Off the Wires

G7 or G5? Trump and Johnson add unpredictability to French summit

August 21st, 2019  |  Source:

PARIS (Reuters) - Brexit Britain’s overtures to U.S. President Donald Trump risk further complicating the search for common ground this weekend at a Group of Seven summit already clouded by transatlantic rifts over trade, Iran and climate change.
The summit host, President Emmanuel Macron of France, has set the bar low for Biarritz to avoid a repeat of the fiasco last year when Trump threw Canada’s G7 summit into disarray by leaving early, scotching the final communique.
Macron, an ardent europhile and staunch defender of multilateralism, will count on incremental advances in areas where a united front can be presented, with the meeting, which runs from Saturday to Monday, officially focusing on the broad theme of reducing inequality.
On hot-button issues, they will, when necessary, have to agree to disagree.
“We have to adapt formats. There will be no final communique, but coalitions, commitments and follow-ups,” Macron said. “We must assume that, on one subject or another, a member of the club might not sign up.”
The G7 groups the United States, France, Britain, Japan, Germany, Italy and Canada, and the European Union also attends. Macron has also invited the leaders of Australia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Egypt, India, Senegal, Rwanda, and South Africa, in order to widen the debate on inequality.

Fidelity chairman says U.S. regulations lag social media advances

October 24th, 2017  |  Source: Reuters

U.S. financial regulations on data retention do not fit with the way people expect to communicate on social media, Fidelity Investments Chairman Abigail Johnson said on Tuesday.

“The real issue is a regulatory regime that doesn’t fit with the way people communicate today,” said Johnson, who runs the financial services company that manages about $2.3 trillion in assets.

“Customers expect recommendations from Amazon, peer feedback on Facebook and instant communications on Snap Chat. But the retention requirements for social media make it difficult to give customers the ‘in the moment’ help that they need.”

Johnson made her remarks in a speech at a conference hosted by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) in Washington.

Johnson called for modernization of the policies around social media data retention.

“As we all know well ... storage media must preserve the records exclusively in a non-rewriteable, non-erasable format,” she said. “This one simple sentence has kept compliance, legal and IT departments busy across the industry.”

She said she would like to see regulators, such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, allow registered individuals, with the appropriate training, to have the freedom to use social media similar to oral communications. She said it would reduce what she called “the current burdensome supervision and recordkeeping requirements.”

Nursing crisis strains U.S. hospitals

October 20th, 2017  |  Source: Reuters

A shortage of nurses at U.S. hospitals hit West Virginia’s Charleston Area Medical Center at the worst possible time.

The non-profit healthcare system is one of the state’s largest employers and sits in the heart of economically depressed coal country. It faces a $40 million deficit this year as it struggles with fewer privately insured patients, cuts in government reimbursement and higher labor costs to attract a shrinking pool of nurses.

To keep its operations intact, Charleston Medical is spending this year $12 million on visiting or “travel” nurses, twice as much as three years ago. It had no need for travel nurses a decade ago.

“I’ve been a nurse 40 years, and the shortage is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Ron Moore, who retired in October from his position as vice president and chief nursing officer for the center. Charleston Area Medical’s incentives include tuition reimbursement for nursing students who commit to work at the hospital for two years.

“It’s better to pay a traveler than to shut a bed,” he said.

Hospitals nationwide face tough choices when it comes to filling nursing jobs. They are paying billions of dollars collectively to recruit and retain nurses rather than risk patient safety or closing down departments, according to Reuters interviews with more than 20 hospitals, including some of the largest U.S. chains.

In addition to higher salaries, retention and signing bonuses, they now offer perks such as student loan repayment, free housing and career mentoring, and rely more on foreign or temporary nurses to fill the gaps.

The cost nationwide for travel nurses alone nearly doubled over three years to $4.8 billion in 2017, according to Staffing Industry Analysts, a global advisor on workforce issues.

The burden falls disproportionately on hospitals serving rural communities, many of them already straining under heavy debt like the Charleston Area Medical Center.

These hospitals must offer more money and benefits to compete with facilities in larger metropolitan areas, many of them linked to well-funded universities, interviews with hospital officials and health experts show.

Along West Virginia’s border with Pennsylvania, university-affiliated J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown is spending $10.4 million in 2017 compared with $3.6 million a year earlier to hire and retain nurses.

U.S. starts deploying anti-missile system in South Korea after defiant North's latest test

March 7th, 2017  |  Source: Reuters

The United States started to deploy the first elements of its advanced anti-missile defense system in South Korea on Tuesday after North Korea's test of four ballistic missiles, U.S. Pacific Command said, despite angry opposition from China.

The announcement came as North Korean state media said leader Kim Jong Un had personally supervised Monday's missile launches by an army unit that is positioned to strike U.S. bases in Japan, stepping up threats against Washington as U.S. troops conduct joint military exercises with South Korea.

"Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday's launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea," U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris said in a statement, referring to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system.

The move by the U.S. military is likely to deepen the brewing conflict between South Korea and China, which says the THAAD deployment destroys the regional security balance.

The four ballistic missiles fired by North Korea landed in the sea off Japan's northwest, angering Seoul and Tokyo, days after Pyongyang promised retaliation over the military drills that it sees as preparation for war.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed the launches by the nuclear-armed North during a phone call on Tuesday.

"Japan and the U.S. confirmed that the latest North Korean missile launches were clearly against U.N. resolutions and a clear provocation against the regional and international community," Abe told reporters. "(North Korea's) threat has entered a new phase."

Trump also spoke to South Korea's acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn to discuss the North's missile launches, Hwang's office said.

What the New Travel Ban Means for Refugees Around the World

March 7th, 2017  |  Source: PS Magazine

More than 61,000 people fleeing persecution and violence may have their applications to come live in the United States delayed, according to refugee resettlement charities.

President Donald Trump issued a new executive order today, suspending America’s refugee resettlement program for 120 days and halting travel to the United States from six Middle Eastern and North African countries for 90 days. During that time, federal agencies are supposed to review the traveler and refugee vetting process.

The order comes after courts struck down key parts of a similar ban that Trump signed last month, and the White House wrote the order with an eye to placating the judiciary. But to many of the refugees, the revisions may not make much of a difference. “It’s still a refugee ban,” saysJen Smyers, a director for Church World Service’s Immigration and Refugee Program, which is one of nine charities that work with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. “We’re looking at it really having the same impact as the original version.”

“It’s still a refugee ban.”

The new order affects more than 50,000 refugees who have been approved by the Department of Homeland Security to come into the U.S., but haven’t yet booked their travel, according to Church World Service numbers. They will now have their applications temporarily frozen. “It really grinds the program to a halt because refugees only have a two-month travel window,” Smyers says, “so a four-month suspension means that every single person is going to see at least one security check expire.” Re-doing expired checks may take folks years, Smyers says.

In addition, more than 10,000 refugees have booked their flights to the U.S. and will need to make it into the country before the new executive order takes effect on March 16th, or they’ll risk delay, as well.

Not all of the affected are citizens of the six countries — Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, and Somalia — that the Trump administration has deemed especially dangerous. About 7,000 are from Myanmar; about 9,000, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and nearly 10,000, from Iraq, which Trump removed from his original travel ban list because of “the close cooperative relationship between the United States and the democratically elected Iraqi government” and “Iraq’s commitment to combat ISIS,” according to the new executive order. About 31,000 affected refugees come from the six nations that are under the travel ban.

The U.S. has already settled about 37,000 refugees in this fiscal year, which began in October. Trump has set a limit of 50,000 new refugees for fiscal year 2017, after the Obama administration had promised 110,000 could come.

“It’s incredibly discouraging,” Smyers says. “These are people we’ve promised to protect, whom we’re turning our backs on.”

Trump Blames Obama for Protests: ‘I Think He’s Behind It’

February 28th, 2017  |  Source: Bloomberg

·       Says Obama ‘people’ may also be behind national security leaks

·       ‘I also think it is politics,’ president tells Fox News

·       President Donald Trump said he believes that predecessor Barack Obama is riling up protesters against his administration and that Obama’s “people” may be the source of unflattering national-security leaks to the media.

·       “I think he is behind it. I also think it is politics, that’s the way it is,” Trump said of the protests during an interview with the hosts of “Fox and Friends” conducted Monday at the White House and aired Tuesday. 

·       “I think that President Obama is behind it because his people are certainly behind it,” Trump continued. “And some of the leaks possibly come from that group,” which are “really very serious leaks because they are very bad in terms of national security.”

·       Trump didn’t offer any evidence of Obama’s direct involvement. Obama’s Organizing for Action, the nonprofit group that was formed after his 2012 campaign, is one of the many organizations supporting protesters who are challenging the new president and congressional Republicans. The organization paused its activities during the 2016 race.

·       “It will probably continue,” Trump said of Obama being “behind things.”


Governors salivate over $1 trillion infrastructure pledge

February 24th, 2017  |  Source: Reuters

President Donald Trump's campaign promise for a $1 trillion infrastructure program will be in focus when U.S. governors gather on Friday in Washington, D.C., with some states making wish lists of projects ranging from a bullet train to statewide broadband internet service.

The winter meeting of the National Governors Association running through Monday is expected to showcase rare bipartisan agreement on the need for more federal help in upgrading roads, bridges and airports, said Scott Pattison, the group's executive director.

"There's just this pent-up demand to deal with, whether it's a crack in a dam, a bridge, whatever it is," Pattison said in a telephone interview.

Although there is little movement on Capitol Hill to make Trump's infrastructure vow a reality, governors have sent the White House a list of 428 projects they say are ready to go with some extra federal spending.

The National Governors Association has not released the list but checks with some states hinted at the projects.

Democratic California Governor Jerry Brown has asked for $120 billion, saying that since the state made up 12 percent of the U.S. economy it deserves 12 percent of Trump's $1 trillion package.

"We're not talking about a few million, we're talking about tens of billions," Brown said of the infrastructure proposal this month as he sought federal aid to deal with a leaking dam and flooding.

Among California's big-ticket items is construction of a high-speed rail system linking San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Colorado and Minnesota want help building statewide broadband systems, with Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat, saying his state needs $150 million for its broadband grid.

Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's top priority is $122 million for interstate highway repairs. South Carolina and Virginia want federal aid to deepen ports, among other projects.

In a letter to Trump, Republican Governor Henry McMaster said South Carolina also needed help replacing roads and bridges. "An appropriation of $5 billion from your infrastructure plan will help us bridge this economic gap," he wrote.

Pattison said governors wanted a "toolbox" of financing options, including municipal bonds, cash, public-private partnerships and federal matching funds.

The governors are scheduled to meet with Trump on Sunday evening and again on Monday morning.

One of the speakers at the governors' conference, Leo Hindery, a managing partner at New York's InterMedia Partners, will tell state executives that creating a federal infrastructure bank is the only way to fund the hundreds of billions of dollars needed for public works.

The United States has long been criticized for its lagging public works spending. The American Society of Civil Engineers has graded U.S. infrastructure at D+ and estimated the country needs to invest $3.6 trillion by 2020.

During his campaign, Trump said he wanted action on infrastructure in his first 100 days as president. That now seems unlikely. He also talked about creating a tax credit to encourage private sector investment.

Trump’s plans to create an infrastructure council have yet to get started. Republican lawmakers have said they expect to get White House infrastructure proposals but have given no details or timing.

Nicola Sturgeon calls for Trump's UK visit to be cancelled over travel ban

January 30th, 2017  |  Source: The Guardian

Scotland’s first minister urges Theresa May to speak up against the US president’s policies and the values they have exposed

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has said that Donald Trump’s UK state visit ought to be cancelled while travel bans are in place as she called on the prime minister to speak up more strongly against the values that the US president’s policies have exposed.

Speaking after a one-to-one meeting with Theresa May that took place before the meeting of the joint ministerial committee in Cardiff, Sturgeon said she told the prime minister she should voice concerns about Trump more forcefully.

The Scottish National party leader told the Guardian: “I said that while everybody understands that she wants to build a constructive relationship, that relationship has to be based on values. I think many people would like to hear a stronger view from the UK government about the immigrant and refugee ban that was announced.

“I also said that I don’t think it would be appropriate in these circumstances for the state visit to go ahead while these bans are in place given the understandable concern that people have about them and the messages they send and the impact they have.”

Asked if May had been too quick to travel to the US to meet Trump, Sturgeon said: “She’s the prime minister of the UK. Everybody would understand she wants to build a positive relationship with the president of the United States. As first minister of Scotland I want to build a constructive relationship with the new administration. I’m not criticising her for that. But relationships have to be based on values.

“We’ve all got a duty to speak up for fundamental values. There’s a real concern on the part of many that introducing what is seen by many as a ban on Muslims, banning people because of their origin or faith, is deeply wrong and likely to be counterproductive in terms of the fight we all have an interest in against extremism and terrorism.

“In terms of the refugee ban, that in my view would go against the international obligations in terms of the Geneva convention and the moral obligation we all have to deal with the refugee crisis.”

Acknowledging that May had raised the point that these were matters for the US government, Sturgeon said: “But these are issues that start to touch on moral issues that go beyond individual countries policies. And we all have a duty in these instances to speak up when we consider values that we all hold dear to be under threat. As I said to the prime minister I think a lot of people would like to see her say something much more strong along those lines.”

She added: “Morality is something we all have to judge for ourselves. I think there’s a very strong body of opinion across the UK. Nobody is suggesting the president of American can’t come to the UK nor is anyone suggesting a state visit is not appropriate at some stage but while these bans that have caused so much concern are in place it would be inappropriate for the state visit to proceed. It would be better to reconsider the timing of it.”

Asked if she would meet Trump in Scotland, Sturgeon said: “The relationship between Scotland and America is important. I’m not going to start getting into refuse meeting people but nor am I going to maintain diplomatic silences over things that are really important in a values and principles sense.”

New U.S. U.N. envoy warns allies: have our back or we'll respond accordingly

January 27th, 2017  |  Source: Reuters

New U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, pledged on Friday to overhaul the world body and warned U.S. allies that if they do not have Washington's back then she is "taking names" and will respond.

Haley made brief remarks to the press as she arrived at U.N. headquarters in New York to present her credentials to U.N. chief Antonio Guterres.

"Our goal with the administration is to show value at the U.N. and the way that we'll show value is to show our strength, show our voice, have the backs of our allies and make sure that our allies have our back as well," Haley saidlef

"For those that don't have our back, we're taking names, we will make points to respond to that accordingly," she added.

Wall St. slips on President Trump's protectionist views

January 23rd, 2017  |  Source: Reuters

U.S. stocks lost ground on Monday as investors digested President Donald Trump's protectionist statements and sought safe-haven assets such as gold and U.S. Treasury bonds.

Trump, who met with a dozen prominent American manufacturers at the White House, said he would slash regulations and cut corporate taxes to boost the economy.

He, however, reinforced his stance of putting "America first" by warning manufacturers of penalties if they moved production outside the country.

The Trump trade, which led Wall Street to repeated highs since the election, has unraveled in recent weeks as investors fret about the potential impact of his isolationist stance on world trade and the lack of clarity on his policies.

"I think the market wants to see more definitive statements like how healthcare and tax reforms get played out, so there is no reason for it to be excited," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth.

At 10:55 a.m. ET (1555 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 65.9 points, or 0.33 percent, at 19,761.35, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 9.93 points, or 0.43 percent, at 2,261.38 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 22.81 points, or 0.41 percent, at 5,532.52.

Trump has made it clear that he plans to hold talks with leaders of Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and intends to withdraw from the 12-nation trade pact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The dollar .DXY hit a six-week low on Monday, while prices of safe-haven gold rose for the third straight day.

Oil prices fell about 1 percent on signs of strong U.S. drilling activity. The S&P energy index .SPNY hit its lowest level since Nov. 30.

Eight other S&P sectors were also lower. Safe-haven stocks utilities .SPLRCU and real-estate .SPLRCR were the outliers.

Qualcomm (QCOM.O) dropped 13.4 percent to $54.44 after Apple (AAPL.O) filed a $1 billion lawsuit against the chip supplier on Friday. Qualcomm was the biggest drag on the S&P and the Nasdaq, while Apple's stock was flat.

Halliburton (HAL.N) fell 3.4 percent after the world's No. 2 oilfield services provider reported a bigger loss in the latest quarter.

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