Author: Fox News

People shopping on Oxford Street in central London
People shopping on Oxford Street in central London, Britain, December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

March 21, 2019

LONDON, (Reuters) – British retail sales unexpectedly kept up a robust pace of expansion last month, after unusually warm weather boosted sales, reinforcing the sector’s role as a bright spot for the economy ahead of Brexit.

Annual retail sales growth slowed only a fraction to 4.0 percent in February after sales volumes grew at their fastest in more than two years in January, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a slowdown in sales growth to 3.3 percent.

Consumer spending has been a source of strength for the British economy at a time when businesses say that Brexit uncertainty is forcing them to postpone investment and a slower global economy is hurting export demand.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Theresa May asked for a three-month delay to Brexit on Wednesday to buy time to get her twice-rejected departure deal though parliament, but the request faced immediate resistance from the European Commission.

Sales volumes in February alone rose by 0.4 percent versus a poll forecast of a decline, after jumping by 0.9 percent in January, while annual sales growth for the three months to February was its strongest in over two years at 3.7 percent.

Falling inflation, a steady rise in wages and the lowest unemployment since 1975 have all boosted household incomes over the past year, though after inflation wages are still below their peak before the financial crisis.

Last year overall British economic growth slowed to its weakest since 2012 and the Bank of England – which is predicted to keep rates on hold later on Thursday – forecasts the weakest growth for a decade this year.

The ONS said that unusually warm weather in February had boosted spending at garden centres and on sporting equipment, sales fell at supermarkets and in clothing stores due to an end of January’s seasonal promotions.

Earlier on Thursday, major British clothing chain Next reported a small fall in annual profit on Thursday, hurt by lower store sales, and forecast another decline for 2019-2020.

Figures from the British Retail Consortium at the start of the month had suggested that annual sales growth at bigger high-street stores slowed in February, with the trade association blaming Brexit.

Separate figures from the ONS on Thursday showed the government broadly on track to meet updated borrowing goals for the 2018/19 financial year, as the strong labor market boosted income tax revenue.

Public borrowing for February, the eleventh month of the tax year, fell to 0.2 billion pounds from 1.2 billion pounds a year earlier, below economists’ average forecast of 0.6 billion pounds in a Reuters poll.

With just one month remaining of the current financial year, government borrowing totals 23.1 billion pounds, down 44 percent from the same point in the 2017/18 tax year, though these figures are likely to be revised further.

Last week Britain’s official budget forecasters cut their 2018/19 borrowing forecast to 22.8 billion pounds or 1.1 percent of GDP from 25.5 billion pounds.

Finance minister Philip Hammond said at the time that if Brexit went smoothly there would be more money for public services in a major multi-year spending review due late this year.

(Reporting by David Milliken and Andy Bruce)

Source: OANN

Authorities say a Florida woman has been charged in the death of a 4-year-old boy who was left in a hot minivan for more than six hours.

The Orlando Sentinel reports 27-year-old Mariah Butler was arrested Tuesday and charged with aggravated manslaughter and child neglect.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office says Logan Starling was one of five children that Butler brought to the Elite Preparatory Academy, where she worked as an administrative assistant, in September. Investigators say Butler didn’t realize she left Logan in her vehicle until the boy’s teacher asked about him that afternoon.

The school’s director ran out to the minivan, found Logan and rushed the child across the street to a fire station. Logan was later pronounced dead.

Butler was being held on $15,150 bail. Jail records didn’t list an attorney.

___

Information from: Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/

Source: Fox News National

The chairwoman of the Tennessee Democratic Party apologized this week for calling the state racist during a discussion of local politics and while promoting less conventional candidates.

Mary Mancini made the comment while speaking with the Coffee County Democratic Party earlier this month about how the party should put forward less conventional candidates, including black and Latinos, millennials and members of the LGBTQ community.

"We have a little bit of a problem in this state, and I’m just going to say it outright," Mancini said. "This is a racist state."

"We have a little bit of a problem in this state, and I’m just going to say it outright. This is a racist state."

— Mary Mancini, chairwoman, Tennessee Democratic Party

In another county party meeting, Mancini was heard on an audio recording calling Tennessee “a very racist state.”

Mancini issued her apology in a statement to the Tennessean newspaper of Nashville.

“In the heat and the frustration of seeing and hearing the constant drumbeat of bigotry, misogyny and homophobia coming from the Republicans at the state legislature, I used a poor choice of words and vented my frustration and I apologize," Mancini said.

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden said it was disappointing that Mancini called the state racist, the paper reported. He said Republicans are working to “lift all Tennesseans up,” citing the state’s economy and efforts to boost educational attainment.

Mancini said the GOP was causing division to be "become ingrained" in residents around the state. During her meeting with Coffee County Democrats, she suggested that Andrea Bond-Johnson, an African-American candidate for a seat in the state Legislature, couldn’t win because the area has a small minority population.

"Two out of the three counties in that area are extraordinarily racist," Mancini told the group.

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"I wasn’t the only one who was told that we need to run someone who is not African-American in that district, because (some believed) an African-American cannot win in that district because white people will not vote for an African-American,” Mancini said in an interview with the paper.

Her comments follow state Rep. London Lamar, a Democrat, who apologized last year for calling Tennessee racist and the Republican voters uneducated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Progressive advocacy group MoveOn.org is urging 2020 presidential candidates to skip a pro-Israel lobby group’s conference in Washington next week.

The three-day conference will be headlined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Secretary of State Mike Popeo and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In a news release, the group says 74 percent of its members agree or strongly agree that “any progressive vying to be the Democratic nominee for President should skip the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference."

ILHAN OMAR’S AIPAC TWEET SPARKS CONDEMNATION, INCLUDING FROM CHELSEA CLINTON

“This survey is less of a formal vote and more of a gut check on what MoveOn members think,” said Iram Ali, MoveOn’s campaign director.

"It’s time for progressives to recognize where their base stands –– which means upholding progressive principles on domestic AND foreign policy," MoveOn tweeted Wednesday, followed by "Skip #AIPAC2019."

MoveOn referenced AIPAC’s spending of tens of millions of dollars in 2015 to defeat the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama and that it peddles “anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric while giving platforms to Islamophobes.”

“It’s no secret that AIPAC has worked to hinder diplomatic efforts like the Iran deal, is undermining Palestinian self-determination, and inviting figures actively involved in human rights violations to its stage,” Ali said.

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AIPAC did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment early Thursday.

The lobbying group has been at the center of comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who apologized for implying it pays members of Congress to support Israel.

Source: Fox News Politics

A few thousand opposition protesters have gathered in front of Albania’s parliament building calling for the government’s resignation and an early election.

Thursday’s rally is part of the center-right Democratic Party-led opposition’s protests over the last month accusing the leftist Socialist Party government of Prime Minister Edi Rama of being corrupt and linked to organized crime. The government denies the allegations.

In previous rallies, opposition supporters have tried to enter the parliament or government buildings using smoke bombs and projectiles. Police have responded with tear gas.

The Socialists say the opposition isn’t helping Albania’s progress toward membership in the European Union.

Source: Fox News World

Logos of Tencent are displayed at a news conference in Hong Kong, China
Logos of Tencent are displayed at a news conference in Hong Kong, China March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

March 21, 2019

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Tencent Holdings said on Thursday net profit for the quarter ended December fell a sharper-than-expected 32 percent, the most on record for a quarter, as a regulatory review weighed on its gaming business.

Net profit at Asia’s second-most valuable listed company for the September-December quarter was 14.2 billion yuan ($2.12 billion), against the 18.3 billion yuan average estimate of 16 analysts, according to Refinitiv data.

Revenue in the quarter rose 28 percent to 84.9 billion yuan, slightly ahead of an average estimate of 83 billion yuan from 19 analysts. Tencent attributed that in part to strong growth in sponsorship advertising revenue.

Tencent declared a final dividend of HK$1.00 per share versus HK$0.88 in 2017.

(Reporting by Sijia Jiang; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Source: OANN

The U.S. has started releasing hundreds of illegal immigrant detainees into the country as immigration authorities struggle to find available places to house the thousands of illegal migrants coming through the U.S.-Mexico border.

Most of the released migrants are expected to be those who crossed the border together with their families. Such migrants are given paper notices with a court date and told to stay with their other family members in the U.S.

FLORIDA BILL WOULD ALLOW ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO GET DRIVER’S LICENSES

At least 250 illegal immigrants were released between Tuesday and Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported. Most of the releases happening near Mexico’s border with Texas and more such releases are expected, the officials said.

A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told reporters that the releases were being done in a bid “to mitigate risks to both officer safety and vulnerable populations under these circumstances.”

Immigration officials told the Times on Wednesday that the shortage of space for illegal migrants occurred due to an uptick in Central American families coming to the U.S. Due to the lack of space, the authorities can’t follow the protocol and process the migrants’ cases while they are in detention.

SUPREME COURT HANDS TRUMP ADMINISTRATION A VICTORY IN IMMIGRATION BATTLE

The releases come in the backdrop of President Trump declaring a national emergency on the southern border in a bid to build a border wall to stop the influx of people, a measure he took after Congress gave only a fraction of the $5.7 billion he requested for a wall. Declaring a national emergency allows Trump to steer an extra $3.6 billion to the wall.

But some immigrant groups have accused the Trump administration of intentionally releasing the migrants and causing confusion and chaos at the border.

“They are doing this deliberately so they can release a ton of people at once and create chaos,” Efren Olivares, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, told the Times. “The government is trying to do this.”

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Yet an unidentified Border Patrol official dismissed speculation that this is just a political stunt. “It is a crisis,” he said. “It’s not a self-proclaimed crisis.”

Source: Fox News National

Documents seen by The Associated Press show that South Sudan’s committee overseeing the fragile transition from civil war has approved almost $185 million in spending on vehicles, food and home renovations while the country’s peace deal suffers from an alleged lack of funds.

As the East African nation emerges from a five-year conflict that killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions, experts warn the government’s lack of financial transparency will gut the confidence of international donors being encouraged to donate to the peace transition fund.

The internal government documents show that on Nov. 5, two months after warring parties signed the peace deal, the committee that includes government and opposition representatives authorized payments for 1,000 vehicles and food including 50,000 tons of sorghum to be delivered to the capital, Juba.

Source: Fox News World

German Chancellor Merkel checks phone at Bundestag ahead of EU summit on Brexit delay in Berlin
German Chancellor Angela Merkel checks her phone at the lower house of parliament (Bundestag), ahead of a Brussels summit for Brexit delay discussions, in Berlin, Germany March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

March 21, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany will meet the obligation it has made to NATO allies to spend 1.5 percent of economic output on defense by 2024, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.

“The 1.5 percent target by 2024 is an obligation to NATO … I guarantee and the German government guarantees that we will meet that obligation. And that will require effort,” Merkel told the lower house of parliament.

(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Michelle Martin)

Source: OANN

Citigroup Inc. plans to sell several tons of Venezuelan gold it received as collateral from the Maduro regime to settle the country’s $1.6 billion loan after the deadline to repurchase the precious metal expired earlier this month, reports said Wednesday.

Venezuela was due to repay $1.1 billion of the loan March 11, according to the terms of the 2015 deal with Citigroup’s Citibank, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. The remainder of the loan is due next year.

US REVOKES VISAS OF 49 MADURO-ALIGNED OFFICIALS IN VENEZUELA

Citibank now plans to sell the gold, valued at roughly $1.358 billion, to recover the first tranche of the loan, two of the sources told the outlet. The excess $258 million from the sale will be deposited into a U.S. bank account in New York.

The development marks another financial blow to President Nicolas Maduro’s regime. Not only won’t it be able to access the cash in the U.S. account, but it could see it handed over to the transitional government being formed by opposition leader Juan Guaido, Bloomberg reported, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.

GUAIDO SUPPORTERS IN VENEZUELA ‘TOOK CONTROL’ OF DIPLOMATIC BUILDINGS, US SAYS

The socialist regime previously faced a financial setback in January when the Bank of England denied Maduro’s request to withdraw $1.2 billion of gold stored there.

A week later, Venezuelan officials reportedly planned to ship 20 tons of gold, worth around $850 million, overseas to protect the country’s hard assets amid international pressure mounting against Maduro to cede power.

The plan was reportedly halted before the gold could be loaded in Caracas onto an airliner from Russia, a major financial backer of Maduro’s presidency, along with Turkey and China. The ultimate destination of the bars was unknown.

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Maduro depleted more than 40 percent of the country’s gold reserves last year in a desperate bid to pay creditors and fund government programs as the nation deals with a crippling economy, a lack of basic necessities for its people and rising inflation under his socialist rule, Bloomberg reported.

All that remains of the central bank’s dwindling international reserves is $8.7 billion, most of which is held in physical gold, the outlet reported.

Source: Fox News World


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