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Buddhist monk Gnanasara, head of the hardline Bodu Bala Sena or
Buddhist monk Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, head of the hardline Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or “Buddhist Power Force”, speaks to media at a temple after leaving the prison with Sri Lanka’s president Maithripala Sirisena’s pardon in Colombo, Sri Lanka May 23, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

May 23, 2019

COLOMBO (Reuters) – A Sri Lankan hardline Buddhist monk who is accused of inciting violence against ethnic minority Muslims and was convicted of contempt of court walked free from jail on Thursday after a presidential pardon.

Hundreds of his followers and dozens of monks waited for hours outside Welikada prison in Colombo to see Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, but the monk left through a separate gate, which a monk from his group said was due to security concerns.

Some followers carried a distorted national flag which excluded the green and orange color strips which represent ethnic minority Tamils and Muslims who together account for nearly a quarter of the country’s 22 million population.

Rights activists condemned the release of Gnanasara, head of the hardline Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or “Buddhist Power Force”.

His pardon comes a week after extremist Buddhists attacked Muslim-owned homes, mosques and shops in apparent reprisal for the Easter bombings by Islamist militants that killed more than 250 people.

Ganansara or his group was not involved in the recent violence, police said.

“We said about the impending danger long ago, finally whatever we revealed, has become true,” Gnanasara told reporters, in an apparent reference to the Easter attacks.

He thanked Sri Lanka’s influential Buddhist clergy and President Maithripala Sirisena for his release. There was no immediate answer from the president’s office when Reuters sought comment.

Government ministers and Muslim leaders have accused Gnanasara of stirring up violence against Muslims and Christians before his imprisonment, allegations he has denied.

Hilmy Ahamed, vice president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, said: “I think and hope he will not go back to his extremism.”

The monk was sentenced to six years in prison in August over a 2016 incident when he interrupted a court hearing about the abduction of the journalist in which military intelligence officials were accused.

Gnanasara was also sentenced in a separate case in June for having threatened the journalist’s wife.

Since 2014, the monk has faced accusations in cases regarding anti-Muslim violence, hate speech, and defaming the Koran.

That year Gnanasara signed a pact with Myanmar’s Ashin Wirathu, who once described himself as “the Burmese bin Laden”, in what the duo called a bid to counter regional conversion efforts by Islamists.

“Pardoning Gnanasara is a slap on the independence of judiciary. He was convicted of interfering with court & contempt of court. No civilized nation will lightly pardon such a convict,” J.C. Weliamuna, a rights lawyer, said in his tweet.

(Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Alison Williams)

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CDU and CSU gather to kickoff their campaign for the upcoming European elections in Muenster
Manfred Weber, the EU candidate of the two German conservative sister parties Christian Democratic Union party CDU and Bavaria’s Christian Social Union party CSU speaks during their kickoff campaign for the European elections in Muenster, Germany, April 27, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

May 23, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – This weekend’s European Parliament election will usher in a major reshuffle of top jobs in EU institutions.

These include presidents of the three political bodies — the executive European Commission (currently Jean-Claude Juncker), the Council of national leaders (Donald Tusk) and the European Parliament (Antonio Tajani) — plus the European Central Bank (Mario Draghi) and the EU’s foreign policy chief (Federica Mogherini).

National leaders meet on Tuesday to haggle and prepare to bargain with EU lawmakers (MEPs). Any deals must balance the interests of: states and Parliament; key states; big countries and small; Europe’s north, south, east and west; men and women; and pan-EU political parties, right, left and center.

Who gets what is anyone’s guess at this stage but these are some of the names in the mix for the Brussels political posts:

MANFRED WEBER – German, center-right EPP, 46, MEP.

Leading EPP election campaign to be Commission president. A strong EPP result would help him but centrist French President Emmanuel Macron and others reject a parliamentary push to bind leaders into choosing an MEP “Spitzenkandidat” for the job. Many dismiss Weber for lacking national government credentials.

FRANS TIMMERMANS – Dutch, center-left S&D, 58, Juncker’s deputy, former foreign minister, fluent in five EU languages.

Has credentials and oratory that Weber lacks but hampered by Socialists’ poor showing in EU and national elections.

MICHEL BARNIER – French, EPP, 68, EU Brexit negotiator, former foreign minister, MEP and EU commissioner.

Dark horse, not running in election but discreetly working to capitalize on respect of leaders for Brexit negotiations; energy belies age; as a moderate French conservative, seems to have backing of liberal Macron and German EPP Chancellor Angela Merkel. Has respect in Parliament for keeping it in the loop on Brexit talks. He can cite Brexit as excuse for not seeking EPP nomination as he did in 2014, when he lost out to Juncker.

MARGRETHE VESTAGER – Danish, ALDE, 51, EU commissioner.

Promoted by ALDE centrists in campaign, attacks on big U.S. firms’ tax affairs raised profile; as a liberal and a woman, she could please Macron, Merkel and several liberal prime ministers.

KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA – Bulgarian, EPP, 65, CEO World Bank, former EU commissioner and World Bank economist.

Quietly touted by some eastern governments as first EU chief executive from ex-Communist bloc. Gender also an advantage, she won kudos for frank talk while managing EU budget until 2016.

CHRISTINE LAGARDE – French, EPP, 63, IMF managing director, former finance minister after success as corporate lawyer.

Another dark horse, cited by those who see leaders keen to see the first woman to run the EU. Credited for keeping U.S.-based IMF helpful to Europeans during the euro zone crisis.

DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE – Lithuanian, 63, EPP-allied, president since 2009, former EU commissioner and finance minister.

A decade at the EU summit table gives her profile to replace Tusk at the European Council. But some see her as too blunt and too hostile to Russia to guide EU leaders toward consensus.

MARK RUTTE – Dutch, 52, ALDE, prime minister since 2010.

Summit veteran, his appetite for a Brussels job is unclear. Hawkish fiscal and free enterprise views could test his ability to build consensus in Council or Commission but he is effective.

VALDIS DOMBROVSKIS – Latvian, 47, EPP, Commission vice president for the euro, former prime minister.

An engineer and central bank economist, has won credit for rigor and fairness in euro zone but has low public profile.

GUY VERHOFSTADT – Belgian, 66, ALDE, liberal leader and Brexit point man in Parliament, former prime minister.

Arch euro-federalist, contender for Parliament president; some see the five-year mandate split in two, perhaps with Weber.

ANDREJ PLENKOVIC – Croatian, 49, EPP, prime minister.

Former MEP from Union’s newest member has been courting EPP and eastern allies, diplomats say, with an eye to Brussels job.

JOSEP BORRELL – Spanish, 72, S&D, foreign minister.

Re-election last month, rare among Europe’s Socialists, has fired up Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to push for Spaniards and, despite age, former EU parliament president is being mentioned.

NADIA CALVINO – Spanish, 50, S&D, economy minister.

Until last year the Commission’s top budget official, she too could benefit from Sanchez’s campaign.

CHARLES MICHEL – Belgian, 43, ALDE, prime minister.

May be out of a job after Belgian election on same day as EU vote. Could fancy replacing Tusk after years at summit table.

ALEXANDER STUBB – Finnish, 51, EPP, European Investment Bank vice president, former prime minister and finance minister.

Multilingual europhile, lost to Weber in EPP Spitzenkandidat race but this consummate EU networker is a perennial contender.

HELLA THORNING-SCHMIDT – Danish, 52, S&D, CEO of NGO Save the Children, former prime minister.

Another name routinely mentioned, her gender is an advantage but center-left woes in the EU hurt chances.

ANGELA MERKEL – German, 64, EPP, chancellor since 2005.

She denies any EU ambition as she serves out her last term. Her stature could bolster an EU beleaguered by nationalists but might also provoke more charges it is a vehicle for German rule.

THE CENTRAL BANKERS

Part of the mix, especially in arm-wrestling between France and Germany, is who will run the ECB. Possibles include:

JENS WEIDMANN – German, 51, heads Bundesbank central bank

FRANCOIS VILLEROY DE GALHAU – French, 60, heads central bank

OLLI REHN – Finnish, 57, heads central bank

ERKKI LIIKANEN – Finnish, 68, former central bank head

KLAAS KNOT – Dutch, 52, central bank head

(Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Catherine Evans)

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FILE PHOTO: An oil refinery located on a branch of the Druzhba oil pipeline, which moves crude through the pipeline westwards to Europe, is seen near Mozyr
FILE PHOTO: An oil refinery located on a branch of the Druzhba oil pipeline, which moves crude through the pipeline westwards to Europe, is seen near Mozyr, some 300 km (186 miles) southeast of Minsk, September 11, 2013. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko/File Photo

May 23, 2019

By Olga Yagova, Gleb Stolyarov and Natalia Chumakova

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia is using rail, storage tanks and ships to remove contaminated oil from an export pipeline, and has so far extracted around 2 million tonnes of the tainted oil – or over a third of volumes hit, industry sources and data showed.

A month ago, Russia had to stop exports via the Druzhba pipeline to Poland and Germany at the northern branch of the line and to Ukraine, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic in the south. Routes split at the Mozyr refinery in Belarus.

A total of around 5 million tonnes could have been contaminated by organic chloride, which is used to boost oil extraction, according to the Belarusian operator of a section of the Druzhba pipeline, and up to six months are needed to fully restore the flows.

Russia, Belarus and Ukraine still have the lion’s share of contaminated crude in their pipeline systems – or up to 2 million tonnes, with another roughly 1 million stuck in Poland and Germany, according to the traders and industry sources.

Efforts inside Russia and Belarus to get the tainted oil out of the pipeline are critical because until it is removed, normal flows or clean oil to export markets cannot resume.

Russia is attempting the clean-up by a number of means.

Since the start of May, Russia is sending some tainted oil by rail to the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk – which was not affected by the contamination, where it is mixed with clean oil and then exported.

According to rail shipment data seen by Reuters, by mid-May some 80,000 tonnes of contaminated oil were sent to Novorossiisk port by rail from Zhecha station near the Unecha pipeline station in Russia close to the border with Belarus.

The shipments have Italy as the final destination. According to industry sources, up to 100,000 tonnes of contaminated oil is planned to be sent via this route in May in total.

In June, another 100,000 tonnes are expected to be dispatched to Novorossiisk by rail from Zhecha, sources said.

The railway cargoes allowed Russia to clean one of the lines at the Unecha-Mozyr part of Druzhba and to re-start shipping clean oil to Belarus and Ukraine earlier in May.

However, that took a toll on the oil quality in Novorossiisk: the chlorides content in Urals and Siberian Light cargoes has risen from roughly zero before the contamination to below 8 parts per million (ppm), three traders said.

“We’ve seen a certain rise of organic chlorides, but lately it’s been quite mild,” said a major participant in the Mediterranean Urals market.

Permitted levels have a maximum norm of 10 ppm, but some European refineries can not process oil at that level and need much lower ppm content – or risk damage to their equipment.

STORAGES AND SHIPS

Russia has also agreed with Hungary to store 100,000 tonnes of tainted oil. According to the industry sources, by May 21 Hungary has received a total of 60,000 tonnes of contaminated Russian oil.

Of the total oil removed so far from the system around 800,000 tonnes are being stored on vessels at sea after departing Ust-Luga with no buyer, according to Refinitiv Eikon shipping data.

This is part of more than 1.5 million tonnes of dirty crude which was shipped from the Baltic sea port of Ust-Luga from late April to mid-May.

Some of the tainted oil was sold and a number of buyers plan to seek compensation over it. Ust-Luga resumed the shipping of clean oil earlier this month.

On Wednesday evening, Slovakia started to receive clean Russian oil via the Druzhba pipeline thanks to the cleaning efforts but there are no flows to Hungary and the Czech republic, according to traders.

Czech pipeline operator Mero said on Thursday that normal flows are expected to resume by the end of the month. Hungarian energy company MOL did not reply to a Reuters request for a comment.

The northern leg to Poland and Germany remains shut and refineries on that route are using alternative supplies, including via the sea, to compensate for the loss of Russian flows.

There are an estimated 3 million tonnes of tainted oil still in the Druzhba pipeline system, some of which is kept in storage along the route.

The Russian energy ministry did not reply to a Reuters request for a comment. A spokesman for Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, who along with the energy ministry and Transneft oversees the cleanup, declined to comment.

Transneft, Russia’s oil pipeline monopoly, did not reply to a Reuters request for a comment.

After talks between Russian and European companies in Warsaw on Thursday, Transneft vice president Sergei Andronov told reporters that Moscow and Minsk have agreed on a technical plan for resolving the oil issue.

Poland is expected to get clean oil on June 9-10, he added.

TIMING AND RAIL

Railway shipments are key to cleaning up the pipeline on the Russian side, oil market and trading sources said, as volumes could be split into small amounts which are easier to mix with clean oil.

Tainted oil can also be stored in rail wagons.

“This works for small refineries, storages, ports, but the bad thing about it is that it may take months to clean the pipelines this way,” a Russian oil market source told Reuters.

To take out one million tonnes of tainted oil from the Russian pipeline system, around 16,000 railcars are needed, according to Reuters calculations and trading sources.

“There are spare railcars in the market, but not that many. You certainly can’t snap up 16,000 wagons from the market at once,” a source in railway industry told Reuters.

Russian Railways, the state railway monopoly, declined to comment.

(Additional reporting by Gleb Gorodyankin and Vladimir Soldatkin in MOSCOW; Jan Lopatka in PRAGUE, Marton Dunai in BUDAPEST, Tatiana Jancarikova in BRATISLAVA, Olesya Astakhova, Agnieszka Barteczko and Anna Koper in WARSAW; Writing by Olga Yagova and Katya Golubkova; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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FILE PHOTO: Sign of the European central Bank (ECB) is seen outside the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt
FILE PHOTO: Sign of the European central Bank (ECB) is seen outside the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, March 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

May 23, 2019

By Dhara Ranasinghe and Ritvik Carvalho

LONDON (Reuters) – With euro zone growth faltering again, markets are debating what else the European Central Bank can do to shore up the economy.

After pushing borrowing costs to record lows and taking 2.6 trillion euros ($2.9 trillion) worth of bonds out of the market to revive inflation, its toolkit is limited.

But as outlined below, options do exist.

1/CHANGE GUIDANCE, OFFER TLTROs

Changing guidance on its plans for interest rates is widely seen as an easy first step.

In March, the ECB pushed out the timing of its first post-crisis rate hike to 2020 at the earliest.

This is expected to be delayed further, but doing so could have a limited impact as markets no longer expect a rate hike over the next two years. In fact, rate cut bets have been building.

So, a change in guidance would likely be combined with a very generous package of cheap multi-year loans – or targeted longer-term refinancing operations (TLTRO) – aimed at banks.

The ECB is set to launch a fresh TLTRO in September, but as details are not yet finalised it has time to assess whether more generous terms are needed.

(For a graphic on ‘Will the ECB’s next move be a rate cut?’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2ElFVza)

2/ CUT RATES, TIER RATES

The ECB is studying whether to grant relief to banks from some of the burden of its -0.4% deposit rate, worried that weak bank profitability could impair transmission of monetary policy.

For markets, tiered rates are only likely as part of a bigger easing that involves rate cuts.

Economists say a cut would require significantly weaker economic conditions, while one source told Reuters this was nowhere near to being discussed by the ECB.

But don’t rule it out: New Zealand and Iceland cut rates in May, Australia may follow in June and markets anticipate a U.S. rate cut this year.

(For an interactive version of this chart: https://tmsnrt.rs/2EdOcoU)

3/BRING BACK QE!

The ECB says it is will use all tools available to boost growth and inflation, including resuming the asset-purchase scheme it ended just five months ago.

Capital Economics expects QE to return next year and ABN AMRO believes any new stimulus is likely to take this form.

But first, the ECB would need to raise the limit on how much sovereign debt it can hold from a single issuer, given it was already approaching the current 33% limit when QE ended.

That ceiling was introduced to ensure the ECB did not have a deciding vote in case of a debt restructuring, and changing it could expose the ECB to legal challenges.

(For an interactive version of the chart below: https://tmsnrt.rs/2EgAulf)

“Although raising the limit would likely be an uncomfortable situation for the ECB, it would be willing to do this in our view given the lack of other alternatives,” said ABN AMRO’s head of financial market research Nick Kounis.

4/BUY STOCKS, BONDS, SOURED LOANS

With government bonds getting scarce, the ECB added corporate debt to QE asset purchases in 2016. A new QE round could include shares.

Switzerland’s central bank buys stocks to diversify its currency reserves and the Bank of Japan buys equity exchange traded funds (ETFs) as part of its QE.

ECB Vice President Luis de Guindos said in April the ECB had not discussed buying stocks, and many question the effectiveness of equity purchases.

“It’s doable and sensible but it would be complicated,” said Marchel Alexandrovich, European financial economist at Jefferies. The European stock market is relatively small and buying stocks could leave the ECB open to criticism that it is picking companies that don’t apply best business practices, he said.

Buying bank bonds would be a game changer, said TS Lombard senior economist Shweta Singh. “This would release a lot of assets for the ECB to buy but it is next to impossible, as it would complicate the ECB’s role as bank supervisor,” she said.

Buying banks’ non-performing loans would also have a more powerful impact than buying equities but conflicts with the ECB’s supervisory role.

(For a graphic on ‘Size of major world equity markets’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2WlhJHn)

5/YIELD CURVE CONTROL

One way to add more economic stimulus could be to target explicit levels for long-term interest rates.

The BOJ has targeted long-term yields around zero since 2016, and the idea is gaining traction. Federal Reserve official Lael Brainard has said she wanted to explore whether the Fed, in a future downturn, should consider this step.

It would be more complicated for the ECB, said Mohammed Kazmi, portfolio manager for UBP in Geneva. “The natural answer is to target Germany because the other countries’ bonds are priced against Germany,” he said.

But German bonds are in short supply. The ECB could change its capital key rule, where it buys bonds relative to a member state’s contribution to the ECB working capital. That would allow it to target another bond market though this in turn would leave it open to charges of financing spending by weaker states.

(For a graphic on ‘Yield curve control: a leaf out of the BoJ’s book?’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2Wljl3V)

(Reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe; Graphics by Ritvik Carvalho; Additional reporting by Balazs Koranyi in Frankfurt; editing by John Stonestreet)

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At a New Hampshire town-hall gathering Sunday night, presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg joined the choir of Democrats singing the “tax the rich” refrain. Referring to the 2017 tax cut, Buttigieg took Republicans to task for “blowing a trillion-dollar hole in our budget” for something “America did not need.”

The South Bend, Indiana mayor proceeded to call for four new tax increases, including a “reasonable wealth tax or something like that” and a push to close corporate loopholes. But with the economy still roaring along — despite Wall Street jitters — and unemployment at lifetime lows, many of the Democrats calling for tax increases on investment managers and other wealthy investors face internal headwinds in the states, cities, and congressional districts they hail from.

Four of the nation’s top five states for private-equity investments last year are places that several 2020 candidates call home: Texas (Beto O’Rourke and Joaquin Castro), New York (Kirsten Gillibrand and Bill de Blasio), California (Kamala Harris and Eric Swalwell) and Minnesota (Amy Klobuchar), according a state-by-state report by the American Investment Council, a lobbying group representing private equity firms.

These investments represent a combined total of $271 billion in more than 1,500 businesses in those four states alone. Of interest to those businesses is one of the tax breaks routinely targeted by Democrats: carried interest. On the campaign stump, this tax break is routinely assailed as a boon to the wealthy and one of the prime factors behind the nation’s growing income inequality.

Now that the Democratic presidential campaign has been joined, investment managers, including the American Investment Council, are pushing back.

Carried interest, they say, is the “sweat equity” that investors and managers put into building a business, assisting its growth and realizing profits from long-term investments.

“Private-equity invests, supports jobs, and builds better businesses in every state across the country,” AIC President Drew Maloney said in a statement. Maloney has called current legislation targeting the tax “a direct assault on capital gains treatment that would unnecessarily harm entrepreneurs, business owners, endowment funds, and American workers in every state and congressional district in the country.”

At a time when Amazon is forcing local retail storefronts to close up shop, private-equity investments are growing brick-and-mortar businesses — such as the Dollar Store, Dunkin Donuts, Yankee Candle and Hilton Hotels — that, in turn, support local jobs, Maloney added. The private-equity industry also highlights that it consistently delivers the highest long-term returns to investors, which has helped provide reliable pension funds for teachers, firefighters and other government workers.

Ken Blackwell, a conservative former Ohio treasurer and secretary of state, used a decades-old quote from Jesse Jackson to explain his support for keeping the carried-interest benefit intact.

“Capitalism without capital is just another ism — and I can’t live on an ism,” he told RealClearPolitics. “It’s one of the most sensible things I’ve ever heard Jesse Jackson say. It’s about the productive use of capital where you want that use to take place.”

At the beginning of the Trump administration, Blackwell said, some $2 trillion to $3 trillion of capital belonging to U.S. corporations or wealthy investors was parked offshore in other countries “because the owners of that capital didn’t like the environment or the tax rate or the penalties associated with putting that capital to work in the United States.”

He and other Trump transition team advisers, he noted, stressed the need to get that money working in the United States by cutting taxes and regulations. “And now we’ve have sustained and improved economic growth over the course of now marching toward three years,” he said.

“So what you see now [from Democrats] is the politics of envy. And this march toward socialism, which really champions a more robust and central government intervention in economic decisions, has led them to be against the very things that has led to robust economic growth and job creation,” he said.

All of the top-tier Democratic presidential candidates have strongly backed plans to raise taxes on investment, particularly on carried interest, the tax break that allows investment managers, such as private-equity fund directors, to have investment income taxed as capital gains rather than as ordinary income.

The top rate on capital gains is 23.8% while the top rate for ordinary income is 37%. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, with the support of fellow Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand – all of whom are running for president — has introduced a bill that would tax that carried-interest income at ordinary-income rates instead of at capital gains rates. A host of labor unions and liberal groups have touted the legislation. 

Bernie Sanders sponsored a similar measure in 2015, and former Vice President Joe Biden has long pressed for it.

“Let me tell you what carried interest is – you’re paying 30 percent and they’re paying 17 percent and some of them made a billion dollars – 28 made a billion dollars. … You think that’s fair?” the Democratic front-runner said in an interview three years ago.

Yet, the Obama administration didn’t use the political muscle to push the increased rate through Congress when Democrats controlled both chambers at the beginning of his presidency. In April 2016, Biden told CNBC’s John Harwood that the he and President Obama couldn’t get rid of the tax break because Obama didn’t have “the clear space” to use his bully pulpit to talk about “how unfair the tax system is.”

Earlier this year, California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, who is another top contender for her party’s presidential nomination, specifically called out the carried- interest benefit when a National Public Radio interviewer asked her how she would pay for her proposals directing money toward people at the lower end of the income scale, including a plan to give a $6,000 tax benefit to families making under $100,000.

Yet these Democrats aren’t eager to respond when asked if they’re concerned that raising taxes on private-equity firms would translate into less investment in local businesses. None of the top-tier candidates replied to RCP’s inquiries. Klobuchar’s presidential campaign spokeswoman did respond, but only to highlight her boss’s plan to use the money generated for efforts to promote mental health and fight opioid addiction. She didn’t respond to a follow-up about the impact raising taxes might have on business investment in Minnesota and across the country.

Democrats point out that, during the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump pledged to jettison the carried-interest tax break but also didn’t do so when he had the chance. Instead, the tax-cut law the president signed in December 2017 required investment managers to hold assets for at least three years in order to qualify for the tax preference, up from one year under previous law.

Donald Marron, a fellow at the liberal-leaning Urban Institute’s Tax Policy Center, argues that there’s a middle ground the right and left are ignoring. He told RCP that “lots of other structures” besides the current system can improve the operation of companies and create jobs, and called instead for an “appropriate deduction for the carried interest they pay.”

“If you get that part right, you can have your cake and eat it too,” he added. 

Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative supply-side organization, dismissed the carried-interest loophole debate as a perennial but unserious Democratic talking point “about how they don’t like rich people.”  When Obama had Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, they couldn’t pass it, he said, because enough lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are concerned about its impact on jobs and the economy.

Earlier this year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo backed a bill to tax the carried interest income as ordinary earned income — but made the effective date contingent on the passage of similar legislation in five other nearby states. That legislative gambit, Norquist said, is tacit acknowledgment from New York Democrats that businesses and jobs would migrate out of state as a direct result.

Last month, a University of Southern California Marshall School of Business study said a proposed carried-interest tax rate would result in 370,000 lost jobs in New York alone and would deprive local government of $4.5 billion in annual tax revenues currently used to fund social programs and infrastructure projects.

“They realize that there really are damaging costs in the case of jobs and how you tax carried interest even though they talk like there’s no downside,” Norquist said. “You can tell when someone is posturing when they could have done it and didn’t.”

Susan Crabtree is RealClearPolitics’ White House/national political correspondent.

FILE PHOTO: A Nokian tyre is on display at a tyre assembling centre and shop in Moscow
FILE PHOTO: A Nokian tyre is on display at a tyre assembling centre and shop in Moscow, August 8, 2014.REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

May 23, 2019

By Anne Kauranen

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finnish tire maker Nokian Tyres expects its new U.S. factory in Tennessee to help it double its sales in North America, especially by expanding its all-season tire sales in the region, the company said on Thursday.

The company, which has previously concentrated mostly on winter tire sales in Russia and Europe, said the new facility would allow it to seek growth in the significantly larger all-season tire market in North America.

Two years ago Nokian, which currently has a large plant in Russia and a smaller one in Finland, announced an investment of $360 million in the new production facility in Dayton, Tennessee, set for startup in the latter half of this year.

“Our goal is to double our sales in North America within five years,” the company’s chief executive Hille Korhonen told reporters in Helsinki.

Last year, Nokian’s North American sales amounted to 194.5 million euros ($217 million), a little over 12 percent of its total sales.

The new factory is expected to cut delivery times in North America to weeks and eliminate the need to hold large inventories, Mark Earl, Vice President in charge of Americas, said.

“Our current 120 to 180 day lead time from our Russian factory to North America is difficult to manage,” Earl said.

Previously the company sold only winter tyres in North America, mainly in Canada and some northern U.S. states, but has gradually ramped up its all-season tire sales.

Earl said the total retail tire market amounted to 240 million units a year in the United States alone, with Nokian holding just a 1% share at the moment.

“There is a lot of room in the market for a company like us,” Earl said, adding the plan was to concentrate on larger tire sizes and models for premium cars.

(Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Mark Potter)

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Rahul Gandhi, President of India's main opposition Congress party, addresses his party's supporters during a public meeting in Gandhinagar
Rahul Gandhi, President of India’s main opposition Congress party, addresses his party’s supporters during a public meeting in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India, March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Amit Dave

May 23, 2019

By Devjyot Ghoshal

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Honest, intelligent and open to new ideas is how officials of India’s main opposition Congress describe their leader, Rahul Gandhi, but the party’s election performance has been so poor he now risks losing even his family’s traditional seat.

As vote-counting trends on Thursday showed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party winning 285 seats against just 53 for Congress, current and former party officials blamed a lackluster campaign and a failure to overhaul its top team.

“If they want to change anything, change the leadership,” said a Congress official in the western state of Rajasthan, referring to the old guard around Gandhi. “You need to give young people a chance.”

He was among five current and three former party officials who told Reuters that Gandhi’s inability to jettison older leaders responsible for a major debacle in the 2014 general election and push forward newer, younger faces was a mistake.

All eight sources sought anonymity.

Gandhi’s office did not respond to a request from Reuters for an interview.

Still, the 48-year-old Gandhi remains powerful within a party that has ruled India for most of its history since independence from Britain in 1947, and is unlikely to face a leadership challenge immediately.

But Congress’s continued slide has raised questions both about its future and the role of his family.

Younger Indians find it difficult to accept that Gandhi was appointed Congress president only because of his lineage as the son, grandson, and great-grandson of prime ministers, said prominent historian and columnist Ramachandra Guha.

“The Congress should dump the Dynasty,” he said on Twitter.

In May 2014, after Congress slumped to its worst performance in a general election, with 44 seats, Gandhi told reporters, “There’s a lot for us to think about, and, as vice president of the party, I hold myself responsible.”

Five years on, his party has suffered a further drubbing at the hands of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and he was himself trailing in the family borough of Amethi in northern Uttar Pradesh, though he was leading in a second constituency from which he is contesting, in southern India.

Congress also proved unable to effectively parry Modi’s campaign emphasis on national security, after aerial clashes and heightened tension with arch rival Pakistan following a suicide attack in disputed Kashmir that killed 40 Indian policemen.

At the end of last year, Congress’s hopes of upsetting Modi had increased, after it won three heartland states in elections, largely driven by voter concerns about weak farm incomes and a lack of jobs.

But Congress fumbled communications on key policies, with a publicity campaign this year that escaped the notice even of some of its own workers, and failed to forge pre-election alliances in key states, said the party officials who spoke to Reuters.

The campaign was substantially delayed because of disagreements between 66-year-old Anand Sharma and other senior leaders, two party officials said.

Sharma denied the accusation, saying that putting together the campaign was a complex process. “There was no delay whatsoever in the launch of Congress campaign,” he added.

The campaign was launched on April 7, just four days before the first round of voting began in a general election spread over seven phases across 39 days.

In Rajasthan, which Congress won last year, its choice of 68-year-old Ashok Gehlot as chief minister, instead of 41-year-old Sachin Pilot, backfired, losing it the support of a key caste grouping, the official said, leaving the BJP likely to sweep all 25 seats.

“COLLEGE OF SYCOPHANTS”

Gandhi was encircled by a “college of sycophants”, said a former Congress official who joined a rival bloc this year.

“It doesn’t matter if you have talent or merit,” the former official said, adding, “What matters is you have the right family name or the right mentor.”

In contrast to Modi, a tea vendor’s son who rose through party ranks, Gandhi’s lineage is a weakness the prime minister has repeatedly exploited.

In Uttar Pradesh, which elects the bulk of India’s lawmakers, Congress this year drafted in Gandhi’s charismatic sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, to burnish its fortunes. But that made little difference to results.

(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Additional reporting by Neha Dasgupta; Editing by Martin Howell and Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads all Democratic contenders in a poll of Florida voters released Wednesday.

Biden, who announced his run for president in late April, polled at 39 percent, followed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 12 percent each in the survey from Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) Business and Economic Polling Initiative.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg drew nine percent, Sen. Kamala Harris of California seven percent and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke five percent.

“Even though Joe Biden has a substantial lead among the Democrats, with almost 10 months to go before the Florida Democratic presidential primary, there is still plenty of time for the other candidates to make up ground,” said Monica Escaleras, Ph.D., director of the FAU BEPI.

The survey polled how each of the top five Democrats would do in a matchup with President Donald Trump.

Biden fared best in a 50-50 tie with Trump and Sanders polled at 49 percent to Trump’s 51 percent. Trump won matchups with Warren and Buttigieg, 52-48 percent, while Harris polled six points behind the president, 53-47 percent.  

The survey, conducted May 16-19, polled 1,007 Florida registered voters. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.0 percentage points. 

Source: NewsMax Politics

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads all Democratic contenders in a poll of Florida voters released Wednesday.

Biden, who announced his run for president in late April, polled at 39 percent, followed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 12 percent each in the survey from Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) Business and Economic Polling Initiative.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg drew nine percent, Sen. Kamala Harris of California seven percent and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke five percent.

“Even though Joe Biden has a substantial lead among the Democrats, with almost 10 months to go before the Florida Democratic presidential primary, there is still plenty of time for the other candidates to make up ground,” said Monica Escaleras, Ph.D., director of the FAU BEPI.

The survey polled how each of the top five Democrats would do in a matchup with President Donald Trump.

Biden fared best in a 50-50 tie with Trump and Sanders polled at 49 percent to Trump’s 51 percent. Trump won matchups with Warren and Buttigieg, 52-48 percent, while Harris polled six points behind the president, 53-47 percent.  

The survey, conducted May 16-19, polled 1,007 Florida registered voters. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.0 percentage points. 

Source: NewsMax Politics


American retail chain Target recently donated $100,000 to a non-profit whose founder praised a NAMBLA advocate and teaches students and teachers in schools grades K-12 about “sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.”

The group, GLSEN, was founded by Kevin Jennings in 1990 with a plan to be “the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for LGBTQ students.”

Jennings was President Obama’s Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools at the U.S. Department of Education from 2009 to 2011 where he continued pushing a pro-homosexual agenda in American schools.

As a part of the government’s Common Core initiative, GLSEN teaches elementary school children in grades 3-5 about “gender identity and expression,” and “gender-neutral” pronouns according to a lesson plan on their website.

In 2009, Jennings was under fire for failing to report a 15-year-old sophomore student in his school who told him about his sexual relationship with an older man.

The GLSEN founder was also criticized for praising Harry Hay of the North American Association for Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA).

Target’s Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing and Digital Officer, Rick Gomez happens to be on the board of GLSEN, as promoted on the department store’s website.

In addition to the generous donation, Target has started selling its own line of LGBTQ products, including kids and baby clothes.

The kids clothing includes rainbow-clad shirts reading, “Love my dads,” “Love my moms,” “Come out and party,” along with other slogans.

In the following video, a pro-LGBTQ woman goes through the products at her local Target store:

Not everyone was as excited about the clothing as the woman in the previous video as seen in the next clip where a man films at his local Target, saying, “Letting your children wear that, that’s insane.”

Source: InfoWars


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