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Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses with Joyce Murray after she was sworn-in during a cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall in Ottawa
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses with Joyce Murray after she was sworn-in as Canada’s President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government during a cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

March 18, 2019

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday changed his cabinet for the third time in three months in response to a crisis caused by the resignation of a minister who later alleged inappropriate conduct by officials.

In a surprise move, Trudeau named backbench Liberal legislator Joyce Murray to the post of Treasury Board President, where she will be in overall charge of government spending.

It is the first federal cabinet post for Murray, 64, who had previously been a provincial government minister in British Columbia.

Murray replaces Jane Philpott, who quit on March 4 in protest over how the government was handling a corruption case involving SNC-Lavalin Group Inc, a major construction company.

Philpott expressed unhappiness over allegations that government officials pressured former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould last year to help Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal trial.

Wilson-Raybould, who was demoted in January, resigned from Trudeau’s cabinet the next month. Trudeau’s closest personal aide quit shortly afterwards.

Polls show the crisis could derail the Trudeau government’s chances of being reelected in October.

Earlier this month, Trudeau denied he or his officials had interfered in Canada’s judicial system, and he offered no apology.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Paul Simao)

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German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz attends a media briefing during his visit to Beijing
FILE PHOTO: German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz attends a media briefing during his visit to Beijing, China, January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

March 18, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz on Monday welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to stimulate debate about the future of the European project with an open letter published earlier this month.

“Our problem is that we have, from my point of view, 27 monologues – or 28 at this time,” Scholz said of debate on the future of the European Union.

“But we should have a real European debate and this is the real advantage you get from the proposals from Macron – that he is starting a European debate,” he added, speaking at a World Policy Forum conference in Berlin.

(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Madeline Chambers)

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DJ Masatane Muto, diagnosed with the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), mixes music using a smart eyewear called 'Jins Meme' which detects eye and head movements, during his performance on the stage in Tokyo
DJ Masatane Muto, diagnosed with the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), mixes music using a smart eyewear called ‘Jins Meme’ which detects eye and head movements, during his performance on the stage in Tokyo, Japan, January 24, 2019. Picture taken January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 18, 2019

By Kwiyeon Ha

TOKYO (Reuters) – The music booms and lights flash as Masatane Muto, a wheelchair-bound disc jockey, uses is eyes to put on a show at a recent Tokyo music festival.

Muto, who lost the use of his hands to Lou Gehrig’s Disease, wears a pair of high-tech glasses connected to an app that controls music-mixing software.

“Through my performance, I hope to show that everybody should be given the chance to express themselves,” Muto, 32, told Reuters Television after performing at the J-Wave Innovation World Festa.

Muto was a 27-year-old advertising executive when he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – a progressive neurological disease in which patients gradually lose control of most of their muscles, though mental function remains unimpaired.

The disease, which gained prominence in 2014 through the “Ice Bucket Challenge” global video fundraising campaign, is terminal, with most patients dying within three to five years of their diagnosis. There is currently no treatment.

On the train home after his diagnosis, Muto vowed to make the rest of his life as innovative and creative as possible.

He quit his job and founded the group “WITH ALS” to raise awareness of the disease and help other patients live their lives to the fullest.

Muto dreamed of being a disc jockey and tracked down the latest technology to make it happen.

Now a radio personality, he performs as a disc and video jockey under the moniker “EYE VDJ”, mixing music with smart eyewear that detects his eye movements and allows him to use an app connected to music-mixing software.

A three-point sensor on the nose pad of the JINS MEME glasses detects subtle electronic changes in the surrounding skin which are caused by blinking or movement of the eyes.

The eyeglasses sell for 27,300 yen ($245) a pair, cheaper than many other eye-tracking devices. The source code for JINS MEME has been released to the public in the hope that others will find their own ways of using it, Muto said.

“ALS is thought to be an incurable disease, but I believe hope is now growing for ALS patients to pursue their lifestyle and quality of life with the help of technology,” he said.

Muto said his next dream is to perform at the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.

“By then I may be bedridden, but I can perform with the help of technology and the support of many people,” he said.

(Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Darren Schuettler)

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A member of the fire brigade reacts as Saint-Sulpice church is seen on fire in Paris
A member of the fire brigade reacts as Saint-Sulpice church is seen on fire in Paris, France, March 17, 2019 in this still image taken from social media obtained on March 18, 2019. INSTAGRAM @agneswebste/via REUTERS via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

March 18, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – Paris’s historic Saint-Sulpice church, which was used in the filming of U.S. author Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’ bestseller, briefly caught fire on Sunday but firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control and nobody was hurt.

The fire started early in the afternoon, when four people were inside, with flames climbing up the massive doors of the Roman Catholic church before spreading to stained glass above and to a nearby stairway, a fire brigade spokesman said.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known, he added. The extent of the damage was also not immediately clear.

The church, which was built in the 17th century on foundations dating from the Middle Ages, towers over the Left Bank district of Saint Germain des Pres.

The church houses three paintings by Eugene Delacroix, one of the leading figures of the Romantic movement in France in the 19th century.

(Reporting by Pascale Antonie; writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Two Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft are parked at a Boeing production facility in Renton, Washington
FILE PHOTO: Two Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft are parked at a Boeing production facility in Renton, Washington, U.S., March 11, 2019. REUTERS/David Ryder

March 18, 2019

By Maggie Fick and Tim Hepher

ADDIS ABABA/PARIS (Reuters) – The world’s biggest planemaker faced escalating pressure on Monday after Ethiopia pointed to parallels between its crash and one in Indonesia, sharping the focus on the safety of software installed in Boeing 737 MAX planes.

The Ethiopian Airlines disaster eight days ago killed 157 people, grounded Boeing’s marquee MAX fleet worldwide, and sparked a high-stakes inquiry for the shaken aviation industry.

Ethiopian Airlines, whose reputation also hinges on the investigation, said at the weekend initial analysis of the black boxes showed “clear similarities” with a Lion Air flight from Jakarta in October which crashed killing 189 people.

Both planes were MAX 8s and crashed minutes after take-off with pilots reporting flight control problems.

Under scrutiny is a new automated system in the MAX model that guides the nose lower to avoid stalling.

Lawmakers and safety experts are asking how thoroughly regulators vetted the system and how well pilots around the world were trained for it when their airlines bought new planes.

Ethiopian Transport Ministry spokesman Muse Yiheyis said on Sunday that data recovered from the black boxes by investigators in Paris demonstrated parallels with the Lion Air crash and had been validated by U.S. experts.

U.S. officials did not corroborate that.

With the prestige of one of the United States’ biggest exporters at stake, Boeing has said the MAX series is safe, though it plans to roll out new software upgrades shortly.

The grounded 737 Max fleet: https://tmsnrt.rs/2u5sZYI

Ethiopian Airlines crash: https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hn6V4k

SHADOW OVER 737 MAX

Boeing has lost billions of dollars of market value since the crash, and halted deliveries of its best-selling model, one intended to be the industry standard but now under a shadow.

There were more than 300 MAX airplanes in operation at the time of the Ethiopian crash, and nearly 5,000 more on order.

Media reports heaped further pressure on Boeing.

The Seattle Times said the company’s safety analysis of a new flight control system known as MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) had crucial flaws, including understating the power of the system.

It also said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) followed a standard certification process on the MAX rather than detailed extra inquiries. The FAA declined to comment, but has said the process followed normal process.

The Wall Street Journal reported that federal prosecutors and U.S. Department of Transportation were scrutinizing the FAA’s approval of the MAX series, while a jury had issued a subpoena to at least one person involved in its development.

Boeing and the FAA declined to comment on that.

Last week, sources told Reuters that investigators found a piece of a stabilizer in the Ethiopian wreckage set in an unusual position similar to that of the Lion Air plane.

Ethiopia is leading the probe, though the black boxes were sent to France and U.S. experts are also participating.

It was unclear how many of the roughly 1,800 parameters of flight data and two hours of cockpit recordings, spanning the doomed six-minute flight and earlier trips, had been taken into account in the preliminary Ethiopian analysis.

In Addis Ababa, a source who has listened to the air traffic control recording of the plane’s communications, said flight 302 had an unusually high speed after take-off before it reported problems and asked permission to climb quickly.

CLOSURE?

The inquiry is not only crucial to give some closure to the families of the victims, who came from nearly three dozen countries, but also has huge financial implications for Boeing and its many customers worldwide.

The MAX is Boeing’s best-selling model ever, with a backlog of orders worth well over $500 billion at a list price of $121 million each.

Norwegian Airlines has already said it will seek compensation after grounding its MAX aircraft, and various companies are re-considering orders.

Some airlines are revising financial forecasts, too, given the MAX had been factored in as providing some maintenance and fuel savings.

Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg sought to allay some fears at the weekend.

“While investigators continue to work to establish definitive conclusions, Boeing is finalizing its development of a previously-announced software update and pilot training revision that will address the MCAS flight control law’s behavior in response to erroneous sensor inputs,” he said.

Dozens of aviation authorities had grounded the MAX series before acting U.S. FAA boss Daniel Elwell said the United States would do the same.

One source close to the probe said Ethiopian officials had been reluctant to share information with U.S. investigation teams and the planemaker.

“There was a lot of distrust, especially at first, but it is easing,” the source said, asking not to be named.

There have also been arguments over access to the crater left by the explosive high-speed impact of Flight 302.

The agony for families of the dead in Ethiopia has been compounded by their inability to bury remains. Charred fragments are all that remain and DNA testing may take months.

(Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; editing by Jason Neely)

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People visit a memorial site for victims of Friday's shooting, in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch
People visit a memorial site for victims of Friday’s shooting, in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

March 18, 2019

CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) – Kamran Nasir was in a finance lecture in Australia when a gunman slaughtered 50 people during Friday prayers at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Within hours he had joined a band of about 60 volunteers on their way to wash the dead victims, in the somber aftermath of New Zealand’s worst modern mass shooting spree.

“We got this text – they need volunteers,” Nasir, 35, told Reuters.

“It literally unfolded in an hour and half and we were running to the airport to catch a flight,” he said, sitting with four friends who had also dropped everything to offer help.

Experienced in Islamic funeral rites, the men from Brisbane who are connected to Brothers in Need, a charity group, are part of a contingent drawn from Australia and cities across New Zealand to help a community overwhelmed by the number of bodies which must be dealt with according to ritual.

They also epitomize a spirit of generosity that has pulsed across a grieving city this week.

“The first thing that went through my head was: They need us,” Nasir said.

He arrived in the early hours of Saturday, the same day Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder over the killings. Tarrant was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5 where police said he was likely to face more charges.

Christchurch is subdued. Bunches of flowers have been piled up outside the botanical gardens and underneath oak trees opposite one of the mosques, which are guarded by armed police.

The majority of victims were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The youngest was a three year old boy, born in New Zealand to Somali refugee parents.

The victims, after their bodies were removed from the crime scenes, had to be examined by investigators before they can be prepared for burial.

“It is a spiritual process, preparing the body to go into the next life,” said Taufan Mawardi, who is 38 and one of Nasir’s fellow volunteers.

“I’ve never personally done anything that’s got to do with violent crime, particularly bodies that have been riddled with bullet holes or knife wounds or whatever that may be. So it is a bit confronting as well, anticipating what it’s going to be like in there,” he said.

Eight teams of six people are carrying out the work of cleansing the bodies before burial.

“You start from the head, working down from the right to the left side, to the feet. The mouth and the nose have to be washed,” Nasir said.

Officials say they have released one body and that they hope to complete their examinations of the other 49 killed as soon as possible.

“As much as it is emotional, we’ve got a very good support network,” said Nasir.

“For me it is an honor. It is an honor to be washing these bodies.”

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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FILE PHOTO: A view of Vedanta Limited alumina refinery is seen in Lanjigarh
FILE PHOTO: A view of Vedanta Limited alumina refinery is seen in Lanjigarh in the eastern state of Odisha, India, June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Krishna N. Das/File Photo

March 18, 2019

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – At least one person died in clashes between police and protesters outside Vedanta Ltd’s aluminum plant in the eastern state of Odisha, the company said on Monday.

The incident comes less than a year after police opened fire on demonstrators protesting against the operation of another Vedanta plant, its copper smelter in Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu state, killing 13 people.

Vedanta said in a statement to Reuters that one person had died and more people had been injured in the clashes outside its Lanjigarh plant.

“As per the update from the hospital, one of the injured protesters lost his life,” Vedanta said in a statement to Reuters.

“The local Odisha Industrial Security Force personnel (OISF), who intervened were attacked by the protesters during which some protesters and OISF personnel got injured,” the company said, referring to a state security force that is under police command.

Vedanta did not comment on what the demands of the protesters were. Media in Odisha reported that they had been agitating for jobs for local people.

(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Martin Howell & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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People attend a celebratory event marking the fifth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea in Sevastopol
FILE PHOTO – Russian navy sailors walk past an installation resembling the state emblem of the Soviet Union as they attend a celebratory event, organised by members of the motorcycling club “Night Wolves” and marking the fifth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, in Sevastopol, Crimea March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Alexey Pavlishak

March 18, 2019

By Anastasia Lyrchikova

SEVASTOPOL, Crimea (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin inaugurated two new power stations in Crimea on Monday after flying into the Black Sea peninsula to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the region from Ukraine.

The power stations, in the cities of Sevastopol and Simferopol, were partially launched last year, but Monday’s inauguration marked the moment they began working at full capacity.

The same facilities were at the center of an international scandal after German engineering company Siemens said its power turbines had been installed at them without its knowledge and in violation of European Union sanctions. Russia denied that.

Putin, who has poured billions of Russian taxpayer dollars into Crimea since Moscow seized control of it in 2014, attended the launch of the Sevastopol power station. He oversaw the launch of the Simferopol facility by video conference.

Earlier on Monday, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said the ceremony would show that Crimea was able to meet all of its own energy needs for the first time. Before annexation, Ukraine supplied 80 percent of the peninsula’s electricity needs.

Ukraine says it wants Crimea, which most countries still recognize as Ukrainian territory, back.

Russia says the matter is closed forever and that a 2014 referendum held after Russian forces secured the peninsula, showed Crimeans want to part of Russia.

Putin is due to speak at a celebratory music concert later on Monday and to hold talks with local people and businesses about what Russia has achieved in Crimea in the last five years and where it has fallen short.

Russia has spent heavily to try to integrate Crimea and reduce its dependence on Ukraine, including building a giant bridge to link the peninsula to southern Russia. But Western sanctions designed to punish Moscow for its annexation have helped isolate the peninsula, pushing up prices and slowing its development.

Putin’s approval rating soared on the back of Russia’s Crimean annexation, which stirred national pride in many Russians. But despite remaining high at over 60 percent, his rating has since declined due to public unease over falling wages, rising prices and unpopular pension reforms.

Russian enthusiasm for the annexation also appears to have cooled with an opinion poll from the FOM pollster this month showing that 39 percent of Russians believe it brought more good than harm, down from 67 percent in 2014.

(Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Tom Balmforth)

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The site of a shooting is pictured in Utrecht
The site of a shooting is pictured in Utrecht, Netherlands, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

March 18, 2019

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Several people were shot, one possibly fatally, on Monday in a tram in the central Dutch city of Utrecht, in an incident police said may have had a “terrorist motive”.

Police said the suspected gunman was at large and authorities raised the terrorism threat to its highest level in Utrecht province. Schools were told to shut their doors and paramilitary police increased security at airports and other vital infrastructure. Security was stepped up at mosques.

“Several shots were fired in a tram and several people were injured. Helicopters are at the scene and no arrests have been made,” said police spokesman Joost Lanshage. He was not immediately able to provide further details.

Local broadcaster RTV Utrecht quoted a witness as saying he had seen a woman lying on the ground amid some kind of confrontation and several men ran away from the scene.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he was deeply concerned about the incident and convened crisis talks.

The incident comes after a lone gunman killed 50 people in mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, last Friday.

Utrecht, the Netherlands’ fourth largest city, is known for its picturesque canals and large student population. Gun killings are rare in Utrecht, as elsewhere in the Netherlands.

The Utrecht police said The October 21st square, a tram station stop outside the city center, had been cordoned off as emergency services were at the scene.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling and Anthony Deutsch; Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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Olly Robbins, senior civil servant and Europe adviser to Prime Minister Theresa May, arrives at the Cabinet Office, in London
FILE PHOTO: Olly Robbins, senior civil servant and Europe adviser to Prime Minister Theresa May, arrives at the Cabinet Office, in London, Britain January 28, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

March 18, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May could sacrifice her chief Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins in a last ditch attempt to get her divorce deal approved, the London Evening Standard newspaper reported on Monday, citing unidentified lawmakers.

“One MP (lawmaker) was told that the Prime Minister would ‘update her negotiating team’ before the next phase of talks, while another was told that Mr Robbins, a bete noir of the European Research Group of Tory (Conservative) MPs, would ‘go as soon as the deal is through’,” the newspaper said.

The newspaper said the mooted offer to move Robbins had not won over lawmakers in May’s Conservative Party who wanted her to leave office before Brexit talks move to trade.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton; editing by Michael Holden)

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