Friday, 18 October 2019
October 19, 2019
NANCHANG, China (Reuters) – Chinese vice premier Liu He said on Saturday that China will work with the United States to address each other’s core concerns on the basis of equality and mutual respect, and that stopping the trade war would be good for both sides and the world.
Liu also said the Chinese government has every confidence in its ability to meet macroeconomic targets for the year.
Liu, who is also the chief negotiator in China’s trade talks with the United States, was speaking at a virtual reality conference in Nanchang, capital of southeastern Jiangxi province.
(Additional reporting by Ryan Woo and Samuel Shen; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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October 19, 2019
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam took to the airwaves on Saturday to back the use of force by police ahead of a major anti-government march planned this weekend in the Chinese-ruled city, which has been battered by months of violent protests.
Following a week of relative calm, Sunday’s march will test the strength of the pro-democracy movement. Campaigners vowed it would go ahead despite police ruling the rally illegal.
In the past, thousands of people have defied police and staged mass rallies without permission, often peaceful at the start but becoming violent at night.
The trigger for unrest in Hong Kong had been a now-withdrawn proposal to allow extradition to mainland China, as well as Taiwan and Macau. The case of a Hong Kong man accused of murdering his girlfriend in Taiwan before fleeing back to the city was held up as an example of why it was needed.
Late on Friday the man, Chan Tong-kai, who is jailed in Hong Kong for money laundering, wrote to Lam saying he would “surrender himself to Taiwan” over his alleged involvement in the case upon his release, which could be as soon as next week.
Lam said in an interview on Saturday with broadcaster RTHK that it was a relief as it could bring an end to the case.
She also said that police had used appropriate force in handling the protests, and were responding to protesters’ violence, amid criticism of heavy-handed tactics.
More than 2,600 people have been arrested since the protests escalated in June.
Protesters’ demands have, since then, swelled far beyond opposing the extradition bill, to take in broader concerns that Beijing is eroding freedoms granted when Britain handed the city back to China in 1997.
China denies the accusation and has blamed foreign nations such as the United States and Britain for inciting the unrest.
The crisis in the Chinese-ruled city is the worst since the handover and poses the biggest popular challenge to China’s President Xi Jinping since he took power.
Police have refused permission for Sunday’s march citing risks of violence and vandalism, which has increased in recent weeks as protesters dressed in black ninja-like outfits have torched metro stations and Chinese banks and shops.
Rights group Human Rights Watch said the police move appeared to be aimed at dissuading people from attending.
Demonstrations on Friday were calm, with protesters forming a human chain along the city’s metro network and many donning cartoon character masks in defiance of a ban on covering faces at public rallies.
Lam this week outright rejected two of the protesters’ five core demands: universal suffrage and amnesty for those charged during the demonstrations, saying the latter would be illegal and the former was beyond her power.
Instead she has sought to quell the crisis with plans to improve housing supply and ease cost-of-living pressures.
The atmosphere in the city remains tense.
Prominent rights activist Jimmy Sham was brutally beaten by four men wielding hammers and knives during the week, a move pro-democracy lawmakers said was meant to intimidate protesters and incite violence ahead of Sunday’s planned march.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the city’s de-facto central bank, said on Saturday that some cash machines will be out of service temporarily, owing to vandalism or to safety considerations.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Twinnie Siu; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
October 19, 2019
Bryce Harper played his first seven seasons with the Nationals, leaving Washington in the offseason to sign a 10-year, $330 million megadeal with division rival Philadelphia.
And while the Phillies fell short of the postseason and the Nationals are heading to the World Series, the outfielder said he isn’t second-guessing his decision to go elsewhere and isn’t jealous.
“No. I’m so happy for them,” Harper told The Athletic. “You know how hard it is to get into the postseason and win games. For them to be able to put it together this year the way they have, it’s an amazing thing.”
Harper, 27, played in four National League Division Series with the Nationals, but they never were able to advance to the NL Championship Series. He rejected an offer from the Nationals, who used the saved money to add pitchers Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez, then bolstered the bullpen at the trade deadline.
“It was kind of the perfect storm for them,” Harper said. “… Not signing me, they were able to go out and get the starting pitching that they needed and the pitching that they needed for their bullpen.”
The New York Yankees dropped an injured CC Sabathia from the American League Championship Series roster, likely ending the veteran pitcher’s career.
Pitching in relief Thursday night in Game 4 of the ALCS, Sabathia “suffered a subluxation of his left shoulder joint,” the team said in a statement. A subluxation is a partial dislocation, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Right-handed reliever Ben Heller replaced Sabathia on the roster. On the season, the 28-year-old pitched 7 2/3 innings over six games, recording a 1.23 ERA with nine strikeouts.
Giancarlo Stanton was back in the lineup for the Yankees, who were facing elimination in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Houston Astros.
Stanton, who played in the opening game of the ALCS before missing three games in a row with a quadriceps strain, batted fourth and served as designated hitter, replacing Edwin Encarnacion in the lineup. DJ LeMahieu played first base and batted leadoff.
Stanton attempted to play Thursday but manager Aaron Boone wasn’t comfortable playing him after a pregame workout.
Atlanta Braves All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman is recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow and should be ready for spring training, the team announced.
The procedure was performed in New York on Wednesday by Dr. David Altchek. The surgeon “cleaned out the entire right elbow joint during the procedure, removing three fragmented loose bodies and cleaning up multiple bone spur formations that had developed,” the team said in a statement.
Freeman, 30, hit .295 with a career-high 38 home runs and 121 RBIs in 158 regular-season games. In five postseason games, he was 4 of 20 with a home run, one RBI and six strikeouts.
–Field Level Media
October 19, 2019
By Leika Kihara and David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Friday the central bank could ease monetary policy further if needed to spur growth, shrugging off views that it has used up ammunition to fight the next economic downturn.
A senior International Monetary Fund official also said deepening negative interest rates remained an option if the BOJ were to ease, though adding that any such move should be accompanied by fiscal and structural steps to be effective.
“We think that lowering the negative interest rate remains an option. Of course, given stubbornly anchored inflation expectations, a whole package (of steps) is needed, especially structural reforms,” Odd Per Brekk, who is the IMF’s mission chief of Japan, told Reuters on Friday.
The remarks came amid simmering market speculation that the BOJ could ease policy as early as this month such as by deepening negative rates – a controversial move given the strain years of ultra-low rates is inflicting on commercial bank’s profits.
The IMF cut its global growth forecasts this week as manufacturers felt the pinch from the U.S.-China trade war, adding pressure on the BOJ to ramp up stimulus to prevent external headwinds from derailing a fragile recovery.
IMF WARNS OF OVER-RELIANCE ON C.BANKS
Coming out from a two-day meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank heads, Kuroda said some countries did mention that prolonged periods of loose monetary policy have left them with less room to ramp up stimulus.
But the case for Japan was different, he said, stressing the BOJ’s readiness to top up monetary support if heightening global risks threaten achievement of its 2% inflation target.
“It’s not as if we have limited monetary policy space. If needed, we could take additional easing steps,” Kuroda told a news conference hosted by Japan as chair of this year’s G20 meeting.
“We will carefully analyze economic and price developments in deciding whether such measures are necessary,” he said.
While warning of heightening risks to global growth, the IMF has urged policymakers to avoid relying too heavily on already-stretched monetary policy tools in spurring growth.
“There were some views expressed at the G20 meeting that in general, prolonged periods of monetary easing have diminished space for additional easing,” Kuroda said.
“But it’s hard to generalize that monetary policy space has diminished, because much depends on the economic and price developments of each country,” he said.
Kuroda also said there were no signs yet that the BOJ’s ultra-loose monetary policy was impairing Japan’s banking system by discouraging financial institutions to boost lending.
The BOJ said last month it will more thoroughly assess economic and price developments at the Oct. 30-31 rate review due to heightening global risks, signaling the chance of easing policy as early as this month.
(Reporting by Leika Kihara and David Lawder; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Sandra Maler)
October 19, 2019
By Alexandra Alper
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Blacklisted Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei is in early-stage talks with some U.S. telecoms companies about licensing its 5G network technology to them, a Huawei executive told Reuters on Friday.
Vincent Pang, senior vice president and board director at the company said some firms had expressed interest in both a long-term deal or a one-off transfer, declining to name or quantify the companies.
“There are some companies talking to us, but it would take a long journey to really finalize everything,” Pang explained on a visit to Washington this week. “They have shown interest,” he added, saying conversations are only a couple of weeks old and not at a detailed level yet.
The U.S. government, fearing Huawei equipment could be used to spy on customers, has led a campaign to convince allies to bar it from their 5G networks. Huawei has repeatedly denied the claim.
Currently there are no U.S. 5G providers and European rivals Ericsson <ERICb.ST> and Nokia <NOKIA.HE> are generally more expensive.
In May, Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms equipment provider, was placed on a U.S. blacklist over national security concerns, banning it from buying American-made parts without a special license.
Washington also has brought criminal charges against the company, alleging bank fraud, violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran, and theft of trade secrets, which Huawei denies.
Rules that were due out from the Commerce Department earlier this month are expected to effectively ban the company from the U.S. telecoms supply chain.
The idea of a one-off fee in exchange for access to Huawei’s 5G patents, licenses, code and know-how was first floated by CEO and founder Ren Zhengfei in interviews with the New York Times and the Economist last month. But it was not previously clear whether there was any interest from U.S. companies.
In an interview with Reuters last month, a State Department official expressed skepticism of Ren’s offer.
“It’s just not realistic that carriers would take on this equipment and then manage all of the software and hardware themselves,” the person said. “If there are software bugs that are built in to the initial software, there would be no way to necessarily tell that those are there and they could be activated at any point, even if the software code is turned over to the mobile operators,” the official added.
For his part, Pang declined to predict whether any deal might be signed. However, he warned that the research and development investment required by continuously improving the platform after a single-transfer from Huawei would be very costly for the companies.
Huawei has spent billions to develop its 5G technology since 2009.
(Additional reporting by Ken Li and Karen Friefeld; Editing by Chris Sanders and Sandra Maler)
Last week, a report surfaced that British Galaxy S10 user, Lisa Neilson discovered a fingerprint scanner vulnerability that would let anyone access her device through a vulnerability with the ultra-sonic fingerprint sensor. Cheap silicone screen protectors have dot matrices so the clear protector wouldn't stick to the smooth glass. This caused a malfunction with the ultra-sonic in-display fingerprint sensor. In practice, enrolling your fingerprint doesn't work through such a case, except it did. It was enrolling the pattern on the silicone cover and not from a user's finger, so when...
October 19, 2019
By David Alire Garcia and Daina Beth Solomon
CULIACAN, Mexico/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Stunned residents of the Mexican city of Culiacan gingerly ventured back into the streets on Friday as police cleared away shell casings and scorched cars from an eruption of gangland violence on the home turf of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel.
Scores of cartel henchmen swarmed parts of the capital of the northwestern state of Sinaloa on Thursday when authorities briefly detained a son of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman at a house in an area packed with hotels, shops and restaurants.
Wielding assault rifles, torching cars and blocking roads at various locations across town, the cartel footsoldiers unleashed a show of firepower that sent people scurrying for cover and prompted security forces to free the son, Ovidio Guzman.
(Graphic: Bungled arrest of kingpin’s son, click https://ift.tt/2MSKh4r)
A few locals attempted a return to normal life on Friday even though schools remained closed, businesses shut behind metal grates and some roads blocked by charred vehicles, Reuters images showed.
“I saw scenes that I’ve only seen in war movies, cars in the street on fire, cars pulled over and abandoned,” said Tomas Guevara, a security expert who has lived for more than 30 years in the city, which, while inured to gangland strife is unused to such chaos. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Even people taking cover behind the towering concrete walls of Culiacan’s main soccer stadium did not feel safe, panicked by the relentless patter of gunfire during the raid for the younger Guzman in the city’s Tres Rios area, a Reuters witness said.
Dozens took refuge in locker rooms and dropped to the floor. Two men hid behind seats. Some stayed for hours as gunmen fired round after round from high-caliber assault rifles.
“Where are you? I’m in Tres Rios, I’m hiding,” a man said into his phone, checking frantically for news of his family.
Children huddled with mothers and families. Some had been forced by two armed men off a large white bus that was set on fire to block a road, sending black smoke spewing skywards.
A police officer called his superiors to report that gunmen had removed him from his patrol car and torched it. Take off your uniform and blend in with civilians, his bosses told him.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador defended his decision to free the younger Guzman, saying it saved lives. Still, authorities had reports of at least eight people killed.
Nestled between fertile coastal strips that grow tomatoes for U.S. supermarkets, and mountain ranges home to marijuana and opium-growing outlaws, Culiacan lives a double life in the Sinaloa Cartel’s heartland.
Best known as home to legendary cartel bosses, the city also thrives as a regional economic hub where drug lords and their families live side by side with executives from agriculture businesses and other firms such as national retailer Coppel.
One of Mexico’s most powerful gangs, the Sinaloa Cartel has kept a firm grip on the local drug trade despite the extradition of “El Chapo” to the United States in 2017, and cartel business has proceeded unabated under the leadership of his sons and their associates, security experts say.
Though Culiacan has been roiled by spectacular raids such as the 2008 capture of a cousin of El Chapo and five other cartel members, Thursday’s events went further.
“I’ve never seen a shootout paralyze all of Culiacan,” said a 59-year-old businessman who has always lived in the city, raising his voice over the drone of helicopters circling above. He asked that his name not be used due to safety concerns.
“It’s more or less normal to hear gunfire at night and early morning,” he added. “But like yesterday, never.”
Jan-Albert Hootsen, the Mexico Representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, was having lunch in Culiacan when the shooting erupted. Running to a nearby office for safety, he watched from the third floor as traffic melted away and was replaced by menacing convoys of cartel trucks.
By Friday afternoon, even as businesses began to reopen, a sense of unease still hung over Culiacan, Hootsen said.
“Some people in Mexico are wondering if the government has any kind of control over the situation,” he said. “I’m not sure they do.”
(Reporting by David Alire Garcia in Culiacan, Lizbeth Diaz and Miguel Angel Gutierrez in Mexico City; Additional reporting and writing by Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City; Editing by Dave Graham and Daniel Wallis)
October 19, 2019
By Dave Graham and Lizbeth Diaz
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican officials on Friday admitted they had bungled the arrest of kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s son, who they let go during shootouts with drug gangs in the streets of a major city, but the president insisted his security strategy was working.
Cartel gunmen surrounded around 35 police and national guards in the northwestern city of Culiacan on Thursday and made them free Ovidio Guzman, one of the jailed drug lord’s dozen or so children, after his brief detention set off widespread gun battles and a jailbreak that stunned the country.
The chaos in Culiacan, a bastion of Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel, turned up pressure on President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in December promising to pacify a country weary of more than a decade of gang violence and murders.
Lopez Obrador came under heavy criticism on social media and from security experts, who said that authorities risked encouraging copycat actions by caving in to the gang, and that the retreat from a major city created the impression that the cartel, not the state, was in control.
His own officials said the operation in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state and home to nearly a million people, had not been planned as well as it should have been.
“It was done hastily, the consequences were not considered, the riskiest part wasn’t taken into account,” Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval told a news conference in Culiacan, alongside Security Minister Alfonso Durazo, who called the attempt to capture the younger Guzman a “failure.”
Durazo admitted he and the military top brass were not aware ahead of time of the mission to bring into custody the alleged trafficker, calling it a bureaucratic error.
But the president defended the government response.
“Capturing a criminal can’t be worth more than people’s lives,” he said, adding that officials “did well” to free Ovidio Guzman. “We don’t want dead people, we don’t want war,” said Lopez Obrador, a veteran leftist who has advocated a less confrontational approach to tackling the gangs.
“We’re doing really well in our strategy,” he said.
The violent reaction to Guzman’s apprehension in a wealthy area of Culiacan was on a scale rarely seen during Mexico’s long drug wars.
Sandoval said he had reports of at least eight people killed, including five suspected gang members, in Culiacan, where schools were closed on Friday after the ordeal.
WHO’S IN CONTROL?
One Facebook user stumbled on two dead bodies in the street near an abandoned truck, suggesting the death toll may yet rise in the city, where the government said gunmen staged 14 attacks on the armed forces and 19 road blocks where vehicles burned.
Footage of Thursday’s chaos on social media showed panicked residents fleeing and high caliber gunfire ringing out across town. People cowered in shopping centers and supermarkets and black plumes of smoke rose across the skyline.
Chaos continued into the night after a large group of inmates also escaped from the city prison.
On Friday, cars navigated burnt out vehicles that partially blocked streets.
Gladys McCormick, a security analyst at Syracuse University in the United States, said the latest news from Mexico read like that of a country in “the throes of war.”
“What is incontrovertible is that the Sinaloa Cartel won yesterday’s battle,” she added. “Not only did they get the government to release Ovidio, they demonstrated to the citizens of Culiacan as well as the rest of Mexico who is in control.”
Durazo said the government’s decision to free Guzman “involved absolutely no negotiation.”
Still, questions about how the release was handled continued circulating after defense minister Sandoval said nine security personnel were “held and freed without injury.”
Meanwhile, Jose Luis Gonzalez Meza, a lawyer for the Guzman family, thanked Lopez Obrador for the government’s actions.
“We have a humane president, a Christian president who in the end decided not to hurt Ovidio,” he told a news conference.
Lopez Obrador rejected the suggestion the government had showed weakness in releasing the younger Guzman, describing this view as “conjecture” put about by his adversaries to hurt him.
A trenchant critic of past administrations, Lopez Obrador said previous government strategies had turned Mexico into a “graveyard” and that his critics wanted him to continue with it.
He argues that authorities should focus more on the root causes of drug violence, such as poverty and a lack of jobs.
To boost security, Lopez Obrador has created a new National Guard – but thousands of that militarized police force’s members have instead been sent to contain illegal immigration through Mexico at the behest of U.S. President Donald Trump.
He has also sought to underline his command of law and order by chairing security cabinet meetings every weekday at 6 a.m.
Still, the murder tally in Mexico this year is on track to surpass last year’s record total of more than 29,000.
Thursday’s events followed the massacre of more than a dozen police in western Mexico earlier this week, and the killing of 14 suspected gangsters by the army a day later.
Lopez Obrador said security forces had swooped on the house in Culiacan to capture Ovidio Guzman after a judge issued a warrant for his arrest and extradition.
That contradicted the initial version put out on Thursday by the government, which was that the officers had come under fire from the house while passing, then found Guzman inside.
The elder Guzman escaped from prison in Mexico twice, in 2001 and 2015. Under the previous administration, security forces captured him two times in Sinaloa, in 2014 and 2016.
The previous government extradited him to the United States on the eve of Trump’s accession. He was found guilty in a U.S. court in February of smuggling tons of drugs and sentenced to life in prison.
The U.S. Department of Justice unveiled an indictment against Ovidio and one of his brothers in February, charging them with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana in the United States.
(Reporting by Dave Graham and Lizbeth Diaz; Additional reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Alistair Bell)
October 19, 2019
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund said on Friday its 189 member countries agreed to maintain the IMF’s $1 trillion in total lending resources while delaying changes to its shareholding structure to as late as December 2023.
The move ends a deadlock with the United States, which had opposed shareholding changes that would give a bigger voice to China and other large, fast-growing emerging markets in a review process that was due for completion this year.
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva announced the decision at the Fund’s and World Bank’s annual meetings, saying that the initiative will provide confidence that the IMF can adequately support member countries as they deal with slowing global growth.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who holds an effective veto over major Fund decisions, endorsed the move, which calls for a doubling of the IMF’s crisis lending fund to about $500 billion, restoring it to levels during the 2008-09 financial crisis. It would be accompanied by a reduction in bilateral lending arrangement to keep overall IMF resources unchanged.
But it would require the United States to double its commitment by contributing about $38 billion to the fund, known as the New Arrangements to Borrow (NAB), a move that would need approval from the U.S. Congress.
“We continue to support efforts to maintain the IMF’s current resources so that the IMF is sufficiently equipped to respond to potential crises over the medium term,” Mnuchin said in a statement to the IMF’s steering committee.
In April, Mnuchin said he was firmly opposed to increasing the IMF’s overall funding and altering shareholding quotas.
“In our view, the IMF currently has ample resources to achieve its mission,” he said at the time.
The New Arrangements to Borrow, first launched in 1998 and increased 10-fold during the financial crisis a decade later, were due to expire in 2022.
Bilateral lending arrangements, totaling about $440 billion, were due to expire at the end of 2019. These will be extended for a year to buy governments time to approve the changes.
But the deal puts off for four years a reckoning over how the growing influence in the global economy of China, Brazil and India will be reflected in the governance of the IMF.
(GRAPHIC-The IMF in figures: Debtors vs creditors: https://reut.rs/33JQIxu)
The IMF’s bylaws drafted at the end of World War Two require the Fund to be headquartered in the world’s largest economy – which may require a shift in coming decades based on forecasts that China’s GDP will eventually exceed that of the United States.
The deal preserves the U.S. veto power at the IMF and ends a deadlock over quotas while avoiding a bigger share for China for the time being, said Mark Sobel, a former U.S. Treasury official and U.S. executive director at the IMF.
“This is second-best compared to a quota increase, but it merits support,” added Sobel, who is now with the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum think-tank.
It also may be an easier sell to Congress, which balked for years at the last quota increase agreed in 2010 that boosted China’s and other emerging markets’ voting power and shrunk that of European countries. Those changes were not implemented until 2016 after Congress approved it in a spending bill.
(Reporting by David Lawder and Heather Timmons; Editing by Paul Simao, Andrea Ricci and Daniel Wallis)
October 19, 2019
By Aislinn Laing and Dave Sherwood
SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chilean officials shut down the metro system in Santiago on Friday after demonstrators protesting recent fare hikes took to the streets and attacked subway stops, leaving widespread damage across the capital city of nearly 6 million people.
Black-hooded protesters lit fires at the entrances to several stations, burned a public bus and swung metal pipes at train station turnstiles during the Friday afternoon commute, according to witnesses, social media and television footage.
Thousands more joined after nightfall, clanging pots and blocking traffic in the normally subdued South American capital.
Metro officials said the system would remain closed through the weekend, citing “serious destruction” that made it impossible to operate trains safely.
“It is one thing to demonstrate and another to commit the vandalism we have observed,” President Sebastian Pinera told national radio station Radio Agricultural earlier in the day. “This is not protest, it is crime.”
High school and university students began the protest after the government hiked fares on Oct. 6 by as much as $1.17 for a peak metro ride, blaming higher energy costs and a weaker peso.
The unrest underscores sharp divisions in Chile, one of Latin America’s wealthiest nations but also one of its most unequal. Frustrations over the high cost of living in Santiago have become a political flashpoint, prompting calls for reforms to everything from the country’s tax and labor codes to its pension system.
Metro management said there had been more than 200 incidents on Santiago’s subway system in the previous 11 days, mostly involving school children and older students jumping barriers and forcing gates. Police told Reuters they had to use teargas and batons in extreme cases.
The protests turned increasingly violent on Friday afternoon, however, and by early Friday evening, officials had closed down all of the city’s 136 metro stations, which connect more than 87 miles of track.
Earlier in the day, after a meeting with the metro chief and interior minister, Transport Minister Gloria Hutt told reporters the fare hike would not be reversed. She said the government subsidizes almost half the operating costs of the metro, one of Latin America’s most modern.
“This is not a discussion that should have risen to the level of violence that we’ve seen,” she said.
Support for the center-right Pinera has waned to around 30% in the second year of his term as his government struggles to push reforms through an opposition-led legislature.
(Reporting by Aislinn Laing, Dave Sherwood and Natalia Ramos; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
October 19, 2019
By Anthony Esposito
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office in December, promising not to repeat the “failed policies” of past administrations that have done little to stem a tide of drug-related violence that cost some 29,000 lives last year.
But events in the states of Sinaloa, Michoacan and Guerrero this past week, including two mass killings and an all-out gun battle on Thursday that saw security forces overwhelmed by cartel gunmen, have raised questions about the effectiveness of his new security strategy.
WHAT HAPPENED IN MEXICO THIS PAST WEEK?
On Monday, cartel hitmen shot dead at least 13 police in an ambush in Aguililla in the western state of Michoacan, long convulsed by turf wars between drug gangs, latterly the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and its enemies.
The following day, a gunfight left 14 civilians and one soldier dead in Tepochica, near Iguala, a city notorious for the 2014 disappearances of 43 student teachers. Tuesday’s mass killing in Guerrero raised questions about whether the armed forces used excessive force, reviving the specter of past executions.
Then came the bungled arrest on Thursday of the son of jailed kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman that turned the streets of Culiacan in Sinaloa into a scene of nightmarish urban warfare.
Cartel gunmen surrounded security forces in the northwestern city and made them free Ovidio Guzman after his brief capture.
WHAT’S THIS NEW SECURITY STRATEGY?
Veteran leftist Lopez Obrador’s new strategy for battling crime focuses on addressing the root causes of violence, in particular reducing poverty, stamping out entrenched corruption, and giving young adults job opportunities.
He has boosted wages along the U.S.-Mexico border, created thousands of apprenticeships, and is promoting investments in the impoverished south.
He says he believes in the inherent good of all Mexicans, and says “you can’t fight fire with fire,” and “hugs not bullets.”
As well as his emphasis on combating the social ills that spark violence, he has created a new National Guard force that replaces the federal police and has absorbed thousands of soldiers.
IS IT WORKING?
Not so far. Homicides in 2019 are on track to surpass last year’s record.
Analysts warn the government has not clearly explained how it will use the National Guard to outsmart the cartels. With no clear short term strategy, there is a sense on the ground that this government is less tough on gangs, said Falko Ernst, Mexico analyst with the International Crisis Group, who has done extensive fieldwork in crime-wracked states.
“The inertia and lack of definition of a security strategy by the government has allowed regional armed conflicts to spin out of control,” Ernst said. “Criminal group members and commanders have told me in Michoacan and in Guerrero that this (inertia) has meant a looser leash.”
Additionally, many of the National Guard have been rerouted to deal with a wave of illegal migration through Mexico at the behest of U.S. President Donald Trump.
WHEN DID THIS START?
Lopez Obrador regularly heaps blame on previous governments for the delicate security situation in Mexico.
Mexico’s ‘War on Drugs’ started in 2006 with former President Felipe Calderon, who sent in armed forces to tackle the increasingly powerful drug cartels, which had shifted gears from smuggling cocaine for the Colombian cartels to becoming full narcotrafficking operations themselves. Since then, more than 200,000 people have been killed in gang-fueled violence and over 40,000 are missing.
The crackdown led to the splintering of Mexico’s cartels and some notable wins for the government, including the arrest of ‘El Chapo’ Guzman. He escaped twice from jail in Mexico before being extradited to the United States, where he was found guilty in February of smuggling drugs and sentenced to life in prison.
The U.S. government says that under Guzman’s leadership, the Sinaloa cartel imported and distributed tons of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin in the United States over more than two decades.
DIDN’T JAILING EL CHAPO PUT AN END TO THE VIOLENCE?
The extradition of Guzman was a double-edged sword.
It “appears to have led to violent competition from a competing cartel, the CJNG,” according to an August report prepared by the U.S. Congressional Research Service. The CJNG had split from Sinaloa in 2010 and is considered by many analysts to now be the most dangerous and largest Mexican cartel.
Photos of Monday’s police ambush published on social media showed shot-up and burning police vehicles, as well as the slain officers. They also showed large placards signed “CJNG,” left on police vehicles, which warned police not to support rival crime groups, including Michoacan-based Los Viagras.
And even after Guzman was locked away for life in a Colorado prison known as “the Alcatraz of the Rockies,” the cartel he founded has flourished.
The Sinaloa cartel “has fought brutally for increased control of routes through the border states of Chihuahua and Baja California, with the goal of remaining the dominant drug trafficking organization,” the Congressional Research Service report said.
The cartel’s decentralized structure had allowed it to adapt, the report added.
Within this decentralized structure, Ovidio Guzman, one of ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s at least 12 children, appears to have taken an active role. The U.S. Department of Justice unveiled an indictment against Ovidio and one of his brothers in February, charging them with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana in the United States.
Security analyst Gladys McCormick at Syracuse University in the United States said Thursday’s apparent capitulation to the Sinaloa Cartel was “sending a loud message to other organized crime networks… that if they show up with enough firepower to a fight, they will win and get their way because the government does not have the wherewithal to fight back.”
(Reporting by Anthony Esposito, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)
October 19, 2019
By Dave Graham and Lizbeth Diaz
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Heavily armed fighters surrounded security forces in a Mexican city on Thursday and made them free one of drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s sons, after his capture triggered gunbattles and a prison break that sent civilians scurrying for cover.
Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said a patrol by National Guard militarized police first came under attack from within a house in the city of Culiacan, 1,235 km (770 miles) northwest of Mexico City.
After entering the house, they found four men, including Ovidio Guzman, who is accused of drug trafficking in the United States.
The patrol was quickly outmatched by cartel gunmen, however, and it was withdrawn to prevent lives being lost, the government said. Simultaneously, fighters swarmed through the city, battling police and soldiers in broad daylight. They torched vehicles and left at least one gas station ablaze.
“The decision was taken to retreat from the house, without Guzman, to try to avoid more violence in the area and preserve the lives of our personnel and recover calm in the city,” Durazo told Reuters.
The reaction to Guzman’s capture was on a scale rarely seen during Mexico’s long drug war, even after his more famous father’s arrests. The chaos was continuing as night fell.
A large group of inmates escaped from the city prison. Residents cowered in shopping centers and supermarkets as gunfire roared. Black plumes of smoke rose across the skyline.
Families with young children left their cars and lay flat in the road. Bullets cracked up ahead. “Dad, can we get up now?” a small boy said to his father in a video posted on Twitter.
“No, stay there on the floor,” the man replied, his voice trembling.
Cristobal Castaneda, head of security in Sinaloa, told the Televisa network that two people had been killed and 21 injured, according to preliminary information. He said police had come under attack when they approached roadblocks manned by gunmen. He advised residents not to leave their homes.
It was not immediately clear if members of the patrol were harmed in the standoff. Reuters TV showed scenes of at least three bodies lying next to cars on the street.
WARNED OF REPRISALS
The chaos in Culiacan, long a stronghold for the Guzmans’ Sinaloa cartel, will increase pressure on President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in December promising to pacify a country weary after more than a decade of drug-war fighting. Murders this year are set to be at a record high.
Thursday’s events follow the massacre of more than a dozen police in western Mexico earlier this week, and the killing of 14 suspected gangsters by the army a day later.
Falko Ernst, senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Mexico, said the release of Ovidio Guzman set “a dangerous precedent” and sent a message that the state itself, including the army, could be blackmailed and was not in control.
Presumed cartel members apparently intercepted a radio frequency used by security forces, one video showed, warning of reprisals against soldiers if Guzman was not freed.
A state police spokesman confirmed to Reuters that several prisoners escaped from a prison during the chaos. Video footage showed a group of at least 20 prisoners running in the streets. It was not immediately clear how many had escaped.
“They are freeing them,” a panicked woman said in the video apparently filmed from an tall building. “No we can’t go outside!” she said as other voices debated making a dash for their car.
In another video, a man driving repeatedly shouted: “There is a big gunfight,” before taking a sharp turn and leaving his car at a gas station to take cover. His voice then became inaudible because of the rattling roar of automatic gunfire.
‘El Chapo’ Guzman led the Sinaloa cartel for decades, escaping from prison twice before being arrested and extradited to the United States. He was found guilty in a U.S. court in February of smuggling tons of drugs and sentenced to life in prison.
He is believed to have about 12 children including Ovidio. The U.S. Department of Justice unveiled an indictment against Ovidio and another of the brothers in February, charging them with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana in the United States.
The indictment gave Ovidio’s age as 28, and said he had been involved in trafficking conspiracies since he was a teenager.
Jose Luis Gonzalez Meza, a lawyer for the Guzmans, told news network Milenio that Ovidio had been in touch with the family and said he was free.
(Additional reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Writing and additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
October 19, 2019
QUITO (Reuters) – Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno on Friday proposed a new tax on corporations and a simplification of the tax system to improve government finances after a plan to eliminate fuel subsidies was met with violent demonstrations.
Indigenous protesters led almost two weeks of demonstrations after Moreno announced he would eliminate decades-old subsidies on diesel and gasoline. He walked back the measure and promised dialogue to find different ways to close the fiscal deficit.
“Today a tax reform proposal was sent to the legislature … We will not raise the Value Added Tax,” Moreno said in a televised address.
“We will ask those who have more to pay more.”
The proposal includes a new tax on companies with annual revenue of more than $1 million, which he said would raise about $532 million over three years.
Citizens with annual income above $100,000 will not be able to deduct personal expenses from their income tax. The plan also includes a tax on plastic bags and electronic cigarettes.
The measures will need congressional approval.
The tax reform proposal had been part of a broad agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for about $4.2 billion in financing that had also included changes to labor regulations.
Moreno said the plan would provide incentives for small and medium exporters, as well as aid for companies affected by looting and damage during the protests.
The president said he will continue with the dialogue to define a new scheme for fuel subsidies, which according to official data cost about $1.4 billion per year.
“The new decree must contain a fuel subsidy policy, a policy that is fair, efficient and protects the poorest and that allocates a good part of the resources for its benefit,” he added.
(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia and Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
October 19, 2019
By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Developing countries that want to do business with the United States must do more to empower women and give them better access to the workforce, education and legal protections, White House adviser Ivanka Trump said on Friday.
Trump, the daughter of President Donald Trump, outlined initiatives to bolster the economic status of women at a panel during the IMF/World Bank annual meetings. She appeared to tie future U.S. development aid and trading relations to improvements on these issues by developing countries.
“We in the United States think about our development assistance through the lens of achieving the goal for countries of self-reliance,” she told an audience of hundreds.
“And you cannot achieve self-reliance and the ability of a country to become a trading partner if you are not fully realizing the potential of 50 percent of your population, and in fact have barriers against them to realizing that potential.”
Trump in 2017 launched a women’s entrepreneurship fund with the World Bank and 13 other countries, followed this year by a $50 million project that aims to reach 50 million women by 2025. It is urging countries to change laws that bar women from owning property, using transportation, accessing legal structures and gain access to credit.
These efforts come amid criticism by civil rights groups that the Trump administration is disempowering women at home and abroad. The administration has backed curtailing abortion rights for women in the United States and limiting contraception requirements in health insurance, and it refuses to fund agencies globally that even mention abortion.
Trump, the highest ranking U.S. administration official to speak publicly at the annual IMF/World Bank meetings, was joined on stage by Goldman Sachs Chief Executive David Solomon, whose bank has also launched a women’s initiative called “10,000 Women” and Ana Botin, executive chairman of Banco Santander.
World Bank President David Malpass, appointed by Trump, and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, have pledged to focus more intensely on women’s issues as they structure the future work of the two large multilateral institutions, citing the huge potential for economic gains for all countries.
Georgieva on Tuesday vowed to fight for greater gender equality at the IMF and around the world, telling a packed audience: “Buckle up. It’s going to come.”
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
October 19, 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry will not turn over documents to congressional Democrats who had subpoenaed them over his role in Ukraine as part of their impeachment probe into President Donald Trump, according to U.S. media reports on Friday.
Three U.S. House of Representatives committees subpoenaed Perry on Oct. 10 for any role he played in Trump’s push to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his political rival, former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
In a letter to the three committees, Melissa Burnison, an assistant energy secretary, wrote that the impeachment inquiry had not been properly authorized. Several U.S. media posted a copy of the letter online.
“Even if the inquiry was validly authorized, much of the information sought in the subpoena appears to consist of confidential Executive Branch communications that are potentially protected by executive privilege,” the letter said.
“However, the Department remains committed to working with Congress on matters of mutual importance conducted in accordance with proper authorizations and procedures,” it said.
The energy department’s response follows the lead of the White House, which has said it would refuse to cooperate with an “illegitimate, unconstitutional” congressional impeachment inquiry.
The impeachment probe stems from Trump’s efforts to push Zelenskiy in a July 25 call to investigate his unsubstantiated allegation that Biden improperly tried to aid his son Hunter’s interests in a gas company in Ukraine.
Perry, who submitted his resignation to Trump on Thursday, told Fox News in an interview on Friday morning that he had urged Trump to call Zelenskiy to talk about fighting corruption and how U.S. liquefied natural gas could help ease dependency on gas from Russia.
He said he never talked about Biden in any conversations with Zelenskiy or the White House, however.
(Reporting by Makini Brice and Timothy Gardner; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
October 19, 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. State Department investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state has found no evidence of deliberate mishandling of classified information by department employees.
The investigation, the results of which were released on Friday by Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley’s office, centered on whether Clinton, who served as the top U.S. diplomat from 2009 to 2013, jeopardized classified information by using a private email server rather than a government one.
Clinton turned over roughly 33,000 emails from her private server in 2014, and the State Department probe found “no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.”
The investigation did find that Clinton’s use of a private server increased the risk of hacking.
The controversy figured prominently in the 2016 presidential election, which Democrat Clinton lost to Republican President Donald Trump, who suggested during the campaign that Clinton was trying to hide something by using a private network.
Then-FBI Director James Comey announced five months before the November 2016 election that no charges would be filed against Clinton, but he found her actions “extremely careless.”
The FBI reopened the probe just days before the election after some of her emails were found on a laptop belonging to the husband of a close aide. Clinton has said the decision to reopen the probe badly damaged her campaign.
The State Department investigation found that 38 current or former employees were responsible for 91 separate violations of security protocols involving Clinton’s server. Those 38 people were not identified. None of the emails at issue were marked as classified, according to the investigation.
The State Department found an additional 497 violations for which no individual was found responsible.
“While there were some instances of classified information being inappropriately introduced into an unclassified system in furtherance of expedience, by and large, the individuals interviewed were aware of security policies and did their best to implement them in their operations,” the report said.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
October 19, 2019
By Polina Ivanova, Maria Tsvetkova, Ilya Zhegulev and Luke Baker
KIEV (Reuters) – During his time on the board of one of Ukraine’s largest natural gas companies, Hunter Biden, the son of former U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, was regarded as a helpful non-executive director with a powerful name, according to people familiar with Biden’s role at the company.
Biden’s role at Burisma Holdings Ltd has come under intense scrutiny following unsupported accusations by U.S. President Donald Trump that Joe Biden improperly tried to help his son’s business interests in Ukraine.
Interviews with more than a dozen people, including executives and former prosecutors in Ukraine, paint a picture of a director who provided advice on legal issues, corporate finance and strategy during a five-year term on the board, which ended in April of this year.
Biden never visited Ukraine for company business during that time, according to three of the people.
They also said that his presence on the board didn’t protect the company from its most serious challenge: a series of criminal investigations launched by Ukrainian authorities against its owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, a multimillionaire former minister of ecology and natural resources. The allegations concern tax violations, money-laundering and licences given to Burisma during the period where Zlochevsky was a minister.
Revelations in a whistleblower complaint that Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, pressed the Ukrainians to pursue investigations into Burisma and the role of Hunter Biden have sparked an impeachment inquiry by Democrats in the House of Representatives. Trump faces allegations that he withheld U.S. military assistance for Ukraine to place pressure on Kiev to investigate his potential Democratic rival in next year’s U.S. presidential election.
Giuliani has alleged, without providing evidence, that Joe Biden pushed for the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor to end an investigation into Burisma and Zlochevsky in order to protect his son.
Hunter Biden, 49 years old, has denied wrongdoing. In a public statement on Oct 13, his lawyer George Mesires said: “Despite extensive scrutiny, at no time has any law enforcement agency, either domestic or foreign, alleged that Hunter engaged in wrongdoing at any point during his five-year term.”
In an interview with ABC News aired Tuesday, Hunter Biden said in retrospect it may have been poor judgment to join Burisma’s board while his father was vice president, but added: “Did I make a mistake based upon some ethical lapse? Absolutely not.”
Biden, in the interview added that he didn’t discuss his business dealings in Ukraine with his father, other than one brief exchange in which his father told him “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
A lawyer for Hunter Biden didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Joe Biden has also denied any wrongdoing, saying he called for the removal of then-chief prosecutor Viktor Shokin in 2016 because of his ineffectiveness in tackling corruption in Ukraine, a widespread problem that both the United States and the European Union had long highlighted.
A spokesman for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, Andrew Bates, said: “Donald Trump is so terrified of running against Joe Biden that he sent his presidency into a tailspin by trying to blackmail Ukraine into intervening in our elections with universally-debunked lies.”
Burisma and Zlochevsky didn’t respond to requests for comment.
In an interview with Reuters in September, former Ukraine prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko said Hunter Biden’s position on the board when his father was vice-president raised no red flags. “From the point of view of Ukrainian law, (Hunter Biden) didn’t violate anything,” Lutsenko said.
Ukraine’s new general prosecutor Ruslan Ryaboshapka, who took over in August, said he was not aware of any wrongdoing by Hunter Biden. His office announced on Oct 4 that it was reviewing 15 previous investigations related to Zlochevsky but no decision had been taken on how to proceed against him or people related to him.
The White House declined to comment.
Zlochevsky, who founded Burisma in 2002, served as a minister under Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovich from 2010 to 2012. Burisma then began adding high-profile names to its board, including Biden and a business associate of his called Devon Archer, in April 2014.
The company has said it had wanted to strengthen corporate governance. According to two sources close to the company, Burisma was also looking to attract international investment as well as expand overseas.
Oleksandr Onyshchenko, a businessman and former member of the Ukrainian parliament who knows the Burisma founder, said it had been Zlochevsky’s idea to appoint Biden as a director. “It was to protect (the company)” at a time when it was facing investigations, said Onyshchenko, who left the country in 2016. In the run up to Biden’s appointment, a popular uprising led to the removal of the Russian-backed Yanukovich in February 2014.
Biden, a trained lawyer, had served on the board of a U.S. company and had also formed an investment firm with fellow Yale graduates Archer and Christopher Heinz, the stepson of former U.S. Senator John Kerry.
According to four sources close to the company, Biden regularly attended Burisma’s twice annual board meetings – all of which were held outside of Ukraine.
A source close to the company said Biden took part in strategic conversations and shared his opinions and experience. In between board meetings, “there were constant calls, dialogue, sharing of advice, consideration of different options,” the source said. “Expansion to other markets was also discussed,” the source added.
Another source close to Burisma said Biden assisted with analysis of oil and gas assets the company was considering buying abroad, though a deal didn’t go through. The company was considering possible acquisitions in Europe, Kazakhstan and the United States, the source and another person close to Burisma said.
Both sources said that around the time Biden was appointed, Burisma was also looking to secure a financing deal with foreign investment funds, including one in the United States.
Biden helped to find lawyers to work on this process, before it broke down due to the start of the war in east Ukraine, one of those two sources said. “He was a ceremonial figure,” that person added.
How much Biden earned at Burisma has also become a central issue. Trump has portrayed Hunter Biden as having earned vast sums of money while at Burisma, which the president has suggested was an indication of potential wrongdoing.
In an October 6 post on his usual Twitter account, Trump said Hunter Biden “was handed $100,000 a month (Plus, Plus) from a Ukrainian based company, even though he had no experience in energy.” He added, in the Twitter message, that it couldn’t have been legitimate and as president he has “an OBLIGATION to look into possible, or probably CORRUPTION.”
According to payment records reviewed by Reuters that two former Ukrainian law enforcement officials say are Burisma’s, the company paid about $3.4 million to a company that was controlled by Archer called Rosemont Seneca Bohai LLC between April 2014 and November 2015.
Specifically, the records show 18 months in which two payments of $83,333 per month were paid to Rosemont Seneca Bohai for “consulting services.” The two sources said that one of those monthly payments was intended for Biden and one for Archer. Reuters was not able to independently verify the authenticity of the documents or how much money Hunter Biden received.
One of the sources said prosecutors obtained the payment records in the course of one of their investigations into Burisma related to activities at the company prior to Archer and Biden’s appointments to the board. A Ukrainian lawmaker released copies of the records at a conference for news media last week.
A lawyer for Archer didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Lutsenko, who succeeded Shokin as Ukraine’s prosecutor general in 2016, took over a tax investigation into Burisma before closing the case ten months later, after the company had paid a settlement in relation to the tax investigation.
The former prosecutor said that any issues Burisma did have were not related to Biden. In addition to the closed tax investigation, Ukraine authorities opened an investigation into licenses awarded to Burisma and a separate money-laundering probe into founder Zlochevsky. Both of these have been re-opened in recent months, but neither relate to the period after Biden joined the board.
Burisma and Zlochevsky haven’t commented publicly on the re-opened probes.
(Additional reporting by Kateryna Malofieieva and Natalia Zinets in Kiev, Justyna Pawlak in Warsaw, Anton Zverev in Moscow and Steve Holland, Karen Freifeld and Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington, DC; Editing by Cassell Bryan-Low)
October 19, 2019
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. diplomat told congressional investigators this week that he raised concerns about Hunter Biden’s position with a Ukrainian energy company in 2015, only to be turned away by an aide to then-Vice President Joe Biden, a person familiar with the testimony said on Friday.
Hunter Biden’s role https://ift.tt/2P64KFH on the board of Burisma Holdings Ltd while his father was in the White House plays into a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Late on Friday, the U.S. Department of Energy notified Congress that it would not comply with a subpoena and provide documents Democrats want to review, according to media reports. They are looking into contacts outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry has had with Ukraine.
The inquiry is focused on whether Trump may have withheld $391 million in U.S. security aid to Ukraine earlier this year until newly elected President Volodymyr Zelenskiy opened an investigation into the Bidens and into a discredited theory that Ukraine may have meddled in the 2016 U.S. elections.
American intelligence agencies concluded that it was Russia that used social media and other tools to secretly try to bolster Trump’s 2016 prospects against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
The U.S. diplomat, George Kent, who was the State Department’s deputy chief of mission in Ukraine, told congressional investigators on Tuesday that he became aware of Hunter Biden’s Burisma board seat in early 2015 and spoke to a Biden staffer about it.
At the time, Joe Biden’s other son, Beau, was dying from cancer.
“Kent testified that he raised this issue – the perception of a conflict of interest – that was problematic,” the source said. “What he was told by the Biden official was that Beau’s dying of cancer and they didn’t have any further bandwidth to deal with family issues.”
Hunter Biden’s role in Burisma coincided with a U.S. anti-corruption drive in Ukraine that emphasized the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest, the source said.
Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, without providing evidence, have accused the Bidens of corruption. Joe Biden is a leading contender https://ift.tt/2VSEnEv for the Democratic Party’s nomination to run against Republican Trump in the November 2020 election.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden’s presidential campaign, said in a statement that when he was vice president, “the U.S. made eradicating corruption a centerpiece of our policies toward Ukraine.”
House Democrats are looking into a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy and whether Trump pressed Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
House and Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have introduced legislation prohibiting funding for next year’s Group of Seven summit if it is held at a Trump-owned resort in southern Florida, as the U.S. president intends.
The decision has raised questions over whether Trump’s move could be an impeachable offense since the U.S. Constitution prohibits federal officials from receiving any gifts, payments or other things of value from foreign representatives, unless approved by Congress.
Trump calls the impeachment inquiry a “witch hunt” motivated by Democrats’ bitterness over his 2016 surprise victory.
Trump’s re-election campaign has begun selling T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Get Over It.”
NEW ROUND OF WITNESSES
Democratic Representative Gerry Connolly, who sat in on Kent’s testimony, told reporters this week that the diplomat also described a parallel foreign policy effort to sideline career diplomats on Ukraine and place relations with the country in the hands of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a Trump donor, Energy Secretary Perry and Trump’s then-special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker.
State Department diplomats, administration national security officials and a Defense Department Ukraine policy expert are due to testify to the House inquiry next week.
On Thursday, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney startled Washington when he told reporters that Trump’s decision to withhold the security aid from Ukraine was linked to Trump’s desire for Kiev to investigate a theory, long ago debunked, that a Democratic National Committee computer server was held in Ukraine.
Trump has denied that he ever used the American foreign aid as leverage to get Zelenskiy to look into U.S. political matters, but he has publicly urged both Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens.
Meanwhile, U.S. House Republicans on Friday ramped up their demand that Democrats investigating Trump provide lawmakers with access to all materials gathered by the three committees during their closed-door interviews and depositions.
(Reporting by David Morgan, additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Mark Hosenball in Washington and Trevor Hunnicutt in New York; Writing by Richard Cowan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Grant McCool and Daniel Wallis)
October 19, 2019
By Sharon Bernstein
(Reuters) – An ugly war of words broke out among Democrats on Friday, as Representative Tulsi Gabbard responded angrily to broad hints by Hillary Clinton, the party’s 2016 presidential nominee, that Gabbard was being “groomed” to disrupt the 2020 election as a third-party candidate.
Gabbard, one of 19 Democrats seeking the party’s nomination to run against Republican Donald Trump, on Friday accused Clinton of trying to destroy her reputation and called the former secretary of state the “embodiment of corruption.”
“You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain,” said Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawaii who is a favorite of Russian state media as well as many liberals.
Gabbard has said she will not run as a third-party candidate.
Clinton did not name Gabbard in a podcast interview with Democratic operative David Plouffe dated Thursday but said that Trump’s backers would attempt to persuade some voters to choose a third-party candidate, a move that would dilute support for Democrats.
“I’m not making any predictions, but think they’ve got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary and they’re grooming her to be the third-party candidate,” Clinton said. “She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.”
On Friday, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill told Politico that she was referring to the Gabbard.
Merrill did not respond to a request for comment but has published negative tweets about Gabbard in recent days.
“Assad day for your candidacy,” he wrote snidely in a retweet of her comments slamming Clinton, referring to a controversial meeting Gabbard said she held with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a trip to that country.
On Oct. 10, after Gabbard suggested that she might boycott the party’s Ohio debate, Merrill tweeted, “I’m seriously considering watching if you promise you won’t be there.”
Gabbard, who is a veteran, has not polled above single digits in the race for the Democrats’ nomination. Despite her liberal views on most issues, she has won praise from some Trump supporters and conservative Fox News hosts, as well as Russian state media and its online surrogates.
She is a fierce opponent of what she calls “forever wars,” and her candidacy has also been praised by liberals including some supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Thursday, 17 October 2019
October 18, 2019
BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s economic growth slowed more than expected to 6.0% year-on-year in the third quarter, the weakest pace in at least 27-1/2 years, as demand at home and abroad faltered amid a bruising Sino-U.S. trade war.
Friday’s data marked a further loss of momentum for the economy from the second quarter’s 6.2% growth, likely raising expectations that Beijing needs to roll out more measures to ward off a sharper slowdown.
Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast gross domestic product (GDP) to grow 6.1% in the July-September quarter from a year earlier.
The government is targeting growth of 6-6.5% this year.
China’s trading partners and investors are closely watching the health of the world’s second-largest economy as the trade war with the United States fuels fears about a global recession.
(Reporting by Kevin Yao and Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Sam Holmes)
October 18, 2019
By Carolyn Cohn
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s impending departure from the European Union is creating expansion opportunities for specialist general insurers who buy up and manage policies closed to new customers.
Whether Britain leaves the European Union without a deal or under a so-called hard Brexit, British insurers selling policies into the EU will need a local subsidiary, and vice versa.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that Britain and the EU had agreed a new Brexit deal, but he still faces resistance from other parties in parliament.
If a Brexit deal is finally agreed it will give insurers more time to set up EU subsidiaries, but domestic-focused and smaller firms are reluctant to do this because of the cost.
Another option for those insurers is to end their overseas operations and sell books of legacy business to a specialist insurer.
European insurer Darag – which specializes in buying closed books – has set up in Britain this year, and expects Brexit-related deals. The firm, which now has seven UK employees, has already had enquiries, its chief executive Tom Booth told Reuters.
Chris Fagan, CEO of insurer Catalina, another closed-book specialist, also told Reuters that Brexit could have a positive impact for his firm.
“Brexit is causing EU insurers to look at their structures and this brings non-core lines into focus, leading to opportunities for the acquirers,” said Andrew Ward, a director for insurance deals at PwC.
Fortitude Re, a vehicle set up by U.S. insurance group AIG with investment from private equity firm Carlyle to house AIG’s closed books, is also planning to buy or reinsure other closed books and expand into Europe, four sources told Reuters. AIG declined to comment.
There are nearly $800 billion in closed books of non-life insurance globally, including $300 billion in Europe, according to PwC. Around $9 billion changed hands across 34 publicly announced deals globally in 2018, the consultants said in its first annual deals report.
Closed book specialists take over old policies or reinsure them, reducing risk for the insurers.
The specialists say they can use economies of scale to manage them more efficiently. Some also invest more of the policies in alternative asset classes to increase returns.
“There is a reasonable margin to be made in this area of insurance,” Stephen Roberts, chairman of the Insurance & Reinsurance Legacy Association, said.
Outside the life insurance sector, insurers are usually keenest to offload books of business where claims may still be have to be paid years after an event.
The sector started off with asbestos-related business, but books of business sold these days include motor, medical malpractice and also employers’ liability, taken out by companies to cover compensation for work-related accidents or illness.
Zurich Insurance, for example, transferred UK employers’ liability policies totaling $2 billion to specialist insurer Catalina in Dec 2018.
Lloyd’s of London’s decision last year to tell its members to ditch the worst-performing 10% of their business has led to a number of closed book deals, including in poorly-performing insurance classes such as marine.
They include specialist insurer Riverstone’s takeover of policies from Lloyd’s syndicate Advent Underwriting in January 2019.
The market for closed life insurance books is also a large one in Europe, with deals such as Italian insurer Generali’s sale of some of its German closed life business to private equity firm Viridium last year.
Life insurance is less likely to be impacted by Brexit, industry sources say, as the business is often more domestic, and larger life insurers have generally set up the relevant EU or UK subsidiaries.
But for overseas insurers with small UK life insurance business, Brexit could be a catalyst that “may cause people to look again” at their business, Simon True, group corporate development director at closed life insurance specialist Phoenix, said.
(Additional reporting by Suzanne Barlyn in New York. Editing by Jane Merriman)
October 18, 2019
New York Jets receiver Demaryius Thomas termed his short stint with the New England Patriots a “waste of time” and, in an interview with the New York Daily News, said the team was disrespectful to him.
Thomas was released by the Patriots at the final roster cutdown and re-signed three days later before being traded to the Jets on Sept. 11. The two teams play on Monday night and there is no love lost on Thomas’ part.
“It was insulting, for sure,” Thomas told the Daily News. “Once I got cut, I could have just come here (to the Jets) and not stayed there and re-sign. When they re-signed me, I was thinking that I was good. Two weeks later, I was gone. So it’s like, ‘Why did I waste my time?’ “
The Patriots moved Thomas to open a roster spot for Antonio Brown, who played in just one game with the team before being released. “They kicked me (to the curb) and shipped me out like I’m just a rookie,” the four-time Pro Bowl selection told the Daily News.
–Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley participated in individual drills and could be on the field for Monday night’s showdown with the Patriots.
The Jets’ prized free-agent acquisition has been sidelined since suffering a groin injury during the season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 8.
Coach Adam Gase said the ideal plan is for Mosley to do more in practice on Friday and Saturday with an eye on helping the Jets against the visiting Patriots. Mosley, 27, signed a five-year, $85 million contract with $51 million guaranteed with the Jets in May.
–Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther expressed his displeasure with the season-long suspension of starting linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
“For us to sign him and the history I had with this guy, with us knowing that the next infraction he was going to get was gonna end his season, maybe his career, I think it was a witch hunt from the beginning quite honestly,” Guenther said. “Somebody in the league didn’t want him playing football and they got what they wanted.”
Burfict was suspended for the remainder of the 2019 season after he lowered his helmet to initiate contact on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle on Sept. 30. The eighth-year pro will forfeit nearly $1.2 million — $879,412 in base salary and $284,375 in per-game roster bonuses — during the suspension.
–There isn’t a definitive verdict on whether New York Giants star Saquon Barkley will return for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.
The elite running back has missed three games with a high ankle sprain and describes himself as “day-to-day.”
The second-year pro is moving closer to a return with the Giants’ medical staff set to examine him later in the week. Barkley rushed for 237 yards with a stellar 6.4-yard average in two-plus games before injuring the ankle against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 22.
–Los Angeles Chargers left tackle Russell Okung said he is ready to return from the pulmonary embolism that has sidelined him since June.
A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Okung has been on the reserve/non-football injury list throughout the Chargers’ disappointing 2-4 start. It wasn’t immediately clear when Okung would rejoin practice or whether he would be activated for Sunday’s game in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans.
Okung was diagnosed after he experienced discomfort in his chest and went to an urgent-care facility on June 1. He called it a “near death experience” at the time.
–The Chargers announced that wide receiver Travis Benjamin has been placed on injured reserve.
The 29-year-old Benjamin, who has been sidelined by a quadriceps injury, recorded six receptions for 30 yards in five games this season. The Chargers signed defensive tackle T.Y. McGill to take the available roster spot.
–Starting left tackle Tyron Smith and right tackle La’el Collins returned to the practice field for the Dallas Cowboys.
Smith has missed the last two games with a right high-ankle sprain and Collins sat out Sunday’s loss to the Jets with an MCL sprain in his left knee. Both were limited participants and both remain questionable for Sunday night’s NFC East clash with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Center Travis Frederick also returned after missing Wednesday’s practice due to a personal matter, but right guard Zack Martin (back, ankle) did not participate.
–The Jacksonville Jaguars signed cornerback Parry Nickerson, filling the roster spot left open with the trade of Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams.
The Jets selected Nickerson in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He played in all 16 games last season, starting two, and made 21 tackles. The Jets traded Nickerson, 25, to the Seattle Seahawks, who put him on their practice squad.
–Former NFL defensive lineman Justin Bannan faces attempted murder and assault charges following the shooting of a woman in Boulder, Colo.
Bannan, 40, was arrested Wednesday and remained in custody awaiting a bond hearing. Bannan played 12 NFL seasons (2002-13) with the Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions.
He is charged with suspicion of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault with extreme indifference, first-degree assault with intent to cause serious bodily injury and first-degree burglary, per Boulder police.
–Field Level Media
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