Nerves fray as French choose between ‘plague and cholera’

France’s unprecedented presidential race has thrown many voters into emotional turmoil, causing nerves to fray around the dinner table, at the office and on social media.Rather than vote for centrist frontrunner Emmanuel Macron or far-right candidate M…

France's unprecedented presidential race has thrown many voters into emotional turmoil, causing nerves to fray around the dinner table, at the office and on social media.

Rather than vote for centrist frontrunner Emmanuel Macron or far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, about one in four say they plan to abstain in Sunday's run-off.

Seven in 10 voters are unhappy with the choice before them, a survey found, as France heads into uncharted waters with the traditional right and left absent from the second round for the first time since 1958.

The dilemma is expressed as a choice "between the plague and cholera" at protest marches around the country.

The traditional May Day marches reflected the disarray in the electorate, with competing protests -- some clamouring for a united front against Le Pen and others rejecting both candidates.

"I may very well be a dyed-in-the-wool leftie, but I'm voting for Macron," said 80-year-old pensioner Constantin Sinelnikoff after taking part in an anti-Le Pen march in Paris.

"I never imagined the National Front could get so big," he said.

But Vanessa Harounyan, a teacher in the southern port of Marseille, said she was thinking about abstaining.

"I loathe Marine Le Pen, she makes me sick, but I'm thinking maybe France needs a real jolt," Harounyan said.

Many people voice similar animosity towards Macron, a 39-year-old former banker who was the protege of unpopular outgoing Socialist President Francois Hollande before striking out on his own to form his centrist movement last year.

- 'France Torn Apart' -

"Macron's a financier, a money man, an opportunist," said Rose Rodriquez Correa, 59, a medical secretary in Paris who plans to abstain on Sunday.

"It's become a very tense situation," said Gerard Siad, a 52-year-old Parisian businessman. "It's frightening to see France so fractured."

"France Torn Apart" ran the Le Parisien headline on Tuesday, looking back on the May 1 marches.

"This year, Workers' Day has projected an image of a divided, anxious country," the paper said.

The political landscape has changed radically since Le Pen's father Jean-Marie Le Pen shocked the nation and the world by reaching the presidential run-off against Jacques Chirac in 2002.

Voters put aside their politics to hand conservative Chirac a landslide re-election victory with a 64-point margin.

In contrast, Macron is currently forecast to win by a much smaller, though still significant, margin of 19 points on Sunday.

Analysts say the financial crisis of 2008 created new fault lines, notably over the role of the European Union, as well as over a growing wealth gap.

"New divisions are emerging between people who do not understand each other anymore because they don't have the same life experience," said communications expert Arnaud Mercier.

"Society has become harsh for a lot of people," said Mercier, who teaches at Paris University. "Attitudes are hardening, you see it on social media."

"It's horrible," said a woman who gave her name only as Anne because she opposes Le Pen but lives in a stronghold of her anti-immigrant National Front (FN) party in southern France.

"I spend all my time at work trying to avoid talking about the elections. I'm learning things about my colleagues that I'd rather not know."

Anne's daughter Zoe "unfriended" about 30 people on Facebook before finally deactivating her account, appalled by posts supporting Le Pen or calls for voters to abstain.

Pastor in fatal Nicaragua exorcism found guilty

A pastor who carried out an exorcism in remote Nicaragua that resulted in the death of a 25-year-old mother of two was on Tuesday found guilty of murder.A Managua jury announced the conviction of Evangelical pastor Juan Rocha and four followers over th…

A pastor who carried out an exorcism in remote Nicaragua that resulted in the death of a 25-year-old mother of two was on Tuesday found guilty of murder.

A Managua jury announced the conviction of Evangelical pastor Juan Rocha and four followers over the deadly rite, carried out February 15 to 21 in the isolated village of El Cortezal in northeastern Nicaragua. Rocha and three of the others were also found guilty of illegal detention.

The defendants, who had denied committing murder, said the woman, Vilma Trujillo, had been possessed by the devil.

Witnesses said she had been kept bound for days without food or water, then thrown naked on a burning pile of wood. She died a week later in a Managua hospital of severe burns.

The trial of the pastor and followers Pedro Rocha, Tomasa Rocha, Franklin Jarquin and Esneyda Orozco had been broadcast live since its start April 25 in Nicaragua to great public interest.

"I'm innocent of what I'm accused of," Orozco had pleaded during proceedings.

The judge handling the case, Alfredo Silva, was to deliver his sentences Tuesday next week.

Prosecutors requested the maximum penalty of 30 years for murder and six years for false imprisonment, saying the men had acted cruelly and with premeditation.

Female Christian refugee murdered by Afghan compatriot in Bavaria

Bavarian police are trying to establish the motive behind the murder of an Afghan woman who sought refuge in Germany and has reportedly converted to Christianity. The attacker, also an Afghan asylum seeker, stabbed the woman to death in f…

Preview Bavarian police are trying to establish the motive behind the murder of an Afghan woman who sought refuge in Germany and has reportedly converted to Christianity. The attacker, also an Afghan asylum seeker, stabbed the woman to death in front of her children.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Asian markets mostly up in holiday-thinned trade

Asian traders shifted cautiously on Wednesday as they await the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting later in the day and the release of key US jobs data at the end of the week.

With Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul all closed for public holidays business was thin, despite another record close for the Nasdaq on Wall Street, as traders wait for cues from Washington.

While the Fed is not expected to lift interest rates, with policymakers taking note of a recent run of weak indicators, its post-meeting statement will be parsed for clues about its plans for later in the year.

?With the big slip in data recently there is no chance they raise rates but the statement could contain a discussion about the balance sheet taper so many Fed speakers have been talking about recently,? said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

Minutes from the bank’s March meeting showed the policy board was considering tightening monetary policy by sucking cash out of the financial system, which spooked investors early last month.

Friday sees the next key event when the government releases jobs creation figures for April, which will be used by the Fed to gauge when it will next hike borrowing costs.

In early trade Shanghai was up 0.1 percent, Sydney dipped 0.4 percent and Singapore added 0.5 percent while Taipei and Manila were slightly higher.

Wall Street provided another healthy lead, with the Nasdaq posting yet another record while the Dow and S&P 500 also pushed higher. Markets in Europe closed with healthy gains.

On currency markets the dollar held its ground above 112 yen, while the pound maintained its recent gains, with a strong reading on British manufacturing activity providing a boost on Tuesday.

The euro is also sitting at recent highs ahead of Sunday’s second round of France’s presidential election, in which moderate Emmanuel Macron is expected to beat his far-right, anti-EU opponent Marine Le Pen.

– Key figures at 0200 GMT –

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 3,145.30

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: Closed for holiday

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: Closed for holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0934 from $1.0925 at 2050 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2950 from $1.2932

Dollar/yen: UP at 112.06 yen from 112.04 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 44 cents at $48.10 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 53 cents at $50.99

New York – Dow: UP 0.2 percent at 20,949.89 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 7,250.05 (close)

Asian traders shifted cautiously on Wednesday as they await the Federal Reserve's policy meeting later in the day and the release of key US jobs data at the end of the week.

With Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul all closed for public holidays business was thin, despite another record close for the Nasdaq on Wall Street, as traders wait for cues from Washington.

While the Fed is not expected to lift interest rates, with policymakers taking note of a recent run of weak indicators, its post-meeting statement will be parsed for clues about its plans for later in the year.

?With the big slip in data recently there is no chance they raise rates but the statement could contain a discussion about the balance sheet taper so many Fed speakers have been talking about recently,? said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

Minutes from the bank's March meeting showed the policy board was considering tightening monetary policy by sucking cash out of the financial system, which spooked investors early last month.

Friday sees the next key event when the government releases jobs creation figures for April, which will be used by the Fed to gauge when it will next hike borrowing costs.

In early trade Shanghai was up 0.1 percent, Sydney dipped 0.4 percent and Singapore added 0.5 percent while Taipei and Manila were slightly higher.

Wall Street provided another healthy lead, with the Nasdaq posting yet another record while the Dow and S&P 500 also pushed higher. Markets in Europe closed with healthy gains.

On currency markets the dollar held its ground above 112 yen, while the pound maintained its recent gains, with a strong reading on British manufacturing activity providing a boost on Tuesday.

The euro is also sitting at recent highs ahead of Sunday's second round of France's presidential election, in which moderate Emmanuel Macron is expected to beat his far-right, anti-EU opponent Marine Le Pen.

- Key figures at 0200 GMT -

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 3,145.30

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for holiday

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: Closed for holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0934 from $1.0925 at 2050 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2950 from $1.2932

Dollar/yen: UP at 112.06 yen from 112.04 yen

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 44 cents at $48.10 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN 53 cents at $50.99

New York - Dow: UP 0.2 percent at 20,949.89 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 7,250.05 (close)

Le Pen, Macron face off in final French presidential debate

French presidential candidates Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen face off in a televised debate on Wednesday which is expected to be bitter, personal and potentially decisive ahead of voting this weekend.The stakes are high ahead of the contest between…

French presidential candidates Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen face off in a televised debate on Wednesday which is expected to be bitter, personal and potentially decisive ahead of voting this weekend.

The stakes are high ahead of the contest between the pro-European Macron, a 39-year-old former economy minister, and far-right leader Le Pen, the 48-year-old scion of the National Front party.

Their starkly different views of Europe, immigration, the economy and French identity will be explored for the first time face-to-face following a week marked by bruising clashes between them.

Polls show Macron holding a hefty but narrowing lead in the polls of 59 percent versus 41 percent, but previous debates during the rollercoaster French campaign have quickly shifted public opinion.

"Our goal is to avoid being dragged into mud-slinging," an aide to Macron told AFP on condition of anonymity ahead of the two hours and 20 minutes of exchanges between the candidates.

Whatever the outcome, the event marks a new step into the mainstream for Le Pen, whose party was once considered by France's political establishment to be an extremist fringe of racists that should be boycotted.

When her father Jean-Marie made it into the final round of the presidential election in 2002, his conservative opponent Jacques Chirac refused to debate him out of fear of "normalising hate and intolerance".

Fifteen years later, Le Pen scored 21.3 percent in the first round of the French election on April 23 after successfully softening the FN's image -- but without fully removing doubt about the party's core beliefs.

She has consistently sought to paint her ex-investment banker rival as the continuation of unpopular President Francois Hollande and an advocate of uncontrolled globalisation, the financial sector and immigration.

"If he finds himself in difficulty, he can always ask Francois Hollande to come and hold his hand. I won't complain," Le Pen wrote on Twitter on Tuesday in a message signed by her personally.

Her sister Marie-Caroline compared him to "a boy with a bucket and spade" after the last debate on April 5 before the first round of voting.

Trailing in the polls, the face-off will be Le Pen's biggest chance in front of a television audience to impress millions of views or induce an error by her opponent that could tilt the election in her favour.

- Euro in spotlight -

Macron is expected to be wary of making mistakes but has signalled his intention to take on Le Pen and challenge what he calls "dangerous" ideas to tackle the country's deep economic and social problems.

"I want to go head-to-head, to get to the bottom of the issues, to show that these are false solutions," the independent centrist told BFM television Tuesday.

Recent doubt about Le Pen's stance on withdrawing France from the euro common currency could also give him an opportunity to target what is seen as a risky and unpopular policy by many voters.

A close aide said Macron would home in on "the complete backtrack on leaving the euro".

Le Pen's niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen suggested at the weekend that talks about leaving the euro could take years, but Le Pen promised Tuesday night to stick with her plans to introduce a new French franc if approved in a referendum.

"It's not an unknown, it's not a jump into the void," she said during an interview with TF1 television.

In the face of the attacks on his background as a highly educated civil servant and banker, Macron is also expected to emphasise his personal story as a self-made man born to two doctors in provincial Amiens.

"I wasn't born in a chateau," he said this week, referring to the Le Pen family mansion on the outskirts of Paris where Marine and her sisters were brought up.

Sparks flew when they faced each other in the presidential debates before the first round of voting, when Le Pen memorably accused Macron of waffling for seven minutes and saying nothing.

Macron said she was transforming France's millions of Muslims into "enemies of the republic."

EU’s Brexit negotiator to unveil plan for Britain talks

The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will on Wednesday unveil recommendations for forthcoming talks with Britain, despite increasing rancour over how the split will ultimately unfold.Barnier’s comments come four days after leader…

The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will on Wednesday unveil recommendations for forthcoming talks with Britain, despite increasing rancour over how the split will ultimately unfold.

Barnier's comments come four days after leaders of 27 EU nations met -- without British Prime Minister Theresa May -- and unanimously agreed on a tough overall strategy.

They also follow leaks about a disastrous dinner and exchanges involving May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, which has left the former battling to defend her Brexit strategy.

The row marks a dismal start to the process, although formal negotiations will not begin until after Britain's election on June 8, in which May is expecting to return to office with a stronger mandate.

The high stakes for the British premier were underlined Tuesday when, quizzed on the campaign trail about the dinner clash, she said Juncker would soon find out she can be a "bloody difficult woman".

Barnier, a French former European commissioner and government minister, will be presenting his formal recommendations for the talks based on guidelines agreed on at Saturday's EU 27 summit.

European commissioners will formally adopt his recommendations on Wednesday morning before he gives a press conference at 0900 GMT.

The EU 27 will then on May 22 give Barnier, 66, a formal mandate to conduct talks over the next two years with Britain.

Barnier has said he needs to wrap up talks by October 2018 to get any Brexit deal through the European Parliament in time for Britain's scheduled departure from the EU on March 29, 2019.

Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016 in a closely fought referendum.

- 'Different galaxy' -

And if the first contacts in Britain's divorce from the union it entered four decades ago are anything to go by, the negotiations will be difficult.

Barnier's recommendations, in an early draft seen by AFP, contain a demand for a lifetime guarantee of rights for EU citizens who have lived in Britain for five years.

Under the EU single market, Europeans have the right to live, work and claim benefits in any country in the bloc.

They also echo the EU 27's insistence that talks on a future EU-UK trade deal cannot begin until Britain resolves the issues of "people, money and Ireland".

The EU says London must guarantee the rights of three million citizens living in Britain who are currently able to live, work and claim benefits there.

It is also demanding Britain pay an exit bill of between 40 and 60 billion euros, a sum that the government insists it does not have to pay.

Brussels also says London must resolve issues around the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

May wants trade talks and divorce negotiations to start in parallel -- one of the demands that led Juncker to say that some in Britain "underestimate the technical difficulties we have to face".

A report in Sunday's edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper said Juncker left the meeting "10 times more sceptical" about the prospect of a Brexit deal.

It said sources close to the negotiations put the chances of Brexit negotiations collapsing without a deal at more than 50 percent.

Juncker reportedly informed German Chancellor Angela Merkel of his doubts, saying that May was in a "different galaxy".

Merkel then warned Britain against having "illusions" about the talks, prompting May to hit back by accusing the EU 27 of ganging up against her country.

Venezuela protesters block streets after president calls for new constitution

People blocked streets in Caracas with broken concrete, twisted metal and flaming piles of trash Tuesday to protest the socialist president’s bid to rewrite the constitution amid a rapidly escalating political crisis.

People blocked streets in Caracas with broken concrete, twisted metal and flaming piles of trash Tuesday to protest the socialist president's bid to rewrite the constitution amid a rapidly escalating political crisis.

New York pays tribute to Japanese fashion icon Kawakubo

Twists, knots, curls and folds: the fantastical, boundary-pushing creations of legendary designer Rei Kawakubo explore the space where fashion ends and art begins.The Japanese designer, who founded the esteemed Comme des Garcons fashion house in 1969, …

Twists, knots, curls and folds: the fantastical, boundary-pushing creations of legendary designer Rei Kawakubo explore the space where fashion ends and art begins.

The Japanese designer, who founded the esteemed Comme des Garcons fashion house in 1969, is being honored at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art with an exhibition featuring half a century of her creations.

It is the first monographic show at the museum's Costume Institute dedicated to a living designer since Yves Saint Laurent, the French legend who put women in trousers and tuxedo jackets, in 1983.

The exhibition "Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art of the In-Between," which opens Thursday and runs through September 4, displays more than 140 designs spanning the early 1980s to today.

A svelte and graceful figure, Kawakubo on Monday was the honored guest and inspiration at the annual fashion gala held at the Met, wearing her signature blunt bangs and displaying her trademark sphinxlike reserve.

A woman of few words, the 74-year-old almost never gives interviews, and refuses to discuss the meaning of her work. She continued to keep her own counsel, even in the runup to the momentous exhibition.

Her creations, however, are as audacious as she is demure.

The designer's oft-quoted phrase, "for something to be beautiful, it doesn't have to be pretty," sums up her approach.

In the guide that accompanies the exhibition, she offers another perspective: "I work around the figure, but I am never limited by what the figure has to be."

"The history of fashion has yielded only a handful of designers who are not only masters at their at their work but who can also define or redefine the aesthetics of our time. And Rei is one of these," said Andrew Bolton, curator in charge of the Costume Institute.

"Season after season, collection after collection, she changes our eye while upending perceived notion of beauty," he added. "If anything her work makes the art versus fashion debate redundant."

- 'Upending beauty' -

Comme des Garcons focuses on asymmetry, imbalance and the form and structure of the garment, often relegating the wearer to the background.

Sometimes, the silhouette of a woman is altogether altered by a protruding bustle around the posterior, asymmetry or body ligatures.

Museum director Thomas Campbell said Kawakubo's creations are very much at home in the Met, one of the largest and most prestigious museums in the world.

"Her creations often look like sculpture, challenging our idea of the place of fashion in contemporary culture," he said.

The exhibit explores the art of the "in-between," Kawakubo's desire to find a space between labels and escape fashion conventions, playing with the tension and duality that define a lifetime of work.

There are nine areas exploring polar opposite themes in Kawakubo's work, including "Clothes/Not clothes," "Abstraction/Representation" and "Life/Loss."

In "Design/Not Design," the Met has assembled a collection of the sculptural, reinforced shapes somewhat akin to fabric origami.

The form-fitting dresses in "Absence/Presence," meanwhile, tightly swaddle the body, with bulging protuberances that appear almost like deformities.

At Monday's Met fundraiser, the society world's "party of the year" that gathers famous faces from the world of film, fashion and music, the show-stopping red carpet number worn by pop star Rihanna was a dress by Kawakubo.

The floral, asymmetrical garment was slashed at the thigh and covered in bold colored discs layered like flower petals, paired with gladiator-style stilettos with red straps wrapped around her leg from ankle to thigh.

Lady Gaga took to Twitter hailing Rihanna as the "best dressed" of the night who "captured the spirit of the night" and the "emotion of Kawakubo."

Brazil justice ministry taken over in protest

Hundreds of prison system workers occupied Brazil’s justice ministry on Tuesday in a dramatic protest against government retirement reforms.The correctional workers started taking up positions in the Brasilia building in the afternoon, before shutting …

Hundreds of prison system workers occupied Brazil's justice ministry on Tuesday in a dramatic protest against government retirement reforms.

The correctional workers started taking up positions in the Brasilia building in the afternoon, before shutting it down, local and social media showed.

"We have just occupied the Justice Ministry. And we're going to be here until lawmakers take us out of their bill," Fabio Cesar Ferreira, head of the Sao Paulo corrections union branch, said on a video posted on Facebook.

"We are in a horrible daily routine inside and outside the jails and prisons, in a degrading, unhealthy and unsafe workplace. How can we be included in the same rules as all of Brazil's workers?" he asked.

Demonstrators crowded the ministry's main hall, waiting for hours in vain to speak with lawmakers.

President Michel Temer has said Brazil's economy faces a meltdown without severe fiscal discipline and belt tightening.

His most controversial measure has been to curb pension costs by raising the retirement age to 65 for men and 62 for women, up from the current 60 and 55.

The government is also pushing for a liberalization of labor laws and has succeeded in getting Congress to pass a 20-year freeze on spending increases.

Brazil's overcrowded jail system -- with more than 600,000 inmates -- is operating at 167 percent of capacity.

World’s first ‘footballpool’ league kicks off in Prague

A dark-haired girl kicks a white football gently towards a black eight ball, then wrings her hands in despair as she fails to sink it in the corner pocket for a win.Katerina Ziegelova, a 26-year-old clerk, is one of the pioneers of footballpool, the la…

A dark-haired girl kicks a white football gently towards a black eight ball, then wrings her hands in despair as she fails to sink it in the corner pocket for a win.

Katerina Ziegelova, a 26-year-old clerk, is one of the pioneers of footballpool, the latest addition to the hybrid sports family.

The Czech footballpool league has just kicked off in Prague, after the sport made its debut world championships in the Czech capital in February.

A combination of football and pool, the sport uses inflatable footballs -- white, solids and stripes like in pool -- and a playground with six corner and side pockets, proportionately larger than the regular pool table.

No cues are needed as the players kick the white ball, walking on the pitch.

"I'm not much of a football fan but I like pool, and this combination is very interesting," says Ziegelova, who has teamed up with her boyfriend Lukas.

Clad in black-and-yellow shirts complete with numbers and names, they lost their opening league tie against a team led by Jiri Novotny, who has organised the competition together with a friend.

Novotny is no stranger to ball games, having scored 20 goals in 89 matches for the Czech Republic national futsal team, according to the Czech Football Association website.

"I saw a video on Youtube where two Americans played the game in a garden, drinking beer and doing a barbecue," the wiry 28-year-old futsal defender told AFP.

"So we designed the table, set up a footballpool association and started calling it a sport," he said, adding this was the first such competition in the world.

Footballpool pits two teams with two players against each other, with each player taking on each opponent in two matches.

- Malls, bowling alleys -

This was the formula used at the first world championships at a shopping mall in Prague.

"We had 70 teams from countries including Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, Brazil, Afghanistan, Germany, Slovakia," says Novotny, adding that a Czech-Slovak team won.

Prague is also scheduled to host the next worlds in February 2018.

Shopping malls are a typical venue for the sport as Novotny said he leased the legless footballpool "tables" to companies like bowling alleys which then charge clients a fee to play.

"This is really a game for anyone -- at the tournaments we have organised, we had children, pensioners, women, men," said Novotny.

The footballpool association currently has 15 playgrounds across the Czech Republic. In May, it expects to install another twenty.

- Big names -

Novotny has managed to lure some big football names, including former Hearts and West Brom striker Roman Bednar and ex-Dortmund and Liverpool midfielder Patrik Berger to the sport.

"It's not just kicking the ball, I like sports that require some thinking and precision, like this one," Bednar told AFP.

"I must say I fell in love. It's not a bad sport at all, and it's for everyone who likes new things."

Among active players, Czech striker Jan Chramosta, a former under-21 international currently plying trade with the top-flight side Mlada Boleslav, is equally excited.

"It's fun. You can make various bets and spice up the experience a bit," he said, adding he had already taken on a few of his teammates.

"It's a lot about technique, about the way you kick the ball, about tricks and rotation. Not that I'm an expert there," he chuckled.

Living testimony for the benefits of footballpool, Novotny went on to play at the futsal league play-offs right after the tie, grabbing three assists as his Slavia Prague beat Pilsen 6-4 to advance to the top-flight semi-finals.

Text My Main Number Announced Budget Landline Texting Service To B2C Industry Verticals in the USA

Text My Main Number is a USA based business messaging service provider. The representative of the company announced to offer landline texting service to B2C industry vertical in the USA in their budget.

Text My Main Number is a USA based business messaging service provider. The representative of the company announced to offer landline texting service to B2C industry vertical in the USA in their budget.

Clinton says FBI, Russian hackers cost her election

Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday she was on the path to victory in the 2016 presidential election until late interference by Russian hackers and FBI Director James Comey scared off some potential supporters.

Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday she was on the path to victory in the 2016 presidential election until late interference by Russian hackers and FBI Director James Comey scared off some potential supporters.

Nine Malian soldiers killed in central Mali attack

Nine Malian soldiers were killed and five wounded in an area regularly targeted by jihadist groups, as the commander of France’s counter-terrorism force for the region said an operation on the Burkina Faso border was ongoing.”A supply mission for the n…

Nine Malian soldiers were killed and five wounded in an area regularly targeted by jihadist groups, as the commander of France's counter-terrorism force for the region said an operation on the Burkina Faso border was ongoing.

"A supply mission for the national armed forces fell into an ambush between Dogofri and Nampala. The initial toll is nine dead and five wounded," commerce minister and government spokesman Abdel Karim Konate said in a statement.

He condemned the "cowardly and barbaric act" and said "our commitment, as well as that of our partners, is to relentlessly pursue the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking" in Mali.

A Malian military source earlier said eight soldiers were killed and four wounded in the attack in the central region of Segou.

The troops' vehicle hit a mine and they were then ambushed by the group, a Malian security source told AFP, recounting what is a familiar jihadist tactic.

Nampala, a garrison town near the Mauritanian border, has been targeted by several jihadist attacks.

Three Malian jihadist groups with previous Al-Qaeda links recently joined forces to create the "Group to Support Islam and Muslims" (GSIM), led by Iyad Ag Ghaly of Ansar Dine, and have also killed soldiers further east near the Burkina Faso border.

Troops from Operation Barkhane, a French counterterrorism operation, announced at the weekend they had killed or captured 20 jihadists in the forest of Foulsare near the border of Mali and Burkina Faso.

Barkhane's commander Francois-Xavier de Woillemont said in Ouagadougou the operation was not yet over, and the final goal of such missions was "to get rid of the terrorists" who "harass local people and stop them living a normal life."

It was the next step in operations undertaken in the zone "where we know that terrorists come to hide," he added.

Last July, 17 soldiers were killed in an attack on a military base in Nampala claimed by the Islamist organisation Ansar Dine.

A similar attack on the town in January 2015 claimed the lives of 11 Malian soldiers, who struggle to keep security in this sprawling west African nation despite the presence of French and United Nations troops.

Residents of Niono, to the south of Nampala, told AFP they had seen reinforcements heading towards the area of Tuesday's attack.

The region where the soldiers were killed on Tuesday, Segou, is also rife with tensions between ethnic groups who dispute the use of land for farming and raising cattle.

Northern Mali fell to jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in March 2012, and although these forces were driven out of key towns by a French-led military intervention the following year, the Islamists have now spread further south.

sd-cs-ab-pgf-jom/mtp/eb

US Senate confirms Jay Clayton as new SEC chief

The US Senate confirmed attorney Jay Clayton as the new head of the Securities and Exchange Commission tasked with regulating Wall Street and America’s financial sector.

Some Democrats joined Republicans to vote 61 to 37 in favor of Clayton, who was nominated by US President Donald Trump in January.

Once Trump’s White House completes the process, within days, Clayton will be sworn in as chairman of the SEC, which operates as an independent government agency.

Trump has said he wants Clayton to loosen rules seen as impeding investment in the United States, while “restoring” supervision of the banking sector.

Clayton, whose career was essentially New York-based, has notably been an investment adviser to wealthy families and others as partner at the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, which specializes in mergers and acquisitions.

Some of his clients included Wall Street titans, such as the bank Goldman Sachs, which he will now have to watch over.

The SEC was created in 1934, after the Wall Street stock market crash of 1929. It played a major role in US financial regulation, tracking insider trading and imposing penalties and fines for violations of banking oversight rules.

The agency was harshly criticized for mistakes and lack of reactivity in the 2008 crash, the massive fraud by former stockbroker Bernie Madoff and the Enron scandal of 2001.

During his Senate hearing for the post in March, Clayton declared he would make sure there was “zero room for bad actors in our capital markets.”

Trump’s administration wants to roll back the Dodd-Frank law enacted after the 2008 financial crisis designed to curb excesses in the sector and prevent systemic risk.

Critics claim the mammoth law has created too much red tape that stifles the industry.

The Dodd-Frank rules require banks to demonstrate solid financial grounding in annual “stress tests” as well as refrain from certain risky transactions. They also significantly expanded the role securities regulators play in overseeing the investment industry.

Clayton said in his Senate hearing he didn’t have “any specific plans for an attack” on Dodd-Frank, but backed a review to evaluate how effective its rules have been.

The US Senate confirmed attorney Jay Clayton as the new head of the Securities and Exchange Commission tasked with regulating Wall Street and America's financial sector.

Some Democrats joined Republicans to vote 61 to 37 in favor of Clayton, who was nominated by US President Donald Trump in January.

Once Trump's White House completes the process, within days, Clayton will be sworn in as chairman of the SEC, which operates as an independent government agency.

Trump has said he wants Clayton to loosen rules seen as impeding investment in the United States, while "restoring" supervision of the banking sector.

Clayton, whose career was essentially New York-based, has notably been an investment adviser to wealthy families and others as partner at the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, which specializes in mergers and acquisitions.

Some of his clients included Wall Street titans, such as the bank Goldman Sachs, which he will now have to watch over.

The SEC was created in 1934, after the Wall Street stock market crash of 1929. It played a major role in US financial regulation, tracking insider trading and imposing penalties and fines for violations of banking oversight rules.

The agency was harshly criticized for mistakes and lack of reactivity in the 2008 crash, the massive fraud by former stockbroker Bernie Madoff and the Enron scandal of 2001.

During his Senate hearing for the post in March, Clayton declared he would make sure there was "zero room for bad actors in our capital markets."

Trump's administration wants to roll back the Dodd-Frank law enacted after the 2008 financial crisis designed to curb excesses in the sector and prevent systemic risk.

Critics claim the mammoth law has created too much red tape that stifles the industry.

The Dodd-Frank rules require banks to demonstrate solid financial grounding in annual "stress tests" as well as refrain from certain risky transactions. They also significantly expanded the role securities regulators play in overseeing the investment industry.

Clayton said in his Senate hearing he didn't have "any specific plans for an attack" on Dodd-Frank, but backed a review to evaluate how effective its rules have been.

New Zealand watchdog rejects media merger

A merger of New Zealand’s two largest media companies was rejected Wednesday as the country’s competition watchdog warned it would create a dominant news giant and threaten democracy.NZME and Fairfax Media NZ signed a merger agreement last September, h…

A merger of New Zealand's two largest media companies was rejected Wednesday as the country's competition watchdog warned it would create a dominant news giant and threaten democracy.

NZME and Fairfax Media NZ signed a merger agreement last September, hoping it would boost their ability to compete with global online giants such as Facebook and Google.

The combined entity would control almost 90 percent of New Zealand's print media and reach an audience of 3.7 million -- more than 80 percent of the population -- New Zealand's Commerce Commission (NZCC) said.

It stood by a preliminary decision issued in November to boycott the move, saying such concentrated media ownership was unprecedented in modern times.

"This level of influence over the news and political agenda by a single media organisation creates a risk of causing harm to New Zealand?s democracy and to the New Zealand public," the anti-trust regulator said.

Australian-owned Fairfax NZ publishes titles such as Wellington's Dominion Post and the Christchurch Press, as well as running New Zealand's most popular news website stuff.co.nz.

NZME owns the New Zealand Herald, which has the second largest news website, and a string of radio stations.

Fairfax Media's Sydney-based chief executive Greg Hywood said the NZCC had "failed New Zealand" by stopping two local companies from aggressively competing on their home soil against the big internet companies.

"This decision does nothing to address the challenge of the global search and social giants, which produce no local journalism, employ very few New Zealanders and pay minimal, if any, local taxes," he said in a statement.

He also warned the company, which has already slashed jobs, would now have to look at more "cost efficiencies".

"Further publishing frequency changes (of newspapers) and consolidation of titles is an inevitability."

NZME shares were down 5.62 percent at NZ$0.84 in early trade in New Zealand. Fairfax's Australian parent had not commenced trading in Sydney when the announcement was made.

Putin, Modi to join session hosted by NBC’s Megyn Kelly at St. Petersburg economic forum

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian PM Narenda Modi and other top officials will discuss ways of adapting to the challenges of the global economy in a plenary session of the international economic forum in St. Petersburg that kicks o…

Preview Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian PM Narenda Modi and other top officials will discuss ways of adapting to the challenges of the global economy in a plenary session of the international economic forum in St. Petersburg that kicks off on June 1.
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