Category Archives: World

OIL PRICES RISE AS TRUMP TWEETS

U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweets about OPEC and oil prices are more likely to worry the market and put upward pressure on prices than reassure it.

Trump’s interventions with tweets “unsettle” the market and appear to have pushed prices up, Standard Chartered Plc energy analyst Emily Ashford and head of commodities research Paul Horsnell wrote in a note Tuesday. With oil prices rising ahead of U.S. November midterm elections, Trump has tweeted his frustration three times to no avail.

Two posts on Twitter in June criticized OPEC prices for being too high. In the most recent tweet on June 30, Trump claimed that he and Saudi Arabian King Salman Bin Abdulaziz agreed to a 2-million-barrel production increase, but the White House later backpedaled. Those tweets implied that supply deficits will require all of the world’s remaining spare production capacity to come online, according to Standard Charted.

Oil Prices

This most recent Twitter post also made it look like U.S. policy is reliant on Saudi Arabia’s spare capacity to fill global supply gaps, the analysts wrote.

If Trump’s tweets are taken as policy, it means the U.S. is assuming a 2 million barrel-a-day increase is readily available from the Saudis, a relationship that has already been leveraged “to the maximum extent.” But in reality, Horsnell and Ashford write that there is probably “little more” than 700,000 barrels available in the short-medium term.

Saudi Arabia’s crude output reached 10.3 million barrels a day in June, and the bank doubts the country can sustain an increase above 11 million in 2018.

“U.S. oil diplomacy has at points in the past been highly successful in calming oil markets and it has generally been more successful the quieter it has been,” the analysts wrote.

FORMER MALAYSIAN PM ARRESTED OVER HUGE GRAFT PROBE

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was arrested by anti-corruption investigators Tuesday, officials said, the latest dramatic development in a widening graft probe that has engulfed the ex-leader.

Najib, 64, will be charged Wednesday, a taskforce set up to probe wrongdoing at state fund 1MDB said in a statement, adding he was apprehended “at his home”.  The arrest is the latest in a series of stunning moves by investigators that suggest the legal noose is tightening around Najib, his family and many of his close political and business allies.

Malaysia’s official news agency Bernama said the former premier is expected to face more than 10 counts of committing criminal breach of trust linked to SRC International Sdn Bhd, an energy company that was originally a subsidiary of 1MDB. According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, $10.6 million originating from SRC was transferred to Najib’s personal bank accounts, just one small part of hundreds of millions of dollars from 1MDB that allegedly ended up in his accounts.

Najib had been summoned twice by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over its investigation into a case related to SRC. The newly appointed attorney general Tommy Thomas would lead the prosecution team, according to Bernama. Allegations of massive corruption were a major factor behind the shock election loss in May of Najib’s long-ruling coalition to a reformist alliance headed by his former mentor Mahathir Mohamad.

Najib and his cronies were accused of plundering billions of dollars from the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund to buy everything from US real estate to artworks. Najib and the fund deny any wrongdoing. Since the election loss Najib has been banned from leaving the country and has found himself at the centre of a widening graft probe.  Shortly after his ouster, a vast trove of valuables was seized in raids on properties linked Najib and his family, including cash, jewellery and luxury handbags, worth up to $273 million. He and his luxury-loving wife Rosmah Mansor were questioned by investigators, as were his step son Riza Aziz, whose firm produced the hit 2013 movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”, and his former deputy Zahid Hamidi.

Najib

A special government task force investigating the 1MDB corruption scandal said it froze 408 bank accounts containing a total 1.1 billion ringgit ($272 million) last week. Local media reports said some of the accounts belonged to Najib’s political party, the once-powerful United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). Until their shock defeat in May, Najib’s party and its coalition allies had run Malaysia for six decades.

A security source told AFP that agents from the MACC arrested Najib at his home, a sprawling mansion in a well-heeled suburb of Kuala Lumpur. “They came in three to four unmarked cars,” the source, a senior security official familiar with the arrest, said. A spokeswoman for MACC told AFP the former leader was brought to the commission’s headquarters in the administrative capital Putrajaya outside Kuala Lumpur. Najib would stay there overnight and be brought to court Wednesday, she added.

The US Justice Department, which is seeking to recover items allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB cash in America, estimates that $4.5 billion in total was looted from 1MDB. Veteran legislator Lim Kit Siang, whose party is a member of the current ruling coalition, said Najib’s arrest had been expected.”Najib has to answer the allegations. It is long delayed as the scandal has turned Malaysia into a global kleptocracy country.” Hamidi, Najib’s former deputy, said: “I respect the rule of law… Let the rule of law take place.”

UN CHIEF HEARS OF UNIMAGINABLE ATROCITIES AS HE VISITS ROHINGYA CAMPS

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he heard “unimaginable” accounts of atrocities during a visit Monday to Bangladesh’s refugee camps and called for Myanmar to be held responsible for “crimes” against the Rohingya.

Guterres described the situation for the persecuted Muslim minority as “a humanitarian and human rights nightmare” before touring makeshift shelters crammed with people who escaped a huge Myanmar army operation last year that the UN has likened to ethnic cleansing. The UN chief heard harrowing testimony of rape and violence from refugees living in the crowded camps, where nearly a million Rohingya have sought refuge from successive waves of violence in Myanmar. “It is probably one of the most tragic, historic, systematic violations of human rights,” Guterres told reporters in Kutupalong camp, the world’s largest refugee settlement. “Sometimes people tend to forget who is responsible for what happened. So let’s be clear where the responsibility is — it is in Myanmar. “But it’s true the whole international community was not able to stop (it). The responsibilities of the crime committed in Myanmar needs to be attributed to those who committed those crimes.”

The bulk of the Rohingya in Bangladesh, or some 700,000 people, flooded across the border last August to escape the violence. They are loathed by many in Myanmar, where they were stripped of citizenship and branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite calling Rakhine state their homeland. Guterres, accompanied by World Bank head Jim Yong Kim, said he heard “unimaginable accounts of killing and rape” during his first visit to the Rohingya camps as UN chief.

– ‘Heartbreaking’ –

“Nothing could’ve prepared me for the scale of crisis and extent of suffering I saw today,” Guterres said on Twitter.

Rohingya 1

“I heard heartbreaking accounts from Rohingya refugees that will stay with me forever.”

A UN Security Council delegation visited Myanmar and Rakhine state in early May, meeting refugees who gave detailed accounts of killings, rape and villages torched at the hands of Myanmar’s military. Myanmar has vehemently denied allegations by the United States, the UN and others of ethnic cleansing.

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed in November to begin repatriating the Rohingya but the process has stalled, with both sides accusing the other of frustrating the effort.

Fewer than 200 have been resettled, and the vast majority refuse to contemplate returning until their rights, citizenship and safety are assured.

Around 100 Rohingya staged a protest just before Guterres’s visit, unhappy about a preliminary UN deal with Myanmar to assess conditions on the ground for their possible return home. Mohibullah, a community leader for the displaced minority, said he raised concerns with Guterres about the UN agreement not referring to the Rohingya by name.

Myanmar refers to the Rohingya as “Bengalis” as it does not recognise the Muslim group as native to the country. Guterres said the preliminary deal was a “first step on the way of progressive recognition of the rights of these people”. The United Nations has said that conditions in the Rohingya’s home state of Rakhine in western Myanmar are not conducive for the refugees’ safe, voluntary and dignified repatriation.

US PLANS TO DISMANTLE NORTH KOREA’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM

WASHINGTON (AP)

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said Sunday the U.S. has a plan that would lead to the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs in a year.

John Bolton said top U.S. diplomat Mike Pompeo will be discussing that plan with North Korea in the near future. Bolton added that it would be to the North’s advantage to cooperate to see sanctions lifted quickly and aid from South Korea and Japan start to flow.

Bolton’s remarks on CBS’ “Face the Nation” appeared to be the first time the Trump administration had publicly suggested a timeline for North Korea to fulfill the commitment leader Kim Jong Un made at a summit with President Donald Trump last month for the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.

Despite Trump’s rosy post-summit declaration that the North no longer poses a nuclear threat, Washington and Pyongyang have yet to negotiate the terms under which it would relinquish the weapons that it developed over decades to deter the U.S. Doubts over North Korea’s intentions have deepened amid reports that it is continuing to produce fissile material for weapons.

The Washington Post on Saturday cited unnamed U.S. intelligence officials as saying that evidence collected since the June 12 summit in Singapore points to preparations to deceive the U.S. about the number of nuclear warheads in North Korea’s arsenal as well as the existence of undisclosed facilities used to make fissile material for nuclear bombs.

It said the findings support a new, previously undisclosed Defense Intelligence Agency estimate that North Korea is unlikely to denuclearize. Some aspects of the new intelligence were reported Friday by NBC News.

Bolton on Sunday declined to comment on intelligence matters.

He said the administration was well aware of North Korea’s track record over the decades in dragging out negotiations with the U.S. to continue weapons development.

“We have developed a program. I’m sure that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be discussing this with the North Koreans in the near future about really how to dismantle all of their WMD and ballistic missile programs in a year,” Bolton said. “If they have the strategic decision already made to do that, and they’re cooperative, we can move very quickly,” he added.

He said the one-year program the U.S. is proposing would cover all of the North’s chemical and biological weapons, nuclear programs and ballistic missiles.

Even if North Korea is willing to cooperate, dismantling its secretive weapons of mass destruction programs, believed to encompass dozens of sites, will be tough. Stanford University academics, including nuclear physicist Siegfried Hecker, a leading expert on the North’s nuclear program, have proposed a 10-year roadmap for that task; others say it could take less time.

Pompeo has already visited Pyongyang twice since April to meet with Kim — the first time when he was still director of the CIA — and there are discussions about a possible third trip to North Korea late next week but such a visit has not yet been confirmed.

Trump reiterated in an interview broadcast Sunday that he thinks Kim is serious about denuclearization.

“I made a deal with him.  I shook hands with him.  I really believe he means it,” the president said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo.”

Trump defended his decision to suspend “war games” with close ally South Korea — a significant concession to North Korea, which so far has suspended nuclear and missile tests and destroyed tunnels at its nuclear test site but not taken further concrete steps to denuclearize.

“Now we’re saving a lot of money,” Trump said of the cancellation of large-scale military drills that involve flights of U.S. bombers from the Pacific U.S. territory of Guam.

“So we gave nothing.  What we are going to give is good things in the future.  And by the way I really believe North Korea has a tremendous future.  I got along really well with Chairman Kim.  We had a great chemistry,” Trump added.

Pressure will now be on Pompeo to make progress in negotiations with North Korea to turn the summit declaration into concrete action. He spoke with the foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea in recent days about the situation with the North, according to the State Department, which has declined to comment on any upcoming travel.

Pompeo postponed plans to meet with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and their counterparts from India on July 6, citing unavoidable circumstances, which has fueled speculation he will make a third trip to Pyongyang.

PROTESTERS FLOOD US CITIES TO FIGHT TRUMP IMMIGRATION POLICY

WASHINGTON (AP)

They wore white. They shook their fists in the air. They carried signs reading: “No more children in cages,” and “What’s next? Concentration Camps?”

In major cities and tiny towns, hundreds of thousands of marchers gathered Saturday across America, moved by accounts of children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, in the latest act of mass resistance against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

Protesters flooded more than 700 marches, from immigrant-friendly cities like New York and Los Angeles to conservative Appalachia and Wyoming. They gathered on the front lawn of a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, near a detention center where migrant children were being held in cages, and on a street corner near Trump’s golf resort at Bedminster, New Jersey, where the president is spending the weekend.

Trump has backed away from family separations amid bipartisan and international uproar. His “zero tolerance policy” led officials to take more than 2,000 children from their parents as they tried to enter the country illegally, most of them fleeing violence, persecution or economic collapse in their home countries.

Those marching Saturday demanded the government quickly reunite the families that were already divided.

A Brazilian mother separated from her 10-year-old son more than a month ago approached the microphone at the Boston rally.

“We came to the United States seeking help, and we never imagined that this could happen. So I beg everyone, please release these children, give my son back to me,” she said through an interpreter, weeping.

“Please fight and continue fighting, because we will win,” she said.

The crowd erupted.

In Washington, D.C., an estimated 30,000 marchers gathered in Lafayette Park across from the White House in what was expected to be the largest protest of the day, stretching for hours under a searing sun. Firefighters at one point misted the crowd to help people cool off.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the musical “Hamilton,” sang a lullaby dedicated to parents unable to sing to their children. Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys read a letter written by a woman whose child had been taken away from her at the border.

“It’s upsetting. Families being separated, children in cages,” said Emilia Ramos, a cleaner in the district, fighting tears at the rally. “Seeing everyone together for this cause, it’s emotional.”

Around her, thousands waved signs: “I care,” some read, referencing a jacket that first lady Melania Trump wore when traveling to visit child migrants. The back of her jacket said, “I really don’t care, do U?” and it became a rallying cry for protesters Saturday.

“I care!! Do you?” read Joan Culwell’s T-shirt as she joined a rally in Denver.

“We care!” marchers shouted outside Dallas City Hall. Organizer Michelle Wentz says opposition to the Trump administration’s “barbaric and inhumane” policy has seemed to transcend political lines.

“This is the issue crossing the line for a lot of people,” said Robin Jackson, 51, of Los Angeles, who protested with thousands carrying flags, signs and babies.

Singer John Legend serenaded the crowd and Democratic politicians who have clashed with Trump had strong words for the president, including U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters who called for his impeachment.

The president took to Twitter amid the protests, first to show his support for Immigration and Customs Enforcement as some Democrats called for major changes to the agency. Tweeting Saturday from New Jersey, Trump urged ICE agents to “not worry or lose your spirit” and wrote that “the radical left Dems want you out. Next it will be all police.”

He later tweeted that he never pushed House Republicans to vote for immigration overhaul measures that failed last week, contradicting a post three days ago in which he urged GOP congressional members to pass them.

In Trump’s hometown of New York City, another massive crowd poured across the Brooklyn Bridge in sweltering 90-degree heat, some carrying their children on their shoulders, chanting, “Shame!” Drivers honked their horns in support.

“It’s important for this administration to know that these policies that rip apart families — that treat people as less than human, like they’re vermin — are not the way of God, they are not the law of love,” said the Rev. Julie Hoplamazian, an Episcopal priest marching in Brooklyn.

Though seasoned anti-Trump demonstrators packed the rallies, others were new to activism, including parents who said they felt compelled to act after heart-wrenching accounts of families who were torn apart.

Marchers took to city parks and downtown squares from Maine to Florida to Oregon; in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico; on the international bridge between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico; even in Antler, North Dakota, population 27. People braved the heat in Chicago and Atlanta to march.

Some of the demonstrations were boisterous, others were quiet.

Five people were arrested outside an ICE office in Dallas for blocking a road. At least one arrest was made in Columbus, Ohio, when protesters obstructed a downtown street. Light-rail service was temporarily shut down in Minneapolis as thousands of demonstrators got in the way of the tracks. A rally in Portland, Maine, grew so large that police had to shut down part of a major street.

But in Dodge City, Kansas, a 100-person rally led by a Catholic church felt more like a mass than a protest.

In rural Marshalltown, Iowa, about 125 people gathered for a march organized by Steve Adelmund, a father of two who was inspired after turning on the news on Father’s Day and seeing children being separated from their families and held in cages.

“It hit me in the heart. I cried,” he said.

“If we can’t come together under the idea of ‘Kids shouldn’t be taken from their parents,’ where are we?” he asked. “We have to speak out now while we can, before we can’t.”

Drum beats and horns sounded as thousands of protesters hit the streets of San Francisco.

“We came here to let the president know that this is not acceptable,” said San Francisco resident Barry Hooper, who attended with his wife and two daughters.

His 7-year-old daughter Liliana clutched a sign she made, saying, “Stop the separation.”

Three thousand miles away in Washington, protesters ended their march at the white-columned Justice Department. They stacked their protest signs, written in English and Spanish, against its grand wooden doors.

“Fight for families,” one sign demanded.

In Portland, Oregon, police ordered participants in a march by Patriot Prayer to disperse after officers saw assaults and projectiles being thrown. Some arrests were made.

The problems occurred as two opposing protest groups — Patriot Prayer and antifa — took to the streets. People in the crowd were lighting firecrackers and smoke bombs and police used flash bangs to disperse the clashing protesters.

MIGRATION DEAL WILL “BLOCK PEOPLE” AT EUROPE’S DOORSTEP – MSF

The Medecins Sans Frontieres charity on Friday denounced a new EU deal on migration, saying it appeared to be aimed at blocking even the most vulnerable people outside of the bloc. “The only thing European states appear to have agreed on is to block people at the doorstep of Europe regardless of how vulnerable they are, or what horrors they are escaping,” MSF’s emergencies chief Karline Kleijer said in a statement.

She also accused the deal of aiming to “demonise non-governmental search and rescue operations.” Her comments came after EU leaders sealed a deal following marathon talks overnight in Brussels. The 28 leaders agreed to consider setting up “disembarkation platforms” outside the bloc, most likely in North Africa, in a bid to discourage migrants boarding EU-bound smuggler boats.

No third country has so far offered to host these reception centres, where authorities would distinguish between irregular migrants and asylum seekers admissible into the EU. According to the EU deal, member countries could also set up migrant processing centres — but only on a voluntary basis — to determine whether the arrivals returned home as economic migrants or were admitted as refugees in willing states. Kleijer was especially critical of the likelihood that migrants would be sent to chaos-wracked Libya.

“Without batting an eyelid, they have formalised – through financing and training – the use of the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people and return them to Libya,” she said. “European governments do this fully in the knowledge that these people will be sent to arbitrary detention and subject to extreme abuse.” Kleijer warned that the EU’s “actions block and obstruct us from doing the work EU governments are failing to do, all the while dehumanising people in need.” “Any deaths caused by this are now at their hands,” she said.

Photo: AFP / GIOVANNI ISOLINO

MOSCOW: TOP US, RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS TO MEET BEFORE SUMMIT

MOSCOW (AP)

Moscow says the top Russian and U.S. diplomats are likely to meet to set the stage for a summit between President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is likely to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo within two weeks. Ryabkov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies Thursday that Moscow already has made a proposal regarding the specifics of the meeting and is waiting for Washington’s answer.

Trump told reporters that he’ll probably meet with Putin during a July trip to Europe. He mentioned Helsinki, Finland, and Vienna, Austria, as possible venues, adding that he would be receiving an update from his adviser, John Bolton, who visited Moscow Wednesday to lay the groundwork for the summit.