Category Archives: News

worldwide news

Peru’s Cabinet Seeks New Legislative Powers on Economy From Congress

The government of Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said Thursday that it will request special powers to legislate economic policies from the opposition-ruled Congress, after growth slowed sharply during his first year in office.

During a presentation in Congress, Prime Minister Mercedes Araoz said her cabinet wants to legislate policies aimed at consolidating an incipient economic recovery and making Peru a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a wealthy-country think tank.

In Peru, Congress traditionally grants legislative powers to the executive branch at the start of a president’s term, and it is rare for a prime minister to seek them so far into an administration – underscoring ongoing worries about the economy.

Growth in Peru, one of the region’s most robust economies, faltered early this year after a corruption scandal halted public work projects and severe flooding destroyed billions of dollars in infrastructure.

The government and central bank now expect the economy to grow by about 2.8 percent this year thanks to better prices for Peru’s key copper exports, down from 3.9 percent last year.

Araoz said the economy should expand by at least 4 percent in coming years.

It was unclear whether the opposition would grant the government its request for new legislative powers following a political crisis in September that ended with Congress ousting Kuczynski’s former cabinet.

Kuczynski appointed a more socially conservative cabinet led by Araoz that won initial praise from the right-wing populist party Popular Force, which has an absolute majority in Congress.

But Congress must approve the new cabinet with a vote of confidence scheduled for Thursday.

Araoz said that she would present the request for legislative powers in coming days.

Congress gave Kuczynski legislative authority on economic policies in September 2016, which his government used to pass laws aimed at reducing and expediting bureaucratic permits.

your ad here

Report: Rise in Natural Disasters Fueling Global Homelessness

New research finds nearly 14 million people a year are losing their homes because of sudden onset disasters such as floods and cyclones.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, which analyzed the impact of sudden onset disasters in 204 countries and territories, warns that homelessness will continue to rise unless significant progress is made in managing disaster risk.

According to the research — officially released on Friday, marking International Day for Disaster Reduction — eight of the 10 disaster-prone countries with the highest levels of displacement are in East, South or Southeast Asia. India and China top this list. The two countries outside this region are Russia, ranked ninth, and the United States, ranked 10th.

The head of data and analysis at the center, Justin Ginnetti, said the 13.9 million people displaced by sudden onset disasters excluded those told to evacuate an area before a disaster struck. He called this a conservative figure, since homelessness due to drought was not included in the data.

Floods chiefly repsonsible

“Most of this displacement is being driven by floods, which is on the increase in a globally warming world and where population growth is increasing in flood-prone areas,” Ginnetti said. “Population exposure is indeed a key component of displacement risk. More people are likely to be displaced by disasters in countries with large populations.”

The data show displacement associated with disasters will mainly affect developing countries. However, the chief spokesman for the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Dennis McClean, said economic losses would be greatest in the richer countries. He said this year would probably be the worst year on record in terms of economic losses.

“If we look just at the Atlantic hurricane season, which is still ongoing, we see that economic losses in the United States alone are probably in the region of about $300 billion,” McClean said. “That is what the initial estimates are telling us. And, of course, the losses are perhaps even more significant in small island states in the Caribbean, which have also been devastated by these events.”

Specialists in disaster risk reduction are urging nations to improve land zoning and the quality of buildings, especially in seismic zones and on land exposed to storms and floods. They note that good early warning systems may not save homes but will save lives.

your ad here

US FCC Head Silent on Trump Comment About Pulling Broadcast Licenses

A suggestion by President Donald Trump that a U.S. regulator pull broadcast licenses from TV networks over what Trump calls “fake news” has been met by silence from the watchdog’s head Ajit Pai, who has a history of defending free speech rights.

Pai, who was reconfirmed last week for a new five-year term at the Federal Communications Commission and named chairman by Trump in January, has been urged by members of Congress to denounce Trump for a proposal that has little, if any, chance of success.

That is because the commission does not actually license broadcast networks or cable stations and the hurdles to denying licenses to individual stations are extremely high.

Trump’s remarks on Wednesday that threatened to muzzle the media and fellow-Republican Pai’s strong support for press freedoms could conflict as Pai mounts ambitious plans to overhaul federal communications regulations.

Trump said in a Twitter post: “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!”

His ire was raised by an NBC News report that said he had called for a massive increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, a report Trump denied. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly used the term “fake news” to cast doubt on media reports critical of his administration, often without providing any evidence to support their case that the reports were untrue.

Pai’s office has declined to comment, despite Reuters’ repeated requests Wednesday and Thursday.

The FCC, an independent agency, does not issue licenses to individual networks but to local stations, including those directly owned by broadcasters such as Comcast Corp that owns NBC. Comcast and NBC declined to comment on Trump’s remarks.

Pai has defended the First Amendment and press freedoms. In October 2016, he said anyone at the FCC “has the duty to speak out whenever Americans’ First Amendment rights are at stake.”

In a 2014 Wall Street Journal piece, Pai said “the government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.”

Pai has an ambitious agenda, which he is expected to unveil details of in the coming months. It includes proposing to eliminate some significant media ownership restrictions and a plan to roll back former Democratic President Barack Obama’s so-called net neutrality rules.

Senator Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, said on Twitter Trump’s comments were “unacceptable attacks on the #FirstAmendment by @POTUS. @AjitPaiFCC committed to Congress to speak up at times like this. We are waiting.”

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan defended press freedoms Thursday but did not directly criticize Trump.

“I’m for the First Amendment. I don’t always agree and like what you guys write, but you have a right to do it,” Ryan said.

Republican Senator Ben Sasse asked if Trump was “recanting” the oath of office to defend the First Amendment.

In March, Pai told the U.S. Congress he did not agree with Trump when he said that “the media is the enemy of the American people.” Pai said he would act independently of the White House on media-related matters.

Last month, Pai lamented that people on Twitter demand “the FCC yank licenses from cable news channels like Fox News, MSNBC, or CNN because they disagree with the opinions expressed on those networks. Setting aside the fact that the FCC doesn’t license cable channels, these demands are fundamentally at odds with our legal and cultural traditions.”

your ad here

US Proposes NAFTA Sunset Clause, Raising Tensions in Talks

Washington has increased tensions in talks to renew the North American Free Trade Agreement by insisting that any new deal be allowed to expire after five years, two officials familiar with the negotiations said on Thursday.

Canada and Mexico both strongly oppose the concept of a so-called sunset clause, a provision that had been floated earlier.

But the officials, who asked not to be identified because the talks are confidential, said the U.S. side formally proposed it late on Wednesday during the fourth of seven scheduled rounds to update the rules governing one of the world’s biggest trade blocs.

The Trump administration says the clause, causing NAFTA to expire every five years unless all three countries agree it should continue, is to ensure the pact stays up to date.

But Mexico and Canada insist there is no point updating the pact with such a threat hanging over it, arguing the clause would stunt investment by sowing too much uncertainty about the future of the agreement.

“It’s a source of total uncertainty,” said one of the NAFTA government officials familiar with details of the negotiations.

U.S. President Donald Trump says NAFTA, originally signed in 1994, has been a disaster for the United States and has frequently threatened to scrap it unless major changes are made.

Business and farm groups say abandoning the 23-year-old pact would wreak economic havoc, disrupting cross-border manufacturing supply chains and slapping high tariffs on agricultural products.

Trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico has quadrupled under NAFTA, now topping $1.2 trillion a year. As well as the sunset clause, the United States wants to boost how much North American content autos must contain to qualify for tax-free status and eliminate a dispute settlement mechanisms that Canada insists must stay.

Some trade observers said it is difficult to see how negotiators could reach an agreement given U.S. demands that many see as nonstarters.

The head of Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector labor union, said it was clear the United States did not want a deal.

“NAFTA is not going anywhere. This thing is going into the toilet,” Jerry Dias told reporters on Thursday.

Despite clear signs of impatience from Canada in particular, U.S. negotiators have yet to submit their proposal on rules of origin for the auto sector. That looked unlikely to come before Friday, another official familiar with the talks said.

Trump on Wednesday repeated his warnings that he might terminate the pact and said he was open to doing a bilateral deal with either Canada or Mexico if three-way negotiations fail.

He was speaking at the White House with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said Canada was “braced” for Trump’s unpredictability but taking a serious approach to the NAFTA talks.

Negotiators were also set to cover the difficult issue of government procurement on Thursday.

Canada and Mexico want their companies to be able to bid on more U.S. federal and state government contracts, but this is at odds with Trump’s “Buy American” agenda. U.S. negotiators have countered with a proposal that would effectively grant the other countries less access, people familiar with the talks say.

On automotive rules of origin, NAFTA negotiators face tough new U.S. demands to increase regional vehicle content to 85 percent from 62.5 percent, with 50 percent required from the United States, according to people briefed on the plan.

The rules of origin demands are among several conditions that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has labeled “poison pill proposals” that threaten to torpedo the talks.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Wednesday that he believed higher percentages for automotive content would be achieved, and “car companies will adapt themselves to it.”

However, a study released on Thursday by the Motor Equipment Manufacturers Association, which represents U.S. auto parts makers, showed the higher content requirements would lead to the loss of up to 24,000 U.S. jobs, as some companies would forgo NAFTA’s tariff-free benefits and ship in more components from other countries.

your ad here

Richard Branson Takes Another Bet on the Future with Hyperloop One

British billionaire Richard Branson on Thursday placed another bet on the future with an investment in Hyperloop One, which is developing super high-speed transportation systems.

Hyperloop One said Branson’s Virgin Group would take the company global and rebrand itself as Virgin Hyperloop One in the near future.

Branson has joined the board of Hyperloop One, which aims to develop pods that will transport passenger and mixed-use cargo at speeds of 250 miles per hour (402 km per hour).

The pod lifts above a track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to low aerodynamic drag.

The company did not disclose the size of the investment.

Hyperloop One was originally conceptualized by Elon Musk. In July, Musk said he had received verbal approval to start building the systems that would link New York and Washington, cutting travel time to about half an hour.

Last month, Hyperloop One raised $85 million in new funding, bringing the total financing raised to $245 million since it was founded in 2014.

Hyperloop One’s co-founders, executive chairman Shervin Pishevar and president of engineering Josh Giegel, have previously worked at Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic is Branson’s space company, which in 2016, was granted an operating license to fly its passenger rocket ship with the world’s first paying space tourists once final safety tests are completed.

“Virgin Hyperloop One will be all-electric and the team is working on ensuing it is a responsible and sustainable form of transport,” Virgin Group said in a statement.

Hyperloop One is also working on projects in the Middle East, Europe, India and Canada, according to the statement.

your ad here

Richard Branson Takes Another Bet on Future with Hyperloop One

British billionaire Richard Branson on Thursday placed another bet on the future with an investment in Hyperloop One, which is developing super high-speed transportation systems.

Hyperloop One said Branson’s Virgin Group would take the company global and rebrand itself as Virgin Hyperloop One in the near future.

Branson has joined the board of Hyperloop One, which aims to develop pods that will transport passenger and mixed-use cargo at speeds of 250 miles per hour (402 km per hour).

The pod lifts above a track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to low aerodynamic drag.

The company did not disclose the size of the investment.

Hyperloop One was originally conceptualized by Elon Musk. In July, Musk said he had received verbal approval to start building the systems that would link New York and Washington, cutting travel time to about half an hour.

Last month, Hyperloop One raised $85 million in new funding, bringing the total financing raised to $245 million since it was founded in 2014.

Hyperloop One’s co-founders, executive chairman Shervin Pishevar and president of engineering Josh Giegel, have previously worked at Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic is Branson’s space company, which in 2016, was granted an operating license to fly its passenger rocket ship with the world’s first paying space tourists once final safety tests are completed.

“Virgin Hyperloop One will be all-electric and the team is working on ensuing it is a responsible and sustainable form of transport,” Virgin Group said in a statement.

Hyperloop One is also working on projects in the Middle East, Europe, India and Canada, according to the statement.

your ad here

Israeli Defense Experts Warn Against Dropping Iran Nuclear Deal

If President Donald Trump moves to scuttle the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Israel’s nationalist government can be expected to be the loudest — and perhaps only — major player to applaud.

But the true picture is more complicated than what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might portray: There is a strong sense among his own security establishment that there are few good alternatives, that the deal has benefited Israel, and that U.S. credibility could be squandered in the turbulent Middle East in ways that could harm Israel itself.

That is not to say that Israel’s respected security chiefs are all pleased with every aspect of the Iran deal. But after Netanyahu declared at the United Nations last month that it was time to “fix it or nix it,” the prevailing attitude among security experts seems to be that fixing it is the best way to go.

“It seems to me that the less risky approach is to build on the existing agreement, among other reasons because it does set concrete limitations on the Iranians,” said Uzi Arad, a former national security adviser to Netanyahu. “It imposes ceilings and benchmarks and verification systems that you do not want to lose. Why lose it?”

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest foe, citing its decades of hostile rhetoric, support for anti-Israel militant groups and its development of long-range missiles. Israeli decision-makers see a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat.

With Iran believed to be rapidly closing in on developing nuclear weapons, then-President Barack Obama led a coalition of world powers, including Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, to the nuclear agreement in 2015. The deal offered Iran relief from crippling economic sanctions in exchange for strict limits on its nuclear program.

Netanyahu’s opposition

As the deal was being finalized, Netanyahu frantically tried to block it, claiming it did not go far enough. Among his concerns: clauses that will lift the restrictions on Iran next decade, quick relief from sanctions, an imperfect system of inspections and the failure to address Iran’s other belligerent behavior such as missile tests and involvement in regional conflicts. Netanyahu’s opposition was so intense that he delivered a speech to the U.S. Congress railing against the emerging deal in early 2015, setting off a crisis in relations with Obama that never healed.

On the campaign trail last year, Trump frequently criticized the Iran deal and vowed to rip it up if he was elected. In his own speech to the U.N. last month, Trump called it “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions” in U.S. history. Netanyahu said he had never heard a “bolder or more courageous speech” at the U.N.

Following up on his U.N. performance, Trump is expected to “decertify” the nuclear deal on Friday by saying it is not in America’s security interests.

This would not immediately pull the U.S. out of the deal. Instead, it would kick it over to Congress, which will then have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions. If that happens, Iran has threatened to walk away.

Most of Trump’s top national security aides do not want to dismantle the nuclear deal, and America’s European allies have also urged the Trump administration not to walk away.

Netanyahu’s office said he discussed the matter of decertification with Trump when they met last month, but gave no further details. But he is likely to praise any move toward scrapping the nuclear deal.

In an opinion column published in The New York Times last week, Michael Oren, Netanyahu’s former ambassador to Washington and now a deputy minister for diplomacy, argued that decertification would not be the disaster that critics have predicted.

He said if the deal is ultimately canceled, it should be replaced by “crippling sanctions.” If retained, he said it should be improved to include stricter inspections of suspect nuclear sites, harsh penalties for violations, and eliminating the “sunset clause” that will gradually end the deal.

“Either way, revisiting the agreement will send an unequivocal message to the world,” Oren said. “It will say that the United States is truly unwilling to accept a nuclear Iran — not now, not in a decade, not ever.”

Support for deal

As Trump’s decision nears, however, a number of prominent security experts in Israel are publicly and privately advocating that the deal be left intact and its shortcomings addressed separately.

These experts say that the U.S., in consultation with Israel, should work with its allies to engage Iran on their many concerns. Simply walking away would hurt American credibility and put it at odds not only with Iran, but with its partners who remain committed to the deal.

“You cannot reverse that easily without paying a price,” said Arad, Netanyahu’s former security adviser. “It would simply be a suboptimal and riskier route to go. So I say build on it, reinforce it, enforce it and address other issues without causing kind of self-inflicted losses in the process.”

Arad said that while there is a healthy debate over how to move forward, he believes that based on his discussions with both retired and active security officials, the prevailing view among experts on the issue is that the deal should be preserved.

Top military officials, for instance, say that Iran has scrupulously upheld its commitments in the deal. This calm on the nuclear front has allowed them to focus on their other concerns about Iranian behavior, most critically its involvement in neighboring Syria and its support for the powerful Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

“The Iran deal is a deal that contains both problems and shortcomings, but its advantages outweigh the weaknesses by far,” said Efraim Halevy, a former director of the Mossad intelligence service.

Yaakov Amidror, another former national security adviser to Netanyahu, said he did not think that scrapping the deal is even possible, given the position of America’s partners. “What should be done is to enhance it. Make it a much better agreement,” he said.

Yoel Guzansky, a former Iran specialist on the Israeli National Security Council, said that sending the deal to Congress is a “hasty” decision that could backfire.

He said the best way to gain leverage over Iran and alter its behavior is through concerted international action. Working together, he said, the international community could pursue various options, including diplomacy, a U.N. resolution or even threatening military action.

“We need to build an international coalition, which we lack right now. No one except Trump and Netanyahu, with all due respect, is supporting this move right now,” said Guzansky, a senior fellow at INSS, a prominent Israeli think tank. “I really hope the two gentlemen have a program.”

Chemi Shalev, a columnist with the Haaretz daily, said Netanyahu was playing with fire by pushing Washington to break an agreement.

“Washington’s signature on any accord will be significantly devalued, and its demands for new agreements with Iran, North Korea or for Middle East peace would henceforth be greeted with polite mockery,” he said.

Dan Shapiro, who served as Obama’s ambassador to Israel when the deal was negotiated, said the lack of alternatives and the uncertainty that canceling the deal would bring are causes of great concern to the Israeli security establishment.

“They don’t know what will happen if the deal unravels, but it’s much more likely that they’re going to be faced with their decision point on Iranian nuclear capability much sooner without the deal than with it,” he said.

your ad here

Kelly Says He’s Not Leaving as White House Chief of Staff

The White House chief of staff said Thursday that he was not leaving his job, and he chastised reporters for speculating that his tenure would be brief.

“I’m not quitting today, I don’t believe. And I just talked to the president. I don’t think I’m being fired today,” Kelly told reporters from the White House briefing room podium.

In a rare, extended, on-the-record interaction with journalists, the former Marine Corps general also criticized reporters — in concert with his boss — saying “it’s astounding to me how much is misreported” about President Donald Trump and what occurs in the West Wing.

Kelly suggested reporters develop better sources at the White House for their stories.

Asked what the president’s biggest frustration was, Kelly replied, “One of his frustrations is you. Not all of you, but many of you.”

Kelly, who was secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, succeeded Reince Priebus in late July, whom Trump ousted. Priebus, a former Republican National Committee chairman, had struggled since the inauguration to bring order to the West Wing.

Chief of staff’s role

Kelly also told reporters that they had mischaracterized his role.

Stories have emanated from the White House of a president bristling under a more disciplined and authoritative chief of staff, himself reportedly exasperated by Trump’s controversial ad lib comments in speeches and on Twitter that upended attempts to carefully set policy.

Kelly denied he was bothered by Trump’s frequent tweets and that his job did not include managing the president.

“I was not brought into this job to control anything but the flow of information,” Kelly said.

The chief of staff added that he did not restrict anyone from going in to see the president, as has been reported, but acknowledged now that instead of “onesies and twosies” entering the Oval Office to speak with the president, advisers go in as groups.

Kelly acknowledged North Korea as the most serious threat the Trump administration was now dealing with but said Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons were “not an immediate concern.”

Manageable threat, for now

“That state simply cannot have the ability to reach the homeland,” he said. “Right now, there is great concern about a lot of Americans that live in Guam. Right now, we think the threat is manageable, but over time, if it grows beyond where it is today — well, let’s hope diplomacy works.”

In recent weeks Trump and others in the administration have made clear a military option is under consideration for preventing Pyongyang from achieving the ability to hit the U.S. mainland with a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile.

Kelly also pushed back on the perception that the president strongly desires to increase America’s nuclear arsenal.

Kelly said that what he’d heard Trump say most often about nuclear weapons was, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get rid of them all?”

your ad here

Facebook Chief Absolutely’ Supports Releasing Russia-linked Advertisements

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said Thursday she “absolutely” supports the public release of all advertisements produced by a Russia-linked organization during the 2016 presidential election.

Sandberg said the company is “working on transparency” following the revelation last month that a group with alleged ties to the Russian government ran $100,000 worth of ads on Facebook promoting “divisive” causes like Black Lives Matter.

“Things happened on our platform that shouldn’t have happened,” she said during the interview with Axios’s Mike Allen.

Later Thursday, Sandberg is set to meet with Congressional investigators who are looking into what role the advertisements which began running in 2015 and continued through this year may have played in the 2016 presidential election.

The $100,000 worth of ads represent a very small fraction of the total $2.3 billion spent by, and on behalf of, President Donald Trump and losing-candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaigns during the election.

Multiple congressional investigations have been launched, seeking to determine what effect alleged Russian meddling may have played in the election.

In addition, Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is conducting a criminal probe, including whether President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian operatives during the election season. Trump has denied working with the Russians.

Facebook had previously agreed to disclose the thousands of Facebook ads to congress. Sandberg said Thursday she thinks “it’s important that [the investigators] get the whole picture and explain that to the American people.”

In response to the Russian ad buys, Sandberg said Facebook is hiring 4,000 new employees to oversee ads and content. She said the company is also using “machine learning and automation” to target fake accounts that spread fake news.

She defined fake news as “things that are false hoaxes” and said Facebook is working to stamp out the bad information by teaming up with third-party fact checkers and warning users before they share news deemed fake by Facebook.

She said it is important to be cautious when going after fake news because “a lot of what we allow on Facebook is people expressing themselves” and “when you cut off speech for one person, you cut off speech for all people.”

“We don’t check the information posted on Facebook before people post it, and I don’t think people should want us to,” she said.

Hundreds of fake accounts were used to distribute the Russia-linked advertisements, Sandberg said. But had those ads been posted by legitimate users, “we would have let them run,” she said.

your ad here