All posts by Mike Price

Sterling gets market’s vote, stocks cold-shouldered


SYDNEY Sterling stole center stage in Asia on Wednesday amid speculation Britain’s surprise decision to call a snap election could ultimately deliver a more market-friendly outcome in its divorce from the European Union.

Safe-haven bonds also held onto most of their recent gains ahead of presidential elections in France and on escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea.

Equities were largely sidelined with futures pointing to opening losses for German and UK bourses, while E-mini futures for the SP 500 ESc1 were all but flat.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 0.6 percent to the lowest since mid-March.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 managed to steady for the moment, but Shanghai .SSEC extended its recent retreat with a drop of 1 percent. The Chinese market has fallen for four straight sessions on concerns over tighter regulations. [.SS]

Sterling was just off a six-month top against the dollar having surged when British Prime Minister Theresa May called an early general election for June 8, seeking to strengthen her party’s majority ahead of Brexit negotiations.

“We expect that the PM’s gamble is likely to buy her more time as well as room for maneuver in the Brexit negotiations as she will depend less on fringe groups in her own party,” said Citi’s chief global political strategist, Tina Fordham.

“That may reduce the risk of a negotiation failure and thus ‘chaotic Brexit’, but also of the UK remaining in the Single Market in the long-term or even reversing the decision to leave the EU.”

The pound was lording it at $1.2824 GBP= on Wednesday having shattered a months’ old trading range with a jump of 2.2 percent overnight. It also cleared the 200-day moving average for the first time since June, putting the squeeze on a raft of speculative short positions.

REFLATION TRADE DEFLATES

The dollar recouped just a little of its broader losses in the Asian session, rising 0.15 percent against a basket of currencies .DXY. The euro stood at $1.0718 EUR= after touching a three-week top of $1.0736.

Against the yen, the dollar was hovering at 108.65 JPY= having been as low as 108.39 earlier.

The dollar was undermined in part by an eroding interest rate advantage as U.S. bond yields dived to five-month lows. Yields on 10-year Treasury paper sank to 2.17 percent US10YT=RR, a world away from the 2.629 peak seen in March.

A run of disappointing U.S. economic data and doubts the Trump administration will progress with tax cuts have quelled expectations of faster inflation and boosted fixed-income debt.

That, in turn, has taken the steam out of Wall Street. The Dow .DJI fell 0.55 percent on Tuesday, while the SP 500 .SPX lost 0.29 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC 0.12 percent.

Goldman Sachs (GS.N) lost 4.7 percent in the largest daily drop since June after its earnings missed expectations as trading revenue dropped.

In commodity markets, profit taking nudged gold down 0.4 percent to XAU= $1,287.10 an ounce, and away from Monday’s peak of $1,295.42.

Oil prices slipped as U.S. crude stockpiles fell by less than expected and a U.S. government report said shale oil output in May was likely to post the biggest monthly increase in more than two years.

Brent crude LCOcv1 was last down 16 cents at $54.73 a barrel, while U.S. crude CLcv1 fell 12 cents to $52.29. [O/R]

(Editing by Sam Holmes)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/qhT4O7tHx1M/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17L01W

Sterling gets market’s vote, stocks cold-shouldered


SYDNEY Sterling stole center stage in Asia on Wednesday amid speculation Britain’s surprise decision to call a snap election could ultimately deliver a more market-friendly outcome in its divorce from the European Union.

Safe-haven bonds also held onto most of their recent gains ahead of presidential elections in France and on escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea.

Equities were largely sidelined with futures pointing to opening losses for German and UK bourses, while E-mini futures for the SP 500 ESc1 were all but flat.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 0.6 percent to the lowest since mid-March.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 managed to steady for the moment, but Shanghai .SSEC extended its recent retreat with a drop of 1 percent. The Chinese market has fallen for four straight sessions on concerns over tighter regulations. [.SS]

Sterling was just off a six-month top against the dollar having surged when British Prime Minister Theresa May called an early general election for June 8, seeking to strengthen her party’s majority ahead of Brexit negotiations.

“We expect that the PM’s gamble is likely to buy her more time as well as room for maneuver in the Brexit negotiations as she will depend less on fringe groups in her own party,” said Citi’s chief global political strategist, Tina Fordham.

“That may reduce the risk of a negotiation failure and thus ‘chaotic Brexit’, but also of the UK remaining in the Single Market in the long-term or even reversing the decision to leave the EU.”

The pound was lording it at $1.2824 GBP= on Wednesday having shattered a months’ old trading range with a jump of 2.2 percent overnight. It also cleared the 200-day moving average for the first time since June, putting the squeeze on a raft of speculative short positions.

REFLATION TRADE DEFLATES

The dollar recouped just a little of its broader losses in the Asian session, rising 0.15 percent against a basket of currencies .DXY. The euro stood at $1.0718 EUR= after touching a three-week top of $1.0736.

Against the yen, the dollar was hovering at 108.65 JPY= having been as low as 108.39 earlier.

The dollar was undermined in part by an eroding interest rate advantage as U.S. bond yields dived to five-month lows. Yields on 10-year Treasury paper sank to 2.17 percent US10YT=RR, a world away from the 2.629 peak seen in March.

A run of disappointing U.S. economic data and doubts the Trump administration will progress with tax cuts have quelled expectations of faster inflation and boosted fixed-income debt.

That, in turn, has taken the steam out of Wall Street. The Dow .DJI fell 0.55 percent on Tuesday, while the SP 500 .SPX lost 0.29 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC 0.12 percent.

Goldman Sachs (GS.N) lost 4.7 percent in the largest daily drop since June after its earnings missed expectations as trading revenue dropped.

In commodity markets, profit taking nudged gold down 0.4 percent to XAU= $1,287.10 an ounce, and away from Monday’s peak of $1,295.42.

Oil prices slipped as U.S. crude stockpiles fell by less than expected and a U.S. government report said shale oil output in May was likely to post the biggest monthly increase in more than two years.

Brent crude LCOcv1 was last down 16 cents at $54.73 a barrel, while U.S. crude CLcv1 fell 12 cents to $52.29. [O/R]

(Editing by Sam Holmes)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/qhT4O7tHx1M/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17L01W

Military Photo of the Day: Ready at a Moment’s Notice



By Tom Sileo

Published on April 19, 2017

Fully armed aircraft from the U.S. Air Force conduct a “no-notice” exercise on April 12, 2017, at Kadena Air Base in Japan.

Thank you to our heroes for serving our country overseas.






Comments ()


Article source: https://stream.org/military-photo-of-the-day-april-19-2017/

Military Photo of the Day: Ready at a Moment’s Notice



By Tom Sileo

Published on April 19, 2017

Fully armed aircraft from the U.S. Air Force conduct a “no-notice” exercise on April 12, 2017, at Kadena Air Base in Japan.

Thank you to our heroes for serving our country overseas.






Comments ()


Article source: https://stream.org/military-photo-of-the-day-april-19-2017/

Politics Disguised as Science: When to Doubt a Scientific ‘Consensus’

This week’s March for Science is odd. Marches are usually held to defend something that’s in peril. Does anyone really think big science is in danger? The mere fact that the March was scheduled for Earth Day betrays what the event is really about: politics. The organizers admitted as much early on, though they’re now busy trying to cover the event in sciencey camouflage.

If past is prologue, expect to hear a lot about the supposed “consensus” on catastrophic climate change this week. The purpose of this claim is to shut up skeptical non-scientists.

How should non-scientists respond when told about this consensus? We can’t all study climate science. But since politics often masquerades as science, we need a way to tell one from the other.

“Consensus,” according to Merriam-Webster, means both “general agreement” and “group solidarity in sentiment and belief.” That sums up the problem. Is this consensus based on solid evidence and sound logic, or social pressure and groupthink?

When can you doubt a consensus? Your best bet is to look at the process that produced, defends and transmits the supposed consensus.

Anyone who has studied the history of science knows that scientists are prone to herd instincts. Many false ideas once enjoyed consensus. Indeed, the “power of the paradigm” often blinds scientists to alternatives to their view. Question the paradigm, and some respond with anger.

We shouldn’t, of course, forget the other side of the coin. There are cranks and conspiracy theorists. No matter how well founded a scientific consensus, there’s someone who thinks it’s all hokum. Sometimes these folks turn out to be right. But often, they’re just cranks whose counsel is best ignored.

So how do we distinguish, as Andrew Coyne puts it, “between genuine authority and mere received wisdom? And how do we tell crankish imperviousness to evidence from legitimate skepticism?” Do we have to trust whatever we’re told is based on a scientific consensus unless we can study the science ourselves? When can you doubt a consensus? When should you doubt it?

Your best bet is to look at the process that produced, defends and transmits the supposed consensus. I don’t know of any complete list of signs of suspicion. But here’s a checklist to decide when you can, even should, doubt a scientific “consensus,” whatever the subject. One of these signs may be enough to give pause. If they start to pile up, then it’s wise to be leery.

(1) When different claims get bundled together

Usually, in scientific disputes, there’s more than one claim at issue. With global warming, there’s the claim that our planet, on average, is getting warmer. There’s also the claim that we are the main cause of it, that it’s going to be catastrophic, and that we must transform civilization to deal with it. These are all different claims based on different evidence.

Evidence for warming, for instance, isn’t evidence for the cause of that warming. All the polar bears could drown, the glaciers melt, the sea levels rise 20 feet and Newfoundland become a popular place to tan: That wouldn’t tell us a thing about what caused the warming. This is a matter of logic, not scientific evidence. The effect is not the same as the cause.

There’s a lot more agreement about (1) a modest warming trend since about 1850 than there is about (2) the cause of that trend. There’s even less agreement about (3) the dangers of that trend, or of (4) what to do about it. But these four claims are often bundled together. So, if you doubt one, you’re labeled a climate change “skeptic” or “denier.” That’s dishonest. When well-established claims are tied with other, more controversial claims, and the entire bundle is labeled “consensus,” you have reason for doubt.

(2) When ad hominem attacks against dissenters predominate

Personal attacks are common in any dispute. It’s easier to insult than to the follow the thread of an argument. And just because someone makes an ad hominem argument, it doesn’t mean that their conclusion is wrong. But when the personal attacks are the first out of the gate, don your skeptic’s cap and look more closely at the data.

When it comes to climate change, ad hominems are everywhere. They’re even smuggled into the way the debate is described. The common label “denier” is one example. This label is supposed to call to mind the charge of columnist Ellen Goodman: “I would like to say we’re at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers.”

There’s an old legal proverb: If you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. If you have the law on your side, argue the law. If you have neither, attack the witness. When proponents of a scientific consensus lead with an attack on the witness, rather than on the arguments and evidence, be suspicious.

(3) When scientists are pressured to toe the party line

The famous Lysenko affair in the former Soviet Union is example of politics trumping good science. But it’s not the only way politics can override science. There’s also a conspiracy of agreement, in which assumptions and interests combine to give the appearance of objectivity where none exists. This is even more forceful than a literal conspiracy enforced by a dictator. Why? Because it looks like the agreement reflects a fair and independent weighing of the evidence.

Tenure, job promotions, government grants, media accolades, social respectability, Wikipedia entries, and vanity can do what gulags do, only more subtly. Alexis de Tocqueville warned of this almost two centuries ago. The power of the majority in American society, he wrote, could erect “formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.” He could have been writing about climate science.

Indeed, the quickest way for scientists to put their careers at risk is to raise even modest questions about climate doom (see here, here and here). Scientists are under pressure to toe the party line on climate change and receive many benefits for doing so. That’s another reason for suspicion.

(4) When publishing and peer review in the discipline is cliquish

Though it has its limits, the peer-review process is meant to provide checks and balances. At its best, it helps weed out bad and misleading work, and make scientific research more objective. But when the same few people review and approve each other’s work, you get conflicts of interest. This weakens the case for the supposed consensus. It becomes, instead, another reason for doubt. Those who follow the climate debate have known for years about the cliquish nature of publishing and peer review in climate science (see here for example).

(5) When dissenters are excluded from the peer-reviewed journals not because of weak evidence or bad arguments but to marginalize them.

Besides mere cliquishness, the “peer review” process in climate science has, in some cases, been subverted to prevent dissenters from being published. Again, those who follow the debate have known about these problems for years. But the Climategate debacle in 2009 revealed some of the gory details for the broader public. And again, this gives the lay public a reason to doubt the consensus.

(6) When the actual peer-reviewed literature is misrepresented

We’ve been told for years that the peer-reviewed literature is unanimous in its support for human-induced climate change. In Science, Naomi Oreskes even produced a “study” of the literature supposedly showing “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.”

In fact, there are plenty of dissenting papers in the literature. This is despite mounting evidence that the peer-review deck was stacked against them. The 2009 Climategate scandal underscored this: The climate scientists at the center of the controversycomplained in their emails about dissenting papers that survived the peer-review booby traps they put in place. They even fantasized about torpedoing a climate science journal that dared to publish a dissenting article.

(7) When consensus is declared before it even exists

A well-rooted scientific consensus, like a mature oak, needs time to grow. Scientists have to do research, publish articles, read about other research, and repeat experiments (where possible). They need to reveal their data and methods, have open debates, evaluate arguments, look at the trends, and so forth, before they can come to agreement. When scientists rush to declare a consensus — when they claim a consensus that has yet to form — this should give everyone pause.

In 1992, former Vice President Al Gore reassured his listeners, “Only an insignificant fraction of scientists deny the global warming crisis. The time for debate is over. The science is settled.” In the real 1992, however, Gallup “reported that 53% of scientists actively involved in global climate research did not believe global warming had occurred; 30% weren’t sure; and only 17% believed global warming had begun. Even a Greenpeace poll showed 47% of climatologists didn’t think a runaway greenhouse effect was imminent; only 36% thought it possible and a mere 13% thought it probable.”

Seventeen years later, in 2009, Gore revised his own fake history. He claimed that the debate over human-induced climate change had raged until as late as 1999, but now there was true consensus. Of course, 2009 is when Climategate broke, reminding us that what had smelled funny was indeed rotten.

(8) When the subject matter seems, by its nature, to resist consensus

It makes sense that chemists over time may come to agree about the results of some chemical reaction, since they can repeat the results over and over in their own labs. They’re easy to test. But much of climate science is not like that. The evidence is scattered and hard to track. It’s often indirect, imbedded in history and laden with theory. You can’t rerun past climate to test it. And the headline-grabbing claims of climate scientists are based on complex computer models that don’t match reality. These models get their input, not from the data, but from the scientists who interpret the data. This isn’t the sort of evidence that can provide the basis for a well-founded consensus. In fact, if there really were a consensus on the many claims around climate science, that would be suspicious. Thus, the claim of consensus is a bit suspect as well.

(9) When “scientists say” or “science says” is a common locution

In Newsweek’s April 28, 1975, issue, science editor Peter Gwynne claimed that “scientists are almost unanimous” that global cooling was underway. Now we are told, “Scientists say global warming will lead to the extinction of plant and animal species, the flooding of coastal areas from rising seas, more extreme weather, more drought and diseases spreading more widely.” “Scientists say” is ambiguous. You should wonder: “Which ones?”

Other times this vague company of scientists becomes “SCIENCE.” As when we’re told “what science says is required to avoid catastrophic climate change.” “Science says” is an weasely claim. “Science,” after all, is an abstract noun. It can’t speak. Whenever you see these phrases used to imply a consensus, it should trigger your baloney detector.

(10) When it is being used to justify dramatic political or economic policies

Imagine hundreds of world leaders and NGOS, science groups, and UN functionaries gathered for a meeting. It’s heralded as the most important conference since World War II, in which “the future of the world is being decided.” These officials seem to agree that institutions of “global governance” need to be set up to reorder the world economy and restrict energy use. Large numbers of them applaud wildly when socialist dictators denounce capitalism. Strange activism surrounds the gathering. And we are told by our president that all of this is based, not on fiction, but on science — that is, a scientific consensus that our greenhouse gas emissions are leading to climate catastrophe.

We don’t have to imagine that scenario, of course. It happened at the UN climate meeting in Copenhagen, in December 2009. It happened again in Paris, in December 2015. Expect something at least as zany at the March for Science.

Now, none of this disproves climate doom. But it does describe a setting in which truth need not appear. And at the least, when policy effects are so profound, the evidence should be rock solid. “Extraordinary claims,” the late Carl Sagan often said, “require extraordinary evidence.” When the megaphones of consensus insist that there’s no time, that we have to move, MOVE, MOVE!, you have a right to be wary.

(11) When the “consensus” is maintained by an army of water-carrying journalists who defend it with partisan zeal, and seem intent on helping certain scientists with their messaging rather than reporting on the field as fairly as possible

Do I really need to elaborate on this point?

(12) When we keep being told that there’s a scientific consensus

A consensus should be based on solid evidence. But a consensus is not itself the evidence. And with well-established scientific theories, you never hear about consensus. No one talks about the consensus that the planets orbit the sun, that the hydrogen molecule is lighter than the oxygen molecule, that salt is sodium chloride, that bacteria sometimes cause illness, or that blood carries oxygen to our organs. The very fact that we hear so much about a consensus on climate change may be enough to justify suspicion.

To adapt that old legal rule, when you’ve got solid scientific evidence on your side, you argue the evidence. When you’ve got great arguments, you make the arguments. When you don’t have solid evidence or great arguments, you claim consensus.

Adapted from THE AMERICAN. This piece has been updated since its original publication.

 

Jay W. Richards is Executive Editor of The Stream. Follow him on Twitter.

Article source: https://stream.org/doubt-scientific-consensus/

Politics Disguised as Science: When to Doubt a Scientific ‘Consensus’

This week’s March for Science is odd. Marches are usually held to defend something that’s in peril. Does anyone really think big science is in danger? The mere fact that the March was scheduled for Earth Day betrays what the event is really about: politics. The organizers admitted as much early on, though they’re now busy trying to cover the event in sciencey camouflage.

If past is prologue, expect to hear a lot about the supposed “consensus” on catastrophic climate change this week. The purpose of this claim is to shut up skeptical non-scientists.

How should non-scientists respond when told about this consensus? We can’t all study climate science. But since politics often masquerades as science, we need a way to tell one from the other.

“Consensus,” according to Merriam-Webster, means both “general agreement” and “group solidarity in sentiment and belief.” That sums up the problem. Is this consensus based on solid evidence and sound logic, or social pressure and groupthink?

When can you doubt a consensus? Your best bet is to look at the process that produced, defends and transmits the supposed consensus.

Anyone who has studied the history of science knows that scientists are prone to herd instincts. Many false ideas once enjoyed consensus. Indeed, the “power of the paradigm” often blinds scientists to alternatives to their view. Question the paradigm, and some respond with anger.

We shouldn’t, of course, forget the other side of the coin. There are cranks and conspiracy theorists. No matter how well founded a scientific consensus, there’s someone who thinks it’s all hokum. Sometimes these folks turn out to be right. But often, they’re just cranks whose counsel is best ignored.

So how do we distinguish, as Andrew Coyne puts it, “between genuine authority and mere received wisdom? And how do we tell crankish imperviousness to evidence from legitimate skepticism?” Do we have to trust whatever we’re told is based on a scientific consensus unless we can study the science ourselves? When can you doubt a consensus? When should you doubt it?

Your best bet is to look at the process that produced, defends and transmits the supposed consensus. I don’t know of any complete list of signs of suspicion. But here’s a checklist to decide when you can, even should, doubt a scientific “consensus,” whatever the subject. One of these signs may be enough to give pause. If they start to pile up, then it’s wise to be leery.

(1) When different claims get bundled together

Usually, in scientific disputes, there’s more than one claim at issue. With global warming, there’s the claim that our planet, on average, is getting warmer. There’s also the claim that we are the main cause of it, that it’s going to be catastrophic, and that we must transform civilization to deal with it. These are all different claims based on different evidence.

Evidence for warming, for instance, isn’t evidence for the cause of that warming. All the polar bears could drown, the glaciers melt, the sea levels rise 20 feet and Newfoundland become a popular place to tan: That wouldn’t tell us a thing about what caused the warming. This is a matter of logic, not scientific evidence. The effect is not the same as the cause.

There’s a lot more agreement about (1) a modest warming trend since about 1850 than there is about (2) the cause of that trend. There’s even less agreement about (3) the dangers of that trend, or of (4) what to do about it. But these four claims are often bundled together. So, if you doubt one, you’re labeled a climate change “skeptic” or “denier.” That’s dishonest. When well-established claims are tied with other, more controversial claims, and the entire bundle is labeled “consensus,” you have reason for doubt.

(2) When ad hominem attacks against dissenters predominate

Personal attacks are common in any dispute. It’s easier to insult than to the follow the thread of an argument. And just because someone makes an ad hominem argument, it doesn’t mean that their conclusion is wrong. But when the personal attacks are the first out of the gate, don your skeptic’s cap and look more closely at the data.

When it comes to climate change, ad hominems are everywhere. They’re even smuggled into the way the debate is described. The common label “denier” is one example. This label is supposed to call to mind the charge of columnist Ellen Goodman: “I would like to say we’re at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers.”

There’s an old legal proverb: If you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. If you have the law on your side, argue the law. If you have neither, attack the witness. When proponents of a scientific consensus lead with an attack on the witness, rather than on the arguments and evidence, be suspicious.

(3) When scientists are pressured to toe the party line

The famous Lysenko affair in the former Soviet Union is example of politics trumping good science. But it’s not the only way politics can override science. There’s also a conspiracy of agreement, in which assumptions and interests combine to give the appearance of objectivity where none exists. This is even more forceful than a literal conspiracy enforced by a dictator. Why? Because it looks like the agreement reflects a fair and independent weighing of the evidence.

Tenure, job promotions, government grants, media accolades, social respectability, Wikipedia entries, and vanity can do what gulags do, only more subtly. Alexis de Tocqueville warned of this almost two centuries ago. The power of the majority in American society, he wrote, could erect “formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.” He could have been writing about climate science.

Indeed, the quickest way for scientists to put their careers at risk is to raise even modest questions about climate doom (see here, here and here). Scientists are under pressure to toe the party line on climate change and receive many benefits for doing so. That’s another reason for suspicion.

(4) When publishing and peer review in the discipline is cliquish

Though it has its limits, the peer-review process is meant to provide checks and balances. At its best, it helps weed out bad and misleading work, and make scientific research more objective. But when the same few people review and approve each other’s work, you get conflicts of interest. This weakens the case for the supposed consensus. It becomes, instead, another reason for doubt. Those who follow the climate debate have known for years about the cliquish nature of publishing and peer review in climate science (see here for example).

(5) When dissenters are excluded from the peer-reviewed journals not because of weak evidence or bad arguments but to marginalize them.

Besides mere cliquishness, the “peer review” process in climate science has, in some cases, been subverted to prevent dissenters from being published. Again, those who follow the debate have known about these problems for years. But the Climategate debacle in 2009 revealed some of the gory details for the broader public. And again, this gives the lay public a reason to doubt the consensus.

(6) When the actual peer-reviewed literature is misrepresented

We’ve been told for years that the peer-reviewed literature is unanimous in its support for human-induced climate change. In Science, Naomi Oreskes even produced a “study” of the literature supposedly showing “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.”

In fact, there are plenty of dissenting papers in the literature. This is despite mounting evidence that the peer-review deck was stacked against them. The 2009 Climategate scandal underscored this: The climate scientists at the center of the controversycomplained in their emails about dissenting papers that survived the peer-review booby traps they put in place. They even fantasized about torpedoing a climate science journal that dared to publish a dissenting article.

(7) When consensus is declared before it even exists

A well-rooted scientific consensus, like a mature oak, needs time to grow. Scientists have to do research, publish articles, read about other research, and repeat experiments (where possible). They need to reveal their data and methods, have open debates, evaluate arguments, look at the trends, and so forth, before they can come to agreement. When scientists rush to declare a consensus — when they claim a consensus that has yet to form — this should give everyone pause.

In 1992, former Vice President Al Gore reassured his listeners, “Only an insignificant fraction of scientists deny the global warming crisis. The time for debate is over. The science is settled.” In the real 1992, however, Gallup “reported that 53% of scientists actively involved in global climate research did not believe global warming had occurred; 30% weren’t sure; and only 17% believed global warming had begun. Even a Greenpeace poll showed 47% of climatologists didn’t think a runaway greenhouse effect was imminent; only 36% thought it possible and a mere 13% thought it probable.”

Seventeen years later, in 2009, Gore revised his own fake history. He claimed that the debate over human-induced climate change had raged until as late as 1999, but now there was true consensus. Of course, 2009 is when Climategate broke, reminding us that what had smelled funny was indeed rotten.

(8) When the subject matter seems, by its nature, to resist consensus

It makes sense that chemists over time may come to agree about the results of some chemical reaction, since they can repeat the results over and over in their own labs. They’re easy to test. But much of climate science is not like that. The evidence is scattered and hard to track. It’s often indirect, imbedded in history and laden with theory. You can’t rerun past climate to test it. And the headline-grabbing claims of climate scientists are based on complex computer models that don’t match reality. These models get their input, not from the data, but from the scientists who interpret the data. This isn’t the sort of evidence that can provide the basis for a well-founded consensus. In fact, if there really were a consensus on the many claims around climate science, that would be suspicious. Thus, the claim of consensus is a bit suspect as well.

(9) When “scientists say” or “science says” is a common locution

In Newsweek’s April 28, 1975, issue, science editor Peter Gwynne claimed that “scientists are almost unanimous” that global cooling was underway. Now we are told, “Scientists say global warming will lead to the extinction of plant and animal species, the flooding of coastal areas from rising seas, more extreme weather, more drought and diseases spreading more widely.” “Scientists say” is ambiguous. You should wonder: “Which ones?”

Other times this vague company of scientists becomes “SCIENCE.” As when we’re told “what science says is required to avoid catastrophic climate change.” “Science says” is an weasely claim. “Science,” after all, is an abstract noun. It can’t speak. Whenever you see these phrases used to imply a consensus, it should trigger your baloney detector.

(10) When it is being used to justify dramatic political or economic policies

Imagine hundreds of world leaders and NGOS, science groups, and UN functionaries gathered for a meeting. It’s heralded as the most important conference since World War II, in which “the future of the world is being decided.” These officials seem to agree that institutions of “global governance” need to be set up to reorder the world economy and restrict energy use. Large numbers of them applaud wildly when socialist dictators denounce capitalism. Strange activism surrounds the gathering. And we are told by our president that all of this is based, not on fiction, but on science — that is, a scientific consensus that our greenhouse gas emissions are leading to climate catastrophe.

We don’t have to imagine that scenario, of course. It happened at the UN climate meeting in Copenhagen, in December 2009. It happened again in Paris, in December 2015. Expect something at least as zany at the March for Science.

Now, none of this disproves climate doom. But it does describe a setting in which truth need not appear. And at the least, when policy effects are so profound, the evidence should be rock solid. “Extraordinary claims,” the late Carl Sagan often said, “require extraordinary evidence.” When the megaphones of consensus insist that there’s no time, that we have to move, MOVE, MOVE!, you have a right to be wary.

(11) When the “consensus” is maintained by an army of water-carrying journalists who defend it with partisan zeal, and seem intent on helping certain scientists with their messaging rather than reporting on the field as fairly as possible

Do I really need to elaborate on this point?

(12) When we keep being told that there’s a scientific consensus

A consensus should be based on solid evidence. But a consensus is not itself the evidence. And with well-established scientific theories, you never hear about consensus. No one talks about the consensus that the planets orbit the sun, that the hydrogen molecule is lighter than the oxygen molecule, that salt is sodium chloride, that bacteria sometimes cause illness, or that blood carries oxygen to our organs. The very fact that we hear so much about a consensus on climate change may be enough to justify suspicion.

To adapt that old legal rule, when you’ve got solid scientific evidence on your side, you argue the evidence. When you’ve got great arguments, you make the arguments. When you don’t have solid evidence or great arguments, you claim consensus.

Adapted from THE AMERICAN. This piece has been updated since its original publication.

 

Jay W. Richards is Executive Editor of The Stream. Follow him on Twitter.

Article source: https://stream.org/doubt-scientific-consensus/

Personal Safety Company Guard Llama Scores Deal on ABC's "Shark Tank"

WASHINGTON (April 17, 2017) – With an offer of $100,000 from investor Barbara Corcoran, 2015 REach real estate technology accelerator participant and personal safety device company, Guard Llama, is officially a part of “Shark Tank” television history.

Guard Llama offers a mobile personal security system that expedites the 9-1-1 dispatching process when dialing 9-1-1 is not possible. This technology caught the attention of the National Association of Realtors®’ strategic investment arm, Second Century Ventures, which announced in 2015 that Guard Llama had been added to its growth technology accelerator program known as REach.

NAR President William E. Brown, a second-generation Realtor® from Alamo, California and founder of Investment Properties, congratulated the company on making their case before the Shark Tank panelists. “The Guard Llama team should be proud of their accomplishment,” he said. “Pitching a product is no small task, especially in front of well-known business leaders on national television, but the Guard Llama team did fantastic.”

NAR is committed to the safety and well-being of its members, and established the REALTOR® Safety Program to empower and inform members of the potential risks they face in this profession as well as how to navigate them safely. According to NAR’s 2016 Member Safety Report, while 95 percent of Realtors® have never been the victim of crime, 39 percent have found themselves in situations where they have feared for their safety or the safety of their personal information. Smart phone apps and devices are among the popular safety tools for real estate agents.

Guard Llama CEO Joe Parisi said that while the “Shark Tank” experience was intense, the event marked a real opportunity for his company.

“Anytime someone recognizes the value in your product and says they want to put an investment behind it, that’s a good day,” he said. “Having a celebrity businessperson do it on a national stage like “Shark Tank” is just extraordinary. This represented a chance to showcase what Guard Llama is doing to help make the world safer, and we’re looking forward to the good work we have ahead of us.”

Additional information on Guard Llama’s products and services is available on their website, guardllama.com/how-it-works/.  

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

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Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/narnewsreleases/~3/-J_RE-2Rmr8/personal-safety-company-guard-llama-scores-deal-on-abcs-shark-tank

2017 Spring Break Report from NAR Government Affairs

Congress is approaching their April District Work Period. The District Work Period is an excellent opportunity to interact with your Members of Congress in advance of the 2017 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings Trade Expo in Washington, D.C. May 15-20.

Several issues have emerged in the early stages of Congress that are of critical importance to REALTORS®. It is essential for REALTORS® to highlight NAR’s positions on these issues to ensure Members of Congress do not enact proposals that would disrupt real estate markets around the nation.  

Tax Reform

Despite its status as one of the top priorities of both Congressional Leadership and the Trump Administration, tax reform remains in the discussion stages with much work remaining before any tax reform plan comes up for votes. The on-going debate places a number of tax laws, including those affecting commercial and residential real estate, under increased scrutiny.  

Threats to the Tax Benefits of Homeownership

  • Massive increases to the standard deduction reduce the relevance of itemized deductions.
  • Taxpayers claim the higher of the actual itemized deductions or the standard deduction.
  • Elimination of most other itemized deductions, such as the deduction for state and local taxes paid, would greatly exacerbate the effect of a higher standard deduction.

Projected Timeline

Tax reform legislation is likely to come into focus in late summer 2017.

NAR’s Issue Summary

National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization

NAR supports renewing and strengthening the long-term viability of the federal flood insurance program, as well as maintaining funding to update and improve the accuracy of flood maps. The current program expires on September 30, 2017. NAR is working closely with Congress to ensure the program does not lapse. A program lapse could affect nearly 40,000 real estate transactions per month.

NAR Flood Principles

  • Long Term Reauthorization
  • Affordable Rates through Risk Mitigation
  • Accurately Priced Premiums 
  • Strong NFIP Homeowner’s Advocate
  • Improved Flood Mapping

Projected Timeline

NFIP legislation is likely to move in late spring 2017.

NAR’s Issue Summary

Government Sponsored Enterprises Reform (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac play a key role in the secondary mortgage market, which is crucial in providing capital for mortgage lending. Without the GSEs and FHA-insured loans, there would be almost no capital available for mortgage lending. This would severely restrict, if not curtail, home sales and any supporting ancillary home sales services.

NAR GSE Reform Principles

  • NAR supports restructuring the secondary mortgage market to ensure a reliable and affordable source of mortgage capital for consumers
  • Restructuring of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to end government conservatorship

Projected Timeline

GSE legislation has no projected start date.

NAR’s Issue Summary

GSE Guarantee Fees (G-fees)

NAR is very concerned with the high G-fees charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which have translated into huge profits for the entities. These profits show that the current fees and pricing do not reflect the improved profitability or reduced credit losses that the GSEs experienced over the last few years.  NAR will continue to push the GSEs for robust underwriting guidelines that put homeownership above profitability so that conventional borrowers are not priced out of the market.

Representatives Sanford (R-SC) and Sherman (D-CA) have introduced g-fee legislation H.R. 916, the “Risk Management and Homeowner Stability Act.”

Projected Timeline

Currently it is unclear if similar legislation will be introduced in the U.S. Senate.

NAR’s Issue Summary
 

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/RealtororgGovernmentAffairsHeadlines/~3/x3hvaW6XFtI/spring-break-report

May is REALTOR® Advocacy Month

ABOUT REALTOR® ADVOCACY MONTH

REALTOR® Advocacy Month is a celebration designed to engage and educate REALTORS® to Vote, Act and Invest in advocacy. Throughout three weeks in May, the National Association of REALTORS® invites you to use the more than 80 programs, services and grants offered by the REALTOR® Party to demonstrate the importance of advocacy at the national, state and local levels.

Each week has a Vote, Act or Invest theme that offers state and local associations opportunities to tout their candidate and issue campaign success, hold a voter registration drive, hold a community outreach event, or educate members on RPAC (the REALTORS® Political Action Committee). Feel free to use examples of activities to hold throughout the year. We encourage you to consult NAR and your state association to confirm if your activities meet the Core Standards advocacy requirements.

As you are holding activities, post photos and videos of your association’s advocacy efforts on social media using the hashtag #REALTORParty. Be sure to tag us (REALTOR® Action Center on Facebook and @REALTORAction on Twitter) in your post. Submit your advocacy activities using the feedback form.

TELL US WHAT YOU’RE DOING FOR REALTOR® ADVOCACY MONTH

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/RealtororgGovernmentAffairsHeadlines/~3/z8sR5MBG1wg/may-is-realtor-advocacy-month

Netflix shares head for new high after strong subscriber outlook


Netflix Inc made a bullish forecast for subscriber additions by mid-year, a positive sign for its push to expand around the world that sent its shares toward an all-time high.

The streaming video company pushed back the next season of its smash-hit “House of Cards,” and other programing to the second quarter, meaning it lured in fewer new subscribers in the first quarter than expected, but will likely make it up from April through June.

Subscriber rolls, the most closely watched measure of Netflix’s growth, rose by just under 5 million globally in the first quarter, behind analysts’ projection of 5.18 million, according to FactSet StreetAccount.

However, Netflix forecast 3.2 million more in the seasonally slow second quarter, well ahead of analysts’ estimate of nearly 2.4 million.

Its shares dropped as much as 3 percent in after-hours trading before rebounding to gain 1.3 percent. The late rise put Netflix stock on track to open at a record high on Tuesday.

A decade after shaking up Hollywood by delivering TV shows and movies over the internet, the company said it expects to top 100 million global subscribers this weekend.

Netflix has expanded around the world over the last few years, betting that its U.S. formula would pay off in other countries. Opening in new markets and creating shows in additional languages was an expensive proposition.

Chief Executive Reed Hastings urged investors to look at its growth over time rather than quarter-by-quarter fluctuations.

“We definitely see a big opportunity around the world,” Hastings said in an interview with analysts that was posted on YouTube.

NEW YARDSTICKS

In its quarterly letter to shareholders, Netflix asked investors to judge its future success by looking primarily at revenue growth and global operating margins.

That would be a shift for Wall Street, which has focused on subscriber numbers, said Needham Co analyst Laura Martin.

“The minute you actually pivot (investors) to an income statement, you’re talking to a completely different kind of investor,” Martin said. “And that investor demands profitability. So it’s a risky business.”

The Los Gatos, California-based company said net income rose to $178 million, or 40 cents per share, compared with $28 million, or 6 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Wall Street had expected 37 cents per share.

Revenue rose 35 percent to $2.64 billion in the quarter.

The earnings beat was due to the change in timing of “House of Cards,” which helped push costs into the second quarter, boosting operating margins from January through March and reducing them in the second quarter.

For the quarter that ended March 31, Netflix added 3.53 million subscribers outside the United States. (bit.ly/2puJ1Yt) Analysts on average had estimated 3.68 million additions, according to research firm FactSet.

In the United States, the company added 1.42 million subscribers, compared with analysts’ average estimate of 1.50 million.

Up to Monday’s close, Netflix’s stock had risen nearly 19 percent in 2017, outperforming the roughly 5 percent gain in the broader SP 500 index.

(Reporting by Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza, Peter Henderson and Bill Rigby)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/N8eaaTwjiFI/us-netflix-results-idUSKBN17J1MC

Asia stocks mixed, dollar subdued amid North Korea concerns


SINGAPORE Asian stocks were mixed on Tuesday and the dollar gave up the gains it had made when the U.S. Treasury Secretary spoke in support of a stronger currency as escalating tensions around North Korea dragged sentiment lower.

Financial spreadbetters predict a mixed start for European stocks, with Britain’s FTSE 100 .FTSE set to open 0.2 percent lower, and Germany’s DAX .GDAXI and France’s CAC 40 .FCHI to start the day up 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent respectively.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS dropped 0.5 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 added 0.4 percent, shrinking earlier gains.

South Korea’s KOSPI .KS11 advanced 0.2 percent.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told business leaders in Seoul that the U.S. will review and reform the five-year-old free trade agreement between the two countries, in part because South Korea imposes too many barriers on U.S. business.

The United States and South Korea pledged at the close of Pence’s visit to forge a stronger alliance. They agreed to cooperate with China to rein in North Korea, which has vowed to conduct more tests following Sunday’s failed missile launch.

Pence warned North Korea on Monday that recent American military strikes in Syria and Afghanistan showed President Donald Trump’s resolve should not be questioned.

Pence and South Korea’s acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, said they would proceed with the early deployment to South Korea of the U.S. THAAD missile-defense system, in spite of China’s objections.

The Korean won KRW= weakened about 0.8 percent, with the dollar at 1,141.40 won.

“It seems the focus is now firmly on future missile tests from North Korea and whether any future tests will actually be successful,” Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG in Melbourne, wrote in a note. “One suspects the concerns in North Korea have further to play out.”

Despite the tensions, Wall Street posted its first session of gains in four as investors turned their attention to first-quarter corporate earnings. All three major indexes .DJI .SPX .IXIC advanced about 0.9 percent overnight.

U.S. housing starts and building permits for March, as well as industrial production, are due later in the session.

The dollar was weighed down by worries over North Korea, Mnuchin’s comments that Trump’s promised tax reform will be delayed, and the first round of talks between Japan’s leaders and Pence on Tuesday.

The dollar index .DXY, which tracks the greenback against a basket of trade-weighted peers, was little changed at 100.34, after rising earlier.

The dollar inched up 0.1 percent to 109.05 yen JPY=. It hit its lowest level since Nov. 15 on Monday, before closing higher on Mnuchin’s remark that a strong currency would be positive over the long term, while agreeing with Trump that it hurts exports in the short term.

Pence’s visit to Japan, the next stop on his Asia trip, is key for the currency. His talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are expected to focus on security issues, while his meeting Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso will deal with economics.

“For dollar/yen, the main focus will be on what kind of pressure the United States could apply on Japan as basically U.S. trade policy is linked with a policy for a weaker dollar,” said Junichi Ishikawa, senior forex strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo.

“The yen cannot simply continue weakening along with higher stocks under such conditions,” he said.

China’s CSI300 index .CSI300 was up about 0.2 percent after new home prices across China jumped 11.3 percent from a year earlier, with prices across many major cities soaring.

The Australian dollar AUD=D4 lost 0.4 percent to trade at $0.7559, and Australian shares slipped 1 percent, after minutes of the central bank’s April meeting, in which it left rates unchanged, highlighted the balancing act it faced between a subdued labor market and escalating household debt.

The euro EUR=EBS was steady at $1.06425, holding Monday’s 0.25 percent gain.

In commodities, oil prices were little changed following Monday’s losses, amid concerns over rising U.S. production.

U.S. crude CLc1 was at $52.62 a barrel, after falling 1 percent on Monday, its biggest decline in almost a month.

Global benchmark Brent crude LCOc1 was at $55.38.

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Eric Meijer and Jacqueline Wong)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/hEUo6pmK3bI/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17K02Q

U.S. business group urges Washington to ‘use every arrow’ against China


BEIJING The United States should “use every arrow” in its quiver to ensure a level commercial playing field in China, a U.S. business lobby said on Tuesday, warning that 2017 could be the toughest year in decades for American firms in the country.

China’s policies designed to support domestic companies and create national champions have narrowed the space for foreign companies, the American Chamber of Commerce in China said in its annual business climate report.

The White House has said U.S and Chinese officials are fleshing out a pledge by leaders Donald Trump and Xi Jinping for a 100-day plan to cut the U.S. trade deficit with China, which reached $347 billion last year.

But the chamber said it hoped more attention would be paid to market access for American firms in China.

“Right now basically we are recommending everything you have in your quiver – please use every arrow possible, with the understanding that some of these points of leverage could be counterproductive to us,” chamber chairman William Zarit said, referring to possible backlash from Beijing.

He was speaking at a briefing on the report.

U.S. business groups want U.S. officials to take measures against Beijing on market imbalances, but not push the world’s two largest economies toward a trade war.

Nonetheless, more vociferous complaints from the American business community mark a shift from years past, when many companies eschewed the idea of forceful action by Washington for fear of retribution by China.

Foreign technology companies, in particular, fear what they see as Beijing’s plans to pump billions of dollars in subsidies into domestic competitors and push regulations that could force the surrender of key technology or hit competitiveness.

“With uncertainty stemming from political and economic transitions in both the U.S. and China, perceptions of a deteriorating investment environment for foreign companies in China, and a slowing economy, 2017 will likely be one of the most challenging years in decades for U.S. companies in China,” the chamber said in its report.

U.S. business leaders also worry that Trump’s focus on curtailing North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs could undercut U.S. commercial interests in China. Last week, Trump tweeted that Beijing would get a better trade deal if it helped resolve the U.S. problem with Pyongyang.

“I’m sorry to see there is a possibility we may lose some momentum on helping to level the playing field with China in our economic relationship, due to the situation in North Korea, if there is some kind of trade-off,” Zarit said.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/mrGJK0t_fPA/us-china-usa-business-idUSKBN17K0G8

Ant Financial hikes MoneyGram offer by 36 percent to outbid Euronet


BEIJING China’s Ant Financial has sweetened its bid for MoneyGram International Inc by 36 percent, beating a rival offer to gain approval from the U.S. electronic payment firm’s board, although it still faces regulatory hurdles.

Ant [ANTFIN.UL], the finance affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, increased its bid to $18 per share in cash from $13.25 to value MoneyGram at around $1.2 billion.

That compares with an offer of $15.20 per share from Euronet Worldwide Inc last month.

A successful deal would be Ant’s first major acquisition in a developed market. But first it needs to clear regulatory reviews, including one by the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS), a U.S. inter-agency panel that looks at acquisitions for national security risks.

CFIUS has been a stumbling block for several Chinese deals in the United States and a deal with Euronet is likely to be more agreeable to U.S. policymakers amid rising tensions between China and the United States over trade and foreign policy.

Euronet has said that Chinese ownership could compromise the relationship between law enforcement and MoneyGram when investigating money laundering and “terrorist financing”.

Ant has sought to allay concerns and on Monday reiterated that any data collected on MoneyGram users in the U.S. will continue to reside on U.S.-based servers and that MoneyGram will operate as an independent unit. Euronet has previously countered that the location of the servers is irrelevant.

Ant and Moneygram said in a joint statement that they have made progress toward obtaining the regulatory approvals necessary to complete the transaction, including winning U.S. antitrust clearance. They are confident the deal will close this year, they added.

The news comes one day after sources said China’s Anbang Insurance Group will let its agreement to acquire U.S. annuities and life insurer Fidelity Guaranty Life. for $1.6 billion lapse, after failing to secure all the necessary regulatory approvals.

While Anbang’s acquisition had received clearance from CFIUS it could not get past some U.S. state regulators.

Dallas-based MoneyGram is one of the biggest firms in the global remittance market, offering services in around 350,000 stores across 200 countries and offers Ant a major leg-up in its plans to build a cross-border commerce network, centered in Asia.

“The promotion of global digital financial inclusion requires global infrastructure. MoneyGram offers that connectivity between developed and developing markets,” said James Lloyd, Asia Pacific Fintech leader at EY.

Last Wednesday, Ant and Indonesia’s Elang Mahkota Teknologi (Emtek) agreed to launch a joint venture to roll out mobile payments in Indonesia. The tie-up follows recent investments in payment firms in India, Thailand, South Korea and the Philippines.

Ant, which is planning an IPO, was valued at around $60 billion in mid-2016, according to a source familiar with the matter. It has since had another financing round which raised $3 billion, a separate sources has said, although latest valuations were not immediately available.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell and Miyoung Kim; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/Ulr3lU8AUrI/us-moneygram-intl-m-a-ant-financial-idUSKBN17J02P

Exclusive: Saudi to shelve, reform billions of dollars of unfinished projects


RIYADH Saudi Arabia’s government is ordering its ministries and agencies to review billions of dollars’ worth of unfinished infrastructure and economic development projects with a view to shelving or restructuring them, government sources said.

Riyadh’s Bureau of Capital and Operational Spending Rationalization, set up last year to make the government more efficient, is compiling a list of projects that are under 25 percent complete, the sources told Reuters.

Many of these projects are relics of a decade-long boom of high oil prices and lavish state spending, which ended when oil began sliding in mid-2014, making it increasingly difficult for Riyadh to find the money needed to complete their construction.

Officials will study the feasibility of the projects in light of the government’s reform drive, which aims to diversify the economy beyond oil exports, and decide whether to suspend them indefinitely or try to improve how they are conducted.

“Some projects could be retendered so they can be executed in partnership with the private sector, possibly through build-operate-transfer (BOT) contracts,” said one source familiar with the plan, declining to be named as the matter is not yet public.

Under BOT contracts, private investors finance and build projects and operate them for a period of time to earn a profit before eventually transferring ownership to the government. Riyadh has said it is keen to begin bringing the private sector into projects to ease pressure on state finances.

“Other projects could be suspended if they do not meet the current economic objectives,” the source said. Recommendations for some projects may be made within days, he added.

Seeking to close a huge budget deficit caused by low oil prices, the government clamped down on infrastructure spending last year. Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said in February this year that the efficiency bureau had so far saved the kingdom 80 billion riyals ($21.33 billion).

The plan to review unfinished projects suggests the government is looking for large additional savings this year. In a report at the end of last year, it estimated the cost of completing all capital spending projects currently underway at about 1.4 trillion riyals.

In a January report, consultants Faithful+Gould estimated at least $13.3 billion of government projects were at risk of being canceled in Saudi Arabia this year because of fiscal pressures and changing government priorities.

The government is likely to prioritize projects with strong social welfare and business justifications such as power and water generation, while less essential “vanity projects” such as sports infrastructure, some transport systems and perhaps nuclear energy could be cut back, it said.

(Writing by Andrew Torchia; editing by Anna Willard)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/PgF_2ZFtWlI/us-saudi-projects-idUSKBN17I0GM

Exclusive: Anbang’s Fidelity & Guaranty acquisition set to fall through


China’s Anbang Insurance Group will let its agreement to acquire U.S. annuities and life insurer Fidelity Guaranty Life (FGL) (FGL.N) for $1.6 billion lapse, after failing to secure all the necessary regulatory approvals, people familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

The development casts new doubt on Anbang’s commitment to U.S. deals, following its abandoned attempt last year to acquire Starwood Hotels Resorts Worldwide Inc for $14 billion.

Marriott International Inc (MAR.O) ended up buying Starwood.

While Anbang’s FGL acquisition had received clearance from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a U.S. government panel that scrutinizes deals for potential national security concerns, it could not get past some U.S. state regulators.

FGL had extended its merger agreement with Anbang, which was signed in November 2015, to April 17 after it was set to expire on Feb. 8. Had Anbang secured a public hearing with Iowa’s financial regulator by April 17, it could have extended the expiration date to May 31.

However, Anbang has failed to meet the conditions for any further extension, the sources said. Anbang also needed approval from New York financial regulators, but it has abandoned efforts to secure it, the sources added.

The sources asked not to be identified because the recent developments are confidential.

The sources did not say why Anbang could not secure approvals from U.S. state regulators after clearing CFIUS, but noted that the Beijing-based group had pushed back against making some of the disclosures required.

FGL said in February it would solicit other acquisition offers as part of its merger agreement extension with Anbang. Negotiations between FGL and other suitors, including Bermuda-based reinsurance company Athene Holding Ltd (ATH.N), are continuing, the sources said.

FGL declined to comment, while Anbang and Athene did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Established in 2004, Anbang burst onto the global scene from near obscurity by signing more than $30 billion worth of corporate deals in the last 2-1/2 years. Its high-profile investments included a $1.95 billion purchase of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.

Little is known about Anbang’s funding and shareholding structure, partly because it is a private company. Corporate records in China show Anbang is owned by 39 privately held and little-known companies scattered across China.

Last month, Kushner Companies, the real estate firm headed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law until recently, said it ended talks to redevelop its flagship New York office tower with Anbang.

(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld and Suzanne Barlyn in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/WyKXkMD3HdY/us-fidelityguarantylife-m-a-anbang-idUSKBN17I0QG

United Changes Policy; Crew Can’t Displace Seated Passengers


This Sunday, April 9, 2017, image made from a video provided by Audra D. Bridges shows a passenger being removed from a United Airlines flight in Chicago. Video of police officers dragging the passenger from an overbooked United Airlines flight sparked a nationwide uproar last week.


By

Published on April 16, 2017

CHICAGO (AP) — United Airlines is changing a company policy and will no longer allow crew members to displace customers already onboard an airplane.

The change comes after a passenger, Dr. David Dao, was dragged from a fully-booked United Express flight in Chicago because he refused to give up his seat to make room for crew members. Cellphone video of the incident sparked widespread outrage and created a public-relations nightmare for United.

Under the change outlined in an internal April 14 email, a crew member must make must-ride bookings at least 60 minutes prior to departure. Crews could previously be booked until the time of departure.

United spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin said in an email Sunday that the change is an initial step in a review of policies and it’s meant to ensure that situations like Dao’s never happen again.

 

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.






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Article source: https://stream.org/united-changes-policy-crew-cant-displace-seated-passengers/

Undaunted by oil bust, financiers pour billions into U.S. shale


HOUSTON Investors who took a hit last year when dozens of U.S. shale producers filed for bankruptcy are already making big new bets on the industry’s resurgence.

In the first quarter, private equity funds raised $19.8 billion for energy ventures – nearly three times the total in the same period last year, according to financial data provider Preqin.

The quickening pace of investments from private equity, along with hedge funds and investment banks, comes even as the recovery in oil prices CLc1 from an 8-year low has stalled at just over $50 per barrel amid a stubborn global supply glut.

The shale sector has become increasingly attractive to investors not because of rising oil prices, but rather because producers have achieved startling cost reductions – slashing up to half the cost of pumping a barrel in the past two years. Investors also believe the glut will dissipate as demand for oil steadily rises.

That gives financiers confidence that they can squeeze increasing returns from shale fields – without price gains – as technology continues to cut costs. So they are backing shale-oil veterans and assembling companies that can quickly start pumping.

“Shale funders look at the economics today and see a lot of projects that work in the $40 to $55 range” per barrel of oil, said Howard Newman, head of private equity fund Pine Brook Road Partners, which last month committed to invest $300 million in startup Admiral Permian Resources LLC to drill in West Texas.

Data on investments by hedge funds and other nonpublic investment firms is scant, but the rush of new private equity money indicates broader enthusiasm in shale plays.

“Demand for oil has been more robust than anyone imagined three years ago,” said Mark Papa, chief executive of Centennial Resource Development Inc (CDEV.O).

Papa referred to the beginning of an international oil price crash in 2014, which took many firms in the shale sector to the brink of bankruptcy.

Centennial is a Permian oil producer backed by private equity fund Riverstone. Papa, a well-known shale industry entrepreneur, built EOG Resources Inc (EOG.N) into one of the most profitable U.S. shale producers before he retired in 2013.

The chance to further develop the Permian, he said, was enough for him to come out of retirement to deliver one of its bigger recent successes. The value of Riverstone’s original $500 million investment has grown nearly four times since Centennial’s initial public offering last fall.

‘A TON OF PRIVATE CAPITAL’

Riverstone this year copied the Centennial model, putting experienced managers atop a startup charged with acquiring operations or assets. The equity fund hired Jim Hackett – the former head of shale producer Anadarko Petroleum Corp (APC.N) – to run the newly created Silver Run Acquisition Corp II (SRUNU.O).

Hedge funds Highfields Capital Management LP and Adage Capital Management have taken stakes in the new company, which has a valuation of about $1 billion after going public last month.

Private equity fund NGP Natural Resources XI LP invested $524 million last fall in Luxe Energy LLC, a shale producer formed in 2015 by former Statoil (STL.OL) executives.

NGP’s investment was effectively a bet that Luxe could repeat its success of early 2016.

Then, NGP contributed about $250 million to Luxe, which used the money to acquire land in the Permian – and sold it seven months later for a double-digit profit.

This year’s drilling rush could be tested if global supplies grow too fast or if demand cools. The U.S. drilling rig count is rising at its fastest pace in six years and U.S. crude stockpile are close to 533 million barrels – near an all-time high and enough to supply the United States for 25 days.

But some investors say even a decline of $10 in the oil price would not dissuade them.

“There is a ton of private capital to invest in the U.S. oil industry,” said Gerrit Nicholas, co-founder of private equity fund Orion Energy Partners.

Nicholas said he is comfortable lending even if oil prices fall to $40 per barrel.

Orion this month helped finance the expansion of a Florida oil-storage terminal, a move predicated in part on growth in U.S. oil exports. Since the U.S. lifted its oil export ban last year, crude exports have climbed to about 746,000 barrels per day, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

BETTING ON OPEC’S SELF-INTEREST

The oil industry has seen boom-and-bust cycles since the first well was drilled about 160 years ago, and industry and government have sought to tame the volatility for just as long.

Texas regulators set output quotas from the 1920s through the 1970s, a practice that served as a model for the creation of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The U.S. boom has caused concern among OPEC member nations ahead of its meeting next month in Vienna, where they will consider extending oil production cuts that first took effect in January. Investors believe the cartel’s members will extend the cuts because it is in OPEC’s financial interest to prevent a steep drop in oil prices.

That likely will keep money flowing to nimble U.S. oil producers and the companies that provide them with services and equipment. Investors see the United States as the new swing producer, having the ability to quickly increase supply in response to any sudden increase in demand.

“The U.S., with its substantial inventory capacity and swing oil producer status, should see strong onshore activity for the next few years,” said Charlie Leykum, founder of private equity fund CSL Capital Management LLC, in an interview.

CSL has invested in several oilfield service business in the past year. It partnered with Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and Baker Hughes Inc (BHI.N), for instance, to create a shale services company.

Centennial’s Papa expects the flood of fresh capital to push U.S. production up 23 percent to 11.3 million barrels a day (bpd) by 2020, based on strong demand for oil.

“We’re still in a hydrocarbon-based economy,” said Papa.

For a graphic on private equity investment in U.S. energy, click here

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Gary McWilliams, Simon Webb and Brian Thevenot)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/faa3INtdOms/us-usa-shale-funders-analysis-idUSKBN17J0BK

Stocks, dollar under pressure after soft U.S. data


TOKYO Shares and the U.S. dollar dipped on Monday while U.S. bond yields slumped to five-month lows after soft U.S. economic data hurt investor sentiment already frayed by worries over North Korea and coming French elections.

That dwarfed any relief for market players after the U.S. Treasury department did not name China as a currency manipulator, avoiding an all-out confrontation on currencies between the world’s two largest economies.

SP 500 mini futures declined 0.15 percent to 2,324, edging near a six-week low of 2,317.75 touched in late March following U.S. President Donald Trump’s defeat on healthcare reform.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.1 percent in holiday-thinned trade, while Japan’s Nikkei fell as much as 0.6 pct to hit a five-month low before ending up 0.1 percent.

Most European share markets will be closed for Easter holidays.

A raft of Chinese economic data beat market expectations but did not produce notable market reactions as investors had been already optimistic following a recent string of positive China numbers.

China’s economy grew 6.9 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, a tad above economists’ forecast of 6.8 percent.

However, mainland Chinese shares fell, with Shanghai Composite Index down 1.0 percent at 3,212, risking a close below its 60-day average at 3,216, seen as an important support by investors and weighed by warning from top securities regulator to combat market misbehavior.

U.S. retail sales dropped more than expected in March while annual core inflation slowed to 2.0 percent, the smallest advance since November 2015, from 2.2 percent in February, data showed on Friday.

That helped to drive down the 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield to 2.200 percent, its lowest level since mid-November from around 2.228 percent on Thursday before a market holiday on Friday.

The yield had risen above 2.6 percent in December and again in March, from around 1.85 percent before the U.S. presidential election, on expectations of Trump’s stimulus.

But growing perception that Trump will struggle to push any tax cuts and fiscal spending programs through the Congress has prompted unwinding of the “Trump” trade.

“At the moment, it is hard to see any factors that could drive up bond yields,” said Hiroko Iwaki, senior strategist at Mizuho Securities.

“And compared to U.S. bond yields, which have given up much of their gains after the election, U.S. share prices, having gone through a limited correction, look vulnerable given potential developments in North Korea or the French election,” she said.

Fed fund futures 0#FF: rose in price, now pricing less than a 50 percent chance of a rate hike in its June 13-14 meeting for the first time in about a month.

NO MANIPULATION

Trump’s administration declined to name any major trading partner as a currency manipulator in a highly anticipated report on Friday, backing away from a key Trump campaign promise to slap such a label on China.

“Concerns about U.S.-Sino trade frictions have eased for the time being,” said Naoki Tashiro, the president of TS China Research.

“But this is also thought to be a part of a barter, namely the U.S. wants China to take tougher actions against North Korea in exchange,” he said.

There is no sign of easing in tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile program after the reclusive country’s failed missile test on Sunday.

Trump’s national security adviser said on Sunday that the United States, its allies and China are working together on a range of responses to North Korea.

“In essence, North Korea made a provocation that would not transcend the U.S. ‘red line’. But depending on how China will react, Trump could lose his patience,” said Makoto Noji, senior strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities.

Safe-haven gold gained as much as 0.8 percent to hit a five-month high of $1,295.5 per ounce on continued concerns on tensions over North Korea.

The dollar slipped to as low as 108.13 yen, a five-month low and 0.4 percent below its late U.S. levels.

The semi-annual U.S. Treasury currency report maintained the six countries on a “monitoring list” — China, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan and Switzerland — suggesting Washington could put more pressure on those countries to take steps to reduce their trade surplus with the United States in future.

The euro stood at $1.0622, little moved so far, and not far from a one-month low of $1.0570 touched last Monday, with focus on the French presidential election.

Ahead of the first round of voting on April 23, the race looked tighter. Two polls put any of the four frontrunners, including far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and hard-left challenger Jean-Luc Melenchon, within reach of a two-person run-off vote.

The Turkish lira jumped about 2.5 percent to 3.6300 per dollar versus 3.7220 on Friday after President Tayyip Erdogan snatched a victory in a referendum to grant him sweeping powers in the biggest overhaul of modern Turkish politics.

It last traded at 3.677.

Oil prices slipped on signs the United States is continuing to add output, undermining OPEC efforts to support prices. [O/R]

Benchmark Brent crude futures were down 1.0 percent at $55.34 a barrel.

(Editing by Kim Coghill and Richard Borsuk)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/pMn8N14vGuM/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17J00X

Steel, stimulus drive China’s strongest economic growth since 2015


BEIJING China’s economy expanded faster than expected in the first quarter as higher government infrastructure spending and a gravity-defying property boom helped boost industrial output by the most in over two years.

Growth of 6.9 percent was the fastest in six quarters, with forecast-beating March investment, retail sales and exports all suggesting the economy may carry solid momentum into spring.

But most analysts say the first quarter may be as good as it gets for China this year, and worry Beijing is still relying too heavily on stimulus and “old economy” growth drivers, primarily the steel industry and a property market that is showing signs of overheating.

“The Chinese government has a tendency to rely on infrastructure development to sustain growth in the long term,” economists at ANZ said in a note.

“The question we need to ask is whether this investment-led model is sustainable as the authorities have trouble taming credit. We need to watch closely whether China’s top leadership will send a stronger signal to tighten monetary policy shortly.”

Even as top officials vowed to crack down on debt risks, China’s total social financing, a broad measure of credit and liquidity in the economy, reached a record 6.93 trillion yuan ($1 trillion) in the first quarter — roughly equivalent to the size of Mexico’s economy.

At the same time, spending by the central and local governments rose 21 percent from a year earlier.

That helped goose the pace of growth in the first quarter well above the government’s 2017 target of around 6.5 percent, and pipped economists’ forecasts of 6.8 percent year-on-year.

Such a strong bolt from the gate could see Beijing once again meet its annual growth target, even if activity starts to fade later in the year, as many analysts widely expect.

“Main indicators were better than expected…which laid a good foundation for achieving the full-year growth goals,” statistics spokesman Mao Shengyong said at a news conference.

SAME OLD GROWTH DRIVERS?

Once again, China’s policymakers leaned on infrastructure and real estate investment to drive expansion in the first quarter. Growth in both areas has accelerated from last year and helped offset slightly weaker growth in the services sector.

“Faster growth in industrial output is the primary factor in the first quarter surprise, and due mostly to higher value-added growth related to supply-side consolidation in heavy industry,” said Brian Jackson, China economist at IHS Global Insight.

Real estate investment also remained robust in the first quarter, expanding by 9.1 percent on-year, and the pace of new construction quickened despite intensifying government measures to cool soaring prices.

Most analysts agree the heated property market poses the single biggest risk to China’s economic growth, but predict the cumulative weight of property curbs will eventually temper activity, not produce an outright crash.

“Sales have started falling, which means tightening measures are starting to take effect,” said Shen Jianguang, an analyst at Mizuho Securities in Hong Kong, noting that will start to drag on both the services and construction sectors.

More than two dozen cities announced new or additional property cooling measures in March and early April, after curbs late last year appeared to have little lasting effect.

Buoyed by a near 12 percent increase in housing starts, China produced a record amount of steel in March, Reuters data showed, though analysts say warning signs are flashing.

Rising inventory levels and recent falls in steel prices suggest output has been growing faster than China’s actual demand, raising worries of a glut later in the year, which could heighten trade tensions with the U.S. and its other major trading partners.

INCOME GROWTH PICKS UP

There were also positive signs on the consumer front in Monday’s data dump.

After slowing for five quarters, disposable income growth picked up to 7.0 percent in the first quarter, the fastest since the end of 2015.

March retail sales rebounded 10.9 percent on-year as consumers shelled out more for home appliances, furniture and decorations for new homes.

Auto sales also showed signs of recovering after weakening in the first two months of the year after the government reduced subsidies on small cars.

Analysts are closely watching for signs that consumption is accounting for a greater share of China’s economy, which would

not only make growth more resilient and broader based but also reduce the need for more debt-fueled stimulus and reliance on “smokestack” industries.

FOCUS ON STABILITY, THEN REFORMS

Though policymakers have pledged repeatedly to push reforms to head off financial risks and asset bubbles, the government is seeking to keep the economy on an even keel ahead of a major leadership transition in later this year.

China’s central bank has gingerly shifted to a tightening policy bias in recent months, and is using more targeted measures to contain risks in the financial system, after years of ultra-loose settings.

It has bumped up interest rates on money market instruments and special short- and medium-term loans several times already this year and further modest increases are expected, especially if U.S. rates continue to rise.

“I think China should be directing the economy to slow down its growth in the long term…but on the contrary, growth is accelerating,” said Hidenobu Tokuda, senior economist at Mizuho Research Institute in Tokyo.

“This is good for now but it makes it difficult to see how China’s economic slowdown will land in the future. Uncertainties remain high.”

(Reporting by Kevin Yao and Yawen Chen; Writing by Elias Glenn; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/6Ua_14T5zPE/us-china-economy-gdp-idUSKBN17J04E

Bill Nye: The Perfect Talking Head for a March Against Science

Bill Nye may not be a scientist. But he used to play one on TV. Now he is an honorary co-chair and speaker for the “March for Science” in Washington D.C. and elsewhere on April 22.

The choice of Nye as one of the faces of the March is revealing. March organizers have paid lip service to critical thinking and “diverse perspectives” in science. However, Nye is a good example of someone who promotes science as a close-minded ideology, not an open search for truth.

He attacks those who disagree with him on climate change or evolution as science “deniers.” He wouldn’t even rule out criminal prosecution as a tool. Asked last year whether he supported efforts to jail climate skeptics as war criminals, he replied: “Well, we’ll see what happens. Was it appropriate to jail the guys from ENRON?”

Scientists disagree on far more issues than the March organizers admit.

Real science encourages debate. It doesn’t insist that scientists march in lockstep. Or that they speak with one voice. In fact, scientists disagree on far more issues than the March organizers admit.

Models Vs. Evidence

Take global warming. Many marchers will wear their belief in climate change on their sleeves. On their signs, too. They, like Nye and others who claim to speak for science, equate belief in man-made climate disaster with science itself. If you disagree, you’re “anti-science.”

Yet there are strong reasons to doubt the so-called “consensus” on warming. But the popular media rarely cite them.

From 1890 to 1990, records show only a .45 degree C rise in global temperature as measured from near-surface thermometers around the Earth. Yet about 75 percent of the increase occurred before World War II, while most of the increase in human produced greenhouse gases occurred after World War II. So, human industrial activity doesn’t really correlate with the main effect of interest. Meanwhile, after a few warmer than usual years in the early 1990s, global temperatures have flat-lined. They show no net increase over the last two decades.

Many top scientists are skeptics of extreme global warming, including physicists, biologists, earth and atmospheric scientists.

Most warmists’ models have predicted steep rises. But these models don’t match the real global temperatures collected after the fact. So why believe the dire predictions that those same models make about future temperatures before the fact?

Bill Nye, Al Gore, and former President Obama have said we must accept what “the scientists” say. To listen to the skeptics would be to reject “settled science.” But skeptics of extreme warming include many top scientists: physicists, biologists, earth and atmospheric scientists like Richard Lindzen (MIT), Freeman Dyson and William Happer (Princeton), Roy Spencer (University of Alabama, formerly NASA), John Christy (Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama), and Matt Ridley (DPhil, Oxford). How strong can the “consensus” be if such stars of science question the idea?

What About Neo-Darwinism?

But let’s say widespread agreement did exist on the question. Has such an agreement served as an error-free guide to truth in the past? The history of science says no.

Here’s another scientific issue to ponder. Nye claims the evidence for evolution is “Undeniable. That’s how he put it in the title of his recent book. By “evolution” he means textbook neo-Darwinism. So the case for evolution is “undeniable”? In truth, many leading scientists, including evolutionary biologists, reject neo-Darwinism. Many biologists now doubt the creative power of random mutation with natural selection. But that is the core idea of the theory.

This past November I attended a conference of the prestigious Royal Society of London. The meeting was called to address this problem. Speaking first, biologist Gerd Müller listed the “explanatory deficits” of neo-Darwinism. He said those include its failure to explain the “origin of biological complexity” and the origin of major morphological “novelties.” It also doesn’t predict their abrupt appearance in the fossil record.

Nye claims the evidence for evolution is “Undeniable. But many biologists now doubt the core of Darwin’s theory.

Other biologists echo his concerns. They argue that mutation and selection can account for “the survival, but not the arrival of the fittest.” That is, minor, but not major, changes in the history of life.

I say more on this in my book Darwin’s Doubt. For instance, neo-Darwinism fails to explain the origin of the new genetic information needed to build new forms of life.

Our own experience with computer code helps to explain why. Random changes to the digital characters in a section of functioning software code will degrade the information in a program and destroy its function. That will happen long before those changes can generate a new program or operating system. Yet, neo-Darwinists invoke just such random changes to the characters in the genetic text to explain where new genetic information comes from. Mathematicians who know biology say “not a chance.”

What Do You Mean By “Evolution”?

In any case, the textbook examples of natural selection and random mutations do not involve creating new genetic information. Many biology texts tell about the famous finches in the Galápagos Islands whose beaks have waxed and waned in shape and length over time. These books also recall how moths in England got darker and lighter as levels of industrial pollution changed. Darwinists present such cases as knockdown evidence for evolution. But that depends on what you mean by “evolution.”

Small-scale “micro-evolutionary” changes can’t explain large-scale “macro-evolution.”

That term has many meanings. “Evolution” can refer to anything from minor change within the limits of a gene pool to the creation of wholly new genetic information and structures.

Yet, as a host of biologists have argued in recent papers, small-scale “micro-evolutionary” changes can’t explain large-scale “macro-evolution.” Mostly, micro-evolution (such as changes in color or shape) just uses pre-existing genetic information. But the large changes needed to build new organs or whole body plans need entirely new sources of information. This explains the growing doubts about the power of natural selection and random mutation.

It also explains why many biologists are seeking new theories of evolution. As yet, though, nothing like a consensus is emerging.

March for Conformist Science

Don’t expect Nye or the others “marching for science” to breath a word about any of this. And that’s a shame. A real “March for Science” would celebrate scientific puzzles, disagreements, and competing ideas rather than fear them.

Those who truly want to support science should defend the right of all scientists — including dissenters — to express their views.

Just ask Italian philosopher of science Marcello Pera. In his book The Discourses of Science, he writes that science advances as scientists argue about how to interpret the evidence. They can only do that, though, if they are free to challenge established ideas and advance new ones.

Those who truly want to support science should defend the right of all scientists — including dissenters — to express their views. Those who stigmatize dissent do not protect science from its enemies. Instead, they subvert the process of scientific discovery they claim to revere.

 

Stephen C. Meyer received his Ph.D. in the philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge. A former geophysicist and college professor, he now directs Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture in Seattle. He has authored the New York Times best seller Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (HarperOne, 2013) as well as Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperOne, 2009), which was named a Book of the Year by the Times (of London) Literary Supplement in 2009.

Article source: https://stream.org/bill-nye-perfect-talking-head-march-science/

Bill Nye: The Perfect Talking Head for a March Against Science

Bill Nye may not be a scientist. But he used to play one on TV. Now he is an honorary co-chair and speaker for the “March for Science” in Washington D.C. and elsewhere on April 22.

The choice of Nye as one of the faces of the March is revealing. March organizers have paid lip service to critical thinking and “diverse perspectives” in science. However, Nye is a good example of someone who promotes science as a close-minded ideology, not an open search for truth.

He attacks those who disagree with him on climate change or evolution as science “deniers.” He wouldn’t even rule out criminal prosecution as a tool. Asked last year whether he supported efforts to jail climate skeptics as war criminals, he replied: “Well, we’ll see what happens. Was it appropriate to jail the guys from ENRON?”

Scientists disagree on far more issues than the March organizers admit.

Real science encourages debate. It doesn’t insist that scientists march in lockstep. Or that they speak with one voice. In fact, scientists disagree on far more issues than the March organizers admit.

Models Vs. Evidence

Take global warming. Many marchers will wear their belief in climate change on their sleeves. On their signs, too. They, like Nye and others who claim to speak for science, equate belief in man-made climate disaster with science itself. If you disagree, you’re “anti-science.”

Yet there are strong reasons to doubt the so-called “consensus” on warming. But the popular media rarely cite them.

From 1890 to 1990, records show only a .45 degree C rise in global temperature as measured from near-surface thermometers around the Earth. Yet about 75 percent of the increase occurred before World War II, while most of the increase in human produced greenhouse gases occurred after World War II. So, human industrial activity doesn’t really correlate with the main effect of interest. Meanwhile, after a few warmer than usual years in the early 1990s, global temperatures have flat-lined. They show no net increase over the last two decades.

Many top scientists are skeptics of extreme global warming, including physicists, biologists, earth and atmospheric scientists.

Most warmists’ models have predicted steep rises. But these models don’t match the real global temperatures collected after the fact. So why believe the dire predictions that those same models make about future temperatures before the fact?

Bill Nye, Al Gore, and former President Obama have said we must accept what “the scientists” say. To listen to the skeptics would be to reject “settled science.” But skeptics of extreme warming include many top scientists: physicists, biologists, earth and atmospheric scientists like Richard Lindzen (MIT), Freeman Dyson and William Happer (Princeton), Roy Spencer (University of Alabama, formerly NASA), John Christy (Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama), and Matt Ridley (DPhil, Oxford). How strong can the “consensus” be if such stars of science question the idea?

What About Neo-Darwinism?

But let’s say widespread agreement did exist on the question. Has such an agreement served as an error-free guide to truth in the past? The history of science says no.

Here’s another scientific issue to ponder. Nye claims the evidence for evolution is “Undeniable. That’s how he put it in the title of his recent book. By “evolution” he means textbook neo-Darwinism. So the case for evolution is “undeniable”? In truth, many leading scientists, including evolutionary biologists, reject neo-Darwinism. Many biologists now doubt the creative power of random mutation with natural selection. But that is the core idea of the theory.

This past November I attended a conference of the prestigious Royal Society of London. The meeting was called to address this problem. Speaking first, biologist Gerd Müller listed the “explanatory deficits” of neo-Darwinism. He said those include its failure to explain the “origin of biological complexity” and the origin of major morphological “novelties.” It also doesn’t predict their abrupt appearance in the fossil record.

Nye claims the evidence for evolution is “Undeniable. But many biologists now doubt the core of Darwin’s theory.

Other biologists echo his concerns. They argue that mutation and selection can account for “the survival, but not the arrival of the fittest.” That is, minor, but not major, changes in the history of life.

I say more on this in my book Darwin’s Doubt. For instance, neo-Darwinism fails to explain the origin of the new genetic information needed to build new forms of life.

Our own experience with computer code helps to explain why. Random changes to the digital characters in a section of functioning software code will degrade the information in a program and destroy its function. That will happen long before those changes can generate a new program or operating system. Yet, neo-Darwinists invoke just such random changes to the characters in the genetic text to explain where new genetic information comes from. Mathematicians who know biology say “not a chance.”

What Do You Mean By “Evolution”?

In any case, the textbook examples of natural selection and random mutations do not involve creating new genetic information. Many biology texts tell about the famous finches in the Galápagos Islands whose beaks have waxed and waned in shape and length over time. These books also recall how moths in England got darker and lighter as levels of industrial pollution changed. Darwinists present such cases as knockdown evidence for evolution. But that depends on what you mean by “evolution.”

Small-scale “micro-evolutionary” changes can’t explain large-scale “macro-evolution.”

That term has many meanings. “Evolution” can refer to anything from minor change within the limits of a gene pool to the creation of wholly new genetic information and structures.

Yet, as a host of biologists have argued in recent papers, small-scale “micro-evolutionary” changes can’t explain large-scale “macro-evolution.” Mostly, micro-evolution (such as changes in color or shape) just uses pre-existing genetic information. But the large changes needed to build new organs or whole body plans need entirely new sources of information. This explains the growing doubts about the power of natural selection and random mutation.

It also explains why many biologists are seeking new theories of evolution. As yet, though, nothing like a consensus is emerging.

March for Conformist Science

Don’t expect Nye or the others “marching for science” to breath a word about any of this. And that’s a shame. A real “March for Science” would celebrate scientific puzzles, disagreements, and competing ideas rather than fear them.

Those who truly want to support science should defend the right of all scientists — including dissenters — to express their views.

Just ask Italian philosopher of science Marcello Pera. In his book The Discourses of Science, he writes that science advances as scientists argue about how to interpret the evidence. They can only do that, though, if they are free to challenge established ideas and advance new ones.

Those who truly want to support science should defend the right of all scientists — including dissenters — to express their views. Those who stigmatize dissent do not protect science from its enemies. Instead, they subvert the process of scientific discovery they claim to revere.

 

Stephen C. Meyer received his Ph.D. in the philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge. A former geophysicist and college professor, he now directs Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture in Seattle. He has authored the New York Times best seller Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (HarperOne, 2013) as well as Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperOne, 2009), which was named a Book of the Year by the Times (of London) Literary Supplement in 2009.

Article source: https://stream.org/bill-nye-perfect-talking-head-march-science/

Asian economies escape ‘manipulator’ tag, but expect more pressure on trade


BEIJING Asian countries escaped the currency manipulator label in the latest U.S. Treasury report, but remain wary of possible trade friction as President Donald Trump maintains his administration will seek to address trade imbalances.

Trump has said some U.S. trading partners, particularly China, manipulated their currency, but has since backed off that claim and acknowledged that China had not weakened the yuan to make its exports cheaper.

China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan remained on a list for special monitoring of currency practices, China by virtue of a massive trade surplus with the United States.

“Fixing trade imbalances will be an issue for the U.S. in its dialogues with China and Japan, while the manipulator threat has been put on the backburner,” a Japanese government official told Reuters.

The semi-annual U.S. Treasury currency report released on Friday did not name any major trading partner as a currency manipulator, although it seemed to leave open the option for action in the future.

Trump has softened his rhetoric against China’s trade practices as Beijing has intervened in foreign exchange markets to prop up the value of its yuan, and as he looks to China for help dealing with rising tension on the Korean peninsula.

“I think the United States decided to forego (labeling China a currency manipulator) this time because it wants China’s cooperation on North Korea,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute in Tokyo.

“Depending on how the North Korean situation develops, we don’t know what will happen in half a year (when the next currency report is due to be published).”

NEW LANGUAGE

New language in the Treasury report citing a history of currency intervention in China, South Korea and Taiwan is in line with what experts say could be eventual changes to the criteria aimed at deterring future manipulation.

With Washington pushing a trade agenda aimed at reducing deficits, experts say the most logical option is to lengthen the time period for reviewing currency market interventions from 12 months to several years.

“One thing we noticed was the report touched on the previous history of (currency manipulation). They’re telling us not to do so in the future and we have no intention of doing so,” a senior South Korean finance official said.

“SCRUTINIZING” CHINA

The report showed the high priority the administration puts on addressing trade imbalances and said it would be “scrutinizing China’s trade and currency practices very closely”.

The report came after China data showed its surplus with the United States was nearly unchanged in the first quarter compared to a year earlier at $49.6 billion, and cited China’s market protection as an impediment to a balanced trade relationship.

While Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping last week agreed to 100-day trade talks, U.S. business leaders in China have expressed concern about a lack of progress in gaining further access to the Chinese market despite years of negotiations.

JAPAN

The Treasury report’s language on Japan was similar to past reports, and focused on the need for structural reforms to improve domestic demand, analysts said.

“The basic message is that Japan needs to expand its domestic demand and one can read this as them telling Japan to import more American goods,” said Minami of the Norinchukin Research Institute.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will visit Japan next week for a bilateral economic dialogue, with U.S. officials signaling they would press Japan to remove non-tarrif trade barriers and buy more U.S. products.

“The report won’t have an impact on the upcoming Japan-U.S. economic dialogue next week. But the U.S. administration’s focus on the trade deficit is something to keep an eye on,” said Nobuyasu Atago, chief economist at Okasan Securities in Tokyo.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto, Minami Funakoshi and Kaori Kaneko in Tokyo, and Christine Kim in Seoul; Writing by Elias Glenn; Editing by Stephen Coates)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/VTWtSOkplE8/us-usa-currency-asiapac-idUSKBN17H04O

Most oil producers want extension of output cuts: Iran minister


DUBAI Most oil producers support an extension of output cuts by OPEC and non-OPEC countries, and Iran would also back such a move, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh was quoted as saying.

“(Zanganeh) stressed that most countries want OPEC’s decision to be extended,” the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) reported.

“Iran also supports such a decision and if others comply, so would Iran,” Zanganeh told reporters late on Saturday, according to ISNA.

The market has been oversupplied since mid-2014, prompting members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and some non-OPEC producers to agree to cut output in the first six months of 2017.

OPEC meets on May 25 to consider extending the cuts beyond June. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and most other OPEC members are leaning towards this if agreement is reached with other producers, OPEC sources told Reuters last month.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/Hfn11MvIHqg/us-oil-opec-iran-idUSKBN17H0NF

Brazil’s Odebrecht paid $3.3 billion in bribes over a decade: reports


RIO DE JANEIRO Odebrecht SA [ODBES.UL], the Brazilian engineering company at the center of a historic corruption scandal, paid out a total of about $3.3 billion in bribes in the nine years through 2014, according to testimony cited by local media on Saturday.

Through a department specifically established to pay politicians and other recipients for public works contracts, Odebrecht paid as much as $730 million annually in both 2012 and 2013, the years when bribe payments peaked, according to a spreadsheet that a former executive reportedly gave investigators as part of a plea deal.

The $3.3 billion figure, and related annual tallies as laid out in the spreadsheet, were reported on Saturday by the G1 news site of the Globo media group and the Estado de S. Paulo, a leading newspaper.

Officials at Odebrecht could not immediately be reached for comment.

A trove of plea deal testimony unsealed this week by a Supreme Court justice is shedding light on the extent and manner in which Odebrecht, once Latin America’s most successful engineering firm, routinely paid officials in Brazil and other countries in exchange for winning contracts.

The testimony was unsealed as the justice, Edson Fachin, authorized investigations of eight government ministers, 12 governors and dozens of federal lawmakers implicated in the scandal, uncovered three years ago because of a kickback investigation at the state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras (PETR4.SA).

Odebrecht, whose former chief executive has been jailed since 2015 because of the probe, negotiated a far-reaching plea agreement with Brazilian investigators last year, leading to testimony by about 80 company executives and employees.

Along with an affiliate, Odebrecht also agreed last year to pay at least $3.5 billion to U.S. and Swiss investigators for international charges related to the scandal.

Earlier on Saturday, Estado de S. Paulo also reported that Brazilian authorities were investigating if any of the foreign kickbacks the company has already admitted to violated Brazilian law. The company made those payments in countries including Mexico, Ecuador, Peru and Angola.

(Reporting by Paulo Prada; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/YTLYtTNi9RY/us-brazil-corruption-odebrecht-idUSKBN17H0MW

Uber’s revenue hits $6.5 billion in 2016, still has large loss


Ride-hailing service Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] generated $6.5 billion in revenue last year and its gross bookings doubled to $20 billion, the company said on Friday.

Its adjusted net loss was $2.8 billion, excluding the operation in China it sold last year, Uber said.

As a private company, now worth $68 billion, Uber does not report its financial results publicly. It confirmed the figures in an emailed statement after Bloomberg reported the results.

Uber did not provide first quarter figures, but a spokeswoman said they “seem to be in line with expectations.”

For the final quarter of 2016, gross bookings increased 28 percent from the previous quarter, to $6.9 billion. But Uber’s losses grew to $991 million in the period, as revenues grew 74 percent to $2.9 billion from the third quarter.

In a separate emailed statement, Rachel Holt, Uber’s regional general manager for the United States and Canada, said: “We’re fortunate to have a healthy and growing business, giving us the room to make the changes we know are needed on management and accountability, our culture and organization, and our relationship with drivers.”

Uber has been rocked by a number of setbacks lately, including detailed accusations of sexual harassment from a former female employee and a video showing Chief Executive Travis Kalanick harshly berating an Uber driver.

The company is in the process of hiring a chief operating officer to help Kalanick manage it, repair its tarnished image and improve its culture.

Two of Uber’s high-level executives recently said they intended to leave, and last week the company’s communications head announced her departure.

(Reporting by Sangameswaran S in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Rigby and Dan Grebler)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/_5RqOLQTPkI/us-uber-tech-results-idUSKBN17G1IB

Apple receives permit in California to test self-driving cars: DMV


Apple Inc (AAPL.O) has secured a permit to test autonomous vehicles in California, fuelling speculation that it is working on self-driving car technology in a crowded arena of companies hoping to offer those cars to the masses.

The permit allows it to conduct test drives in three vehicles with six drivers, the state Department of Motor Vehicles said on Friday. The vehicles are all 2015 Lexus RX450h, according to the DMV.

Although it has never openly acknowledged it is looking into building an electric car, Apple has recruited dozens of auto experts in recent years, and the permit pulls the curtain back a bit on any possible plan.

“This does confirm what’s long been rumored: that Apple is at least toying with the idea of getting into the autonomous game in some capacity,” said Chris Theodore, president of consultancy Theodore Associates, and a former vice president at Ford Motor Co (F.N) and Chrysler.

The permit does not mean Apple is definitely building a car. “This is not necessarily automobiles as initially rumored, but software or possibly hardware associated with autonomous technology,” Theodore said.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment directly on the filing, pointing back to a statement the company made in November when it wrote to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on the subject of regulating self-driving vehicles.

“The company is investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation,” Apple’s director of product integrity, Steve Kenner, wrote in that five-page letter.

Apple executives have been coy about their interest in cars. Chief Executive Tim Cook has suggested that Apple wants to move beyond integration of Apple smartphones into vehicle infotainment systems.

Apple joins a growing list of traditional carmakers, technology companies, and small start ups to test drive cars in California – all vying to be the first to have commercially viable vehicles on the roads.

Companies that have been issued permits also include Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google unit, Ford Motor Co (F.N), Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE), Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE), Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O) and General Motors Co (GM.N).

Many companies have said the first cars will launch in 2020 but some experts believe it may take much longer due to regulatory challenges.

Shares of Apple closed down 0.5 percent at $141.05 on Thursday. 

(Reporting by Shalini Nagarajan in Bengaluru and Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/xIN_Qkvawtg/us-apple-car-idUSKBN17G1CJ

U.S. retail sales, inflation data highlight weak first quarter growth


WASHINGTON U.S. retail sales fell for a second straight month in March and consumer prices dropped for the first time in just over a year, underscoring the magnitude of the loss of economic growth momentum in the first quarter.

But with the labor market near full employment, Friday’s weak reports failed to change views that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates again in June. Economists expect a rebound in both retail sales and monthly inflation.

“For the Fed, the underlying momentum is more important in terms of policy decisions, and that looks to be strong, supported by a tightening labor market, rising incomes and high consumer confidence,” said Gregory Daco, head of U.S. macroeconomics at Oxford Economics in New York.

The Commerce Department said retail sales dropped 0.2 percent last month after a 0.3 percent decrease in February, which was the first and biggest decline in nearly a year. Compared to March last year retail sales increased 5.2 percent.

Economists had forecast retail sales slipping 0.1 percent. Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales rebounded 0.5 percent last month after falling 0.2 percent in February.

These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product.

Despite last month’s rebound in core retail sales, consumer spending likely braked sharply in the first quarter after growing at a brisk 3.5 percent annualized rate in the final three months of 2016. The apparent slowdown in consumption is partly blamed on the late disbursement of income tax refunds by the government as it sought to combat fraud.

The Atlanta Fed lowered its first-quarter GDP estimate by one-tenth of a percentage point to a 0.5 percent rate, which would be the weakest performance in three years. The economy grew at a 2.1 percent pace in the fourth quarter.

With job growth averaging 178,000 per month in the first quarter, the anticipated slowdown in GDP likely understates the health of the economy. First-quarter GDP tends to be weaker because of calculation problems that the government has acknowledged and is working to resolve.

Retail sales last month were undercut by a 1.2 percent tumble in receipts at auto dealerships. It was the third straight monthly drop in auto sales. Lower gasoline prices also undermined retail through a 1.0 percent drop in receipts at service stations.

POCKETS OF STRENGTH

A 1.5 percent plunge in sales at building material stores was also a drag. But electronics and appliances store sales recorded their biggest rise since June 2015.

Receipts at clothing stores increased by the most in a year, despite declining mall traffic and increased competition from online retailers, led by Amazon.com.

Retailers like J.C. Penney Co Inc, Abercrombie Fitch and Macy’s Inc are scaling back on brick-and-mortar operations.

U.S. financial markets were closed for the Good Friday holiday.

In a separate report, the Labor Department said its Consumer Price Index dropped 0.3 percent in March, the first decline in 13 months and biggest decrease since January 2015 amid falling prices for gasoline and mobile phone services, which offset rising rents and food costs.

The CPI nudged up 0.1 percent in February. In the 12 months through March, the CPI rose 2.4 percent, slowing from February’s 2.7 percent increase.

The so-called core CPI, which strips out food and energy costs, fell 0.1 percent, the first and biggest drop since January 2010, after rising 0.2 percent in February. The year-on-year increase in the core CPI slowed to 2.0 percent, the smallest advance since November 2015, from 2.2 percent in February.

“We don’t think this is enough to cause the Fed to swerve from their stated desire to continue gradually increasing the funds rate, though it may embolden the doves’ rhetoric,” said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan in New York

The Fed has a 2 percent inflation target and tracks an inflation measure which is at 1.8 percent. The U.S. central bank lifted its overnight interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point in March and has forecast two more hikes this year.

A 6.2 percent drop in gasoline prices was the biggest factor in the monthly decline in the CPI, which was also weighed down by a record 7.0 percent plunge in the cost of wireless telephone services.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/D_5IE36Ccp8/us-usa-economy-idUSKBN17G0ZW

Watch This Coptic Bishop’s Response to the Palm Sunday ISIS Attackers

Last week 47 Coptic Christians were killed in their churches by ISIS while celebrating the start of Holy Week. Last Sunday night in response to the attacks, popular Coptic preacher Father Boules George delivered “a message to those who kill us” before a packed church.

The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria is the Middle East’s largest Christian community. It’s also believed to be the oldest Christian community, established by Jesus’ apostle Mark about A.D. 42.

The 10-minute sermon is on YouTube and was referenced in a tweet from Johnnie Moore, award-winning activist helping persecuted Christians worldwide.

A Message to All Who Will Kill Us

Watch the full video, or read an abridged version of the video’s translation from Arabic below.

Now what will we say to those who kill us? I don’t know. The first thing we will say is, “Thank you very, very, very much!”

And you won’t believe us when we say thank you. You know why we thank you? You won’t get it, but please believe us. Because you gave us to die the same death as Christ. And this is the biggest honor we could have. Christ was crucified — and this is our faith. He died and was slaughtered — and this is our faith. …

We thank you because you shortened for us the journey. When someone is headed home to a particular city, he keeps looking at the time. “When will I get home? Are we there yet?” Can you imagine if in an instant he finds himself on a rocket ship straight to his destination? You shortened the journey! Thank you for shortening the journey. …

You’re helping us, and you don’t even know it. We need to thank you. Trust me. And I’ll tell you why. Because there are people we visited in their homes one, two, three, four times, to encourage them to come to church. Still they won’t come. What you’re doing here — you’re bringing to church the people who never come. Believe me — it is bringing to church the people who never come! … You are filling up our churches!  …

The second part of the message we want to send to you is that we love you. And this, unfortunately, you won’t understand at all. … Why won’t you understand it? Because this too is a teaching of our Christ.

We love you because this is the teaching of our God — that I’m to love you — no matter what you do to me. I love you very much.

I long to talk to you about our Christ. And tell you about how wonderful He is. See what Christ said: If you love those who love you, you have no profit or reward with me. Even thugs and thieves love those who love them. Any gang loves its members. Even the drug dealers all like each other and take care of each other. Right? But I want to tell you that “if you love those who love you, what reward have you … But I say to you, love your enemies.” (Matthew 5:43-48.) …

The Christian doesn’t make enemies because we are commanded by God to love all of His creation. And so, we love you because this is the teaching of our God — that I’m to love you — no matter what you do to me. I love you very much.

And I want to say one last thing to you: we’re praying for you. Because the One who told us to love our enemies also told us to “bless those who curse you … and pray for those who spitefully use you.” (Matthew 5:44.) So the command I have been given from my God, who is full of love, make [sic] it my duty to pray for you. …

[To congregants]

So what do you think? How about we make a commitment today to pray for them? Pray that they know the God of love? Pray that they experience the love of God? Because if they knew that God is love and experienced His love, they could not do these things — never, never, never. …

I don’t know what the final [death] count is. They said 40-something, and, of course, many people in the hospitals will catch up to them. All of these are crowns. They are rejoicing with God. And they will attend the Resurrection up there. And they are praying for us. The rest is on us.

Oh, you lucky, lucky, lucky ones! And we can not wait until it is our turn. To our God be the glory now and forever. Amen.

Article source: https://stream.org/watch/

Nigeria Marks 3 Years Since Schoolgirls’ Mass Abduction


Activists urged Nigeria’s government to do more to free the nearly 200 schoolgirls who remain captive.

Bring Back Our Girls campaigners hold Torchlights during a vigil to mark three years anniversary of the abduction of girls studying at the Chibok government secondary school in Lagos, Nigeria Friday, April. 14, 2017. Nigerians on Friday marked three years since the mass abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls by Boko Haram extremists amid anger that government efforts to negotiate their freedom appear to have stalled.


By

Published on April 14, 2017

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerians on Friday marked three years since the mass abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls by Boko Haram extremists amid anger that government efforts to negotiate their freedom appear to have stalled.

Activists were rallying in the capital, Abuja, and commercial hub Lagos to urge President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to do more to free the nearly 200 schoolgirls who remain captive.

“It is still a nightmare to me. It is still fresh as if it happened last night,” said Rebecca Samuel, whose daughter Sarah remains missing. “The government is trying, but I believe they can do more than what they are doing.” She wept and pleaded for a solution.

After a few of the girls escaped on their own, Nigeria in October announced the release of 21 of the Chibok schoolgirls after negotiations with the extremist group. It said another group of 83 girls would be released “very soon.”

No one has been freed since then. The government this week said negotiations have “gone quite far” but face challenges. It refused to give details, citing security reasons. Buhari on Friday said Nigeria is “willing to bend over backwards” to secure the schoolgirls’ release.

“It is deeply shocking that three years after this deplorable and devastating act of violence, the majority of the girls remain missing,” a half-dozen independent experts for the United Nations, who visited Nigeria last year, said in a statement this week.

The failure of Nigeria’s former government to free the girls sparked a global Bring Back Our Girls movement and was a factor Buhari’s 2015 election win over former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The schoolgirls from Chibok village are among thousands of people abducted by the Nigeria-based Boko Haram as it continues to threaten parts of the northeast and has spread into neighboring countries.

“I thank the Almighty for sparing the lives of some, and mine is among them,” said Esther Yakubu, who wept last year when she watched a Boko Haram video with the first proof of life of her daughter, Dorcas, since her capture. Her daughter has not yet been freed.

When marking the anniversary last year none of the schoolgirls had been freed, “but today we have 24 of them. That’s progress,” Yakubu said.

The Chibok abduction is not even the largest. Nigerian officials refuse to acknowledge the abduction of more than 500 children from the northeastern town of Damasak in November 2014, Human Rights Watch said last month. Nigerian officials have not responded to requests by The Associated Press for information.

Buhari late last year announced that Boko Haram had been “crushed,” but it continues to carry out deadly suicide bombings, often strapping them to young women. Children have been used to carry out 27 attacks in the first three months of this year, already nearing last year’s total of 30, the U.N. children’s agency said this week.

“Today, the group has been degraded and is no longer in a position to mount any serious, coordinated attack, other than sporadic suicide attacks on soft targets,” the president said Friday. “Even at that, their reach is very much confined to a small segment of the northeast.”

But on Wednesday, Nigerian security officials said they had thwarted plans by Islamic State group-linked Boko Haram members to attack the embassies of the United States and Britain, along with “other Western interests” in the capital. One faction of Boko Haram is allied with the Islamic State group.

Nigeria’s military in the past year has rescued thousands of Boko Haram captives while liberating towns and villages from the group’s control, but many have been detained as possible Boko Haram suspects.

Boko Haram’s seven-year Islamic uprising has killed more than 20,000 people and driven 2.6 million from their homes, with millions facing starvation because of the disruption in markets and agriculture.

 

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.






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Article source: https://stream.org/nigeria-marks-3-years-since-schoolgirls-mass-abduction/

First-time Home Buyer Savings Account Signed into Law in Mississippi

Mississippi is helping lead the way to home ownership after Gov. Phil Bryant today signed HB 1601 into law. 

The law establishes a First-Time Home Buyer Savings Account, allowing Mississippians to create monetary savings accounts for down payments or other home purchase related expenses. 

Mississippi REALTORS® President David Griffith said home ownership is part of the American dream. 

“With this law, more Mississippians will be able to invest in themselves and their communities,” he said. “One of our priorities as REALTORS® is to provide every Mississippian the opportunity to own a home. Through the leadership of Gov. Bryant, Speaker Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Mississippi has created a smoother path to homeownership.” 

The law enables individual Mississippians to deduct up to $2,500 from state adjusted gross income annually, and couples filing jointly are able to deduct up to $5,000 annually from their state adjusted gross income. Interest earned on the account is also exempt from state gross income, and there is no cap on the aggregate amount that can be saved. 

Eligible single-family homes includes newly-constructed homes, existing homes, manufactured homes, modular homes, mobile homes, condominium units or cooperatives.

Individual account holders are responsible for maintaining the funds in a separate account and reporting to the Department of Revenue. Unqualified use of the funds is penalized 10 percent and all back taxes associated with the account. 

HB 1601 was introduced by Rep. Jeff Smith. It unanimously passed the House and passed the Senate 51-1. 

“The Mississippi REALTORS® would like to thank Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Smith, Finance Committee Chairman Joey Fillingane, Rep. Jason White and Sen. Barbara Blackmon for helping to make the dream of home ownership a reality for all Mississippians,” said Clarke Wise, Mississippi REALTORS® Governmental Affairs Director. 

As a result of the law, projections indicate approximately 379 new homes will be constructed to meet demand. It is also estimated that first-time homebuyer households will spend an additional $1,830 annually in their communities. 

The law goes into effect immediately. Mississippians can begin taking the tax deduction in tax year 2018. 

Mississippi is now one of only four states to have a First-Time Home Buyer Savings Account program. Montana, Virginia, and Colorado passed similar laws in recent years. “We hope that other states will follow Mississippi’s example and provide similar relief for first-time home buyers,” Griffith said. 

Mississippi is the fourth state to sign First Time Home Buyer Savings Accounts into law, joining Montana, Virginia and Colorado.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/RealtororgGovernmentAffairsHeadlines/~3/Dl4ti2zL_Vc/first-time-home-buyer-savings-account-signed-into-law-in-mississippi

Uber may face $1 million fine over California drunken-driving complaints


LOS ANGELES Uber’s popular ride-sharing network has repeatedly failed to promptly suspend and investigate its California drivers when passengers report them driving drunk, state regulators charged in an enforcement action, recommending $1.13 million in fines.

The consumer protection arm of the California Public Utility Commission found Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] has violated “zero-tolerance” rules governing drunken-driving complaints on 151 occasions over the course of a year, out of 154 complaints reviewed.

In only 21 of those cases did the company conduct any follow-up driver investigation, the commission inquiry found.

The recommended fine for alleged violations is believed to mark the first such citation issued against the San Francisco-based ride-hailing network or its competitors since the rules were adopted in 2013.

The enforcement action follows a recent consumer backlash against the company and its senior management over a series of revelations about its corporate culture and business tactics, including complaints of sexual harassment.

The drunken-driving findings, which stem from a review of passenger complaints lodged between August 2014 and August 2015, were contained in a nine-page investigative order issued by the commission’s Consumer Protection and Enforcement Division on Tuesday.

Those charges and the proposed penalty are now subject to examination by an administrative law judge who will conduct further proceedings before recommending to the five-member commission itself what action, if any, should be taken against the company.

Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend, noting that the report relates to complaints dating back two or three years, said, “We’ve significantly improved our processes since then.”

“We have zero tolerance for any impaired driving,” she said, citing Uber’s “community guidelines,” which state that any driver found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on the job will be “permanently deactivated” from the network.

“Uber may also deactivate the account of any driver who receives several unconfirmed complaints of drug or alcohol use,” it says.

According to the commission’s own findings, the company received 2,047 zero-tolerance complaints statewide against its UberX and UberPool drivers during the year in question, and the company dismissed drivers in 574 of those cases.

The company, which operates in 74 countries, says it currently has 147,000 drivers on the Uber platform in California, accounting for nearly one-fourth of its U.S. total.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/is7CsU7sWcc/us-uber-drunken-idUSKBN17G06D

Netflix scorecard to test mettle of tech rally


SAN FRANCISCO The longevity of the technology stocks rally is on the line next week as Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) kicks off the earnings season for a sector that has mushroomed to account for more than a fifth of the U.S. stock market’s value.

Surges in Apple (AAPL.O), Facebook (FB.O) and other Silicon Valley heavyweights have pushed the SP 500 technology index 10 percent higher this year, more than double the broader SP 500 index’s 4 percent gain. The tech sector’s aggregate value now tops $4.4 trillion, 30 percent higher than No. 2 financials, and even rivals the size of the Federal Reserve’s massive balance sheet.

The next test for these companies is whether their profit growth is sufficient to justify their outsized share price gains.

Enter Netflix, which reports after the bell on Monday. The video streaming pioneer is expected by analysts to quintuple its earnings per share. But with its stock surging 43 percent in the past six months and now trading at 109 times expected earnings, Netflix’s valuation is based more on sentiment than on fundamentals, many investors believe.

“The market’s reaction to whatever the news is from Netflix will be telling,” said Stephen Massocca, Senior Vice President at Wedbush Securities in San Francisco. “If the slightest little negative leads to a 15-point decline, that tells you things are elevated and the market is only going to reward the most excellent of news.”

Momentum in many tech stocks has been driven by ambitious expectations for earnings. Tech profits are seen climbing 14.7 percent for the first quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. That would account for nearly a third of the 10.4 percent earnings growth predicted across the SP 500.

“It’s great for everybody to feel good, but if nobody is buying stuff and the companies are reporting disappointing sales and that affects their margins, then you’ll be starting to say – wait a second,” said Thomas Martin, a portfolio manager at GLOBALT Investments.

Along with the SP 500, tech shares have flatlined for weeks as Wall Street reassesses whether President Donald Trump will be able to push corporate tax cuts through Congress.

Still, so far in April investors have poured $122 million into the U.S.-listed Technology Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLK.P), bringing total flows into the fund this year to $1.4 billion, according to ETF.com, which tracks fund flows.

Inside the tech rally, chip makers have been notable outperformers, with the Philadelphia Semiconductor index up 40 percent in the past year. Semiconductor companies are expected to boost EPS by 46 percent in the first quarter, helped by the growing use of chips in cars and mobile gadgets. One of the biggest – Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) – reports on Wednesday.

While shares of the mobile chipmaker have been bogged down by a legal battle with Apple, its sales are seen rising by 6 percent and EPS by 14 percent.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/r4-ZrVdsDN4/us-usa-stocks-weekahead-idUSKBN17F2ML

Asian shares, won move south on worries over North Korea


TOKYO Japanese and South Korean shares fell while the won currency came under pressure on Friday, as rising tensions in the Korean peninsula dented confidence in the world’s economy.

The dollar was on the back foot against many other currencies after comments from President Donald Trump earlier this week that the U.S. currency was “getting too strong” and that he would like to see interest rates stay low.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 dropped 0.5 percent to a four-month low while South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.6 percent .KS11. Shanghai shares .SSEC were down 0.9 percent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was down 0.4 percent, though many markets in the region, including Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong, were closed for Good Friday.

European markets are also shut for the holiday.

“There’s been nothing to cheer about over the last 24 hours. Geopolitical tensions seem to be rising all over the place,” said Masahiro Ayukai, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

Investors were spooked by worries North Korea may conduct a nuclear test or conduct other actions that could provoke neighbouring countries as early as this weekend.

News that the United States on Thursday dropped “the mother of all bombs”, the largest non-nuclear device it has ever unleashed in combat, in Afghanistan soured investor moods further.

MSCI’s ACWI .MIWD00000PUS, which covers 46 world share markets, dropped to its lowest level since early March.

In currency market, the Korean won KRW=KFTC fell 1.0 percent from its previous local close to 1,140.6 to the dollar.

But the dollar lacked momentum against most other currencies after Trump’s verbal intervention on Wednesday.

The Japanese yen JPY= hit a five-month high of 108.73 to the dollar on Thursday and stayed close to that level, last trading at 108.93 yen per dollar.

The euro EUR= was little moved at $1.0618, on course to post its first weekly gain in three weeks, though uncertainty over the French presidential election continued to weigh on the currency.

Trump said also on Wednesday that his administration will not label China a currency manipulator in a report due shortly.

Traders are nonetheless looking to the report as his administration has touted a new term “currency misalignment” as a cause of trade imbalances it seeks to address.

“While China will not be named as a manipulator, if countries like Japan, Germany and China remain on its monitoring list and the report steps up criticism, for instance on their monetary policies, then the dollar could fall further,” said Shuji Shirota, head of macroeconomic strategy at HSBC in Tokyo.

The Turkish lira TRYTOM=D3 was little changed ahead of Sunday’s referendum on constitutional change, which would give the president more power.

The benchmark U.S. Treasury yield skidded to its lowest levels since November on Thursday, with the 10-year yield hitting 2.218 percent US10YT=RR, down more than a half percentage point from a high of 2.629 percent a month ago.

In addition to geopolitical risks, the bond yields have been driven lower by growing disenchantment among investors that much of Trump’s stimulus and deregulation plans will take many months to implement.

The fall in yields came around even as Federal Reserve officials indicated the Fed could start shrinking its holding of Treasuries and mortgage bonds later this year.

The markets perception on the Fed’s policy has not changed drastically over the past month, with money market futures pricing in about a 60 percent chance of a rate hike in June.

U.S. stock and bond futures are not traded on Good Friday.

(Editing by Sam Holmes and Richard Borsuk)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/bsZ-RsMexSg/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17G055

Tesla’s Musk tells disgruntled shareholders: Buy Ford


SAN FRANCISCO/DETROIT A group of Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) investors has urged the luxury electric car maker to add two new independent directors to its board, without ties to Chief Executive Elon Musk, to “provide a critical check on possible dysfunctional group dynamics.”

A defiant Musk took to Twitter on Wednesday afternoon to suggest the investors buy stock in Ford Motor Co (F.N) instead. The Ford family controls the Detroit automaker through two classes of stock.

In a letter dated Monday, five investment groups including the California State Teachers Retirement System, Hermes Equity Ownership Services and CtW Investment Group urged Tesla to have all of its directors re-elected annually.

“We expect that as companies make the transition to publicly-traded status, the governance structures and practices in place at the time of the IPO will evolve to align with the company’s changing strategy,” the letter reads. “However, Tesla’s seven-member board is largely unchanged from its pre-IPO days.”

Led by the enigmatic Musk, Tesla recently became the most valuable U.S. car company, passing General Motors Co (GM.N) for the top spot.

Tesla’s market value has since slipped to just shy of GM’s. As of Wednesday, the market cap of the Silicon Valley automaker was $50.3 billion, while GM’s was $50.8 billion.

“This investor group should buy Ford stock,” Musk posted on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon. “Their governance is amazing…”

Musk then said on Twitter that he would follow up soon on an earlier promise to appoint more independent directors, “but this (investor) group has nothing to do with it.”

Over the past month, Tesla stock has surged 35 percent as investors bet that Musk will revolutionize the automobile and energy industries. The shares closed down 3.8 percent at $296.84 in Wednesday’s trading on Nasdaq, however.

Among those on Tesla’s board is Kimbal Musk, the CEO’s brother, and Brad Buss, who served as chief financial officer at SolarCity Corp, which the electric car maker acquired last year.

The $2 billion stock deal for the money-losing installer of residential solar power systems, prompted a 13 percent fall in Tesla’s share price after Musk outlined it last June.

The Palo Alto, California-based company is rushing to launch its mass-market Model 3 sedan in the second half of this year and quickly ramp up its factory to hit a production target of 500,000 cars per year in 2018.

Last year Tesla sold 76,230 vehicles, missing its target of at least 80,000 cars sold. By comparison, GM sold 10 million cars and Ford sold 6.7 million.

(Additional reporting by David Shepardson in New York, Vishal Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by G Crosse and Tom Brown)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/soQzmBTO-iA/us-tesla-board-idUSKBN17E23Z

Self-driving ‘arms race’ complicates supplier alliances


FRANKFURT/DETROIT The race to develop and exploit autonomous vehicle technology is reshaping the hierarchy of the automotive industry, replacing traditional top-down manufacturing relationships with complex webs of alliances and acquisitions.

Dealmaking in the automotive and technology industry is driven by the rapid transition of self-driving vehicles from research projects to major elements of near-term product plans at several of the world’s biggest automakers.

That shift is behind deals like one announced last week between Robert Bosch and Daimler AG’s (DAIGn.DE) Mercedes. Bosch and Mercedes said they will collaborate on development of self-driving vehicles, with Bosch in a broad role as a systems integrator — sort of a copilot with the automaker in speeding up deployment of self-driving vehicles. Bosch also expects to sell the jointly developed systems to other companies.

Separately, Silicon Valley chipmaker Intel Corp (INTC.O) acquired automotive vision technology leader Mobileye NV (MBLY.N), and has a deal to help German luxury car maker BMW AG (BMWG.DE) develop autonomous vehicles around Intel and Mobileye systems.

For a graphic on self-driving vehicles, click tmsnrt.rs/2nYv7gc

The first fully self-driving cars are expected to go into production by 2020-2021. Analysts have said self-driving cars will not be in wide use before 2030.

“Everybody is trying to understand what skill sets are required to be first in the game (and) if they don’t have it, they’re going to partner, invest or purchase,” said Xavier Mosquet, a senior partner at Boston Consulting Group and an authority on autonomous vehicles.

Major auto companies are rich in engineers schooled in the physics of combustion and collisions, materials science and mechanical systems. The development of self-driving cars demands experts in artificial intelligence, robotics, computer programing and digital networks who work mainly outside the auto industry.

Automakers are following different paths to acquire engineering talent. Some are relying on partnerships like the Bosch-Mercedes pact. Others such as General Motors Co (GM.N) are going it alone, buying self-driving vehicle startups and building technology in-house.

Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Waymo and auto supplier Delphi Automotive Plc (DLPH.N) are offering turn-key systems to companies such as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCHA.MI) (FCAU.N) that are choosing not to invest in their own autonomous driving systems.

COPILOT APPROACH

Some of the car companies and large suppliers could wind up as competitors. BMW has said it wants to sell its self-driving systems to other manufacturers, as does Delphi, which is developing a system of its own. Intel and Mobileye are partners in both ventures.

The Dutch provider of high-definition maps, HERE, has taken a position at the center for several supplier webs. HERE is jointly owned by Daimler, BMW, and Volkswagen AG’s (VOWG_p.DE) Audi. Intel owns a minority stake in HERE, and rival chipmaker Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) has a partnership deal.

Nvidia itself wants to be a provider of powerful computer chips and “deep learning” software for self-driving cars to a broad array of customers, including rivals such as Mercedes and Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), competing mega-suppliers such as Bosch and ZF Friedrichshafen AG and Chinese tech companies Baidu Inc (BIDU.O) and Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK)

The vehicle manufacturers are divided on how much self-driving development and integration to farm out to the parts makers, or whether to keep most of that in-house – as they have done for decades with much of their core engine technology.

“At the moment, the carmaker is at an advantage since it knows how the components all fit together,” said Mercedes executive Christoph von Hugo.

BCG’s Mosquet believes the industry may not settle on a single template for collaboration, given the complexity of autonomous vehicles and their underlying technology.

“These different approaches will have to pass the test of time,” he said. “In two or three years, we will see who has been successful with which approach.”

(Reporting by Edward Taylor in Frankfurt and Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/ykEpi9Vjh3I/us-autos-selfdriving-suppliers-idUSKBN17F0EZ

Trump comments, North Korea fears sink dollar, bond yields


SINGAPORE The U.S. dollar and Treasury yields tumbled on Thursday on U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments favoring lower interest rates and tensions over North Korea, while Asian stocks put in a mixed performance amid a raft of regional economic data.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six trade-weighted peers, fell 0.6 percent to 100.07. U.S. Treasury yields slid to 2.232 percent, just slightly above a five-month low of 2.221 hit earlier in the session.

European stocks look set for a muted start, with financial spreadbetters expecting Britain’s FTSE 100 and Germany’s DAX to ease 0.1 percent, and France’s CAC 40 was seen steady.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up about 0.6 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei closed down 0.7 percent.

Australian stocks retreated 0.75 percent on declines in the materials and energy sectors, shrinking gains for the week to 0.45 percent, despite a surge in employment in March, and an jobless rate that remained at 5.9 percent.

Chinese shares rose 0.1 percent, while Hong Kong stocks added 0.2 percent.

Most markets in the region will be closed on Friday for the Good Friday public holiday.

Escalating fears of a new weapons test by North Korea kept investors on edge, as a U.S. carrier group sails toward the area. Foreign journalists visiting the isolated state were told to prepare for a “big and important event” on Thursday.

The North Korea-related tensions have sent the cost to protect South Korean government debt against default soaring to 9 1/2-month highs.

But Korean stocks were up 0.8 percent and the Korean won tacked on 0.6 percent after the central bank kept its policy rate unchanged at 1.25 percent for a 10th straight month on Thursday as expected, and upgraded its growth outlook.

The yuan rose 0.2 percent as the dollar wilted after Trump said the greenback is getting too strong and that would eventually hurt the U.S. economy.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump alsosaid he would like to see U.S. interest rates stay low.

The president didn’t rule out re-nominating Fed Chair Janet Yellen once her four-year term is up next year.

“Trump’s comments came at a time when some had begun to think that perhaps the president was not as supportive of a weak dollar as initially perceived,” said Shin Kadota, senior strategist at Barclays in Tokyo.

China’s trade surplus with the U.S., the size of which has also been a point of contention for Trump, widened in March from February, customs data showed on Thursday.

China’s overall trade surplus also rose in March after logging its first deficit in three years in February.

The data came amid a warming of relations between China and U.S., with Trump backing away from labeling China a currency manipulator in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Trump said labeling China a currency manipulator now would hurt talks with Beijing on dealing with North Korea’s threats.

“The change in policy should certainly ease concerns over the protectionist stance of the Trump administration that should benefit emerging markets in general,” James Woods, global investment analyst at Rivkin in Sydney, wrote in a note.

“However it also continues to raise doubts about the administration’s ability to deliver on campaign promises, which include the all-important pledge for tax reform.”

The dollar pared earlier losses to rise slightly to 109.07 yen, after touching a five-month low earlier in the session. It is down 1.8 percent so far this week.

In commodities, oil prices fell on concerns about rising U.S. output.

U.S. crude slipped 0.1 percent to $53.05 a barrel, extending Wednesday’s 0.5 percent loss that saw it break a six-session winning streak.

Global benchmark Brent was slightly lower at $55.84, failing to make up any of Wednesday’s 0.7 percent loss.

Gold pared earlier gains but hovered near a five-month high hit earlier in the session. The precious metal was down about 0.1 percent at $1,283.71 an ounce.

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Sam Holmes and Kim Coghill)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/rMRieUpuRq0/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17F03U

Trump Expected to Sign Legislation Erasing Obama-era Rule on Family Planning Funds



By

Published on April 12, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is expected to sign legislation Thursday erasing an Obama-era rule that barred states from withholding federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

The rule was finalized shortly before Obama left office in January.

The legislation squeezed narrowly through the Senate last month after Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote.

It was passed using an obscure measure called the Congressional Review Act, which lets lawmakers undo regulations enacted in the last months of the Obama administration with just a majority vote.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.






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Article source: https://stream.org/trump-expected-to-sign-legislation-erasing-obama-era-rule-on-family-planning-funds/

Military Photo of the Day: Manning a .50 Caliber Machine Gun



By Tom Sileo

Published on April 13, 2017

A U.S. Coast Guard maritime enforcement specialist aboard the Cutter Seneca trains on a .50 caliber machine gun during a recent exercise in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

Thank you to the brave men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard for protecting our country!






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Article source: https://stream.org/military-photo-of-the-day-april-13-2017/

Affordability, Tight Supply Cause Vacation Home Sales to Plummet in 2016; Investment Sales Climb 4.5%

WASHINGTON (April 11, 2017) — Last year’s strongest pace of home sales in a decade included a sizeable drop in activity from vacation buyers and a jump from individual investors, according to an annual second-home survey released today by the National Association of Realtors®. The survey additionally found that vacation and investment buyers in 2016 were more likely to take out a mortgage and use their property as a short-term rental.

NAR’s 2017 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey 1, covering existing- and new-home transactions in 2016, revealed that vacation home purchases last year descended to an estimated 721,000, down 21.6 percent from 2015 (920,000) and the lowest since 2013 (717,000).

Investment-home sales in 2016 rose 4.5 percent to 1.14 million from 1.09 million in 2015. Owner-occupied purchases jumped 12.5 percent to 4.21 million last year from 3.74 million in 2015 – the highest level since 2006 (4.82 million).

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says vacation sales in 2016 tumbled for the second consecutive year and have fallen 36 percent from their recent peak high in 2014 (1.13 million). “In several markets in the South and West – the two most popular destinations for vacation buyers – home prices have soared in recent years because substantial buyer demand from strong job growth continues to outstrip the supply of homes for sale,” he said. “With fewer bargain-priced properties to choose from and a growing number of traditional buyers, finding a home for vacation purposes became more difficult and less affordable last year.”

Added Yun, “The volatility seen in the financial markets in late 2015 through the early part of last year also put a dent in sales as some affluent households with money in stocks likely refrained from buying or delayed plans until after the election.”

Tight inventory conditions pushed the median sales price of both vacation and investment homes last year to levels not seen in roughly a decade. The median vacation home price was $200,000, up 4.2 percent from 2015 ($192,000) and the highest since 2006 (also $200,000). The median investment-home sales price was $155,000, up 8.0 percent from 2015 ($143,500) and the highest since 2005 ($183,500).

With home prices steadily rising, an increasing share of second-home buyers financed their purchase last year. The share of vacation buyers who paid fully in cash diminished to 28 percent (38 percent in 2015), while cash purchases by investors decreased to 35 percent from 39 percent in 2015 and 41 percent in 2014.

“Sales to individual investors reached their highest level since 2012 (1.20 million) as investors took advantage of record low mortgage rates and recognized the sizeable demand for renting in their market as renters struggle to become homeowners,” said Yun. “The ability to generate rental income or remodel a home to put back on a market with tight inventory is giving investors increased confidence in their ability to see strong returns in their home purchase.”

Vacation sales accounted for 12 percent of all transactions in 2016, which was the lowest share since 2012 (11 percent) and down from 16 percent in 2015. The portion of investment sales remained unchanged for the third consecutive year at 19 percent, and owner-occupied purchases increased to 70 percent (65 percent in 2015).

Greater interest in short-term rentals; South most popular destination

Given the rising popularity of short-term rentals in locales throughout the country, it’s no surprise there were slightly more investment and vacation buyers renting their property for less than 30 days. Forty-four percent of investors (42 percent in 2015) and 29 percent of vacation buyers (24 percent in 2015) did or tried to rent their property last year and plan to do so in 2017. Twenty-one percent of investment buyers and 15 percent of vacation buyers did not rent their home for short-term purposes last year but plan to try it in 2017.

Vacation buyers’ typically earned $89,900 ($103,700 in 2015), while investment buyers had a household income of $82,000 ($95,800 in 2015). Both were most likely to purchase a single-family home in the South, with vacation buyers preferring a beach location and investors choosing a suburban area.

The top two reasons for buying a vacation home were to use for vacations or as a family retreat (42 percent) and for future retirement (18 percent), while investors mostly bought to generate income through renting (42 percent) and for potential price appreciation (16 percent).

NAR’s 2017 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey, conducted in March 2017, surveyed a sample of households that had purchased any type of residential real estate during 2016. The survey sample was drawn from an online panel of U.S. adults monitored and maintained by an established survey research firm. A total of 2,099 qualified adults responded to the survey.

The 2017 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey can be ordered by calling 800-874-6500, or online at www.nar.realtor/prodser.nsf/Research. The report is free to NAR members and accredited media and costs $149.95 for non-members.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.    

# # #

1  Vacation homes are recreational property purchased primarily for the buyer’s (or their family’s) personal use, while investment homes are residential property purchased primarily to rent to others, or to hold for other financial or investment purposes. Sales data excludes institutional investment activity.

Home sales were calculated based on a proportion of buyers who bought each respective home type—vacation, investment, and primary residence. The number of purchases for each housing type were calculated using the total number of existing home sales and new homes in 2016. To calculate the difference in the number of purchases in 2015 to 2016, the percent change of each housing type purchased was calculated.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/narnewsreleases/~3/t8TOuWT0sx0/affordability-tight-supply-cause-vacation-home-sales-to-plummet-in-2016-investment-sales-climb-45

Exclusive: Inside edge


Billionaire investor Carl Icahn’s oil refining company, CVR Energy, made a massive bet in 2016 that prices for U.S. government biofuels credits would fall – just before Icahn started advising President Donald Trump on regulations driving that market.

The size and specifics of the gamble – involving $186 million worth of biofuels credits the company said it needed at the end of 2016 to satisfy regulatory requirements – have not been previously reported by the media.

The credit system is designed to encourage the mixing of renewable fuels, such as ethanol, into gasoline or diesel. The government awards the biofuels credits to firms that produce such blends – and requires firms that don’t, such as CVR, to buy the credits from their competitors.

Icahn’s firm positioned itself to slash those regulatory costs by tens of millions of dollars if biofuels credit prices declined, according to a Reuters review of CVR filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and interviews with two brokers involved in the firm’s trading of biofuels credits.

Last year, in a counterintuitive trading strategy, Icahn’s refining firm postponed buying biofuels credits and instead sold millions of them – a bet that it could buy the credits it would need later at lower prices, according to the two brokers and CVR’s year-end SEC filing.

That strategy looked prescient, starting in December, as prices for biofuels credits fell in response to a series of political events tied to the election of Trump. These included his appointment of Icahn – a vocal critic of biofuels credit mandates – as an unpaid “special advisor to the President” on regulatory issues.

In February, biofuels credit prices fell again after the famed activist investor proposed policy changes to the White House that would free certain refiners – including CVR – from their obligation to buy the credits.

Icahn, who owns an 82-percent stake in CVR Energy, did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails seeking comment. He has said previously that his advocacy on biofuels regulation is not self-serving because it would benefit a broad swath of the U.S. refining industry, including some of CVR’s competitors.

Spokespeople for CVR and the Trump administration declined to comment. White House spokeswoman Kelly Love has said previously that Icahn was acting as a private individual in pushing biofuels policy changes and that his “special advisor” appointment was not a formal job in the administration.

CVR has not publicly disclosed the number of credits it sold to other firms or the prices paid, and Reuters was unable to determine the specific amounts.

At year end, after the credit sales, CVR estimated it needed credits worth $186 million to meet its regulatory obligations, according an SEC filing reviewed by Reuters.

The credits may end up costing CVR much less, however, because market prices for renewable fuel credits have since dived.

Last year, when CVR was unloading credits, they sold for an average of 77 cents – and peaked at more than $1, according to prices compiled by Oil Price Information Service.

But prices dropped to about 53 cents by March 31. Biofuels credits traded at 55 cents on Tuesday.

(For a graphic detailing how CVR played the volatile biofuels credit market, see: tmsnrt.rs/2p5LNT9).

CVR isn’t assured of big savings. The amount of money the firm is ultimately forced to spend on biofuels credits depends on their price when it decides to purchase them.

But CVR’s credit sell-off last year gave the firm two potentially lucrative options: It could have purchased enough new credits – after prices plummeted early this year – to meet government mandates before March 31; or it could have delayed the required purchases for one more year, as allowed by law, in the hopes that credit prices would fall even further.

CVR declined to comment on which of those options the company chose.

CONFLICTING INTERESTS

Icahn’s policy recommendations to Trump, if enacted, would likely further undermine the value of the credits by reducing demand from refiners such as CVR, which do not have the facilities needed to blend ethanol into gasoline, credit brokers and industry experts said.

Some Democratic lawmakers and biofuels advocates have argued that Icahn’s policy recommendations to the Republican administration create a conflict of interest with his investments.

Icahn should not be advising Trump on policy changes that move markets in which Icahn is “speculating deeply,” said Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, a trade group that represents producers of renewable fuels and opposes Icahn’s policy recommendations.

“What he’s saying would allow him to make more money,” Coleman said. “He’s in a position to perpetually put uncertainty out in the marketplace.”

Richard Painter – a law professor at the University of Minnesota and the chief White House ethics lawyer for former President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007 – believes that Icahn’s unique access to the White House and influence on policy creates a conflict even though, as an informal advisor, he isn’t getting a government paycheck.

“We don’t give out knighthoods in the United States. If you have a title, that means you have a job,” Painter said.

Some experts, however, argue that Icahn avoided a conflict of interest by not taking a paid government position.

“He’s free to give his advice. People do that all the time. The rulemaker is free to take their advice or not,” said Charles Elson, a finance professor at the University of Delaware. “That’s as old as Washington.”

ICAHN TARGETS “ABSURD” MANDATE

The credits were created under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, initially enacted in 2005 under the administration of George W. Bush.

The law aimed to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on foreign oil, while giving a boost to rural economies that grow corn for ethanol production.

The credits create a financial penalty for refiners – such as Icahn’s CVR – that don’t have the blending facilities needed to create an ethanol-gasoline mix.

Icahn has called the requirement “absurd” and “insane” because it punishes some refiners for failing to do something that they have no ability to do.

Icahn’s proposal to the White House would shift the burden of blending ethanol and other biofuels – or buying credits – to a variety of firms with blending facilities, such as integrated oil firms, traders, fuel distributors and retailers.

The full details of Icahn’s proposal have not been made public. White House sources have previously told Reuters that the administration is considering the policy change but is concerned about a potential backlash from the ethanol industry.

MARKET-MOVING POLITICS

Icahn’s policy proposal is one of several political events that drove down prices in the biofuels credit markets.

Prices tanked on December 7 after Trump appointed Scott Pruitt – a critic of biofuels regulation – to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, which implements those rules.

Credit values declined even faster after December 22, with the naming of Icahn as an advisor on regulation.

On February 27, news broke that Trump – after being advised by Icahn – would be preparing an executive order on biofuels regulation.

The next trading day, biofuels credit prices dropped to an intraday low of 30 cents.

(Editing by Richard Valdmanis, Simon Webb and Brian Thevenot)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/zZpzixevTbc/us-usa-biofuels-icahn-exclusive-idUSKBN17E0D6

Trump’s message to bankers: Wall Street reform rules may be eliminated


WASHINGTON President Donald Trump told a group of chief executives on Tuesday that his administration was revamping the Wall Street reform law known as Dodd-Frank and might eliminate the rules and replace them with “something else.”

At the beginning of his administration, Trump ordered reviews of the major banking rules put in place after the 2008 financial crisis, and last week he said officials were planning a “major haircut” for them.

“For the bankers in the room, they’ll be very happy because we’re really doing a major streamlining and, perhaps, elimination, and replacing it with something else,” Trump said on Tuesday.

“That will be the minimum. But we’re doing a major elimination of the horrendous Dodd-Frank regulations, keeping some obviously, but getting rid of many,” he said.

The White House is not unilaterally able to upend Dodd-Frank’s rules, almost all of which are implemented by independent regulatory agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve.

A sweeping change to the law would require congressional action, though in some cases regulators may also have wiggle room to make changes through a formal rule-making process.

In February, Trump issued an executive order requiring Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to consult with U.S. regulators and submit a report outlining a proposal for possible regulatory and legislative changes that would help fuel economic growth and promote American business interests.

That report, due to be released in June, will likely serve as a blueprint for possible changes down the road.

Congressional action on a Wall Street bill is not expected in the near term, as Congress focuses primarily on healthcare and tax reform.

On Tuesday, House of Representatives Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling announced that he was planning to introduce a new draft by month’s end of sweeping legislation known as the “Financial CHOICE Act” that would give Dodd-Frank a major overhaul.

The new draft of the bill would largely defang the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s supervisory powers and make the director removable at will.

It would also revamp bank stress-testing rules and loosen securities regulations to help companies raise cash.

The bill is likely to face an uphill battle in the Senate, where Democrats are expected to be resistant and a 60-vote threshold is needed to pass legislation.

Participants in Tuesday’s meeting included Rich Lesser, chief executive of Boston Consulting Group; Doug McMillon, chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N); Indra Nooyi, chief executive of PepsiCo (PEP.N); Jim McNerney, former chief executive of Boeing Co (BA.N); Ginni Rometty, chief executive of IBM (IBM.N); and Jack Welch, former chairman of General Electric Co (GE.N).

The business leaders are part of Trump’s “Strategy and Policy Forum” that last met with him in February.

Trump also reiterated his criticism of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

“NAFTA is a disaster. It’s been a disaster from the day it was devised. And we’re going to have some very pleasant surprises for you on NAFTA, that I can tell you,” he said.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Sarah N Lynch; additional reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/rrML4Qr92d8/us-usa-trump-business-idUSKBN17D1ZD

Skittish investors seek safe harbor in yen, gold, bonds


SYDNEY Investors ducked for cover on Wednesday as a drumbeat of alarming geopolitical news sent the safe-haven yen and gold to five-month highs and yields on top-rated sovereign bonds to their lowest for the year so far.

The unease tarnished an otherwise brightening outlook for global economic growth and kept equities restrained.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 slid 1 percent as a rising yen weighed on exporters’ shares, while E-mini futures for the SP 500 ESc1 were a fraction softer.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was near flat and futures pointed to a slightly firmer opening for the main European bourses.

Shanghai .SSEC eased 0.4 percent as China reported a slight slowdown in producer price inflation.

In contrast, gold XAU= climbed as far as $1,280.30 at one stage, its highest since Nov. 10.

“A degree of uncertainty has found its way into previously seemingly bulletproof financial markets,” wrote analysts at ANZ.

“There is clearly some nervousness out there, with tensions around North Korea ratcheting higher and adding to an already heightened geopolitical environment. Global cyclical assets have not yet responded, but that can’t last.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday stressed the need for a peaceful solution for the Korean peninsula on a call with U.S President Donald Trump.

North Korea has warned of a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of aggression, as a U.S. Navy strike group steamed toward the Korean peninsula – a force Trump described as an “armada”. Japan’s navy also plans joint drills with the U.S. force, sources told Reuters.

Trump said in a Tweet that North Korea was “looking for trouble” and the U.S. would “solve the problem” with or without China’s help.

The bellicose language has dragged South Korean stocks and the won to four-week lows and caused jitters across Asia.

At the same time, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Moscow to denounce Russian support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, raising the stakes in the Middle East.

A joint news conference by Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was also likely to generate headlines.

A YEN FOR YEN

The yen, a favored harbor in times of stress due to Japan’s position as the world’s largest creditor nation, climbed across the board.

The dollar huddled at 109.50 yen JPY=, having been as low as 109.35 at one stage. Dealers warned there was little in the way of chart support until the 200-day moving average at 108.72.

The euro sank to its lowest in five months at 115.91 yen EURJPY=R and was on track for 12 straight sessions of losses, a record for the single currency. It was steadier on the dollar at $1.0610 EUR=.

Political uncertainty in France added to the euro’s woes as hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon surged in the polls ahead of the May Presidential election.

All this unease boosted bonds with yields on 10-year Treasuries US10YT=RR boasting their lowest close of the year on Tuesday. Yields were last at 2.29 percent and testing a hugely important barrier on the charts.

Wall Street’s losses were relatively minor as investors wagered on an upbeat earnings season, which kicks off this week with a handful of banks.

The Dow .DJI eased 0.03 percent, while the SP 500 .SPX lost 0.14 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC 0.24 percent.

Analysts expect earnings for all SP 500 companies to have risen 10 percent in the first quarter from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Oil got an added lift from reports Saudi Arabia was lobbying OPEC and other producers to extend a production cut beyond the first half of 2017.

Global benchmark Brent LCOc1 edged up 9 cents to $56.32 a barrel, while U.S. crude CLc1 added 7 cents to $53.47. If sustained, this would be the longest stretch of gains since August 2016.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Kim Coghill)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/KZWtCraNdrE/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17B135

Fed’s Yellen aims to let ‘healthy’ U.S. economy coast along


The Federal Reserve’s plans to raise U.S. interest rates gradually are aimed at sustaining full employment and near-2-percent inflation without letting the economy overheat, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said on Monday.

“I think we have a healthy economy now,” Yellen said at an event at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy in Ann Arbor.

Unemployment, at 4.5 percent, is now a little bit below the jobless rate that most Fed officials think signals full employment, and inflation is “reasonably close” to the Fed’s 2-percent goal, she said. With the economy expected to continue to grow at a moderate pace, she said, the Fed is now shifting its focus.

“Whereas before we had our foot pressed down on the gas pedal trying to give the economy all the oomph we possibly could, now allowing the economy to kind of coast and remain on an even keel — to give it some gas but not so much that we are pressing down hard on the accelerator — that’s a better stance of monetary policy,” she said. “We want to be ahead of the curve and not behind it.”

In the U.S. Treasury bond market, yields were little changed after Yellen’s remarks.

The Fed raised rates in March for only the third time since the Great Recession, and most Fed officials expect the central bank to raise rates at least two more times this year.

Yellen’s comments largely echoed what she has said since then, and did not offer any new color on the timing of the rate hikes, or of the Fed’s eventual reduction of its $4.5 trillion balance sheet.

“We think a gradual path of increases in short-term interest rates can get us to where we need to be, but we don’t want to wait too long to have that happen,” she said.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir and Jonathan Spicer; Additional reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/Nx__kQZFEvM/us-usa-fed-yellen-idUSKBN17C2EO

‘Best banker in America’ blamed for Wells Fargo sales scandal


An investigation by Wells Fargo Co’s (WFC.N) board laid blame for the company’s unauthorized accounts scandal on a high-pressure sales culture and a retail executive obsessed with stamping out negative views about her division.

The report, carried out by board Chairman Stephen Sanger and three other independent directors and released to media on Monday, said former retail division head Carrie Tolstedt ignored the systemic nature of abusive sales practices and accused her of impeding the board’s efforts to address an issue that festered for years.

Lawyers for Tolstedt rejected the report’s findings on Monday. She had declined to be interviewed for the investigation.

“We strongly disagree with the report and its attempt to lay blame with Ms. Tolstedt. A full and fair examination of the facts will produce a different conclusion,” Enu Mainigi, Williams Connolly LLP, attorneys for Tolstedt, said in a statement.

Sanger, a board member since 2003, faces pressure to root out the problems amid calls by advisory group Institutional Shareholder Services for investors to oust him and other directors in place when the scandal broke. Glass Lewis meanwhile has recommended votes against six board members at the bank’s April 25 annual meeting.

In an interview with Reuters, Sanger said the bank was not scapegoating anyone.

“I’m not surprised that some of the people involved see it differently but we stand by the findings of this investigation,” he said.

Sanger said the report showed the board had taken the appropriate action with the information it was given and had revamped compensation, leadership and its own structure to make sure such abuses did not reappear.

“I’m very disappointed in the ISS and Glass Lewis recommendations, they do not take into account sufficiently the actions that the board has taken since the issue broke,” he said.

“We will trust investors to make their own decisions about how they will vote.”

With the U.S. Department of Justice looking into the sales practices, experts said Wells Fargo’s board was under pressure to ensure the buck stopped with someone else.

“There’s a tremendous amount of pressure from regulators to throw someone under the bus,” said Duke Law School professor James Cox, who specializes in corporate and securities law. “If they don’t, then Wells Fargo is going to be even more in the crosshairs.”

The Department of Justice declined to comment on its probe.

Wells Fargo said Tolstedt had been fired for cause and it would cancel approximately $47 million worth of stock options held by her. The bank said it would also claw back approximately $28 million from former chief executive John Stumpf, who failed to heed warnings about the scale of the problem

BLINDED BY SUCCESS

Stumpf, who retired under pressure from the scandal in October, was criticized for failing to grasp the gravity of the sales abuses and their impact on the bank.

In the 110-page report, Stumpf was described as blinded by Wells Fargo’s cross-selling success. He refused to believe the model was seriously impaired and was full of admiration for Tolstedt, with whom he had a long working relationship. According to one director, Stumpf praised Tolstedt as the “best banker in America.”

The report said Tolstedt hid the scale of the misconduct from the board, which only discovered that 5,300 staff had been fired for opening more than 2 million unauthorized accounts when the bank reached a $185 million settlement with regulators in September.

A lawyer for Stumpf declined to comment on the report.

The bank has fired five senior retail bank executives, including Tolstedt, over the scandal and imposed forfeitures, clawbacks and compensation adjustments on senior leaders now totaling more than $180 million, including $69 million from Stumpf and $67 million from Tolstedt.

Since the scandal broke, the bank has seen a steady decline in the number of consumers opening checking and credit card accounts and has lost its status as America’s most valuable bank by market value.

A NOTEWORTHY RISK

Sales practices were identified as a “noteworthy risk” to the board and its risk committee, of which Sanger was a member, in 2014 after a series of stories in the Los Angeles Times detailed some of the practices.

But Tolstedt was left to deal with the issue and was “notoriously resistant to outside intervention and oversight” the report said.

Multiple board members felt misled by a presentation by Tolstedt and others to the risk committee in May 2015. The board members said they left thinking that between 200 and 300 employees had been fired for sales practice abuses and the problem was largely concentrated in southern California.

The report criticized the board for not centralizing risk functions at the bank earlier, not requesting more detailed reports from management and not insisting Stumpf get rid of Tolstedt sooner.

Tim Sloan, who replaced Stumpf as CEO, was described in the report as having little contact with sales practices at the bank before becoming chief operating officer and Tolstedt’s boss in November 2015. Six months later he told her to step aside.

Since the scandal broke, the bank has ended sales targets, changed pay incentives for branch staff, separated the role of chairman and CEO and hired new directors to its board.

NO BAD NEWS, NO CONFLICT

A big part of Wells Fargo’s problem was its decentralized business model, which meant the retail bank was able to keep inquiries from head office at arm’s length. There was no joined-up effort by either the bank’s human resources or legal divisions to track and analyze the problem.

As far back as 2002, Wells Fargo’s retail bank was taking steps to deal with sales practice violations and in 2004 an internal report recommended eliminating sales goals for employees.

That report was sent to, among others, the chief auditor, a senior in-house employment lawyer, retail bank HR personnel and the head of retail bank sales service development. No action was taken.

Externally, Wells was lauded by investors for cross-selling customers multiple products and for its squeaky-clean reputation relative to peers following the financial crisis.

Internally, the sales pressure was oppressive, particularly in California and Arizona, where senior bankers sometimes called subordinates several times a day to chastise those who failed to meet sales objectives.

Tolstedt was perceived by high-level employees as having the support of Stumpf, with whom it was considered best to avoid raising problems with.

“Stumpf was ultimately responsible for enterprise risk management at Wells Fargo, but was not perceived within Wells Fargo as someone who wanted to hear bad news or deal with conflict,” the report said.

Wells Fargo shares were down 0.44 percent at $54.6 in early afternoon trade.

(Additional reporting by David Henry and Elizabeth Dilts in New York and Ross Kerber in Boston; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Meredith Mazzilli)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/G43OD6lIfqw/us-wells-fargo-accounts-idUSKBN17C18P

Global stocks slide, Treasuries and yen up on geopolitical tensions


SINGAPORE Asian stocks fell in choppy trade on Tuesday as the political tinderbox in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula added to uncertainty over the looming French vote, pushing edgy investors into safer assets such as the yen and Treasuries.

Oil continued its steady climb on supply concerns in the wake of U.S. missile strikes on a Syrian air base last week, and a shutdown at a Libyan oilfield.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS swung between gains and losses and was last down 0.4 percent.

“Most Asian markets could be seen with moderate changes this morning amid a mixed trend,” said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore. “Price movements here appear to be largely mirroring those in the U.S., with key corporate earnings due later in the week and could be the reason that investors are still holding onto equities.”

The heightened geopolitical risks come at a time when the global economy has shown steady improvement, led by the United States and encouraging momentum in export-reliant Asia.

Tokyo’s Nikkei .N225 slipped 0.5 percent, dragged lower by a stronger yen. The declines were led by Toshiba Corp. (6502.T), which slumped 4.3 percent, with the conglomerate expected to file its twice-delayed earnings results on Tuesday, possibly without a full sign-off by auditors.

Accountants question the numbers at the company’s U.S. nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse Electric Co., where massive cost overruns have pushed the Japanese parent company to the brink.

Chinese stocks fell about 0.1 percent .CSI300 and Hong Kong shares .HSI surrendered earlier gains to slide 0.7 percent.

South Korean shares .KS11 and Taiwan .TWII were also lower.

Australian stocks reversed earlier losses to climb 0.5 percent, after a measure of business conditions hit the highest level in a decade. They earlier hit their highest level since April 2015 for the second session in a row.

The Australian dollar AUD=D4 fell 0.1 percent to $0.7494, reversing earlier gains.

Overnight, Wall Street ended a choppy session little changed, weighed down by nervousness about quarterly corporate earnings later this week.

The depressed sentiment pulled 10-year U.S. Treasury yields down to 2.3463 percent on Tuesday from Monday’s 2.361 percent close.

British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke on Monday with U.S. President Donald Trump and agreed that “a window of opportunity” exists to persuade Russia to break ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, May’s office said.

Trump is open to authorizing additional strikes on Syria if the use of chemical weapons continues in the country, the White House said on Monday.

Investors are also nervous about the possibility of U.S. military action against North Korea after the strikes in Syria.

A U.S. Navy strike group headed toward the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula as a show of force, while China and South Korea agreed on Monday to tougher sanctions on North Korea if it carries out nuclear or long-range missile tests.

In France, polls for many weeks have been showing centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen on track to top the first round of voting on April 23 and go through to a May 7 runoff.

While Le Pen’s plans to ditch the euro and hold a referendum on European Union membership have spooked many investors, recent polls have pointed to a tighter race, with support for far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon surging recently.

“After Britain’s Brexit referendum and the U.S. presidential election surprised markets in 2016, could this event do the same?,” Mark Burgess, global head of equities at Columbia Threadneedle in London, wrote in a note.

“As a Le Pen presidency is perceived to increase the likelihood of France’s withdrawal from the EU, the uncertainty is likely to continue about what this could mean for the euro, along with a potential wider hit to global markets.”

The euro EUR=EBS pulled back 0.1 percent to $1.0585.

The dollar fell 0.2 percent to 110.68 yen JPY=, extending losses from Monday.

The dollar index .DXY, which tracks the greenback against a basket of major trade-weighted peers, was flat at 101.05, failing to rebound from Monday’s 0.16 percent loss.

Oil prices retained recent gains that have pushed them to five-week highs, on a shutdown at Libya’s largest oilfield over the weekend and the U.S. strikes against Syria.

U.S. crude CLc1 was little changed at $53.09 a barrel, lingering near a five-week high touched earlier in the session.

Global benchmark Brent LCOc1 was also steady at $56.01, following six straight sessions of gains

The market jitters and a weaker dollar supported gold, which retained gains from its two prior sessions.

Spot gold XAU= was fractionally higher at $1,254.89 an ounce.

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/KZWtCraNdrE/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17B135

Manhunt: Heavily-Armed Suspect Threatens Attack on Schools and Government Officials in Manifesto to Trump


Police say Joseph Jakubowsky stole a stockpile of weapons from a gun shop, and not only threatened schools and officials but may pose a threat to churches.

In this April 4, 2017 frame grab from a surveillance video released by the Rock County Sheriff’s Office, Joseph Jakubowski makes a purchase at a gas station in Janesville, Wis. The hunt continues Monday, April 10, 2017, for Jakubowski, who is suspected of stealing firearms from a Wisconsin gun store and sending an anti-government manifesto to President Donald Trump.


By

Published on April 10, 2017

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Before setting off a massive manhunt triggered by a gun shop break-in, authorities said Joseph Jakubowski first wanted to document the start of his self-proclaimed revolution against the government and law enforcement.

“To anybody that got this letter, you might want to read it,” the 32-year-old Jakubowski said as he walked in the parking lot of a southern Wisconsin post office, holding an oversized white envelope bearing multiple stamps and containing a 161-page manifesto addressed to President Donald Trump. “There it is, you see, it’s getting shipped. Revolution. It’s time for change.”

Churches have been told by law enforcement to be on alert because the manifesto included anti-religious views.

The scene comes from a 15-minute video shot before Jakubowski disappeared last week and subsequently released by Rock County Sheriff officials. Investigators have said Jakubowski’s manifesto details a long list of grievances against the government and law enforcement, and threatens attacks against schools and public officials.

Law enforcement have released few specifics about what Jakubowski wrote — and said little about what they believe he’ll do — but they’re devoting more than 150 state and federal officers in what’s become a national search. Authorities are urging the public to call with information of his whereabouts but they’re warning people not to approach him because he has more than a dozen firearms and he’s acquired a bulletproof vest and a helmet.

“Here we go guys. April 4th, 2017. It’s 5:43,” Jakubowski said showing the letter one last time before dropping it off in a mailbox. “Game time,” he said before walking away.

About three hours later, Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden said Jakubowski burglarized a gun store in Janesville, Wisconsin, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) southwest of Milwaukee. He left with 18 firearms, including at least two rifles, before setting his car on fire and vanishing, Spoden said.

The video was obtained from a social media network by law enforcement officials, who have declined to say where it was posted or who shot it. However, the sheriff’s office has said an associate of Jakubowski who received a copy of the manifesto has been cooperating.

It was not immediately clear whether the White House received the manifesto.

Investigators have followed up on more than 400 tips and leads in the manhunt, and federal authorities are investigating any leads developing outside the area. Aiding local law enforcement in the search is the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to Jakubowski’s capture.

The sheriff’s office said in a statement Sunday night that it had contacted school districts to inform them that Jakubowski is still on the run so they can make decisions on any precautionary measures. Many Rock County schools are on spring break this week. Churches have been told by law enforcement to be on alert because the manifesto included anti-religious views.

Jakuboswki writes in his manifesto about “injustices he believes that the government and society and the upper class have put forth onto the rest of the citizens,” Spoden said.

“It’s just an overview that he feels that the government, and law enforcement in particular are acting as terrorists and are enslaving the people and creating this environment that he finds unacceptable,” Spoden said.

Over the years, Jakubowski has had several run-ins with law enforcement, most for traffic violations. But he has previously resisted arrest and once tried to disarm an officer, said Janesville Police Chief David Moore.

“What we have not seen in the past is this anti-government, or terrorist-type information. That is a new element for all of us,” Moore said.

___

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