FILE PHOTO: WADA Investigation team member Richard McLaren attends the World Summit on Ethics and Leadership in Sports at the headquarters of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland September 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich/File Photo
April 25, 2019
By Steve Keating
TORONTO (Reuters) – Two of the men that put the doping crisis in the global spotlight say the integrity of sport now faces a greater threat from match-fixing than drug cheats.
Richard McLaren, who authored a 2016 report into state-sponsored Russian doping and David Howman, a former director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), painted an alarming picture about match-fixing at the Symposium on Match Manipulation and Gambling in Sport in Toronto on Wednesday and Thursday.
McLaren, a Canadian law professor and CEO of McLaren Global Sport Solutions, told Reuters that doping and match-fixing combined were the two biggest issues affecting the integrity of sport.
Yet manipulating outcomes was a bigger problem, he said.
“What makes sport different than entertainment is unpredictability. Fixing results removes the greatest and most important characteristic, that unpredictability,” he added.
“If it loses unpredictability because of fixed results the passion for sport is diminished and that is a much bigger issue.”
Match-fixing has become increasingly pervasive in recent years across a number of sports.
More tennis players, for example, were disciplined for violations of anti-corruption rules in 2018 than in any other year in the last 10. [nL8N1Z958H]
A number of cases in other sports have also brought renewed attention to the issue.
Recent punishments include the banning of a soccer referee for life in February for accepting bribes to manipulate matches [nL5N20L7AM] and the suspension of two snooker players for fixing the outcome of matches or failing to report a corrupt approach. [nL5N2017A3]
Organized crime has been the driving force behind sports corruption, according to Howman, and the globalization of sports betting has allowed crime syndicates extend their reach and match manipulation expertise.
“I have done a lot of work in the general sport integrity area and I can quote you what I am told by people who work in that more general business, including enforcement agents, and they all say the biggest threat to sport integrity is organized crime,” Howman, a New Zealand-based barrister who was director general at WADA from 2003 to 2016 and now serves as the chair of the Athletics Integrity Unit, told Reuters.
“We saw it coming at WADA and I raised it during my term there as a significant issue that needed to be countered by world sport, because the bad guys involved in pushing dope and steroids are the same bad guys involved in match manipulation.”
Andy Cunningham, director of integrity services for Sportradar, a company that monitors betting patterns and offers intelligence to over 100 sports governing bodies, said exact figures for how much is bet on sport are at best a “guesstimate”.
Interpol, however, set the figure at $500 billion a year.
Operating in every corner of the globe, match-fixers work to manipulate the outcome of everything from World Cup matches to the lower rungs of the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) Futures tournaments.
Sportradar reported in 2015 it had identified as many as 60 fixed matches in the Canadian Soccer League (CSL), a small league operating mostly in Southern Ontario with few supporters that was for years the target of Asian match fixers.
In the most recent Sportradar report, Cunningham said the CSL had largely cleaned up its act and Asian bookmakers had lost interest.
Yet the CSL is an example of just how far the tentacles of gambling syndicates reach.
Whether it is an under-16 soccer international or a lower-level tennis match, the targets for match-fixers are often amateurs or the less well-paid in professional sport.
NO GLOBAL AGENCY
McLaren pointed to an ITF-commissioned report that found only 600 of the nearly 14,000 players competing in ITF competitions made enough money to cover their costs, providing an impoverished pool of athletes for fixers to target.
There is no global agency in place to fight corruption in sport in the way WADA was set up to combat doping and nor, according to Howman, is there ever likely to be such an organization.
Instead the fight is being left to often ill-equipped individual sporting bodies, governments and law enforcement agencies.
“Everyone is resisting another WADA,” said Howman. “They don’t want to have an independent body taking control over their fiefdoms and they don’t want to see another fall like a Russian fall and that would be likely if you had a world anti-corruption unit or whatever you wanted to call it.
“What I think will occur is step-by-step. Tennis is confronting it now, cricket has confronted it. There are sports where there is already entrenched match-fixing.
“Protect the reputation of your sport people and the sport and better to get out in front than wait for a disaster and then react.”
(Editing by Toby Davis)
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics centre in Boves, France, August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
April 25, 2019
By Jeffrey Dastin and Arjun Panchadar
(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc plans to deliver packages to members of its loyalty club Prime in just one day, instead of two days, part of a spending ramp-up that might curb future profits after a blockbuster first quarter.
Shares rose as much as 2% in after-hours trade on Thursday on the faster shipping announcement for customers around the globe and as Amazon’s first-quarter profit trounced estimates thanks to soaring demand for its cloud and ad services.
Amazon will spend $800 million in the second quarter on the goal.
The announcement adds pressure to rivals Walmart Inc and others already racing to keep pace with the speed and benefits of Amazon’s Prime program.
Amazon’s first-quarter net income more than doubled to $3.6 billion, while analysts were only expecting $2.4 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Second-quarter operating income will be as much as $3.6 billion, but analysts had been expecting $4.2 billion, according to FactSet.
Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said Amazon was still reaping rewards from prior years of hiring and investments in warehouses and other infrastructure.
“We’re banking the efficiencies of prior investments, continued into Q1,” he said on a call with reporters. “There’ll be times when we have to invest ahead to build out warehouse capacity, but right now we are on a nice path where we are getting the most out of the capacity we have.”
Olsavsky also said earlier that the company would spend more later this year to roll out more benefits to international Prime members.
The news marks a familiar refrain for the world’s largest online retailer. For years, Amazon has made expensive bets on new technology and programs, like its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods Market in 2017 to become a player in the U.S. grocery business.
Amazon’s investments had long meant lower profit. However, its steady, often successful marches into new industries have been lucrative to shareholders, including its founder Jeff Bezos, who had become the richest man in the world.
The luster of these bets still shined brightly on Thursday.
The company’s loyal customer base has drawn merchants to sell and increasingly advertise through its site in exchange for fees, helping Amazon transform from a largely low-margin retail business to a more and more lucrative marketplace.
Revenue from seller services jumped 20 percent to $11.1 billion in the first quarter, while ad and other sales surged 34 percent to $2.7 billion, the company said.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s cloud unit kept growing as more enterprises moved data and computing operations to the technology company’s servers. Sales for Amazon Web Services (AWS) rose 41 percent to $7.7 billion in the first quarter.
MORE HIRING, SPENDING TO COME
Some analysts noted that these growth figures, while impressive, were lower than what Amazon had posted in prior quarters.
“Amazon delivered slower growth in all key segments – AWS, advertising and e-commerce – but margins skyrocketed, seemingly driven by less aggressive investment,” said Atlantic Equities analyst James Cordwell.
Amazon suggested that spending indeed was on the way, and with that smaller growth in profit.
The company has been building warehouses around the world to ensure its edge in delivering goods to customers the fastest. It is spending more on video, from live sports to a planned prequel series to “The Lord of the Rings,” to draw more people to log on to its website, watch, and while they are there, buy socks.
Hiring will pick up from the 12 percent increase Amazon posted in the past 12 months, Olsavsky said.
And the company is delving into even less familiar terrain. It recently announced investments in self-driving and electric car companies, teasing how it thinks these high-tech, capital-intensive businesses could pay dividends potentially in the form of autonomous deliveries in the long run. Amazon has not described in detail its thinking behind the bets.
In China, where the company had long struggled to compete with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Amazon said this month it would close warehouses and its domestic marketplace in July.
There were silver linings for investors, however.
Amazon’s Olsavsky said the company saw no material impact in India from actions the company took to comply with new regulations there affecting foreign investment in the e-commerce sector, something Amazon had voiced concern about in the past. Prime member signups in India, one of Amazon’s most important growth markets, continue to be rising the fastest in the company’s history.
Bezos, who many regard as a management guru, also settled his closely watched divorce such that he will retain full voting control of his family’s stock, sparing Amazon a boardroom battle. However, his fortune, which has been the largest of any married couple in the world, will be divided.
The company forecast net sales of between $59.5 billion and $63.5 billion for the second quarter, the midpoint of which was below analysts’ average estimate of $62.37 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco and Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Lisa Shumaker)
FILE PHOTO: A number of grounded Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft are shown parked at Victorville Airport in Victorville, California, U.S., March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
April 25, 2019
By Tracy Rucinski and Rachit Vats
(Reuters) – Southwest Airlines Co forecast better-than-expected second-quarter revenue growth on Thursday, citing demand from leisure and business customers, even though it is uncertain when its grounded Boeing 737 MAX jets will return to service.
The No. 4 U.S. carrier is the biggest user of the Boeing Co aircraft that were grounded worldwide in March following two fatal crashes on other airlines.
Southwest’s 34 737 MAX aircraft represent less than 5 percent of daily flights on its fleet of 753 aircraft, but the grounding has forced the cancellation of thousands of flights and weighed on costs.
The Dallas-based carrier said it lost more than $200 million in revenue during the first quarter after canceling more than 10,000 flights because of the worldwide MAX grounding, partial U.S. government shutdown, winter storms and maintenance disruptions.
Southwest has taken the MAX out of its flying schedule through Aug. 5 as it waits for Boeing to submit a software fix and new training guidelines to global regulators for review.
The timeline and eventual cost of getting the MAX back into service is a “prominent wild card” for Southwest, JPMorgan analyst Jamie Baker said, given the possibility of international regulators disagreeing about new training requirements, which could be expensive.
Southwest said it was talking to customers to understand how they feel about the MAX following the crashes. While some passengers may be intimidated to fly for a short period of time, executives said the airline’s brand and operations remained intact.
The low-cost carrier, which launched service to Hawaii in March, expects closely watched unit revenue to grow by 5.5 percent to 5.7 percent year-on-year in the second quarter. It reported only 2.7 percent growth in the first-quarter.
Its shares were up 0.3 percent at $53.14.
Southwest reported first-quarter net profit of $387 million, or 70 cents per share, compared with $463 million, or 79 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.
That beat Wall Street’s average estimate of 61 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Analysts cut their estimates sharply in late March after the MAX grounding.
Total operating revenue rose 4 percent to $5.15 billion.
Southwest, which currently uses only Boeing narrowbody aircraft, suggested on Thursday that it may consider mixing up its fleet in the future, but for now plans to continue growing with the 737 MAX.
“We have no plan to do anything other than grow our fleet with the MAX. Will that be the case in the perpetuity? I’m not prepared to say that,” Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly said on a conference call.
Southwest has 249 firm orders for the 737 MAX and an option for 115 more through 2026, in addition to lease agreements for another 19. Kelly said he would like to eventually use the longer-range, fuel-efficient jets for Hawaii routes.
It is not the first time Southwest has hinted about future fleet changes, which could benefit Boeing’s European rival Airbus. Such a decision would mean abandoning Southwest’s long-held practice of flying only one type of jet, which reduces maintenance and pilot training costs.
The company’s costs are already under scrutiny by analysts. Unit costs, or total operating expenses per available seat mile, rose 6.5 percent on an adjusted basis in the first quarter and are expected to increase by 10.5 percent to 12.5 percent year-on-year in the second quarter, it said.
(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski in Chicago and Rachit Vats in Bangalore; Editing by Bill Rigby and Shounak Dasgupta)
FILE PHOTO: Members of Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Khalifa Haftar, get ready before heading out of Benghazi to reinforce the troops advancing to Tripoli, in Benghazi, Libya April 13, 2019. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori/File Photo
April 25, 2019
By Ulf Laessing
TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Eastern Libya commander Khalifa Haftar has thrown much of his military forces into attacking Tripoli, but the outcome of the offensive could be determined by a separate battle — to keep open the parallel finance system that funds his soldiers.
Mobilizing Libya’s biggest military campaign since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, Haftar has advanced on the U.N.-backed administration in the capital from a bastion in the east, where he has a parallel government and central bank branch.
The general has funded his eastern state with a mix of unofficial bonds, Russia-printed cash and deposits from eastern banks, accumulating debt worth around 35 billion Libyan dinars ($25.18 billion) outside the official banking system.
But diplomats and banking sources say that those sources of support might be closing, as the Tripoli-based central bank, which controls the country’s energy revenues, has taken steps to curtail the operations of banks in the east.
Those banks have in recent months struggled to meet minimum deposit requirements, which could give the Tripoli central bank allied to Tripoli Premier Fayez al-Serraj the excuse to shut off access to hard currency, they said.
“There is a looming banking crisis that could undermine eastern authorities’ ability to fund themselves in the near future,” said Claudia Gazzini, senior Libya analyst at International Crisis Group.
“The crisis was already in the making before the war broke out.”
Haftar has built up his Libyan National Army (LNA) with the help of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt supplying heavy gear such helicopters, according to U.N. reports.
But Gulf countries such as the UAE have preferred not to give cash directly to Haftar, fearing it will end up being used for the wrong purposes, several diplomatic sources told Reuters.
That has forced the septuagenarian leader to use merchants to import vehicles and other gear, using hard currency obtained from the Tripoli central bank and paid out by eastern commercial banks issuing letters of credit, military sources said.
There is no public data on the costs of Haftar’s war, but he has sent more than 1,000 troops west plus support staff like drivers or medics, military sources and residents said.
Fuel is not a problem, costing just 0.15 dinars a liter, with state oil firm NOC serving the whole country.
But in its attempt to capture Tripoli the LNA has used hundreds of vehicles, with convoys going west non-stop from Benghazi, carrying anything from soldiers to ammunition to food.
In addition, every day two flights with Russian-made transport planes go from Benghazi to Jufrah in central Libya, his main base. Seriously wounded soldiers are flown to Tunisia.
The offensive has stalled, and so the LNA has vowed to move in yet more troops.
Haftar’s finances face another potential vulnerability.
In November, the House of Representatives allied to Haftar approved a law to set up a military investment authority which gives the LNA control — like in Egypt — of parts of the economy including civilian activities such as scrap metal.
The investment vehicle’s companies are exempted from taxes and import duties, as part of a welfare state envisaged by Haftar, but they need banks to deal with partners abroad and expand their businesses, analysts say.
“If the banks fail, Haftar’s welfare state will come under pressure,” said a Western diplomat.
Functioning banks are also needed for Haftar’s parallel government to pay salaries and serve an LNA support network, analysts say. The central bank in Tripoli covers some public salaries in eastern Libya but not LNA soldiers hired after 2014 when the country split into western and eastern administrations.
The Tripoli central bank has already cut three eastern banks from Libya’s electronic banking system to curb their operations. Lenders have still been able to get hard currency via other banks but in a further step the Tripoli central bank might shut access completely, diplomats and business sources said.
The Tripoli central bank (CBL) has vowed to stay neutral and but diplomats say it is also helping Serraj, approving his plans to allocate some 2 billion dinars for his own war effort.
CBL did not respond to mailed questions.
There has been a banking crisis building up all across Libya and especially in the east, where three eastern banks have struggled to keep a required 20 percent of customers’ deposits at the Tripoli central bank: They have been paying out more hard currency in recent months, but need to balance accounts.
“Their deposits with CBL have fallen short of their statutory minimum requirements,” Husni Bey, a prominent business leader and owner of HB group.
Data received by Reuters confirmed his.
Diplomats do not expect Tripoli central bank governor Sadiq al-Kabir to shut eastern banks completely as this would pose risks for western lenders. The same banks operate in the west and east with money flows hard to differentiate.
But they fear the longer the conflict lasts, the harder it will be to unify the central banks and repay debt.
The west has piled up debt of 68 billion dinars, bringing Libya’s total deficit and public debt to 130 billion, including unpaid state obligations such as social insurance, said Bey.
The biggest worry among diplomats is that Haftar, who surprised world powers with his offensive, might try selling crude from oilfields and ports, bypassing NOC.
“If the offensive fails, Haftar might do this as he feels encouraged by (U.S. President Donald) Trump,” said one Western diplomat.
On Friday, the White House said that Trump had told Haftar by phone he recognized his “significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources”, a comment which has enraged his opponents but fired up LNA supporters.
(Additional reporting by Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai; Editing by William Maclean)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, blasted new exemptions reportedly granted by the administration to recent sanctions against Iran.
“These reports are deeply troubling,” he said in a statement on Thursday. “I hope they are mistaken.
“Any policy that includes significant exemptions and waivers is less than maximum pressure, and leaves the Ayatollahs with access to additional resources that they will use to undermine the security of America and our allies, to build up their nuclear and ballistic missile programs, to support Middle East terrorist groups including Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas, to arm Shia militias in Iraq that are undermining the sovereignty of the Iraqi government, to provide military support for the Houthi militia preventing a peaceful political settlement in Yemen, to supply forces in Syria including those under Iranian command, to support the Taliban and other terrorists in Afghanistan, to maintain the IRGC and IRGC Qods Force, to launch cyberattacks, and to threaten international shipping.
“I very much hope these reports are premature, and that State Department defenders of the Obama Iran nuclear deal have not succeeded in weakening the president’s decision to withdraw from that disastrous deal.”
The administration granted exemptions on Wednesday to new sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Foreign governments and businesses that have dealings with the Revolutionary Guard and its affiliates will not be subject to a ban on U.S. travel under waivers outlined in two notices published in the Federal Register.
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: The contents of grain silos which burst from flood damage are shown in Fremont County Iowa, U.S., March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Polansek
April 25, 2019
By Karl Plume
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Farm supplier CHS Inc has dozens of loaded barges trapped on the flood-swollen Mississippi River near St. Louis – about 500 miles from the company’s two Minnesota distribution hubs.
The barges can’t move – or get crucial nutrients to corn farmers for the spring planting season – because river locks on the main U.S. artery for grain and fertilizer have been shuttered for weeks. High water presents a hazard for boats, barges and lock equipment.
Railroads have also been plagued by delays from winter weather and flooding in the western Midwest, further disrupting agricultural supply chains in the nation’s bread basket.
The transportation woes are the latest headache for a U.S. agricultural sector reeling from years of slumping profits and the U.S.-China trade war, and they threaten to cut the number of acres of corn and wheat that can be planted this year.
The shipping delays follow months of bad weather in the rural Midwest, including a “bomb cyclone” that flooded at least 1 million acres (405,000 hectares) of farmland last month and a record-breaking April snow storm.
“Our barges are a long way from where we need them in the upper Midwest,” said Gary Halvorson, senior vice president of agronomy at CHS. “We really don’t think that any rail line will be at their preferred service rate until summer.”
Agricultural retailers rely on barges and trains to resupply distribution warehouses across the farm belt. But river flooding has delayed the seasonal reopening of the northern reaches of the Mississippi River to barge traffic. The latest National Weather Service river forecasts suggest one of the river’s southernmost locks could remain closed until at least the first week of May.
FALLING PROFITS, PRODUCTION
Reduced or poorly timed fertilizer applications can hurt yields, potentially denting this year’s U.S. farm profits, which are already predicted to be about half of their 2013 peak, according to the latest U.S. government forecast. Delayed shipments can also mean lost sales for farm suppliers and higher demurrage penalties, or late-return charges, on stalled barges and rail cars.
CHS, one of the largest publicly traded U.S. agriculture suppliers, said this month cited poor weather as a key reason for a $8.9 million drop in agricultural profits during its fiscal second quarter.
Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Co said severe weather and flooding would cut its first-quarter profit by $50 million to $60 million while DowDuPont said flooding would slash first-quarter profits in its agriculture division by 25 percent.
Fertilizer producers such as Nutrien Ltd, Mosaic Co and Yara International also lost sales due to bad weather in the fourth quarter of last year and first quarter of this year. Mosaic announced last month that it would cut U.S. phosphate fertilizer production by 300,000 tonnes for the spring season due to poor weather and large inventories left over from the fall.
Farm retailers such as CHS and privately held Growmark may see additional losses through the spring season as the tighter planting window limits the application services they provide, according to CoBank analyst Will Secor.
SCRAMBLING TO PROTECT CROP YIELDS
Farmers are not expected to skip nitrogen fertilizer applications entirely, which would cause yields to drop by about half, according to Purdue University agronomist Bob Nielsen. But higher nutrient costs could have growers applying less-than-optimal amounts.
Some farmers could shift from corn to soybeans, which can be planted later and require fewer fertilizer applications. But soybeans will continue to face uncertain demand as long as the U.S. and top buyer China remain locked in a trade war.
“Right now my plan is to plant more corn because the price of beans is so low,” said Don Batie, a farmer near Lexington, Nebraska.
The weather problems started last autumn, a period when some farmers treat fields after harvesting in preparation for the following spring. But wet weather prevented fall fertilizer applications, and an exceptionally snowy winter in many areas slowed or halted winter field work.
More recent storms have threatened to narrow the limited spring window for field treatments.
“When you add to it this re-supply constraint of not being able to move barges up the Mississippi, it puts us in a precarious position,” said Kreg Ruhl, manager for crop nutrients division at Growmark, the country’s third-largest agriculture retailer in terms of revenue.
Retail fertilizer prices have started rising in parts of the Midwest and are likely to rise further as local supplies are depleted and retailers scramble to resupply.
In Iowa, the top U.S. corn producing state, the price of the common fertilizer urea was up 20 percent in late April from a year ago, and anhydrous ammonia was up 27 percent. Both hit their highest early spring levels in three years, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
Without timely barge deliveries, CHS will lean on its rail network that brings imported supplies from Galveston, Texas, to any of the 29 rail hubs it owns in places like Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Marshall, Minnesota; and Minot, North Dakota.
Higher U.S. fertilizer prices and strong demand from other countries could help producers such as Nutrien, Mosaic and Yara recover some recent profit weakness in upcoming quarters.
For farmers and fertilizer retailers, however, uncertain fertilizer deliveries will likely weigh on agricultural markets through the planting season.
“We’re doing our very best to make sure that our retail network is supplied,” said CHS’s Halvorson.
(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago Editing by Brian Thevenot and Caroline Stauffer)
FILE PHOTO: Journalists follow a news conference during the opening of the new Alphabet’s Google Berlin office in Berlin, Germany, January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo
April 25, 2019
PARIS (Reuters) – Google will not have to pay 1.1 billion euros ($1.22 billion) in back taxes demanded by French authorities, an appeals court in France ruled on Thursday, dashing the government’s bid to overturn a 2017 decision.
The latest ruling comes at a time France is trying to crack down on digital service giants and the tax they pay, with the planned introduction of a French levy and as it pushes for broader international reforms.
The back tax case centers on a claim by the French finance ministry that Google had declared advertising revenue in Ireland which had actually been earned in France, thus avoiding paying corporate tax and value-added tax between 2005 and 2010.
But the appeals court in Paris said it agreed with an earlier ruling that favored the U.S. company and argued that Google Ireland Limited did not have a “permanent establishment” or sufficient taxable presence in France to justify the bill.
(Reporting by Simon Carraud, Writing by Sarah White; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)
Police keep watch outside the family home of a bomber suspect where an explosion occurred during a Special Task Force raid, following a string of suicide attacks on churches and luxury hotels, in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
April 25, 2019
By Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez
COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s top defense official said on Thursday that security agencies had been working to stop militant attacks in the days before Easter Sunday bombings that killed 359 people, and he was resigning to take responsibility for the failure.
The suicide bomb attacks on three churches and four hotels exposed a significant intelligence failure, with warnings of strikes not acted on and accusations of feuds at the highest levels of government undermining security cooperation.
Police issued names and photographs of seven people, three of them women, wanted in connection with the attacks, as bomb scares and security sweeps kept the country on edge.
“We were working on that. All those agencies were working on that,” Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando told Reuters, referring to intelligence tips from India warning of imminent strikes that came in over the days before the blasts.
Fernando, the top civil servant at the government’s defense department, said he had resigned to take responsibility for institutions he was in charge of, though he added there had been no failure on his part.
The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks. If that connection is confirmed, it looks likely to be the deadliest ever such attack linked to the group.
Most of the victims were Sri Lankans, although authorities have said at least 38 foreigners were also killed, many of them tourists sitting down to breakfast at top-end hotels when the bombers struck.
They included British, U.S., Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.
About 500 people were wounded.
Authorities have focused their investigations on international links to two domestic Islamist groups – National Thawheed Jama’ut and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim – they believe carried out the attacks.
Islamic State released a video that showed eight men, all but one with their faces covered, standing under a black Islamic State flag and declaring their loyalty to its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
The government said there were nine suicide bombers, eight of whom had been identified, and that one was a woman.
A picture has emerged of a group of nine well-educated, home-grown suicide bombers. Two of them were brothers, sons of a wealthy spice trader and pillar of the business community, a source close to the family said.
One studied in Britain and Australia.
At least 76 people, including several foreigners, have been rounded up since Sunday, but police on Thursday for the first time identified seven people they were looking for and appealed to the public for help in finding them.
Photographs, apparently casual snapshots, posted with a wanted notice showed young bearded men, one with a Muslim cap, and three young women, all with head scarves.
Fears that more bombers are at large has kept Sri Lanka on edge all week.
Authorities locked down the central bank and shut the road to the capital’s airport for part of the day because of bomb scares as communal tension simmered.
Office workers in Colombo’s business district were asked to go home early, police said, to avoid vulnerable throngs of people at rush hour. City-center restaurants were also shutting early.
Police also arrested three people and seized 21 locally made grenades and six swords during a raid in Colombo, a spokesman said. He did not give details or suggest that the raid was linked to the suicide bombings.
The bombings shattered the relative calm that has existed in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka since a civil war against mostly Hindu, ethnic Tamil separatists ended 10 years ago, and raised fears of a return to sectarian violence.
Sri Lanka’s 22 million people include minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Until now, Christians had largely managed to avoid the worst of the island’s conflict and communal tensions.
It seems unlikely that Fernando’s resignation will end the questions and recriminations over why authorities failed to act more effectively to stop the plotters.
Government officials have acknowledged a major lapse in the sharing of intelligence information. Lakshman Kiriella, the leader of parliament, said senior officials had deliberately withheld the intelligence from India about possible attacks.
Both President Maithripala Sirisena and his rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, denied seeing the Indian intelligence warnings, officials have said.
The president fired Wickremesinghe last October over political differences, only to reinstate him weeks later under pressure from the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, fears are growing of a surge of communal tension.
Muslims have fled the Negombo region on Sri Lanka’s west coast since scores of worshippers were killed in the bombing of the St. Sebastian church there on Sunday.
Hundreds of Pakistani Muslims have left the port city, crammed into buses, after threats of revenge.
“The local Sri Lankan people have attacked our houses,” one of them, Adnan Ali, told Reuters on Wednesday, as he prepared to board a bus.
(GRAPHIC: Sri Lanka bombings – https://tmsnrt.rs/2Xy02BA)
(GRAPHIC: A decade of peace shattered – https://tmsnrt.rs/2W4wZoU)
(Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Additional reporting by Sanjeev Miglani in COLOMBO, Alasdair Pal and Sunil Kataria in NEGOMBO, Sri Lanka, and Will Ziebell in MELBOURNE; Writing by Paul Tait and Robert Birsel; Editing by Michael Perry and Alex Richardson)
North Korea employs a fleet of ghost ships sailing around the globe to evade sanctions and buy and sell goods such as coal and oil, according to an in-depth report.
The Washington Post published a lengthy look Wednesday evening about North Korea’s actions, which involve meeting other ships in the middle of the ocean to transfer cargo, carrying and transmitting false ship identification numbers, and conducting backroom deals.
“It’s anarchy,” Hugh Griffiths, the outgoing coordinator of United Nations sanctions monitors, told the Post. “These massive gaps in maritime and financial governance will provide Chairman Kim [Jong Un] with an economic lifeline for months, if not years, to come.”
North Korea has resorted to the illicit actions because sanctions from the UN and the United States have crippled its ability to conduct international trade. Kim will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.
The Post report provided several examples of how Kim’s regime gets around sanctions. In many cases, ships that do business with North Korean ships are registered in countries that do not conduct full oversight, such as Panama, Togo, and Dominica — called a “flag of convenience,” according to the Post.
The UN monitors work near the UN headquarters in New York City and keep tabs on North Korean ships via photos and satellite images.
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: A Tesla logo is seen at a groundbreaking ceremony of Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory in Shanghai, China January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song
April 25, 2019
By Alexandria Sage and Vibhuti Sharma
(Reuters) – Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk suggested on Wednesday a capital raise could be imminent, as the electric vehicle maker lost $700 million in the first quarter and predicted a return to profit in the third.
Tesla plans to resolve logistics issues with global vehicle deliveries after weathering a challenging few months, also marked by staff layoffs and a public spat between Musk and U.S. financial regulators.
Shares of Tesla, which are down 22 percent this year, were about flat after the results, which came more than an hour after they were expected.
Musk is still battling to convince investors that demand for the Model 3, the sedan hoped to propel Tesla to sustainable profit, is “insanely” high, and that it can be delivered efficiently and swiftly to customers around the world. Lower deliveries had added to worries over Tesla’s cash situation and increased speculation a capital raise was coming soon.
On a call following results, Musk also stepped back from an earlier prediction that the company’s Shanghai factory, which is currently being built, would likely produce 3,000 Model 3s per week by year’s end. Instead, the so-called Gigafactory would build 1,000, or maybe 2,000 per week by the end of the year, he said.
Many analysts had predicted the company would need to raise funds for its expansion, including the Shanghai factory, the upcoming Model Y SUV, and other projects. Tesla said it ended its first quarter with $2.2 billion in cash after paying off a $920 million convertible bond obligation in March. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2XJ3Rnd)
“There is some merit to raising capital,” responded Musk, after being asked why he had not done so yet. “It’s probably about the right time.”
The company stood by its 2019 delivery forecast of 360,000 to 400,000 vehicles and said it may produce as many as 500,000 vehicles if its China factory reaches volume production in the fourth quarter.
Tesla said a loss in its second quarter would be “significantly” less than the $702 million lost in the first quarter. Profit would return in the third quarter, Tesla said.
Haris Anwar, senior analyst a financial markets platform Investing.com, called guidance for the second quarter “bleak”. “I continue to see a very volatile 2019 for Tesla and its shares,” Anwar said.
Tesla’s results came two days after the company hosted a self-driving event, in which Musk predicted Tesla would have over a million autonomous vehicles by next year. Some analysts perceived the presentation as a way to deflect attention from questions about demand, margin pressure, increasing competition and even Musk’s ongoing battle with U.S. regulators.
On Thursday, Musk and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are expected to tell a federal judge the status of discussions to resolve their dispute over Musk’s Twitter use.
Heightening uncertainty during the quarter were logistics bottlenecks at international ports, price adjustments on vehicles and a surprise announcement, later reversed, to close most of Tesla’s stores in order to financially offset the introduction of the $35,000 Model 3.
On Wednesday, Tesla said it planned to deliver 90,000 to 100,000 vehicles to customers in the second quarter, versus 63,000 vehicles in the first.
Musk said that Tesla would change the costly and inefficient way it was building cars, in which it produced for international markets at the start of each quarter – to leave time for longer transport – then built for North America later. A better production blend would be less taxing on the company, Musk said.
The gross profit margin on the Model 3 – a focus for investors – remained relatively steady at 20 percent.
Tesla also announced it would start offering its own insurance product in about a month to better reflect the safety of its vehicles.
Tesla reported net loss attributable to common shareholders of $702.1 million, or $4.10 per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, compared with a loss of $709.6 million, or $4.19 per share, a year earlier.
Excluding some items, Tesla lost $1.77 per share, compared with Wall Street expectations of a loss of 69 cents, according to data from Refinitiv.
Shares fell less than a percent to $258 in after-hours trade.
(GRAPHIC: Tesla debt and free cash flow link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2XJ3Rnd).
(Reporting by Alexandria Sage in San Fransisco and Vibhuti Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Lisa Shumaker)