FILE PHOTO: An oil pump is seen operating in the Permian Basin near Midland, Texas, U.S. on May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Ernest Scheyder
April 25, 2019
By Henning Gloystein
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Brent crude oil on Thursday rose above $75 per barrel for the first time in 2019 in the wake of tightening sanctions on Iran, while gains in U.S. prices were crimped by a surge in U.S. supply.
Brent crude futures rose to a 2019 high of $75.01 per barrel on Thursday and were at $74.90 per barrel at 0705 GMT, up 33 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last close.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $65.94 per barrel, up 5 cents from their previous settlement.
Traders said Brent was receiving support on Thursday from a halt of Russian oil exports to Poland and Germany via a pipeline due to quality concerns.
The United States this week said it would end all exemptions for sanctions against Iran, demanding countries halt oil imports from Tehran from May or face punitive action from Washington.
“Following the U.S. decision to toughen its sanctions on Iran … we have revised up our end-year forecast for Brent crude from $50 to $60 per barrel,” analysts at Capital Economics said in a note.
The U.S. decision to try and bring down Iran oil exports to zero comes amid supply cuts led by producer Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) since the start of the year aimed at propping up prices.
As a result, Brent prices have risen by almost 40 percent since January.
Still, Brian Hook, U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State, said on Thursday “there is plenty of supply in the market to ease that transition and maintain stable prices”.
Consultancy Rystad Energy said Saudi Arabia and its main allies could replace lost Iranian oil.
“Saudi Arabia and several of its allies have more replacement barrels than what would be lost from Iranian exports,” said Rystad’s head of oil research Bjoernar Tonhaugen.
“Since October 2018, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the UAE, and Iraq have cut 1.3 million bpd, which is more than enough to compensate for the additional loss,” he added.
Capital Economics said it expected “oil prices to fall this year as sluggish global growth weighs on oil demand, U.S. shale output grows strongly and investor aversion to risk assets like commodities increases”.
South Korea’s economy unexpectedly shrank in the first quarter, the Bank of Korea said on Thursday, marking its worst performance since the global financial crisis.
China’s Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday that his nation’s economy “still faces downward pressure”.
On the supply side, U.S. crude oil production has risen by more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) since early 2018 to a record of 12.2 million bpd currently, making the United States the world’s biggest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.
In part because of soaring domestic production, U.S. commercial crude oil inventories last week hit a October 2017 high of 460.63 million barrels, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday. That was a rise of 1.3 million barrels.
(GRAPHIC: U.S. oil drilling, production & storage levels link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2DxgF8W).
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Tom Hogue)
FILE PHOTO: Facebook, Google and Twitter logos are seen in this combination photo from Reuters files. REUTERS//File Photo
April 23, 2019
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Google, Facebook and Twitter have to do more to tackle fake news ahead of key European Parliament elections next month, the European Commission said on Tuesday, as its latest report showed a lack of progress in some areas.
The monthly reports follow a pledge made by the tech giants and advertising trade bodies in October last year to combat the spread of fake news and avoid more heavy-handed regulations.
The EU has warned of foreign interference during campaigning for the European Parliament elections and national elections in Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Poland, Portugal and Ukraine in recent and coming months.
“Further technical improvements as well as sharing of methodology and data sets for fake accounts are necessary to allow third-party experts, fact-checkers and researchers to carry out independent evaluation,” the EU executive said.
The Commission said Google had made insufficient progress in defining issue-based advertising. The report covered actions taken by the companies in March.
It said Facebook, which took down eight coordinated inauthentic behavior networks originating in North Macedonia, Kosovo and Russia, failed to disclose whether these affected EU users.
Twitter also fell short because it did not provide details on its measures against spam and fake accounts and also did not report on any action to improve the scrutiny of ad placements.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)
FILE PHOTO: Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during inauguration ceremony of the new Education Minister Abraham Weintraub at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/File Photo
April 18, 2019
SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday that he wanted the country’s vast Amazon rainforest to be exploited “in a reasonable way” and criticized the creation of new indigenous reserves by previous governments.
In a Facebook live video, the far-right leader also said he planned to travel to Hungary and Poland in the second half of the year.
(Reporting by Alexandre Caverni, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)
FILE PHOTO: Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), delivers a speech during the party’s convention in Warsaw, Poland September 2, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo
April 13, 2019
WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) says ‘no’ to the euro and believes Warsaw should only adopt the common currency when its economy is as big as Germany’s, PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said on Saturday.
Kaczynski was speaking at a PiS convention in Lublin, eastern Poland, ahead of the European Union election in May, which is seen as a test for the party and its major opponents ahead of a general election in Poland later this year.
“We say ‘no’ to the euro, ‘no’ to European prices,” Kaczynski said. “We will adopt the euro someday, because we are committed to do so and we are and will be in the European Union, but we will accept it when it is in our interest.”
“It will be in our interest when we reach a level very close to Germany (in) GDP level, standard of living.”
Poland is obliged under its EU accession commitments to join the euro zone at some point.
PiS has said previously that Poland should not hurry to join the currency bloc, but it is now reiterating the argument to attract more supporters ahead of the vote.
While most Poles support Poland’s membership of the EU, they are not so unanimous over the euro, opinion polls suggest.
PiS has the backing of 38.7 percent of the electorate, while the European Coalition has 36.2 percent, an opinion poll by pollster IBRIS for private radio station ZET showed on Saturday.
The European Coalition consists of the leading opposition parties, including PiS’ biggest political foe the Civic Platform, which united earlier this year against the ruling party.
PiS has prevailed in most polls since taking power from the Civic Platform in 2015.
The Coalition has not publicly declared its policy on joining the euro, though it is widely seen as taking a more positive stance than PiS.
Civic Platform was co-founded by European Council president Donald Tusk, a supporter of the single currency before the euro zone financial crisis, but the party has said Poland needs a debate on adopting the euro.
PiS has seen its popularity erode after a series of scandals, with local media accusing the party of allowing excessive pay at the central bank and running a murky real estate business. PiS denies any wrongdoing.
(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Alicja Ptak; Editing by Jan Harvey)
FILE PHOTO: Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – May 30, 2018 Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena in action during her second round match against Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova REUTERS/Charles Platiau
April 12, 2019
Lara Arruabarrena, back at the site where she has reached three of her four career WTA finals, is headed to the quarterfinals of the Claro Open Colsanitas in Bogota, Colombia.
Arruabarrena, a Spaniard who is seeded 11th, got past qualifier Jasmine Paolini of Italy 7-6 (4), 6-1 on Thursday in second-round action.
In 2012, Arruabarrena earned her first career WTA championship at Bogota. (The other came at Seoul in 2016). She also reached the Bogota final each of the past two years.
Elsewhere in the second round, Australia’s Astra Sharma upset eighth-seeded Magda Linette of Poland 6-4, 6-3, and fifth-seeded Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia routed Sachia Vickery of the United States 6-2, 6-0.
The last quarterfinal spot was up for grabs Thursday night with the Netherlands’ Bibiane Schoofs opposing Italy’s Sara Errani.
Stefanie Voegele made sure the home-country fans would have a rooting interest in the quarterfinals at Lugano, Switzerland, demolishing Poland’s Viktorija Golubic 6-1, 6-1 in the second round.
The only other Swiss player remaining in the draw, Timea Bacsinszky, fell 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 to Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia in second-round action.
Eighth-seeded Vera Lapko of Belarus beat Evgeniya Rodina of Russia 6-2, 6-0, but two seeded players lost. Poland’s Iga Swiatek knocked off third-seeded Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, and Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova edged seventh-seeded Rebecca Peterson of Sweden 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2).
In a matchup of unseeded players, the Czech Republic’s Kristyna Pliskova topped Germany’s Antonia Lottner 6-2, 6-4.
–Field Level Media
Police officers investigate the site of stabbing in Warsaw, Poland, April 11, 2019. Agencja Gazeta/Adam Stepien via REUTERS
April 11, 2019
WARSAW (Reuters) – Polish police on Thursday detained one man in central Warsaw after another died of stab wounds, but there was no suspicion of a terrorist motive or further danger to citizens, a spokeswoman said.
Police were informed at 6:55 p.m. (1655 GMT) that a man was lying bloodied on a street in central Warsaw, but paramedics were unable to revive him.
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
FILE PHOTO – The flags of Poland and European Union flutter in front of the Polish parliament in Warsaw June 29, 2011. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
April 11, 2019
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Poland has failed to uphold the independence of its supreme court, the advisor to the EU’s top court said on Thursday, arguing that the lowering of judges’ retirement age breaks European Union law.
“The court should rule that the provisions of Polish legislation relating to the lowering of the retirement age for supreme court judges are contrary to EU law,” Advocate General Evgeni Tanchev said in a statement.
Judges at the Court of Justice of the European Union, Europe’s top court, follow the advice of their advocate generals in the majority of cases although they are not bound to do so.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott and Foo Yun Chee)
Visitors walk on the “Hellboy 2” movie set at the Korda Studios in Etyek, Hungary April 5, 2019. Picture taken April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
April 10, 2019
By Michael Kahn
PRAGUE (Reuters) – It’s the kind of maneuvering that might make the Game of Thrones’ shrewdest operator Tyrion Lannister feel right at home.
As streaming giants Amazon, Netflix and Hulu prepare to splash out on their next fantasy blockbusters and dystopian dramas, Central European countries are slugging it out to get a grab a slice of their bumper production budgets.
Experienced crews, lower labor costs and generous production incentives have long attracted international filmmakers to the Czech Republic and Hungary but other countries in the region are now getting into the game.
The Czechs and Hungarians are both considering raising their incentives after Romania approved a production rebate of up to 45 percent in 2018 and Poland introduced a 30 percent cash rebate in February to keep pace with its neighbors.
A new European Union directive due to come in this year is also expected to spur investment as it will require video-on-demand platforms selling to European audiences to ensure at least 30 percent of their catalogs are European works.
“This is a new era,” said Agnes Havas, chief executive of the Hungarian Film Fund told Reuters, noting that the Netflix series “The Crown” and Amazon Prime Video’s “Hanna” were shot in Hungary.
“What we see is we started at 30 percent (incentives) and now we are looking at the other countries in Europe and we will evaluate the situation and see whether we should potentially think about raising it again in the future.”
BITG media analyst Rich Greenfield estimates Amazon will spend $5 billion to $6 billion in 2019 on content with Netflix laying out about $15 billion – and a significant portion of the Netflix budget will flow overseas.
“We are aware there is a shift in global production and you can’t ignore the big streaming companies,” Anna Dziedzic of the Film Commission Poland told Reuters. In 2018 Netflix filmed “1983” in the country, the company’s first original Polish Netflix series.
“They are one of the biggest players now. You have to adjust to the changing environment and you have to have them in mind,” Dziedzic told Reuters.
Amazon and Netflix declined to comment on their plans in the region.
GAME OF THRONES EFFECT
A landscape dotted with castles and rolling countryside makes central Europe a versatile setting for increasingly popular historical and fantasy shows looking to cash in on the success of series such as “Game of Thrones”.
“The types of shows being shot have dramatically changed,” said David Minkowski, head of production at Stillking Films, which co-produced Amazon’s neo-noir fantasy “Carnival Row” and Hulu’s historical series “Das Boot”, in the Czech Republic.
“Call it the Game of Thrones effect. A lot of it is fantasy or historical that naturally gravitates to this part of the world,” he told Reuters, adding that the company was now working on fantasy drama “The Witcher” for Netflix. “The typical production centers are bursting at the seams.”
Dziedzic at the Film Commission Poland said she has also received requests from international companies wanting to use post-Soviet locations and brutalist Communist architecture for science fiction series.
This has helped push international investment in regional production to record highs, leaving studios booked a year in advance and crews forced to turn away work, industry professionals say.
“There is now an ever increased premium on local crew relationships and good access to infrastructure and studios which need to be planned up to 12 months in advance of production,” added Stillking’s Managing Director Matthew Stillking.
“It’s a boom time … likely to last several years as the sector becomes more competitive with a perfect storm of increased consumer viewing demand and more platforms needing content to compete for customers.”
‘IT WILL ROCKET’
Foreign investment in the Czech film industry leapt nearly 1.2 billion crowns to a record 4.8 billion ($210 million) on 1,072 shooting days for 38 foreign series and films in 2018, according to the Czech Film Commission.
Investment is expected to remain at that level or higher this year, though Czech plans to increase cash rebates on offer for film makers from 20 percent now could be a game changer.
“It will rocket once the incentives are raised,” Pavlina Zipkova, head of the Czech Film Commission, told Reuters. “The government has not increased it yet but we strongly believe it will happen later this year.”
In Hungary, spending on a total of 333 productions last year amounted to 110 billion forints (385 million), with 84 percent of the investment coming from international productions including Hollywood blockbusters “Terminator: Dark Fate” and “Gemini Man.”
This was up from 108 billion in 2017, when “Red Sparrow” and “Colette” were made in Hungary but Havas at Hungary’s Film Fund expects the new EU rules to accelerate the streaming-fueled production boom.
The rise of streaming services has also shifted the types of productions in the region. Hungary attracts more blockbuster films these days while episodic series tend to gravitate towards the Czech Republic, said Tomas Krejci, founder of Milk and Honey Pictures and Prague Studios.
This helped Prague Studio’s turnover jump more than 50 percent in 2018 – and Krejci predicts demand will remain strong as top notch crews shooting historical shows are more than a third cheaper than in rival countries such as Spain.
“The demand for historical shows is getting stronger,” Krejci said whose company has produced “Haunted” for Netflix and Amazon’s “Patriot” and the second season of “Lore.”
“Here it’s not just the phenomenal historic architecture but also the vast amount of props, costumes and local talent that make it cheaper and easier to make these kinds of shows.”
($1 = 22.8160 Czech crowns)
($1 = 285.6800 forints)
(Reporting by Michael Kahn; editing by David Clarke)
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leaves after the weekly general audience at the Vatican, April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo
April 10, 2019
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican is working on a papal document that would establish procedures for Catholics to report bishops suspected of sexual abuse or negligence in sexual abuse cases, according to two Vatican sources.
The document, still in its early stages, would be the second official pronouncement by Pope Francis on the global sexual abuse crisis since he presided at a summit of senior bishops at the Vatican in February.
The first after the summit was last month when Francis made it compulsory in law to report the sexual abuse of children within the Vatican and in its diplomatic missions worldwide [uL8N21G3DO].
Victims of sexual abuse and their advocates have long called for measures to make bishops more accountable and to make it easier to report the alleged role of some in cover-ups, negligence or mismanagement.
In its current form, the document is a Motu Proprio, or a personal papal edict. Its working title is “Moral Responsibility”, one of the sources said.
The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter.
The Church’s credibility has been badly tarnished by abuse scandals in Ireland, Chile, Australia, France, the United States, Poland, Germany and elsewhere, in which it has paid billions of dollars in damages to victims and been forced to close parishes.
In 2016, Francis issued an edict establishing that bishops could be removed from office for negligence or omission that led even indirectly to sexual abuse of minors by clergy.
While many national Churches have procedures for the faithful to report sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults by a priest, there are no clear procedures to report suspicion of abuse or negligence by a bishop.
Victims held the late cardinal Bernard Law responsible for allowing abuse by priests when he was archbishop of Boston between 1984 to 2002. The abuse and cover up was exposed by the Boston Globe and dramatized in the Oscar-winning film Spotlight.
After he resigned, Law moved to Rome and was never prosecuted either by the Vatican or American civil justice. He died in Rome in 2017.
The current draft of the document includes elements of suggestions made by bishops in the United States on setting up an accessible and user friendly reporting mechanism.
In a speech at the February summit at the Vatican, Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, called for the establishment of “independent reporting mechanisms” where accusations of suspected abuse or negligence by a bishop could be reported.
Cupich said the accusations would be forwarded directly to the Vatican’s ambassador in the county, to a senior bishop in the prelate’s region, and to a board of experts that includes non-clerics.
A preliminary investigation would follow, “if the allegation has even the semblance of truth,” Cupich said in February.
Cupich suggested setting up a dedicated hot line or web portal to receive complaints about bishops but the current draft of the Vatican document does not specify this, according to a person familiar with it.
The draft calls for the creation of a fund to cover the costs of reporting procedures and investigations. If the diocese is in a poor country, the costs could be picked up by one of the Vatican departments that can investigate bishops, the current draft says, according to one of the sources said.
The draft speaks of the inclusion of lay people in overseeing the reporting process. Victims of sexual abuse and their advocates have demanded that non-clerics be involved, saying bishops could not police themselves.
The sources said the type, content and title of the document could change as it develops.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Giles Elgood)