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China’s rocket start-ups go small in age of ‘shoebox’ satellites

The Wider Image: China's start-ups go small in age of 'shoebox' satellites
LinkSpace's reusable rocket RLV-T5, also known as NewLine Baby, is carried to a vacant plot of land for a test launch in Longkou, Shandong province, China, April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

April 26, 2019

By Ryan Woo

LONGKOU, China (Reuters) – During initial tests of their 8.1-metre (27-foot) tall reusable rocket, Chinese engineers from LinkSpace, a start-up led by China’s youngest space entrepreneur, used a Kevlar tether to ensure its safe return. Just in case.

But when the Beijing-based company’s prototype, called NewLine Baby, successfully took off and landed last week for the second time in two months, no tether was needed.

The 1.5-tonne rocket hovered 40 meters above the ground before descending back to its concrete launch pad after 30 seconds, to the relief of 26-year-old chief executive Hu Zhenyu and his engineers – one of whom cartwheeled his way to the launch pad in delight.

LinkSpace, one of China’s 15-plus private rocket manufacturers, sees these short hops as the first steps towards a new business model: sending tiny, inexpensive satellites into orbit at affordable prices.

Demand for these so-called nanosatellites – which weigh less than 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and are in some cases as small as a shoebox – is expected to explode in the next few years. And China’s rocket entrepreneurs reckon there is no better place to develop inexpensive launch vehicles than their home country.

“For suborbital clients, their focus will be on scientific research and some commercial uses. After entering orbit, the near-term focus (of clients) will certainly be on satellites,” Hu said.

In the near term, China envisions massive constellations of commercial satellites that can offer services ranging from high-speed internet for aircraft to tracking coal shipments. Universities conducting experiments and companies looking to offer remote-sensing and communication services are among the potential domestic customers for nanosatellites.

A handful of U.S. small-rocket companies are also developing launchers ahead of the expected boom. One of the biggest, Rocket Lab, has already put 25 satellites in orbit.

No private company in China has done that yet. Since October, two – LandSpace and OneSpace – have tried but failed, illustrating the difficulties facing space start-ups everywhere.

The Chinese companies are approaching inexpensive launches in different ways. Some, like OneSpace, are designing cheap, disposable boosters. LinkSpace’s Hu aspires to build reusable rockets that return to Earth after delivering their payload, much like the Falcon 9 rockets of Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

“If you’re a small company and you can only build a very, very small rocket because that’s all you have money for, then your profit margins are going to be narrower,” said Macro Caceres, analyst at U.S. aerospace consultancy Teal Group.

“But if you can take that small rocket and make it reusable, and you can launch it once a week, four times a month, 50 times a year, then with more volume, your profit increases,” Caceres added.

Eventually LinkSpace hopes to charge no more than 30 million yuan ($4.48 million) per launch, Hu told Reuters.

That is a fraction of the $25 million to $30 million needed for a launch on a Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems Pegasus, a commonly used small rocket. The Pegasus is launched from a high-flying aircraft and is not reusable.

(Click to see a picture package of China’s rocket start-ups. Click for an interactive look at the nascent industry.)


LinkSpace plans to conduct suborbital launch tests using a bigger recoverable rocket in the first half of 2020, reaching altitudes of at least 100 kilometers, then an orbital launch in 2021, Hu told Reuters.

The company is in its third round of fundraising and wants to raise up to 100 million yuan, Hu said. It had secured tens of millions of yuan in previous rounds.

After a surge in fresh funding in 2018, firms like LinkSpace are pushing out prototypes, planning more tests and even proposing operational launches this year.

Last year, equity investment in China’s space start-ups reached 3.57 billion yuan ($533 million), a report by Beijing-based investor FutureAerospace shows, with a burst of financing in late 2018.

That accounted for about 18 percent of global space start-up investments in 2018, a historic high, according to Reuters calculations based on a global estimate by Space Angels. The New York-based venture capital firm said global space start-up investments totaled $2.97 billion last year.

“Costs for rocket companies are relatively high, but as to how much funding they need, be it in the hundreds of millions, or tens of millions, or even just a few million yuan, depends on the company’s stage of development,” said Niu Min, founder of FutureAerospace.

FutureAerospace has invested tens of millions of yuan in LandSpace, based in Beijing.

Like space-launch startups elsewhere in the world, the immediate challenge for Chinese entrepreneurs is developing a safe and reliable rocket.

Proven talent to develop such hardware can be found in China’s state research institutes or the military; the government directly supports private firms by allowing them to launch from military-controlled facilities.

But it’s still a high-risk business, and one unsuccessful launch might kill a company.

“The biggest problem facing all commercial space companies, especially early-stage entrepreneurs, is failure” of an attempted flight, Liang Jianjun, chief executive of rocket company Space Trek, told Reuters. That can affect financing, research, manufacturing and the team’s morale, he added.

Space Trek is planning its first suborbital launch by the end of June and an orbital launch next year, said Liang, who founded the company in late 2017 with three other former military technical officers.

Despite LandSpace’s failed Zhuque-1 orbital launch in October, the Beijing-based firm secured 300 million yuan in additional funding for the development of its Zhuque-2 rocket a month later.

In December, the company started operating China’s first private rocket production facility in Zhejiang province, in anticipation of large-scale manufacturing of its Zhuque-2, which it expects to unveil next year.


China’s state defense contractors are also trying to get into the low-cost market.

In December, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC) successfully launched a low-orbit communication satellite, the first of 156 that CASIC aims to deploy by 2022 to provide more stable broadband connectivity to rural China and eventually developing countries.

The satellite, Hongyun-1, was launched on a rocket supplied by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), the nation’s main space contractor.

In early April, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALVT), a subsidiary of CASC, completed engine tests for its Dragon, China’s first rocket meant solely for commercial use, clearing the path for a maiden flight before July.

The Dragon, much bigger than the rockets being developed by private firms, is designed to carry multiple commercial satellites.

At least 35 private Chinese companies are working to produce more satellites.

Spacety, a satellite maker based in southern Hunan province, plans to put 20 satellites in orbit this year, including its first for a foreign client, chief executive Yang Feng told Reuters.

The company has only launched 12 on state-produced rockets since the company started operating in early 2016.

“When it comes to rocket launches, what we care about would be cost, reliability and time,” Yang said.

(Reporting by Ryan Woo; Additional reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Source: OANN

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Bayer shareholders vent ire over Monsanto-linked stock rout

German drug and crop chemical maker Bayer holds annual general meeting
Werner Baumann, CEO of German pharmaceutical and chemical maker Bayer AG, attends the annual general shareholders meeting in Bonn, Germany, April 26, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

April 26, 2019

By Patricia Weiss and Ludwig Burger

BONN (Reuters) – Bayer shareholders vented their anger over its stock price slump on Friday as litigation risks mount from the German drugmaker’s $63 billion takeover of seed maker Monsanto.

Several large investors said they will not support aspirin investor Bayer’s management in a key vote scheduled for the end of its annual general meeting.

Bayer’s management, led by chief executive Werner Baumann, could see an embarrassing plunge in approval ratings, down from 97 percent at last year’s AGM, which was held shortly before the Monsanto takeover closed in June.

A vote to ratify the board’s actions features prominently at every German AGM. Although it has no bearing on management’s liability, it is seen as a key gauge of shareholder sentiment.

“Due to the continued negative development at Bayer, high legal risks and a massive share price slump, we refuse to ratify the management board and supervisory board’s actions during the business year,” Janne Werning, representing Germany’s Union Investment, a top-20 shareholder, said in prepared remarks.

About 30 billion euros ($34 billion) have been wiped off Bayer’s market value since August, when a U.S. jury found the pesticide and drugs group liable because Monsanto had not warned of alleged cancer risks linked to its weedkiller Roundup.

Bayer suffered a similar defeat last month and more than 13,000 plaintiffs are claiming damages.

Bayer is appealing or plans to appeal the verdicts.

Deutsche Bank’s asset managing arm DWS said shareholders should have been consulted before the takeover, which was agreed in 2016 and closed in June last year.

“You are pointing out that the lawsuits have not been lost yet. We and our customers, however, have already lost something – money and trust,” Nicolas Huber, head of corporate governance at DWS, said in prepared remarks for the AGM.

He said DWS would abstain from the shareholder vote of confidence in the executive and non-executive boards.

Two people familiar with the situation told Reuters this week that Bayer’s largest shareholder, BlackRock, plans to either abstain from or vote against ratifying the management board’s actions.

Asset management firm Deka, among Bayer’s largest German investors, has also said it would cast a no vote.

Baumann said Bayer’s true value was not reflected in the current share price.

“There’s no way to make this look good. The lawsuits and the first verdicts weigh heavily on our company and it’s a concern for many people,” he said, adding it was the right decision to buy Monsanto and that Bayer was vigorously defending itself.

This month, shareholder advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis recommended investors not to give the executive board their seal of approval.

(Reporting by Patricia Weiss and Ludwig Burger; Editing by Alexander Smith)

Source: OANN

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Huawei hopes for Britain-like solution in New Zealand 5G bid

FILE PHOTO: Small toy figures are seen in front of a displayed Huawei and 5G network logo in this illustration picture
FILE PHOTO: Small toy figures are seen in front of a displayed Huawei and 5G network logo in this illustration picture, March 30, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

April 26, 2019

By Charlotte Greenfield

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – China’s Huawei Technologies said Britain’s decision to allow the firm a restricted role in building parts of its next-generation telecoms network was the kind of solution it was hoping for in New Zealand, where it has been blocked from 5G plans.

Britain will ban Huawei from all core parts of 5G network but give it some access to non-core parts, sources have told Reuters, as it seeks a middle way in a bitter U.S.-China dispute stemming from American allegations that Huawei’s equipment could be used by Beijing for espionage.

Washington has also urged its allies to ban Huawei from building 5G networks, even as the Chinese company, the world’s top producer of telecoms equipment, has repeatedly said the spying concerns are unfounded.

In New Zealand, a member of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network that includes the United States, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) in November turned down an initial request from local telecommunication firm Spark to include Huawei equipment in its 5G network, but later gave the operator options to mitigate national security concerns.

“The proposed solution in the UK to restrict Huawei from bidding for the core is exactly the type of solution we have been looking at in New Zealand,” Andrew Bowater, deputy CEO of Huawei’s New Zealand arm, said in an emailed statement.

Spark said it has noted the developments in Britain and would raise it with the GCSB.

The reports “suggest the UK is following other European jurisdictions in taking a considered and balanced approach to managing supplier-related security risks in 5G”, Andrew Pirie, Spark’s corporate relations lead, said in an email.

“Our discussions with the GCSB are ongoing and we expect that the UK developments will be a further item of discussion between us,” Pirie added.

New Zealand’s minister for intelligence services, Andrew Little, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

British culture minister Jeremy Wright said on Thursday that he would report to parliament the conclusions of a government review of the 5G supply chain once they had been taken.

He added that the disclosure of confidential discussions on the role of Huawei was “unacceptable” and that he could not rule out a criminal investigation into the leak.

The decisions by Britain and Germany to use Huawei gear in non-core parts of 5G network makes it harder to prove Huawei should be kept out of New Zealand telecommunication networks, said Syed Faraz Hasan, an expert in communication engineering and networks at New Zealand’s Massey University

He pointed out Huawei gear was already part of the non-core 4G networks that 5G infrastructure would be built on.

“Unless there is a convincing argument against the Huawei devices … it is difficult to keep them away,” Hasan said.

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

Source: OANN

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Glencore shares slump as U.S. probes ‘corrupt practices’

FILE PHOTO: The logo commodities trader Glencore is pictured in Baar
FILE PHOTO: The logo of commodities trader Glencore is pictured in front of the company's headquarters in Baar, Switzerland, July 18, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

April 26, 2019

(Reuters) – Glencore shares plunged the most in nearly four months on Friday after news overnight that U.S. regulators were investigating whether the miner broke some rules through “corrupt practices”.

Shares of the FTSE 100 company fell as much as 4.2 percent in early deals, and were down 3.5 percent at 310.25 pence by 0728 GMT.

On Thursday, Glencore said the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission is investigating whether the company and its units have violated some provisions of the Commodity ExchangeAct and/or CFTC Regulations.

(Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru)

Source: OANN

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Why the media are convinced Joe Biden will implode

Well, Joe Biden didn't exactly clear the field.

I don't think it matters much that Biden waited until yesterday to become the 20th Democrat vying for the nomination, even though it exposed him to weeks of attacks while he seemed to be dithering on the sidelines.

A much greater warning sign, in my view, is the largely negative tone surrounding his debut. He is, after all, a former vice president, highly praised by Barack Obama, who has consistently led in the early primary polls, and beating President Trump in head-to-head matchups. Yet much of the press is acting like he's an old codger and it's just a matter of time before he keels over politically.

This is all the more remarkable in light of the fact that the vast majority of journalists and pundits know and like Joe Biden and his gregarious personality.

The reason is that Biden, after a half-century in politics, lacks excitement, and the press is magnetically attracted to novel and unorthodox types like Beto and Mayor Pete. You don't see Biden on the cover of Vanity Fair, and a grind-it-out win by a conventional warrior doesn't set journalistic hearts racing.


For many in the media, Biden isn't liberal enough, at least not for the post-Obama era. He doesn't promise free college and free health care and has a history of working with Republicans, such as John McCain (whose daughter Meghan loves him, and Biden will hit "The View" today.)

What's more, Biden's campaign style — speak at rallies, rack up union endorsements — seems hopelessly old-fashioned when we measure popularity by Instagram followers. News outlets are predicting he'll have trouble getting in the online fundraising game, leaving him reliant on big donors, which used to be standard practice.

And then there's the age thing. Biden would be the oldest president to be inaugurated, at 78, and he looked a step slow in encounters with reporters yesterday and a few weeks ago.

But what if the journalists are in something of a Twitter bubble, and the actual Democratic Party is much more moderate? We saw that with the spate of allegations by women of unwanted touching, which dominated news coverage until polls showed that most Dem voters weren't concerned. In that wider world, the Scranton guy's connection to white, working-class voters could help him against Trump in the industrial Midwest.


Biden denounced the president's term as an "aberrant moment" in his launch video, saying four more years would damage the country's character and "I cannot stand by and watch that happen."

But first, he'd have to win the nomination in the face of an unenthusiastic press corps.

A New York Times news story said Biden would be "marshaling his experience and global stature in a bid to lead a party increasingly defined by a younger generation that might be skeptical of his age and ideological moderation."

The Washington Post quoted Democratic strategists as saying that Biden faces an "uphill battle" and "isn't necessarily the heir apparent to Obama, despite being his No. 2 in the White House for eight years. They argue voters will judge Biden by the span of his decades-long career and are worried the veteran pol hasn't yet found a winning formula for his own candidacy."

The liberal Slate said the ex-veep's rivals view him as a "paper tiger":

"Biden is something more like a 2016 Jeb Bush: a weak establishment favorite whose time might be past ... Biden's biggest challenge in the primary will be a compromised past spanning nearly 50 years."

"Compromised" suggests a history of scandal, yet what Slate means is political baggage, such as his backing of a Clinton-era crime bill unpopular with black voters today. Yet I think the rank and file isn't as concerned about a vote back in 1994, or even the Anita Hill hearings, as the chattering classes.


One of the few left-leaning pundits to suggest the press is underestimating Biden is data guru Nate Silver at 538:

"Media coverage could nonetheless be a problem for Biden. Within the mainstream media, the story of Biden winning the nomination will be seen as boring and anticlimactic. That tends not to lead to favorable coverage. Meanwhile, some left-aligned media outlets may prefer candidates who are some combination of more leftist, more wonkish, more reflective of the party's diversity, and more adept on social media.

"If Biden is framed as being out of touch with today's Democratic Party and that narrative is repeated across a variety of outlets, it could begin to resonate with voters who don't buy it initially. If he's seen as a gaffe-prone candidate, then minor missteps on the campaign trail could be blown up into big fumbles."


Look, it's entirely possible that Biden could stumble, get lapped in fundraising and just be outclassed by younger and savvier rivals. He was hardly a great candidate in 1987 and in 2008.

But if the former vice president finds his footing and the field narrows, the press will be forced to change its tune, and we'll see a spate of stories about how Joe Biden has "grown."

Source: Fox News Politics

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Athletics: Semenya gets Van Niekerk backing as she targets longer distance

South Africa's 400m Olympic gold medallist and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk looks on as he attends South African Championships in Germiston
South Africa's 400m Olympic gold medallist and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk looks on as he attends South African Championships in Germiston, South Africa, April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

April 26, 2019

GERMISTON, South Africa (Reuters) – Olympic 400 meters champion Wayde van Niekerk has backed South African compatriot Caster Semenya in her battle with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), which now appears to have taken a new twist.

Semenya, a double 800 meters Olympic gold medalist, is waiting for the outcome of her appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to halt the introduction of new regulations by governing body IAAF that would require her to take medicine to limit her natural levels of testosterone.

The IAAF wants female athletes with differences of sexual development who run in events from 400 meters to a mile, to reduce their blood testosterone level to below five (5) nmol/L for a period of six months before they can compete, saying they have an unfair advantage.

“She’s fighting for something beyond just track and field, she’s fighting for woman in sports, in society and I respect her for that,” Van Niekerk told reporters.

“I will support her and with the hard work and talent that she’s been putting into the sport. With what she believes in and what she’s dreaming for, I’ve got a lot of respect for her.

“I really hope and pray that everything just goes from strength to strength for her.”

Semenya has sprung a surprise at the on-going South African Athletics Championships though, ditching the 800 meters and instead competing over 1,500 and 5,000-metres – the latter one would not require her to medically lower her testosterone level.

She stormed to victory in the 5,000-metres final in a modest time of 16:05.97, but looked to have lots left in the tank as she passed the finish line.

Semenya beat fellow Olympian and defending national 5,000m champion Dominique Scott in Thursday’s final but the latter admitted she is unsure whether the 800m specialist could be a serious Olympic contender over the longer distance.

“Honestly‚ I have no idea‚” Scott said. “Before today I probably would have said no. It’s hard to compare a 5,000 at altitude to a 5,000 at sea level.

“But I think she’s an amazing runner and I don’t think there’s any limit or ceiling on what she can do.”

Van Niekerk, the 400m world record holder, had to abort his comeback from a knee injury, that had sidelined him for 18 months, following a combination of cold weather and a wet track.

“We are trying to take the correct decisions now early in the year so as not to put myself in any harm,” he said.

“It was a bit chilly this entire week prepping and coming through here as well it was quite cold and it caused bit of tightness in my leg. We decided to not risk it.

“My recovery is going well and I would like to be back in competition this year, but will only do so if I can deliver a good performance.

“I am a competitor and respect my opponents, so I need to be at my best when I return.”

(Reporting by Nick Said, additional reporting by Siyabonga Sishi; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

Source: OANN

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Dutch telecom KPN won’t use Huawei for ‘core’ 5G network

FILE PHOTO: KPN logo is seen at its headquarters in Rotterdam
FILE PHOTO: KPN logo is seen at its headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands, January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

April 26, 2019

By Bart H. Meijer and Toby Sterling

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch telecom firm Royal KPN NV said on Friday it would select a Western supplier to build its core 5G mobile network, making it one of the first European operators to make clear it would not pick China’s Huawei for such work.

The United States has been seeking to discourage its allies from using equipment made by Huawei because of concerns that it could eventually be used for Chinese government spying. Huawei says such worries are baseless and U.S. policy is driven by economic interests.

The Hague-based KPN, the Netherlands’ largest telecom firm, said its decision took into account “the evolving assessment on the protection of vital infrastructure and the influence this may have on future Dutch policy.”

The Dutch government has not taken a decision on the issue.

KPN, which also reported on Friday slightly worse than expected first quarter core earnings of 563 million euros ($627 million), said it would still use equipment made by Huawei in some capacities.

In addition, the company announced a preliminary deal with Huawei to upgrade existing mobile telecommunications gear to make it safer. Huawei has been a key supplier to KPN in the past decade.

The Dutch government set up a task force with KPN and other major operators in the Netherlands this month to analyze the “vulnerability of 5G telecommunications networks to misuse by technology vendors … and measures needed to manage risks.”

KPN said it would use equipment made by Huawei, which it described as a world leader in radio and antenna technology, to improve security on its existing network.

“This preliminary agreement can be adjusted or reversed to align it with future Dutch government policy,” it added.

Sources told Reuters on Wednesday that Britain’s National Security Council (NSC) had decided to bar Huawei from core parts of the country’s 5G network and restrict its access to non-core areas.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Edmund Blair)

Source: OANN

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A hidden camera in the women’s bathroom of the USS Arlington has prompted a U.S. Navy investigation, according to NBC News.

A female Marine discovered the “recording device in a head,” which is a military term for a toilet, according to the report. 

“The command has taken, and will continue to take, all necessary actions to ensure the safety and privacy of the victim,” Cdr. Kyle Raines said, per NBC News. “The Navy/Marine Corps team takes all reports of sexual harassment seriously, and are committed to thoroughly investigating these allegations and providing resources and care to victims of sexual harassment.

“To protect the legal rights and the privacy of all involved, we cannot release details, names or any other identifying information at this time.”

The woman reported the discovery in March, according to a U.S. official, who would not specify if the device took pictures or video.

Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is conducting the investigation into whom placed the device and whom might have been victimized, per the report.

Source: NewsMax America

President Trump‘s supporters can expect to hear the same liberal talking points of collusion and obstruction following the release of the redacted Mueller report, a political analyst told Fox News.

David Brody, Christian Broadcasting Network chief political correspondent, appeared on “Fox & Friends” and broke down the Democrat narrative of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign Thursday ahead of the report’s release.

“Donald Trump has the ultimate trump card, right?” Brody told Fox News chief national correspondent Ed Henry. “No collusion.”


He added: “I think what we are going to see with Democrats today is… they’re going to try to connect the dots and Adam Schiff is going to have some sort of collusion diagram going on.”

Democrats, Brody charged, could end up contradicting themselves by questioning what Mueller found — despite previously praising him.

“Democrats can’t have it both ways, here. They wanted a special counsel, they got it. They said Mueller is a fair guy, and now all of a sudden, Mueller doesn’t know what he is talking about. That doesn’t work.”

Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer put out a statement ahead of the Barr news conference saying they want Mueller to testify, which Brody calls the “nook and cranny strategy” to figure out a way to put Mueller in front of Congress.

He then took aim at those in the media critical of Barr’s news conference, slated for 9:30 a.m. ET.

“The media complaining about a press conference. Let me get this straight — Bill Barr is going to have a press conference and you can ask him questions about a process. No, no, no, no. We don’t want to do it. We don’t want that press conference? What in the world? It’s upside down,” Brody said.

Nearly two years of fevered speculation surrounding the Russia probe, though, will come to a head in a dramatic television finale-like moment on Thursday morning, when Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are set to hold a press conference to discuss the Mueller report’s public release.

It was not immediately clear exactly when on Thursday the DOJ would release the redacted version of the nearly 400-page investigation into Russian election meddling, but the document was expected to be delivered to lawmakers and posted online by noon.


Barr has said redactions in the report’s release are legally protect four broad areas of concern: sensitive grand jury-related matters, classified information, ongoing investigations and the privacy or reputation of uncharged “peripheral” people.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Democrat New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, has said he is prepared to issue subpoenas “very quickly” for the full report if it is released with blacked-out sections, likely setting in motion a major legal battle.

Source: Fox News Politics

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins delivers a speech during a debate on the future of Europe, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg
Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins delivers a speech during a debate on the future of Europe, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

April 17, 2019

By Foo Yun Chee

STRASBOURG (Reuters) – Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins pledged on Wednesday to rid the country’s banking system of money-laundering “rats” in a year, as the Baltic state faces international pressure over its ability to counter financial crime.

In a speech to European Union lawmakers, Karins also said the best way to address the problem across the bloc was to set up a central supervisor to monitor and tackle money laundering, replacing the patchwork of national watchdogs that have sometimes proved ineffective against cross-border crime.

EU lawmakers and the European Central Bank have repeatedly called for the creation of a new supervisor against financial crime, but many EU governments have opposed the move as they prefer leaving powers at a national level.

Karins said he wanted to turn the Latvian banking system into “the cleanest” in Europe, after its reputation was tarnished by the collapse last year of ABLV, the country’s largest bank, amid money-laundering allegations.

Karins said he was confident that in a year’s time he could be in a position to provide tips to other Europeans on how to clean up banking systems.

“But it’s a little bit like fighting rats. I can make sure that I get the rats out of my house and my house will be clean, but what about my neighbors?” he told lawmakers.

Baltic and Nordic countries are grappling with a huge money-laundering scandal, after allegations the Estonian branch of Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest lender, handled 200 billion euros ($226 billion) in suspicious transactions of Russian money between 2007 and 2015.

Sweden’s Swedbank has recently been drawn into the scandal, after it was reported that it handled some of the same payments that went through Danske..

“The criminals may have left Latvia for now but they have unfortunately, I’m convinced, not left Europe,” Karins said, adding the problem concerned all European states.

Latvia faces a review by international money-laundering standards watchdog Moneyval in the coming months, which some officials fear could label the country as risky, alongside the likes of Serbia and Pakistan..

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee in Strasbourg and Clare Roth in Brussels; Writing by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Mark Potter)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: White House Counsel McGahn listens during the confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO: White House Counsel Don McGahn listens during the confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

April 22, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler on Monday subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before the panel in its investigation of possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

In a statement, Nadler said the committee had asked for documents from McGahn by May 7 and for him to testify on May 21. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report said Trump asked McGahn to fire Mueller.

“Mr. McGahn is a critical witness to many of the alleged instances of obstruction of justice and other misconduct described in the Mueller report,” Nadler said.

An attorney for McGahn was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Eric Beech and David Morgan; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Source: OANN

Final round play of the Masters at Augusta National
Golf – Masters – Augusta National Golf Club – Augusta, Georgia, U.S. – April 14, 2019 – Tiger Woods of the U.S. tees off on the 18th hole during final round play. REUTERS/Mike Segar

April 15, 2019

By Helen Coster and Hilary Russ

(Reuters) – Tiger Woods’ victory at the Masters golf tournament on Sunday, his first major victory since 2008, is expected to lift sales for sponsors, broadcasters and golf courses lucky enough to host a tournament with Woods playing.

The competition put the 43-year-old back on top of a sport he helped transform 25 years ago.

“Tiger sells golf,” says Eric Smallwood, president of Apex Marketing Group, Inc., a Michigan analytics firm. Apex found that Nike earned $22.5 million worth of brand exposure just from Woods’ final round, with Nike’s “Swoosh” logo splashed on his hat, shirt, pants and shoes. Nike stock was up about one percent on Monday.

Tournament broadcaster CBS Corp saw a ratings bump. Based on preliminary data, the final round of Sunday’s tournament was the highest-rated morning golf broadcast since 1986, when CBS started collecting that data. The tournament, which is usually broadcast in the afternoon, was rescheduled to the morning because of weather.

CBS has the rights to the PGA Championship in May and expects prices for advertising time that is still available to rise as a result of Woods’ Masters victory, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The golf demographic is wealthier and better-educated than other sports fans, so TV ratings are valued more highly because they’re more apt to turn into sales, even of big-ticket items, said Neal Pilson, president of Pilson Communications and former president of CBS Sports.

“Historically, events where Tiger Woods is on leaderboards on Sunday generated 30 to 40 percent higher ratings in the United States for those tournaments,” Pilson said.


Woods was a 20-year-old prodigy when he turned pro in 1996. Less than a year later he was ranked No. 1 in the world. He struck lucrative endorsement deals – including a five-year, $40 million deal with Nike – and golf experienced a surge in popularity.

Then Woods’ personal life collapsed and with it, his brand. In 2009, after the news of multiple infidelities, he lost endorsement deals with companies like AT&T Inc and Accenture Plc. Other sponsors, such as Procter & Gamble Co’s Gillette and Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s NetJets, kept their contracts with Woods but stopped using him in marketing.

Four back surgeries later, Woods continued to suffer professionally and in the public eye. In 2017 police arrested him for driving under the influence; he pleaded guilty to reckless driving and entered a program for first-time offenders.

In 2018 Woods began a professional comeback that culminated at Sunday’s Masters. After his victory, Nike, which stood behind Woods throughout his darker years, posted an ad on its website titled “Tiger Woods: Same Dream.”

“In sports you have heroes, villains and underdogs,” said Benjamin Hordell, founder of digital marketing and advertising firm DXagency. “Tiger has lived all of it. That’s amazing from a storytelling perspective. People will root against him, but they’re watching.”

On Monday U.S. President Donald Trump said he would award Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

(Reporting by Helen Coster and Hilary Russ. Additional reporting by Sheila Dang. Editing by Kenneth Li and Cynthia Osterman)

Source: OANN

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