Category Archives: International

U.S. jobless claims hit 44-1/2-year low; mid-Atlantic factories humming

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits dropped to its lowest level in more than 44-1/2 years last week, pointing to a rebound in job growth after a hurricane-related decline in employment in September.

The labor market outlook was also bolstered by another report on Thursday showing a measure of factory employment in the mid-Atlantic region racing to a record high in October. The signs of labor market strength could cement expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in December.

“It doesn’t take one hundred PhD economists at the Fed to figure out that the labor market is on the tight side of normal,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York. “At this point, we would expect a sharp bounce-back in employment growth in October.”

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 222,000 for the week ended Oct. 14, the lowest level since March 1973, the Labor Department said. But the decrease in claims, which was the largest since April, was probably exaggerated by the Columbus Day holiday on Monday.

Claims are declining as the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma washes out of the data. The hurricanes, which lashed Texas, Florida and the Virgin Islands, boosted claims to an almost three-year high of 298,000 at the start of September.

A Labor Department official said claims for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico continued to be impacted by Irma and Hurricane Maria, which destroyed infrastructure. As a result the Labor Department was estimating claims for the islands.

Nonfarm payrolls dropped by 33,000 jobs in September as Hurricanes Irma and Harvey left more than 100,000 restaurant workers temporarily unemployed. The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are not included in nonfarm payrolls.

Economists had forecast claims slipping to 240,000 in the latest week. The dollar briefly pared losses against a basket of currencies after the data. Stocks on Wall Street fell as investors booked profits after a recent rally that lifted shares to record highs. Prices for U.S. Treasuries rose.

LABOR MARKET TIGHTENING

Last week marked the 137th consecutive week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with a robust labor market. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller.

Improvements in the labor market have been largely due to a recovery that started during former President Barack Obama’s first term. While U.S. stocks have risen in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s tax plans, the administration has yet to enact any significant new economic policies.

The labor market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at a more than 16-1/2-year low of 4.2 percent. Tightening labor market conditions likely keep the Fed on track to raise interest in December for a third time this year, even as inflation remains moderate.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 9,500 to 248,250 last week.

The claims data covered the survey week for October nonfarm payrolls. The four-week average of claims fell 20,500 between the September and October survey periods, supporting views of a rebound in job growth this month.

“The data suggest that the underlying trend in employment growth remains more than strong enough to keep the unemployment rate declining,” said Jim O‘Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, New York.

In a separate report on Thursday, the Philadelphia Fed said its measure of factory employment in the mid-Atlantic region soared 24 points to a record high reading of 30.6 in October.

The average workweek index also increased 8 points to a reading of 19.4. It said no firms reported decreases in employment this month. The robust labor market readings helped to lift the Philadelphia Fed’s current manufacturing activity index four points to a five-month high of 27.9 in October, offsetting declines in new orders and shipments measures.

Also underscoring labor market strength, the claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid decreased 16,000 to 1.89 million in the week ended Oct. 7, the lowest level since December 1973.

The four-week moving average of so-called continuing claims fell 22,750 to 1.91 million, the lowest level since January 1974.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci

Japan government wants to get actively involved in Kobe Steel issue: trade minister

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TOKYO (Reuters) – The Japanese government wants to get actively involved in the issue of Kobe Steel’s (5406.T) data fabrications, Hiroshige Seko, the minister of economy, trade and industry, said on Friday.

Kobe Steel, Japan’s third-biggest steelmaker, admitted earlier this month that it had falsified specifications on the strength and durability of its products. The falsifications stretch back for more than 10 years, a senior executive told Reuters.

Reporting by Ami Miyazaki; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

Facebook to launch news subscription feature, some big names opt out

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(Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Thursday it has signed up 10 news publishers including the Washington Post and The Economist to take part in a trial that gives its mobile app users access to a limited number of articles a month and then the option to subscribe via the publishers’ own websites.

The move is a shift in strategy for the world’s largest social network, which previously has tried to keep users within its own service, and may help restore its image by strengthening ties to respected news organizations after the spread of false news stories on Facebook in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

It may also help soothe relations with some publishers, which often see their articles widely shared among Facebook’s more than 2 billion monthly users but have found it hard to translate Facebook readers into paying subscribers.

While publishers will own the data on users who buy a subscription, they will not have information on who reads the free articles on Facebook, a main point of contention for several publishers.

Under the trial, which includes the Boston Globe, Germany’s Bild and France’s Le Parisien, Facebook mobile users can read 10 articles under a publication’s paywall for free, or a selection of articles publishers allow access to, and will then be prompted to purchase a subscription on the publisher’s website for full access.

Facebook will not take a cut of the revenue from any subscriptions purchased, the company said in a blog post on Thursday.

Several major publishers have decided not to take part, largely because Facebook will not give access to reader data until they purchase a subscription.

An executive at Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones, a unit of News Corp (NWSA.O), told Reuters Facebook’s one-size-fits-all testing model would be a step back from the Journal’s paywall strategy.

“Ten free articles is quite a lot,” said the executive, who requested anonymity. “It’s more about the data and around remaining in control of our membership strategy.”

Britain’s Financial Times will not participate either, a source familiar with the matter said. The newspaper, which also charges for access to its articles online, wanted a registration process to get hold of reader data in exchange for free articles, said the source.

The New York Times Co (NYT.N) has yet to commit to the trial and is still in discussions with Facebook, a Times spokeswoman said, declining to give further detail.

Reporting by Sheila Dang; editing by Anna Driver and Bill Rigby

Nissan’s inappropriate inspections started at least 20 years ago: NHK

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Inappropriate inspection practices at Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) had been going for at least 20 years, Japanese national broadcaster NHK reported on Friday, in a new revelation that could further roil Japan’s second-biggest automaker.

Nissan said late on Thursday it was suspending domestic production of vehicles for the Japanese market for at least two weeks to address misconduct in its final inspection procedures, which it first revealed last month. The scandal has led to a recall of all 1.2 million cars it sold in Japan over the past three years.

A Nissan spokesman declined to directly confirm or deny the NHK report, referring to CEO Hiroto Saikawa’s comments on Thursday, when he said Nissan’s training system for certifying vehicle inspection staff had not changed for 20 years.

Saikawa added that that was a separate issue from how long the misconduct had been going on.

Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

PM urges Brexit deal ‘we can defend’ to public

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Theresa May has warned EU leaders of her political difficulties in the UK and urged them to help deliver a deal she can defend domestically.

The high-stakes plea, a clear reference to the internal wrangling within her own Cabinet, seeks to persuade European leaders to help her own political capital in the UK, by offering something in return for her Florence speech offer.

:: PM tells Sky’s Faisal Islam her Florence speech has begun to ‘change some thinking’ in Europe

Addressing her fellow leaders over an EU Council summit dinner, the Prime Minister said the UK intended to take a “creative and pragmatic approach to securing a deep and special partnership”.

She reiterated an “unconditional commitment to security” in Europe.

She acknowledged that the process was “in difficulty” during the summer and decided to take stock and make a step forward with the Florence speech.

The PM referenced “a difficult political backdrop” in the UK and said the EU27 must deliver to her a deal “we can stand behind and defend to our people”.

She concluded by urging the EU27 to have a “clear and urgent imperative” to create a “dynamic that enables us to move forward together”.

Video:May’s promise to EU citizens living in the UK ‘meaningless’

:: EU leaders play down Brexit talks progress

On the first day of the summit EU leaders welcomed Mrs May’s latest offer to free up Brexit negotiations but talked down chances of them moving on to the crucial trade stage.

They are expected today to vote down a motion confirming “sufficient progress” has been made since Article 50 was triggered.

That would mean Brexit Secretary David Davis is powerless to begin negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, including on trade.

Mr Davis gave an interview to European media on the eve of the summit trying to exert his own leverage, calling for the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to be given “more leeway in his mandate”.

But French President Emmanuel Macron downplayed the idea, telling reporters as he arrived in Brussels that the EU27 was “united” behind Mr Barnier.

Video:Malta’s PM on Brexit negotiations

The Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, also went on the defensive.

He told Sky News it was “pretty clear” EU leaders would vote down the “sufficient progress” motion.

He did say a statement would be passed in the “spirit” of progress and added: “The wording will be encouraging.”

:: Goldman boss signals Brexit shift to Frankfurt

Mrs May remained defiant at the summit, hailing the “concrete progress made so far” and stressing “urgency” of agreeing deals on things like citizens’ rights.

She added the UK would play a full role in dealing with the shared challenges of counter-terrorism, migration and defence.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also been in Brussels, flanked by a delegation of shadow ministers, and held several meetings with top level EU officials.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer told Sky News it was only “responsible” for the Opposition to be meeting with Mr Barnier “to make sure that we fully understand the seriousness of the situation”.

Islamic State is gone – but Raqqa lies in ruins

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Islamic State’s brutal reign of terror in Raqqa may be at an end, but as the liberation of the Syrian city is celebrated in the streets the shadow of the group remains.

Sky News chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay has travelled into the heart of the extremists’ former capital – where little now remains but piles of rubble, and huge numbers of hidden bombs and explosives.

Ramsay, his cameraman Adam Cole and security adviser Mike Mawhinney are the first British broadcast team to enter the city since its liberation.

Here Ramsay describes the scale of the destruction and the joy in the city at the victory against IS:

This was a long, hard battle into the heart of Islamic State’s evil-filled core. Even on the outskirts of Raqqa the fighting was intense, destructive and deadly.

It is an eerie drive into a major town now utterly empty of civilians and any form of life other than soldiers.

Image:The battle against Islamic State has taken its toll on the city

The fighting has only stopped in the last few days. Most of Raqqa is now a silent witness to the force needed to destroy an organisation that planned and brought murder and mayhem from here, across the world.

As methodically as they can, the forces of the victorious multi-ethnic SDF use armoured bulldozers supported by armoured trucks to push into the rubble-filled streets.

Occasionally you hear the boom of an explosion. They will be hitting mines and booby traps here for weeks. But they are savouring the victory nonetheless.

Image:Syrian Democratic Forces fighters dance along a street in Raqqa

Soldiers pose for pictures and greet us with smiles and victory signs. Many look utterly exhausted.

Perwer (his nom de guerre) stood with me as we looked at one street that is a mass of destroyed buildings and rubble.

“I am from Kobane and it was terrible there but it is smaller, this is worse,” he said as we were enveloped in dust from a passing truck.

He smiled. “They said we couldn’t do this. We destroyed the Isis myth,” and clapped me on the back.

Video:Syrian forces celebrate with tank doughnuts – the same way IS did three years ago

The destruction in the centre is quite incredible. The combination of airstrikes, artillery and street-to-street fighting an extraordinary demonstration in demolition.

:: The enormous costs of Islamic State’s demise in Raqqa

Some 90% of the city is destroyed but what has been achieved here by this force is not to be underestimated.

Around the roundabout where IS used to carry out public executions, leaving the bodies for days or weeks, a convoy of military trucks career around waving flags and beeping their horns.

Image:IS carried out public executions on this roundabout

They are world famous now, but the women’s brigades of the Kurdish YPJ really are quite something.

They have been a constant and equal part of the victory here and in many other battles.

This was their opportunity to lead their own celebrations and to remember their own many dead.

Amongst those celebrating was Briton Kimmy Taylor. A fighter, she is pretty famous here and indeed worldwide.

:: The rise and fall of Islamic State in Raqqa

Image:Kimmy Taylor is now famous wordwide

She believes what has been achieved in this war by the women has sent a message to the world about empowerment and respect.

“I’m a revolutionary and I will go on. One day I will be martyred, but I go on,” she told me when I asked what was next.

“I want to go home for a bit and then do some work as an ambassador for what has been achieved. Then I want to return here and see this new society,” she said.

Image:The women’s brigades of the Kurdish YPJ celebrate the victory over IS

Islamic State is not finished as an entity for sure. Its ideology has leached across the planet through social media and hate-filled sermons.

But they have been smashed here; in Kobane, in Mosul and now in Raqqa. The costs have been terrible. But Islamic State has lost.

For me reporting that it really is quite something.

Image:Sky’s Stuart Ramsay says IS have been smashed in Raqqa

Tarantino knew Weinstein mistreated women

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Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino has admitted he had known of incidents of Harvey Weinstein mistreating women before the scandal broke earlier this month.

It comes as Los Angeles police confirmed they are investigating an allegation of sexual assault against the film producer.

The incident is alleged to have taken place in 2013 which would place it within California’s 10-year statute of limitations for such a crime.

:: The Accusers

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The investigation follows those launched by officers in New York and London into a number of allegations of rape or sexual assault against Weinstein.

Tarantino told the New York Times: “I knew enough to do more than I did. There was more to it than just normal rumours, the normal gossip. It wasn’t second hand. I knew he did a couple of these things.”

Although he said he once confronted Weinstein over an allegation, he added: “I wish I had taken responsibility for what I heard.”

Image:Weinstein was fired by the movie production company he co-founded

The Weinstein Company – from which Weinstein has since been fired – has produced all of Tarantino’s films since the 1994 hit Pulp Fiction.

Their films include Inglourious Basterds, The Hateful Eight and Django Unchained, which is The Weinstein Company’s highest-grossing movie.

Tarantino said he had tried to telephone Weinstein since the scandal broke but had received no reply.

Meanwhile, detectives from the LAPD robbery homicide division’s rape investigation unit are reported to have spent two hours speaking with the alleged victim.

More than 40 women have made allegations of harassment or inappropriate behaviour against Weinstein since investigations by the New York Times and New Yorker magazine were published.

The mogul has been expelled by both Hollywood’s Oscars Academy and the British Film Institute. He is currently at a rehab centre in Arizona.

Video:BFI withdraws Harvey Weinstein’s fellowship

Through his lawyers, he has “unequivocally” denied allegations of non-consensual sex made against him. The actresses Rose McGowan and Lysette Anthony are among those who have made allegations of sexual assault.

The Los Angeles Times has reported that the latest accuser is an Italian model and actress.

She says Weinstein forced his way into her room at a Beverly Hills hotel before dragging her to the bathroom and raping her.

She told the newspaper: “I barely knew this man. It was the most demeaning thing ever done to me by far. It sickens me still. He made me feel like an object, like nothing with all his power.”

She said she had been encouraged to speak to police by her children. She said: “All these years I’ve been thinking why I didn’t call the police immediately.”

A statement from the police force in California said: “The LAPD robbery and homicide division has interviewed a potential sexual assault victim involving Harvey Weinstein, which allegedly occurred in 2013.

“The case is under investigation.”

Fight to save seabirds trapped in plastic

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Conservationists have mounted a rescue mission to save dozens of seabirds trapped in plastic and Sky News was given exclusive access to the operation.

The RSPB landed on Grassholm island, eight miles off the Pembrokeshire coast, to cut free young gannets from the fishing ropes and nets that adults use to build nests.

Video:A painful death on ‘plastic island’

Greg Morgan, warden for the RSPB reserve, said there is so much fishing gear floating in the water around the island that the birds mistake it for the seaweed that they should be using.

Image:Plastic twine is cut away from seabirds

He said: “We estimate there are 18 tonnes of plastic in the nests on the island.

“The chicks sit on the nest. As they turn, the plastic gets twisted around their leg and ensnares them.

“They should have flown away by now. Eventually the adults give up and they are left to starve.”

Image:Surveys show 80% of the nests on Grassholm island contain plastic

We saw birds with plastic twine twisted so tight around their legs that it had cut through to the bone.

Other birds were already dead, their feet tethered to the nest by rope.

:: Sky Ocean rescue: How to get involved

Video:Plastic voyage uncovers ocean plagued with pollution

Surveys show 80% of the nests on Grassholm contain plastic. Some of it is swept from as far as North America by the Gulf Stream.

The RSPB lands on the island every October, when most of the gannets have flown south for the winter, to save as many of the remaining birds as they can.

Over the 12 years that conservationists have been landing on the island, they’ve cut free 637 birds.

Video:Coca-Cola’s big rethink on plastics

“This is out of sight, out of mind,” said Mr Morgan.

“People have no idea that this (plastic) is coursing through our seas. We need to raise awareness”

Lisa Morgan, also an RSPB warden (and Greg’s wife), admitted that they are firefighting. There is too much plastic to remove – and even attempting a clear-up could put the whole colony at risk.

“Birds use the same nests every year,” she said.

Video:Sky News Special Report: Our Ocean

“If we were to take all of that away, remove all the nests, it would destroy the way the gannetry is built up over time. It’s just not an option.

“Gannets love this stuff. Once it is here it will be here for many years to come.”

Plastic fishing nets, ropes and pots are a growing problem. Worldwide 640,000 tonnes a year break free and drift through the oceans, harming wildlife.

Video:A look back at the Ocean Rescue conference

Sarah Parmor, a volunteer, said: “It makes you feel angry. If people could see (the plastic) here it would make them think about what they are doing in their own lives.

“When you have a bird in your arms with plastic around its neck or wings it makes it more real, the damage that plastic is doing to animals.”

:: To get involved in our Sky Ocean Rescue campaign, visit the website here.

John Kelly: Obama didn’t call when my son died

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White House chief of staff John Kelly has defended Donald Trump’s handling of families of US military heroes who died in action.

Mr Kelly has remained silent for years over the death of his own son Robert in Afghanistan in 2010 and revealed President Obama did not call him after the tragic news – but that was not a criticism.

Mr Kelly’s comments follow the row between Mr Trump and Democratic congresswoman Frederica Wilson who says she overheard the president tell the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson who was killed in Niger that but the cheque never arrived.

Brexit could allow us to stay – illegal migrants

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Brexit may mean instability for businesses and EU citizens living here but an unlikely group of people are eagerly awaiting Britain’s divorce from Europe.

It is estimated that more than a million migrants are living in the UK illegally, according to a former head of Home Office immigration enforcement.

But with an expected decline in workers from Europe, the illegal immigrants we spoke to are hoping it could provide an opportunity for some kind of amnesty.

Video:Illegal migrants want post-Brexit amnesty

Selvarasa Sabesan, 31, told me: “We believe that we can come up and get an offer from the Government because the European people will go out when Brexit happens so when they go out, the British Government will need people to do the low paid jobs so we believe that they will offer us some opportunity to become legal.”

We met Mr Selvarasa and his friend Balasingam Kumaresan, 33, who work illegally in a takeaway shop preparing food and doing odd jobs.

The owner of the shop risks heavy fines and even jail for giving work to illegal immigrants.

Image:The men are paid ‘pocket money’ – about £15 to £20 a day

Mr Balasingam said: “We get pocket money – sometimes £15 to £20 for a full day’s work – for one day.

“We get two meals a day given by the shop – chicken. But life very difficult.”

We gained a rare insight into the lives of illegal immigrants living in the shadows.

Fearful of being arrested and deported, they told us they want to become hard working members of society.

But they dare not risk interaction with their local community for fear of someone becoming suspicious and reporting them to the council or the police.

Image:The men live in a garage and do not mix with the local community for fear of being reported

We followed the men home from the takeaway at the end of their shift, and found they were living in a garage with a group of Tamils from Sri Lanka.

Most of the group sleeping rough here came on fake visas, saying they were fleeing persecution.

Some illegal immigrants are no doubt exploited as cheap labour, while others get work through pity.

Video:Big net migration fall since Brexit vote

In the EU referendum, immigration was one of the key issues, with some voters wanting open borders with Europe to stop.

But the irony is that these immigrants now think Brexit could benefit them.

We also met Ashanthan Thiyagarajah, who sleeps in a stock room at the back of a corner shop.

He, like many illegal immigrants, came on a student visa which has now expired.

He said: “Asians and other non European people will have the job opportunities because of the Brexit and it’s good that the referendum came.”