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U.S. and EU flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: U.S. and European Union flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Mike Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

March 19, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said on Tuesday that Washington’s “selfish” approach to trade was not sustainable, but it was too early to say that EU-U.S. trade talks were doomed to fail.

The Trump administration has imposed stiff tariffs on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum and set off a trade war with China in a bid to redress what it sees as unfavorable terms that contribute to a U.S. trade deficit of over half a trillion dollars a year.

The Commission, which negotiates trade agreements on behalf of the 28-nation European Union, has been in talks with U.S. authorities since last July, seeking to clinch a deal on industrial goods trade.

EU governments are now discussing the details of a negotiating mandate for the Commission, while Washington has until mid-May to decide whether to make good on President Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on imports of European cars.

“It is too early to say that our trade discussions are doomed to fail,” Katainen told a regular news briefing.

“There are discussions going on on several levels and … we can end up having some sort of an agreement with the U.S. on trade, but let’s not go deeper than this,” he said, adding that the scope of negotiations had to be clear and that a deal would require a lot of good will and political capital on both sides.

Asked about a reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Katainen said it was problematic and that attempts to get it done were like pushing a rope.

“Japan, China and the EU are willing to reform the WTO, the U.S. has not been that interested, but they are willing to cooperate,” he said.

“Even though the U.S. authorities may think that selfishness is better than cooperation, it is not a sustainable way of thinking. We need better, rules-based trade in the future where the international community sets the rules,” he said.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Congress last week that the WTO was using an “out of date” playbook despite dramatic changes including the rise of China and the evolution of the internet.

He said Washington was nonetheless working “diligently” to negotiate new WTO rules to address these problems.

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Source: OANN

An Angry Birds game character is seen at the Rovio headquarters in Espoo
FILE PHOTO: An Angry Birds game character is seen at the Rovio headquarters in Espoo, Finland March 13, 2019. Picture taken March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Anne Kauranen

March 19, 2019

(Reuters) – Finnish game company Rovio released an augmented reality game called Angry Birds Isle of Pigs, developed together with Swedish game studio Resolution Games for Apple’s mobile devices, the Finnish games developer said on Tuesday.

The release announced at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco came in addition to the two games the company had promised to release this year, with one of them already out.

(Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Edmund Blair)

Source: OANN

Thirty-eight percent of New York voters say Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., was a “villain” in Amazon’s decision to pull out of plans to build a headquarters in Queens, a new Siena College poll reveals.

Only 12 percent call her a “hero” in the collapse of the deal with Amazon. Twenty-four percent classified her as a “role player.”

Ocasio-Cortez and other critics of the Amazon deal said the state went too far in offering the online retail giant tax incentives.

“Local Queens activists” were the second biggest “villain” with 34 percent, the poll noted.

Here is how the New York survey breaks down:

  • 31 percent have a favorable view of Ocasio-Cortez, compared to 44 percent who have an unfavorable opinion of her.
  • 34 percent have a favorable opinion of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, while 50 do not.
  • 51 percent have a favorable view of Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., compared to 41 percent who have an unfavorable opinion of him.
  • 43 percent have a favorable opinion of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., while 33 percent do not.
  • 46 percent have a favorable view of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, compared to 48 percent who have an unfavorable opinion of him.
  • 36 percent have a favorable opinion of President Donald Trump, while 60 percent do not.

The poll, conducted March 10-14, surveyed 700 New York registered voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Source: NewsMax America

FILE PHOTO: Special Counsel Mueller departs after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Special Counsel Robert Mueller (R) departs after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

March 19, 2019

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Special Counsel Robert Mueller, examining potential conspiracy between President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, is leading the latest in a series of U.S. investigations conducted by prosecutors outside usual Justice Department channels in recent decades.

The release of the findings by previous investigators analogous to Mueller has been handled differently over the years, sometimes with voluminous reports and other times with no reports or with key elements kept under wraps for months and even years.

Mueller is preparing to submit a report to U.S. Attorney General William Barr on his findings, including Russia’s role in the election and whether Trump unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe. Trump has denied collusion and obstruction. Russia has denied election interference.

Barr already is coming under pressure from lawmakers to make the entire document public quickly, though he has wide latitude in what to release.

Here is an explanation of some past high-profile U.S. investigations and how their findings were made public.

WATERGATE SCANDAL

The Justice Department named a special prosecutor to investigate the Watergate scandal that eventually forced Republican Richard Nixon in 1974 to become the only U.S. president to resign from office. At the time, no specific regulations or laws governed special prosecutors.

Attorney General Elliot Richardson, as a condition of his Senate confirmation, appointed Archibald Cox as a special prosecutor to examine the 1972 break-in by Republican operatives at Democratic headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington.

Cox found himself at odds with Nixon over subpoenas to obtain taped White House conversations. Nixon ultimately ordered the firing of Cox, and several top Justice Department officials resigned in protest including Richardson, in an event dubbed the Saturday Night Massacre.

Leon Jaworski, subsequently named as the new Watergate special prosecutor, prepared a report with his findings, known as the “road map,” to assist Congress with possible impeachment proceedings to remove Nixon from office.

The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee used it as a basis for hearings and passed articles of impeachment, though Nixon quit before the full House could act. The “road map” remained under seal by a federal court for 55 years until it was released by federal archivists in 2018.

IRAN-CONTRA AFFAIR

The job of independent counsel, with broader powers, was created by Congress after the Watergate scandal. In 1986, Lawrence Walsh was named as independent counsel to investigate the Iran-Contra affair involving illegal arms sales to Iran under Republican President Ronald Reagan, with the proceeds diverted to fund rebels in Nicaragua called Contras.

The probe lasted nearly seven years and led to criminal charges against 14 people. The convictions of some prominent officials – Oliver North and John Poindexter – were overturned on appeal. In 1992, Republican President George H.W. Bush pardoned others.

Walsh submitted his final report to a federal court in 1993, which had the power to release it publicly but was not required to do so. Its release was delayed after people named in the report sued to keep it suppressed. A federal appeals court ruled in 1994 that it should be released in the public interest. Walsh then unveiled it at a news conference.

WHITEWATER AND LEWINSKY SCANDALS

Attorney General Janet Reno in 1994 appointed Robert Fiske as a independent counsel to investigate allegations of impropriety by Democratic President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton regarding real estate investments in the Whitewater Development Corporation. Fiske’s probe was expanded to include reviewing the death of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster, which police had ruled a suicide.

Fiske, who was not subject to the independent counsel law because it had temporarily lapsed, publicly released a 200-page interim report in 1994 clearing White House officials of wrongdoing in the Whitewater affair and confirming that Foster’s death was a suicide unrelated to Whitewater.

On that same day, Clinton signed a law reauthorizing the independent counsel statute, which paved the way for a federal court to replace Fiske as independent counsel with Kenneth Starr. Starr turned in a report on Foster’s death to federal courts in 1997, also finding no foul play. It remained under seal for three months before being released.

Starr’s probe expanded into other areas, including a sexual affair between Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky and alleged improprieties in the White House travel office. His expansive 445-page report, containing explicit details on Clinton’s sexual affair, was sent to Congress in 1998. Two days later, lawmakers voted to release it publicly. Its findings triggered an unsuccessful Republican effort to remove Clinton from office through the impeachment process.

Congress let the independent counsel law expire, with some lawmakers believing Starr went too far. The Justice Department in 1999 wrote regulations creating the new job of special counsel, with more limited powers.

FEDERAL RAID AT WACO

Reno in 1999 appointed John Danforth as special counsel to investigate the 1993 federal raid on the Branch Davidian cult compound in Waco, Texas. The FBI used tear gas and a fire broke out, killing more than 70 people including cult leader David Koresh.

Danforth was the first person appointed under the 1999 regulations, the rules that now apply to Mueller. Under those rules, a special counsel must submit a confidential report to the attorney general, who then has discretion to publicly release some or all of it. The attorney general must weigh the public interest. But he also must consider thorny issues such as secrecy of grand jury testimony, protecting classified information, communications with the White House possibly subject to the principle of executive privilege shielding certain information from disclosure, and safeguarding confidential reasons for why some individuals were not charged.

Reno specifically instructed Danforth to prepare two versions of his report, a confidential one and another for public release. Rod Rosenstein, the Justice Department’s No. 2 official, gave no such instruction to Mueller when he appointed him in May 2017.

In 2000, Danforth held a news conference to publicly release his report, exonerating federal agents and Justice Department officials of any wrongdoing.

OUTING OF CIA AGENT PLAME

In 2003, James Comey, then the Justice Department’s No. 2 official, appointed Patrick Fitzgerald as special counsel to investigate how CIA operative Valerie Plame’s cover was blown through media leaks. Fitzgerald was not appointed under the 1999 regulations and was not bound by them.

Fitzgerald held a 2005 news conference to announce that a grand jury had returned a five-count indictment against Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, for obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements. Fitzgerald never published a final report on his findings.

A jury convicted Libby. Republican President George H.W. Bush commuted his sentence in 2007. Trump gave Libby a full pardon in 2018.

(This story has been refiled to insert dropped word in lead paragraph.)

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham)

Source: OANN

An employee of Germany's Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) uses his mobile phone in front of a screen set up for the auction of spectrum for 5G services at the Bundesnetzagentur headquarters in Mainz
An employee of Germany’s Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) uses his mobile phone in front of a screen set up for the auction of spectrum for 5G services at the Bundesnetzagentur headquarters in Mainz, Germany, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

March 19, 2019

By Douglas Busvine

MAINZ, Germany (Reuters) – Germany begins an auction of spectrum for next-generation 5G mobile networks on Tuesday, the outcome of which will play a decisive role in determining whether Europe’s largest economy remains competitive in the digital age.

It nearly didn’t happen: a raft of lawsuits brought by network operators was thrown out by a court only last week. The buildup has also been overshadowed by U.S. pressure on its allies to bar Chinese vendors from participating in building 5G networks due to national security fears.

In the end, regulators preferred to draft tougher rules for all vendors rather than meet the U.S. demand to banish China’s Huawei Technologies, the global network market leader.

Here’s an overview of how the auction will work:

WHAT IS BEING AUCTIONED?

Germany’s Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) is auctioning off 41 blocks of spectrum in the 2 GHz and 3.6 GHz bands.

These frequencies have relatively short range and high data-carrying capacity, suiting them to use in running ‘connected’ factories – an industrial policy priority.

Urban areas should get 5G coverage early, with another application likely to be super-fast domestic wireless broadband.

WHO’S TAKING PART?

Germany’s three network operators – Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica Deutschland – have been admitted into the auction.

Also participating is 1&1 Drillisch, a virtual mobile operator controlled by United Internet that wants to run a fourth network.

The Big Three filed lawsuits to delay the auction, arguing that its requirement to provide high-speed coverage to 98 percent of households by 2022 was too onerous. They also criticized rules for network sharing, arguing they would make life too easy for new market entrants.

The Cologne Administrative Court threw out those lawsuits on Friday. Outstanding litigation may yet lead to the results of the auction being reviewed, although BNetzA says it is on firm legal ground.

HOW MUCH MONEY WILL THE AUCTION RAISE?

BNetzA has declined to forecast proceeds but the federal government hopes to raise several billion euros – money it will reinvest in upgrading Germany’s broadband networks.

The last auction in 2015, for 4G frequencies, raised 5.1 billion euros ($5.8 billion). Back in 2000, a 3G auction raised more than 50 billion euros – a ruinous sum that forced some players out of the market and others to merge.

HOW WILL IT WORK?

The auction is being held in old army barracks in the south-western city of Mainz. Bid teams will have to surrender their phones when they enter. They will submit offers from separate rooms via a secure network, and can only seek guidance via fax from their head offices.

All 41 blocks will be auctioned simultaneously and results will be published online https://www.bundesnetzagentur.de/DE/Sachgebiete/Telekommunikation/Unternehmen_Institutionen/Frequenzen/OeffentlicheNetze/Mobilfunknetze/mobilfunknetze-node.html after each round. Minimum bids range between 1.7 million and 5 million euros and total 104.6 million euros. The process ends when no fresh bids are entered.

Based on past experience, the auction could run for weeks – a previous one in 2010 lasted six weeks.

WHAT ABOUT U.S. CALLS TO SHUT OUT CHINESE VENDORS?

Germany resisted calls from the United States to shut Chinese network vendors out of its 5G buildout due to national security concerns.

Instead of banning Huawei outright, regulators have tightened rules on all network vendors. These won’t bid in the auction but will be key partners in upgrading network infrastructure.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER EUROPEAN AUCTIONS?

Several countries – among them Ireland, Finland, Italy, Switzerland and Austria – have already auctioned 5G spectrum. Most have been low-key affairs, with only modest sums raised because the sales were designed to leave operators with money left over to invest in network upgrades.

The exception was Italy, where frenzied bidding last year raised 6.5 billion euros for the cash-strapped government but left operators financially stretched.

Countries like France have yet to hold 5G auctions, leaving Europe as a whole lagging early adopters like the United States, Japan and Korea.

($1 = 0.8818 euros)

(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A security guard walks past in front of the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: A security guard walks past in front of the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo, Japan January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 19, 2019

By Leika Kihara

FUKUOKA, Japan (Reuters) – Japan’s ultra-loose monetary policy is making it tough for commercial banks to earn profits out of lending, a problem that cannot be fixed through bank mergers, the influential chairman of a major regional bank in southern Japan said.

Isao Kubota, chairman of Nishi-Nippon City Bank and once a finance ministry colleague of Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, praised the BOJ chief’s massive stimulus program for correcting a damaging yen spike and revitalizing the economy.

But Kubota said the length of the stimulus program is causing some problems, including hurting financial institutions’ profits for years due to low interest rates.

Extraordinary monetary steps, such as Kuroda’s massive asset-buying program and negative interest rates, could be useful and effective as “short-term, emergency” measures, Kubota told Reuters on Monday.

“But the longer the policy continues, the worse the side effects become,” he said. “We are in the sixth year of this policy and, I think intuitively, the accumulation of the side-effects might be enormous.”

Many Japanese regional banks are grappling with diminishing returns from traditional lending as years of ultra-low rates hurt their bottom line and a dwindling population triggers an exodus of companies to bigger cities.

While Japan’s banking lobbies have complained about the pain from the BOJ’s policies, financial regulators have urged regional banks to cut costs and find new ways to make money.

Some BOJ officials have said mergers could be among options for regional banks to beat a deteriorating business environment.

BIGGER PROBLEMS

But Kubota argued that simply prodding regional banks to merge won’t solve a bigger problem created by the BOJ’s yield curve control (YCC) policy, which caps long-term rates at zero.

“Regardless of whether (the BOJ) intends to do so or not, they are squeezing the profits of commercial banks,” Kubota said of YCC’s impact on bank profits.

“The other side of the coin is that, this kind of phenomenon is never resolved through, for example, mergers of banks. By nature, because of this policy, banks as a whole are made unprofitable.”

Under YCC, the BOJ now pledges to guide short-term rates at minus 0.1 percent and the 10-year bond yield around zero percent. The policy has made it tough for banks to profit from traditional business of borrowing short-term funds and lending them at higher yields.

“We want an early stoppage to this kind of policy. That we can say. But we can’t say what the authorities should do,” Kubota said, when asked whether commercial banks would be better off if the BOJ abandoned negative rates. “They have powers, authorities. They also have responsibilities for the outcome of their policy.”

Despite the mounting challenges to achieving 2 percent inflation, Kuroda won’t abandon his target, said Kubota, who thinks he sees the governor’s way of thinking “very well” as former colleagues.

Both studied under prominent economists at Oxford University as graduate students dispatched from Japan’s Ministry of Finance.

“He’s confident and he’s a good politician,” Kubota said of the BOJ governor. “Even if he thinks something is dubious, he would never say so, so long as there is a need for the policy.”

(Additional reporting by Takahiko Wada; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Outside view of the Deutsche Bank and the Commerzbank headquarters in Frankfurt
FILE PHOTO: Outside view of the Deutsche Bank and the Commerzbank headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

March 19, 2019

By John O’Donnell and Arno Schuetze

BERLIN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German lawmakers on Monday criticized deputy finance minister Joerg Kukies and Goldman Sachs, alleging a conflict of interest in the U.S. investment bank advising state-backed Commerzbank on a possible merger with Deutsche Bank.

Kukies, who was formerly co-head of Goldman Sachs <GS.N> in Germany, left the Wall Street firm a year ago to become deputy German finance minister.

Kukies has since advocated a merger between Commerzbank <CBKG.DE> and Deutsche Bank <DBKGn.DE>, which unions warn could mean up to 30,000 job cuts, people familiar with the matter say.

Goldman Sachs is advising Commerzbank on the $28 billion plus deal deliberations, people familiar with the matter said.

“It’s a conflict of interest,” Fabio De Masi, a prominent leftist lawmaker in the German parliament, said, pointing to the state’s 15 percent stake in Commerzbank.

A spokesman for Kukies told Reuters there was no conflict of interest and that he had worked in the trading department at Goldman Sachs, which was “strictly separated” from bankers who advised on mergers.

Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

“In his 17 years at Goldman Sachs, Joerg Kukies exclusively worked for the sales and trading sector with no responsibility for the advisory/mergers and acquisitions section,” the spokesman for Kukies said.

Although confirmation of merger talks between Germany’s two largest banks, following months of speculation, has boosted their share prices, it has also triggered opposition and concerns over the impact on employment.

The issue is a highly emotive one in Germany and in its Tuesday edition, top-selling tabloid newspaper Bild raised a question mark over Kukie’s future in the government.

“When 30,000 jobs are on the line, the government must avoid the impression of a conflict of interest,” De Masi added.

This was echoed by Danyal Bayaz, a German parliamentarian and finance expert from the country’s Green party.

“In the financial crisis, we saw that government and finance were too interconnected. Ten years later, we don’t want to have the same. We want a strict separation from politics and industry,” Bayaz said.

“It is important to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest,” he added.

(Writing by John O’Donnell; Editing by Alexander Smith)

Source: OANN

  • Google barred a Christian video on same-sex marriage from advertising on YouTube after backlash from employees, internal communications show.
  • The video said gay people are welcome as Christians but are called to follow Christian teachings on sex and marriage.
  • A Google VP agreed the video was too offensive to air as an advertisement.
  • Google HR highlighted the video and response in an internal newsletter dedicated to policing “microaggressions.”

Google banned a video explaining Christian teaching on same-sex marriage from advertising on YouTube after backlash from upset employees, according to internal Google communications reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The video was flagged in June 2018 in an internal listserv, “Yes at Google,” which is run by Google’s human resources department, according to those communications and other internal documents, which a source shared with TheDCNF on the condition of anonymity.

The listserv has more than 30,000 members and is devoted to policing “microaggressions” and “micro-corrections” within the company, according to its official internal description.

The internal backlash to the video grew large enough to merit a response from a Google vice president, who said the video would no longer be eligible to run as an advertisement, the human resources team announced to the listserv. (RELATED: ‘Disrespectful’: Google Employees Melt Down Over The Word ‘Family’)

REUTERS/ Stephen Lam

A Google logo is seen at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, U.S. REUTERS/ Stephen Lam

Christian radio host Michael L. Brown argues in the video that gay people are welcome as Christians but that, like every other person, they are called to follow Christian teachings on sex and marriage.

Brown has spoken out in the past against “homo-hatred” and “ugly rhetoric” directed at gay and lesbian people by fringe groups like the Westboro Baptist Church.

In the video, he describes same-sex relationships as “like other sins, but one that Jesus died for.”

The belief that sex is meant to take place in the context of a male-female marriage — as argued by Brown — is central to most major Christian denominations’ marital teachings.

WATCH: 

Google HR highlighted in the listserv a “representative” comment from an employee who took offense that Brown’s video had appeared as an advertisement on channels operated by gay and lesbian YouTubers, the documents show.

“I cannot see how this can be allowed when the specific idea of LGBT videos is to allow the creators to feel free to share their content and be comfortable that anti-LGBT advertisers would not be attached to their content,” the employee wrote. “This seems very counter to our mission, specifically around PRIDE 2018 timeframe.”

Google’s vice president for product management and ads, Vishal Sharma, agreed that the video was too offensive to air as an advertisement.

“Thank you for raising this very important issue. It means a lot to me personally and those of us working on this across the Ads and YouTube teams. YouTube is an open platform and we support the free expression of creators with a wide range of views,” Sharma wrote in his response, which was included in the listserv.

“But we don’t allow advertising that disparages people based on who they are – including their sexual orientation – and we remove ads that violate this basic principle,” Sharma continued.

“After careful and multiple reviews over the course of a few days, our teams decided to remove the ad in question here as it violates our policy. We’ve communicated this to the advertiser and have been in touch with creators who have been actively engaged on this issue,” Sharma added, again expressing his gratitude for the internal feedback.

Brown first noted in a June 2018 blog post that his video was barred from running on ads.

(JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

A man rides a bike past a Google sign and logo at the Googleplex in California. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

The episode is indicative of the tension between Google’s liberal office culture and its public commitment to free expression.

Other internal documents previously obtained by TheDCNF showed Google employees melted down after an executive used the word “family” in a weekly, company-wide presentation.

Many Google employees became angry that the term was used while discussing a product aimed at children because it implied that families have children, those documents showed.

Then, too, the internal backlash caught the attention of executives at Google. A company vice president addressed the controversy and solicited feedback on how Google could become more inclusive.

Additional internal communications previously obtained by TheDCNF showed that Google employees debated whether to bury right-of-center media outlets in the company’s search function as a direct response to President Donald Trump’s election in 2016.

The Daily Caller and Breitbart were singled out as outlets to potentially bury, those communications revealed. A Google spokeswoman said in response that the conversation did not lead to manipulation of search results for political purposes.

Follow Hasson on Twitter @PeterJHasson

Email Google-related tips securely to PeterJHasson@ProtonMail.com

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of the Saudi Binladin Group is seen in Jeddah
FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of the Saudi Binladin Group is seen in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Katie Paul/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Stephen Kalin

RIYADH (Reuters) – The influence of Saudi Arabia’s Bin Laden family on its eponymous construction business has been curtailed in a restructuring that follows an anti-corruption crackdown by Riyadh, a document seen by Reuters shows.

Saudi businessman Khalid Nahas has been named chairman of the newly-established Binladin Group Global Holding Company, which is 36.22 percent owned by Istidama, a finance ministry subsidiary, and 63.78 percent by Binladin Company for Development and Commercial Investment.

Only two Bin Laden brothers, Saad and Abdullah, are represented on the new nine-person board, the document from the kingdom’s commerce ministry reveals, in a break from the family’s exclusive control over its earlier company, Saudi Binladin Group (SBG).

The stake owned by Istidama reflects the ownership relinquished by brothers Bakr, Saleh and Saad last year after they were arrested in the corruption purge led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

SBG, which for decades built Saudi Arabia’s roads, mosques and palaces, is crucial to ambitious new plans for major tourism and infrastructure projects. It is not connected to Osama, one of the younger brothers in the family.

Other board members of the new entity include senior Saudi businessmen with experience at some of the kingdom’s most successful companies such as state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco, petrochemical producer Saudi Basic Industries Corp, and property developer Jabal Omar Development Co.

Two sources familiar with the matter also told Reuters that SBG’s chief financial officer, Klaus Froelich, had resigned following the restructuring. The former Morgan Stanley banker was hired in 2016 to help the firm overcome a crisis sparked by the collapse of a construction crane in Mecca’s Grand Mosque.

Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan told Reuters in December that SBG would soon have a “normal board” with family members and representatives of government ownership after a five-member committee restructured its governance.

That committee was led by Abdulrehman al-Harkan, a former chief executive of Riyadh-based developer Dar Al Arkan, who is not on the new company’s board.

Jadaan left open the possibility that the Binladin company could eventually be listed on the stock market.

Reuters reported in September that SBG had ended up on a collision course with the government after chairman Bakr Binladin and his shareholder brothers resisted earlier pressure to list.

Saleh and Saad Bin Laden were released last year under the anti-corruption campaign, which netted princes and ministers, shattered investor confidence and was decried by critics as a shakedown and power play. Bakr was temporarily released in January but sources say he later returned to detention.

(Additional reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh and Marwa Rashad; Editing by Alexander Smith and Mark Potter)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro listens to Paraguay's President Mario Abdo during a meeting at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia
FILE PHOTO: Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro listens during a meeting at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo

March 18, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro visited the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters on Monday, an unusual move for a foreign head of state that was not on the public agenda for his first official trip to Washington.

The visit underscored Bolsonaro’s embrace of U.S. influence in Latin America to confront what he calls a communist threat against democracy — a theme he remarked on during a dinner on Sunday evening with his ministers and right-wing thinkers.

Presidential advisers, including his official spokesman, had said during the dinner that his agenda on Monday morning would be kept private. But Bolsonaro’s son, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, revealed the visit in a Twitter post.

“Going now with the (president) and ministers to the CIA, one of the most respected intelligence agencies in the world,” he wrote. “It will be an excellent opportunity to discuss international topics in the region with experts and technicians of the highest level.”

The Brazilian president was scheduled to meet later on Monday with former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and deliver remarks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The CIA’s headquarters is in Langley, Virginia, near Washington.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN


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