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The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing for Don McGahn next week, but it is unclear if the former White House counsel will agree to appear—the latest development in the battle between congressional Democrats and the White House for testimony from current and former administration officials.

The committee, led by Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., posted plans on Tuesday to hold a hearing for McGahn on May 21. The committee subpoenaed McGahn last month, but the White House has blocked McGahn from producing documents responsive to that subpoena.

WHITE HOUSE BLOCKS MCGAHN FROM PRODUCING DOCUMENTS SUBPOENAED BY HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

The White House did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment on whether McGahn would appear before the committee. Last week, though, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked if she thought McGahn would comply with the committee’s requests.

“I don’t anticipate that takes place,” Sanders said on ABC News ‘The Investigation” podcast last week. “We consider this to be a case closed and we’re moving forward to do the work of the American people.”

Nadler’s committee subpoenaed McGahn on April 22, days after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which featured McGahn prominently in its section related to the obstruction of justice inquiry. The subpoena called for him to appear before the panel to testify, and to provide documents related to the Mueller investigation.

But earlier this month, now-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone notified the committee that McGahn would not be allowed to comply with the subpoena, and said, instead, requests for documents and materials must go to the White House.

“The White House provided these records to Mr. McGahn in connection with its cooperation with the Special Counsel’s investigation and with the clear understanding that the records remain subject to the control of the White House for all purposes,” Cipollone wrote. “The White House records remain legally protected from disclosure under longstanding constitutional principles, because they implicate significant Executive Branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege.”

He added: “Because Mr. McGahn does not have the legal right to disclose these documents to third parties, I would ask the Committee to direct any request for such records to the White House, the appropriate legal custodian.”

Cipollone wrote that acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney “has directed Mr. McGahn not to produce these White House records” in response to the committee’s subpoena issued on April 22.

“The Department of Justice is aware of and concurs with this legal position,” Cipollone wrote.

But Nadler has maintained the importance of McGahn’s testimony, saying that it would “help shed further light on the president’s attacks on the rule of law, and his attempts to cover up those actions by lying to the American people and requesting others to do the same.”

CALLS TO JAIL ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR GROW FROM DEMOCRATIC RANKS

McGahn’s interview with special counsel investigators factored prominently into the section probing whether the president obstructed justice, including a claim that McGahn disobeyed Trump’s call to have him seek Mueller’s removal.

“On June 17, 2017, the president called [White House Counsel Don] McGahn at home and directed him to call the Acting Attorney General and say that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre,” the report stated, referencing the Watergate scandal.

The report also revealed that when the media reported on the president’s request for McGahn to have Mueller removed, the president directed White House officials “to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not been ordered to have the special counsel removed.”

“McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening,” the report said.

The report went on to explain that two days after the initial request to McGahn, the president made another attempt to “affect the course of the Russia investigation.”

Trump, though, said he never told McGahn to fire Mueller, and tweeted last month that if he “wanted to fire Mueller, I didn’t need McGahn to do it, I could have done it myself.”

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

The battle for McGahn’s testimony and cooperation is just one example of the growing conflict between the White House and congressional Democrats.

Last week, the committee voted to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt, after defying a subpoena for Mueller’s full and unredacted report, as well as underlying evidence and documents used in the investigation. Barr missed the committee’s deadline to cooperate.

President Trump, prior to the vote, asserted executive privilege over the materials in a bid to protect them from being turned over to the committee. The full House will take a final vote on whether to hold Barr in contempt of Congress. It is unclear when that vote could take place.

Fox News’ Mike Emanuel contributed to this report. 

Source: Fox News Politics

A month into former Vice President Joe Biden’s Democratic presidential primary campaign and President Donald Trump already is calling a top challenger “history.”

The slam on Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a candidate he once praised in 2016 for creating a “movement,” came via Twitter on Monday morning:

“Looks like Bernie Sanders is history. Sleepy Joe Biden is pulling ahead and think about it, I’m only here because of Sleepy Joe and the man who took him off the 1% trash heap, President O! China wants Sleepy Joe BADLY!”

President Trump’s rip into “Sleepy Joe” comes after reports Biden and his son Hunter had ties to business deals with China.

Amid a trade war with China, the world’s second-largest economy and a country with a population almost four times the United States, Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore warned Sunday of the dangers of putting a “China apologist” in the White House.

Still, Biden leads Sen. Sanders by almost 20 percentage points in RealClearPolitics national average of polls. A field of around two dozen Democratic primary candidates are jockeying for position to face off against Biden, former President Barack Obama’s running mate.

Source: NewsMax Politics

A migrant from Central America talks with his famiy by a river during a break in his journey towards the United States, in Huixtla
A migrant from Central America talks with his famiy by a river during a break in his journey towards the United States, in Huixtla, Mexico April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

April 17, 2019

By Delphine Schrank

MAPASTEPEC, Mexico (Reuters) – Amid pressure from Washington, Mexico is backpedaling on promises of better treatment for Central American migrants, leaving hundreds stranded in unsanitary camps near its southern border and allegations of irregular detentions.

    Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador promised more humane treatment for Central American migrants when he took office in December. His left-leaning government issued thousands of year-long humanitarian visas in January, giving migrants legal access to jobs and the right to travel to the United States.

However, caught off guard by a surge in arrivals, Lopez Obrador’s administration is resorting to old tactics based on tough law enforcement.

Mexico has halted the liberal visa policy and ramped up detentions of migrants heading north, government data shows, following criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump of a jump in the number of Central American asylum seekers reaching the U.S. border in February.

    Trump, who is expected to make border security central to his 2020 re-election bid, has vowed to limit trade with Mexico if it does not help slow immigration.

While Lopez Obrador’s government has said it will not react to “threats”, sources familiar with Mexican policy, who asked not to be identified, said near-daily U.S. government pressure had led the interior and foreign ministries to push the National Migration Institute (INM) for tougher action.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Unreleased INM data, reviewed by Reuters, showed that it detained 12,746 undocumented migrants for registration in March, up by nearly one-third from February and two-thirds from January.

The agency also suspended its humanitarian visa program on Jan. 28, after issuing some 13,000, mostly to Central Americans arriving that month in the southern border state of Chiapas, site of most migrant arrivals.

A few visas were issued in February but none since, said an INM official in Mexico City, who was not officially authorized to speak to media and asked to remain anonymous.

INM said in a statement it remained open to issuing humanitarian visas, with priority given to women, children and the elderly.

    In Chiapas, the INM’s decision to close its main office in the border city of Tapachula a month ago has forced hundreds of migrants 65 miles (105 km) north to the smaller town of Mapastepec, where they have languished in sweltering temperatures, hoping for humanitarian visas.

    “It’s a madness that they’re making us wait so long. For what? For nothing!” said Daisy Maldonado, a 26-year-old from Honduras, camping in a field in Mapastepec opposite a sports stadium.

Hundreds of bedraggled men, women and children have been sheltering for nearly three weeks inside the stadium, as migration officials registered their identities while neglecting the group camped over the road, rights groups and migrants said.

Without water, medical help or government attention, Maldonado’s group was dependent on scant handouts from locals, they said. Maldonado’s daughter, Marisol, 5, wailed with hunger beside her, in a bivouac she had built from dried palm branches.

A coalition of 14 rights and aid groups operating in Chiapas has called the build up of stranded migrants a “humanitarian crisis”.

“The government is responding with practices and repressive methods similar to the previous administration in terms of control and deportation, but in a way that’s even more disorderly,” said Salva Lacruz, a coordinator at Fray Matias de Cordova, a migrant group that operates in Chiapas. “In some ways, it’s worse.”

INM Commissioner Tonatiuh Guillén López said in a recent interview his agency was taking a “stricter” approach in southern Mexico because of the influx of migrants in Chiapas. However, he denied that was a response to U.S. pressure and said Mexico was pressing ahead with more humane migration policies.

‘HUMANITARIAN CRISIS’

INM officials said they closed the main regional office in Tapachula on March 15 after Cuban migrants stormed the premises, enraged that they were not seeing faster results. Rights groups and migrants dispute this.

The closure created a bottleneck of visa applicants, hundreds of whom headed north to Mapastepec.

On Saturday, INM suddenly halted registration at the stadium in Mapastepec and said migrants would have to wait at least a month longer.

INM said work had been stopped after some migrants had caused a disturbance requiring police to intervene and registration would continue at another site, without providing details.

    Even those who had been registered inside the stadium had been given no indication from INM officials if or when they would receive visas almost two weeks after being processed, said Silvia Rodriguez, 26, a Honduran.

Despite the uncertainty, many migrants preferred to wait to request legal status before continuing their journey in caravans. Migrants who travel alone and without papers in Mexico are frequent prey for kidnappers and smugglers, in addition to risking detention or extortion by police.

Erick Morazan, a 28-year-old from Honduras, said he traveled to Mapastepec by night with a group of other migrants to avoid sweeps by immigration officials, in what he called a “caravan of zombies.”

    “Migration officials are grabbing us like pigs,” said Morazan, traveling with two children.

    In an effort to stem the build up of migrants in Chiapas, INM said this month that citizens of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala will be able to register for the visas through Mexican consulates in their home countries from late May.

    DETENTION OVERCROWDING

    While INM closed its registration offices in Tapachula, a detention center at the site remains open. An increase in detentions in the border area means the site is crammed with 1,700 people, the rights collective said in its report.

    That’s about double its capacity and double the usual number held there, according to migrant group Fray Matias, which monitors the center.

    The collective reported black eyes and bruised bodies among detainees it said were the result of beatings by police who entered the center to control a disturbance last week. Reuters was not able to independently verify this.

Mexican law enforcement representatives did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Lacruz of Fray Matias said at least 30 migrants had been irregularly detained at the Tapachula facility despite having applied for asylum with the Mexican Refugee Help Commission (COMAR), in contravention of Mexican law.

INM did not respond to requests for comment about the allegations of overcrowding and irregular detentions.

The institute says that migrants held in its facilities are not detained but are simply being held for processing, though rights groups and migrants say they are not free to leave, often for days or weeks.

Many undocumented migrants are also deported after processing in the centers. Mexico flew about 60 Cubans back to the island this month and sent 204 Hondurans home on Saturday. [nL1N21L1QJ].

Richard Pioenza, a U.S. citizen originally from Cuba, said his wife Yildiz Gomez had been held more than 20 days in the center despite having papers showing she had applied for asylum.

    “She’s inside. She’s not eating well,” Pioenza said. “She’s sleeping on the floor.”

Reuters was unable to contact Gomez directly.

    Pioenza said his wife applied for refugee status after arriving in Mexico in March to ease her passage to the U.S. border where she was planning to apply for asylum from political repression in Cuba.

After a request from Reuters for verification on Gomez and five other cases of suspected irregular detentions, the Mexican refugee agency said on Monday it would send a team to the center.

(Refiles to fix spelling of Pioenza in 4th-last paragraph.)

(Reporting by Delphine Schrank; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Susan Thomas)

Source: OANN

Illustration photo of U.S. Dollar and China Yuan notes
U.S. Dollar and China Yuan notes are seen in this picture illustration June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

May 17, 2019

(Reuters) – 1/SIXES AND SEVENS

The Sino-U.S. trade war is getting more acrimonious. After China responded to U.S. tariff increases with additional levies of its own, Washington blacklisted telecoms giant Huawei, prompting Chinese state social media to ramp up the war of words. All that’s taken the yuan past 6.9 per dollar, despite authorities’ efforts to snuff out speculation by adjusting daily exchange rate fixings and draining cash from markets.

But markets seem bent on testing the central bank’s resolve not to let the yuan fall too fast and breach the 7-per-dollar level. Given some evidence Beijing has been selling U.S. Treasury bonds in favor of gold, many are wondering if China will use a weaker yuan both as a bargaining chip and a means to offset higher tariffs on its exports. But weaponizing the yuan has its downside. Aside from capital flight and the hit to local banks, a yuan plunge will undermine the goal of promoting global yuan use and luring foreign investors to Chinese stocks and bonds.

The 3% yuan plunge so far in May is already putting investors to flight; the Institute of International Finance estimates equity outflows of around $600 million a day, totaling $4 billion in the past week and half. Further currency weakening may bring more of the same.

https://tmsnrt.rs/2W6Aoqb

2/TRADE BLIPS ON FED’S RADAR

The Federal Reserve seems so far to have discounted the trade war as something that could derail economic expansion. The words “trade” and “tariffs” get no mention in Fed statements, and Chairman Jerome Powell didn’t dwell on them in his latest post-meeting address.

But minutes of the April 30-May 1 meeting, due on Wednesday, could show if the escalating noise figured in the Fed’s discussions. Since the meeting, tariffs have been ratcheted higher by the White House and Beijing, triggering a global equity market selloff.

The S&P 500 has fallen about 2% since its May 1 record high, and on May 13 it suffered one of its biggest percentage drops of the year. Risk-off rotation into bonds has pushed 10-year yields 15 basis points lower this month, and part of the yield curve has inverted – a possible harbinger of recession.

Fed presidents from Richmond, Boston and Minneapolis have expressed concern whether a drawn out trade conflict that hurts the economy, might require a policy response. Interest rate futures are pricing in a 51% chance the Fed would lower its rate target in September. For December it’s 73%.

https://tmsnrt.rs/2W29mAx

3/EUROSCEPTICS AT THE GATES

It’s the biggest democratic exercise after India’s general elections, with 400 million people eligible to vote — European Union citizens go to the polls on May 23-26 to elect 751 lawmakers to the EU parliament. It could turn out to be a defining moment for the “Europe project”.

At a time of worsening income inequality and sluggish economic growth, anti-establishment and eurosceptic parties are widely expected make a strong showing. From Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy to Marine le Pen’s National Assembly in France and Nigel Farage’s Brexit party in Britain, their agenda is to slow European integration and return power to national capitals.

At the Europe-wide level, these groups are likely to hamper — but not derail — approval of the next European Commission president and budget. National-level effects may be greater. A drubbing for Britain’s ruling Conservatives could accelerate Prime Minister Theresa May’s exit and raise chances of ‘no deal’ Brexit. A strong showing for Italy’s League may embolden Salvini to dissolve the coalition government and call new elections.

A better-than-expected outcome for the far-right will be bad news for the euro and sterling.

https://tmsnrt.rs/2EdJ1W2

4/LET’S TALK SHOPS

U.S. consumer goods companies, a sector that includes retailers, have reported stellar Q1 results — I/B/E/S Refinitiv data shows more than 80% delivered consensus-busting earnings. But an unexpected fall in U.S. retail sales last month has raised question marks over consumer resilience. So with big-name department and chain stores Home Depot, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, and Target due to report results in coming days, investors will monitor what the firms say about the outlook.

Their rivals Walmart and Macy’s have already brought the market down to earth; while earnings beat forecasts, both retailers warned of damage to sales and rising prices due to the U.S.-China trade spat. The reality check came after the White House lifted tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports, including suitcases, electronics and clothing to 25% from 10%.

The warnings also undermined President Donald Trump’s assertion that China would pick up the tab for his tariff campaign, not American consumers. A hit to the retail sector will pose risks to growth in the world’s No. 1 economy. And while U.S. equities have rocketed to record highs this year, shares in many department stores are sharply lower.

https://tmsnrt.rs/2EaVeKY

5/WATCH YOUR PMIS

It has been a dismal few months for the global economy with the trade conflict sending a frisson through markets and chilling business activity across the world. Europe in particular has seen its recovery sputter and Germany’s industrial sector — the continent’s engine room — has actually gone into reverse.

Some hope returned this past week, with data showing Germany returning to growth in the first quarter of 2019 and boosting the entire single currency bloc. But bond markets are on edge and not just in Europe: German 10-year yields are deeply negative again and the recent inversion of part of the U.S. Treasury curve has raised recession fears.

Hence, the close focus on upcoming purchasing managers’ indexes; compiler Markit gives us a flash glimpse on May 23. But as far as European business surveys are concerned, Reuters polls are not encouraging; expectations are German manufacturing PMIs will clock in at 45 and the euro zone equivalent at 48.2; well below the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction.

The U.S. survey is due the same day. Business sentiment in the world’s largest economy has been a bit healthier, with a reading of 53 last month. But with Sino-U.S. trade tensions simmering, there are no guarantees on this score either.

https://tmsnrt.rs/2M3Uq15

(Reporting by Sujata Rao, Josephine Mason and Abhinav Ramnarayan in London; Alden Bentley in New York and Vidya Ranganathan in Singapore; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Source: OANN

Attorney General William Barr’s announcement that a special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate the origins behind the Russian investigation, will lead to giving Americans what they want in terms of accountability and transparency, Sen. John Barrasso said Tuesday.

“I think we have to follow the path and I agree with the attorney general,” the Wyoming Republican told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

When special counsel Robert Mueller’s report came out, it showed President Donald Trump had not colluded with Russia or obstructed justice, said Barrasso, and that raised questions about how the investigation began.

“I support what the attorney general is doing and I think [Sen.] Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Judiciary committee in the Senate is going to continue to pursue it,” Barrasso said.

Meanwhile, the process for obtaining Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants in the future can be improved by holding everyone accountable, said Barrasso.

“When you take a look at abuse of power, that applies at all levels,” he added. “We’re going to get to the root of this.”

Barrasso also discussed the growing trade war with China, noting he is from a state whose economy depends on overseas sales of beef, natural gas, and coal.

“The president is right to hold China accountable,” he said. “We know that they cheat…we need to have opportunities in China. We know that manipulate their currency and they steal intellectual property and limit their markets. So it is our effort to make sure we get those markets open. I think the president is on the path to getting the deal.”

Source: NewsMax Politics


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Jailed separatists, women in numbers and far-right bloc color Spain’s rainbow chamber

Jailed Catalan politicians Junqueras walks past jailed catalan politicians Sanchez, Rull and Turull during the first session of parliament following a general election in Madrid
Jailed Catalan politician Oriol Junqueras walks past jailed catalan politicians Jordi Sanchez, Josep Rull and Jordi Turull during the first session of parliament following a general election in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/Pool

May 21, 2019

By Belén Carreño and Ingrid Melander

MADRID (Reuters) – Four jailed Catalan separatists, 24 far-right lawmakers, a record number of women and the biggest Socialist group in years on Tuesday inaugurated a parliament that reflects Spain’s divisions and diversity like no other in recent memory.

Acting prime minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists boosted their representation in the April 28 election but have yet to put together a working majority in the fragmented chamber, and say it may not happen until July.

The parliament of many firsts vividly illustrates the demise of the decades-old domination of politics by the Socialists to the left and the conservative People’s Party to the right.

The 24 Vox lawmakers are the first far-right bloc to sit in parliament since Francisco Franco’s dictatorship ended in the late 1970s, although one single far-right legislator sat from 1979-1982.

Newcomer Vox gained 10% of the vote last month and counts among its legislators two retired generals who have signed a manifesto honoring Franco’s memory.

In the chamber, the bloc sat right behind the acting Socialist government bench, and behind them sat one of the jailed Catalan members of parliament, Oriol Junqueras.

FROM JAIL TO PARLIAMENT

The four separatists are the first lawmakers to make their way to parliament from jail, as they undergo trial over a banned independence referendum. They were applauded into the chamber by fellow Catalan separatists as well as Basque nationalists from the Bildu party. One other jailed Catalan leader was elected to the upper house, the Senate.

Spain’s lower house is now Europe’s most gender-equal legislature, with 47.1% women, sitting alongside a Vox contingent, including nine women, that strongly opposes existing equality laws, saying they discriminate against men.

To the left of the Socialists are another relative upstart party in the anti-austerity Podemos (“We Can”), hoping to strike a coalition deal with Sanchez.

“Citizens made it clear by voting for many different political groups that flexibility and the ability to compromise are the democratic values ​needed ​in the face of authoritarianism,” Podemos’s ponytailed young leader, Pablo Iglesias, told reporters.

Sanchez, who has been non-committal about an alliance, told his Socialist lawmakers just before the full session of parliament that the party would promote its agenda of “social justice, coexistence and honesty”.

SHADOW OF CATALONIA

Sanchez proposed two Catalan Socialists as parliamentary speakers, a nod to the prominent role that the politically volatile region is likely to play during his mandate.

His candidate to lead Congress, Meritxell Batet, got 175 votes in a first round on Tuesday, one short of an absolute majority, but was then elected in a second round by simple majority. His equivalent candidate for the Senate, Manuel Cruz, was also elected.

The People’s Party (PP) saw its representation halved despite an aggressive campaign based largely on opposition to any concession to Catalan independence, and only narrowly beat the young center-right Ciudadanos (“Citizens”) to the position of main opposition party.

On Tuesday, PP leader Pablo Casado, who could see his position challenged if his party also fares poorly in Sunday’s EU election, objected to the presence of the jailed Catalan leaders and said they should be suspended.

The Supreme Court ruled that the five lawmakers could collect their papers and attend Tuesday’s opening sessions before returning to prison.

They and seven other Catalan leaders are charged with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, which they all deny. The trial is expected to last several more months.

(Reporting by Belen Carreno, Sabela Ojea, Paul Day; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Source: OANN

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French woman sues Boeing seeking at least $276 million over Ethiopian crash

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

May 21, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – A French woman whose husband was killed in the March crash of a Boeing 737 MAX airliner in Ethiopia has filed a U.S. lawsuit against the planemaker seeking at least $276 million in damages, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

The crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 near the capital Addis Ababa killed all 157 passengers and crew aboard.

The complaint alleges Boeing failed to inform pilots properly about the risks posed by software meant to prevent the 737 MAX from stalling which repeatedly lowered the plane’s nose due to a faulty sensor data, according to U.S. attorney Nomaan Husain.

“Once again corporate greed has placed profits over safety with tragic consequences for the public,” Husain said in a written statement. “We have learned that Boeing relied on a single sensor that had been previously flagged in over 200 incident reports submitted to the FAA (U.S. Federal Aviation Administration).”

Husain told a Paris news conference he was seeking a minimum of $276 million in damages for client Nadege Dubois-Seex.

Boeing said last week it had completed an update to the 737 MAX’s MCAS software and was in the process of submitting a plan for related pilot training to the FAA.

Airlines around the world grounded the 737 MAX after the Ethiopian Airlines crash, the second for the Boeing model in five months.

A Lion Air 737 MAX plunged into the ocean off Indonesia in similar circumstances last October killing all 189 aboard.

Dozens of families have sued Boeing over the Lion Air crash, and several lawsuits have been lodged over the Ethiopian crash.

It is unclear when the 737 MAX aircraft will receive FAA approval to return to service. Safety regulators in other countries have said they plan to independently assess Boeing’s fixes before giving their approval.

(Reporting by Emilie Dewarde; editing by Richard Lough and Jason Neely)

Source: OANN

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Factbox: What would a UK Labour Party government nationalize, and how?

Jeremy Corbyn launches Labour's European election campaign
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the launch of Labour's European election campaign in Kent, Britain, May 9, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

May 21, 2019

By William James

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s opposition Labour Party wants to nationalize energy and water infrastructure if it can oust Prime Minister Theresa May’s ruling Conservatives from power, reversing decades of pro-privatization public policy.

Despite a national election not being due until 2022, the prospect of nationalization is worrying investors.

Analysts have valued the regulated asset values of water and energy networks potentially facing nationalization at around 125 billion pounds ($159 billion).

The likelihood of May’s center-right Conservative minority government lasting until 2022 has been reduced because arguments over Brexit have split the party, paralyzing policymaking and causing its poll ratings to slide.

When Labour elected the pro-nationalization left-winger Jeremy Corbyn as leader in 2015, many wrote off his chances of ever becoming prime minister, describing his manifesto as a throwback to Britain’s socialist experiences of the 1970s.

But, despite also suffering electoral damage over its Brexit policy, a Labour government is now considered a real possibility.

What does Labour want to nationalize, and how will it affect shareholders?

WHAT IS IN LABOUR’S SIGHTS?

Labour campaigned in the 2017 election on a manifesto to bring rail companies, energy supply networks, water systems and mail delivery into public ownership.

It has since produced more detailed policy on what it would do with National Grid, the private company which operates gas and electricity transmission networks in Britain, along with other assets.

It has also set out plans for the water industry which is controlled by regional companies, some of which are publicly listed.

The nationalization program would be led by a ‘Public Ownership Unit’ within the finance ministry, which would establish the timetable for each industry.

WHAT WILL SHAREHOLDERS GET?

Labour has said it will compensate shareholders using bonds. It describes that exchange as cost neutral to the public purse because it trades a liability (the bond) for a profitable asset (the companies). It has not specified the nature of these bonds.

WHO DECIDES THE PRICE?

The key issue for shareholders in the affected firms is the price at which a Labour government would compensate shareholders.

In policy documents, Labour says: “The UK legal framework is clear that the level of compensation should be decided by Parliament”.

It cites court rulings relating to the nationalization of Northern Rock bank in 2008 to support this statement.

HOW WILL PARLIAMENT DETERMINE THE PRICE?

Labour has not set out details of the process parliament would use to set the price of the bonds-for-equity exchange.

Asked what method Labour intended to use, the party’s finance policy chief John McDonnell said there would be a consultation on the issue and he would be as open and transparent about the process as possible.

In the case of Northern Rock, a failed mortgage lender hit by the global financial crisis, parliament appointed an independent valuer.

In that case, because the bank was in administration and receiving government support the valuer decided it had no value, and shareholders were not compensated.

The renationalization of aircraft and shipbuilding industries in the 1970s was based on the average share price of the relevant firms over a six-month period preceding the election of the Labour government that implemented the policy.

Subsequent shareholder legal challenges to both methods were unsuccessful.

WHAT WILL PARLIAMENT LOOK AT?

Labour’s policy document goes on to say that parliament could seek deductions from the determined price based upon:

– pension fund deficits

– asset stripping since privatization

– stranded assets

– the state of repair of assets

– state subsidies given to the energy companies since privatization

Labour said existing debts would be carried into public ownership and honored in full, and that they would be refinanced over a period of time to benefit from the reduced debt costs associated with government borrowing.

(Reporting by William James, Additinoal reporting by Susanna Twidale and Noor Zainab Hussain; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Ed Osmond)

Source: OANN

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Sudan protest group makes strike call with talks deadlocked

FILE PHOTO: General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and deputy head of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) delivers an address after the Ramadan prayers and Iftar organized by Sultan of Darfur Ahmed Hussain in Khartoum
FILE PHOTO: General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and deputy head of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) delivers an address after the Ramadan prayers and Iftar organized by Sultan of Darfur Ahmed Hussain in Khartoum, Sudan May 18, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo

May 21, 2019

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s main protest group called on Tuesday for a general strike, saying two late-night negotiation sessions with the army had failed to reach a deal on how to lead the country after the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir.

An alliance of protest and opposition organizations is demanding civilians head a new Sovereign Council which is meant to oversee a three-year transition towards democracy.

But the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) protest group said the army was still insisting on directing the transition and keeping a military majority on the council.

“Civilian power means that the structure is fully civilian with a civilian majority in all its parts,” the SPA said in a statement. It said members should mobilize for a strike, without giving a date.

The impasse has hit hopes of a quick recovery from the political turmoil that climaxed in the end of Bashir’s three-decade rule on April 11.

The army ousted the former general after months of protests against soaring prices, cash shortages and other economic hardships.

It set up a Transitional Military Council (TMC) to rule the country and promised to hand over after elections.

But, wary of the example of neighboring Egypt where the head of the army eventually became president after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, Sudanese protesters have sought guarantees of civilian control.

The army acknowledged early on Tuesday that the make-up of the sovereign council remained the main point of contention, but did not go into details on its position.

“Aware of our historical responsibility, we will work toward reaching an urgent agreement … that meets the aspirations of the Sudanese people and the goals of the glorious December revolution,” said a statement signed by the TMC.

It gave no date for when talks would resume.

Various powers including wealthy Gulf Arab states are trying to influence the path of a country of 40 million strategically located between the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa in a volatile region.

(Reporting by Nadine Awadalla and Nafisa Eltahir; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Source: OANN

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British Steel risks collapse with 25,000 jobs under threat

File photo of the Tata Steel plant in Scunthorpe
FILE PHOTO: The British Steel plant is seen in Scunthorpe northern England, in this October 15, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Phil Noble/Files

May 21, 2019

By Guy Faulconbridge and Maytaal Angel

LONDON (Reuters) – British Steel, the country’s second largest steel producer, is on the brink of collapse unless the government agrees to provide an emergency 30 million pound ($38 million) loan by later on Tuesday, two sources close to the situation said.

Owned by investment firm Greybull Capital, British Steel employs around 5,000 people, mostly in Scunthorpe, in the north of England, while 20,000 more depend on its supply chain.

Greybull, which specialises in trying to turn around distressed businesses, paid former owners Tata Steel a nominal one pound in 2016 for the loss-making company which they renamed British Steel.

British Steel had asked the government for a 75 million pound loan but has since reduced its demand to 30 million pounds after Greybull agreed to put up more money, according one of the sources, who is close to the negotiations.

Greybull was also the owner of Monarch, an airline that went bust https://www.reuters.com/article/us-monarch-airlines-licence/monarch-airlines-goes-bust-spoiling-holiday-plans-for-many-britons-idUSKCN1C70FQ in October 2017.

If the British Steel loan is not approved by Tuesday afternoon, administrators EY could be appointed as early as Wednesday, the source said.

British Steel and Greybull both declined to comment.

“There have been ongoing discussions with the company and I am sure the House (of Commons) will understand that we cannot comment at this stage,” Andrew Stephenson, a junior business minister, told lawmakers in parliament.

“I can however assure the House that, subject to strict legal bounds, the government will leave no stone unturned in its support for the industry.” Stephenson said the government had been in contact with former British Steel owners Tata Steel.

STEEL INDUSTRY SUFFERS

The second source said British Steel lost the backing of one of its four big lenders earlier on Tuesday, while some of the others had already exited.

“The (company’s) cash was not big enough to sustain even one bank pulling the plug,” he said.

The possible collapse of British Steel comes after Germany’s Thyssenkrupp and India’s Tata Steel ditched a plan earlier this month to merge their European steel assets to create the EU’s second largest steelmaker after ArcelorMittal.

The collapsed merger leaves the wider EU steel sector fragmented and vulnerable to economic downturns. It also calls into question the fate of Britain’s largest steelworks in Port Talbot, Wales, owned by Tata Steel.

British steel firms pay some of the highest green taxes and energy costs in the world, and are also saddled with high labour and logistics costs, as well as uncertainties surrounding Britain’s planned exit from the European Union.

After making a profit in 2017, British Steel cut around 400 jobs last year, blaming factors such as the weak pound.

Earlier this month, it appeared to have secured the backing of lenders and shareholders to continue operating after the uncertainty around Brexit hammered its order book, with customers recoiling from the possible threat of tariffs.

The company also secured a government loan of around 120 million pounds ($154 million) at the start of the month to enable it to comply with the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) rules.

POLITICAL PRESSURE

“The collapse of British Steel would be devastating for thousands of jobs in Scunthorpe, as well as in the wider supply chain,” opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Twitter.

“The government must act to secure the long term future of the steelworks – protecting people’s livelihoods and the community.”

The second source said the British government was reluctant to hand over more cash, because Greybull could end up with the funds if the business fails.

“Greybull could walk out with millions because they secured all their loans against the assets. At the holding level, Greybull are the only creditor. The government wants Greybull out before putting money into the business,” he said.

“Its going to be difficult to survive this afternoon,” he added.

The UK government has a chequered history with Greybull, after the collapse of Monarch in 2017 forced it to repatriate more than 100,000 stranded tourists at a cost of about 60 million pounds.

The Mayfair-based firm also provided backing for the buyout of British high street electronics chain Comet before its collapse in 2012.

Unions demanded the government give British Steel the loan.

“They must now put their money where their mouth is,” said Ross Murdoch, national officer for the GMB union for steelworkers.

“GMB calls on the Government and Greybull to redouble efforts to save this proud steelworks and the highly skilled jobs,” Murdoch said.

Earlier this month, British Steel won approval from a French court to buy the Ascoval steel mill in northern France, pledging to invest 47.5 million euros in mill and guarantee the jobs of the 270 workers employed at the site.

Ascoval is a joint venture between Vallourec and Ascometal.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Maytaal Angel. Additional reporting by Susanna Twidale; Editing by Keith Weir and David Evans)

Source: OANN

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An understated Huppert anchors bittersweet family drama “Frankie”

72nd Cannes Film Festival - News conference for the film
72nd Cannes Film Festival - News conference for the film "Frankie" in competition - Cannes, France, May 21, 2019. Cast member Isabelle Huppert arrives. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

May 21, 2019

By Sarah White and Phyllis Xu

CANNES, France (Reuters) – In Ira Sachs film “Frankie”, Isabelle Huppert stars as an ailing French actress who gathers her family together for one last holiday – coming as close to playing herself as she ever has.

The film, vying for Cannes’ top Palme d’Or prize this week, was written with Huppert in mind, and showcases the actress, who has been recognized at the film festival several times with acting awards, on very understated form.

“What I think Ira Sachs was requiring for his actors was a kind of … great simplicity, to the point that I didn’t have the feeling to do a character, to do a role,” Huppert told Reuters in an interview. “I just had the feeling to just be myself and say certain things, that is all.”

That’s as far as the parallels go, however. “Frankie” tells the story of a woman and her loved ones trying to come to terms with her impending death, explored over the course of a day as they clash, comfort each other, and question their own lives and relationships on their Portuguese vacation.

There are tender moments and also laughs as meddlesome Frankie tries to sort out her son’s love life; and more bittersweet ones, including discussions about money and inheritance – inspired, according to Sachs, by his own experience of losing a good friend to cancer.

“Being part of (the) last three years of her life, I was struck by how unexpected the experience was for me,” Sachs said in an interview. “I think there is an idea that death will be serious, and actually, it is like life, whatever it is. It is made up with a lot of contrasts.”

Huppert, who has twice won the best actress award at Cannes, including for “The Piano Teacher” in 2001, was praised by critics for her pared-back turn, though some reviewers were less convinced by the film as a whole.

“It’s exquisite around the edges, but where’s the beef?” Variety asked in its write-up, saying the film almost left too much to be read between the lines.

(Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian)

Source: OANN

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Portugal arrests 17 Hells Angels biker gang members in raids across country

FILE PHOTO: A decorated tank of a Harley Davidson motorbike is pictured at the funeral of a Hell Angels chapter president in Giessen, Germany
FILE PHOTO: A decorated tank of a Harley Davidson motorbike is pictured at the funeral of a Hell Angels chapter president in Giessen, Germany, October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

May 21, 2019

LISBON (Reuters) – Portuguese police arrested 17 members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club on Tuesday on suspicion of organized crime activity, authorities said.

Around 150 officers, including anti-terrorism personnel, took part in raids on homes and commercial establishments across Portugal, the Judiciary Police (PJ) said in a statement.

TV channel SIC reported homes were searched in the capital Lisbon, the country’s north and the Algarve in the south where thousands of bikers gather every year for an international motorcycle event.

Police confirmed 17 men belonging to the Hells Angels and aged between 29 and 52 were detained and expected to appear in court on Wednesday, charged with criminal association – which in Portugal is punishable by up to five years in jail.

One police inquiry has focused on a March 2018 incident in which Hells Angels members allegedly attacked a rival motorcycle gang and neo-Nazi associates as part of a turf war for control of illicit weapons and drug trafficking.

Dozens of Hells Angels bikers were arrested four months later and described by Portuguese police as “extremely dangerous” with long criminal records and involvement in violent organized crime.

The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club was formed in the United States in 1948 and has branches around the world, including in Portugal since 2002. The US-based club couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Axel Bugge)

Source: OANN


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