Trump administration to ease rule on methane leaks on public land


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump Administration is slated on Tuesday to roll back an Obama-era rule on emissions of the greenhouse gas methane from oil and gas operations on public lands in its latest step to ease energy industry regulations, environmental groups said.

The Interior Department did not have an immediate comment on the rule but said it would have a press call at 4 p.m. EDT regarding final changes revising the venting and flaring rule.

The rule is aimed at reducing leaks of natural gas, or methane, that occur through venting and flaring during oil and gas production on federal land. The Obama administration said that venting of methane cost taxpayers over $330 million a year in lost revenues from natural gas.

The department in February proposed replacing the so-called Waste Prevention Rule by returning to standards that date back to the 1970s. President Donald Trump had issued an executive order in 2017 directing the department to review the rule that was published late in former President Barack Obama’s second term.

The rule has been challenged in court by industry and some states, including Wyoming.

Last week, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency proposed weakening requirements for testing and repairing methane leaks in drilling operations, the latest step toward rolling back Obama-era regulations to combat climate change.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and the oil and gas business is the largest single source of the emissions, according to the EPA.

Environmentalists slammed the rollback of the Waste Prevention Rule.

“The Trump administration is relentless in its push to give the oil and gas industry multi-million-dollar handouts at the expense of Americans’ health and environment,” said David Doniger, the Natural Resource Defense Council’s senior strategic director of its climate and clean energy program.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Dan Grebler



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Christian Michel, AgustaWestland Middleman, To Be Extradited: Dubai Court


Christian Michel is the British middleman involved in the AgustaWestland chopper scandal

New Delhi: 

Christian Michel, the British middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper scandal, will be extradited, a court in Dubai ruled on Monday. Mr Michel was arrested in the UAE last year and is facing extradition proceedings in that country.

The AgustaWestland case involves a 2007 contract signed by the government for the purchase of 12 luxury helicopters for use by top leaders, including the President, Prime Minister and former prime ministers.

In 2013, the government scrapped the contract amid allegations that the supplier AgustaWestland, whose parent company Finmeccanica ran into allegations of bribe-giving in Italy, had paid kickbacks in India.

Former Air Chief SP Tyagi, 72, was arrested in 2016 over allegations that he accepted bribes to tailor specifications at the instance of his cousins. He became the first ever military chief – former or current – to be arrested.

The Congress says that once talk of kickbacks erupted in Italy, it cancelled the helicopter deal, blacklisted the company and asked the CBI to investigate the scam. It also confiscated the company’s assets in India and abroad.



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Wall Street higher after latest tariff moves

Wall Street rallies as blow from fresh tariffs less than feared


(Reuters) – U.S. stocks rallied on Tuesday, led by gains in Apple and Amazon, as investors judged the latest tit-for-tat tariffs between the United States and China as less damaging than expected.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The Trump administration’s selection of a lower 10 percent tariff and exclusion of Apple from the list of new tariffs convinced market players that it was going easy and giving U.S. companies enough time to prepare for a changing trade environment.

China’s retaliation only included $60 billion worth of U.S. goods and reduced the level of tariffs it would collect, convincing some that Beijing was running out of options to hit back.

“Markets are looking at China’s retaliation in a way that it wasn’t as bad as expected and that is a win, which is part of the reason why we are seeing a rally today,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

The benchmark S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were on track for their biggest percentage gain in nearly three weeks. The S&P was about 9 points away from hitting a record high.

“Investors right now are comfortable saying ‘buy’, realizing that the trade conflict hasn’t had much of an impact on the broader economy in the past six months,” Nolte added.

At 12:57 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 151.87 points, or 0.58 percent, at 26,213.99, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 17.15 points, or 0.59 percent, at 2,905.95 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 68.17 points, or 0.86 percent, at 7,963.96.

The tech index .SPLRCT, which dropped 1.4 percent on Monday ahead of the tariff announcement, climbed 0.84 percent, lifted by a 0.4 percent gain in Apple.

The consumer discretionary sector .SPLRCD gained 1.12 percent, boosted by a 1.9 percent gain in Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O).

Members of the FAANG group, such as Netflix (NFLX.O) and Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL.O) were higher.

Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors rose. The energy sector .SPNY was up 0.83 percent, after oil prices climbed on signs that the OPEC may not be prepared to raise output.

The financial sector .SPSY rose 0.47 percent, aided by a rise in U.S. Treasury yields as investors continued to price in more interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and after news of tit-for-tat tariffs had little impact on the bond markets.

General Mills (GIS.N) tumbled 8 percent, the most on the S&P, after the Cheerios cereal maker fell short of sales and margins estimates.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.39-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.67-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 28 new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 44 new highs and 65 new lows.

Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Shounak Dasgupta



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Trump says U.S. may make a trade deal with China at some point

Trump says U.S. may make a trade deal with China at some point


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday left the door open for China to negotiate an end to the current trade war between the United States and the Asian nation, a day after slapping new tariffs on nearly $200 billion Chinese imports and threatening to add taxes to $267 billion more goods.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Speaking to reporters during a visit with Poland’s president, Trump said that the United States may make a deal at some point with China and that his country is always open to talking.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Writing by Lisa Lambert



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Congress MLAs meet Goa governor, demand floor test for Parrikar government

Congress MLAs meet Goa governor, demand floor test for Parrikar government


Political developments in Goa took an interesting turn on Tuesday evening with the Congress MLAs meeting the governor to seek floor test in the assembly.

14 Congress MLAs met Governor Mridula Sinha and requested her to call for a special assembly session for a floor test by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government.

The move comes at the time when Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is unwell and undergoing a prolonged treatment for a pancreatic ailment.

The Congress legislators, led by Leader of Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar, demanded that the Governor should summon a one-day session of the assembly for a floor test.

Kavlekar told PTI that the governor has assured them that she would get back on the issue in the next three-four days.

“Let the state government prove on the floor that they have majority or else we can show that we have more legislators than them,” Kavlekar told reporters after the meeting.

Copy of the letter submitted to Goa governor by Congress MLAs.

The party had also approached Goa governor on Monday, September 17, staking claim to form the government in the state.

The Congress memorandum to Governor Sinha claims that the party could provide an alternative government in Goa. The Congress has urged the Governor not to dissolve the assembly rather invite the party to form the government.

A post-poll coalition government is still in place in Goa. The BJP has 14 seats in the assembly, its allies Goa Forward Party and Maharashtra Gomantak Party (MGP) have three each. Three Independent candidates and an MLA from Nationalist Congress Party also support the BJP.

However, MGP has also stated that it is high time that Parrikar handed over the reins of the Goa government to the senior-most member of the cabinet.

MGP chief Deepak Dhavalikar said that message had been conveyed to the BJP that if they were considering a change in leadership “then the charge should be given to the senior-most minister. Our demand continues to stand.”

According to reports, the BJP is also looking for an alternative plan for the state as Parrikar had asked the party leadership to look for an “alternative”.

ALSO READ | Goa stares at uncertain political fate with Manohar Parrikar keeping unwell

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Germany ousts spymaster over far-right violence row

Germany ousts spymaster over far-right violence row


BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s government said on Tuesday it would replace the head of its domestic intelligence agency who has faced accusations of harboring far-right sympathies, putting an end to a row that exposed divisions in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.

FILE PHOTO: Hans-Georg Maassen, President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution arrives for a meeting of the parliamentary committee, that oversees German intelligence agencies in Berlin, Germany, September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Hans-Georg Maassen, who had questioned the authenticity of video footage showing far-right radicals hounding migrants in the eastern German city of Chemnitz, will become a senior official at the interior ministry once he leaves the BfV agency, the government said in a statement.

The center-left Social Democrats (SPD), junior coalition partners of Merkel’s conservative bloc, had wanted Maassen removed from the office he has held since 2012. Horst Seehofer, leader of Merkel’s Bavaria allies, had stood behind Maassen.

“Interior Minister Horst Seehofer values (Maassen’s) competence in the questions of public security,” the government statement said. “Mr Maassen will not be in charge for supervising the BfV at the ministry.”

German media commentators derided the decision as a face-saving measure that amounted to nothing less than a promotion for Maassen, who has faced accusations during his time at the BfV of mishandling a couple of high profile cases.

“Maassen is no longer the top spy. This is good. But it is a farce that he is practically being promoted and that the SPD is going along with this,” said Dietmar Bartsch of the hard-left Die Linke party. “This government has reached its end. It is an emergency government of the election losers.”

Maassen’s comments on the video pictures contradicted Merkel’s own assessment. She said they “very clearly revealed hate” which could not be tolerated.

The far-right violence, the worst seen in Germany in decades, followed the fatal stabbing of a German man that was blamed on two migrants. Earlier on Tuesday a German court released one of the men, an Iraqi, though a Syrian man remains in custody and a third suspect is being sought.

Merkel has been criticized for taking 11 days to act on Maassen, whose comments on the far-right violence in Chemnitz during an interview with mass-selling Bild newspaper on Sept. 7 triggered the row.

Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by John Stonestreet and Gareth Jones



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Trump says FBI should not probe allegations against Kavanaugh

Trump says FBI should not probe allegations against Kavanaugh


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The FBI should not investigate a California professor’s allegations of sexual assault against U.S. Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump said on Tuesday, adding that he wanted his nominee to be confirmed quickly.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump holds a meeting with Republican House and Senate leadership in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. Sept. 5, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Asked whether he would ask the FBI to open its background check on Kavanaugh, Trump told reporters at the White House: “I don’t think the FBI really need to be involved because they don’t want to be involved. If they wanted to be, I would certainly do that, but as you know, they say this is not really their thing.”

Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Doina Chiacu



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Travel snarled by flooding as Carolinas size up Florence's damage

Travel snarled by flooding as Carolinas size up Florence’s damage


WILMINGTON/FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Reuters) – Residents of the Carolinas struggled to return to normalcy on Tuesday after taking a beating from Hurricane Florence, but their efforts were hindered by standing water and additional flooding expected from already swollen rivers.

At least 32 people have been killed since Florence came ashore as a hurricane on Friday, including 25 in North Carolina and six in South Carolina. One person was killed when Florence spawned at least 16 tornadoes on Monday in Virginia, where dozens of buildings were destroyed, the National Weather Service reported.

Waterways were expected to keep rising on Tuesday in places like Fayetteville, North Carolina, a city of 200,000 in the southern part of the state, according to the weather service, hampering efforts to restore power, clear roads and return to homes.

More than 1,100 roads were still closed across North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper said on Tuesday, including portions of Interstates 40 and 95. Sixteen rivers in the state have reached major flood stages, with three more expected to peak in the next two days, he said.

“Road conditions are starting to improve in some parts of our state, but rising creeks, streams and rivers continue to make travel unsafe,” he said in a news conference.

Officials said residents should not attempt to return to the counties along the state’s coast around Wilmington yet due to ongoing risk of flooding.

The storm dumped more than 8 trillion gallons (30 trillion liters) of rain on North Carolina, the weather service said. On Tuesday, the storm’s remnants were continuing to soak the mid-Atlantic region and southern New England with heavy rain.

Property damage from the storm is expected to come to $17 billion to $22 billion, the risk management firm Moody’s Analytics said. Further flooding could push up that figure.

The risk modeling agency Air Worldwide on Tuesday said insured losses from Florence’s winds and storm surge will range from $1.7 billion to $4.6 billion. Those figures do not include losses from continuing flooding.

President Donald Trump is expected to travel to the region on Wednesday, CNN and local news media reported.

ROAD CONDITIONS ‘STILL CHANGING’

Fire and rescue crews were waiting to go into many areas to assist with structural damage after Florence dumped up to 36 inches (91 cm) of rain on the state since Thursday.

“Road conditions are still changing,” the North Carolina Department of Transportation wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “What’s open now may become impassable.”

The National Guard navigates through flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Fair Bluff, North Carolina, U.S. September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

Thousands of rescues have taken place in the Carolinas, and more than 650 people were taken to safety in and around Wilmington, North Carolina, said Barbi Baker, a spokeswoman for New Hanover County.

The coastal city took a direct hit when Hurricane Florence came ashore and has been largely cut off since then due to storm surges and flooding from the Cape Fear River.

A portion of a motel collapsed from the weight of water, which made only the roof of the Starlite Motel visible in Spring Lake in Cumberland County, said Sherita Brooks of the county’s Division of Social Services.

More than 347,000 customers, mostly in the Carolinas, were without power on Tuesday morning, according to power companies, down from a peak of nearly 1 million outages.

North Carolina’s Emergency Management department has opened four mass feeding kitchens and has plans to open four more shortly.

Gasoline shortages were a problem. In Wilmington, dozens of cars lined up for fuel at a Kangaroo Express service station.

“It is ridiculous that we don’t have enough fuel supplies back in this area,” Stephanie Schauer, 39, a contractor, said as she waited her turn at the gas pump. “It’s been days since the storm.”

Slideshow (30 Images)

Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Miami; Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee: Jessica Resnick-Ault and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Anna Mehler Paperny in North Carolina; and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing by Brendan O’Brien and Bill Trott; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Jonathan Oatis



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Russia tells Israel it will take all steps to protect its personnel in Syria: ministry


MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has told Israel it will take all necessary measures to protect its military personnel in Syria, the foreign ministry in Moscow said.

Ministry officials met Israel’s deputy ambassador in Moscow on Tuesday, following the downing of a Russian military aircraft near Syria.

The ministry said earlier the aircraft was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft systems, but accused Israel of indirectly causing the incident, saying its jets nearby had put the Russian plane in the path of danger.

President Vladimir Putin said the downing was the result of a series of tragic and chance circumstances.

Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by John Stonestreet



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Asia Cup 2018: Pakistan's Chacha Chicago sponsors Indian superfans's UAE trip

Asia Cup 2018: Pakistan’s Chacha Chicago sponsors Indian superfans’s UAE trip


Sudhir Gautam is known to the world as Team India’s superfan and can be seen cheering for the Men in Blue in cricket stadiums all across the world.

But coming from a humble background, Sudhir finds it very difficult to follow the team around the globe on tours every time and has to rely on financial help from his idol Sachin Tendulkar, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and other India players from time to time.

At the Asia Cup 2018 however, Sudhir got help from across the border to reach United Arab Emirates, where the six-team tournament is being played.

Sudhir’s Pakistani counterpart, Bashir Chacha a.k.a Chacha Chicago, helped him out with the flight tickets, food and stay in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“It’s pure love. You know money will come and go with Allah’s grace. I told Sudhir you just come here and I will take care of everything. I am not a rich person but my heart is as big as an ocean. If I help you, Allah will be happy,” Bashir Chacha told www.xtratime.in from the UAE.

Sudhir added: “I handled the visa, chacha handled the tickets just for me to cheer for Team India. Chachaji also took care of everything, including the hotel and my food.”

India and Pakistan will meet for the first time since the ICC Champions Trophy final last year on September 19 in Dubai.

While India were comprehensively beaten in that game, Sudhir has no doubt that Rohit Sharma’s team will be able to avenge that defeat and go on to lift the Asia Cup.

“We lost the Champions Trophy final against them last year but 2018 is ours. We will take revenge against them here and Asia Cup is ours,” Sudhir said.

Interestingly, Bashir Chacha will also be happy if India win the match on Wednesday since Pakistan had won the Champions Trophy final.

“India and Pakistan game will happen every year. Last time we won [Champions Trophy final] and this time I will be happy if you win the game,” Bashir said.



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