Tuesday, February 20, 2018

US F-16 dumped 2 fuel tanks near fishermen at Japan lake

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A U.S. fighter jet has dumped fuel tanks into a lake in northern Japan, narrowly missing a dozen fishermen catching clams in the water. Nobody was injured.

The U.S. Air Force said in a statement that an F-16 jet assigned to the Misawa Air Base dumped two external fuel tanks Tuesday after developing an engine fire while flying above Lake Ogawara.

The air force said the aircraft returned safely to the base, and there were no injuries to the pilot or people on the ground.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said officials have spotted parts believed to be from the military aircraft in the lake. He said the water surface was smeared with oil.

Report: Iran summons Swedish envoy over granting citizenship

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Iran’s official IRNA news agency says the foreign ministry has summoned Sweden’s ambassador over the Nordic country decision to grant citizenship to an Iranian researcher who is in jail in Tehran.

Tuesday’s report says the ministry summoned Ambassador Helena Sangeland on Monday to protest the granting of citizenship to Ahmad Reza Jalali, calling the move “unconventional, question-posing and unfriendly.”

Iran does not recognize dual nationality.

Jalali, jailed since April 2016, was shown on state TV in December confessing to providing information to Israel’s Mossad spy agency about Iranian military and nuclear scientists, including two who were assassinated in 2010.

Rights groups have condemned Jalali’s detention, saying it follows a pattern of Iran detaining dual nationals and expatriates indefinitely without due process.

Volcanic blast reshaped summit of Indonesia's Mount Sinabung

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The eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung that shot ash 5 kilometers (3 miles) high also “annihilated” the mountain’s summit.

Before and after images from Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation show an enormous chunk missing from the peak.

Volcanologist Devy Kamil Syahbana said the chunk, known as the “lava dome,” had a volume of at least 1.6 million cubic meters (56.5 million cubic feet).

The volcano in North Sumatra, which has been active since 2010, erupted explosively on Monday morning.

Hot ash clouds rolled down its slopes, traveling as far as 4.9 kilometers from the crater.

No-one was injured. Video showed screaming children fleeing a school outside the exclusion zone that surrounds the volcano as a billowing column of ash rose in the background.

Police name Netanyahu associates in Israeli corruption probe

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The Israeli police have named the two close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrested for their suspected role in a wide-ranging corruption probe.

With a gag order lifted Tuesday, police identified them as Nir Hefetz, a former Netanyahu spokesman, and Shlomo Filber, the former director of the communications ministry under Netanyahu.

The two are suspected of promoting regulation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel’s Bezeq telecom company in return for favorable coverage of Netanyahu in a highly popular subsidiary news site. Netanyahu has not yet been named as a suspect in the case.

Bezeq Chairman Shaul Elovitch is also in custody, along with his wife, son and other Bezeq executives. Former journalists at the site have attested to being pressured to refrain from negative reporting of Netanyahu.

Website tracks Musk's Tesla Roadster and dummy pilot's journey through space

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As the batteries on Elon musk’s Tesla Roadster ran out of power, subsequently ending the stunning live video transmission of the vehicle’s journey through space, many were left wondering how to further track its travels.

Cameras aboard the Roadster, which was launched on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket earlier this month, were expected to last 12 hours, but only lasted about 4 hours, according to USA Today.

That’s when Ben Pearson, a SpaceX fan who works in aerospace technology, decided to create a website dedicated to tracking the Roadster, and its dummy pilot codenamed “Starman,” as they make their way in space, TechCrunch reported.

“I came to realize that people really were interested in the tracking of these objects,” Pearson wrote on www.whereisroadster.com website. “I started thinking about how I could manage to get this information, and then I came to realize that I could provide the tracking for it myself!”

A mannequin “Starman†sits at the wheel of a Tesla Roadster in this photo posted on the Instagram account of Elon Musk, head of auto company Tesla and founder of the private space company SpaceX. The car will be on board when SpaceX launches its new rocket, the Falcon Heavy, from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla., scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. (Courtesy of Elon Musk/Instagram via AP)

Fans can track the journey of SpaceX’s Tesla Roadster and dummy pilot, “Starman,” as they travel through space.  (AP)

Using data from JPL Horizons, Pearson’ website shows the vehicle’s current location from Earth and how many miles away it is from the Sun. Even SpaceX CEO and Tesla founder, Musk seems to approve of Pearson’s work.  

SpaceX made history on Feb. 6, with the successful launch of the world’s most powerful rocket. The behemoth has 27 engines, and a thrust that’s able to generate more than 5 million pounds – equivalent to 18 Boeing 747 aircraft. 

Afghan officials say insurgent attacks killed 9 policemen

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Afghan officials say insurgents have killed nine policemen in separate attacks in the country’s west and east.

In western Farah province, attacks on police checkpoints killed eight policemen.

Mohammad Naser Mehri, spokesman for the Farah governor, says two police checkpoints came under attack overnight, one in Bala Buluk district and one near Farah city.

Mehri says 13 insurgents were also killed in the fighting, which started on Monday night and lasted till early Tuesday morning.

And in eastern Kapisa province, two gunmen opened fire at the police, killing one officer.

Provincial spokesman Qais Qaderi says both gunmen were killed and five suspects were arrested.

No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the Taliban have been active in Farah and have stepped up attacks on security forces across Afghanistan.

Stocks advance may pause following holiday break

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Ohio businessman, deported after 38 years in US, vows return

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Amer Othman’s life turned upside down in an instant.

The Ohio entrepreneur, who came to the United States 38 years ago and won praise for helping revive once-blighted downtown Youngstown, was arrested during what he thought was another check-in with immigration authorities. He was detained for two weeks and then deported to his native Jordan.

Othman’s supporters in the U.S. view such treatment as a particularly egregious example of the Trump administration’s ramped-up deportation campaign that potentially targets anyone lacking the right papers, including long-time residents with American spouses and children.

Recent cases include a Missouri college lecturer and a Connecticut couple running a nail salon who won last-minute reprieves through local politicians but remain at risk of expulsion.

Supporters of the crackdown say immigration rules must be enforced, regardless of family and community ties of those targeted.

Othman’s battle to remain in the United States goes back to the mid-1990s, when immigration authorities refused to renew his green card, alleging his first marriage in 1980 had been fraudulent.

Othman denies the charge, noting that his ex-wife later retracted an initial statement she said was made under duress. A deportation order was issued in 2007, but Othman he didn’t feel at immediate risk — until last summer — because of ongoing appeals.

Three weeks after his arrival in Jordan, the 57-year-old Othman still seems in shock.

Speaking at his sister’s apartment in the capital, Amman, he said he’ll fight to return to “my Youngstown.”

He might sue the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, which he said locked him up needlessly, treating him like a criminal. “What ICE has done is un-American,” said Othman, whose second wife Fidaa and their four adult daughters are U.S. citizens.

“The American people are completely and absolutely different from that,” Othman said. Tears welled up as he described wide community support, including from Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat, and Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown. “I love the American people. I love my community,” he said.

Ryan was previously able to keep Othman in the country through private bills in Congress, the first submitted in 2013.

Othman’s deportation marks the first time ICE acted against recommendations of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security to hold off on an expulsion while a case is being reviewed, Ryan said.

“Now, here we are with a new set of rules because of the Trump administration,” he said.

Othman’s lawyer, David Leopold, said the deportation was “beyond inexplicable.” He accused the administration of “playing a numbers game, without any coherent strategy.”

ICE did not respond to two emails requesting comment on the Othman case.

Dan Cadman, a former long-time immigration official and fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for more limits on immigration, said that “the answer in an orderly society cannot be to simply suspend or eliminate deportations.”

“Justice is also due to the American people, not just to Mr. Othman and his family.” he said. “At some point, the reckoning comes due and the bill must be paid. What is the purpose of having laws if they are to mean nothing?”

The Department of Homeland Security launched the crackdown a year ago, scrapping the Obama administration’s instructions to limit deportations to public safety threats, convicted criminals and recent border crossers. This effectively made anyone without the proper papers vulnerable.

The shift is reflected in ICE statistics on deportations, including of those who have settled in the United States, or “internal removals,” and those who recently crossed the border.

Internal removals increased from 65,332, or 27 percent of the total number of deportations, to 81,603, or 36 percent of the total, in a year. Within this category, deportations of those without a criminal record nearly tripled, from 5,104 to 13,744.

Othman, a descendant of Palestinian refugees from Jerusalem who fled to Jordan in the 1948 war over Israel’s creation, said he arrived in California in 1979.

He briefly attended college, married a U.S. citizen in 1980, received a green card and divorced in 1982, he said. He moved to Youngstown, where he married Fidaa in 1988. The couple moved to Brazil for three years for business.

Upon his return to the U.S., he was told he had to apply for a new green card, but was ultimately turned down. In the meantime, he opened businesses in the Youngstown area.

In 2011, he opened the Downtown Circle, a convenience store and deli. Later, he added a bar and hookah bar, and bought another building in the area.

“Amer was the first private sector business guy to really put the flag in the ground in downtown,” encouraging others, said Ryan.

Othman’s legal troubles erupted anew in August when ICE told him he had 30 days to leave the country. His lawyer obtained an extension, and Othman walked out of the ICE office with a Jan. 7 departure deadline and an ankle bracelet to monitor his movements, he said.

Othman said he bought a plane ticket to Amman for Jan. 7, sold his home and taught his family how to run the businesses.

In early January, he held a news conference detailing the looming deadline. Amid widespread publicity, ICE told him later that day that the deadline was off and that he should instead report to ICE two weeks later. Elated, Othman thought he had won a reprieve.

On Jan. 16, he reported to the ICE office. To his shock, he was arrested and handcuffed. Feeling betrayed, he started a hunger strike.

Leopold said his client was locked up “like an animal for the sole purpose of publicly humiliating him before deportation.”

In late January, Othman was driven to Cleveland airport for a flight to Chicago.

As his Amman-bound plane took off from Chicago, Othman looked at the city below, overwhelmed by mixed emotions.

“It was very sad for me to leave and just to know I have left my family behind me, my wife, my daughters, my businesses, my friends, my Youngstown,” said Othman, who has since rented a furnished apartment in Amman and has been joined by his wife, who plans to travel back and forth.

“I thought I would never be back, even though in my mind, I’m going to fight as much as possible,” he said.

__

Associated Press writers Dan Sewell in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Elliot Spagat in San Diego, California, contributed to this report.

Stuck in an opioids crisis, officials turn to acupuncture

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Marine veteran Jeff Harris was among the first to sign up when the Providence VA hospital started offering acupuncture for chronic pain.

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“I don’t like taking pain medication. I don’t like the way it makes me feel,” he said.

Harris also didn’t want to risk getting addicted to heavy-duty prescription painkillers.

Although long derided as pseudoscience and still questioned by many medical experts, acupuncture is increasingly being embraced by patients and doctors, sometimes as an alternative to the powerful painkillers behind the nation’s opioid crisis.

The military and Veterans Affairs medical system has been offering acupuncture for pain for several years, some insurance companies cover it and now a small but growing number of Medicaid programs in states hit hard by opioid overdoses have started providing it for low-income patients.

Ohio’s Medicaid program recently expanded its coverage after an opioid task force urged state officials to explore alternative pain therapies.

“We have a really serious problem here,” said Dr. Mary Applegate, medical director for Ohio’s Medicaid department. “If it’s proven to be effective, we don’t want to have barriers in the way of what could work.”

The epidemic was triggered by an explosion in prescriptions of powerful painkiller pills, though many of the recent overdose opioid deaths are attributed to heroin and illicit fentanyl. Many opioid addictions begin with patients in pain seeking help, and acupuncture is increasingly seen as a way to help keep some patients from ever having to go on opioids in the first place.

For a long time in the U.S., acupuncture was considered unstudied and unproven — some skeptics called it “quack-u-puncture.” While there’s now been a lot of research on acupuncture for different types of pain, the quality of the studies has been mixed, and so have the results.

Federal research evaluators say there’s some good evidence acupuncture can help some patients manage some forms of pain. But they also have described the benefits of acupuncture as modest, and say more research is needed.

Among doctors, there remains lively debate over how much of any benefit can be attributed simply to patients’ belief that the treatment is working — the so-called “placebo effect.”

“There may be a certain amount of placebo effect. Having said that, it is still quite effective as compared to no treatment,” said Dr. Ankit Maheshwari, a pain medicine specialist at Case Western Reserve University, who sees it as valuable for neck pain, migraines and a few other types of pain problems.

Many doctors are ambivalent about acupuncture but still willing to let patients give it a try, said Dr. Steven Novella, a neurologist at Yale University and editor of an alternative medicine-bashing website. He considers acupuncture a form of patient-fooling theater.

Acupuncturists and their proponents are “exploiting the opioid crisis to try to promote acupuncture as an alternative treatment,” he said. “But promoting a treatment that doesn’t work is not going to help the crisis.”

Acupuncture has been practiced in China for thousands of years, and customarily involves inserting thin metal needles into specific points in the ears or other parts the body. Practitioners say needles applied at just the right spots can restore the flow of a mystical energy — called “qi” (pronounced CHEE) — through the body, and that can spur natural healing and pain relief.

In government surveys, 1 in 67 U.S. adults say they get acupuncture every year, up from 1 in 91 a decade earlier. That growth has taken place even though most patients pay for it themselves: 2012 figures show only a quarter of adults getting acupuncture had insurance covering the cost.

The largest federal government insurance program, Medicare, does not pay for acupuncture. Tricare, the insurance program for active duty and retired military personnel and their families, does not pay for it either. But VA facilities offer it, charging no more than a copay.

Jeff Harris signed up for acupuncture two years ago. The 50-year-old Marine Corp veteran said he injured his back while rappelling and had other hard falls during his military training in the 1980s. Today, he has shooting pain down his legs and deadness of feeling in his feet.

Acupuncture “helped settled my nerve pain down,” said Harris, of Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Another vet, Harry Garcia, 46, of Danielson, Connecticut, tried acupuncture for his chronic back pain after years of heavy pain medications.

Acupuncture is “just like an eraser. It just takes everything away” for a brief period, and keeps pain down for up to 10 days, said Garcia.

About a decade ago, the military and Veteran Affairs began promoting a range of alternative approaches to pain treatment, including acupuncture, yoga, and chiropractic care.

In 2009, former Army Surgeon General Dr. Eric Schoomaker chartered a task force to re-evaluate the Army’s approach to pain, which had centered on opioids. The focus was understandable — “nobody who has his leg blown off screams for acupuncture,” said Schoomaker, who is now a professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, a military medical school in Bethesda, Maryland.

But he added there was also openness to acupuncture and other approaches among soldiers and sailors who, while overseas, had tried non-drug approaches for chronic pain. Schoomaker said he was inspired to seriously consider alternative approaches by his wife, a yoga instructor.

Now two-thirds of military hospitals and other treatment centers offer acupuncture, according to a recent study.

The military’s openness to alternatives is “because the need is so great there,” said Emmeline Edwards of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a federal scientific research agency. “Perhaps some of the approaches have been used without a strong evidence base. They’re more willing to try an approach and see if it works.”

Her agency is teaming up the Pentagon and the VA to spend $81 million on research projects to study the effectiveness of a variety of nondrug approaches to treating chronic pain.

While research continues, insurance coverage of acupuncture keeps expanding. California, Massachusetts, Oregon and Rhode Island pay for acupuncture for pain through their Medicaid insurance programs. Massachusetts and Oregon also cover acupuncture as a treatment for substance abuse, though scientists question how well it reduces the cravings caused by chemical dependency.

McDermott reported from Providence, Kang from Cleveland, and Stobbe from New York.

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Ex-NFL player who planned murder of pregnant girlfriend seeks custody of son

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A former NFL wide receiver who is serving time for a murder he planned back in 1999 so he allegedly wouldn’t have to pay child support, is about to be released from his North Carolina prison and wants custody of the child.

Rae Carruth, who last played for the Carolina Panthers, was sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison after being found guilty of hiring two men to carry out the murder of Cherica Adams, according to ESPN.

Adams, who was pregnant at the time with his son, was shot four times and died. Carruth and Adams’ son, Chancellor Lee Adams, was born prematurely due to the shooting and suffers from cerebral palsy due to the shooting.

Carruth, who said he found God, wrote in a letter addressed to the mother of the victim, Saundra Adams, saying that he accepted responsibility for the murder and expressed interest in gaining custody of his son, according to WBTV in Charlotte.

“I’m apologizing for the loss of her daughter. I’m apologizing for the impairment of my son,” Carruth said. “I feel responsible for everything that happened. And I just want her to know that truly I am sorry for everything.”

Saundra Adams, mother of murder victim Cherica Adams, hugs family member Juana Moonie after the verdicts were read January 19, 2001 in the Rae Carruth capital murder trial. Carruth was found not guilty of first degree murder, but guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. RDP/SV - RP2DRIGBGFAA

Saundra Adams, pictured here in 2001, told the Charlotte Observer that Carruth would never have custody of his son.  (Reuters)

Saundra Adams, the grandmother, has raised his 18-year-old son, told the Charlotte Observer on Monday that Carruth would never have custody of his son.

“Chancellor will be raised either by me or, after I’m gone, by someone else who loves him and who knows him. He will never be raised by a stranger — someone he doesn’t know and who tried to kill him,” she told the newspaper.

Carruth claimed that he wants the responsibility and said he believes that he “could still make a difference and I don’t think that’s anyone’s responsibility when I’m still here.”

“He will never be raised by a stranger — someone he doesn’t know and who tried to kill him.”

– Saundra Adams

Carruth is set to be released from prison on Oct. 22.

Ryan Gaydos is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @RyanGaydos.

Thai protesters win agreement for new reviews of coal plants

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Protesters in the Thai capital seeking to stop construction of coal-fired power plants in the country’s south have claimed victory, as the Energy Ministry agreed to order new assessments of the health and environmental impacts of the projects.

About three dozen demonstrators who had been holding a hunger strike ended their protest Tuesday after Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan met with them and agreed to suspend work on projects in the seaside provinces of Krabi and Songkhla until new reviews are done by neutral third parties.

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Siri agreed to withdraw the previous Environmental Health Impact Assessments and undertake a broader review of whether the projects are suitable, and scrap the projects if their judgment is negative. Legal cases associated with the plants and the protests are to be dropped.

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In Iran, Sufi followers killed 2 paramilitaries, 3 policemen

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Iranian media have updated the death toll from clashes the previous night with Sufi followers in Tehran, saying two members of the paramilitary forces were also killed, as well as three policemen.

The semi-official Fars news agency first said a Sufi follower rammed a bus into a group of police, killing three of them before being arrested late Monday.

The official IRNA news agency on Tuesday quoted police spokesman Gen. Saeed Montazeralmahdi as saying two members of the Basij forces died in a stabbing and a car-ramming attack.

Montazeralmahdi says the bus-ramming attack injured 30 policemen and security forces. More than 300 Sufi followers were arrested, including the drivers of both vehicles.

Supporters of the Sufi leader, Nourali Tabandeh, occasionally rally outside his home occasionally, fearing he may be arrested.

HSBC's 2017 profit jumps but below view

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The HSBC bank logo is seen at their offices in the Canary Wharf financial district in London. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause/File Photo

HSBC Holdings’ pre-tax profit for 2017 more than doubled due to the absence of hefty restructuring costs incurred in the prior year but still lagged expectations as the bank took a writedown following U.S. tax changes.

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Europe’s biggest lender by market capitalisation, on Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver’s last day on the job on Tuesday, also announced plans to further bolster its capital base by raising up to $7 billion in the first half of 2018.

HSBC reported a profit before tax of $17.2 billion for 2017, compared with $7.1 billion the year before but below the $19.7 billion average estimate of 17 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Those estimates did not all take into account the tax writedown, triggered by cuts in the U.S. corporate tax rate which meant banks had to book losses on deferred tax assets they built up during loss-making times.

HSBC said in its earnings statement that its 2017 financial results included a charge of $1.3 billion relating to the “remeasurement of U.S. deferred tax balances” to reflect the reduction in the U.S. federal tax rate to 21 percent from 2018.

Banks including Credit Suisse and UBS have already reported multi-billion dollar writedowns from the tax change, while HSBC’s British rival Barclays has said it expects a 1-billion-pound hit on its annual post-tax profit.

HSBC’s year-ago profit figure reflected a $3.2 billion impairment of goodwill in the global private banking business in Europe and the impact of its sale of operations in Brazil.

The lender said it was planning additional tier 1 capital issuance of between $5 billion and $7 billion during the first half of 2018, and that it would undertake share buybacks “as and when appropriate.”

The bank has been able to maintain its capital buffer despite rolling out share buybacks, the latest of up to $2 billion last July, and maintain the dividend payments that are key to the stock’s support among investors.

“In 2017, we returned a total of $3 billion to shareholders through share buybacks and paid more in dividends than any other European or American bank,” Gulliver said. Company veteran John Flint starts as the new CEO on Wednesday.

HSBC’s common-equity tier 1 ratio, a key measure of financial strength, was 14.5 percent in 2017, compared to 13.6 percent last year and 11.9 percent in 2015.

Its reported revenues rose to $51.4 billion from $48 billion a year ago.

(Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee and Lawrence White; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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Minnesota's $5 billion case over 3M chemicals heads to trial

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Minnesota officials will soon try to convince a jury that manufacturer 3M Co. should pay the state $5 billion to help clean up environmental damage that the state alleges was caused by pollutants the company dumped for decades.

The long-awaited trial begins Tuesday in Minneapolis. Experts say it could have wide-reaching implications if the state succeeds, in part because 3M and other companies legally dumped the chemicals for years in and outside Minnesota.

The case focuses on the company’s disposal of chemicals once used to make Scotchgard fabric protector and other products. The company denies it did anything wrong or illegal.

The state alleges the chemicals damaged Minnesota’s natural resources, including more than 100 miles of the Mississippi River, and contaminated drinking water, harmed wildlife and posed a threat to human health.

Here are some key details about the fight:

WHAT THE CASE IS ABOUT

The lawsuit focuses on 3M’s disposal of perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, and their compounds. The company, which is based in Maplewood, Minnesota, began producing PFCs in the 1950s and legally disposed of them in landfills for decades. Along with Scotchgard, the chemicals were used in fire retardants, paints, nonstick cookware and other products.

The company stopped making PFCs in 2002 after negotiating with the Environmental Protection Agency, which said the chemicals could pose long-term risks to human health and the environment. But in 2004, trace amounts of the chemicals were found in groundwater near one of 3M’s dumping sites east of St. Paul. The state and 3M reached a deal three years later requiring the company to spend millions to clean up landfills and provide clean drinking water to affected communities.

But it wasn’t until 2010 that the state filed a lawsuit, alleging 3M researched PFCs and knew the chemicals were getting into the environment and posing a threat to human health. After years of delays, jury selection for a trial in state court is set to start this week.

The company has denied it did anything wrong, insisting it was acting legally at the time. In a statement last week, the company said: “3M believes that when we have an opportunity to share all the facts, discuss the science, and present the details of our position to the jury, people will conclude that the company acted responsibly.”

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WHY IT MATTERS

Low levels of PFCs have been found in the environment, humans and wildlife across the globe. At least two dozen lawsuits related to PFCs have been filed against 3M around the country, including one filed last week in Massachusetts over water contamination blamed on firefighting foam.

Experts say the outcome of Minnesota’s case won’t set a nationwide legal precedent for the other cases because the decision would only be applied in Minnesota. But they say there could be a ripple effect and attorneys are watching closely.

David Andrews is a senior scientist at Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that conducts research to protect health and the environment. He said the case’s impact would be huge if Minnesota wins and 3M is held accountable.

“The impacts would be enormous just because of the extent of contamination nationwide and how much work still needs to be done to really clean up the mess,” Andrews told The Associated Press.

The company said it has already spent about $100 million on remediation and other projects just in Minnesota to reduce the presence of the chemicals in the environment. The company argues that levels of the chemicals in the environment and in the human body are declining.

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WHAT TO EXPECT AT TRIAL

The trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis. It’s expected to last four to six weeks.

One key issue will be whether 3M’s disposal of the chemicals has increased the rate of certain health issues, including cancer. A state expert is expected to testify that the pollution increased rates of cancer, low birth-weight babies and premature births in affected areas. But the Minnesota Department of Health has found no increase in such rates.

The company says there’s no evidence the chemicals have impacted human health.

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PROBLEMS ELSEWHERE

Since the Minnesota lawsuit was first filed back in 2010, concerns over PFCs have grown. In 2016, the EPA drastically reduced the recommended maximum levels of PFC concentrations for drinking water. As a result, about 15 million people learned their drinking water wasn’t considered safe for long-term consumption. According to 3M, those recommendations are cautionary.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the EPA’s advisory sent communities nationwide scrambling to install technology to treat water. Some of those communities have sued, and some are investigating to determine who or what produced the PFCs in their water, and what, if any, long-term effects they might face due to continued exposure.

Facebook top executive's comments on Russian meddling sparks fury

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A top executive at Facebook came under fire Friday after tweeting that it takes a “well educated citizenry” to fight off Russian election meddling attempts and claimed the main goal of the Russian online disinformation campaign was not to sway the 2016 presidential election, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Most of the coverage of Russian meddling involves their attempt to affect the outcome of the 2016 US election,” Rob Goldman, Facebook’s head of advertising, tweeted on Friday. “I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal.”

Goldman’s comments came shortly after a federal grand jury indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election, in a case brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The indictment described how an organization called the Internet Research Agency allegedly used social media, including Facebook, to create division and tried to influence U.S. public opinion. The company allegedly set up hundreds of social media accounts using stolen or fictitious identities to give an impression that real people are behind the activism online.

The defendants are also accused of starting a disinformation campaign in 2014 and spreading derogatory information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, attacking Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and expressing support for then-Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

13 RUSSIANS NATIONALS INDICTED FOR INTERFERING IN US ELECTIONS

But Goldman, who was “excited to see the Mueller indictment” on Friday, said that despite the common view, “the majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election.” Part of the reason for lack of awareness is that “very few outlets have covered it because it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Trump and the election.”

“44% of total ad impressions (number of times ads were displayed) were before the US election on November 8, 2016; 56% were after the election,” read a factoid released by Facebook in October 2017.

“The main goal of the Russian propaganda and misinformation effort is to divide America by using our institutions, like free speech and social media, against us. It has stoked fear and hatred amongst Americans.  It is working incredibly well. We are quite divided as a nation,” he said.

He added: “There are easy ways to fight this. Disinformation is ineffective against a well-educated citizenry.  Finland, Sweden and Holland have all taught digital literacy and critical thinking about misinformation to great effect.”

But Goldman’s tweets caused a fury on social media and accusations of sowing confusion and diminishing the problem of Russian interference.

“You really are not in a position to preach and your astonishing tweets have created confusion and anger,” Mainardo de Nardis, a senior executive at advertising giant Omnicom Group Inc., said in a tweet Sunday. “Enough damage done over the past 2+ years. In the absence of real actions silence would be appreciated.”

The backlash was further amplified after President Donald Trump cited Goldman’s tweets. “The Fake News Media never fails. Hard to ignore this fact from the Vice President of Facebook Ads, Rob Goldman!” Trump tweeted.

“Mr. Goldman should have stayed silent,” Clint Watts, a fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute who studied the Russian influence campaign, told The Wall Street Journal. He notes that minimizing the impact of the Russian efforts to influence the election risked further angering Americans.

“The public is upset that they got duped on Facebook’s platform. Facebook got duped,” he added. “It makes it seem like they don’t get it.”

Facebook’s vice president of global public policy Joel Kaplan released a statement on Sunday regarding Goldman’s tweets, saying that “Nothing we found contradicts the Special Counsel’s indictments. Any suggestion otherwise is wrong.”

After the onslaught of criticism, Goldman later expanded on some of the claims, tweeting that “the Russian campaign was certainly in favor of Mr. Trump.”

He also issued a caveat about his assertions: “I am only speaking here about the Russian behavior on Facebook. That is the only aspect that I observed directly.”

Lukas Mikelionis is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LukasMikelionis.

Donald Trump Jr. arrives in India to help sell apartments

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The eldest son of President Donald Trump has arrived in India to help sell luxury apartments and lavish attention on wealthy Indians who have already bought units in several Trump-branded developments.

Donald Trump Jr. met Tuesday morning with Indian developers building the apartment complexes in four cities. An apartment in the Trump Towers in Gurgaon, a New Delhi suburb, runs from $775,000 to $1.5 million.

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Later in the week he is scheduled to make a speech about Indo-Pacific relations at a New Delhi business summit, sharing the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

President Trump has pledged to avoid new foreign business deals during his time in office, to avoid potential ethical conflicts. Trump Jr. is promoting projects inked before his father was elected.

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HSBC annual profit rises as Asian growth drives earnings

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HSBC said Tuesday that profits rose on strong earnings from Asia, in the latest sign that the London-based global bank’s restructuring to focus even more on the region is paying off.

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The bank said pretax profit, after adjusting for one-off items and currency fluctuations, increased 11 percent to $21 billion in 2017, as adjusted revenue climbed 5 percent to $51.5 billion.

Net income more than quadrupled to $10.8 billion.

“Asia again contributed a substantial proportion of the group’s profits,” the company’s chairman, Mark Tucker, said in a statement.

The bank is Europe’s biggest but Asia accounted for nearly nine-tenths of total profits last year, when HSBC completed a sweeping multiyear corporate revamp to raise profitability.

The overhaul included laying off thousands of workers, bringing in new leadership and selling off its businesses around the globe to focus on emerging markets in Asia.

HSBC is focusing in particular on Hong Kong and the affluent Pearl River Delta region in neighboring mainland China.

Tucker, an outsider who took over as chairman in October, said the bank forecast “reasonable growth” for the world’s major economies in 2018, aided by low unemployment, recovering consumer confidence and improving trade.

“Fears of a hard (economic) landing in China have receded, and markets across Asia look set for a strong year,” Tucker said. He added that the expected signing of regional trade agreements in 2018, mostly involving Asian nations, “also provides cause for optimism” while the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s massive infrastructure program, provided new business opportunities.

But rising international tensions and the threat of protectionism are among the risks that “have the potential to disrupt economic activity,” he said.

A new chief executive, company veteran John Flint, is set to take over Wednesday from Stuart Gulliver, who is retiring after seven years at the helm.

In December, HSBC passed a key milestone when a five-year deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice expired. It was an important step for the bank, allowing it to avoid charges for a money laundering scandal involving Mexican drug barons and countries facing U.S. sanctions.

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Michael Moore participated in anti-Trump rally allegedly organized by Russians

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Michael Moore, the polemical filmmaker who has long accused President Trump of colluding with Russians, posted videos and pictures of himself participating in a protest in Manhattan that was allegedly organized by Russians in November 2016.

Prosecutors said Friday that the Russians indicted for meddling in the presidential campaign were also behind anti-Trump rallies that occured after the election.

The government alleged in an indictment signed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that the defendants organized a Nov. 12 “Trump is NOT my President” rally in New York. Their “strategic goal” was to “sow discord in the U.S. political system,” the indictment said.

On Nov. 12, Moore tweeted: “At today’s Trump Tower protest. He wouldn’t come down.”

He attached a picture of himself posing with a large number of protesters.

Moore also posted a lengthy video on Facebook Nov. 12, in which he joined the protest and debated voters at Trump Tower.

Approximately 25,000 protesters turned out in New York on Nov. 12, chanting slogans rejecting the then-president-elect, NBC News reported at the time, citing New York Police Department officials.

Amid heavy police presence, protesters marched from Union Square to Trump Tower, the Guardian reported.

Moore has repeatedly claimed that President Trump inappropriately colluded with Russians.

Last year, Moore wrote on Facebook: “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what was going on: TRUMP COLLUDING WITH THE RUSSIANS TO THROW THE ELECTION TO HIM.”

Gregg Re is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

Underpaid Venezuelans skipping out on work to make ends meet

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On many days, Ramon Medina has no choice but to skip work to make ends meet.

Like around half of Venezuelans, he earns the minimum wage — the equivalent of around $3 a month — so whenever his cellphone buzzes with a tip, he sneaks away from his job as a hospital orderly for the chance of taking home a government-supplied food bag on which he depends to feed his family.

He’s not the only one hustling. On any given day, he estimates a third of his co-workers at Vargas Hospital in Caracas are also stepping out for a lucrative side job or spending hours in line to buy flour and cooking oil at bargain-basement prices impossible to pass up. That leaves few back in the hospital caring for sick patients, the 55-year-old said.

“You do what you can to help out,” he said of his job, but added, “People are discouraged.”

Along with four-digit inflation, widespread shortages and a recession deeper than the U.S. Great Depression, Venezuela’s economy is now being ravaged by a new scourge: mass absenteeism.

In recent weeks, newspapers and social media have been filled with reports of work stoppages at the Caracas subway system or the state-run oil company as workers scraping by on meager paychecks can’t be bothered to show up for work. Private companies complain they can’t find enough workers to punch the clock, exacerbating a standstill in what few assembly lines are still running.

The crisis is spiraling out of control even as President Nicolas Maduro is seeking a second term in a snap election his supporters recently set for April 22, drawing condemnation from the U.S. and other countries who say he’s flouting Venezuela’s democratic tradition. Yet, Maduro has turned the economic crisis to his advantage, analysts say.

Douglas Barrios, a Venezuelan economist at Harvard University, said that in 2012, before the country sank into recession, the country’s monthly minimum wage equaled $300, on par with those of other Latin American nations and enough to support a family with rent and food.

That has since dramatically changed, he said, noting that today it takes a worker nearly two weeks to earn enough to buy two pounds of powdered milk.

Normally, voters would turn their backs on a government under such circumstances. But Maduro is locking in support by making voters dependent on discounted government food bags and by announcing wage hikes before energized live audiences on nationally televised broadcasts.

“You support us and you have access to food,” Barrios said, explaining what he sees as the government’s strategy. “If you don’t support us, you go figure out how to make ends meet.”

The government has accused opponents of waging an “economic war” on Maduro and point to recent sanctions by the Trump administration banning lending to the government as further proof of sabotage. Far from throwing in the towel, it says it is expanding social programs like the food parcels to protect the poor.

“The revolution guarantees the people are protected,” Maduro tweeted this week.

Jenny Mejia, 24, said she’s not fooled. She recently walked away from her low-paying job at a lunch counter to sell bottles of shoe glue stacked on a table along a busy street in Caracas. It takes her about a week to earn the equivalent of the monthly minimum wage.

“With Maduro, more hunger is assured,” said Mejia, who receives the government food bags but vows she won’t support his re-election bid.

Socialist Venezuela’s battle with absenteeism isn’t new. The late Hugo Chavez in 2001 signed a decree that came to be known as the Law of Labor Immobility that makes it but impossible for employers to fire a worker without their consent.

But the problem has grown worse as the economy has unraveled and price distortions have become more pronounced. For many Venezuelans, the choice is going to work for a few pennies a day or scavenging for the declining number of products sold at controlled prices and reselling them on the black market for several times their official value.

Venezuela no longer publishes labor statistics, but workers in Caracas’ busy subway estimated that as many as 70 percent of their colleagues don’t show up some days. The country’s state-run oil firm PDVSA — virtually the only source of hard currency — is losing workers due to low wages and a lack of safety, said Venezuelan economist Francisco Monaldi, a Latin American energy policy expert at Rice University in Houston.

“Those who can, leave the country,” Monaldi said. “Others simply do not show up to work.”

Companies juggling to stay in business have no choice but to remain flexible.

At Danubio bakery one day recently, some of the 300 employees squeezed past one another preparing pastries, cakes and lasagna. Many said bus fare eats up their paychecks despite earning 30 percent more than minimum wage.

For many, the two meals a day they get at work make it worthwhile.

“Coming to work is a kind of relief,” said Andrew Kerese, who runs the successful family business with five bakeries across Caracas. “Here people have breakfast and lunch.”

However, many long-time employees have fled the country and called Kerese from abroad to tell him they’re not returning. Others struggle getting to work because the buses are full or don’t run, or they can’t find spare parts for their cars. Some days, word spreads of a market selling discounted flour, so everybody leaves to get in line.

Antonio Golindano’s daily journey into work at the bakery starts at 4 a.m. The 71-year-old has tied on his apron and sifted flour there for four decades. But he said the hardships make it harder for him every day.

“I do the impossible to come and fulfill my duty,” he said. “It is my obligation to come to work.”

Actor Michael Keaton to give Kent State commencement address

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Actor Michael Keaton is slated to give the commencement address at Ohio’s Kent State University.

Keaton enrolled at Kent State in 1971, intending to major in journalism and speech. He left school to pursue acting, landing appearances on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” ”Maude” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” His range of hit movies includes “Batman,” ”Birdman” and “Spotlight.”

Keaton spoke at Kent State in 1985 and said then that he would like to return someday.

Kent State President Beverly Warren says having Keaton speak at the May 12th ceremony is a “rare opportunity” for graduates to hear from “someone who has walked in their shoes and now has risen to the top of his field.”

The school will pay Keaton $100,000, the same it paid actress Octavia Spencer last year.

Global bank HSBC reports 2017 pretax profit rose 11 percent

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HSBC said Tuesday that its annual pretax profits rose by 11 percent on strong earnings from Asia, in the latest sign that the London-based global bank’s restructuring to focus even more on the region is reaping further dividends.

The bank said pretax profit, after adjusting for one-off items, rose to $21 billion in 2017, with adjusted revenue climbing 5 percent to $51.5 billion.

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Net income quadrupled to $10.8 billion.

“Asia again contributed a substantial proportion of the group’s profits,” the company’s chairman, Mark Tucker, said in a statement.

HSBC has been carrying out a sweeping multiyear corporate revamp to raise profitability.

The overhaul includes laying off thousands of workers, bringing in new leadership and selling off its businesses around the globe to focus on emerging markets in Asia, which accounts for most of its income.

Tucker, an outsider who took over as chairman in October, said the bank forecast “reasonable growth” for the world’s major economies in 2018, aided by low unemployment, recovering consumer confidence and improving trade. But he warned that rising international tensions and the threat of protectionism are among the risks that “have the potential to disrupt economic activity.”

A new chief executive, company veteran John Flint, is set to take over from retiring Stuart Gulliver on Wednesday.

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Killer wants $100G from book deal to go to his kids' education, Michigan says: Not so fast

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The state of Michigan is reportedly looking to pocket more than $100,000 from an convicted killer’s book sales as compensation for his imprisonment, but the inmate wants his children to get the money for their education.

Curtis Dawkins, 49, fatally shot a man during a cocaine-fueld rampage in October 2004 in Kalamazoo, The Detroit News reported. Dawkins, a father of three, was sentenced to life without parole.

In July, Simon & Schuster published Dawkins’ book “The Graybar Hotel,” a short story collection which “offers a window into prison life through the eyes of his narrators and their cellmates.”

Dawkins told The Detroit News that writing allowed him to escape the everyday life of being behind bars.

Curtis Dawkins fatally shot a man in October 2004.  (Michigan Department of Corrections)

“It gets me away from the world I’m trying to turn into fiction, if that makes any sense,” he said.

The felon reportedly received a $150,000 advance for his work, which is funding the education of his three kids. The state claims that Dawkins doesn’t have any right to pass his book earnings to his family, according to The Guardian.

In October, the state’s Department of Treasury filed a lawsuit demanding 90 percent of Dawkins’ assets. The state wants “proceeds from publications, future payments, royalties,” in addition to the money his family adds into his prison account, according to The New York Times.

Michigan is one of dozens of states that can force inmates to pay for the cost of their imprisonment, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. During the last fiscal year, Michigan received $3.7 million from nearly 300 of the state’s 40,000 inmates, according to The New York Times.

“The Graybar Hotel” written by Curtis Dawkins.  (Simon & Schuster)

The Brennan Center reported that about 10 million people owe about $50 billion in fees across the nation stemming from arrest or incarceration.

Kenneth Bowman, the brother of Dawkins’ victim Tom Bowman, told The New York Times last July that he believes Dawkins’ earnings should go to the victim’s family or charity.

Dawkins’ finances are essentially frozen until the legal issue ends, according to The Guardian.

The advance he received from the publishing company was split with the founder of a literary magazine who helped him get the book deal in the first place. The $50,000 he placed in a fund to help pay for his children’s education were suspended by the state.

Ryan Gaydos is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @RyanGaydos.

Oil markets mixed as U.S crude, Brent move in opposite directions

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Oil markets were split on Tuesday, with U.S. crude pushed up by reduced flows from Canada while international Brent prices eased.

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U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $62.38 a barrel at 0518 GMT, up 70 cents, or 1.1 percent, from their last settlement.

Traders said the higher WTI prices were a result of reduced flows from Canada’s Keystone pipeline, which has been operating below capacity since late last year due to a leak, cutting Canadian supplies into the United States.

Outside North America, Brent crude eased on the back of a dip in Asian stocks and a stronger dollar, which potentially curbs demand as it makes fuel more expensive for countries using other currencies domestically.

Brent crude futures were at $65.48 per barrel, down 19 cents, or 0.3 percent, from their last close.

The opposing price direction of the two main crude benchmarks has sharply reduced WTI’s discount to Brent, to around $3.22 per barrel on Tuesday, down from over $7 in late 2017.

Overall, oil markets remain well supported due to supply restraint by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which started last year in order to draw down excess global inventories.

OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said on Monday the organization registered 133 percent compliance with agreed output reduction targets in January.

Barkindo said compliance last year stood at 107 percent.

Global oil demand for 2018 is estimated to grow 1.6 million barrels per day due to an “encouraging environment,” Barkindo added.

“OPEC and Russia continue to support the production cuts that are due to expire at the end of this year, and they assure markets that there will be an orderly ramp up of production once the cuts expire,” said William O’Loughlin, investment analyst at Australia’s Rivkin Securities.

While most of OPEC, especially its de-facto leader Saudi Arabia, is showing strong support for the production restraint, non-OPEC producer Russia has shown signs it may at some stage gradually start to increase output again.

Saudi Arabia – not least in an attempt to give the planned listing of its state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco – a boost, is keen for Russia and other producers to keep withholding supplies to prop up prices.

But soaring U.S. production is threatening to erode OPEC’s efforts.

Last week, the amount of U.S. oil rigs drilling for new production rose for a fourth straight week to 798, in an indication that U.S. crude output, already at a record 10.27 million bpd, may rise further.

The United States late last year became the world’s second biggest oil producers, only slightly behind Russia and ahead of top exporter Saudi Arabia.

(Reporting by Henning Gloystein Editing by Joseph Radford)

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Oil markets mixed on lower Canadian flows, firmer dollar

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Oil markets were split on Tuesday, with U.S. crude pushed up by reduced flows from Canada while international Brent prices eased.

Continue Reading Below

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $62.38 a barrel at 0518 GMT, up 70 cents, or 1.1 percent, from their last settlement.

Traders said the higher WTI prices were a result of reduced flows from Canada’s Keystone pipeline, which has been operating below capacity since late last year due to a leak, cutting Canadian supplies into the United States.

Outside North America, Brent crude eased on the back of a dip in Asian stocks and a stronger dollar, which potentially curbs demand as it makes fuel more expensive for countries using other currencies domestically.

Brent crude futures were at $65.48 per barrel, down 19 cents, or 0.3 percent, from their last close.

The opposing price direction of the two main crude benchmarks has sharply reduced WTI’s discount to Brent, to around $3.22 per barrel on Tuesday, down from over $7 in late 2017.

Overall, oil markets remain well supported due to supply restraint by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which started last year in order to draw down excess global inventories.

OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said on Monday the organization registered 133 percent compliance with agreed output reduction targets in January.

Barkindo said compliance last year stood at 107 percent.

Global oil demand for 2018 is estimated to grow 1.6 million barrels per day due to an “encouraging environment,” Barkindo added.

“OPEC and Russia continue to support the production cuts that are due to expire at the end of this year, and they assure markets that there will be an orderly ramp up of production once the cuts expire,” said William O’Loughlin, investment analyst at Australia’s Rivkin Securities.

While most of OPEC, especially its de-facto leader Saudi Arabia, is showing strong support for the production restraint, non-OPEC producer Russia has shown signs it may at some stage gradually start to increase output again.

Saudi Arabia – not least in an attempt to give the planned listing of its state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco – a boost, is keen for Russia and other producers to keep withholding supplies to prop up prices.

But soaring U.S. production is threatening to erode OPEC’s efforts.

Last week, the amount of U.S. oil rigs drilling for new production rose for a fourth straight week to 798, in an indication that U.S. crude output, already at a record 10.27 million bpd, may rise further.

The United States late last year became the world’s second biggest oil producers, only slightly behind Russia and ahead of top exporter Saudi Arabia.

(Reporting by Henning Gloystein Editing by Joseph Radford)

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2 teens wear not-so-discreet disguise to sneak into 'Black Panther'

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They were on line to see “Black Panther,” but they might as well have been seeing “Mission Impossible.”

A video that appears to show two California teens wearing a disguise to pay for only one “Black Panther” ticket this weekend went viral–but the scheme did not work.

The two donned a “tall man disguise,” where one person sits on the other’s shoulders wearing a long coat to make them appear as one very tall man, FOX 8 reported.

A video posted to Twitter showed people gathered around laughing at the duo, who were far taller than anyone else waiting in line.

Despite the comedy routine, the cashier wasn’t impressed.

 “We can’t let you in unless you get down,” the attendant behind the counter can be heard saying in the video.

“Black Panther” has received rave reviews, with a “certified fresh” score of 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. With its debut over President’s Day weekend, the movie is expected to bring in an impressive $235 million during the four-day holiday, according to Variety.