EU, embassies write to Sri Lankan leader on executions

Associated Press
Mon, 2018-07-16 (All day)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: The European Union and other diplomatic missions on Monday sought verification from the Sri Lankan government on its stand to resume executions after a rise in crime.
In a joint statement, the EU delegation and the embassies of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Canada and Norway said they have written to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena regarding the issue.
There is a rising crime wave in Sri Lanka, including gang-related killings, narcotics, robberies and sex crimes, leading to a public outcry demanding executions. The government has responded by saying it will execute prisoners who have allegedly taken advantage of a moratorium on executions to continue their drug trade from prison.
Sri Lanka last executed a prisoner in 1976 and has since maintained a moratorium.
“The mentioned diplomatic missions have made known in their letter that they strongly and unequivocally oppose capital punishment in all circumstances and in all cases,” the joint statement said.
“The death penalty is incompatible with human dignity, does not have any proven deterrent effect, and allows judicial errors to become fatal and irreversible,” it said, requesting that Sri Lanka’s government maintain the moratorium.

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Wanted: Two hangmen in Sri LankaSri Lanka’s Lakmal replaces banned Chandimal as skipper

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EUR/USD – Euro gains ground despite soft eurozone surplus

EUR/USD has posted gains in the Monday session. Currently, the pair is trading at 1.1707, up 0.18% on the day. In economic news, the eurozone trade surplus slipped to EUR 16.9 billion, short of the estimate of EUR 17.6 billion. This marked the lowest surplus since January 2017. In the U.S, the focus is on consumer spending reports, with both retail sales and core retail sales expected to drop to 0.4%. On the manufacturing front, Empire State Manufacturing Index is forecast to drop to 20.3 points. On Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chair will testify before the Senate Banking Committee.

The U.S economy continues to perform well in 2018, and received a vote of confidence from the head of the Federal Reserve. On Thursday, Powell said that the economy is “in a really good place”, pointing to President Trump’s massive tax cut scheme and increased spending as key factors in boosting economic growth. Powell did not address monetary policy and said he was uncertain as to the effects of the current trade disputes which has embroiled the U.S and its trading partners. The Fed will likely press the rate trigger in the second half of the year, but it is an open question as to whether we’ll see one hike over the next six months. The Fed is projecting growth of 2.8% in 2018, compared to 2.3% in 2017. Powell will be in the spotlight next week when he appears for his semi-annual testimony before Congress.

Trade policy is not part of the Federal Reserve’s mandate, but Fed policymakers continue to voice concern about the escalating trade war between the U.S and its major trading partners, particularly China. On Friday, Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said he would have to downgrade his outlook if the tariff battle continues. Kaplan said that U.S tariffs on steel and aluminum imports had dampened capital expenditures plans and further trade tensions could lead to currency fluctuations and geopolitcal instability.

  Trade ,earnings ,teapots and the US dollar

China Q2 GDP growth as expected, though lower than Q1


EUR/USD Fundamentals

Monday (July 16)

  • 4:04 Italian Trade Balance. Estimate 3.25B Actual 3.38B
  • 5:00 Eurozone Trade Balance. Estimate 17.6B. Actual 16.9B
  • 8:30 US Core Retail Sales. Estimate 0.4%
  • 8:30 US Retail Sales. Estimate 0.4%
  • 8:30 US Empire State Manufacturing Index. Estimate 20.3
  • 10:00 US Business Inventories. Estimate 0.4%

Tuesday (July 17)

  • 9:15 US Capacity Utilization Rate. Estimate 78.4%
  • 9:15 US Industrial Production. Estimate 0.5%
  • 10:00 US Federal Reserve Jerome Powell Testifies
  • 10:00 US NAHB Housing Market Index. Estimate 69
  • 16:00 US TIC Long-Term Purchases. Estimate 34.3B

*All release times are DST

*Key events are in bold


EUR/USD for Monday, July 16, 2018

EUR/USD for July 16 at 7:05 DST

Open: 1.1686 High: 1.1722 Low: 1.1676 Close: 1.1721

EUR/USD Technical

S1 S2 S1 R1 R2 R3
1.1434 1.1553 1.1637 1.1728 1.1829 1.1916

EUR/USD was flat in the Asian session and has edged higher in European trade

  • 1.1637 is providing support
  • 1.1728 is a weak resistance line

Further levels in both directions:

  • Below: 1.1637, 1.1553, 1.1434 and 1.1312
  • Above: 1.1728, 1.1829 and 1.1910
  • Current range: 1.1637 to 1.1728

Qatar’s economic outlook ‘stable’

Qatar is able to weather the economic, financial and diplomatic boycott and its economic outlook is stable, according to Moody’s Investor Service, Mubasher reported yesterday. The service has given the small Gulf State an official “Aa3” rating thirteen months after a land, sea and air blockade was imposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. The rating covers Qatar’s long-term issuer and foreign currency unsecured debt ratings, which clearly undermines the boycott.

The so-called quartet accuses Qatar of terrorism and extremism. It made 13 demands of the government in Doha, including the closure of Al-Jazeera Network. Qatar, however, denies the allegations and describes them as baseless, and took the issue to the International Court of Justice last month.

“This assessment is in part based on evidence of broad resilience of Qatar’s credit metrics to the economic and financial blockade over the past 13 months,” the New York-based Investor Service said. “The rapid recovery in imports, with initial levels restored in less than four months, illustrates the economy’s flexibility and policy effectiveness in rerouting supplies.”

Qatar’s credit profile is supported by its exceptionally high levels of per-capital income, petroleum reserve levels and low fiscal and breakeven prices for oil. Since the start of the blockade, Qatar has refocused its Gulf investments towards South East Asia and European countries.

The economic impact of the boycott has been modest, and largely temporary. The tourism, aviation and real estate sector has taken the brunt of the impact. Qatar has continued to beef up its spending on security and defence, though. Last week, it sought a loan to purchase Typhoon fighter jets around $4 billion. It is unclear why these are being bought, but Doha plans to involve itself in America’s longest-running conflict to date, in Afghanistan, alongside NATO countries by next year.

Read: Iran Revolutionary Guard leader says US cannot fight us

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Algeria continues to abandon hundreds of migrants in the desert

Algeria is continuing to abandon hundreds of African migrants in the Sahara Desert, despite the expulsions seeming to cease since a shocking Associated Press report last month.

Giuseppe Loprete, the head of the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Niger, took to Twitter on Saturday to confirm the arrival of at least 391 migrants on the Algerian border from over 16 countries. Other rescue officials put the number closer to 600.

Loprete added that migrants told of being prevented from working in numerous Algerian cities, and instead were escorted to the border by bus, with many of their possessions confiscated, including their mobile phones. With little food and water, they were then instructed to walk to the border with Niger.

After a report last month revealed that Algeria had systematically ousted more than 13,000 people over the past 14 months, the expulsions seemed to have ceased, with officials in Mali reporting that the Algiers had made an effort to coordinate the movement of migrants, some of whom were also believed to have been sent to detention centres.

However, the latest arrivals indicate the policy has not changed.

Read: Europe’s migrant crisis is the coloniser’s karma

The Algerian government has consistently denied expelling migrants and slammed last month’s report as an attempt to tarnish Algeria’s name, with Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui denouncing UN concerns as “a campaign of non-constructive and unfounded criticism” against his government.

“[Algeria] has always supported African migrants and spared no effort, including humanitarian, to lend them aid and assistance,” he said.

Algiers subsequently sent local journalists to cover the deportations, claiming their reports were proof of the humane treatment of migrants. However reporters were not permitted to travel beyond the detention centres where the migrants are held prior to their expulsion.

Since the beginning of the year, the IOM has conducted at least 18 rescue operations involving 3,000 people in the area. Untold numbers go missing in the desert, with many collapsing from exhaustion or thirst, as they walk in temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius.

The IOM has estimated that for every person known to have died crossing the Mediterranean, as many as two people are lost in the Sahara, amounting to more than 30,000 people since 2014.

Algeria has faced increasing pressure from the EU to build centres to detain illegal immigrants and prevent their further travel to Europe, but has repeatedly rejected the proposal.

Read: Egypt refuses to build refugee camps for migrants deported from Europe

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Philippine army arrests wife of top Islamist militant in south

Mon, 2018-07-16 10:44

MANILA: Philippine soldiers arrested the wife of a top leader of a pro-Daesh militant group, and killed a suspected bomber in separate raids in a southern city, the army said on Monday.
Nafisa Pundog, who had been in hiding for two years since her escape from prison, was arrested in General Santos City, said army spokesman Major Ezra Balagtey.
Her husband Human Abdul Najib, alias Abu Dar, is the new leader of the pro-Daesh Maute group, which seized the lakeside town of Marawi for five months last year, he added.
“She did not resist arrest,” Balagtey told reporters, adding that materials to make improvised bombs were seized from her hideout.
Before the arrest, soldiers killed Najib Pundog, a suspected bomb maker, not far from the hideout. “He chose to shoot it out with soldiers who tracked him down in his safe house,” Balagtey said.
Both individuals, who are not related, despite a shared surname, were on a list of those President Rodrigo Duterte ordered to be arrested when he imposed martial law on the southern island of Mindanao after the Marawi attack in May 2017.
More than 1,100 people died in the five-month conflict in Marawi, which ended days after soldiers killed the militant leaders, Omarkhayam Maute and Isnilon Hapilon, the emir of the Southeast Asian militant group.

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Dozens wounded as police fire on protesters in Iraq

Dozens have been wounded after protests intensified in four provinces in southern Iraq, local media reported on Sunday.

The Baghdad Post reported that as many as 15 people have been injured and three people are in a serious condition after security forces tried to break up the protests by force, adding that the protesters burned the building housing political prisoners in Nasiriyah city.

According to sources angry protesters in the province of Muthanna stormed the province building and an investment company and security forces fired on the demonstrators.

Read: Iraq police fire in air as protesters try to storm Basra govt building

The sources added that angry protesters attempted to burn the political parties headquarters in the city of Samawa.

Security forces killed two protesters in the city of Basra and wounded others.

Thousands of people took to the streets in the provinces of Basra, Diwaniyah, Dhi Qar, Maysan, Najaf, Karbala, Wasit and Babil demanding an improvement to services and living conditions and the provision of jobs for the unemployed.

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What to do in the face of the Israeli escalation in Gaza

I am writing this as Israeli missiles are destroying buildings in Gaza, killing children and frightening civilians under the pretext of tackling the issue of kites that have burned a few acres of agricultural land in our occupied land. This justification fails to convince in light of the magnitude of the missile and bomb attacks on residential areas in the besieged enclave.

This Israeli escalation can be read in several ways, perhaps the most important of which is that Israel’s military establishment — the most moderate party, relatively speaking, in the middle of a right-wing crowd sweeping across the political spectrum — believe that the deterrence factor that it has achieved since the last major offensive on Gaza in 2014 is dwindling. The protests and kites burning settlers’ fields are eroding the power of the Israel Defence Forces’ ability to deter Palestinian resistance. This makes it necessary for the IDF to try to rebuild its veneer of invincibility in case it disappears entirely as the resistance groups come up with new ways to try to break the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.

The use of such kites may require some kind of guidance and control, though, so that they remain an effective tool benefitting the Palestinians and are not used against them. They should be a tool against the occupation forces, not the other way round.

Read: Israeli army holds ‘wide-scale drill’ for invasion of Gaza City

It is no longer a secret that the political establishment in Israel, represented by the government and its president, is being attacked by its opponents because it has failed to stop the Palestinians’ Great March of Return protests and the kites flown by those taking part. The next parliamentary elections in Israel are scheduled for this time next year, and we are already seeing the first shots being fired — literally — in the election campaign. The opponents of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will find no better weapon against him than the images of burnt and blackened fields alongside the Gaza border fence.

I do not think that the regional and international environment can be separated from Israel’s military action, which may well increase in intensity depending on the success or failure of Egypt’s mediation efforts, or Washington’s desire to announce its next deal. The latter may require there to be calm in Israel-Palestine or the elimination of anything likely to hinder its implementation, such as the activities of the resistance groups in the Gaza Strip.


In the face of all of this, Israel’s behaviour can be read calmly and carefully. It is true that the resistance has managed to prove its worth and ability to respond to the Israeli bombs. However, it may need to reposition itself if the violence gets worse.

The reality of the “enemy, adversary and friend” situation locally, regionally and internationally may prompt Israeli decision-makers to continue their bloody campaign against Gaza, even if it does not end up as a full-blown confrontation. This will be for considerations that are related to Israel’s interests and nobody else’s. The leadership of the resistance, therefore, needs to look at this critical and sensitive reality in order to neutralise any factor that would accelerate such a confrontation, placing the emphasis on Gaza’s considerations rather than those of anyone else.

‘Hamas will respond to any Israeli aggression in Gaza’

Translated from The Centre for Regional Studies – Palestine, 16 July 2018

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State aid: Commission adopts Best Practices Code to streamline and speed up State aid control

European Commission – Press release Brussels, 16 July 2018 The European Commission has adopted a new Best Practices Code for State aid control. The Code provides guidance to the Commission, Member States, businesses and other stakeholders on the day-to-day conduct of State aid procedures, to improve their effectiveness, transparency and…

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Iran Revolutionary Guard leader says US cannot fight us

A commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Ismail Al-Kuthari has said that the United States is unable to wage war against Iran.

“When the President speaks of national interests, all the political currents support him to stand up strongly against American and British ambitions” said Al-Kuthari, Deputy Commander of the “Thar Allah” base in Tehran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently warned that Tehran will close the Strait of Hormuz if the US blocked the sale of Iranian oil.

Read: Rouhani says US isolated on Iran sanctions, even among allies

In response, US naval forces issued a statement stressing that it will guarantee the freedom of navigation and trade movement.

Earlier in May US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and announced that economic sanctions will be reimposed on Tehran.

The fate of the agreement remains unknown especially as the other signatories – namely Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France – are trying to save it.

Washington has recently said that all countries should stop buying Iranian oil by November or face US sanctions.

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