Americans were killed in California. Disease, dislocation and starvation also took their toll, Madley wrote.

The U.S. Congress in 2009 passed a resolution, tucked into an appropriations bill, that apologized to Native Americans for violence, maltreatment and neglect inflicted by U.S. citizens.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

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

June 19, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Worker walks in a container area at a port in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: A worker walks in a container area at a port in Tokyo, Japan January 25, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File photo/File Photo

June 19, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s exports fell 7.8% in May from a year earlier, down for a sixth straight month, Ministry of Finance (MOF) data showed on Wednesday, underscoring persistent weakness in overseas demand.

That compared with a 7.7% drop expected by economists in a Reuters poll, and followed a 2.4% fall in April.

Imports fell 1.5% in the year to May, versus the median estimate for a 0.2% increase.

The trade balance came to a deficit 967.1 billion yen ($8.91 billion), versus the median estimate for a 979.2 billion yen shortfall.

For full tables, go to the MOF website: http://www.customs.go.jp/toukei/info/index_e.htm

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto and Daniel Leussink; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim)

Source: OANN

An image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and China's President Xi Jinping is displayed during a North Korean delegation's visit in Beijing
An image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and China’s President Xi Jinping is displayed during a North Korean delegation’s visit in Beijing, China, in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 30, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS

June 18, 2019

SEOUL (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China supports North Korea’s “correct direction” in resolving the issue of the Korean peninsula politically, according to North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Wednesday.

In an front page Rodong Sinmun op-ed, Xi said that “we will actively contribute to peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region by strengthening communication and coordination with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” according to the newspaper. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is North Korea’s official name.

Xi is set to visit Pyongyang on Thursday and Friday, making him the first Chinese leader to visit in 14 years.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: PG&E crew work on power lines to repair damage caused by the Camp Fire in Paradise,
FILE PHOTO: PG&E crew work on power lines to repair damage caused by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

June 18, 2019

By Jim Christie

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – PG&E Corp will pay $1 billion as part of its bankruptcy reorganization to more than a dozen local governments in California struck by wildfires in recent years, the company and lawyers for the governments said on Tuesday.

Payments to the local governments will settle claims from lawsuits put on hold by PG&E’s bankruptcy and are separate from the thousands of individual claims stemming from wildfires that the company expects will be filed against it during the bankruptcy period.

San Francisco-headquartered PG&E filed for Chapter 11 protection in January anticipating $30 billion in liabilities from wildfires in 2017 and 2018 blamed on its equipment.

The local governments said in a filing in March that their claims could top more than $2.5 billion for fire-related damage to roads, bridges, sidewalks, road signs and signals, public landscaping and water systems.

The governments include the city of Paradise, which was leveled by November’s Camp Fire in California deadliest and most destructive wildfire of modern times.

The city of Santa Rosa and Sonoma and Napa counties, which were hard hit by blazes in 2017, also are among the localities that settled with PG&E.

(Reporting by Jim Christie; editing by Grant McCool)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Containers are pictured at an industrial port in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Containers are pictured at an industrial port in Tokyo, Japan, February 22, 2019. Picture taken on February 22, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-hoon

June 18, 2019

By Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s economy is likely to stop expanding this year and into next with the Sino-U.S. trade war and a planned sales tax hike expected to crimp activity, a Reuters poll of Japanese companies found, with most calling for fresh stimulus to prop up growth.

The gloomy outlook suggests that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s reflationary policy mix, known as “Abenomics”, is sputtering.

“A combination of the U.S.-China trade friction and the tax hike in October will almost certainly tip Japan into recession,” an electric machinery maker wrote in the monthly survey.

The Corporate Survey found 42% of respondents see the economy contracting into next year, while 52% believe growth will remain stagnant. Just 5% foresee it expanding, the June 4-13 poll showed.

China and United States, the world’s two largest economies, have been locked in a tit-for-tat tariff war for nearly a year, which has curbed global trade and upended supply chains, pressuring Japan’s exports and factory output.

Some 55% of Japanese firms said harsher U.S. punitive tariffs against China were affecting their business profits, with much higher proportions of transport machinery firms and chemicals makers taking a hit, the Reuters Corporate Survey showed.

But only 7% of Japanese firms were considering moving their operational base or supply chains outside of China, suggesting they see the trade spat calming down or are waiting to see how long it lasts. Some 57% said this wasn’t something they are considering while 36% said they had no businesses in China.

TAX HIKE

Japanese businesses are also worried that raising the sales tax to 10% from 8% — to cover rising social welfare costs as the nation rapidly ages — will undermine consumer spending.

Previously, when the tax rate was raised from 5% in April 2014, it triggered a slump.

To keep the economy from faltering, nearly two-thirds of companies called for fresh stimulus, with a quarter of respondents wanting an individual income tax cut and nearly as many demanding the government postpone the sales tax hike.

The next two most popular choices were investment tax breaks, picked by 22%, and more fiscal spending, picked by 20%.

Only 5% picked further monetary easing as a stimulus option, underscoring a widespread market view that the Bank of Japan’s stimulus has done about all it can.

“Additional stimulus is necessary if the sales tax hike goes ahead even as the global economy is in a downtrend,” a machinery maker manager wrote in the survey, which collects anonymous comments.

“We must stop a sales tax hike for good, or even cut it to 5% or below,” a retailer said.

ALREADY PEAKED

The survey’s outlook reinforces the growing view that Japan’s economy may already be in recession after having likely peaked out last autumn, said Yasunari Ueno, chief market economist at Mizuho Securities.

Both Ueno and business respondents expressed concerns about a slump in the economy after Japan hosts the summer Olympics next summer.

“As Tokyo Olympics-related capex runs its course, a stronger yen lifted by expectations of Fed rate cuts will add downward pressure on growth,” Ueno said. “Moreover, if the sales tax rises to 10% as planned in October, that will hurt consumer sentiment.”

The economy has shown signs of slowing since late last year. In the most recent quarter ended in March, it grew at an annual pace of 2.2% but key GDP components – consumption, capex, exports and imports – all slowed sharply from the prior quarter.

Meanwhile, as President Donald Trump demands that the U.S.-Japan trade gap be fixed, nearly two-thirds of Japanese firms saw no need to reduce Japan’s trade surplus with the United States, the survey showed.

The survey, conducted for Reuters by Nikkei Research, canvassed 505 big and midsize companies, of which 240-260 companies responded on condition of anonymity.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; editing by Malcolm Foster and Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: An Adobe Systems Inc software box is seen in Los Angeles
FILE PHOTO: An Adobe Systems Inc software box is seen in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

June 18, 2019

(Reuters) – Adobe Inc beat analysts’ estimates for quarterly profit and revenue on Tuesday, driven by growth in its digital media business that houses its flagship product Creative Cloud, sending its shares up 4.6% after market.

Adobe is sharpening its focus on the fast-growing cloud business, a fiercely competitive market dominated by Microsoft Corp, Oracle Corp and Salesforce.com Inc.

In doing so, Adobe, known for its image-editing software Photoshop, partnered with Microsoft in March to bolster its sales and marketing software capabilities.

Salesforce and Microsoft also posted better-than-expected quarterly results on the back of growth in their cloud businesses.

Adobe’s shift to a cloud-based subscription has brought a more predictable revenue stream for the company, by selling its software through web-based subscriptions and not through the sale of packaged-licensed software.

On Tuesday, Adobe’s executives expressed confidence in the company’s ability to raise prices annually for its subscription-based services, while driving volume growth by attracting new users.

“We’re able to do that through the various new products that are attracting folks to our platform… And then as they get comfortable with those, they end up to upsell them into full suite products for multiple applications,” Chief Financial Officer John Murphy on post-earnings call.

Subscription revenue during the second quarter jumped 27.7% to $2.46 billion and product revenue rose 1.2% to $152.8 million.

Revenue from Adobe’s digital media segment jumped 22% to $1.89 billion, above estimates of $1.86 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Revenue from its Experience Cloud business, which provides services including analytics, advertising and marketing, rose 34% to $784 million, above analysts’ estimate of $774.9 million. The growth was helped by the acquisitions of Magento and Marketo, Chief Executive Officer Shantanu Narayen said on the call.

However, the company expects to report revenue of about $2.80 billion in the third quarter, below analysts’ estimates of $2.83 billion. It estimates a 20% revenue rise in its digital media unit in the current quarter.

The San Jose, California-based company’s revenue jumped 25% to $2.74 billion in the quarter ended May 31, beating estimates of $2.70 billion.

Excluding items, Adobe earned $1.83 per share, above the average analyst estimate of $1.78.

(Reporting by Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The logo for Anadarko Petroleum corp. is displayed on a screen on the floor at the NYSE in New York
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)

Source: OANN

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

June 18, 2019

By Phil Stewart and Steve Holland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IRAN TENSIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission logo adorns an office door at the SEC headquarters in Washington
FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission logo adorns an office door at the SEC headquarters in Washington, June 24, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

June 18, 2019

By Katanga Johnson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said on Tuesday it is considering boosting the number of options in private stock sales by broadening access to more potential investors and revamping the capital-raising process of private companies.

The agency invited the public to comment on whether it should expand its private-offering framework.

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said he considers public consultation a step toward addressing concerns over the large amount of capital raised in the private versus public markets, and the way it bars some investors from participating.

“We are taking a critical look at our exemptions from registration to ensure that our multifaceted private offering framework works for investors and entrepreneurs alike, no matter where they are located in the United States,” Clayton said.

He added that the goal is to expand investment opportunities while maintaining appropriate protections.

Tuesday’s request for comment seeks public feedback on whether the SEC should take steps to facilitate a company’s transition from one form of offering to another, and whether retail investors should be allowed greater exposure to companies through pooled investment, the agency said.

It will also consider the limitations on who, and in what amount, a person can invest in a private company stock sale.

The agency said it welcomes responses from startups, entrepreneurs and investors.

Some industry advocates welcome the SEC’s public consultation, arguing that both companies and investors stand to win if the agency moved to adopt a proposal that expanded investor access to private offerings.

“There is huge interest from retail investors in getting in on the ground floor of the next large successful company,” said Dina Ellis Rochkind, an attorney with the Paul Hastings law firm. There would be equally strong interest from startups to raise capital from retail investors, she added.

Democrat-appointed Commissioner Rob Jackson said he voted in favor of letting the public in to more private deals but was hesitant because of the potential for fraud to less-savvy investors.

“The questions in this release involve a fundamental tradeoff: the costs families suffer when investors are victims of fraud versus the benefits of broader access to capital,” Jackson said.

(Reporting by Katanga Johnson; Editing by Susan Thomas and Bill Berkrot)

Source: OANN

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

June 18, 2019

By Kayon Raynor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Editing by Gene Cherry and Toby Davis)

Source: OANN


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