Cycling: Billionaire Ratcliffe rides to rescue of Team Sky

March 19, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s richest man Jim Ratcliffe rode to the rescue of Team Sky when the chemicals billionaire was confirmed as the new owner of the powerhouse cycle team on Tuesday.

A statement from the team said current owners Sky and 21st Century Fox had agreed a sale to INEOS, the company owned by Ratcliffe, who will become the sole owners from May 1.

Broadcaster Sky announced last December that it was pulling the plug on its reported 30 million pounds ($39.80 million) backing of the team that has won eight Grand Tours since it was founded by former British Cycling performance director Dave Brailsford in 2010.

The news that keen cyclist Ratcliffe has stepped in means Team Sky, whose stellar cast of riders includes four-times Tour de France winner Chris Froome and current champion Geraint Thomas, will continue challenging for the sport’s big prizes.

Team INEOS’s first outing will be at the Tour de Yorkshire which starts in Doncaster on May 2.

“Cycling is a great endurance and tactical sport that is gaining ever more popularity around the world,” Ratcliffe, chairman and CEO of INEOS, said in a statement.

“INEOS is delighted to take on the responsibility of running such a professional team.”

Brailsford, accused of crossing an “ethical line” by a British parliamentary committee report into allegations of wrongdoing and abuse of anti-doping rules, said it was an exciting new chapter for the team.

“Today’s announcement is great news for the team, for cycling fans, and for the sport more widely,” he said.

“It ends the uncertainty around the team and the speed with which it has happened represents a huge vote of confidence in our future. It heralds the start of a hugely exciting new chapter for us all as Team INEOS.”

($1 = 0.7538 pounds)

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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German SPD chief wants to extend arms export halt to Saudi

March 19, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – The leader of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in conservative Angela Merkel’s coalition, wants to extend a freeze on arms exports to Saudi Arabia imposed after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, she said on Tuesday.

“I will speak out for and propose to my parliamentary party that there is an extension of the stop, the moratorium, for another six months,” SPD leader Andrea Nahles said before a party meeting.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Michelle Martin)

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U.S. Supreme Court gives Trump victory on immigration detention

March 19, 2019

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday endorsed the U.S. government’s authority to detain immigrants awaiting deportation anytime – potentially even years – after they have completed prison terms for criminal convictions, handing President Donald Trump a victory as he pursues hardline immigration policies.

The court ruled 5-4, with its conservative justices in the majority and its liberal justices dissenting, that federal authorities could pick up such immigrants and place them into indefinite detention anytime, not just immediately after they finish their prison sentences.

The ruling, authored by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, left open the possibility of individual immigrants challenging the 1996 federal law involved in the case, called the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, on constitutional grounds – their right to due process – if they are detained long after they have completed their sentences.

The law at issue states that the government can detain convicted immigrants “when the alien is released” from criminal detention. Civil rights lawyers for two groups of plaintiffs argued that the language of the law shows that it applies only immediately after immigrants are released. The Trump administration said the government should have the power to detain such immigrants anytime.

It is not the court’s job, Alito wrote, to impose a time limit for when immigrants can be detained after serving a prison sentence. Alito noted that the court repeatedly has said in the past that “an official’s crucial duties are better carried out late than never.”

Alito said the challengers’ assertion that immigrants had to be detained within 24 hours of ending a prison sentence is “especially hard to swallow.”

In dissent, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer questioned whether the U.S. Congress when it wrote the law “meant to allow the government to apprehend persons years after their release from prison and hold them indefinitely without a bail hearing.”

The administration had appealed a lower court ruling in the case that favored immigrants, a decision it said would undermine the government’s ability to deport immigrants who have committed crimes. Trump has backed limits on legal and illegal immigrants since taking office in January 2017.

The plaintiffs included two legal U.S. residents involved in separate lawsuits filed in 2013, a Cambodian immigrant named Mony Preap convicted of marijuana possession and a Palestinian immigrant named Bassam Yusuf Khoury convicted of attempting to manufacture a controlled substance.

Under federal immigration law, immigrants convicted of certain offenses are subject to mandatory detention during their deportation process. They can be held indefinitely without a bond hearing after completing their sentences.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a liberal-leaning court Trump has criticized in other cases, ruled in 2016 that convicted immigrants who are not immediately detained by immigration authorities after finishing their sentences cannot later be placed into indefinite detention awaiting possible deportation. The 9th Circuit said such immigrants could seek bond hearings to argue for their release.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Instagram adds new feature to let U.S. users shop direct via app

March 19, 2019

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc’s Instagram began trialing a feature on Tuesday that lets U.S. users shop directly for products from the photo sharing app by adding a ‘checkout’ feature on items tagged for sale, the company said.

The move is in line with Facebook’s plan to monetize higher-growth units like Instagram as the company’s centerpiece product, News Feed, struggles to generate fresh interest.

Instagram said it has partnered with more than 20 brands, including Adidas, H&M and billionaire Kylie Jenner’s booming cosmetic company and Michael Kors, on the new feature, easing into territory more familiar to retail giants like Amazon.com Inc and Walmart Inc.

Under the new feature, users will be able to click on a product that is featured in a post and see its price, and then click again to bring up an order form.

Users can then later checkout and choose to pay by Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and PayPal. Previously, Instagram allowed brands to link to their respective websites for users to shop.

“Facebook’s plans are to evolve Instagram and Messenger into robust e-commerce platforms where you can click on ads and buy the products,” said Ivan Feinseth, an analyst with Tigress Financial Partners.

“Facebook is also looking to incorporate payment processing and payment transfers over Messenger, further expanding its e-commerce and interactive capabilities,” Feinseth said.

Instagram, which did not specify the financial details in the blog, said it would introduce a selling fee to help fund transaction-related expenses.

Instagram has more than 130 million people tapping to reveal product tags in shopping posts every month, up from 90 million in September, it said.

(Reporting by Munsif Vengattil and Akanksha Rana in Bengaluru and Katie Paul in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Soundarya J in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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U.S. authorities sought ex-Trump lawyer Cohen emails long before raids

March 19, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Federal authorities sought warrants to investigate Michael Cohen’s email accounts in July 2017, nine months before the office and hotel room of U.S. President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer were raided, according to documents made public on Tuesday.

Emails were sought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, which is probing Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as by the FBI, dating back as far as June 2015, according to the documents.

The nearly 900 pages of documents provide new insights into the investigations into Cohen, who had been Trump’s personal lawyer and self-described fixer for more than a decade, and more detailed accounts of his financial dealings.

They were released after U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan on Monday ordered federal prosecutors to make redacted versions public, in response to requests by various news media organizations.

Cohen began cooperating with federal investigators soon after the April 2018 raids on his office and hotel room.

He eventually pleaded guilty to multiple crimes, including campaign finance violations in connection with payments of hush money to silence two women who claimed to have had sexual relationships with Trump.

The women included Stormy Daniels, a porn actress whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, who later sued Trump unsuccessfully to end her hush money agreement.

Cohen was sentenced in December to serve three years in prison. Since pleading guilty, he has publicly turned on Trump, telling a U.S. House of Representatives committee last month that his former boss was a “con man” and “cheat.”

Trump has denied having sexual relationships with the women, and said his campaign did not collude with Russia. Moscow has denied meddling in the 2016 election.

The filings showed how the FBI made extensive use of its access to Cohen’s Apple iCloud account, which allowed him to coordinate his work across several devices including an iPhone, iPad Mini and laptop.

They detailed how investigators believed money going to Cohen, including to his firm Essential Consultants, was for political consulting, including from international clients with issues pending before the Trump administration.

Among the payments Cohen was believed to have received was $600,000 from AT&T Inc for consulting about “political issues, including net neutrality, the merger between AT&T and Time Warner and tax reform,” and $583,333 from an investment firm controlled by Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg.

FBI agents said they were able to locate where Cohen was staying by using internet protocol, or IP, addresses attached to those devices.

Much of the discussion about campaign finance issues was redacted.

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson, Anthony Lin, David Morgan and Andy Sullivan in Washington, and Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Ethiopian crash crew’s voices may unlock high-stakes Boeing inquiry

March 19, 2019

By Maggie Fick and Tim Hepher

ADDIS ABABA/PARIS (Reuters) – The investigation into the final minutes of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 turned on Tuesday to the secrets in the cockpit voice recorder as Boeing and a shaken global aviation industry hung on the outcome.

The voices of Captain Yared Getachew and First Officer Ahmednur Mohammed could reveal what led to the March 10 crash of the Boeing 737 MAX that has worrying parallels with another disaster involving the same model off Indonesia in October.

The twin disasters killed 346 people.

(GRAPHIC: Ethiopian Airlines crash – https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hn6V4k)

Black box data was downloaded in France but only Ethiopian experts leading the probe have heard the dialogue between Getachew, 29, and Mohammed, 25. The data was back in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, sources familiar with the probe told Reuters.

Experts believe a new automated system in Boeing’s flagship MAX fleet – intended to stop stalling by dipping the nose – may have played a role in both crashes, with pilots unable to override it as their jets plunged downwards.

Both came down just minutes after take-off after erratic flight patterns and loss of control reported by the pilots. However, every accident is a unique chain of human and technical factors, experts say.

The prestige of Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa’s most successful companies, and Boeing, the world’s biggest planemaker and a massive U.S. exporter, is at stake.

AWKWARD QUESTIONS FOR INDUSTRY

Lawmakers and safety experts are questioning how thoroughly regulators vetted the MAX model and how well pilots were trained on new features. For now, regulators have grounded the existing fleet of more than 300 MAX aircraft and deliveries of nearly 5,000 more – worth well over $500 billion – are on hold.

Pressure on the Chicago-headquartered company has grown with news that federal prosecutors and the U.S. Department of Transportation are scrutinizing how carefully the MAX model was developed, two people briefed on the matter said.

The U.S. Justice Department was looking at the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) oversight of Boeing, one of the people said. And a federal grand jury last week issued at least one subpoena to an entity involved in the plane’s development.

The European Union is watching anxiously.

Its aviation safety agency EASA promised its own deep look at Boeing’s software updates and failure modes.

“On our side, we will not allow the aircraft to fly if we have not found acceptable answers to all our questions,” its executive director Patrick Ky told an EU parliament committee hearing.

“Whatever the FAA does. OK? This is a personal guarantee that I make in front of you.”

In the hope of getting its MAX line back into the air soon, Boeing said it will roll out a software update and revise pilot training. In the case of the Lion Air crash in Indonesia, it has raised questions about whether crew used the correct procedures.

The MAX, which offers cost savings of about 15 percent on fuel, was developed for service from 2017 after the successful launch by its main rival of the Airbus A320neo.

(GRAPHIC: The grounded 737 Max fleet – https://tmsnrt.rs/2u5sZYI)

After Ethiopia, France and the United States all noted parallels with the Indonesia crash, one person familiar with the probe said black box data showed the Ethiopian Airlines jet’s “angle of attack” was “very similar” to the Lion Air plane.

The angle of attack measures degrees between the air flow and the wing. If too high, it can cause an aerodynamic stall.

GLOBAL RAMIFICATIONS

In the hot seat over its certification of the MAX without demanding additional training and its closeness to Boeing, the FAA has said it is “absolutely” confident in its vetting.

But given the U.S. probe, Canada said it would do its own independent certification.

The crisis has put airline companies in a spin.

Norwegian Airlines has already said it will seek compensation after grounding its MAX aircraft.

Various firms are reconsidering Boeing orders, and some are revising financial forecasts given they now cannot count on maintenance and fuel savings factored in from the MAX.

Illustrating the hoops airlines were jumping through, Air Canada said it intends to keep its MAX aircraft grounded until at least July 1, would accelerate intake of recently acquired Airbus A321 planes, and had hired other carriers to provide extra capacity meantime.

Beyond the corporate ramifications, anguished relatives are still waiting to find out what happened.

Many have visited the crash site in a charred field to seek some closure, but there is anger at the slow pace of information and all they have been given for funerals is earth.

“I’m just so terribly sad. I had to leave here without the body of my dead brother,” said Abdulmajid Shariff, a Yemeni relative who headed home disappointed on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Maggie Fick and Jason Neely in Addis Ababa, Tim Hepher in Paris, David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Jamie Freed in Singapore, Alastair Macdonald in Brussels; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Georgina Prodhan/Keith Weir)

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Israeli campaign ad seeks to make political point with ‘Fascism’ perfume

March 19, 2019

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An election campaign video starring Israel’s far-right justice minister spoofs perfume ads to sell her political priorities, but has a strong whiff of muddled message given the fragrance is labeled “Fascism.”

The intended meaning of the ad – three weeks before Israel’s election – is largely lost on people who just see the word fascism in English but who do not speak Hebrew and so cannot understand the voice-over.

In the spot, Ayelet Shaked walks slowly down a staircase, her hair gently tossed by a breeze, as a female narrator whispers seductively in Hebrew: “Separation of powers”, “Restraining the Supreme Court”.

Shaked is frequently critical of Israel’s top court as being too liberal and interventionist, but these and other views of her New Right party have been roundly criticized by leftists.

Some, the commercial implies, may see her views as fiercely nationalistic: former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak once called some of her comments about reforming the Supreme Court “proto-fascist”.

But, Shaked says, holding the perfume bottle with its label: “To me, it smells like democracy”.

Reaction on social media to the ad, sponsored by the New Right, ranged from “great” to “strange”.

“This is one of the most bizarre election ads you have ever seen … Viktor Orban on steroids,” Barak Ravid, the diplomatic correspondent for Israel’s Channel 13 TV, tweeted, in a reference to Hungary’s far-right prime minister.

Under Orban, Hungary passed a law in December to set up courts overseen by the justice minister, a move critics said would allow political interference in judicial matters.

Shaked’s New Right party, which she leads along with Education Minister Naftali Bennett, is part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition. It has been sliding in opinion polls and is forecast to win about six seats in the 120-member parliament in the April 9 election.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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First asylum seekers returned from Mexico for U.S. court hearings

March 19, 2019

By Lizbeth Diaz and Mica Rosenberg

TIJUANA/NEW YORK (Reuters) – A group of asylum seekers sent back to Mexico was set to cross the border on Tuesday for their first hearings in U.S. immigration court in an early test of a controversial new policy from the Trump administration.

The U.S. program, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), turns people seeking protection in the United States around to wait out their U.S. court proceedings in Mexican border towns. Some 240 people – including families – have been returned since late January, according to U.S. officials.

Court officials in San Diego referred questions about the number of hearings being held on Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which did not respond to a request for comment. But attorneys representing a handful of clients were preparing to appear in court.

Migrants like 19-year-old Ariel, who said he left Honduras because of gang death threats against himself and his family, were preparing to line up at the San Ysidro port of entry first thing Tuesday morning.

Ariel, who asked to use only his middle name because of fears of reprisals in his home country, was among the first group of asylum-seeking migrants sent back to Mexico on Jan. 30 and given a notice to appear in U.S. court in San Diego.

“God willing everything will move ahead and I will be able to prove that if I am sent back to Honduras, I’ll be killed,” Ariel said.

While awaiting his U.S. hearing, Ariel said he was unable to get a legal work permit in Mexico but found a job as a restaurant busboy in Tijuana, which does not pay him enough to move out of a shelter.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other advocacy groups are suing in federal court to halt the MPP program, which is part of a series of measures the administration of President Donald Trump has taken to try to curb the flow of mostly Central American migrants trying to enter the United States.

The Trump administration says most asylum claims, especially for Central Americans, are ultimately rejected, but because of crushing immigration court backlogs people are often released pending resolution of their cases and live in the United States for years. The government has said the new program is aimed at ending “the exploitation of our generous immigration laws.”

Critics of the program say it violates U.S. law and international norms since migrants are sent back to often dangerous towns in Mexico in precarious living situations where it is difficult to get notice about changes to U.S. court dates and to find legal help.

Immigration advocates are closely watching how the proceedings will be carried out this week, especially after scheduling glitches created confusion around three hearings last week, according to a report in the San Diego Union Tribune.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which runs U.S. immigration courts under the Department of Justice, said only that it uses its regular court scheduling system for the MPP hearings and did not respond to a question about the reported scheduling problems.

Gregory Chen, director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said there are real concerns about the difficulties of carrying out this major shift in U.S. immigration policy.

“The government did not have its shoes tied when they introduced this program,” he said.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Tijuana and Mica Rosenberg in New York; Editing by Bill Trott)

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President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, resigns after three decades

March 19, 2019

ALMATY (Reuters) – Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, said on Tuesday that he was resigning as the oil-rich Central Asian nation’s leader after three decades in power.

Nazarbayev, 78, has led the former Soviet republic since 1989, first as its Communist leader and then as president.

“I have taken a decision, which was not easy for me, to resign as president,” Nazarbayev said in a televised address.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, speaker of the upper house of parliament, will take over as the country’s acting president for the remainder of his term in line with the constitution, Nazarbayev said.

Nazarbayev, who has helped attract tens of billions of dollars from foreign energy companies, said he would continue to chair the Security Council and remain leader of the Nur Otan party which dominates parliament.

Nazarbayev enjoys a strong working relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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U.S. factory orders rise less than expected in January

March 19, 2019

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – New orders for U.S.-made goods rose less than expected in January, held back by decreases in orders for computers and electronic products, in another indication of slowing manufacturing activity.

Factory goods orders edged up 0.1 percent, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday, as demand for primary metals and fabricated metal products fell. That followed an unrevised 0.1 percent gain in December.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast factory orders rising 0.3 percent in January. Factory orders increased 3.8 percent compared to January 2018.

The release of the report was delayed by a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government that ended on Jan. 25.

Reports last Friday showed manufacturing output fell for a second straight month in February and factory activity in New York state hit nearly a two-year low this month.

Manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the economy, is losing momentum as the stimulus from last year’s $1.5 trillion tax cut package fades. Activity is also being crimped by a trade war between the United States and China as well as by last year’s surge in the dollar and softening global economic growth, which are hurting exports.

In January, orders for machinery rose 1.5 percent after falling 0.4 percent in December. Orders for mining, oil field and gas field machinery fell 2.7 percent after tumbling 8.2 percent in December.

Orders for electrical equipment, appliances and components rebounded 1.4 percent after dropping 0.3 percent in December. Computers and electronic products orders fell 0.9 percent after decreasing 0.4 percent in December.

Orders for primary metals declined 2.0 percent and fabricated metal products orders fell 0.6 percent. Transportation equipment orders increased 1.2 percent in January, slowing from the prior month’s 3.2 percent rise.

Orders for civilian aircraft and parts increased 15.6 percent in January. Motor vehicles and parts orders gained 0.4 percent.

The Commerce Department also said January orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, which are seen as a measure of business spending plans on equipment, rose 0.8 percent as reported last week. Orders for these so-called core capital goods dropped 0.8 percent in December.

Shipments of core capital goods, which are used to calculate business equipment spending in the gross domestic product report, also increased 0.8 percent in January as previously reported. Core capital goods shipments edged up 0.1 percent in December.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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