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Documentary filmmaker Ami Horowitz officially threw his hat in the ring on Wednesday in the ever-expanding 2020 Democratic primary, hoping he’ll “bring some sanity” to the Dem debate stage as he seeks to qualify with 65,000 individual donors as the 23rd declared candidate.

“The Democratic Party has become the party of socialism, open borders and late-term abortions. They’ve become so radicalized over the past several years that I feel compelled to try to bring some sanity into the discussion,” Horowitz said in the video that launched his campaign. “So if you want to see me throw an intellectual hand grenade on the Democratic debate stage and hold them accountable, go to and donate some money. Send some cash. Anything!”

In an interview with Fox News, Horowitz explained that he first decided to make a run for presidency back in February when the DNC announced its qualifications for Democratic candidates to make it onto the debate stage, which he thought was “achievable.”

The filmmaker says he never previously ascribed to one particular party, saying he values “ideology” and has been “critical” of Republicans and Democrats as well as current and previous presidents.

“Why I decide now, specifically the Democratic campaign, was because I see a party that is ripping itself apart. It’s almost imploding because of the radicalization of its ideologies of the past few years,” Horowitz said. “I think the Democratic Party is almost a warped physics and moved the gravitational center of the party so far to the left that I think it’s making itself unelectable. And I don’t think we’re a healthy country if we have one strong party and one weak party and I think that’s the road we’re going down. So I want to bring some sanity to this insane process that I see going on with the Democrats.”

Horowitz slammed what he referred to as “radical” policy positions Democrats have taken like on late-term abortions, open borders, and how the other Democratic candidates in the race are  “running away” from capitalism, which he insisted the “vast majority of the country” oppose.

“Capitalism is the greatest idea that man ever created to bring more people out of poverty, create more wealthy than any other thing created by man and they’re running away from that label,” Horowitz said.

His message to those who dismiss what he considers to be a “guerrilla campaign” as a joke is that he is “deadly serious” and is willing to “take this all the way” to the DNC convention next year, but acknowledged that the odds weren’t in his favor.

“Stranger things have happened, okay?” Horowitz explained. “Who would have thought that when Donald Trump announced that that was a serious campaign? Guess what; he’s now the president of the United States… I’m here to say and I’m deadly serious about this because the issues that we’re dealing with are deadly serious.”

Within 48 hours since launching his campaign, Horowitz has collected over 8,000 individual donors, which is roughly 12 percent of the 65,000 he needs to be allowed on the debate stage, hoping that he can replicate the success of Marianne Williamson, who announced on Thursday she met that donor threshold.

18 candidates currently qualify for the debates but the DNC announced they will allow those with the highest polling to fill the two vacant slots to reach 20 candidates total followed by the number of individual donors. Horowitz told Fox News that he’s “hanging his hat” on the number of donors he will have in order to participate in the earlier debates since debates inching towards the primaries will be more restrictive.

“If the Democrats are smart, they will nominate me because I think that I am the only guy on the stage who can beat [Trump]. And I’m nominated, I will beat him,” Horowitz insisted.

As a registered Democrat, Horowitz dismisses the common characterization that he’s a “conservative” filmmaker since he “calls it as he sees it.” He supports a woman’s right to choose but opposes late-term abortions, believes that restrictions on gun ownership are “vital” but calls himself an “ardent supporter” of the Second Amendment, says and that legal immigration is the “backbone of America’s foundation” but wants to “shut down” illegal immigration.

He acknowledged that there are “a lot of things” that he liked and disliked about President Donald Trump, but assured that he would do a “better job” on policy and “bringing the country together.”

“I think this is a president that’s polarizing and some of that is his fault, some of it is not his fault,” the filmmaker elaborated. “We are at a collection point in our country where polarization is not an advantage. Polarization is not gonna help us move the issues that we need to move on. And I feel like I could be that guy to bring the country together.”

Horowitz admitted that Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass would be a “viable” option to defeat Trump in 2020 but says he has “no chance to win” in the primaries and that former Vice President Joe Biden, who many see as “electable,” has “ideological baggage,” pointing to his “insane” proposal to give health insurance to illegal immigrants in the US and how such progressive policies from him and other candidates will be “difficult to defend” during a general election.

“I’m not interested in pandering to get votes. I’m not interested in pandering to win the nomination. I have an ideology that I will stick with and will not change from for any reason,” Horowitz declared. “I think that the majority of the Democrat electorate is looking for a moderate they can rally behind, they are the silent majority, and those are the only people that I’m interested in.”

Horowitz criticized Trump’s trade policies, which he thought was partly in opposition to free trade and fears this administration’s tariffs on China will derail what he considers to be a “phenomenal” economy under the Trump presidency. He also isn’t strongly for or against “the wall” on the southern border but is in favor of letting those on the ground who control the border decide what they need.

On foreign policy, he did complimented President Trump’s treatment of Israel and his “toughness” on Russia, but disapproved his rhetoric towards Russian President Vladimir Putin and believes the US is “being played” by North Korea.


Horowitz, a former contributor, thought that the Mueller Report is “particularly clear” that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and expressed he couldn’t declare outright that the president obstructed justice, admitting he’s “not a lawyer” and calls House Democrats pushing President Trump’s impeachment a “gimmick.”

“I would follow the path of what the Department of Justice tells me. I would follow the path of what the Judicial Branch tells me,” Horowitz continued. “If they’re saying there’s a problem with obstruction, let’s bring it on. Let’s see what we have there and if there’s something that he did that’s impeachable, then I’d say let’s do that as well. But if he hasn’t, if it’s not impeachable, and the experts are telling us that there’s nothing that we can prosecute, you have to move on. Let the president do his job in running the country. He’s the president.”

As a candidate, Horowitz’s biggest weakness may be coming up with a campaign message as catchy as “Make America Great Again.”

“‘Ami is the best and the rest of the candidates are the worst,'” Horowitz joked. “We probably should think about it. … We should come up with a pithy one-liner.”

Source: Fox News Politics

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/File Photo/File Photo

May 13, 2019

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, Robin Emmott and John Irish

LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Iran insists on exporting at least 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, triple May’s expected levels under U.S. sanctions, as a condition for staying in an international nuclear deal, sources with knowledge of Iran-EU talks said.

The figure was communicated in recent meetings between Iranian and Western officials, including Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, but has not been set down in writing, four European diplomatic sources said.

The United States reimposed sanctions in November on exports of Iranian oil after U.S. President Donald Trump last spring unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 accord between Iran and six world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.

In an attempt to reduce Iran’s crude exports to zero, Washington ended at the beginning of May waivers that had allowed the top buyers of Iranian oil to continue their imports for six months.

The sanctions have already more than halved Iranian oil exports to 1 million bpd or less, from a peak of 2.8 million bpd last year. Exports could drop to as low as 500,000 bpd from May, an Iranian official told Reuters this month.

Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz – a major oil-shipping route – and disrupt crude shipments from neighboring countries if Washington succeeds in forcing all countries to stop buying Iranian oil.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei set out last year a series of conditions for European powers if they wanted Tehran to stay in the nuclear deal, including continued purchases of Iranian oil.

Khamenei did not specify which minimum level of oil sales Iran would accept to stick with the deal, or keep the Strait open.

According to one European Union official, the Iranians have not been specific, but they wanted to ensure production returned to pre-sanctions levels. Other sources said Iran’s demand seemed to be in a general range of 1.5 million to 2 million bpd.

“Zarif said specifically that they want to sell 2 million barrels of oil (per day), basically the level Iran was exporting before Trump withdrew from the deal,” said a source present at the New York meeting in which the minister made the statement.

“But I don’t think it is a serious demand. It isn’t possible and the Iranians know it isn’t possible.”

Zarif also said during the same visit to New York in April that Iran could only sell 500,000 to 700,000 bpd of oil.


Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said last week that for Tehran to stay in the nuclear deal, Iranian oil sales should reach their pre-sanctions level or at least “start the process of returning” to such a level.

Araqchi also said another Iranian condition was to have full access to oil-export revenues, and to spend them as it pleased, not only on food and medicine as proposed by EU countries.

According to Iran’s budget for this year, one third of the government’s income – 1,425 trillion rials ($33.9 billion) – should come from oil and gas exports.

The budget was based on a forecast crude oil price of $50-$54 per barrel and a U.S. dollar rate of 57,000 rials, meaning the Iranian economy could remain sustainable if exports came to at least 1.5 million bpd.

EU officials also estimate Iran needs to sell 1.5 million bpd to keep its economy afloat. A drop below 1 million bpd could bring hardship and economic crisis.

Portions of Iran’s oil sales go to the country’s sovereign wealth fund and to the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) for production expenses and other costs.

President Hassan Rouhani this year reduced the share of oil revenues allocated to the wealth fund from 30% to 20% due to expectations of lower exports as U.S. sanctions bite.

The government also earns revenues by exporting gas to a number of neighboring countries.

Iran’s oil exports during previous sanctions in 2012 fell to as low as about 1 million bpd, pushing up inflation. Iranian officials have vowed to prevent similar price spikes in future.

The International Monetary Fund, however, expects tighter U.S. sanctions could push inflation in Iran to 37% this year, the highest since 1995.


Once Europe’s biggest supplier, Iran has seen its exports gradually cut off from European buyers.

China – Iran’s largest oil customer with imports of 475,000 bpd in the first quarter of this year – has also stopped buying from Iran after Washington chose not to renew sanctions waivers.

“The real problem for Iran is oil exports, but that’s a question the Iranians have to ask the Chinese and Indians,” a senior European diplomat said.  

“The survival of this accord is a universal obligation and not just a European one as the Iranians keep claiming … If we want to save the deal, the Chinese have to continue buying the oil.”

While Beijing has criticized the U.S. sanctions, companies are erring on the side of caution. China Petrochemical Corp (Sinopec Group) and China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the country’s top state-owned refiners, have skipped Iranian oil purchases for loading in May.

Iran has said it will sell oil on a “grey market” to evade U.S. sanctions, without giving details.

One year after Washington quit the deal, Iran announced on Wednesday steps to relax some restrictions on its nuclear program.

In letters to the deal’s remaining signatories – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – Rouhani gave them a 60-day ultimatum to protect his country’s interests or face a resumption of high-level Iranian enrichment of uranium.

But the letter did not detail Iran’s economic demands, specifically how much oil it wants to sell, one diplomat said.

“They (Iranians) took a small step away from the deal. I think they would be satisfied with a small, reciprocal step from Europe,” another source said. “The reciprocal step wouldn’t be about oil. I don’t think there is much to do on oil.”

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London, Robin Emmott in Brussels and John Irish in Paris; Editing by Dale Hudson)

Source: OANN

American Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman said Thursday that the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report has led to a “slightly improved environment” for conducting relations with Russia.

“The estrangement which we’ve experienced in the bilateral relationship has gone on too long,” Huntsman said in an interview with Public Radio International’s “The World.” “And the estrangement can lead to bad conclusions — always assuming the worst in the other, which is long term, I think, potentially extremely dangerous. So, opening up new channels that, maybe, this kind of slightly improved environment will allow us to do, I think would actually be a good thing.”

The former Utah governor and presidential candidate has largely avoided discussing the Mueller report in public, but he did mention asking for, and not receiving, an early copy.

“I think many on the Russian side conclude that maybe this is the magic elixir and all of our issues are all of a sudden solved, and we have to remind them that, ‘No, this does not solve any of our issues,'” Huntsman said. “We still have a lot of the underlying challenges and problems that brought us to where we are today, that brought about the unprecedented level of sanctions and the deterioration in our diplomatic presence that we see both in the U.S. mission here, and also on the U.S. side for Russia.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

A Wells Fargo logo is seen in New York City
A Wells Fargo logo is seen in New York City, U.S. January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

May 21, 2019

By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – From submitting their fingerprints to giving up their tax records, Wells Fargo & Co’s next chief executive will go through a vetting process that could rival that of top U.S. government officials.

    Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting said last week he would invoke a little-known law to review Wells Fargo’s board pick to replace Tim Sloan, who in March became the second CEO to leave the bank amid a series of customer abuse scandals.

    Created during the savings-and-loan crisis, the 1989 law allows regulators to vet and veto candidates for senior roles at banks, but that power is typically reserved for financially troubled firms.

Regulatory sources said the review by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) was so unusual because Wells Fargo, the nation’s fourth-largest lender, is both financially sound and so big.

The CEO candidate must complete a 17-page document detailing their work history, qualifications, finances and business dealings. They must also agree to hand over their tax records, provide copies of their fingerprints and possibly submit to a background check, according to public OCC documents.

Otting will have some discretion, however, as to just how far the agency goes in using its extensive powers to dig into the candidate’s background.

    The unusual burden underscores how much work the San Francisco-based bank still has to do to regain the trust of its regulators and further raises the bar for its CEO search.

“Finding a new CEO was going to be difficult before, but this has made it even harder,” said Isaac Boltansky, director of policy research at Washington-based Compass Point Research & Trading. “The difficulty was upped to 10.”

    Regulators expect bank CEOs to be suitable for the top job and do not typically become involved in the selection process.

    “That reflects a lack of trust in the institution’s ability to solve their problems,” said Thomas Vartanian, a law professor at George Mason University and former OCC official.

    Another former OCC official who spent decades with the agency said he could not recall a comparable case.

    “What makes it unusual is it’s in a bank of this size,” said the former official, who requested anonymity to discuss an enforcement matter. “It shows the OCC is taking this seriously.”

    Wells Fargo and the OCC declined to comment. Spencer Stuart, the executive search firm hired to find Sloan’s replacement, did not respond to requests for comment.

    If Otting decides to use all his powers, the vetting process could resemble that undergone by Senate-nominated officials.

    Candidates would have to detail a range of firms they are or have been associated with, and any parallel discussions with potential rival employers.

    They would also have to disclose if they have been involved in a failed regulatory application, such as for a merger or license, or associated with a firm that failed, defaulted on an obligation, or was subject to enforcement actions, criminal action, litigation or other legal woes.

    The background probe could also draw on information provided by the FBI, state regulators, the Treasury’s anti-money laundering bureau, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Homeland Security, among others. Minor traffic violations need not be included.

    The regulatory and political scrutiny “is going to discourage some candidates,” said Steve Potter, CEO of Odgers Berndtson US, an executive search firm that has helped other banks hire CEOs.

    Extensive vetting has claimed candidates for government posts, including Andrew Puzder, U.S. President Donald Trump’s first pick for Labor Secretary. He withdrew from consideration in 2017 after it emerged he had employed an undocumented housekeeper.

    The OCC has up to 90 days to screen the bank’s pick and discretion to reject them if they do not have the “competence, experience, character, or integrity” for the job, according to the OCC documents. Wells Fargo can appeal a rejection.

    Otting has not said if he will use all his vetting powers and can waive those he feels are redundant.

But he is unlikely to cut corners amid pressure from congressional Democrats, who have frequently accused the OCC of being too soft on the industry, Boltansky said.

    “Why would Otting use up any of his limited political capital to help a bank that continues to trip on its own shoelaces?”

(Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Michelle Price and Meredith Mazzilli)

Source: OANN

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway questioned on Sunday why Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not rule whether or not President Trump obstructed justice during the Russia investigation and argued that Mueller leaving the ruling open means that Trump has been exonerated.

“That’s not really the job of a prosecutor. The job of a prosecutor is to gather evidence and decide whether to indict or to decline to indict,” Conway said on ABC’s “This Week.” “They declined to indict. The president is not going to jail, he’s staying in the White House for five-and-a-half more years,” Conway said. “Why? Because they found no crime, no conspiracy. That was the central premise.”

In the redacted report released last Thursday, Mueller declined to make a decision on whether or not Trump obstructed justice with his efforts to curtail the special counsel’s investigation, but he did lay out in the report multiple episodes in which Trump directed others to influence or curtail the Russia investigation after the special counsel’s appointment in May 2017.


Those efforts “were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” Mueller wrote.

In one particularly dramatic moment, Mueller reported that Trump was so agitated at the special counsel’s appointment on May 17, 2017, that he slumped back in his chair and declared: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m f—ed.”

In June of that year, Mueller wrote, Trump directed White House Counsel Don McGahn to call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the probe, and say that Mueller must be ousted because he had conflicts of interest. McGahn refused — deciding he would sooner resign than trigger a potential crisis akin to the Saturday Night Massacre of firings during the Watergate era.

According to the report, Trump also ordered McGahn to deny a January 2018 New York Times story that detailed the president’s efforts to have his counsel fire Mueller.

Trump also made another attempt to alter the course of the investigation, meeting with former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and dictating a message for him to relay to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The message: Sessions would publicly call the investigation “very unfair” to the president, declare Trump did nothing wrong and say Mueller should limit his probe to “investigating election meddling for future elections.” The message was never delivered.


On the McGahn incident, Conway did not dispute the former White House counsel’s statement during her interview on Sunday, but she expressed her doubts that McGahn would have continued in his post if the events had played out the way they did in the report.

“I believe that Don McGahn is an honorable attorney who stayed on the job 18 months after this alleged incident took place,” Conway said. “If he were being asked to obstruct justice or violate the Constitution or commit a crime — help to commit a crime by the president of the United States — he wouldn’t have stayed.”

Conway added: “I certainly wouldn’t stay.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

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Nuggets expect Millsap back in 2019-20

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets
May 7, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap (4) reacts following a basket and foul in the third quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers in game five of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

May 21, 2019

The Denver Nuggets expect to keep power forward Paul Millsap in 2019-20, president of basketball operations Tim Connelly told reporters Tuesday.

“Our goal and Paul’s goal is to have him back with us,” Connelly said at an end-of-season press conference.

Millsap has a $30.15 million team option for 2019-20 as part of a three-year, $91.3 million contract he signed as a free agent in 2017, but it sounds like the sides could collaborate on a new deal for the 34-year-old.

“We both want the same thing,” Connelly said. “We’ll figure out the best way for the organization and Paul to make sure that’s achieved. I fully expect Paul to be back in a Nuggets uniform.”

Millsap, a 13-year veteran and four-time All-Star, averaged 12.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 70 games (65 starts) last season, while serving as the key piece for a much improved defense. He also shot 36.5 percent from 3-point range, the best single-season mark of his career (min. 25 attempts).

He averaged 14.6 points and 6.7 assists in 14 playoff games, as the Nuggets fell in Game 7 of the second round to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Millsap missed time in December with a broken toe, after missing 44 games in 2017-18 with a wrist injury that required surgery.

A second-round pick of the Utah Jazz in 2006, Millsap played seven seasons in Utah before earning four All-Star appearances in as many seasons for the Atlanta Hawks from 2013-17.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

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Pelicans VP pictures future with Davis, Williamson

FILE PHOTO: NBA: New Orleans Pelicans-Press Conference
FILE PHOTO: Apr 17, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin during an introductory press conference at the New Orleans Pelicans facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

May 21, 2019

For a team with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, vice president of basketball operations David Griffin confesses the New Orleans Pelicans are still living in the past.

The franchise is not entirely rear-focused, but since a shocking stroke of luck left the Pelicans with the top pick in the June 20 draft and the inside track to Duke freshman Zion Williamson, Griffin has been locked in on selling six-time All-Star Anthony Davis on sticking around.

Davis requested a trade before the All-Star break and then told media he would consider all options if the Pelicans were willing to move him.

Griffin’s goal is a reversal from Davis, convincing him the Pelicans are ready to build a winner with staying power around Davis and presumptive No. 1 pick Williamson.

“We’ll probably sit together in Los Angeles at some point around the draft workouts that take place there,” Griffin said Tuesday on a team conference call. “And I think that’s the next step — really to look each other in the eye and talk about what’s important to us. And we’re very optimistic from previous conversations with Rich Paul, his agent, and with all of the people here that know Anthony and know what he’s about, we’re very confident that we have a compelling situation for him here.

“And if winning is what he is indeed all about, which we have every reason to believe, we feel confident that we can create — and are creating — the right environment for Anthony and frankly for high-caliber players of all types to want to be a part of. This is something that we hope creates an energy that recruits itself, and Anthony would just be one step in that process.”

Davis reportedly was unmoved by the Pelicans landing the No. 1 pick and is ready to dig in his heels to force a trade to a bigger market with win-now resources.

Griffin, who was available Tuesday to introduce general manager Trajan Langdon, said the Pelicans are very comfortable knowing the top prospects in the draft are excited by the prospect of being Pelicans. A lottery-night report from ESPN that Williamson was outraged by the outcome of the ping-pong ball draw was dispelled by Williamson’s stepfather.

“I’m certain that’s a false narrative relative to the players that could potentially be the No. 1 pick,” Griffin said. “We’ve sat with multiple players that we’re looking at for that first pick. In fact, in the case of Zion Williamson, (head coach) Alvin Gentry and I sat with he and his parents the night of the lottery. And Alvin and I were also together in interviewing Ja Morant in Chicago as well. And I think because we sat with those kids who are both incredible human beings and all about all the right things, we know unequivocally that either one of them would be thrilled to join us in New Orleans. And they’re both very much excited about the concept.”

Davis might remain steadfast in his trade request, but that could also wind up working in the Pelicans’ favor.

The teams most often connected to Davis, the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, are slated to pick No. 3 (Knicks) and No. 4 (Lakers). Connecting the dots on a rapid rebuilding plan, the Pelicans could restock on the fly by landing Williamson and either college teammate RJ Barrett or Murray State’s Morant, the consensus top three players in the 2019 draft.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

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EU regulators to decide on IBM’s $34 billion Red Hat bid by June 27

FILE PHOTO: A man stands near an IBM logo at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona
FILE PHOTO: A man stands near an IBM logo at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 25, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo

May 21, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU antitrust regulators will decide by June 27 whether to clear U.S. tech giant International Business Machines Corp’s $34 billion bid for software company Red Hat.

The deal, IBM’s biggest, will help the company expand into subscription-based software offerings. IBM said on Tuesday it had sought EU approval the previous day. The European Commission confirmed the request.

Founded in 1993, Red Hat specializes in Linux operating systems, the most popular type of open-source software, an alternative to proprietary software made by Microsoft Corp.

The EU competition enforcer can either clear the deal with or without conditions or it can open a full-scale investigation.

U.S. regulatory authorities approved the deal without demanding concessions earlier this month.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by David Evans)

Source: OANN

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Metro Bank dodges major shareholder rebellion

FILE PHOTO: A logo is seen on the outside of a branch of Metro Bank in central London
FILE PHOTO: A logo is seen on the outside of a branch of Metro Bank in central London July 28, 2010. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

May 21, 2019

By Iain Withers

LONDON (Reuters) – Metro Bank escaped a potential investor challenge at its annual meeting on Tuesday, but there were sizeable votes against several of its most senior directors.

The bank, which was set up nine years ago to take on Britain’s established lenders, disclosed in January it had under-reported the risk on its loan book, which hit its capital and shares and put its management under pressure.

Ahead of the annual meeting, Legal & General Investment Management and Royal London Asset Management had both said they would vote against key directors. Shareholder advisory groups Glass Lewis and ISS had urged investors to block or withhold support on several resolutions.

But despite this opposition, chairman and founder Vernon Hill has retained the support of a close-knit group of private shareholders in the United States.

At the annual meeting, the re-election of Hill was opposed by more than 12% of investors who voted, while CEO Craig Donaldson was opposed by just over 10%.

Metro’s pay report was opposed by 21% of investors who voted, while 28% voted against the re-appointment of board directors Stuart Bernau and Eugene Lockhart.

The bank’s loan book error had wiped more than 1.5 billion pounds off the company’s market value and forced it into an early 375 million pound fundraising.

Some customers also pulled their money out of the bank, although Metro said last week the situation had stabilized and the Bank of England said the lender remained robust.

The crisis has been the first major test for Metro Bank since its launch in 2010 to try to shake up Britain’s banking market and which unusually focuses on rolling out brick and mortar branches.

In opening remarks at the meeting, Hill and Donaldson said the bank would adapt its strategy by slowing its growth and cutting more costs, but defended the bank’s business model.

“The last few months have been somewhat of a challenge for us. We’ve had a few ups and downs but our model remains strong,” Hill said.

John Cronin, analyst at Goodbody, had commented ahead of the meeting: “To be fair, the founder and CEO were clearly instrumental in Metro’s successful 375 million pound placing last week.

“The U.S. shareholders are particularly supportive of the chairman and the strength of their collective vote will outweigh the dissenters in my opinion.”

(Reporting by Iain Withers, editing by Huw Jones and Jane Merriman)

Source: OANN

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Sen. Cotton: US in Persian Gulf to Deter Iran, Not Attack

The United States is not taking actions in the Persian Gulf to prepare for military operations, but to "deter Iran from making a grave miscalculation and to retaliate should (Iran ) miscalculate in a dramatic fashion," Sen. Tom Cotton argued Tuesday.

"There can be no doubt that we've seen serious, credible and increased reporting of Iran across the Middle East," the Arkansas senator and veteran of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, told Fox News' "Outnumbered Overtime." The actions include Iran's own forces such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or proxy action Iran supports in places like Iran or Iraq, he added.

"The steps the military has taken on the recommendation of the Department of Defense, moving aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf or B-52 bombers into the region are steps not to take action against Iran, but to deter military action by Iran," said Cotton.

There are many historical precedents to include against Iran, Cotton continued, as the Middle East nation has been waging a "low-level war" against the United States for 40 years.

"In 1987 and 1988 during the Iran-Iraq war President (Ronald) Reagan reflagged tankers," said Cotton. "The United States Navy destroyed the Iranian vessels and systems Iran was using to attack the tankers."

Now, Iran has an outlaw regime and a hijacked nation-state over the last 10 years, and have gained in power and strength, said Cotton, particularly with the 2015 nuclear deal that returned billions of dollars in cash to the nation, along with economic sanctions relief that "allows them to run wild across the Middle East."

Source: NewsMax Politics

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Rare earth firms’ stocks soar on U.S.-China trade war speculation

A villager shovels cast-off tailings of crushed mineral ore that contain rare earth metals in Xinguang Village, located on the outskirts of the city of Baotou in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region
A villager shovels cast-off tailings of crushed mineral ore that contain rare earth metals in Xinguang Village, located on the outskirts of the city of Baotou in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in this October 31, 2010 picture. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

May 21, 2019

By Luoyan Liu and John Ruwitch

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Shares in rare earth-related companies soared on Tuesday, led by jumps in Chinese producers a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited a rare earth firm in southern China, sparking speculation the sector could be the next front in the Sino-U.S. trade war.

Xi on Monday visit JL MAG Rare-Earth Co Ltd in Jiangxi province, state media reported. The MVIS Global Rare Earth/Strategic Minerals Index, which tracks the shares of 20 producers from 10 countries, including China, Australia and Canada, jumped 6.4% in its biggest one-day gain since October 2011.

China accounted for 80% of the rare earths, a group of 17 chemical elements used in high-technology consumer electronics and military equipment, imported by the U.S. from 2014 to 2017.

So far, China’s rare earths exports have been spared from recent tariffs by the United States, which has decided not to impose import duties on those and some other critical minerals from China as part of the trade war.

Beijing, however, has raised tariffs on imports of U.S. rare earth metal ores from 10 percent to 25 percent from June 1, making it less economical to process the material in China.

Analysts said that Xi’s visit might indicate China is considering using rare earths as a weapon in the trade war, which provided support for the shares of the Chinese firms.

“No question it’s saber rattling,” said Ryan Castilloux, managing director of Adamas Intelligence, a consultancy that tracks the rare earths market. “I think China would be reluctant to cut off supplies to anyone just yet, but the optics are designed to send a clear message – we know your vulnerabilities.”

Shares in JL MAG Rare-Earth Co Ltd surged the maximum limit of 10% on Monday following Xi’s visit, and rose another 10% on Tuesday.

Shares in Innuovo Technology Co Ltd, a rare-earth permanent magnetic materials and products maker, also soared 10% to their highest since October 2017. The firm’s shares have gained 54.7% so far in May.

Yantai Zhenghai Magnetic Material, Chengdu Galaxy Magnets Co Ltd and Jiangmen Kanhoo Industry Co Ltd rose by as much as 9%.

In Hong Kong, China Rare Earth Holdings Ltd soared more than 80%.

The gains were not exclusive to China-based producers. Canada’s Largo Resources Ltd, Lithium Americas and Cobalt 27 Capital Corp all surged by double-digit margins. Brazil’s Cia de Ferro Ligas da Bahia, known as Ferbasa, rose 7.5% in its biggest gain in six months.

Asked if China would consider limiting rare earth exports to retaliate against the United States, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Monday that Xi’s visit was normal and there was no need for over-interpretation.

Limiting rare earth exports to the United States would have an impact as U.S. consumption relies on China, said brokerage Pacific Securities.

However, RBC Capital Markets warned a Chinese ban could backfire by prompting the start-up of rare earths production from other countries, breaking China’s hold on the market.

“Should China hike prices for the U.S. or shut it out completely, it would simply speed up that process, leading to rapid development of alternative supplies,” it said. “Brazil, Vietnam, Russia, India and Australia currently stand out as key beneficiaries by having the world’s largest reserves and production.”

(Additional reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Nick Zieminski)

Source: OANN

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U.S. Senate Republican leader sees budget, debt ceiling deal soon

FILE PHOTO - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks with reporters following the weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill
FILE PHOTO - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks with reporters following the weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

May 21, 2019

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday he hoped Congress could reach by the end of the day a two-year agreement on federal spending limits that would also increase the nation’s debt ceiling.

“Our hope is to make a deal before the day is over,” McConnell, a Republican, told reporters. “The agreement would be a two-year caps deal, which would allow us to go forward with some semblance at least of a regular appropriations process. It would also in all likelihood include the debt ceiling.”

The U.S. Treasury later this year is expected to exhaust its statutory borrowing authority amid heavy deficit spending by the federal government. Democrats have been pushing for an increase in the debt ceiling as part of the negotiations on overall spending caps.

The four top Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate, along with some leading Trump administration officials, met for nearly two hours earlier on Tuesday in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office – a far longer meeting than had been anticipated.

After that meeting, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters that progress was made but that there were differences to be resolved.

“We have certain domestic needs that are very important to us,” Schumer said.

Without a bipartisan deal on new budget caps, military spending would drop to around $576 billion in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, a $70.8 billion reduction from this year.

Non-defense spending would fall to $543.2 billion, a nearly $53.8 billion cut from this year.

(Reporting Richard Cowan, Amanda Becker and Doina Chiacu; editing by Mohammad Zargham and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

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