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London Police in seconds neutralize a lone driver attack on Parliament: three injured

Wednesday, August 15th 2018 - 06:56 UTC

A security camera captured the moment the silver Ford came speeding down hit a group of cyclists, jumped the sidewalk and then smashed into the metal barrier
A security camera captured the moment the silver Ford came speeding down hit a group of cyclists, jumped the sidewalk and then smashed into the metal barrier

London's mayor is urging residents and tourists to remain calm and vigilant following the latest terror attack in the city. The driver of a car injured three people before crashing into barricades near Parliament. A security camera captured the moment the silver Ford came speeding down the road. It hit a group of cyclists, jumped the sidewalk and then smashed into the heavy metal security barrier.

 It took just seconds for London police to arrive on the scene. Guns drawn, they surrounded the car, arrested the driver and led him away in handcuffs.

Emergency services treated three people on the scene but there were no life threatening injuries. That's probably because of special anti-terrorist barriers erected at strategic locations after last year's car ramming on Westminster Bridge which killed five people.

The car was driven from Birmingham by a 29-year-old British man, according to police. When he got to the scene, he staked out Westminster before smashing his car.

Police are still trying to determine his motive but are treating it as a terrorist incident. Similar attacks, like the one which killed 86 people in Nice two years ago, and the one in New York City which killed eight, shows that using a vehicle as a deadly weapon has become a frequent terrorist tactic.

U.S. and British intelligence are sharing information regarding the incident. But at this stage, Scotland Yard believes there is no ongoing threat connected to the attack.

“Given that this appears to be a deliberate act, the method and this being an iconic site, we are treating it as a terrorist incident and the investigation is being led by officers from the Counter Terrorism Command,” Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu said during a news conference.

Most of the cyclists managed to jump off their bikes, but a woman was clipped by the hood of the car as it passed, he said.

Streets around Parliament Square were blocked off as police vehicles swarmed the area, video posted on social media showed. More than a dozen emergency vehicles were on the scene. Wider cordons have since been removed, while cordons around the immediate crime scene will remain for some time, police said.

The Westminster subway station re-opened after it had been closed earlier, the official Transport for London feed said in a tweet.

President Donald Trump weighed in, tweeting, “Another terrorist attack in London...These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!”

The threat to the U.K. remains severe, British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement.

“I would urge the public to remain vigilant -- but also to come together and carry on as normal, just as they did after the sickening attacks in Manchester and London last year,” she said. “The twisted aim of the extremists is to use violence and terror to divide us. They will never succeed.”

Argentina: tax cuts on soy meal and soy oil exports suspended six months

Wednesday, August 15th 2018 - 07:03 UTC

Argentine soy planting starts in late September, with harvesting concentrated in April and May.
Argentine soy planting starts in late September, with harvesting concentrated in April and May.

Argentina has suspended for six months its program of gradually cutting taxes on exports of soymeal and soyoil, the Treasury Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, part of the government’s fiscal tightening program. International shipments of both soy products are currently taxed at 23%, lowered gradually from 32% in 2015, the statement said.

 By the end of 2019, soymeal and soyoil export taxes will be at 18%, it said, compared with the 15% rate planned before the suspension.

“We expect a sharp drop in soymeal and soyoil exports in the upcoming season. So we will look for the opportunity to have a dialogue with the government about reversing this measure, which we think goes against the best interests of the country,” Gustavo Idigoras, head of soyoil industry group CIARA.

Argentine soy planting starts in late September, with harvesting concentrated in April and May.

Beginning after the next harvest, Argentina had expected to export significant amounts of soymeal to China as the country moves to take advantage of an ongoing U.S.-China trade dispute. Argentine officials were in Beijing earlier this month to finalize the paperwork needed to ship livestock feed to China.

Argentina is the top global exporter of soymeal and soyoil, but drought slashed the country’s soybean harvest this year, pushing some global buyers to instead buy soymeal from the United States. The president Macri administration estimated soybeans crop loss at US$ 8 billion.

Argentina, which in recent months has also booked rare imports of U.S. soybeans, has said it would continue reducing taxes on exports of whole beans.

Following the announcement, global benchmark soymeal futures surged over 2 percent on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) , hitting a two-week high of $336.50 per short ton.

Cutting agricultural export taxes has been a high priority for president Macri, who was elected in late 2015 on a free markets platform. But the economy has been shrinking and the country’s peso currency has weakened against the dollar, forcing the country to seek a US$50 billion standby financing agreement with the International Monetary Fund. Deficit reduction is a key part of the IMF deal.

Argentine Peso stabilizes, country risk falls and stock market rebounds

Wednesday, August 15th 2018 - 07:11 UTC

At the end of trading, the US dollar which earlier was selling at over 30 Argentine Pesos, ended some 30 cents lower at an average 29.61 Pesos
At the end of trading, the US dollar which earlier was selling at over 30 Argentine Pesos, ended some 30 cents lower at an average 29.61 Pesos

The Argentine peso climbed on Tuesday after the Central bank implemented a raft of measures to stabilize the volatile currency on Monday, including increasing the benchmark interest rate to 45% from 40% previously, and announcing it was offering markets US$ 500 million.

 At the end of trading, the US dollar which earlier was selling at over 30 Argentine Pesos, ended some 30 cents lower at an average 29.61 Pesos. Anyhow the market was nervous and volatile.

Likewise of the US$ 500 million dollars made available, the central bank finally awarded some US$ 200 million, also helping to decompress markets.

In the stock exchange the Merval indicator rebounded 1.8% reaching 26.536 units, in line with other emerging markets as the Turkish Lira after a three-week drubbing, pulled out of a nosedive following on a raft of measures and announcements from Ankara's finance minister sought to reassure investors.

Economist Gustavo Ber said that global relief in emerging markets was immediately taken advantage by Argentine domestic assets eager to recover after the bashing from previous days, even when investors are expecting the implementation of more severe measures to normalize the country risk index, which is considered crucial to recuperate external financing. On Monday the Merval had plummeted 3%.

Argentina's sovereign debt risk also recovered on Tuesday falling by 52 points, almost 7%, to 696. Nevertheless the level is well beyond normal and closer to February 2015 levels.

On Monday the country risk had ballooned 6,9% to 748 points as a consequence of the ongoing probe into corruption involving ex officials and the leading public works contractors, during the Kirchner couple years in government.

Overall Latin American equities mounted a second day of a comeback on Tuesday as the region shook off the impact of panic selling in Turkey's lira, while the currencies of Mexico and Brazil rebounded.

Brazil's real and Mexico peso both rose sharply alongside the Turkish Lira, but currencies in Colombia, Peru, and Chile all slipped.

“A return to volatility cannot be ruled out if the Turkish lira starts losing against the dollar again,” Mexico's Banco BASE said in a note to clients.

Brazil's benchmark Bovespa index climbed 1.4% while Mexico's S&P/BMV IPC rose 0.67%.

 

Venezuela arrests two high-ranking military officers in relation to an attack on president Maduro

Wednesday, August 15th 2018 - 07:23 UTC

“There are 14 detainees who have been presented and charged before the criminal courts,” said Attorney General Tarek William Saab
“There are 14 detainees who have been presented and charged before the criminal courts,” said Attorney General Tarek William Saab

The investigation into an assassination attempt on Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro using drones has widened to include the arrest of two high-ranking military officers, the nation's top prosecutor said on Tuesday.

 The list of suspects — including an exiled opposition lawmaker — has now risen to 34, and officials are seeking arrests in Colombia, Peru and the United States, Attorney General Tarek William Saab said.

“There are 14 detainees who have been presented and charged before the criminal courts,” he said. That list of suspects and detainees has nearly doubled since last week, when authorities said they had eight of 19 suspects in custody.

Officials say an assassination plot involved two drones loaded with plastic explosives that detonated near Maduro as he spoke on August 4 at a military celebration in the capital of Caracas.

The first explosion in front of the grandstand caused hundreds of soldiers standing in parade formation to scatter. Seven soldiers were injured, but Maduro and several senior officials nearby were unharmed.

The incident came at a time of political and economic crisis in Venezuela, a once-wealthy oil power that is suffering runaway inflation and shortages of food and medicine that have driven hundreds of thousands to flee abroad.

Saab identified the two detained officers as Col. Pedro Zambrano Hernandez and Gen. Alejandro Perez Gamez of the National Guard. He did not describe their suspected roles.

A 29-year-old opposition lawmaker, Juan Requesens, is also under arrest and charged with treason and attempted homicide. Officials have released a videotaped statement of Requesens that they say shows an admission, but he never appears to confess or mention the attack.

It shows Requesens telling investigators he helped prominent opposition lawmaker Julio Borges, who lives in Bogota, bring a man into Venezuela from Colombia. Relatives of Requesens say he is jailed for being an outspoken critic of Maduro's government, but that he never participated in a crime.

Venezuelan officials have asked Colombia to extradite Borges, and Maduro has offered to show the FBI evidence in support of their case against exiled Venezuelans living in Miami suspected of financing the failed plot.

Supporters of Lula march on Brasilia to converge at the Supreme Electoral Court

Wednesday, August 15th 2018 - 07:27 UTC

The activists from the Workers' Party and the Landless Workers Movement were due to meet up Wednesday outside the Supreme Electoral Court
The activists from the Workers' Party and the Landless Workers Movement were due to meet up Wednesday outside the Supreme Electoral Court

Supporters of former Brazilian president Lula da Silva marched on Brasilia on Tuesday to support his attempt to take part in presidential elections, despite serving a prison sentence for corruption.

 The New York Times published an article by Lula on Tuesday in which he branded his sentence — which has been confirmed by an appeals court after a trial — as “the latest phase in a slow-motion coup” against Brazil's left.

The “extreme right wing is seeking to knock me out of the race,” Lula wrote.

Lula leads in opinion polls ahead of the October 7 first round of presidential voting. However, he is almost sure to be barred under Brazil's clean slate law.

In addition, his polling results mask equally strong rejection rates, making him the most popular but also arguably the most divisive politician in the country.

For the approximately 1,000 people, divided into three groups converging on Brasilia, Lula's absence from the election would be a travesty.

The activists from the Workers' Party and the Landless Workers Movement were due to meet up Wednesday outside the Supreme Electoral Court in the capital to officially register Lula's unlikely candidacy.

With them was former Sao Paulo governor Fernando Haddad, who is designated as vice president on Lula's ticket.

Lula, 72, was convicted of taking an apartment as a bribe from a big construction company. The case was part of a mass of graft prosecutions conducted in Brazil's giant “Car Wash” probe into systemic embezzlement and bribery throughout the country's political parties.

The electoral court has until September 17 to rule on Lula's candidacy registration. If he is barred, Haddad would likely run in his place.

There Is a Right-Wing Coup Underway in Brazil, but Justice will prevail

Wednesday, August 15th 2018 - 07:30 UTC

My imprisonment was the latest phase in a slow-motion coup designed to permanently marginalize progressive forces in Brazil.
My imprisonment was the latest phase in a slow-motion coup designed to permanently marginalize progressive forces in Brazil.
The deeply unpopular administration of President Michel Temer has approved a constitutional amendment that puts a 20-year cap on public spending
The deeply unpopular administration of President Michel Temer has approved a constitutional amendment that puts a 20-year cap on public spending
Judge Sergio Moro has been lionized by Brazil’s right-wing news media. He has become untouchable
Judge Sergio Moro has been lionized by Brazil’s right-wing news media. He has become untouchable
Rousseff was impeached and removed from office for an action that even her opponents admitted was not an impeachable offense
Rousseff was impeached and removed from office for an action that even her opponents admitted was not an impeachable offense

By Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (*) Curitiba.- Sixteen years ago, Brazil was in crisis; its future uncertain. Our dreams of developing into one of the world’s most prosperous and democratic countries seemed imperiled.

 The idea that one day our citizens might enjoy the comfortable living standards of our peers in Europe or other Western democracies seemed to be fading away. Less than two decades after dictatorship ended, some wounds from that period were still raw.

The Workers’ Party offered hope, an alternative that might turn these trends around. For this reason, above all, I believe, we triumphed at the ballot box in 2002. I became the first labor leader to be elected Brazil’s president. The markets were at first rattled by this development, but the ensuing economic growth put them at ease. In the years that followed, the Workers’ Party governments that I headed cut poverty by more than half in just eight years. In my two terms, the minimum wage increased 50 percent. Our Bolsa Familia program, which assisted impoverished families while simultaneously ensuring that children received quality education, won international renown. We proved that fighting poverty was a good economic policy.

Then this progress was interrupted. Not through the ballot box, although Brazil has free and fair elections. Instead, President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed from office for an action that even her opponents admitted was not an impeachable offense. Then, I, too, was sent to prison, after a dubious trial on corruption and money laundering charges.


My imprisonment was the latest phase in a slow-motion coup designed to permanently marginalize progressive forces in Brazil. It is intended to prevent the Workers’ Party from again being elected to the presidency. With all the polls showing that I would easily win this October’s elections, Brazil’s extreme right wing is seeking to knock me out of the race. My conviction and imprisonment is based solely on the testimony of a witness whose own sentence was reduced in exchange for what he said against me. In other words, it was in his personal interest to tell the authorities what they wanted to hear.


The right-wing forces that have seized power in Brazil have wasted no time in implementing their agenda. The deeply unpopular administration of President Michel Temer has approved a constitutional amendment that puts a 20-year cap on public spending and has enacted various changes to labor laws that will ease outsourcing and weaken workers’ bargaining rights and even their right to an eight-hour workday. The Temer government has also tried pension cuts.


Brazil’s conservatives have done much work to roll back the progress of our Workers’ Party governments, and they are determined to keep us from coming to office again in the near future. Their ally in this effort is Judge Sergio Moro and his prosecutorial team, who have resorted to taping and leaking private phone conversations that I have had with my family and with my lawyer, including an illegally taped conversation. They created a media show by having me arrested and subjected to a “perp walk” as they accused me of being the “mastermind” of a vast corruption scheme. These appalling details are rarely recounted in the major news media.


Mr. Moro has been lionized by Brazil’s right-wing news media. He has become untouchable. But the real issue isn’t Mr. Moro; it’s those who elevated him to this untouchable status: right-wing, neoliberal elites who have always been opposed to our struggle for greater social justice and equality in Brazil.


I don’t believe that the majority of Brazilians approved that elitist agenda. That’s why, while I may be in jail today, I am running for president, and why the polls show that if the elections were held today, I would win. Millions of Brazilians understand that my jailing has nothing to do with corruption, and they understand that I am where I am merely for political reasons.


I do not worry for myself. I have been in jail before, under Brazil’s military dictatorship, for nothing more than defending workers’ rights. That dictatorship fell. The people who are abusing their power today will also fall.


I don’t ask to be above the law, but a trial must be fair and impartial. These right-wing forces convicted me, imprisoned me, ignored the overwhelming evidence of my innocence and denied me habeas corpus only to try to stop me from running for the presidency. I ask for respect for democracy. If they want to defeat me for real, do it in the elections. According to the Brazilian Constitution, the power comes from the people, who elect their representatives. So let the Brazilian people decide. I have faith that justice will prevail, but time is running against democracy.

(*) Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is the former president of Brazil.

Record unemployment in UK: 4%; the lowest for more than forty years

Wednesday, August 15th 2018 - 05:42 UTC

The fall was the largest annual amount since records began in 1997. It continues a trend seen since the 2016 Brexit vote
The fall was the largest annual amount since records began in 1997. It continues a trend seen since the 2016 Brexit vote

UK unemployment fell by 65,000 to 1.36 million in three months to June - the lowest for more than 40 years, official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show. They also show a rise in productivity, but a slowdown in wage growth.

 Wages, excluding bonuses, grew by 2.7% in the three months to June, compared with a year ago. The ONS figures also showed the number of European Union nationals working in the UK fell by a record amount.

The fall was the largest annual amount since records began in 1997. It continues a trend seen since the 2016 Brexit vote. That contrasted with a rise in the number of non-EU nationals working in the UK to 1.27 million - 74,000 more than a year earlier.

The CBI said the size of the UK workforce was shrinking at the same time as vacancies for skills and labour were growing. Matthew Percival, CBI head of employment, said the government needed to guarantee that EU workers could continue to work even in a “no-deal” Brexit scenario.

The unemployment rate fell to 4% in the quarter to June. That was the lowest since February 1975 and better than the figure expected by economists. The drop came despite a smaller-than-expected 42,000 increase in the number of jobs created over the three-month period.

On productivity, the ONS also said output per hour worked was up by 1.5% - the biggest rise since late 2016.

The official figures also showed 104,000 people who were employed on “zero-hours” contracts, which do not guarantee a set number of hours per week, left such work. That left 780,000 people with those conditions as their main job.

It also said the number of people aged 16 to 64 who were not working, looking for work or available to work - what is known as “economically inactive” - increased by 77,000 from the first quarter of the year.

Earlier this month, the Bank of England raised interest rates for only the second time in 10 years, as it sought to manage inflation amid signs of a strengthening UK economy.

However, Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said this now looked to have been a premature move.

“Achieving sustained increases in wage growth remains a key challenge, with sluggish productivity, underemployment and the myriad of high upfront business costs weighing down on pay settlements,” he said.

“As such, there remains precious little sign that wage growth is set to take off - undermining a key assumption behind the Monetary Policy Committee's recent decision to raise rates.”

Argentine Senate honors participants of the Darwin military cemetery identification process

Wednesday, August 15th 2018 - 08:52 UTC

Senator Pamela Verasay and INFOBAE journalist Gabriela Cociffi.
Senator Pamela Verasay and INFOBAE journalist Gabriela Cociffi.
Commission of Relatives of the Fallen in Malvinas and South Atlantic Islands  with Claudio Avruj
Commission of Relatives of the Fallen in Malvinas and South Atlantic Islands with Claudio Avruj
UK Colonel Geoffrey Cardozo with Senator Verasay and Claudio Avruj Argentine Secretary of Human Rights.
UK Colonel Geoffrey Cardozo with Senator Verasay and Claudio Avruj Argentine Secretary of Human Rights.
Senator Verasy (C) recalled that with the end of the war, “that day the relentless ticking of time for the definitive recovery of our democracy started”
Senator Verasy (C) recalled that with the end of the war, “that day the relentless ticking of time for the definitive recovery of our democracy started”

In a solemn ceremony on Tuesday the Argentine Senate distinguished the several participants in the recent identification process of the combatants buried in the Argentine military cemetery in Darwin.

 The “Senator Domingo Faustino Sarmiento” Mention of Honor was awarded to individuals and organizations alike, including journalist Gabriela Cociffi; Malvinas war veteran Julio Aro; British Army retired Colonel Geoffrey Cardozo; the Commission of Relatives of the Fallen in Malvinas and South Atlantic Islands, as well as the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team.

Senator Pamela Verasay organizer of the event recalled that few causes identity and mobilize Argentines as the Malvinas cause, which is above politics, beliefs, creeds, gender or social condition, it's something that moves the whole community.

“When the conflict came to an end, that day the relentless ticking of time for the definitive recovery of our democracy started. It was an imperfect process, not devoid of contradictions, the beginning of this cycle had in the war veterans an unacceptable lack of attention and care, it was the ominous dictatorship which was retreating closing one of the darkest chapters of Argentine history, but also the recently born democracy had other priorities”, said the Senator.

But despite all this, “we must underline the commitment and impeccable team work, overcoming innumerable hurdles along the way. The confluence of efforts opened the way to reach what seemed something impossible. The Argentine foreign ministry, the British embassy, the Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 company, the Red Cross, journalists, all together made this humanitarian feat possible”.

Geoffrey Cardozo emphasized that with “this team we managed what was almost impossible: return the human being that had been lost, return a son to his mother, to his family, return a hero to the motherland”.

The identification process of the 123 unknown graves that were only marked as “Argentine solider, only known by God” was started over a decade ago, the effort of several individuals such as Julio Aro and Gabriela Cociffi, and the Malvinas Families commission. But it really took off under the umbrella of a new constructive and cooperation understanding between Argentina and the UK, and with the support of the Falkland Islands, which was agreed in 2016.

Supporters of Lula march on Brasilia to converge at the Supreme Electoral Court

Wednesday, August 15th 2018 - 07:27 UTC

The activists from the Workers' Party and the Landless Workers Movement were due to meet up Wednesday outside the Supreme Electoral Court
The activists from the Workers' Party and the Landless Workers Movement were due to meet up Wednesday outside the Supreme Electoral Court

Supporters of former Brazilian president Lula da Silva marched on Brasilia on Tuesday to support his attempt to take part in presidential elections, despite serving a prison sentence for corruption.

 The New York Times published an article by Lula on Tuesday in which he branded his sentence — which has been confirmed by an appeals court after a trial — as “the latest phase in a slow-motion coup” against Brazil's left.

The “extreme right wing is seeking to knock me out of the race,” Lula wrote.

Lula leads in opinion polls ahead of the October 7 first round of presidential voting. However, he is almost sure to be barred under Brazil's clean slate law.

In addition, his polling results mask equally strong rejection rates, making him the most popular but also arguably the most divisive politician in the country.

For the approximately 1,000 people, divided into three groups converging on Brasilia, Lula's absence from the election would be a travesty.

The activists from the Workers' Party and the Landless Workers Movement were due to meet up Wednesday outside the Supreme Electoral Court in the capital to officially register Lula's unlikely candidacy.

With them was former Sao Paulo governor Fernando Haddad, who is designated as vice president on Lula's ticket.

Lula, 72, was convicted of taking an apartment as a bribe from a big construction company. The case was part of a mass of graft prosecutions conducted in Brazil's giant “Car Wash” probe into systemic embezzlement and bribery throughout the country's political parties.

The electoral court has until September 17 to rule on Lula's candidacy registration. If he is barred, Haddad would likely run in his place.

Argentina: tax cuts on soy meal and soy oil exports suspended six months

Wednesday, August 15th 2018 - 07:03 UTC

Argentine soy planting starts in late September, with harvesting concentrated in April and May.
Argentine soy planting starts in late September, with harvesting concentrated in April and May.

Argentina has suspended for six months its program of gradually cutting taxes on exports of soymeal and soyoil, the Treasury Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, part of the government’s fiscal tightening program. International shipments of both soy products are currently taxed at 23%, lowered gradually from 32% in 2015, the statement said.

 By the end of 2019, soymeal and soyoil export taxes will be at 18%, it said, compared with the 15% rate planned before the suspension.

“We expect a sharp drop in soymeal and soyoil exports in the upcoming season. So we will look for the opportunity to have a dialogue with the government about reversing this measure, which we think goes against the best interests of the country,” Gustavo Idigoras, head of soyoil industry group CIARA.

Argentine soy planting starts in late September, with harvesting concentrated in April and May.

Beginning after the next harvest, Argentina had expected to export significant amounts of soymeal to China as the country moves to take advantage of an ongoing U.S.-China trade dispute. Argentine officials were in Beijing earlier this month to finalize the paperwork needed to ship livestock feed to China.

Argentina is the top global exporter of soymeal and soyoil, but drought slashed the country’s soybean harvest this year, pushing some global buyers to instead buy soymeal from the United States. The president Macri administration estimated soybeans crop loss at US$ 8 billion.

Argentina, which in recent months has also booked rare imports of U.S. soybeans, has said it would continue reducing taxes on exports of whole beans.

Following the announcement, global benchmark soymeal futures surged over 2 percent on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) , hitting a two-week high of $336.50 per short ton.

Cutting agricultural export taxes has been a high priority for president Macri, who was elected in late 2015 on a free markets platform. But the economy has been shrinking and the country’s peso currency has weakened against the dollar, forcing the country to seek a US$50 billion standby financing agreement with the International Monetary Fund. Deficit reduction is a key part of the IMF deal.