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FILE PHOTO: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) headquarters are seen in Turin, Italy, July 21, 2018. REUTERS/Massimo Pinca
April 23, 2019
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Tuesday it is expanding a probe into potentially defective air bags to 12.3 million vehicles and upgrading it to an engineering analysis, a step required before it can seek to compel recalls.
The agency, known as NHTSA, said the air bags were installed in some vehicles from model years 2010 through 2019 sold by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Honda Motor Co, Hyundai Motor Co, Kia Motors Corp, Mitsubishi and Toyota Motor Corp.
They were equipped with an air bag control unit initially produced by TRW Automotive Holdings Corp, which is now owned by ZF Friedrichshafen. The agency said they could fail during a crash.
NHTSA first opened a probe in 2018 of about 400,000 vehicles, and said Tuesday it has reports of two crashes and two injuries related to the defect along with one death in a Toyota vehicle.
ZF spokesman John Wilkerson said the company “is committed to motor vehicle safety and is working cooperatively with NHTSA and our customers in the investigation.”
Toyota said it is “cooperating with NHTSA’s engineering analysis. Toyota is also continuing its investigation into this issue and will take any appropriate action.”
At issue is whether the air bag control units may suffer electrical overstress due to harmful signals resulting from a crash, causing them to stop working during such an event. In opening its probe, NHTSA said “the probability of this occurring appears to be low.”
NHTSA noted on Tuesday that there have recently been two substantial frontal crashes that may be tied to the issue, including the fatal Toyota crash. The agency is looking at whether an “unreasonable risk exists that requires further field action.”
Hyundai, Kia and Fiat Chrysler have previously issued recalls for more than 2.5 million vehicles with the air bag control units in question that might not deploy in crashes.
When it recalled nearly 2 million vehicles for air bag nondeployments with the issue in 2016, Fiat Chrysler said it had reports of three deaths and five injuries that might be related to the defect.
In a statement on Tuesday, Fiat Chrysler said that “when we became aware of this issue in 2016, we responded accordingly. However, we will cooperate fully with NHTSA’s investigation.”
Hyundai and Kia recalled more than 650,000 vehicles for air bag nondeployment concerns in 2018.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao)
Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, a potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks at a rally with striking Stop & Shop workers in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
April 23, 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden plans to announce he is seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination for the 2020 election on Thursday, NBC news reported.
Biden, who will join a crowded field seeking to win the White House back from Republican President Donald Trump, will then travel to Pittsburgh on Monday, followed by trips to all four early voting states in coming weeks, an NBC news reporter said on MSNBC, citing unnamed sources involved in the planning.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Tim Ahmann)
FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Australian Open - Second Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, January 16, 2019. South Africa's Kevin Anderson reacts during the match against Frances Tiafoe of the U.S. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
April 23, 2019
(Reuters) – Kevin Anderson has pulled out of all clay tournaments this season, including next month’s French Open, to give himself time to recover from an elbow injury, the South African said on Tuesday.
The big-serving 32-year-old, who also withdrew from Indian Wells and the Mote Carlo Masters this year, last played at the Miami Open last month where he was ousted in the quarter-finals by eventual champion Roger Federer.
“I will unfortunately be missing the clay season this year,” Anderson said in a statement on Twitter. “After discussing with my doctors and team, we thought the best decision is to rest and rehab my elbow injury for a few more weeks.
“I will keep working hard each day to get healthy again in time for (the) grass (season). I’m very disappointed to be missing Estoril, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros… but I know this is the right decision for the long term in my career.”
Anderson, currently ranked sixth in the world, will look to return for the grass court season with an eye on Wimbledon which begins on July 1.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)
FILE PHOTO: Trump adviser Jared Kushner listen as U.S. President Donald Trump meets with his Cabinet at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
April 23, 2019
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s long-delayed proposal to break a deadlock in finding a resolution to the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is to be unveiled after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ends in June, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said on Tuesday.
Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka and is one of the main architects of the peace proposal, talked about the upcoming plan without giving details about it at a Time magazine forum in Washington.
The proposal, which has been delayed for a variety of reasons over the last 18 months, has two major components. It has a political piece that addresses core issues such as the status of Jerusalem, and an economic part that aims to help the Palestinians strengthen their economy.
“We’re going to wait until after Ramadan now,” Kushner said of the Muslim holy month, which will begin early in May and end early in June. He also cited the need to wait until Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has formed a governing coalition following his April reelection victory.
Kushner, who has been developing the plan with Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, said it was not an effort to impose U.S. will on the region. He would not say whether it called for a two-state solution, a goal of past peace efforts.
“Our focus is really on the bottom up which is how do you make the lives of the Palestinian people better, what can you resolve to allow these areas to become more investable,” he said.
He said Israel’s biggest concern was security.
“There’ll be tough compromises for both,” he said. “I hope that when they look at our proposal, I’m not saying they’re going to look at it and say this is perfect and let’s go forward.”
“I’m hopeful what they’ll do is to say, look there are some compromises here but at the end of the day this is really a framework that can allow us to make our lives materially better and we’ll see if the leadership on both sides has the courage to take the lead to try to go forward,” he said.
(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
Media and police surround a convoy of police vehicles as businessmen suspected of corruption are driven to court in Algiers, Algeria April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
April 23, 2019
ALGIERS (Reuters) – Algeria’s army chief said on Tuesday he welcomed an anti-graft drive against figures close to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, state TV reported, a day after the authorities announced the arrest of five business tycoons.
Bouteflika quit on April 2 after mass protests against his two-decade rule, in which protesters accused him of allowing widespread corruption in the Algerian political elite.
Army Chief Ahmed Gaid Salah played a role in Bouteflika’s resignation by calling for him to be removed from office, and has since called for a crackdown on corruption.
On Monday state television reported the arrest of billionaire Issad Rebrab, chairman of the family-owned Cevital diversified conglomerate with big interests in sugar refining, ranked by Forbes as Algeria’s richest man. Four brothers from the wealthy Kouninef family were also arrested.
(This story has been refiled to correct day in first paragraph to Tuesday from Monday.)
(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi and Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Peter Graff)
Students attend a class at Mohammed VI Institute for training Imams in Rabat, Morocco April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal
April 23, 2019
By Ahmed Eljechtimi
RABAT (Reuters) – Naminata Koulibaly, 30, receives training in a Moroccan Muslim teaching institute, founded by King Mohammed VI in 2015, and hopes to return to her home in Ivory Coast better equipped to advise women on religious issues.
She is one of 100 women admitted every year to study for up to three years in the institute in Rabat, run by Morocco’s ministry of religious affairs.
Morocco, which is nearly 100 percent Muslim, has marketed itself as an oasis of religious tolerance in a region torn by militancy – and has offered training to imams and male and female preachers of Islam from Africa and Europe on what it describes as moderate Islam.
It currently trains 1,300 people mostly from the sub-Sahara nations of Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, Guinea, Gambia and Chad, where Al Qaeda and Islamic State are active.
“When I go back to my country, I will find some children and women who did not go to school and don’t know a lot about religion…we will be very useful to them and we will teach them about the fundamentals of religion,” said Koulibaly.
“We will show them how to behave with others and not to be extremists. We will show them how to be moderate in religion”.
Compared to other countries in North Africa Morocco has been largely insulated from militant attacks. The first since 2011 took place last December when two Scandinavian tourists were found murdered in a tourist spot in the Atlas Mountains. Four suspects had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
Students at the institute receive 2,000 dirhams ($208.33) a month in addition to free accommodation, plane tickets, and health insurance. Admission criteria include having a Bachelor university degree.
The curriculum covers Islamic studies along with philosophy, history of religions, sexual education and mental health.
“We show them that the concepts of democracy and human rights serve purposes rooted in Islamic values,” said institute director Abdeslam Lazaar.
Imams also receive vocational training in electrics, agriculture or tailoring to enable them to have a source of stable revenue when they return home.
Imam training can help sub-Saharan countries facing militancy and a vacuum in the supervision of religion, Salim Hmimnat of the Rabat-based African Studies Institute said.
Pope Francis visited the imam training institute during his trip to Morocco in March.
Students also come from France, such as 25-year-old Aboubakr Hmaidouch.
“The Muslim community in France is in great need of imams and female religious preachers to ensure that the values of religion contribute to living together and to the spiritual well-being of society,” he said.
Training takes into account practical life and culture, and accepts diversity he said.
“When I return… I hope to put into practice and transmit this knowledge, especially this spirit of peace, love, fraternity and tolerance.”
The institute also helps Rabat expand its foothold in a region where major Moroccan banks and companies have been investing for years.
“The use of religion plays an important role in the kingdom’s overall soft power equation,” said Anouar Boukhars, a Maghreb expert and Carnegie Endowment fellow, noting Morocco promotes its tolerant Islam as an alternative to the extremist ideologies in the Sahel.
(Editing by Ulf Laessing and Alexandra Hudson)
FILE PHOTO: Cans of Coca-Cola are pictured in the refrigerator during an event in Paris, France, March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
April 23, 2019
By Nivedita Balu
(Reuters) – Strong demand for Coca-Cola Co’s low-calorie Coke Zero, new orange-vanilla cola and flavored waters pushed the beverage maker’s quarterly sales and profit well above Wall Street estimates, sending its shares up 2.2 percent on Tuesday.
The world’s biggest beverage makers, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo Inc, are responding to shifting consumer tastes by tweaking ingredients and experimenting with new flavors that are focused more on health conscious consumers.
These efforts have helped revive soda sales after a years-long slump.
Chief Executive Officer James Quincey said Coke Zero sales witnessed a double-digit percentage rise, while its new orange-vanilla Coke soda was also a hit.
Sales of the company’s carbonated drinks rose 1 percent, driven by strong performance of its Coke brand, while smaller, immediate consumption packages of its flavored water and sports drinks drove a 6 percent sales increase in that business.
Quincey is trying to make Coca-Cola a “total beverage company” by adding coffees, teas, smoothies and flavored waters to a portfolio that has traditionally offered aerated drinks.
It recently made a big bet on coffee with its $5.1 billion acquisition of Costa Coffee and is preparing to launch ready-to-drink Costa products in stores soon.
“They’re making progress with innovations in general … it is still early for a lot of these innovations, but we do like the increased focus that the company is bringing to its core brands and also its coffee products,” Edward Jones analyst John Boylan said.
Coke’s organic sales, which exclude the impact of currency swings and acquisitions, rose 6 percent, driven by price hikes and partly benefiting from bottlers stocking up more products due to Brexit uncertainty.
Revenue rose 5 percent to $8.02 billion, and the company earned 48 cents per share on an adjusted basis.
Analysts had forecast earnings of 46 cents per share on revenue of $7.88 billion, according to Refinitiv IBES.
For the second quarter, the company projected a 6 percent boost in comparable revenue from acquisitions and divestitures, but continues to see an impact from a stronger dollar. It maintained its core sales growth forecast for the full year.
“We are impressed with Coca-Cola’s ability to deliver a strong topline, suggesting that its refranchising (and) portfolio transformation are paying off,” Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog said.
(The story corrects first paragraph to say Coke Zero is a low-calorie drink, not low sugar; also corrects CEO’s surname to “Quincey” from “Quincy” in third and fifth paragraph.)
(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Anil D’Silva)
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FILE PHOTO: Solar panels face the sun from balconies of an apartment building in Mangyongdae District, Pyongyang August 27, 2014. REUTERS/Staff/File Photo
April 17, 2019
By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) – Years after they first appeared in North Korea, increasingly cheap and available solar panels are giving a boost to consumer consumption and industry as Pyongyang tries to limit the impact of tough international sanctions.
Electricity shortages have been a perennial concern for North Korea, and leader Kim Jong Un has called for greater use of renewable energy as part of his drive for self-sufficiency as sanctions have ratcheted higher in response to the country’s nuclear and missile programs.
Now ever more households, factories and businesses are equipped with solar panels, leading to a greater variety of home electronics products available in increasingly common private markets known as jangmadang, defectors and recent visitors say.
Among the hottest selling items are water purifiers, hair straighteners and electric bicycles, mostly from China but some made in North Korea or even smuggled in from South Korea.
“A few years ago, such things as water purifiers, mixers and rice cookers were only seen at some restaurants and rich households, but they are becoming commonplace, especially in cities,” said Kang Mi-jin, an economic expert who regularly speaks with North Koreans for Daily NK, a website run by defectors.
“Some would look just like an ordinary middle-class South Korean home, with a wall-hanging LED TV, multiple laptops and electric mini cars for babies.”
North Koreans started using solar panels several years ago, mostly to charge mobile phones and light their homes as a backup to the unstable, mostly hydro and coal-fired national grid.
As well as markets brimming with electronics products, there are more teahouses, computer games rooms, karaoke bars and billiard halls open longer after switching to solar from diesel generators, according to recent visitors and defectors.
Such entertainment venues are becoming more widespread, not only in cities, but also the countryside, where grid power is even less reliable.
“At night, often it is only those places that have solar panels and batteries that have lights on,” a source with knowledge of the issue told Reuters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of North Korea affairs.
Use of the panels spread after they were used at a now-closed inter-Korean factory park in the North’s border city of Kaesong that opened in 2004.
“Now many apartment balconies have them out in the sun during the day collecting energy so they are readily visible, the source said.
Private use of solar panels has gone from being officially banned, to tolerated, to encouraged by the ruling Workers’ Party, which keeps a tight rein on the economy and the populace.
Early this month, the official Rodong Sinmun ran an article about a team of laborers at a cooperative farm who earned solar panels and LED TVs as a reward from the Party for surpassing a production goal.
State television has also aired a series of reports on the growing use of solar energy over the past year, including a 17-minute documentary from October introducing locally made devices, such as high-voltage inverters and even a portable charger for electric bicycles.
Kim Yun-soung, a research fellow at the Green Energy Strategy Institute in Seoul, said the North’s push for domestic production of solar equipment was spurred by sanctions banning imports of metal products.
“Electricity was the biggest problem but we achieved such a highly advanced, cutting-edge technology ourselves from scratch, which was once monopolized by developed nations,” the film’s narrator said, referring to the inverters.
State media has listed the central bank, schools, factories, and even ferries as entirely powered by solar panels.
“A solar panel gives you ‘free’ power once it is installed,” said Kim Young Hui, a defector and an economist at the South’s state-run Korea Development Bank.
“So the nature of the panels perfectly fits Kim Jong Un’s mantra of self-reliance – or in other words, creating something out of nothing.”
Most of the panels sold in markets were brought in from China, and prices have dropped by up to 40 percent over the last few years amid a global glut and rising North Korean production, defectors and experts said.
In 2015, sources told Reuters a small 20-watt panel was sold at about $44. These days a 30-watt panel – a more widely used model – costs only about $15, Kang said.
Pyongyang does not provide data on its use of solar power, but Kang said about 55 percent of North Korean households are equipped with the panels. The ratio is higher in Pyongyang and other cities, as well as border regions where Chinese goods are widely available, she said.
David von Hippel, an Oregon-based senior associate at the Nautilus Institute, a U.S. think tank, said North Korea has imported a total of 29 megawatts of solar panels from China through 2017, citing Beijing’s custom data.
Experts say solar energy still account for less than 0.1 percent of the country’s generation capacity, estimated by South Korea’s statistics agency at some 7,700 megawatts as of 2017.
Pyongyang aims to boost its renewable capacity to 5,000 megawatts by 2044, with a focus on wind power, according to state media.
Panels play a key role in soothing public discontent toward the Kim regime over chronic power shortages and sanctions, defectors and observers say.
“Kim Jong Un appears to be committed to economic reform,” von Hippel said. “So the increased access to energy in some ways relieves the government from having to supply its citizens with energy.”
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)
FILE PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim, in Baghdad, Iraq, March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid Al-Mousily/File Photo
April 14, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday he will send letters to the foreign ministers of all countries to notify them that the U.S. designation of the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization will have consequences.
Zarif was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as saying that he has also sent letters to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the United Nations Security Council to protest against “this illegal U.S. measure”.
(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Jan Harvey)
President Donald Trump’s policy on transgender people serving in the military, which critics compare to “don’t ask, don’t tell,” takes effect on Friday, NBC News reports.
The Pentagon on Friday implemented a new policy that prevents anyone with transgender dysphoria who is currently receiving hormone treatments or who has already transitioned may not enlist. Any troops currently serving who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria after this date may not take hormones or have gender reassignment surgery, and must serve as the sex on their birth certificate.
“The policy is insidious in operation but designed to be as comprehensive a ban as possible,” reads a report from the Palm Center, a nonpartisan group that studies LGBTQ military issues. “In that sense, it is a perfect parallel to the failed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, also sold as not being a ban although designed to systemically push gay people out of military service — or at least keep them silent and invisible.”
“There’s transgender people who have been scrambling to try to hurry up, come out and begin the transition process so that they can be included in this so-called grandfathered group,” Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights and one of the lead attorneys in two lawsuits filed in response to the policy, told ABC News. “So that has been a source of enormous stress and anxiety.”
When asked last October about his campaign promise to protect transgender people and his proposed ban on transgender people from serving in the military, Trump said he is “protecting everybody.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
People look at Notre-Dame Cathedral two days after a massive fire devastated large parts of the gothic structure in Paris, France, April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
April 17, 2019
By Noor Zainab Hussain
(Reuters) – Some 90 percent of the priceless relics and art works housed within the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral were saved from Monday’s devastating fire as contingency plans to evacuate the treasures worked, a leading insurance adjuster said on Wednesday.
Insurance adjuster Michel Honore, the director of fine art at Sedgwick, has been given the task of assessing any damage to the cathedral’s “Trésor” or treasure.
The contingency evacuation plan included putting priorities on objects for removal, Honore told Reuters, adding “the plan itself worked perfectly and was adhered to the letter and that is why the contents lost is not as severe as might have been feared”.
He spoke by phone from Paris after attending a meeting of adjusters – specialists appointed by insurers to investigate claims on their behalf – at a site close to the cathedral.
Officials have said that emergency workers formed a human chain to whisk items out of harm’s way during the blaze.
Notre-Dame’s treasures are made up of 1,000 to 1,200 items including precious metals, traditional church dresses and paintings. More modern items also include a gift to the cathedral from Pope John Paul II.
“One of the first items to come out was the crown of thorns and the remnants of the crucifix. They were on the top of the list and they were taken out in priority in strict application of the plan,” Honore said.
The crown, made of braided reed brought to France from Constantinople in the 12th century, has been revered as an object of Christian worship for centuries. Remnants of the crucifix refers to relics believed by Christians to be part of the cross where Jesus died.
Honore said most of the large paintings in the cathedral seemed “to be ok”, but they would need closer inspection by specialist restorers for traces of soot or deposits from the fire or firefighters’ water.
“There is great optimism that the main organ in the cathedral will remain unscathed but again it needs close checking for acidic deposits,” he said.
While most of the valuable items were removed, some had to be left behind, though it was unclear how many.
“The items that could not be removed on the night of the fire are in the process of being checked and wrapped and removed from the premises and are being stored in the Louvre Museum,” Honore said.
The items at the top of the priority list were relocated to Paris City Hall and will in all probability be taken to the Louvre for safer keeping.
The cathedral is owned by the state and major European insurers expect France to bear the bulk of the cost of rebuilding.
Two insurers including AXA ART, a unit of AXA, have an insurable interest in the art works within the cathedral, Honore said, adding five adjusters had been commissioned. He did not name the other insurer.
Matters of faith and state were separated by law in France in 1905. Items that predate the law are insured by the state and are not insured on the open market.
With the exception of relics such as the crown of thorns, an inventory is carried out on a regular basis to value the artifacts and in the event that an insured item is destroyed, the insurer would pay out. Insurers would also foot the bill to restore any items that are damaged, Honore said.
(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Frances Kerry)
FILE PHOTO: Workers of assembly factories cross a street as they rush toward their shift at an industrial park in Reynosa, Mexico January 10, 2019. Picture taken January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo/File Photo
April 12, 2019
(This April 11 story corrects to include dropped word ‘not’ in paragraph 6)
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s lower house of Congress overwhelmingly approved a workers’ rights bill late on Thursday, legislation that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi considers key to winning over Democrats wary of a revamped North American trade pact.
Pelosi called on Mexico last week to see through the legislation, saying U.S. lawmakers could not even take up the issue unless Mexico put new laws in place to protect workers.
Democratic lawmakers in Washington say the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) must ensure workers in Mexico have the right to organize, a step that would require new Mexican labor laws. They believe a major weakness of the 25-year -old North American Free Trade Agreement that the USMCA would replace is that it allowed Mexican wages to stagnate.
The workers’ rights bill was approved by Mexico’s lower house of Congress on Thursday night with 258 members in favor, 67 opposed and 18 abstentions.
The proposal could land in the Senate as soon as next week.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said after Pelosi’s comments he does not want to give the United States any motive to reopen negotiations of the pact, which wound up last year.
“It is in our benefit to have this treaty, and for there to be no excuse for opening up negotiations again,” he said in a regular news briefing on Thursday.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Miguel Angel Gutierrez Editing by Tom Brown and Paul Tait)