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Beijing has accused Washington of engaging in “naked economic terrorism” against its trade partners at a time when the US has been trying to choke out Chinese tech giants from American markets under dubious pretext.

“This kind of deliberately provoking trade disputes is naked economic terrorism, economic chauvinism, economic bullying,” China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Hanhui said on Thursday, while outlining President Xi Jinping's trip to Russia next week.

Also on rt.com US-China trade plunges by 20% in the first two months of 2019

The US escalated its trade war with China earlier this month by hiking tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese exports after months-long negotiations in the hope of averting a full-blown economic war between the two countries failed to produce a breakthrough. China hit back, announcing tit-for-tat tariffs on more than 5,000 American products worth some $60 billion.

While threatening to increase import tariffs on another $325 billion in Chinese goods, Washington has also been going after Chinese telecommunication giants, particularly Huawei, the leaders in 5G cellular network technology.

Also on rt.com Huawei files motion to declare US ban unconstitutional

First, the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed in August 2018, banned the government from purchasing Huawei or ZTE equipment. Then, on May 15, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order restricting access of “foreign adversaries” to American information and communications technology sectors. The same day, the Department of Commerce added Huawei and 70 of its affiliates to the trade blacklist. As a consequence, Google suspended Huawei from using its Android operating system. The move was followed by Intel, Qualcomm, and Xilinx, which stopped supplying components to the Chinese firm.

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The US Energy Department has renamed liquefied natural gas (LNG) “freedom gas” in a last-ditch effort to convince European and Asian markets its product is superior to cheaper supplies piped in from Russia.

The energy agency trumpeted the expansion of its Freeport, Texas LNG Terminal, boasting of a new facility constructed specifically to supply so-called “freedom gas” to those countries that dont have a free trade agreement with the US – huge markets like China and the EU that are, coincidentally, about to increase their purchases of cheaper Russian gas through nearly-completed pipelines due to open by the end of the year.

Increasing export capacity from the Freeport LNG project is critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world by giving Americas allies a diverse and affordable source of clean energy,” US Undersecretary of Energy Mark Menezes proclaimed at the Clean Energy Ministerial meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

Also on rt.com Washington threatens European firms with sanctions over Russian gas pipeline project

Lest anyone miss this bold rebranding of natural gas – hardly “clean” energy, given that much of the bountiful US supply comes from hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a practice so environmentally destructive several states have banned it – Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg was even more hyperbolic with his praise for the quintessentially American fuel:

I am pleased that the Department of Energy is doing what it can to promote an efficient regulatory system that allows for molecules of US freedom to be exported to the world.

A fourth liquefaction train will be constructed at the Quintana, Texas facility, allowing the Freeport terminal to lavish 0.72 billion cubic feet per day of pure, uncut freedom on these hitherto-benighted nations, a press release boasted, touting its promise for the “energy security of our allies around the globe.”

Also on rt.com As if Germany is a US colony: Bundestag energy chief lashes out at Russia sanctions

With Europe soon to have another route of cheaper Russian gas supply via the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, US energy supply doesnt have much to recommend it, except rhetoric. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has leaned heavily on that, warning that Russia is building the pipeline to use energy as “leverage over Europe.” Despite the US best efforts at intimidating Gazproms European partners with the threat of sanctions, and some Eastern European nations echoing Washingtons position, Nord Stream 2 is on track for completion, though.

Also on rt.com Beijing wants more Russian gas as Gazproms mega pipeline to China nears completion

While the US has become the worlds largest producer of natural gas, China – the second-largest global buyer – has threatened to impose a tariff as the trade war esRead More

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Robert Mueller has been in the news for two years, but as the Daily Shows Trevor Noah noted, we never heard from him.

In fact, Noah said, we dont even know what his voice sounds like. “For all we (knew), he could talk like a Minion,” riffing off the famed Sony characters and their chittering voices.

Mueller didnt sound like that when he finally spoke. He did choose an excellent time slot, though, Noah noted, “since thats when the Bachelorette is not on.”

The frenzy of speculation before his speech was taken to task by Noah. “Will he bring charges, will he bring sexy back, will he replace Adam Levine on the Voice?” Noah skeptically noted that nature shows would be ruined if such speculation were transferred.

Finally, Mueller noted there were “multiple, systematic efforts to interfere with our election. Every American needs to pay attention.”

Noah noted that remark Read More – Source

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Star Wars: Galaxys Edge is having its world premiere at Disneyland tonight, capping a day in which selected members of media were fully immersed in Disneys Force. CEO Bob Iger is set to be on hand for a special dedication of the newest land along with likely special surprise guests — possibly from the Star Wars universe – as part of the ceremony slated to begin at 8:20 PM PT.

The media preview for Galaxys Edge began on Tuesday and will last through tomorrow before it officially being opened to the public May 31. The new 14-acre world includes an immersive land that is all in the Star Wars canon, including the interactive “Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run” ride.

Still, if you want tRead More – Source

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LIVERPOOL, England — Forget Brexit, Britain could be on the cusp of a much bigger revolution.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn set out his vision for a socialist United Kingdom to his partys annual conference Wednesday, marking a self-confident shift from opposing the Conservative governments austerity policies to laying out a new program to replace them, building on the partys popular — and populist — 2017 general election manifesto.

Corbyns fate greatly depends on the unfolding Brexit drama, expected to climax in the coming weeks as the U.K. pushes for a deal before its scheduled exit in March 2019. But the impact of a Corbyn government, should he assume the reins of power, could be much more significant.

While the prospect of a Corbyn government would likely make post-Brexit trade relations with Europe more straightforward in the short term, predictions of a socialist London have already set alarm bells ringing in Washington, according to U.S. officials asked to draw up memos for the State Department in case of another snap election this year.

Corbyns long-held opposition to Western military intervention, hostility to NATO, support for revolutionary Latin American regimes and life-long determination to scrap Britains independent nuclear deterrent could reshape the United Kingdom in much more fundamental ways than its exit from the European Union.

The problem facing May is that Corbyns ideas are popular, even if polling suggests he personally is not.

The party cannot trigger a general election — that power rests with the House of Commons and would need two-thirds of MPs to support it — but the more Prime Minister Theresa May gets ensnared by Brexit negotiations, the more likely it is that Corbyn may get his chance.

Corbyn promised a Britain in which the rich would be more heavily taxed, utilities and the railways would be nationalized, the government would invest in 400,000 jobs focused on tackling climate change, and large companies would be forced to give workers stakes of up to 10 percent and pay annual dividends to staff. He signaled Labour would end British backing for Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen, immediately recognize a Palestinian state, and tilt firmly away from the U.S. as a key ally.

“Labours ideas have caught the mood of our time,” Corbyn told the conference in his closing speech, adding wryly: “It isnt me saying that — its a former Conservative Treasury minister, Lord [Jim] ONeill. Ive never sought to capture the mood of a Tory minister before, but let me say to his lordship: Youre welcome. Come and join us in the new political mainstream.”

Underpinning the Labour leaderships confidence is a calculation that the shock Brexit referendum and the resulting political instability has fueled the appetite for a radically different approach to government.

The more ferociously the press responds to his policies the better, said one senior Corbyn aide | Leon Neal/Getty Images

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, regarded by many in the party as the strategic power behind Corbyns popular appeal, was explicit in his speech to delegates on Monday. “The greater the mess we inherit, the more radical we have to be, the greater the need for change,” he said. “Its time to shift the balance of power in our country. Its time to give people back control over their lives.”

One lobbyist for a multinational company, who was struck by the new “professionalization” on display at the conference, remarked that the partys rhetoric has become strikingly similar to that of the Leave campaign during the 2016 EU referendum.

“Its all about taking back control,” the lobbyist said.

Corbyns new deal

The problem facing May is that Corbyns ideas are popular, even if polling suggests he personally is not.

The more ferociously the press responds to his policies the better, said one senior Corbyn aide. Attention from broadcasters and publishers hands the party free publicity for popular policies and perfect material for a fresh social media onslaught.

“Youve got to make sure the Telegraph has [the announcement to double tax on second homes],” the aide said. “They think all their readers have second homes so will put it on the front.”

Prime Minister Corbyn would present a major challenge for U.S. foreign policy.

“Its perfect,” the aide added. “It means more people are talking about you, and you wouldnt believe how popular this stuff is.”

Corbyns closest aides believe there is an inevitability to Labours rise to power if they stay on this path and are not sidelined by Brexit.

Labours membership now numbers more than 500,000, making it by far the biggest U.K. political party. Against all mainstream predictions, support for the party surged in the 2017 election.

The Tories, far from alighting on a coherent response, are moving further away from the kind of “red Toryism” first offered by May, which Corbyns inner circle say is the greatest threat to them.

Instead, Corbyns team says, the Tories have retreated to safe, small-c conservatism and traditionally austere economics, which can only be propped up by flag-waving nationalism for so long.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the commemorations on the first anniversary of the Grenfell fire | Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

“The positive message for Labour is that there are two pillars to Brexit,” Labour Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer told a fringe meeting on Tuesday evening. “There is the deal with the EU: technical stuff. But there is the much bigger issue: What is the deal for Britain that is going to transform the country?”

“Do you think the reason [the Tories] got 42 percent is because all those extra people wanted incremental change?” said the senior Labour aide close to Corbyn said. “Its ludicrous. They want Brexit, and whatever you think about Brexit, it is not incremental.”

“They want radical change and the Tories are offering more of the same,” the aide said.

Change at home and abroad

Prime Minister Corbyn would present a major challenge for U.S. foreign policy.

A Corbyn government, even Labour MPs admit, would all-but end the “special” security and military relationship between the U.S. and its pre-eminent ally.

One of Corbyns most senior advisers, Andrew Murray, gave a glimpse of the direction a Corbyn government would take in a pre-conference article for the New Statesman.

Murray, a committed Marxist and defender of the Soviet Union, said Corbyns foreign policy radicalism is anathema to “the establishment” in the U.K. and elsewhere.

This year, BP, Google, Visa, Bombardier and Fujitsu were all represented with stands at the Labour conference floor.

“They fear the popularity of Corbyns opposition to war, backing for global human rights and support for the Palestinian cause and their loss of control over the international narrative,” he wrote. “The powers-that-be can perhaps live with a re-nationalized water industry but not, it seems, with any challenge to their aggressive capacities, repeatedly deployed in disastrous wars, and their decaying Cold War world view.”

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The European Commission should not respond to the budget spat with Italy the same way as it treated Greece, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said today.

“It would be a big mistake for the European Commission to try to deal with Italy the same way they dealt with Greece, imposing a very tough constraint on the budget, a strong austerity policy, because Italy is not Greece,” Borrell said in an interview with POLITICOs Ryan Heath.

The Italian government, an alliance of the far-right League and anti-establishment 5Star Movement, wants to boost spending to kickstart the economy and flout EU fiscal rules, risking a so-called excessive deficit procedure by the Commission that could result in fines.

“Italy cannot afford a second recession,” said Borrell, a veteran Socialist politician and former president of the European Parliament. “I hope the Italian government and the European Commission will be able to slow down their mutual criticism and start a kind of agreement, Portugal-style.”

Borrell said Spains Portuguese neighbors had secured sufficient fiscal flexibility from Brussels to put the economy on a path to growth, and he suggested that Spain, too,Read More – Source

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NEW YORK — President Donald Trump is learning a basic and painful lesson of Wall Street: Stocks also go down.

A global market sell-off that began Friday continued into Monday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunging more than 1,500 points in afternoon trading. After a volatile trading session, the Dow ended down 1,175 points, or 4.6 percent, at 24,346.

The big slide comes alongside growing concern that an economy juiced by a massive corporate tax cut, and already at full employment, could overheat and require forceful action from a new and untested Federal Reserve chairman — installed by Trump — to cool things down.

On top of concerns about rising inflation, the tax cuts are already increasing the federal governments need to borrow and accelerating the date by which Congress must raise the federal debt limit. And as of Monday, there was still no plan in Washington to raise the limit and avoid a catastrophic default.

Trump bragged about the gains at every opportunity on Twitter and even in his State of the Union address.

The result is that a president who tossed aside traditional presidential caution in cheerleading the stock market now stands poised to take the blame for any correction.

“This is a risk that the president clearly set himself up for,” said Charles Gabriel of Capital Alpha Partners, a Washington research firm. “Until now, Trumps had kind of a free ride in this market and taken so much credit for it, even though so much of it was due to easy-money policies from Janet Yellen and the Fed. Now shes out the door and volatility is back.”

Jerome Powell, the new Fed chair installed by Trump and sworn in Monday, is not expected to deviate sharply from Yellens gentle approach to raising interest rates. But he is a lesser-known figure on Wall Street.

And if the recent jump in hourly wages gets pushed up even more by corporations handing out bonuses and pay bumps in the wake of the tax bill, the Fed may be forced to move faster to fight inflation — offsetting the economic benefits of the tax cuts.

Interest rates are already rising as the government discloses it will have to ramp up borrowing in 2018 to make up for revenue lost to the tax-cut bill. Higher rates on government bonds make stocks look less appealing. They also can make it harder for businesses and consumers to borrow and spend, possibly slowing the economy.

U.S. President Donald Trump gave an address that Republicans called “normal” — a word rarely associated with a Trump speech | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On top of all this, stocks blew past traditional valuations as they raced ahead in 2017 and early 2018. A widely followed ratio designed by economists Robert Shiller and John Campbell that compares stock prices to corporate earnings hit 34 this year. The historic median for the ratio is 16.

This could have served as a warning to Trump not to associate himself too closely with a rally that looked tenuous to many Wall Street analysts. Instead, Trump bragged about the gains at every opportunity on Twitter and even in his State of the Union address.

“The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion in value,” Trump said in his address to Congress.

Last weeks decline alone wiped out nearly $1 trillion in that value, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Trump has regularly boasted on Twitter that the stock market rise, which actually began in 2009 at the end of the last recession, is the direct result of his policies on taxes and regulation.

“Business is looking better than ever with business enthusiasm at record levels. Stock Market at an all-time high. That doesnt just happen!” he tweeted last August.

Other senior administration officials such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn have also tied the markets gains directly to Trump policy moves.

Unemployment in the U.S. is low, corporate profits are strong, and growth in the first quarter is currently running as fast as 5.2 percent.

Stocks are still far higher than they were when Trump took office, but the return of sharp volatility — and the possibility of further declines — has now put Trump in the uncomfortable position of being directly associated with daily market moves.

“Presidents historically havent commented on the stock market anywhere near as much as President Trump has,” said Ed Yardeni, market analyst at Yardeni Research Inc. “I think Barack Obama said something in 2009 about how he thought stock prices seemed low, and that was about it. So he obviously likes to take credit for the positives. Now what does he say when the market suddenly goes down?”

So far, Trump has not weighed in publicly on the market declines. A White House official sent a statement to CNBC on Monday expressing concern over the drop. “Were always concerned when the market loses any value, butRead More – Source

Business

Todays scheduled meeting between the WGA and the Association of Talent Agents — the first since negotiations broke off April 12 for a new franchise agreement — has been put off until June 7 at the earliest.

“Yesterday afternoon the agencies cancelled the meeting that was scheduled for today,” the guild told its members Wednesday. “Theyve asked to reschedule for June 7th.”

An agency source told Deadline, however, that “The time/place for the meeting was never confirmed. ATA has been communicating with WGA to try develop a schedule and structure that will work for everyone and will yield a constructive dialogue. Based on the feedback from WGA over the weekend, ATA felt it was important to create a structure for these talks to make them as productive as possible.”

The source said the ATA “proposed a series of small working group meetings to dive into each of the individual issues leading up into a meeting with the full negotiating committees. ATA proposed June 7 for the meeting with the full negotiating committees. ATA remains eager and willing to meet – this proposed structure reflects ATAs commitment to making these meetings as productive and constructive as possible.”

Prospects for a settlement of their nearly seven-week standoff are not looking good, however, whenever they return to the bargaining table. Multiple sources have told Deadline that while there has been communications between the two sides over the past week, the guild is insisting that when formal talks resume, the agencies must present an offer based on the modified Code of Conduct that the guild signed with the Verve agency May 16, which bans packaging fees and agency affiliations with related production entities.

The major talent agencies have said all along theyll never sign such a deal, as it would require them to return to a business model that hasnt existed in decades.

When they do return to the bargaining table, it will be the first time theyve met face-to-face since April 12 to replace an agency agreement that hadnt been renegotiated in 43 years. After those talks broke off, the WGA implemented its Code of Conduct and ordered all its members to fire their agents who refuse to sign the code. The two most intractable issues have been, and remain, the guilds demand for an end to packaging fees and the severing of agency ties to corporately related production companies, both of which the guild says are conflicts of interest that violate the agencies fiduciary duty to their clients.

Negotiations for a new deal began February 5, but the guild has said all along that there is no room for compromise on its key demands. “There are negotiations where there is no middle ground, where there are basic principles that are not subject to compromise,” WGA West president David A. Goodman said at a February 13 membership meeting.

The resumption of talks was prompted by an overture from UTA co-president Jay Sures to WGA West president David A. Goodman, a former UTA client. “If this dispute is truly about addressing packaging and affiliate production, then we are ready to get back to the table with you,” Sures told Goodman in his email a week ago. “We are open to concepts of true revenue sharing and have already committed to requirements of explicit client consent and overall transparency and accountability.”

Goodman promptly accepted. “Thank you for your offer to meet, which I accept on behalf of the WGA,” he told Sures later that day. “I do want to make clear that we responded on April 12th to your most recent proposal. We continue to believe that there is a deal to be made that aligns agency interests with those of writers. We look forward to hearing what you have to say.”

Sures overture came a week after Verve signed a modified version of the guilds code. Verve isnt a member of the ATA, but its signing was the first major breakRead More – Source

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PARIS — Governments talk a lot about eurozone reform but cant get their act together. So its time for academics to step in.

That impatience seems to be at the core of an unprecedented initiative by French and German economists, who published Wednesday a detailed plan on how to make the monetary union shock-resistant and a better guarantor of long-term prosperity.

Fourteen influential scholars, who in September published a joint op-ed in Le Monde and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung to urge their respective governments to be bold on reforming the monetary union, have taken a step further to detail what they think should be done — and the sooner the better.

The basic idea underlining their plan — which came in the form of a “policy insight” jointly published in Paris and Berlin — is that France and Germany may well be separated by historical and cultural differences in their approach to monetary union, but both make strong arguments. The plan is given extra weight because the German authors are more varied than the usual center-left academics traditionally sympathetic to French arguments.

There is no time to waste, the economists argue, because no one knows when the next financial crisis will hit.

In a nutshell, the eurozone needs both financial discipline — as the Germans argue — and risk-sharing — as the French insist on. But both need to be credible, and must stop relying solely on either strict rules that cant be enforced, or government promises that cant be kept.

Furthermore, there is no time to waste, the economists argue, because no one knows when the next financial crisis will hit, and even though the economy is recovering at a brisk pace, the eurozone remains vulnerable.

The report seems to make a point to skirt around the terms in which the eurozone debate has been framed in the last few months, notably by French President Emmanuel Macron who has pushed for grand reforms including the creation of a eurozone finance minister who would manage a “common budget.”

Neither a finance minister nor a joint budget are mentioned in the paper because, according to one of the authors, Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, “that is not a crucial question” for the monetary union. Another of the headline reforms for the single currency bloc — the German idea of transforming the bailout fund known as European Stability Mechanism (ESM) into a full-fledged and strictly independent “European Monetary Fund” — is similarly discarded.

Instead of highly charged words that may encounter political obstacles, the 14 economists suggest six major economic reforms that they argue should be undertaken simultaneously and without waiting — although the actual debates, votes and implementation of the package would have to be spread over several years.

First, the banking systems residual weaknesses need to be taken care of. That means limiting the amount of sovereign debt of their own countries that banks can keep on their balance sheets, shrinking their stock of bad loans, and completing the deposit guarantee scheme, which would help avoid possible bank runs in times of crisis.

Second, the EUs deficit rules need to be reformed, and made both simpler and more credible. “Im unable to explain the current system to my own students,” said Philippe Martin, an economics professor at Sciences Po and one of the reports authors. And the current system of fines and penalties for countries violating the Stability and Growth Pact, he added, “arent credible because they are never enforced.”

Instead of focusing on budget deficits, the authors suggest that governments abide by a strict goal on spending — which should not increase faster than GDP, and even at a lower pace for over-indebted countries. That should be controlled by independent bodies and the penalty would come in the form of issuing so-called junior debt (i.e., with higher interest rates) that would be automatically restructured if the country later needed assistance from the ESM.

The third reform, which may prove the most controversial, would be to implement an overt legal mechanism for insolvent countries to restructure their debt — to avoid a repeat of the wasted time and improvisation that have marked successive episodes of the Greek debt drama since 2010.

The other three reforms suggested by the Franco-German economists are the creation of a fund that would help member countries deal with the most severe crises; the definition of a class of “safe assets” to allow banks to replace sovereign debt in their balance sheets; and a reform of eurozone institutions, to Read More – Source

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In an op-ed just published by The New York Times, Robert De Niro has urged Robert Mueller III to go beyond the limited public remarks that he made after generating a 400 page report on alleged election tampering by the Russians. De Niro has played Mueller on numerous skits of Saturday Night Live, some of which have been very critical about possible complicity between President Trump and his advisors, and the Russians. The president has denied the allegations right along, and said the report clears him. Because of that, De Niro writes, it is not enough for Mueller to say that the report speaks for itself.

Of his appearances as Mueller, De Niro writes, “Theres a level of satire, directed at the current administration. To be fair, not everyone appreciates the humor. The president has tweeted that theres “nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live” and that its “very unfair and should be looked into,” even “tested in courts,” and “this is the real collusion!” Though what or with whom the show would be colluding is unclear. But then I dont have to tell you about problems with the term “collusion.” You barely mention the word in your report, and then only to explain why youre not using it. That could be a punch line on “Saturday Night Live.”

As I prepared for my role on the show, I got to know you a lot better…I watched how you presided over the special counsels office apparently without a single leak. And you never wavered, even in the face of regular vicious attacks from the president and his surrogates. While I and so many Americans have admired your quiet, confident, dignified response in ignoring that assault, it allowed the administration to use its own voice to control the narrative. And those voices are so loud and so persistent that they beat even reasonable people into submission. The loudest, most persistent voice belongs to the president himself, and under most circumstances, we want to believe our president.”

De Niro writes that the presidents penchant for hostility, and the way that “the president treats lies, exaggerations and bullying as everyday weapons in his communication toolbox,” begs for a more forceful response by Mueller, who plans to exit and fade back into private life.

“Say what you will about the president — and I have — when it comes to that lying, exaggerating, bullying thing, no one can touch him. He has set up a world where it seems as if those disapproving of him can effectively challenge him only by becoming just like him. Hes brinRead More – Source