Rupee depreciation to raise India’s oil bill by $26 billion

By ethan / August 19, 2018

A cheaper rupee could increase India’s crude oil bill by as much as $ 26 billion in FY 2018/19, according to Indian government officials.

The currency hit a low of 70.32 to the US dollar on Friday, which will also push up fuel prices at the pump and prices of cooking gas.

At the same time, Indian crude oil imports are set to rise: last financial year, the country imported 220.43 million tons of crude, with the bill coming in at $ 87.7 billion This financial year, imports are estimated to reach 227 million tons while international oil benchmarks and the US dollar rise higher and the rupee falls.

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© Frank Bienewald

The FY 2018/19 oil import bill was at the start of the year estimated at $ 108 billion on the basis of an average benchmark oil price of $ 65 and an exchange rate of 65 rupees per dollar. However, oil has been trending higher than this for much of the year so far and supply concerns resulting from the US sanctions against Iran and worry about spare production capacity among OPEC members are likely to keep it higher than $ 65 until the end of the year at least.

On top of higher benchmark prices, if the rupee remains around $ 70 per U.S. dollar, the oil import bill could swell to $ 114 billion. This would in turn pressure India’s economy further: the currency depreciation followed the latest trade deficit reading, which revealed India’s imports exceeded its exports by $ 18 billion. This is the highest trade deficit since 2013.

Earlier this year, India called on OPEC to take action and bring oil prices down, or risk a demand crunch. OPEC obliged, agreeing with Russia in June to boost combined production by a million barrels daily. However, the agreement and the subsequent increase in Russia’s and some OPEC members’ production failed to have a substantial effect on prices, as Saudi Arabia surprisingly produced 200,000 bpd less in July and a round of US sanctions against Iran came into effect.

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Magnitude 6.3 earthquake hits Indonesia's Lombok island

By ethan / August 19, 2018

A strong magnitude 6.3 earthquake has struck Indonesia’s Lombok island. The quake’s epicenter is located at a shallow depth of 7.9km. The island has been hit by a series of quakes recently, killing hundreds of people.

The quake struck 64 km (40 miles) from the city of Mataram with a population of 400,000 people, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reports. The tremor hit Lombok’s northern shore, some 6km (four miles) from the Mount Rinjani volcano. There have been no reports of injuries or damage so far.

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Rescue team members prepare to find people trapped inside a mosque after an earthquake hit on Sunday in Pemenang, Lombok. © Beawiharta Beawiharta

In early August, Lombok suffered a magnitude 6.9 quake, followed by over 300 aftershocks. A total of at least 436 people have been killed as the tremors leveled buildings. That quake damaged tens of thousands of homes and left several hundred thousand people displaced. It also initially triggered a tsunami warning that was later called off.

Indonesia is located in a seismically active are and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. In 2004 it was hit by one of the deadliest quakes in recent history, a magnitude 9.1-9.3 event that triggered tsunami waves up to 30 meters tall. Over 220,000 people were killed or left missing then.


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Syria’s Aleppo rebuilding & getting its industry back on track (VIDEO)

By ethan / August 18, 2018

City of Aleppo, once trading and industrial heart of Syria, is slowly coming back to life after years of fighting and occupation by militants who destroyed its industries.

Ancient Aleppo has seen years of fighting between the Syrian government forces and various militant groups. In December 2016, all parts of the city were liberated by the Syrian army and locals started to rebuild peaceful life.

While residential areas of Aleppo suffered greatly during the conflict, its industry has seemingly seen it worse. Before the war, Aleppo housed roughly one third of country’s industry, and all of its factories were damaged to a certain degree in the years-long fighting.

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RT crew visited a crucial textile factory in the city, which was rendered inoperable by the militants. Now the plant is back on track and is able yet again to provide its important production.

“The militants have stolen computer units with chips for the machines. They destroyed the factory on purpose. They wanted to damage Syrian industry as a whole and specifically industry in Aleppo,” the factory’s manager told RT.

Life is returning back to once busy streets of the ancient city, with merchants reopening their shops and customers flocking to the market.

“Two years ago, during the war we couldn’t even open our shops. Shelling, snipers were everywhere, you couldn’t live under such circumstances,” a local trader said.

“Thank God now we can work peacefully day and night. We just hang around, smoking, just like the good old days.”

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'Peace is never a perfect achievement': Kofi Annan's most impactful quotes

By ethan / August 18, 2018

Kofi Annan, who has passed away at the age of 80, held the post of UN chief during the time of several major international conflicts. His quotes reflect the challenges he saw in the world.

“To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.”

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”

“Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”

“More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can master it only if we face it together. And that, my friends, is why we have the United Nations.”

“Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.”

“Peace is never a perfect achievement.”

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‘You hate Jesus’: Self-proclaimed US missionary charged with racist assault in Uganda (VIDEO)

By ethan / August 18, 2018

A US citizen claiming to be a missionary has been charged with assault in Uganda after police reviewed footage of the man racially and physically abusing hotel staff.

Uganda Police received footage of the incident at the Grand Imperial Hotel, Kampala and arrested the suspect, identified as US citizen Jimmy Taylor, Friday. Taylor was detained at the Central Police Station, Kampala on charges of assault.

According to the Kampala Post Taylor told police that he was suffering from an illness that drove him to the attack. He also claimed to be a religious missionary and an ex-US Marine.

The four-minute video begins with the suspect standing behind the hotel reception desk knocking items to the ground. He then follows a staff member, aggressively confronting him by saying “you hate Jesus, you hate yourself,” before punching the worker.

He goes on to make several attempts to hit the man while repeatedly accusing the employee of having “disgraced Jesus.”

READ MORE: ‘Racial profiling’: Man fired after calling police on black neighbor at pool (VIDEO)

Taylor continues his rant, specifically targeting one employee who he appears to blame for being unable to access his room.

During the tirade, he uses several swear words, as well as the n-word. He also berates the country, claiming he came “to help Uganda but Uganda hates Jesus.”

The staff remain calm during the whole altercation despite the violence. At one point, another member of staff tries to abate the situation but is chastised by Taylor.“No! No! You obey what I say. I don’t obey you.”

After he receives his key card, Taylor walks straight up to the camera repeating his vulgar slurs against Uganda.

Video of the incident was shared online and quickly went viral, following in the footsteps of several similar clips where people have been caught on camera using racial slurs.

READ MORE: ‘Go back to your country’: Woman’s racist bus rant filmed in NY (VIDEOS)

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Putin & Merkel meet in Berlin to discuss Nord Stream 2 pipeline ( VIDEO)

By ethan / August 18, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have met in Berlin to discuss the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which Trump has called a “horrible mistake.”

Speaking during a joint press conference with Merkel ahead of the meeting, Putin stressed that the project is “purely economical” and does not mean the transit of gas through Ukraine will end.  

The meeting is likely to spark anger from the Trump administration, after the US president said it was a “tragedy” that Germany had agreed to the pipeline deal with Russia.

EU officials, including European Council President Donald Tusk, have expressed concern that the completion of the Nord Stream 2 project would lead to Ukraine missing out on €2.5 billion (€10.8 billion) in annual transit fees that Ukraine receives from the current pipeline.

Trump, meanwhile, has called the pipeline partnership a “big mistake,” claiming it equates to Germany being a “captive” of Moscow.

The US president has instead pushed American liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a suitable alternative to Russian gas, saying during his last tour of Europe that locals would soon be buying “vast amounts” of US-produced LNG.

The $ 11-billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline project aims to double the existing pipeline’s current annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters. It is expected to become operational by the end of next year, with both Germany and Russia insisting that the project is a private business affair.

Putin and Merkel also said they would be speaking about other issues, including Syria and Iran. “We need to step up our humanitarian efforts” in Syria, Putin said, adding that a goal is to see refugees return to their homes.

Merkel, meanwhile, said that while she would like to see the Iran nuclear deal preserved, “we are also concerned about the missile program of Iran.” 

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North Korea slams Trump’s opponents for hampering peace efforts, denuclearization

By ethan / August 18, 2018

North Korea lashed out at Donald Trump’s rivals for “a deadlock” in bilateral relations, calling upon the US leader to act in a “bold” manner, in a statement that differs dramatically from the North’s stance on the US last year.

In a lengthy editorial, Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling party, praised US President Donald Trump for seeking to improve relations between Washington and Pyongyang. “However, he faces too many opponents,” it said.

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FILE PHOTO: South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

According to the paper, Democrats and even some Republicans are hampering Trump’s peace efforts and the media is undermining his policies. Bureaucrats and presidential aides are “speaking and moving in contradiction to the president’s will” and are “distorting facts and covering up his eyes and ears in order to mislead him to a wrong decision.”

The editorial says that the political opponents of the US president are “raising their voice, dismissing the Singapore joint statement and boycotting a declaration of an end to the war.” But what it thinks will end the “current deadlock in the DPRK-US relations” is “President Trump’s bold decision.”

Rodong Sinmun’s position shows a U-turn in North Korea’s attitude towards Donald Trump – from “hammers of war” in summer 2017 to “Trump’s improving ties with Pyongyang” a year later.

In June, Democratic congressional leaders slammed Trump for making concessions at the Singapore summit with Kim.  US Senator Chuck Schumer said that “by granting a meeting with Chairman Kim, President Trump has granted a brutal and repressive dictatorship the international legitimacy it has long craved.”

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Official North Korean Central News Agency image shows the demolition of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site © KCNA

Also in June, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) hinted at the need for war against North Korea, saying that “if diplomacy fails, as a last resort, Democrats and Republicans need to put the military option on the table or we’ll never get a good deal.” 

Only last summer, Trump himself threatened North Korea “with fire and fury,” calling the nation an “extraordinary threat” to the US. The North was also releasing menacing statements.

This spring, however, Trump took a different approach, which ultimately led to the “epochal” summit in Singapore in which North Korean denuclearization was agreed upon. After the summit, the US leader even claimed that there is no longer a nuclear threat from Pyongyang.

The anticipated Trump-Kim meeting came after the North demolished tunnels leading to an underground nuclear testing site. At one point, however, the summit was nearly canceled by Trump due to a change of heart.

The North’s process of denuclearization received different reactions from the US leader. In June, he insisted that Pyongyang should start the process “very quickly” and that “a lot of people” would be sent to North Korea to verify it. Later, he said there is “no rush” on denuclearization.

Trump remains adamant about sanctions on the country, stating on numerous occasions that North Korea should not expect an easing of restrictions any time soon.

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Nord Stream 2 is purely business project, it doesn’t prevent gas supplies through Ukraine – Putin

By ethan / August 18, 2018

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline project is a “purely economic project” and does not mean the transit of gas through Ukraine will stop, Vladimir Putin has stressed during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“I am aware of the federal chancellor’s position, she keeps raising the issue. All that matters to us is that this transit is economically feasible, and makes economic sense,” he said.

The comments were made after Putin arrived in Berlin for a meeting with Merkel. The two will speak about the pipeline project, as well as international topics such as Ukraine and Syria.
“We hope this project will improve the European energy system, diversify gas delivery routes, and meet the increasing demand of the European economy in natural gas,” Putin said.

The Russian president also spoke of trade with Germany, stating that the country is “one of our leading partners in trade” growing by 22 percent last year. “From January to June this year, we added another 25 percent,” he said.

The two leaders will also discuss the Iran nuclear deal, with Merkel saying: “We would like to preserve this deal but we are also concerned about the missile program with Iran.”

The goal of the $ 11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline project is to double the existing pipeline’s annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters. Although the partnership between Russia and Germany has been slammed by US President Donald Trump, Berlin and Moscow say it is a private business project which is due to be operational by the end of the year.


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Europe’s handshake rows: Sweden says Muslims have a right to refuse, Switzerland says they don’t

By ethan / August 18, 2018

Two cases with very different outcomes involving the right of a Muslim person to refuse to shake hands with a member of the opposite sex were in the spotlight in Europe this week.

A Muslim couple in Switzerland lost their bid for citizenship after a municipal commission ruled that their refusal to shake hands with people of the opposite sex showed a disrespect for gender equality.

In Sweden, however, a Muslim woman was awarded 40,000 kronor ($ 4,350) in compensation after the labour court ruled that a company’s decision to end her job interview after she refused to shake hands with a male interviewer amounted to discrimination.

Many Muslims avoid physical contact with members of the opposite sex, except for those in their immediate family, for religious reasons. The practice has caused contention in Europe, however, where it is custom to shake hands in certain circumstances. In many instances Muslims recognise the greeting by putting their hand to their heart.

In Switzerland, the city of Lausanne determined that the Muslim couple did not meet the criteria for citizenship as their refusal to shake hands demonstrated their failure to integrate.

Lausanne Mayor Grégoire Junod argued that freedom of belief and religion is enshrined in local laws but insisted “religious practice does not fall outside the law.”

Vice Mayor Pierre-Antoine Hildbrand, who was on the three-member commission that questioned the couple told AFP that “the constitution and equality between men and women prevails over bigotry.”

READ MORE: ‘What, no handshake?’ Swedish company sued over job interview turned sour

The couple, whose nationality has not been revealed, has 30 days to appeal the decision.

 Sweden’s labour court took an opposing view, however, ruling that in the case of Farah Alhajeh, her refusal to shake hands on religious grounds was protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.

It accepted the company’s argument that its employees were required to treat men and women equally but said it was not fair to expect this in the form of a handshake only, noting  that Alhajeh placed her hand on her heart when greeted with the handshake. It branded the company’s policy of demanding a specific greeting as detrimental to Muslims.

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Feathers ruffled after British boxer chucks chicken at US fighter in Nando’s restaurant (VIDEO)

By ethan / August 18, 2018

A brawl between two professional boxers has unfolded in a Belfast Nando’s. A now-viral video caught fighter Deontay Wilder chasing Billy Joe Saunders after Saunders reportedly hurled a chicken at the US heavyweight boxer.

The two boxers are in Northern Ireland ahead of British boxer Tyson Fury’s heavyweight showdown with Italian Francesco Pianeta. Fury and Wilder look to face off in the ring, with Wilder telling the media to expect a clash between the two by the end of the year.

The clash no one was expecting, however, was between 28-year-old Saunders and 32-year-old Wilder. The viral video, which reportedly shows the two boxers going at it in the chicken chain store, has already been watched over 275,000 times on Twitter.

In the footage, US boxer Deontay Wilder can be seen chasing Billy Joe Saunders out of the Belfast Nando’s after the Brit reportedly threw chicken at him while open-mouthed onlookers watched on.

Prior to the bird-laden brawl, the American boxer argued with Tyson Fury’s crew at Friday’s weigh-in for the Brit’s bout with Pianeta in Belfast on Saturday.

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