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China Steps Into The Latin American Void Trump Has Left Behind (Foreign Policy) Latin Americans can’t afford to wait four years to see when the United States will be willing to have an honest and reciprocal conversation about economic prosperity in the Western Hemisphere. Luckily for the United States’s southern neighbors, over the past decade Latin America has found a new major trading partner: China. With economic ties with the United States more uncertain than ever, Latin America would do well to solidify those ties with China, but with caution.
U.S. Republicans unveil plan to dismantle Obamacare, critics pounce (Reuters) Long-awaited legislation to dismantle Obamacare was unwrapped on Monday by U.S. Republicans, who called for ending health insurance mandates and rolling back extra healthcare funding for the poor in a package that drew immediate fire from Democrats. In a battle waged since the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, Democratic President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement, Republicans including President Donald Trump have long vowed to repeal and replace the law. But they failed for years to coalesce around an alternative. With a proposal now on the table, the fate of the plan is uncertain even with Republican majorities in both chambers. Also unclear is where Trump stands on many of the details.
Trump hits out at security services in Obama wiretap row (The Times) Donald Trump signalled a new rift with intelligence chiefs yesterday when he refused to accept guarantees that President Obama had not tapped his phone. The head of the FBI fought privately over the weekend to force a government rebuttal of the US president’s claim that Trump Tower had been the target of secret government surveillance. He was unsuccessful. Yesterday, the White House declined to express confidence in James Comey, the FBI director.
Why the Fed's almost-certain rate hike is an even bigger deal than normal (CNBC) Instead of recoiling in terror at the thought that the Fed not only is ready to hike interest rates but also is prepared to do so on a regular basis, the market essentially has shrugged. No wailing, no gnashing of teeth, just a general recognition that higher rates are in the future and that doesn't spell looming catastrophe. Indeed, the notable part of the reaction was that there was so little reaction, even though the unmistakable momentum for a rate hike seemed to come out of nowhere. But the Citigroup Economic Surpise Index is at a 3-year high.
Big Battery Installations Surge After Gas Leak in California (Bloomberg) The biggest natural gas leak in U.S. history led to a boom in large-scale energy-storage systems, the technology that’s long considered the elusive link to integrating solar and wind power into electric grids. U.S. homes and businesses -- primarily utilities -- installed storage systems with 336 megawatt-hours of capacity in 2016, double the amount from the previous year, according to a study released Tuesday by GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association. That’s about enough batteries to power a city the size of San Diego for an hour.
Explainer: what is protectionism and could it benefit the US economy? (The Conversation) The most likely way that Trump’s policies could benefit the US economy is simply by posing a credible threat to US trading partners. Once the outrage against his protectionist threat subsides, a number of countries will be happier to lift their own forms of protectionism against American products and sign trade deals more favourable for US exports. American governments have long tried to persuade China to allow its currency to appreciate; now Trump intends to strong-arm them.
Father of slain soldier who criticized Trump says travel rights reviewed (Reuters) The father of an American soldier killed in Iraq who came under criticism last year from then-candidate Donald Trump said he has canceled a speaking engagement in Toronto after being notified that his U.S. travel privileges were under review. Khizr Khan, an American citizen born in Pakistan, said he had not been given a reason as to why his travel privileges were being reviewed. He did not say what kind of review he was subject to, which U.S. agency ordered it or who told him of the change. Khan said in a statement issued by the engagement organizer on Monday:
"This turn of events is not just of deep concern to me but to all my fellow Americans who cherish our freedom to travel abroad. I am grateful for your support and look forward to visiting Toronto in the near future."
Bomb Threats to Jewish Community Centers and Organizations (ProPublica) Since Jan. 1, at least 91 locations of Jewish organizations in the United States - including schools, Jewish Community Centers, and offices of the Anti-Defamation League - have received a total of 116 bomb threats. The majority have come in five of what the JCC Association of North America calls “waves" - groups of robocalls coming on a single day. So far, none of the threats have been carried out.
A 'Bad Bank' Could Be Good for Europe (Bloomberg) Some European regulators have come up with a viable plan to alleviate the region’s chronic financial paralysis. If only European politicians, particularly in Germany, would listen. The European Union’s leaders have spent much of the past decade debating -- but never fully resolving -- what to do about the huge pile of bad loans that EU banks are sitting on, most recently estimated at more than €1 trillion ($1.1 trillion). Nobody knows how large the losses will ultimately be, and this uncertainty spooks investors, inhibits new lending and undermines the European Central Bank’s efforts to support economic growth.
Now, a group of officials at the European Banking Authority -- with the support of colleagues at the ECB and the euro area’s bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism -- has put forth a proposal that could help: Create a publicly funded, pan-European “bad bank." Its aim would be to dispel uncertainty by determining the fair value of the soured assets and, with the help of private investors, purchasing a large portion of them.
The plan has several advantages. By forcing banks to recognize losses, it could trigger a much-needed restructuring of Europe’s overcrowded banking sector: Unhealthy banks would have to either raise more capital or shut down. By averting a fire sale into illiquid markets, the plan would limit system-wide losses and make the whole reckoning less painful. The bad bank could even turn a profit for the European governments that provided its capital.
Ditching coal helps Britain beat climate change target (The Times) The UK has beaten its climate change target for 2020 after carbon emissions fell to the lowest level since the General Strike shut down industry in 1926. Last year the closure of three coal-fired power stations and the steelworks at Redcar, North Yorkshire, contributed to a 6% fall in emissions. The fall reflected a shift from coal to gas to generate electricity, with coal use halving in one year, according to Carbon Brief, a website focusing on climate change. Gas produces half the emissions of coal per unit of electricity.
Iraq security forces take Mosul's main government complex, museum building (Reuters) Elite Iraqi security forces dislodged Islamic State militants from the main government buildings in Mosul on Tuesday, their last major city stronghold in Iraq, an Iraqi spokesman said. Mosul's main museum, which was damaged and looted by the militants, was also taken, Lieutenant Colonel Abdel Amir al-Mohammadawi, a spokesman for the elite interior ministry Rapid Response units told Reuters.
Fisherman killing: family refuses to accept body (The Hindu) The Sri Lankan navy has allegedly shot dead a 21-year-old fisherman and injured some others when they opened fire on fishermen from Rameswaram, who allegedly poached in the SRI Lankan waters on Monday night. The fishermen who set out for ‘night fishing’ from the fishing jetty here on Monday evening, were fishing on the high seas around 10 pm, when the Lankan navy allegedly opened fire, reports received here said.
Inflation quickens to 27-month high (ABS CBN News) Consumer prices rose 3.3% in February, the fastest pace in 27 months, due to higher food, power and transportation costs, government data showed. Inflation for the month matched the forecast of a Reuters poll and was within the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas 2% to 4% target range. It quickened from 2.7% in January.
Lasso leads Moreno in latest polling (The Economist) In the first poll published by Cedatos, a local pollster, since the first-round presidential election on February 19th, Guillermo Lasso of the right-wing Creando Oportunidades (Creo) leads his rival, Len'n Moreno of the ruling left-wing Alianza Pa's. The poll showed that 44.8% of respondents intend to vote for Mr Lasso, 41.2% intend to vote for Mr Moreno, and 14% intend to spoil their ballot or leave it blank. This means that of valid votes, Mr Lasso would receive 52.1% of the vote, compared with 47.9% for Mr Moreno (only valid votes are counted in Ecuador's final vote counts). The difference is just outside the margin or polling error.
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