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  • Brazil’s Jobs Crisis Lingers, Posing Challenge for Next President

    After losing his job with a foreign food company in March, Alexander Costa surveyed Brazil’s anemic labor market and decided to start selling cheap lunches by the beach in Rio de Janeiro to try and provide for his young family.

    “I could have stayed home, looking for work, sending out resumes, with few jobs and things very hard,” Costa said. “But I didn’t stand still. I decided to create something different … to reinvent myself.”

    Many other Brazilians have also had to reinvent themselves in recent years, as Latin America’s largest economy struggles to overcome a jobs crisis more than a year after officially exiting recession.

    Nearly 13 million people – or more than the entire population of Greece – are out of a job, with the unemployment rate hovering between 12 percent to 14 percent since 2016. As a result, unemployment is among voters’ top concerns ahead of next month’s election.

    The desperate search for work amid a string of political graft scandals and rising violence has soured the mood, polarizing debate and distracting from the country’s underlying fiscal challenges.

    But only by lowering the unemployment rate will Brazil achieve the rise in household spending it needs to maintain sustained growth, said Marcos Casarin, the head of Latin America macro research at Oxford Economics.

    “The only way to have a prolonged recovery in economic activity is if unemployment starts to fall in a substantial way,” he said.

    However, it could take several years to get the rate below 10 percent, he said, adding: “I’m not very optimistic.”

    Divisive Figures

    With no presidential candidate likely to win a majority in the first-round vote on Oct. 7, it looks increasingly likely voters will face a choice between two candidates in the Oct. 28 run-off: far-right Jair Bolsonaro and leftist Fernando Haddad of the Workers Party.

    Both are divisive figures — rejected by nearly half the electorate — making it likely that either one will face an uphill battle to pass ambitious economic reforms that foreign investors have long called for.

    Bolsonaro has vowed to erase Brazil’s primary budget deficit by 2020 through controversial privatizations and spending cuts.

    Haddad has proposed broadening the central bank’s mandate to include unemployment, while boosting government-led investments, revoking a spending ceiling and scuttling privatizations.

    Both Bolsonaro and Haddad are pitching their proposals as ways to tackle the unemployment crisis, which has pushed many into the informal sector, sapping tax income and leaving workers without paid holidays, salary raises and other benefits.

    Outgoing President Michel Temer last year passed an overhaul of the country’s labor laws, which was intended to make the job market more flexible and which the government said would help create new jobs, an effect that as yet has failed to materialize.

    Bolsonaro supports Temer’s labor reform and wants to further cut work regulations to boost jobs. Haddad has suggested putting the labor reform, which was opposed by unions, to a referendum, while also advocating a short-term stimulus program.

    Costa, however, was unwilling to wait and see what Brazil’s next president comes up with.

    His meals-on-wheels business started slowly, selling 13-reais ($3) lunches from the back of his car in Rio’s wealthy Barra da Tijuca neighborhood. But business took off when he joined forces with his friend, Stefan Weiss, whose white BMW provides a ritzier shop window from which they now sell roughly 200 hot meals each day.

    “At the moment, Brazil faces a big problem in relation to the economy and the lack of jobs,” said Weiss, who works on an offshore oil platform but sells meals on days off to earn extra cash. “The people who lost their jobs are trying to find new ways to establish themselves in the market.”

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  • Into the Fold? What’s Next for Instagram as Founders Leave

    When Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger sold Instagram to Facebook in 2012, the photo-sharing startup’s fiercely loyal fans worried about what would happen to their beloved app under the social media giant’s wings. 

    None of their worst fears materialized. But now that its founders have announced they are leaving in a swirl of well wishes and vague explanations, some of the same worries are bubbling up again — and then some. Will Instagram disappear? Get cluttered with ads and status updates? Suck up personal data for advertising the way its parent does? Lose its cool? 

    Worst of all: Will it just become another Facebook?

    “It”s probably a bigger challenge (for Facebook) than most people realize,” said Omar Akhtar, an analyst at the technology research firm Altimeter. “Instagram is the only platform that is growing. And a lot of people didn’t necessarily make the connection between Instagram and Facebook.”

    Instagram had just 31 million users when Facebook snapped it up for $1 billion; now it has a billion. It had no ads back then; it now features both display and video ads, although they’re still restrained compared to Facebook. But that could quickly change. Facebook’s growth has started to slow, and Wall Street has been pushing the company to find new ways to increase revenue.

    Instagram has been a primary focus of those efforts.

    Facebook has been elevating Instagram’s profile in its financial discussions. In July, it unveiled a new metric for analysts, touting that 2.5 billion people use at least one of its apps — Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or Messenger — each month. While not particularly revealing, the measurement underscores the growing importance Facebook places on those secondary apps. 

    Facebook doesn’t disclose how much money Instagram pulls in, though Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter estimates it’ll be around $6 billion this year, or just over 10 percent of Facebook’s expected overall revenue of about $55.7 billion. 

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has long seen Instagram’s promise. At the time, it was by far Facebook’s largest acquisition (although it was dwarfed by the $19 billion Zuckerberg paid for WhatsApp two years later). And it was the first startup allowed to operate mostly independently. 

    That has paid off big time. Not only did Instagram reach 1 billion users faster than its parent company, it also succeeded in cloning a popular Snapchat feature, dealing a serious blow to that social network upstart and succeeding where Facebook’s own attempts had repeatedly failed. Instagram also pioneered a long-form video feature to challenge YouTube, another big Facebook rival.

    Recently, Instagram has been on a roll. In June, Systrom traveled to New York to mark the opening of its new office there, complete with a gelato bar and plans to hire hundreds of engineers. Only a month earlier, Instagram had moved into sparkly new offices in San Francisco. In a July earnings call, Zuckerberg touted Instagram’s success as a function of its integration with Facebook, claiming that it used parent-company infrastructure to grow “more than twice as quickly as it would have on its own.”

    But Instagram has also been a case study in how to run a subsidiary independently — especially when its parent is mired in user-privacy problems and concerns about election interference, fake news and misinformation. And especially when its parent has long stopped being cool, what with everyone and their grandma now on it.

    Instagram’s simple design — just a collection of photos and videos of sunsets, faraway vacations, intimate breakfasts and baby close-ups — has allowed it to remain a favorite long after it became part of Facebook. If people go to Twitter to bicker over current events and to Facebook to see what old classmates are up to, Instagram is where they go to relax, scroll and feast their eyes.

    So, will that change?

    “I don’t think Zuckerberg is dumb,” Akhtar said. “He knows that a large part of Instagram’s popularity is that it’s separate from Facebook.”

    As such, he thinks Facebook would be wise to reassure users that what they love about Instagram isn’t going to change — that they are not going to be forced to integrate with Facebook. “That’ll go a long way,” he said. 

    Internally, the challenge is a bit more complicated. While Systrom and Krieger didn’t say why they’re leaving, their decision echoes the recent departure of WhatsApp’s co-founder and CEO Jan Koum, who resigned in April. Koum had signaled years earlier that he would take a stand if Facebook’s push to increase profits risked compromising core elements of the WhatsApp messaging service, such as its dedication to user privacy. When Facebook started pushing harder for more revenue and more integration with WhatsApp, Koum pulled the ripcord.

    One sign that additional integration may be in Instagram’s future: Zuckerberg in May sent longtime Facebook executive Adam Mosseri to run Instagram’s product operation. Mosseri replaced longtime Instagrammer Kevin Weil, who was shuffled back to the Facebook mothership. 

    That likely didn’t sit well with Instagram’s founders, Akhtar and other analysts said. Now that they’re gone as well, Mosseri is the most obvious candidate to head Instagram. 

    “Kevin Systrom loyalists are probably going to leave,” Akhtar said. 

    Which means Facebook may soon have a new challenge on its hands: Figuring out how to keep Instagram growing if it loses the coolness factor that has bolstered it for so long.

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  • Automakers Seek Flexibility at Hearing on Mileage Standards

    Automakers sought flexibility while environmental groups blasted the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back fuel economy standards at a public hearing on the plan in the industry’s backyard.

    At the hearing Tuesday in Dearborn, Michigan, home to Ford Motor Co. and just miles from the General Motors and Fiat Chrysler home offices, industry officials repeated two themes: They’ll keep working to make cars and trucks more efficient, but they may not be able to meet existing standards because people are buying more trucks and SUVs.

    Environmental groups, though, urged the government to scrap its plan to roll back the standards and instead keep in place the ones that were reaffirmed in the waning days of the Obama administration. They said the technology to meet the standards at low costs is available, and they accused President Donald Trump’s Department of Transportation of twisting numbers to justify the rollback.

    Nearly 150 people were scheduled to testify at the hearing, the second on the preferred option of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency to freeze the standards at 2020 levels.

    In 2016, for the first time since the latest standards started, the auto industry couldn’t meet them without using emissions credits earned in prior years, said Steve Bartoli, vice president of fuel economy compliance for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The reason is because with relatively low gas prices, people are buying more trucks and SUVs rather than fuel-efficient cars, he said.

    Last year, cars made up only 36 percent of the U.S. new-vehicle fleet, something that wasn’t expected when the current requirements were put in place six years ago, he said. “The forecasts referenced by the agencies at that time showed cars increasing from 50 percent to 57 percent of annual vehicle sales by 2025,” Bartoli said.

    The Obama EPA proposed raising the standard to 36 miles per gallon (15 kilometers per liter) by 2025, about 10 miles per gallon (4 kilometers per liter) higher than the current requirement. The goal was to reduce car emissions and save money at the pump.

    Trump administration officials say waiving the tougher fuel efficiency requirements would make vehicles more affordable, which would get safer cars into consumers’ hands more quickly.

    Industry response

    Bartoli and other industry representatives said they’ll keep making vehicles more efficient, but need the more flexible standards because of the market shift. Industry officials said they don’t support a full freeze on the standards.

    “FCA is willing to work with all parties on a data-driven final rule that results in market-facing fuel economy improvements that also support greater penetration of alternative powertrains” such as electric vehicles, Bartoli said.

    Rhett Ricart, a Columbus, Ohio, car dealer who is regulatory chairman for the National Automobile Dealers Association, said trying to force people into efficient cars is like trying to make a 3-year-old eat vegetables. “If he doesn’t like vegetables, you can’t stuff his mouth full of them,” Ricart said.

    Environmental response

    But environmental groups said the Obama standards should remain in place, arguing that the technology is advancing so fast that automakers can meet the standards without adding huge costs for consumers. They said by the EPA’s own calculations, 60,000 jobs will be lost by 2030 developing and building fuel efficient technologies. They urged NHTSA and the EPA, which are holding the hearings, to scrap their preferred option of a freeze.

    John German, senior fellow with the International Council on Clean Transportation, a group that pushes for stronger standards, said outside the hearing that the Trump administration’s cost estimates per car for the Obama standards are inflated to justify the freeze. Consumer savings at the pump are roughly three times the cost, which the ICCT calculates to be $551 per vehicle.

    He also said the industry has developed lower-cost improvements to internal combustion powertrains faster than expected, so auto companies can meet standards without selling a lot of electric vehicles.

    Environmental groups also said the Obama standards vary with vehicle size and give the industry flexibility to meet them. “The standards are working as designed,” German said.

    California response

    At Monday’s hearing in Fresno, California, state officials said the proposed rollback would damage people’s health and exacerbate climate change, and they demanded the Trump administration back off.

    Looming over the administration’s proposal is the possibility that California, which has become a key leader on climate change as Trump has moved to dismantle Obama-era environmental rules, could set its own fuel standard that could roil the auto industry. That’s a change the federal government is trying to block.

    “California will take whatever actions are needed to protect our people and follow the law,” Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, testified at the hearing.

    Automakers want one standard for the whole country, so they don’t have to design different vehicles for California and the states that follow its requirements.

    Another hearing is planned Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

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  • US Military Official: No Plans for Venezuela Military Intervention

    U.S. President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead U.S. military operations in Latin America said on Tuesday there is no planning under way for any kind of military option to address the economic and political crisis in Venezuela.

    Navy Vice Admiral Craig Faller, the nominee to lead the U.S. Southern Command, was asked at his Senate confirmation hearing whether there had been suggestions from Trump or other top U.S. officials that preparations should be made for “surgical or other” military action.

    “We are not doing anything other than normal prudent planning that a combatant command would do to prepare for a range of contingencies,” Faller said in a response to a question from Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.

    Venezuela accused the United States this month of seeking an intervention and supporting military conspiracies following a New York Times report that the Trump administration held secret meetings with rebellious military officers over the last year to discuss a plan to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

    Faller also spoke during the hearing of the military’s plans to support Venezuela’s neighbors Colombia, Ecuador and Peru as they deal with migrants fleeing Venezuela due to the country’s economic crisis, including plans to send a U.S. Navy hospital ship, the Comfort.

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  • US Senate Brawl Over Kavanaugh Intensifies

    The U.S. Senate’s partisan brawl over President Donald Trump’s embattled Supreme Court nominee intensified Tuesday, fewer than 48 hours before Judge Brett Kavanaugh and one of his accusers were expected to give contradictory testimony on whether the nominee committed sexual assault as a teenager.


    Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky accused Democrats of rushing to convict Kavanaugh and “destroy his good name” with unproven allegations, abandoning any presumption of innocence – a bedrock principle of American jurisprudence.


    “Justice matters. Evidence matters. Facts matter,” McConnell said. “This is America here … Everyone deserves better than this, not just Judge Kavanaugh.”


    Senate Democrats countered that, if Republicans wanted to learn the facts about the nominee’s past behavior, they would not have rejected calls for an FBI investigation of the allegations against him.


    Democrats also accused Republicans of treating Christine Blasey Ford dismissively at a time when victims of sexual crimes are speaking out across the nation. Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school party in the 1980s, a charge the nominee has repeatedly denied.

    ​“Labeling this a partisan smear job demeans not only the senators in my caucus,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said. “It demeans many, many women who have come forward … to share their stories.”


    Schumer added, “Leader McConnell should rethink what he said in the heat of the moment and apologize to Dr. Ford.”

    Standing firm

    The sharp exchanges on the Senate floor came one day after Kavanaugh appeared on U.S. cable television – an unprecedented move for a Supreme Court nominee – to refute all allegations of sexual misconduct.


    “I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone. Not in high school. Not ever,” Kavanaugh told Fox News, adding that he has no intention of bowing out of the nomination.

    Also Tuesday, Republicans on the committee announced they had hired an outside female counsel to question Ford. The lawyer was not identified.


    In New York, President Trump accused Democrats of mounting “a con game” and heaped scorn on a second accusation leveled against Kavanaugh, that he exposed himself at a college party decades ago.

    The new allegation, reported Sunday by The New Yorker magazine, prompted the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, to call for a postponement of Thursday’s highly anticipated hearing where Kavanaugh and Ford are to testify.

    Republicans have rejected any further delays in the confirmation process, which includes a committee vote followed by consideration by the full Senate.


    Kavanaugh, a judicial conservative and Trump’s second Supreme Court pick, was nominated to fill the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.


    His confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate had seemed all but assured until allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced nearly two weeks ago.

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  • Democrats Seek Gains in 2018 Gubernatorial Races

    Most of the attention on this year’s midterm elections is about which party will control Congress after the results are known on November 6. In addition to races for the Senate and House of Representatives, U.S. voters also will elect 36 state governors, and Democrats appear poised to make gains.

    Republicans control 26 of the state governorships at stake in November, while Democrats currently hold nine seats, and there is one independent governor, Bill Walker in Alaska.

    Democrats see opportunities for gains in some larger states like Florida, Michigan and Ohio, where Republican incumbents are term-limited and barred from running again. They also have targeted vulnerable Republican incumbents in Illinois and in Wisconsin, though, where Governor Scott Walker is making a bid for a third term.

    In Florida, progressive Democrat Andrew Gillum is in a close race with Republican Ron DeSantis, an avid supporter of President Donald Trump.

    Another close race is expected in Ohio where Republican Mike DeWine hopes to succeed Governor John Kasich, a once and possibly future presidential contender, but must fend off Democrat Richard Cordray.

    Republicans believe their best chances to pick up seats previously held by Democrats are in Connecticut and Colorado. Republicans also are confident about holding governorships in two heavily Democratic states, Maryland and Massachusetts, where popular GOP incumbents have distanced themselves from President Trump.

    The outcome of the 36 governor’s races have implications for the next presidential election in 2020 and beyond. Control of the governor’s mansion in a given state can help the party’s presidential contender in 2020. In addition, governors in most states play a crucial role in approving how congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years based on population shifts reflected in the national census.

    Republicans were successful in redrawing House districts to their advantage after the 2010 census in large part because of the gains they made in governors’ races and state legislatures, which also have a key role in the process.

    The political process often leads to what is known as “gerrymandering,” when one party has an advantage in how congressional districts are redrawn that results in an electoral advantage that can last for years.

    Both parties have done it throughout history, and now Democrats are counting on gains at the gubernatorial level to create a more level playing field after the 2020 census.


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  • За підозрою у замаху на активіста Михайлика затримали трьох – адвокат

    Поліція затримала трьох людей за підозрою у замаху в Одесі на громадського діяча з партії «Сила людей» Олега Михайлика, підтвердив Радіо Свобода адвокат одного із затриманих, громадянина Грузії Герасіна Торніке Володимир Поярков.

    За словами правника, його підзахисного разом із ще двома чоловіками  викликали до одного з одеських райвідділів поліції, розпитували, чи купували вони сім-карти для телефонів у конкретному магазині.

    Двоє досі перебувають в ізоляторі тимчасового тримання, а Торніке, який має інвалідність першої групи власлідок автомобільної аварії, госпіталізували.

    На місце виїхав консул Грузії.

    Поліція Одеси наразі ситуацію не коментувала.

    Напад на Олега Михайлика стався ввечері 22 вересня.

    23 вересня в поліції Одещини повідомили, що відомості за фактом нападу внесені до Єдиного реєстру досудових розслідувань за ознаками замаху на вбивство (ст. 15, ч. 1 ст. 115 Кримінального кодексу України).

    Читайте також: Аброськін обіцяє розкриття замаху в Одесі

    Радник голови головного управління Нацполіції в Одеській області Руслан Форостяк повідомляв того ж дня, що поранений прийшов до тями, стан його «у принципі вже стабільний». За словами радника, куля залишається у грудній частині тіла пораненого, і, за інформацією лікарів, операцію будуть робити пізніше, після стабілізації стану. «Він втратив багато крові через внутрішню кровотечу», – додав Форостяк. Зараз Михайлик перебуває в лікарні, йому надана охорона.

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  • Під російське посольство у Києві принесли «клубок нерозплутаних справ» зниклих у Криму (фото)

    Під стінами посольства Росії активісти вже 27-й раз закликали провести ефективне розслідування справ щодо насильницьких зникнень і убивств в окупованому Криму

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  • Лікарі дозволили пораненому в Одесі активісту Михайлику вставати з ліжка – колега

    Поранений громадський діяч з Одеси Олег Михайлик все ще перебуває в лікарні, але йому краще, повідомив у Facebook його соратник із партії «Сила людей» Ігор Бичков.

    За його словами, лікарі дозволили Михайлику вставати з ліжка.

    У лікарні поки що цю інформацію не підтвердили й не спростували.

    Напад на Олега Михайлика стався ввечері 22 вересня.

    23 вересня в поліції Одещини повідомили, що відомості за фактом нападу внесені до Єдиного реєстру досудових розслідувань за ознаками замаху на вбивство (ст. 15, ч. 1 ст. 115 Кримінального кодексу України).

    Читайте також: Аброськін обіцяє розкриття замаху в Одесі

    Радник голови головного управління Нацполіції в Одеській області Руслан Форостяк повідомляв того ж дня, що поранений прийшов до тями, стан його «у принципі вже стабільний». За словами радника, куля залишається у грудній частині тіла пораненого, і, за інформацією лікарів, операцію будуть робити пізніше, після стабілізації стану. «Він втратив багато крові через внутрішню кровотечу», – додав Форостяк. Зараз Михайлик перебуває в лікарні, йому надана охорона.

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  • European Union Sets Up Payment System with Iran to Maintain Trade

    The five remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal have agreed to establish a special payment system to allow companies to continue doing business with the regime, bypassing new sanctions imposed by the United States.

    Envoys from Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran issued a statement late Monday from the United Nations announcing the creation of a “Special Purpose Vehicle” that will be established in the European Union. The parties said the new mechanism was created to facilitate payments related to Iranian exports, including oil. 

    Federica Mogherini, EU’s foreign policy chief, told reporters after the deal was announced that the SPV gives EU member states “a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran…and allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran in accordance to European Union law and could be open to other partners in the world.”

    Mogherini said the financial agreement is also aimed at preserving the agreement reached in 2015 with Iran to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for relief from strict economic sanctions. The deal was reached under then-President Barack Obama, but Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, pulled out of the accord in May of this year, saying it didn’t address Tehran’s ballistic missile program or its influence in the Middle East.

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  • Instagram Co-founders Resign from Social Media Company

    The co-founders of Instagram are resigning their positions with the social media company.


    Chief Executive Kevin Systrom said in a statement late Monday that he and Mike Krieger plan to leave the company in the next few weeks.


    Krieger is chief technical officer. They founded the photo-sharing app in 2010 and sold it to Facebook in 2012 for about $1 billion.


    There was no immediate word on why they chose to leave the company but Systrom says they plan to take time off to explore their creativity again.

    Representatives for Instagram and Facebook didn’t immediately respond to after-hours messages from The Associated Press.


    Instagram has seen explosive growth since its founding, with an estimated 1 billion monthly users and 2 million advertisers.

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  • Follow the Money, Says New Global Anti-Slavery Effort

    The principality of Liechtenstein kicked off a campaign on Monday to enlist the global financial sector to fight modern slavery, flexing its role as a center of world wealth management to tap the clout of banks, hedge funds and investors.

    The financially focused effort aims to fight money laundering by traffickers, promote ethical investment and offer opportunities to people vulnerable to slavery, organizers said at the annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations.

    Globally, modern slavery is believed to generate illicit profits of $150 billion a year, according to the International Labor Organization, which estimates more than 40 million people are enslaved around the world.

    “Following the money can not only lead us to the perpetrators but also deny them the resources they need to commit such crimes in the first place,” said Aurelia Frick, Liechtenstein’s foreign affairs minister, at launch of the financial sector commission at U.N. headquarters in New York.

    Traffickers illegally launder illicit gains, take advantage of informal banking systems and benefit when investors unknowingly back companies that profit from slavery in their supply chains, organizers said.

    Meanwhile, a lack of access to credit can make people vulnerable to forced labor and trafficking, they said.

    Plans call for commission members – institutional investors, global pension funds, investment banks, financial regulators and others – to design an anti-slavery strategy by mid-2019 for the financial sector.

    “This commission will make a major contribution to undermining the primary goal of the human traffickers and those who would enslave another human being – the money they make out of human misery,” said Marise Payne, Australia’s minister for foreign affairs.

    Coined the Liechtenstein initiative, the commission was launched by the wealthy European principality and by Australia, along with the U.N. University.

    Ending modern slavery is among the targets of the 17 global goals adopted by the 193 member nations of the U.N. three years ago to promote such issues as gender equality and sustainable energy and end poverty, inequality and other world woes by 2030.

    Separately, Britain announced anti-slavery efforts, including plans with the U.N.’s children’s agency UNICEF to provide some 400,000 children in Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan with birth registration and identity documents that could help protect them from forced labor.

    “No one nation can banish this borderless crime alone,” Britain’s International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said in a prepared statement.

    Also announced was an alliance of Britain, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia to try and eradicate slavery in global supply chains and meet annually to coordinate efforts.

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  • Scientists Voice Opposition to Changes in US Endangered Species Act

    Thousands of scientists joined on Monday to accuse the Trump administration of trying to erode the Endangered Species Act in favor of commercial interests with a plan to revamp regulations that have formed a bedrock of U.S. wildlife protection for over 40 years.

    The extraordinary critique of the administration’s proposal, which was unveiled in July, came in an open letter addressed to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from three associations representing 9,000 professional biologists.

    A separate letter similarly condemning revisions proposed to endangered species policies was signed by 273 leading university scientists from around the country.

    Both came as the 60-day public comment period drew to a close for what would be the most sweeping overhaul in decades of the rules implementing the landmark environmental law.

    The 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA) currently protects more than 1,600 species of U.S. animals and plants listed as either endangered — on the brink of extinction — or threatened — deemed likely to become extinct in the foreseeable future.

    The ESA is credited with a number of high-profile success stories, including the comeback of the American bald eagle, the California condor and the grizzly bear.

    But the act has long been controversial for requiring the government to designate “critical habitat” deemed essential to a listed species’ survival and limiting commercial activities there, such as construction, mining, energy development or logging.

    Developers and other critics argue that such restrictions pose an unfair and overly burdensome intrusion on property rights and economic activity.

    Under the administration’s proposal, the government would end the practice of automatically treating endangered species and threatened species essentially the same.

    The plan also calls for initially evaluating a species’ critical habitat on the basis of its current range, rather than according to the larger area it could be expected to occupy once recovered.

    The administration has argued its proposal would enhance wildlife protection by building greater support for a statute that has become outdated and by streamlining the regulatory process.

    Scientists, however, said the planned revisions would undermine the ESA and drive some wildlife closer to extinction.

    One proposed change, they said, to allow consideration of economic factors when assessing a species’ status, would violate the law’s requirement that safeguards hinge solely on science.

    “This is completely disastrous for efforts to save species from extinction,” said Stuart Pimm, a conservation ecology professor at Duke University.

    A spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Brian Hires, said the agency encourages “input on our proposed ESA regulatory changes from all stakeholders as part of a robust and transparent public process.”

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  • In TV Interview, Kavanaugh Denies Sexual Misconduct

    Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is denying allegations of sexual misconduct and says he will not withdraw his name from consideration for the top court.

    Appearing Monday on Fox News for his first television interview on the allegations, Kavanaugh said, “I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone. Not in high school. Not ever.”

    He said he is not going to let false accusations drive him out of the nomination process. “I’m not going anywhere,” he said.

    An emotional Kavanaugh called for a “fair process, where I can defend my integrity and clear my name.”

    The Supreme Court nominee is expected to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary committee, along with Christine Blasey Ford, a woman who claims Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when they were both high school teenagers in 1982.

    Kavanaugh’s wife, Ashley, who sat alongside her husband during the Monday interview, said the nomination process has been “incredibly difficult” for her family. She said, “At the end of the day, our faith is strong. We know we are on the right path.”

    Kavanaugh’s television appearance comes one day after new allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against him.

    The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday that two U.S. senators are investigating a charge Kavanaugh exposed himself at a Yale University dormitory party during the 1983-1984 academic year.

    Deborah Ramirez described the incident in an interview after being contacted by the magazine. She admitted she had been drinking and has gaps in her memories. But after consulting a lawyer, Ramirez said she felt confident in her recollection.

    Speaking in New York on Monday, President Donald Trump labeled the new charges “totally political.”

    The new allegations have prompted a key senator to call for “an immediate postponement” of any further proceedings by the committee, which is considering Kavanaugh’s nomination.

    California’s Diane Feinstein, the committee’s top Democrat, sent a letter Sunday to Republican committee chairman Chuck Grassley, urging him to refer the new allegations to the FBI in order to ensure “a fair, independent process that will gather all the facts.”

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed Monday that the chamber will vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, promising the vote will come “in the near future.”

    McConnell, who was visibly angry, accused Democrats of attempting to destroy an honorable jurist on the basis of “decades-old allegations that are unsubstantiated and uncorroborated.”


    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said if Republicans believe in Kavanaugh, then they, too, should want the accusations investigated by the FBI.


    “Leader McConnell is afraid of what might come out (about Kavanaugh), what the truth is,” Schumer said.

    Kavanaugh, a judicial conservative and Trump’s second Supreme Court pick, was nominated to fill the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.


    His confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate had seemed all but assured until allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced last week.

    Capitol Hill correspondent Michael Bowman contributed to this report.

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  • Who Would Oversee Mueller Investigation After Rosenstein?

    U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election, is set to meet President Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday to discuss his future.

    The following explains what happens to oversight of the Mueller probe if Rosenstein is no longer in charge.

    What is Rosenstein’s involvement with the Mueller probe?

    The deputy attorney general took charge of the investigation into Russian interference in the election because U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had some contact with Russian officials while working on the Trump campaign, recused himself.

    After Trump fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey in May 2017, Rosenstein appointed former FBI director Mueller to the role of special counsel and tasked him with investigating Russian interference in the election.

    Rosenstein supervises Mueller and has signed off on his decisions to bring criminal charges against individuals associated with Trump’s presidential campaign. The probe has so far resulted in more than 30 indictments and six guilty pleas.

    Who would succeed Rosenstein in overseeing the Mueller probe?

    If Rosenstein left his job, the task of overseeing Mueller’s investigation would typically fall to the associate attorney general, the No. 3 official at the Department of Justice behind Sessions and Rosenstein.

    The current holder of that position, Jesse Panuccio, does so in an acting capacity and has not been confirmed by the Senate.

    That means under Justice Department rules he would not be able to succeed Rosenstein in taking charge of the special counsel probe.

    Instead, it would fall to U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, according to an internal Justice Department memo on succession from November 2016 that is still in effect.

    Some legal experts have said Francisco would have to recuse himself because his former law firm, Jones Day, represented the Trump campaign. If that were to happen, the next in line to oversee the special counsel would be Steven Engel, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

    Could Trump pick a replacement for Rosenstein?

    President Trump could potentially bypass the Justice Department’s succession order by invoking the Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 (VRA), which lays out general rules for temporarily filling vacant executive branch positions when the prior holder “dies, resigns, or is otherwise unable to perform” their duties.

    If Rosenstein resigned, the VRA would allow the president to replace him on an interim basis with another official who has already been confirmed by the Senate. That person could be from any part of the executive branch, not necessarily the Justice Department.

    Some legal experts argue that such a replacement would not be able to oversee the Mueller probe because Rosenstein is doing so as acting attorney general. A Justice Department guideline holds that an official cannot be both acting attorney general and acting deputy attorney general, but experts differ on whether that rule would have to be followed.

    It is also not clear whether the law, intended to address vacancies created by deaths or resignations, would apply if such a vacancy were created by an official being fired by the president. Such an appointment could be challenged in court on that ground.

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