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Tighter U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil will cost Asia but supply will flow

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

April 23, 2019

By Henning Gloystein

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asian buyers of Iranian crude are well placed to overcome the end of U.S. sanctions waivers as they have demonstrated they can live without it and as global producers have the capacity to make up a shortfall, according to analysts and trade data.

The United States on Monday demanded buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers, most of them in Asia, to continue importing limited volumes.

The announcement came amid an already tight market as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other major producers, including Russia, have been curtailing supply since January to prop up prices.

Global benchmark Brent crude futures rose to as high as $74.69 a barrel on Tuesday, the most this year. The surging crude will mean higher fuel costs for Asian economies. Iran’s four-biggest crude buyers are China, India, Japan and South Korea.

Despite the cost surge, supply shortfalls are unlikely.

The end of the waivers should cut Iranian exports by 900,000 barrels per day (bpd), Goldman Sachs said late on Monday. That is more than made up by “immediately available” spare capacity from producers including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia of about 2 million bpd, which could rise to 2.5 million bpd next year.

In a statement on the end of the waivers, U.S. President Donald Trump said the United States, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE would ensure oil markets are fully supplied.

“The United States have more than proved that they are able to fill any voids left by sanctions,” said Matt Stanley, a broker with Starfuels in Dubai.

Even if U.S. output should fall short, Stanley said, “Saudi and the United Arab Emirates are going to ensure they will increase production to offset any loss in supply from Iran.”

Iran’s four main Asian buyers ramped up imports in March and April in anticipation of the end of the waivers. But before that, all the countries already showed they could dial down their purchases.

Before the sanctions, Iran was OPEC’s fourth-largest producer at almost 3 million bpd, but April 2019 exports have shrunk to around 1 million bpd, according to ship tracking and analyst data in Refinitiv.

(GRAPHIC: Iran seaborne crude oil & condensate exports –


Iran’s biggest oil buyers are China and India.

China on Monday criticized the U.S. decision, but trade data shows it can cope with lower Iranian imports.

Ship tracking data in Refinitiv showed China’s crude imports from Iran averaging 500,000 bpd since the start of 2019, down from a 2018 peak of 800,000 bpd, and only 5 percent of its overall crude imports.

Dai Jiaquan, head of the Research Institute of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), said on Tuesday that other suppliers could fill the gaps, particularly U.S. crude.

He noted that estimated U.S. crude output increases this year are between 1.6 million and 1.7 million bpd, that alone would outpace expected global oil demand growth of 1.2 million to 1.3 million bpd.

Adding spare capacity from OPEC means “there will not be short supply in the market,” said Dai.

The United States is now the world’s biggest oil producer, pumping more than 12 million bpd with exports topping 3 million bpd

India has also reduced Iranian purchases, averaging 300,000 bpd this year, around 6 percent of overall imports, down from a peak of 750,000 bpd in mid-2018, Refinitiv data showed.

India’s Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Tuesday his country could access supplies from other producers to compensate for Iranian losses.

“Indian refineries are fully prepared to meet the national demand for petrol, diesel and other petroleum products,” he said.

(GRAPHIC: U.S. crude oil production & exports –


Close U.S. ally Japan halted all Iranian crude imports between November 2018 and January 2019, Refinitiv data showed, and imports since then have averaged below 200,000 bpd, equivalent to 5 percent of demand.

The tighter U.S. sanctions should have only a limited impact on Japan, Hiroshige Seko, the trade and industry minister, said on Tuesday.

South Korea also cut all of its Iranian oil imports between August and December 2018. This year, Korea has averaged around 300,000 bpd of imports, mostly of condensate, an ultra-light oil used by many of its refiners to make petrochemicals.

(GRAPHIC: Iran crude oil & condensate exports to Asia’s biggest buyers –

(Reporting by Henning Gloystein in SINGAPORE; additional reporting by Muyu Xu in BEIJING, Jane Chung in SEOUL and Aaron Sheldrick in TOKYO; editing by Christian Schmollinger)

Source: OANN

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Exclusive: China’s Bytedance says India TikTok ban causing $500,000 daily loss, risks jobs

FILE PHOTO: The logo of TikTok application is seen in this picture illustration
FILE PHOTO: The logo of TikTok application is seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Illustration

April 23, 2019

By Aditya Kalra and Munsif Vengattil

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s ban on popular Chinese video app TikTok is resulting in “financial losses” of up to $500,000 a day for its developer, Beijing Bytedance Technology Co, and has put more than 250 jobs at risk, the company said in a court filing seen by Reuters.

TikTok allows users to create and share short videos with special effects and is one of the world’s most popular apps. It has been downloaded by nearly 300 million users so far in India, out of more than 1 billion downloads globally, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.

Earlier this month, an Indian state court ordered the federal government to prohibit its downloads, saying the app was encouraging pornography. Acting upon instructions from the federal IT ministry, Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google last week removed TikTok from their India app stores.

The developments have dealt a blow to the India growth plans of Bytedance, which is backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp and by private equity. Bytedance, one of the world’s most valuable startups potentially worth around $75 billion, was considering a public listing in Hong Kong this year, sources told Reuters in August.

The ban has also worried the social media industry in India as it sees legal worries mounting if courts increasingly regulate content on their platforms.

In the filing made to India’s Supreme Court on Saturday, Bytedance urged the court to quash the ban and direct the federal IT ministry to tell companies such as Google and Apple to make the app available again on their platforms.

The court filing is not publicly available and its contents have not been previously reported.

Bytedance pegged financial losses at $500,000 each day, which it said includes destruction in the value of its investments and loss of commercial revenue. It added the ban would result in its reputation and goodwill taking a hit with both advertisers and investors.

“Banning has had adverse impact on the user base of this app, losing close to 1 million new users per day … It is estimated that approximately six million requests for downloads could not be effected since the ban came into effect,” the company said in the filing.

A spokesman for TikTok and the federal IT ministry did not respond to requests for comment.


The Supreme Court has so far not provided any interim relief on repeated pleas by Bytedance and referred the case back to the court in southern Tamil Nadu state, where the case will next be heard on Wednesday.

Memes and music videos thrive on TikTok, although some clips show youngsters, some scantily clad, lip-syncing and dancing to popular tunes.

Its growing popularity has drawn criticism from some Indian politicians and parents who say its content is inappropriate. The Tamil Nadu court, which ruled against TikTok after an individual filed a public interest litigation, has said the app could also expose children to sexual predators.

The Supreme Court filing included a table in which Bytedance compared TikTok to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by listing 13 of its implemented safety features, including parental controls.

A “very minuscule” proportion of TikTok’s videos were considered inappropriate or obscene, the company has said.

“The constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of free speech and expression … of numerous Indian citizens have been severely impacted,” the company said in its latest filing.

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Martin Howell and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Source: OANN

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Zelenskiy faces battles with Ukraine’s hostile parliament

FILE PHOTO: Candidate Zelenskiy reacts following the announcement of an exit poll in a presidential election in Kiev
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy reacts following the announcement of the first exit poll in a presidential election at his campaign headquarters in Kiev, Ukraine April 21, 2019./File Photo

April 23, 2019

By Matthias Williams and Pavel Polityuk

KIEV (Reuters) – Before Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelenskiy was even elected, an opposition leader was plotting to curb his powers and make it easier for him to be impeached.

Andriy Sadovyi, head of the Samopomich party, the second largest opposition group in parliament, announced two days before the vote he was garnering support for a parliamentary bill to weaken the presidency.

The opening salvo is a measure of the hostility that may be in store for Zelenskiy, a 41-year-old comedian who beat incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, in Sunday’s election despite having no prior political experience or representation in parliament.

Zelenskiy is expected to take office next month. His ability to work with parliament, known as the Rada, will be crucial to meeting the expectations of his voters and passing reforms to keep foreign aid flowing.

Lawmakers from Samopomich and other parties feel the president has too many powers.

“Let him have responsibility like other political players, he cannot stand above the law,” Oksana Syroyid, a Samopomich lawmaker and deputy speaker in parliament told Reuters.

Zelenskiy’s powers will include appointing the head of the state security service, the head of the military, the general prosecutor, the central bank governor and the foreign and defense ministers.

But parliament must confirm each appointment and although Zelenskiy beat the incumbent decisively in the presidential vote and his party could win the largest number of seats in parliamentary elections in October it is unlikely to win an outright majority, opinion polls show.

This means he would need to ally with at least one other party if he is to get his election pledges enacted and his appointments approved. He has not indicated which parties he would be prepared to work with.

Adding to the hostility is his election promise for a bill to strip lawmakers, and himself, of immunity from prosecution.

Volodymyr Ariev, a lawmaker from Poroshenko’s faction, told Reuters it was unlikely that parliament would back that move because lawmakers fret about being prosecuted in political vendettas.

Zelenskiy also needs lawmakers to pass legislation that matters to the International Monetary Fund, Ukraine’s most important foreign backer, such as a bill to criminalize illegal enrichment by officials.

Stuart Culverhouse, Head of Sovereign and Fixed Income Research at Tellimer, said lawmakers might not back that bill until after October. This could lead to delays in IMF tranche disbursements under the $3.9 billion assistance program. The next one is due in May.

“This could be enough to burst the pre-election Zelenskiy market bubble,” he said.

Yields have fallen as investors became more comfortable with Zelenskiy and also because another presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko — who was hostile to some major reforms — was knocked out of the running.


Samopomich’s Syroyid said her party wants to strip the president of some powers, including the right to appoint the chairman of the National Energy and Utilities Regulatory Commission (NEURC) who sets energy tariffs with the government.

“What do the tariffs have to do with the president? Today he (the president) has influence – he appoints the chairman of the NEURC.”

Tymoshenko, another opposition leader who ran in the election against Zelenskiy, has previously also called for the president’s powers to be curbed.

    “It may be necessary to… more clearly define what the president can and cannot do,” Oleksiy Riabchyn, a lawmaker in Tymoshenko’s party told Reuters.

The government is led by Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who was appointed by Poroshenko. He is expected to stay in power until the October election. If Zelenskiy wins enough seats in parliament, he is expected to form a new government.

This means that until those elections, he may struggle to make any significant changes.

“Until the October parliamentary election Mr Zelenskiy’s team will need to secure the support of various factions in the current legislature in order to pass policies,” said Agnese Ortolani, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

“This might prove difficult, as part of the political elite is likely to attempt to paralyse Mr Zelenskiy’s presidency.”

Zelenskiy could try and bring forward the parliamentary election now while his popularity may be at a peak. But he would only be able to do that with parliament’s blessing.

“If parliament does not support the president’s initiatives it will be very hard to explain to Ukraine’s voters why not,” Dmytro Razumkov, an adviser to Zelenskiy’s campaign, told Reuters.

“It’s up to lawmakers. I hope their political survival instincts will dominate.”

(Additional reporting by Polina Ivanova; editing by Anna Willard)

Source: OANN

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Saudi Arabia welcomes U.S. move to end all Iran sanction waivers

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf attends a preparatory meeting between Arab foreign ministers ahead of the Arab summit in Tunis
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf attends a preparatory meeting between Arab foreign ministers ahead of the Arab summit in Tunis, Tunisia March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

April 23, 2019

DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Tuesday welcomed a U.S. decision to end all Iran sanction waivers by May, saying it was a necessary step to halt Tehran’s “destabilizing” policy in the region.

“Saudi Arabia fully supports this step taken by the United States as it is necessary to force the Iranian regime to end its policy of destabilizing stability and its support and sponsorship of terrorism around the world,” Ibrahim al-Assaf said in comments carried on state media.

He reiterated a statement issued by the kingdom’s energy minister on Monday that the world’s largest oil exporter would coordinate with other oil producers to ensure an adequate crude supply and balanced markets after Washington’s announcement.

(Reporting by Omar Fahmy in Cairo and Tuqa Khalid in Dubai; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Source: OANN

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China lodges representations with U.S. over end to Iran sanction waivers

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

April 23, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it has lodged representations with the United States over Washington’s plan to end waivers for Iranian oil imports.

“The decision from the U.S. will contribute to volatility in the Middle East and in the international energy market,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a news briefing.

Washington has announced that all Iran sanction waivers will end by May, sending crude oil prices higher and pressuring importers to stop buying from Tehran.

(Reporting by Michael Pollard and Beijing Monitoring Desk; editing by Darren Schuettler)

Source: OANN

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Sri Lanka may need more IMF help as blasts threaten tourism

A security personnel observes three minutes of silence as a tribute to victims, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, near St Anthony Shrine in Colombo
A security personnel observes three minutes of silence as a tribute to victims, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, near St Anthony Shrine in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

April 23, 2019

By Marius Zaharia and Vidya Ranganathan

HONG KONG/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Sri Lanka faces a likely collapse in tourism following Easter Sunday bomb attacks on churches and hotels, which would deal a severe blow to the island’s economy and financial markets, and potentially force it to seek further IMF assistance.

The International Monetary Fund extended last month a $1.5 billion loan for an extra year into 2020, a key step in keeping foreign investors involved in what so far this year has been a top-performing frontier debt market.

But with growth, and therefore state revenues, now likely to slow significantly, the budget targets agreed with the IMF may have to be reviewed, and the government is expected to resist pressure for any spending cuts before elections expected later this year.

There is even a possibility that more IMF money may be needed if foreign investment falls, adding to the hard currency gap left by plunging tourism receipts.

“If growth slows a lot more and the budget deficit assumptions need to be reassessed, then they’ll have to sit down and negotiate something more feasible,” said Alex Holmes, Asia economist at Capital Economics.

The Sri Lankan stock index dived 2.6 percent on Tuesday in its first day of trading after the attacks that killed more than 300 people, while the heavily-managed rupee held steady.

Tourism is Sri Lanka’s third-largest and fastest growing source of foreign currency, after remittances and garment exports, accounting for almost $4.4 billion or 4.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018.

A fall in tourism receipts is bound to weaken the rupee over time. The central bank, whose coffers are too light to defend the currency through interventions, is likely to have to raise interest rates.

This, in turn, would choke lending, hurting consumers and the investment plans of local businesses, while also making it more costly for the government to seek funding from foreign investors via bond markets.

“The central bank may be forced to hike rates again this year,” said Win Thin, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH).

“With foreign reserves very low right now, the central bank cannot actively support the rupee.”

After falling 16 percent against the U.S. dollar last year to record lows, the rupee had gained 4.6 percent this year as of last week.

Sri Lankan bonds have been among the best performing globally, only bettered by Argentina and Chile. But the main stock index has lost about 10 percent.


Sri Lanka’s external position was already precarious.

To help fund a record $5.9 billion in foreign loans this year, the country successfully sold $2.4 billion in five-year and 10-year U.S. dollar bonds last month, but that was right after the IMF extension and amid bets of looser monetary policy.

(GRAPHIC: Sri Lanka’s precarious balance of payments –

In January, Sri Lanka used its reserves to repay debt worth $1 billion. It had about $5 billion left in February, the least since April 2017, and only enough to cover two months of imports and about two-thirds of its short-term external debt, according to BBH calculations.

Colombo also needs to finance a current account deficit of about 3 percent of GDP.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is already facing heavy criticism domestically for higher taxes, and tight monetary and fiscal policies that have crimped growth to a 17-year low.

Having emerged from a 51-day political crisis in which President Maithripala Sirisena sacked and replaced him with pro-China former president Mahinda Rajapaksa – a decision which was later reversed – Wickremesinghe set an ambitious fiscal deficit goal of 4.4 percent of GDP, compared with 5.3 percent in 2018.

But he also boosted spending on state employees, pensioners and the armed forces and promised more funds for rural infrastructure, leading economists to doubt the targets. A presidential vote is expected later this year followed by a general election in 2020.

“Given the fact they have repayments coming up for sovereign bonds, it could lead to more pressure on foreign currency reserves. So, it’s a near term negative for the tourism sector and also market sentiment as well,” said Ruchir Desai, fund manager at Asia Frontier Capital, who co-manages the $16 million AFC Asia Frontier Fund.

“Valuations are cheap, no doubt… but until they get some kind of political unity which can result in stable policy-making, we will probably remain underweight (equities) until the elections.”

(Reporting by Marius Zaharia in HONG KONG, Vidya Ranganathan in SINGAPORE and Daniel Leussink in TOKYO; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

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Singapore’s finance minister Heng named deputy PM

FILE PHOTO: Singapore's Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat speaks at a UBS client conference in Singapore
FILE PHOTO: Singapore's Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat speaks at a UBS client conference in Singapore, January 14, 2019. REUTERS/Feline Lim

April 23, 2019

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore finance minister Heng Swee Keat is set to become deputy prime minister, the prime minister’s office said in a statement on Tuesday, strengthening expectations he will take over as the future leader of the city-state.

Heng’s promotion will take effect on May 1, and will see Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam relinquish their roles as deputy prime ministers, the statement said.

Singapore’s ruling party last year named Heng to a key leadership post, putting him in line to take over from current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who has said he will step down in coming years.

(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan, John Geddie and Anshuman Daga; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

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As many as two dozen individuals may be implicated in House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes’ criminal referrals to the Justice Department arising out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recently concluded Russia probe, sources confirmed to Fox News on Tuesday.

The sources confirmed that the referrals related in part to the anti-Trump dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele, and his work for the Clinton camp and the Democratic National Committee-funded firm Fusion GPS.

Meanwhile, three top Republican Senate committee chairmen said Tuesday that the DOJ has 10 days to explain itself as to why FBI investigators looking into Hillary Clinton’s email use in 2016 sought access to “highly classified information” they said was “necessary” to complete their probe, but later withdrew the request and cleared Clinton of wrongdoing.

The renewed GOP push for answers comes a month after it emerged that the DOJ negotiated an agreement with Clinton’s legal team that ensured the FBI did not have access to emails on her private servers relating to the Clinton Foundation.

Republicans, citing whistleblowers, have contended that the charitable organization may have been involved in pay-to-play schemes, misappropriation of funds and quid-pro-quo promises made to donors during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

In a letter to the DOJ, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson demanded more information as to why the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, known as “Midyear Exam,” concluded without apparently accessing classified materials.


Relying on the findings in an unclassified DOJ Inspector General (IG) report and a classified annex attached to the report, the senators noted that the FBI “acquired classified material that ‘may have included information potentially relevant to the Midyear investigation,’ and the bureau later “drafted a memorandum in May of 2016 stating that access to the information was ‘necessary to complete the investigation.'”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., earlier this year in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., earlier this year in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

At that time, the GOP senators noted, then-FBI Director James Comey was drafting his public statement exonerating Clinton while noting she had mishandled classified information.

However, the memorandum seeking the classified information from the DOJ “was never completed,” the senators noted, and FBI witnesses claimed in interviews with the IG that the information would not have materially impacted their conclusions — despite the language in the memo.


Grassley, then the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, requested an explanation for the apparent discrepancy in October 2018, but was denied.

In a Sept. 17, 2018, phone call, the DOJ “declined to brief the Judiciary Committee, asserting without any clear basis, that it would interfere with Special Counsel Mueller’s equities,” the senators said Tuesday. “Now that the special counsel’s investigation has concluded, we are unaware of any legitimate basis upon which the department can refuse to answer the Judiciary Committee’s inquiries.”

The senators concluded: “Accordingly, we are reissuing the attached classified letter regarding the important questions raised by the appendix and reiterating our request for a classified briefing on the subject.  Please respond to these questions no later than April 26, 2019.”

“That we had to sue for this basic information shows the FBI may have something more to hide.”

— Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton

Separately on Tuesday, the transparency group Judicial Watch charged that the FBI failed to respond to its October 2018 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking more information about secretive communications in late 2016 between a top Clinton campaign lawyer and the bureau’s then-general counsel.

Additionally, the group said, the FBI has ignored September 2018 FOIA requests concerning bureau communications with, and payments to, British ex-spy Christopher Steele — who authored the infamous anti-Trump dossier.

In response, Judicial Watch announced Tuesday it has filed lawsuits seeking the full release of all relevant documents. The flurry of litigation comes just days before Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report is set to be publicly released, with some redactions.

The Mueller report’s Thursday release is expected to shed more light on the Russia investigation’s conclusions that the Trump campaign did not improperly collude with Russia, despite multiple attempts by Russian-affiliated individuals to involve the Trump team in computer hacking.

The ongoing litigation and document requests could provide more information on the beginnings of the Russia investigation, which Republicans have charged was tainted with visible anti-Trump bias from the start.


“How and why did the FBI pay Christopher Steele, who was already being funded by the Clinton campaign and DNC through Fusion GPS?” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton asked in announcing the lawsuits. “That we had to sue for this basic information shows the FBI may have something more to hide.”

The separate suit to obtain the Clinton-related communications, Fitton said, aims to “fully expose the scandalous collusion between the Obama FBI and the Clinton-DNC political operation to target Hillary Clinton’s political opponent, Donald J. Trump.”

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

North Macedonia's presidential election
Ruling Social Democratic Union of Macedonia’s candidate Stevo Pendarovski talks to the media after casting his vote for the presidential elections in Skopje, North Macedonia April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

April 21, 2019

SKOPJE (Reuters) – Early results of a presidential election in North Macedonia showed pro-Western candidate Stevo Pendarovski in first place, with 45 percent of the vote, the Central Election Commission website showed on Sunday.

His main rival, opposition candidate Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, was in second place with 41 percent of the votes, preliminary results showed, based on 57 percent of ballots counted.

Blerim Reka, candidate of the second largest Albanian party Besa came third with 11.7 percent of the votes counted.

Pendarovski and Siljanovska-Davkova will face a run-off on May 5.

(Reporting by Kole Casule; Writing by Ivana Sekularac; editing by Louise Heavens)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: China's Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Gao Feng attends a news conference in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: China’s Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Gao Feng attends a news conference in Beijing, China April 6, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

April 18, 2019

Source: OANN

Third round play of the Masters at Augusta National
Golf – Masters – Augusta National Golf Club – Augusta, Georgia, U.S. – April 13, 2019 – Tiger Woods of the U.S. hits off the 14th tee during third round play. REUTERS/Mike Segar

April 14, 2019

By Steve Keating

AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – All eyes were on Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari and the weather as the race for the Green Jacket turned into a sprint on Sunday with the Masters heading towards a stormy finish.

Woods and Molinari, who were paired together in the final round of last year’s British Open won by the Italian, will once again be in the last group.

They will tee off at 9:20 am ET (1320 GMT) as officials pushed up start times in a desperate bid to get the season’s first major across the finish line before storms hit.

The two major winners will be joined by young American Tony Finau with officials sending off threesomes from both the first and 10th tees, rather than traditional pairs in another effort to avoid a Monday finish.

So sure are forecasters of dangerous weather that Augusta National announced that there will be no Green Jacket ceremony on the terrace putting green in order to expedite gate closures and get people off the course.

Molinari, the first Italian to win a major with his victory at Carnoustie, will start the day at 13-under.

He has a two-shot lead over Finau and Woods, who is certain to be cheered on by a massive gallery as he looks to end an 11-year major title drought by claiming a fifth Green Jacket.

Lurking one shot further back is two-times defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, who will head off in the company of Webb Simpson and Englishman Ian Poulter, both four off the pace.

The stormy weather will provide an ominous backdrop for Woods, Molinari and Finau in a hugely anticipated showdown that has even attracted the attention of United States president Donald Trump.

Molinari has been almost flawless through three rounds, carding a single bogey.

Woods, playing in his 22nd Masters, heads into Sunday riding the momentum of a third round five-under 67, his best score at Augusta National since 2011 when he shot rounds of 66 and 67.

Finau will be the wildcard in the last threesome.

Playing in just his second Masters, the 29-year-old has displayed plenty of guts to go along with some superb form.

Famed for dislocating his ankle celebrating a hole-in-one at last year’s par-3 contest, Finau scored a 30 on his outward nine on Saturday, matching the Masters record for the lowest front nine, on the way to an eight-under 64.

(Editing by Toby Davis)

Source: OANN

President Trump offered condolences Tuesday to French President Emmanuel Macron over the devastating fire that ravaged the famed Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris a day earlier.

“France is the oldest ally of the United States, and we remember with grateful hearts the tolling of Notre Dame’s bells on September 12, 2001, in solemn recognition of the tragic September 11th attacks on American soil,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “Those bells will sound again. We stand with France today and offer our assistance in the rehabilitation of this irreplaceable symbol of Western civilization. Vive la France!”

Trump referenced the blaze repeatedly on Monday during both public appearances and on social media. During a stop at a trucking company in Minnesota on Monday, the president expressed his shock and sadness at the news of the fire – calling the famed cathedral “one of the great treasures of the world.”


Along with Trump, numerous other world leaders offered their condolences to France in the aftermath of the fire, including Pope Francis, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen.

Monday’s fire collapsed the spire and burned through the roof of the 12th-century building, sparking an outpouring of grief and reminiscing of visits to the Parisian landmark.

Macron has pledged to rebuild a cathedral that he called “a part of us” and appealed for help to do so. The church is home to relics, stained glass and other incalculable works of art and is a leading tourist attraction, immortalized by Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”


The Paris prosecutor’s office said it was treating the fire as an accident, ruling out arson and possible terror-related motives, at least for now. French media quoted the Paris fire brigade as saying the fire was “potentially linked” to a 6 million euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the spire and its 500 tons of wood and 250 tons of lead.

Despite the dramatic image of the flaming cathedral, no one was killed. One firefighter was injured, among some 400 who battled the flames for hours before finally extinguishing them. Firefighters continued working through the night to cool the building and secure the monument, as residual sparks sprinkled down from the gaping hole where the spire used to be.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

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