Category: World

Powerful hard-liner: Iran should stop honouring nuclear deal

TEHRAN, Iran – A member of Iran’s powerful Guardian Council says the Islamic Republic should stop honouring all terms of the collapsing 2015 nuclear deal with world powers amid tensions with the U.S.

Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei says that while Iran has “shown a lot of patience,” it has been more than a year since President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled America out of the accord.

The Guardian Council is a 12-member panel that vets candidates and laws in the Islamic Republic. The council signed off on the nuclear deal in 2015, but Kadkhodaei’s comments signal the hard-liners’ willingness to confront the West using Iran’s atomic program.

Iran has in the past months increasingly broken restrictions imposed by the deal, which saw Tehran limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Nasser Karimi, The Associated Press

German economy grows slightly in 3Q, staving off recession

BERLIN – Germany’s gross domestic product returned to modest growth in the third quarter, the Federal Statistical Office reported Thursday, staving off a widely-feared recession in Europe’s largest economy.

The Wiesbaden-based agency said the economy grew 0.1% in the July-September period over the previous quarter, largely driven by public and private consumption. Exports rose as well, while imports remained roughly at the second quarter level, the agency reported.

It said, however, that the second quarter contraction was greater than preliminary figures had shown, with the economy shrinking in the April-June period by 0.2% compared to the 0.1% originally reported.

Two straight quarters of declining output is considered a technical recession, which many economists had predicted that Germany had entered in the third quarter.

A week ago, the German government’s independent panel of economic advisers reported that a 0.1% third-quarter contraction was likely.

Though they said there were no signs of a “broad, deep recession,” the panel also said there was no sign of a “strong revival” in the fourth quarter. The five-member panel cut its economic forecast to growth of 0.5% this year and 0.9% in 2020, compared with its forecast in March of 0.8% this year and 1.7% next year.

And even though the recession has been averted, the numbers show Germany is in a de facto stagnation, and its export-driven economy still faces headwinds due to international uncertainty.

Services companies and the jobs market have held up well in Germany, but the industrial sector, led by automobiles and factory machinery, has seen declines amid trade tensions.

Among other things, the dispute between U.S. President Donald Trump and the Chinese leadership over China’s trade surplus with the U.S. has dampened trade and industrial output by raising uncertainty about whether and where more tariffs might be imposed. Another negative is uncertainty about the date and terms of Britain’s departure from the European Union.

In their report, the government economists cautioned that a no-deal Brexit could yet chop 0.3 percentage points off next year’s German growth, reducing it to 0.6%.

Britain is currently scheduled to leave the European Union by the end of January, but whether, how and when it leaves will depend on the outcome of an election next month.

David Rising, The Associated Press

Islamic Jihad says cease-fire reached to fighting in Gaza

GAZA, Palestinian Territory – The Islamic Jihad militant group says a cease-fire has been reached to end two days of heavy fighting with Israel.

Spokesman Musab al-Berim says the Egyptian-brokered deal went into effect at 530 a.m. (0330 GMT) Thursday.

He says the cease-fire was based on a list of demands presented by his group late Wednesday, including a halt to Israeli targeted killings of the group’s leaders.

The fighting broke out early Tuesday after Israel killed a senior commander of the militant group.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

The Associated Press

AP source: Deval Patrick tells allies he plans 2020 bid

WASHINGTON – Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is telling allies he plans to seek the Democratic presidential nomination.

That’s according to a person with knowledge of his plans who spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

A Patrick bid would be a reversal for the popular two-term governor. He had earlier flirted with the idea of launching a White House bid before deciding late last year against jumping into the race, citing what he called the “cruelty” of the election process.

The 63-year-old Patrick, who made history as the state’s first black governor from 2007 to 2015, travelled across the country in support of Democratic candidates during the 2018 midterm elections. He is a close ally of former President Barack Obama.

Julie Pace, The Associated Press

Porn actress fights Trump request for settlement dollars

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Attorneys for porn star Stormy Daniels are challenging a request by President Donald Trump’s lawyers to stake claim to a settlement between Daniels and Ohio’s capital city.

A federal judge last year said Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, must pay Trump nearly $293,000 for his attorneys’ fees and another $1,000 in sanctions after her defamation suit against him was dismissed.

Earlier this year, the city of Columbus reached a $450,000 settlement with Daniels over the porn actress’ arrest at a strip club in 2018. Trump’s lawyers noted in filing to the court involved in the Columbus judgment last week that Clifford owes him $293,052.

Daniels’ attorneys said in a Wednesday filing that Clifford has an active appeal in her defamation suit and Trump’s request should be deemed “null and void.”

The Associated Press

Tesla to build factory in Germany after subsidies announced

BERLIN – Germany on Wednesday hailed Tesla’s decision to build its first European factory in the country, days after the government said it would boost subsidies for buyers of electric cars.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during an awards ceremony in the German capital Tuesday evening that “we’ve decided to put the Tesla Gigafactory Europe in the Berlin area.”

The company will also set up an engineering and design centre in Berlin, Musk said. He wrote on Twitter that the new plant “will build batteries, powertrains & vehicles, starting with Model Y.”

The Model Y is a small SUV scheduled to go on sale in the fall of 2020. It will start at $39,000 (35,400 euros) with a range of 230 miles (370 kilometres) per charge.

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier called the announcement a “glorious success” for the country’s attractiveness to the auto industry, especially in the race to develop and produce electric cars and batteries.

Altmaier said there had been competition for the plant among European countries in recent months, but denied that the government had offered any financial support to Tesla.

“So far, subsidies haven’t been discussed,” he told reporters in Berlin. “It’s clear that Tesla will be treated the same way as all other automobile companies if it invests in Germany and creates jobs here.”

In an interview with British publication Auto Express, Musk said uncertainty over Britain’s planned exit from the European Union – and thereby the world’s biggest trading bloc – had been a factor in not building the new plant there.

“Brexit made it too risky to put a Gigafactory in the UK,” Musk was quoted as saying.

Tesla did not respond to requests to elaborate on how Brexit helped swing it for Berlin, but German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters that “we see in it proof of trust in Germany as a location for innovation.”

Tesla’s announcement comes just a week after German officials and auto industry leaders agreed to increase by half the existing government incentives for electric vehicles with a list price of up to 40,000 euros ($44,500) – an incentive Tesla can expect to profit from indirectly.

The subsidy will also be extended from the end of 2020 currently to the end of 2025, and the government and industry agreed to aim for 50,000 publicly accessible charging stations nationwide by 2022.

Musk said that the plan is for the factory to be built near Berlin’s new airport, which is located just outside the city limits in neighbouring Brandenburg state and currently slated to open next year after years of delays.

“We definitely need to move faster than the airport, that’s for sure,” Musk said.

Germany, home to some of the world’s biggest automakers, has been overtaken by the United States, China and some European neighbours in the adoption of electric vehicles.

In July, Tesla announced plans to build its third Gigafactory – the first outside the U.S. – in Shanghai.

German automaker Volkswagen, which last week began mass production of its ID.3 electric car, welcomed rival Tesla’s decision to build the factory on its home turf.

“I’m happy that Elon is, let’s say, pulling us, but I think the German industry is really now strongly investing,” said Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess, speaking alongside Musk at Tuesday’s event. “And we will keep you alert.”

Auto industry expert Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer said additional competition could benefit German automakers.

“This is good news for VW, Daimler and BMW,” said Dudenhoeffer, who heads the Center Automotive Research.

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Frank Jordans and David Rising contributed to this story.

Geir Moulson, The Associated Press


Kris Kristofferson gives surprise performance at Fargo bar

FARGO, N.D. – Kris Kristofferson surprised customers when he performed with an acoustic guitar at a North Dakota bar after a band taped a request to the singer-songwriter’s tour bus.

Kristofferson stopped at Dempsey’s Public House in downtown Fargo on Saturday night and asked to sing with the band 32 Below.

KFGO-AM reports the band had taped a note to Kristofferson’s tour bus door. The note said the band was “huge fans” and “would be absolutely stoked” if Kristofferson came to the bar and allowed them to buy him “a beer or five.”

Dempsey’s General Manager Jeff Fonder says Kristofferson performed “Me and Bobby McGee.”

32 Below later said on Facebook: “We played a legendary song with the legend who wrote it!”

Kristofferson was in town to perform at the Fargo Theatre.

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Information from: KFGO-AM, http://www.kfgo.com

The Associated Press

People magazine names John Legend as 2019 Sexiest Man Alive

LOS ANGELES – R&B crooner John Legend has been named the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine.

The Grammy-winning singer known for his silky-smooth vocals was revealed as this year’s winner Tuesday night on NBC’s “The Voice.” He serves as a coach on the singing competition series with Gwen Stefani, Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton.

Shelton, who was named Sexiest Man Alive in 2017, announced Legend’s honour on “The Voice.” The country singer then handed Legend some short shorts with bedazzled letters “EGOTSMA” to signify the singer’s many honours: an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony and now, Sexiest Man Alive.

Legend tells the magazine in an issue out Friday the honour comes with some pressure after following Idris Elba, who was last year’s winner. He jokes it “is not fair and is not nice to me!”

The 40-year-old Legend is a 10-time Grammy winner. He scored an Oscar in 2015 for co-writing the song “Glory” from the film “Selma.” He won a Tony Award for his co-producer work on “Jitney” and took home an Emmy as a producer on NBC’s live version of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” a project in which he also played the role of Jesus.

Legend has two children with model-television host-cookbook author Chrissy Teigen.

Other recent winners include Dwayne Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Adam Levine, Channing Tatum and David Beckham.

“I want to thank Blake Shelton,” Legend said. “I observed every move he made, every utterance that came from his mouth and I think some of it rubbed off on me.”

Legend said his wife is proud of him.

“I’ve finally impressed her,” he said.

The couple’s children? Not so much. Teigen posted a video of the reveal of their daughter asking to turn off “The Voice” and go back to a movie. Teigen titled the post “The kids … do not care.”

Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press



BMI honours Dwight Yoakam, top country songwriters

NASHVILLE – Country music singer, songwriter and actor Dwight Yoakam was honoured by performing rights organization BMI for his trailblazing and highly unique style of California country rock.

The organization gave the Grammy-winner the President’s Award on Tuesday, as well as honoured many of country’s top songwriters and artists, during a ceremony in Nashville, Tennessee.

For Yoakam, there wasn’t any choice other than creating his own sound.

“I never thought about doing it another way,” he said during an interview on the red carpet prior to the ceremony. “I kind of just did what I felt was honest.”

Born in Kentucky, Yoakam bypassed the Nashville scene and moved to California, where the Bakersfield-style of country music became one of his big influences. He’s had hits with “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” and “Fast As You,” and several platinum-selling albums.

“I was always a little stunned that things have been played 2, 3 million times in the case of some of the albums, you know, some of the songs that are tracks off albums,” Yoakam said. “So tonight, this is kind of a culmination of the 34 years of receiving those individual awards.”

Country singers Jon Pardi, Margo Price and the group The Highwomen with Jason Isbell performed some of Yoakam’s songs during the ceremony.

Other top country songwriters were also honoured, including Nicolle Galyon and Ross Copperman. Galyon became the first female songwriter to win BMI’s country songwriter of the year since Taylor Swift in 2010.

Galyon co-wrote Lee Brice’s “Boy,” Keith Urban’s “Coming Home,” Lady Antebellum’s “Heartbreak” and Dan + Shay’s “Tequila.” Copperman co-wrote Kenny Chesney’s “Get Along,” Blake Shelton’s “I Lived It,” Justin Moore’s “Kinda Don’t Care” and Dierks Bentley’s “Woman, Amen.”

Kristin M. Hall, The Associated Press






UN reports increasing violations of Iran nuclear deal

VIENNA – Uranium particles of man-made origin have been discovered at a site in Iran not declared to the United Nations, the U.N. atomic watchdog agency said Monday as it confirmed a litany of violations by Tehran of the 2015 nuclear deal.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran has begun enriching uranium at a heavily fortified installation inside a mountain, is increasing its stockpile of processed uranium, and is exceeding the allowable enrichment levels.

All such steps are prohibited under the agreement Iran reached with world powers to prevent it from building a bomb.

Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

But since the U.S. under President Donald Trump pulled out of the pact last year and imposed new sanctions, Iran has been openly stepping up violations in an attempt to pressure the other major signatories – Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – to help it economically by such means as facilitating the sale of Iranian oil.

The IAEA report came as European Union members met to decide how to keep the deal alive.

“We now need to make it clear to Iran that it can’t continue like this,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

Those efforts became more complicated after the IAEA reported that its inspectors confirmed traces of uranium “at a location in Iran not declared to the agency.” The assertion appeared to confirm allegations made by the U.S. and Israel of a secret nuclear warehouse.

The IAEA did not identify the site in the confidential quarterly report, which was distributed to member states and seen by The Associated Press.

In its report, the IAEA also confirmed that the centrifuges are at work at Iran’s Fordo facility – an underground site ringed by anti-aircraft guns – and that enrichment of uranium has been going on there since Saturday.

The nuclear deal had called for Fordo to become a research centre. It is now home to more than 1,000 centrifuges.

In addition, the IAEA said that as of Nov. 3, Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium has grown to 372.3 kilograms (820.78 pounds), up from 241.6 kilograms reported on Aug. 19, and past the 202.8-kilogram limit.

Also, the agency said Iran continues to enrich uranium up to 4.5% – above the 3.67% allowed by the nuclear deal, though still far below weapons-grade levels of 90%.

Uranium enriched to 4.5% can be used at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, where a second reactor is under construction.

The concern is that the more uranium Iran enriches, the shorter will be the “breakout time” – the time it would need to produce enough material for a bomb. Analysts had put that time at a year if Iran abided by the 2015 deal’s restrictions.

At talks in Brussels on Monday, EU foreign ministers affirmed their support for the pact. The top diplomats from Britain, France and Germany later met for further discussions in Paris.

The three said they were “extremely concerned” that Iran had restarted enrichment at Fordo, and they called on Tehran to reverse course and comply with the agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

A meeting of all the signatories is likely to be held in coming days.

Iran has been open about its violations of the deal in recent months, announcing the moves before making them and allowing the IAEA to verify them.

Speaking at a U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York, Iran’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Eshagh Al Habib, insisted that his country’s moves are all “reversable.”

They provide “opportunity for remaining JCPOA participants either to take serious practical steps to preserve the JCPOA or, along with the U.S., accept the full responsibility for any possible consequences,” he said.

The head of Iran’s nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, told The Associated Press on Monday that his country is producing much more low-enriched uranium.

Salehi said Iran is now turning out at least 5.5 kilograms (12 pounds) per day, compared with about 450 grams (1 pound) previously, thanks to the Fordo centrifuges.

One option for the other foreign powers is to trigger the dispute mechanism in the nuclear agreement, which would start the clock on a 30-day period in which to resolve the problem.

If the problem persists, the matter could be brought before the U.N. Security Council and could result in the “snapback” of sanctions that had been lifted under the deal.

“We affirm our readiness to consider all mechanisms in the JCPOA, including the dispute resolution mechanism, to resolve the issues,” the EU members of the agreement said after their Paris meeting.

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Gambrell reported from Dubai, Rising from Berlin. Associated Press writers Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed.

Kiyoko Metzler, David Rising And Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press