Monthly Archives: September 2018

Fred Guttenberg (L), the father of Jamie Guttenberg, a victim of the February 14, 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, reaches out to try to shake hands with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh during his U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he could withdraw his support for Brett Kavanaugh depending on the testimony in a high-profile Thursday hearing into multiple accusations of sexual misconduct against the Supreme Court nominee.

Trump defended Kavanaugh, now a federal appeals court judge, at a New York news conference, but the president’s comments injected another note of uncertainty into Kavanaugh’s already troubled bid for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.

“You know, believe it or not, I’m going to see what’s said” at the hearing, Trump told reporters.

A third woman has accused Kavanaugh of aggressive sexual behavior in the 1980s. The nominee has vehemently denied all of the allegations ahead of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing coming up on Thursday where one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, will also testify to senators.

Trump dismissed the allegations against Kavanaugh as a “big fat con job” orchestrated by Democrats. He did not say that Kavanaugh’s female accusers were lying.

“I can always be convinced,” Trump said. “It will be interesting to hear what she has to say.”

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) on Monday criticized President Trump, who said in an interview that he opposes granting the territory statehood while pointing to an “incompetent” mayor in San Juan.

“The President said he is not in favor of statehood for the people of Puerto Rico based on a personal feud with a local mayor. This is an insensitive, disrespectful comment to over 3 million Americans who live in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico,” said Rosselló in a statement.

In a pre-recorded interview with Geraldo Rivera aired on Cleveland’s WTAM radio earlier Monday, Trump said he’d remain against statehood for the territory while San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz remained in office.

“With the mayor of San Juan as bad as she is and as incompetent as she is, Puerto Rico shouldn’t be talking about statehood until they get some people that really know what they’re doing,” said Trump.

Cruz and Trump have feuded over the federal response to Hurricane Maria since shortly after the deadly storm struck in September of 2017.

Cruz, whose Popular Democratic Party opposes statehood, responded to Trump’s latest comments over Twitter.

“Trump once again accuses me of telling the truth. Now he says statehood won’t arrive because of me,” she tweeted.

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-P.R.), a staunch supporter of statehood, also weighed in on Twitter.

“Equality 4 Puerto Ricans shouldn’t be held up by one bad mayor who’s leaving office in 2020 & do not represent the people who voted twice for statehood. In 2012 61%, and 97% in 2017. Equality & statehood are much bigger than any lousy & temporary politician. Equality transcends,” said González.

Trump’s comments on Rivera’s show escalated a budding public disagreement between the president and Rosselló, who has at times taken internal criticism rather than publicly rebuke Trump.

“How can the United States make the case for democracy at the United Nations this week, when they have under their flag the most populous colony in the world? I urge all political leaders in the nation to define their views towards our quest for equal treatment for the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico,” said Rosselló in his statement, in reference to the ongoing United Nations General Assembly, which Trump will address in New York on Tuesday.

Trump and Rosselló last week disagreed publicly over the official death count of hurricanes Irma and Maria, which a George Washington University study estimated at 2,975.

In a letter to Trump commemorating the anniversary of Maria, Rosselló asked the president to consider moving forward the cause of statehood for the island.

In his letter, Rosselló appealed to Trump’s leadership, saying “statehood for Puerto Rico is not only about realizing Puerto Rico’s full potential. It is about America living up to its most noble values by creating a more perfect Union.”

Although Puerto Rican statehood is part of the Republican Party platform, and Trump campaigned as a supporter of the idea, it has met cool reception in Washington for decades.

“While a Presidential candidate, Trump said that the will of the Puerto Rican people in any status referendum should be considered as Congress follows through on any desired change in status for Puerto Rico, including statehood,” read Rosselló’s Monday statement.

In June, Trump joked to Rosselló that he would consider statehood if Puerto Rico could guarantee it would elect two Republican senators.

Still, Trump’s position — as stated to Rivera — has moved away from statehood.

“With people like that involved in Puerto Rico, I would be an absolute no,” said Trump.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday and left intact its plans to steadily tighten monetary policy, as it forecast that the U.S. economy would enjoy at least three more years of growth.

In a statement that marked the end of the era of “accommodative” monetary policy, Fed policymakers lifted the benchmark overnight lending rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a range of 2.00 percent to 2.25 percent.

The U.S. central bank still foresees another rate hike in December, three more next year, and one increase in 2020.

That would put the benchmark overnight lending rate at 3.4 percent, roughly half a percentage point above the Fed’s estimated “neutral” rate of interest, at which rates neither stimulate nor restrict the economy.

That tight policy stance is projected to stay level through 2021, the timeframe of the Fed’s latest economic projections.

“The thing that folks were watching for, which they went ahead and did, was remove the word ‘accommodative’ in regard to their monetary policy,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.

“It does seem to potentially indicate they believe monetary policy is becoming less accommodative and getting more towards that neutral rate.”

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the removal of the wording, which had been a staple of the central bank’s guidance for financial markets and households for much of the past decade, did not signal a policy outlook change.

“Instead, it is a sign that policy is proceeding in line with our expectations,” Powell, who took over as head of the Fed earlier this year, said in a press conference after the release of the statement.

The U.S. Treasury yield curve flattened and the U.S. dollar .DXY briefly weakened against a basket of currencies. U.S. stocks initially extended gains but fell later in the trading session, with bank and financial stocks getting hit hard.

The Fed sees the economy growing at a faster-than-expected 3.1 percent this year and continuing to expand moderately for at least three more years, amid sustained low unemployment and stable inflation near its 2 percent target.

“The labor market has continued to strengthen … economic activity has been rising at a strong rate,” it said in its statement.

The Fed inserted no substitute language for the dropped ‘accommodative’ wording in its statement. That wording had become less and less accurate since the central bank began increasing rates in late 2015 from a near-zero level, and its removal means the Fed now considers rates near neutral.

NEW PROJECTIONS

Wednesday’s rate increase once again drew criticism from President Donald Trump, who has complained that the Fed’s actions are countering his efforts to boost the economy.

“We’re doing great as a country. Unfortunately they just raised interest rates because we are doing so well. I’m not happy about that,” Trump told a press conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“I’d rather pay down debt or do other things, create more jobs. So I’m worried about the fact that they seem to like raising interest rates.”

Powell, at his press conference, declined to say whether Fed policymakers had discussed Trump’s previous criticism of the central bank. Last month, Trump expressed his displeasure about rising rates and said the Fed should do more to boost the economy.

Powell, who was appointed by Trump and took over as Fed chairman earlier this year, said the central bank would remain independent.

“We don’t consider political factors or things like that,” the Fed chief said.

Wednesday’s rate hike was the third this year and the seventh in the last eight quarters. Ahead of Wednesday’s statement, traders put the chance of a rate increase at 95 percent, according to CME Group.

The Fed’s latest projections show the economy continuing at a steady pace through 2019, with gross domestic product growth seen at 2.5 percent next year before slowing to 2.0 percent in 2020 and to 1.8 percent in 2021, as the impact of recent tax cuts and government spending fade.

Inflation was forecast to hover near 2 percent over the next three years, while the unemployment rate is expected to fall to 3.5 percent next year and remain there through 2020 before rising slightly in 2021.

The jobless rate is currently 3.9 percent.

With risks described as roughly balanced, the statement left the Fed on a steady course for the next year.

Risks to the current run of economic growth, such as the threat of a damaging round of global tariff increases, were largely set aside.

There were no dissents in the Fed’s policy statement

 

Although the effort to rebuild Puerto Rico has made some progress, the island is still confronting questions of status, economics, and migration that the storm helped expose.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—Puerto Rico se levanta. It’s become something of an official motto among officials on the island, draped across buildings and making its way into press releases and speeches. It captures an optimistic and hopeful feeling, one a world away from mainland America’s posture toward the island, which vacillates between indifference and sensationalism. The best English translation is probably “Puerto Rico is rising,” but a few others might do as well. Puerto Rico rises. Puerto Rico raises itself. Puerto Rico is waking up.

But a full year after the destruction of Hurricane Maria—with blue tarps as ubiquitous on the island as the se levanta slogans and the murals declaring fuerte—just what do “rising” and “waking up” really mean? Thursday marks the tragic anniversary of one of the most deadly disasters in American history, and somber vigils and actos ecuménicos across Puerto Rico will mark it as such. The subtext of each event is the push and pull of grief and hope, a battle between past and future, a struggle between colony and colonizer, a complicated relationship between a diaspora and home, and an unresolved mix of questions about status and citizenship.

What have we learned since Hurricane Maria? Most of the attention in the past few weeks has been focused on how to quantify the damage done by the storm and its aftermath. That discussion took on a heated, partisan character when President Trump disputed the estimate, rendered by academic researchers, that almost 3,000 people died as a result of the storm. His dispute—and that of the praetorian guard of pundits dedicated to preserving his presidency—is not one rooted in facts or even in good will toward the Puerto Rican people, but in dismissal and negligence. The number makes the federal government look bad, so it must be a hoax, or the result of poor conditions on the island before the storm, or a poor response from Puerto Rican authorities long after.

It’s a self-contradictory argument, but one that, above all else, denies any kind of federal responsibility. According to Trump, the federal government’s response was monumental and historical, but was somehow also hampered by the fact that Puerto Rico is a five-hour flight away from Washington, D.C. In his telling, that response is what kept the island from enduring a similar fate to Louisiana and other states in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Katrina.

But the truth is that the federal government’s reaction was deeply inadequate, and likely led to hundreds or perhaps thousands of deaths. A report released by Trump’s own Federal Emergency Management Agency even outlines some of the ways in which the response was lacking. The report found that local stores of emergency supplies in federal warehouses in Puerto Rico were all but nonexistent, and that many of the agency’s critical staff were deployed elsewhere during the early stages of Hurricane Maria. Federal communications were a mess, making it difficult to get a handle on the true scope of the damage or marshal resources to the worst-hit areas, and leading to logistics logjams in the provision of emergency goods. Outside reporting from Frontline and NPR has found even more worrying deficiencies in the federal response, including a critical lack of planning, a misunderstanding of the island’s fragile electric grid, and a contracting process during the response phase that was wanting, to say the least. There is no reading of FEMA’s response, official or otherwise, that indicates that it was as swift or efficient as the response to mainland disasters like Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

But the responsibility for Maria’s aftermath doesn’t just rest with the federal government either. Puerto Rico’s vulnerable electricity grid and its weak critical infrastructure were almost entirely destroyed by the storm, and the story of how they got so weak is one that involves authorities on the island and federal lawmakers from both parties. Then there’s the financial crisis that wracked the island, and the Puerto Rico Power Authority’s financial troubles, which left the territory with a power grid that was a strong storm away from complete collapse. The fact is that last year Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck an island that was uniquely fragile, was in political and financial turmoil, and was probably in the worst shape possible for a major disaster.

The ongoing question of responsibility is still being sorted out in the territory. Multiple levels of government have been involved in Puerto Rico’s restoration, as well as its political struggle for power within the United States. A federal oversight board, implemented by Congress two years ago and signed into law by President Obama, is technically in charge of major fiscal decisions on the island, and as such was the major player in a recent decision to privatize Prepa. But it still exists uneasily alongside the official elected government on the island, led by Governor Ricardo Rosselló, and the two have often clashed on infrastructure and finance, among other matters.

Under the direction of the oversight board, the island has embarked on an austerity program, slashing public assistance and government support to municipalities and institutions like Puerto Rico’s robust university system, as well as major cuts to public education and a massive slate of school closings. In a post-Maria world, the goal of this program is essentially to starve off the informal economy and massive public sector that have developed over time in Puerto Rico , and replace them with a robust formal tourism industry and private developers, all buoyed by an influx of credit from mainland investors. But that program has highlighted another rift within the territory, one in which public-sector employees and students are naturally squeezed and now find themselves often in protest.

Even as those tensions heighten within the increasingly complicated social and political structures within Puerto Rico, rebuilding is still taking place. After eight months in the dark for some citizens, most of the power grid is back in place. It’s still fragile, and still faces outages during storms in some areas, but the deafening hum of generators that characterized the island’s metropolitan areas after Maria is no longer. Most of the critical roads are repaired, and the hospitals are in no worse condition than they were before the storm. Tourism is back—and this week especially Rosselló has made a show of entertaining visitors—even though some of the signature hotels in San Juan and Old San Juan still haven’t been rebuilt.

Officials within the tourism industry have decried news coverage of dysfunction and destruction in favor of a narrative that highlights strong recovery. “Six months after Hurricane Maria hit, more than fifty percent of travelers said media coverage negatively impacted their view of Puerto Rico as a destination and we’re hoping to change that as the one year anniversary approaches,” said Brad Dean, the CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, a new nonprofit created to promote tourism, in a press release earlier this month.

Still, it’s hard to visit Puerto Rico and not see that the recovery is incomplete, perhaps even hollow in some places. The blue tarps covering roofs are so common that they are visible on the flight into San Juan. Municipalities far away from the bustle of the capital still lag behind in rebuilding, only compounding the miseries of rural, poorer residents that existed before the storm. As Kathy Gannett, a resident of Vieques, a small island off the eastern coast, told me, most of the population there still has “great needs for housing, health services, sustainable energy, jobs, ferry service, and mental-health services.”

One of the most difficult problems for the island to deal with is the fact that so many people have left it. According to an analysis released Thursday by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York, almost 200,000 people have departed for the mainland in the year since the storm. That’s a steep drop of about 6 percent from the total population of roughly 3 million people, and it’s on top of the half-million residents who left in the 12 years before Maria. According to Edwin Meléndez, the center’s director, the exodus of Puerto Ricans to the mainland “is an indication of stagnant conditions on the island and the impatience of the population with the governmental responses at all levels.”

Those numbers get to the heart of the problem in Puerto Rico, one that exists beyond Trump’s government, and one that Maria exposed, rather than created. It’s that the political and economic situation of the island is untenable, and that the old specter of colonialism is more and more unbearable.

As people continue to leave, the disaster of Hurricane Maria is still exerting its influence, and the political questions of how to truly confront the catastrophe and its root causes are in front of the island and its diaspora—not behind them. A year is not enough time to measure the scale of a disaster as massive as Maria. The effects on local and federal politics alone will reverberate through future elections. The effects on the economy of Puerto Rico have only just begun, and it increasingly looks like the hurricane marks an epochal shift in the nature of the relationship between the island and the broader United States. Puerto Rico se levanta, but exactly where it will rise is still a mystery.

By: VANN R. NEWKIRK II

A Canalside Autumn Series

WHO: Canalside Management Group

WHAT:
Canalside is excited to present Buffalo’s Own Oktoberfest, a Canalside Autumn series spanning four weekends throughout the upcoming fall season. Starting on September 22nd with our opening day continuing through October 14th, Canalside will be be hosting all of your favorite Autumn activities every Saturday and Sunday from 10A – 8P. Sponsored by Holimont, Mayer Brothers and ADMAR Construction Equipment & Supplies.

WHEN:
SEPTEMBER 22 –Buffalo shaped Hay Maze, Hay Rides, and a Pumpkin Patch
SEPTEMBER 23 – Bring a canned good to donate to the Food Bank of WNY and gain FREE Admission to the Buffalo Hay Maze!
SEPTEMBER 29 – Traditional Oktoberfest Celebration (21+ in Honda VIP Tent)
SEPTEMBER 30 – Goat Yoga
OCTOBER 6 – Children’s Festival featuring children’s crafts, activities, programming, fitness, and a hay maze with your favorite characters
OCTOBER 7 – Weekly Featured Activities
OCTOBER 13 – Holiday Valley Rail Jam from 1:00-4:00PM, Admar Pumpkin Drop at 6:00PM
OCTOBER 14 – Weekly Featured Activities

MORE INFO:
Food vendors will be on site for everyone to enjoy including La Nova, Stella’s Traditional Pierogi, House of Munch and more. The Traditional Beer Hall with Oktoberfest themed food and drink options featuring German beer, extra-large sausage.

For more information and pricing please visit www.canalsidebuffalo.com

A Google sign is seen during the WAIC (World Artificial Intelligence Conference) in Shanghai, China, September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google defended how it polices third-party add-ons for Gmail in a letter to U.S. senators made public on Thursday, saying that upfront review catches the “majority” of bad actors.

Google said it uses automated scans and reports from security researchers to monitor third parties with access to Gmail data, but gave no details on how many add-ons have been caught violating its policies.

Google’s privacy practices have been under growing scrutiny. The Senate Commerce Committee has a hearing scheduled for Sept. 26 to question Google, Apple Inc, AT&T Inc, Twitter Inc about their consumer data privacy practices.

Gmail, the Google email service used by 1.4 billion people, enables add-on developers access to users’ emails and the ability to share that data with other parties as “long as they are transparent” with users about how they are using data and get consent, Google said in the letter.

For instance, a program that logs receipts could be allowed to scan Gmail as it searches for receipts.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The chairman of the Senate committee, Senator John Thune, and two other Republicans wrote Google in July to ask questions, saying that while no allegations of abuse similar to Facebook’s data sharing with Cambridge Analytica have been raised, “the reported lack of oversight from Google to ensure that Gmail data is properly safeguarded is cause for concern.”

Google’s letter made public on Thursday did not directly answer questions about instances in which apps may have improperly shared user data.

“When we detect anomalous behavior, we investigate. And when we suspend apps, we warn users to remove the apps’ access to their data,” the letter said.

In June 2017 Google said it would stop scanning Gmail content to provide personalize ads, saying it was making the change in the interests of privacy and security.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli

On Tuesday, First Niagara Foundation announced their continued support of Say Yes Buffalo with a $2 million gift to the organization’s five-year, $100 million endowment campaign, which will ensure scholarship availability for eligible students forever. Including this donation, the First Niagara Foundation collectively have committed more than $4.1 million to the Say Yes Buffalo scholarship fund.
The gift, made in honor of President Gary Crosby, is part of the First Niagara Foundation’s continued legacy of support to the Western New York community. The gift is the largest single donation in the foundation’s history.
“This $2 million grant to ‘Say Yes Buffalo’ is the largest grant that the First Niagara Foundation has ever made in Western New York,” said Elizabeth Gurney, executive director of the First Niagara Foundation. “We are big believers in the transformative and life-changing opportunities ‘Say Yes’ provides to every public high school graduate in Buffalo. We are thrilled that this gift, made in honor of our president, Gary Crosby, will empower and support students here for many, many years.”
Announced in 2018, the Say Yes Buffalo Endowment Campaign aims to raise $100 million by 2023 to secure the availability of Say Yes’ postsecondary scholarships and grants forever. To date, $37.5 million has been raised toward the $100 million goal.
Since the launch of Say Yes Buffalo in 2012, the Buffalo Public School District has seen promising results in high graduation and college matriculation as a result of the availability of a host of pre-K through 12th grade supports, college tuition scholarships and supports for students once they enroll in college. Since launch, the Buffalo public high school graduation rates have increased by 15 percentage points from 49 percent in 2012 to 64 percent in 2017. College matriculation rates have also increased from 57 percent in 2012 to 67 percent in 2017.
“We are honored to be chosen by the First Niagara Foundation as they make thoughtful decisions about which organizations to leave a lasting legacy,” said Alphonso O’Neil-White, chair of the Say Yes Buffalo scholarship board. “First Niagara Foundation is strong supporters of the mission of the Say Yes Buffalo Partnership beyond financial support. They mentor our students as they transition to college, they provide internship experiences and they support the development of the community school initiative. Their holistic commitment should be recognized and is graciously appreciated.”
The Say Yes Buffalo Partnership is an education-based initiative that provides a powerful engine for long-term economic development, which will radically improve the life course of public school students in the City of Buffalo. Catalyzed by a locally funded scholarship program and bolstered by a successful national model that includes support for districtwide school improvements and alignment of community and public support services, Say Yes Buffalo aims to increase educational attainment of the students in the Buffalo Public Schools. To accomplish this, Say Yes Buffalo partners collectively address financial, academic, health and social/emotional barriers to educational attainment to ensure all students have the tools to successfully earn a postsecondary degree.

Fred Guttenberg (L), the father of Jamie Guttenberg, a victim of the February 14, 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, reaches out to try to shake hands with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh during his U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court pick, on Monday called a woman’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her 36 years ago “completely false,” while a lawyer said the accuser is willing to publicly testify before a Senate panel that is scheduled to vote this week on his nomination.

In a day of fast-moving developments, all 10 Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee overseeing the confirmation process sent a letter urging a delay in Thursday’s planned vote so the FBI can investigate the allegation.

Republican Senator Susan Collins, whose vote could be pivotal in deciding whether Kavanaugh gets confirmed, said on Twitter the nominee and his accuser should both testify under oath before the committee.

Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor in California, has accused Kavanaugh, a conservative appeals court judge chosen by Trump for a lifetime job on the top U.S. court, of trying to attack her and remove her clothing in 1982 when they were both high school students in a Maryland suburb outside Washington.

“This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes – to her or to anyone,” Kavanaugh said in a statement issued by the White House.

“Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday,” added Kavanaugh, who said he is willing to talk to the Judiciary Committee in any way it deems appropriate “to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity.”

Kavanaugh, whose statement was his second denying the allegation but the first since Ford was publicly identified as his accuser, was at the White House on Monday morning, a White House official said.

Ford’s accusation has significantly complicated his nomination, which must be approved first by the Judiciary Committee and then by the full chamber, which is narrowly controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans.

The high-stakes confirmation fight comes just weeks before the Nov. 6 congressional elections in which Democrats are seeking to take control of Congress from Trump’s fellow Republicans.

White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said sworn testimony from both Kavanaugh and Ford on the specific allegation should be considered as part of the record in the judge’s hearings. “This woman should not be insulted and she should not be ignored,” Conway said told Fox News.

In television interviews on Monday, Ford’s Washington-based lawyer, Debra Katz, said her client would be willing to speak out publicly. Asked if that included testimony under oath at a public hearing before senators, Katz told CBS’s “This Morning” program: “She’s willing to do what she needs to do.”

Katz’s comments suggested any public hearing could be explosive. Ford believes Kavanaugh’s alleged actions were “attempted rape” and “that if it were not for the severe intoxication of Brett Kavanaugh, she would have been raped,” Katz told NBC’s “Today” program.

Katz told CBS that Ford had consumed a beer but was not drunk. Ford was 15 at the time of the alleged incident and Kavanaugh was 17.

‘DESERVES TO BE HEARD’

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said the standard procedure would be to conduct follow-up telephone calls with Kavanaugh and Ford. Grassley said he intends to work with the senior Democrat on the committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, to schedule the calls. He said Democrats so far have refused to cooperate.

“Anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has deserves to be heard, so I will continue working on a way to hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner,” Grassley said in a statement.

The panel’s Democratic members pushed for a delay.

“All Senators, regardless of party, should insist the FBI perform its due diligence and fully investigate the allegations as part of its review of Judge Kavanaugh’s background,” they wrote in a letter to Grassley made public by Feinstein.

Republicans hold a slim 11-10 advantage on the Judiciary Committee and a 51-49 majority in the Senate.

“Trying to rush this through on Thursday is an insult to the women of America and an insult to the majesty of the Supreme Court of the United States,” Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer told ABC’s “The View.”

Republican panel member Jeff Flake said he would not be comfortable voting on the nomination until the committee hears from Ford. Committee Republican Lindsey Graham welcomed hearing from Ford but said it should “be done immediately so the process can continue as scheduled.”

Trump has the chance to tilt the Supreme Court further to the right by replacing the retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who sometimes sided with the court’s liberal wing. Without Kennedy on the court, the justices are split 4-4 between liberals and conservatives.

Even before the allegation emerged, Kavanaugh’s fate appeared to rest on two moderate Republican women senators who support abortion rights, Collins and Senator Lisa Murkowski, told CNN late on Sunday that Republicans “might have to consider” discussing a possible delay.

Ford detailed her story in a letter sent to Feinstein in July. The letter’s contents leaked last week and Ford identified herself in an interview with the Washington Post published on Sunday.

Ford and her lawyers have not responded to Reuters requests for comment.

The Kavanaugh fight has similarities to the confirmation process for conservative Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991. He faced sexual harassment allegations brought by a law professor named Anita Hill but was ultimately confirmed by the Senate.

Kavanaugh was a key part of an independent counsel’s team that investigated Democratic President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, including his sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

If Kavanaugh’s nomination fails, Trump would get to select a replacement, but that nominee likely would not be confirmed by the Senate before the election. Even if Republicans lose control of the Senate in the midterm election, they likely would be able to vote on a second nominee before the new Congress is seated in January.

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley, Steve Holland and Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Will Dunham

 

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Dow Jones Industrial Average stock market index-listed company Coca-Cola (KO) is seen in Los Angeles, California, U.S. April 4, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

Reuters) – Coca Cola Co (KO.N) said on Monday it was looking closely at the growing marijuana-infused drinks market, responding to a media report that the world’s largest beverage maker was in talks with Canada’s Aurora Cannabis Inc (ACB.TO).

The potential product tie-up, reported by Canadian financial channel BNN Bloomberg, could help Coke’s efforts to overcome sluggish demand for its sugar-heavy sodas by diversifying into coffee and health-focused drinks.

Big corporate names have inched into the marijuana industry since Canada approved recreational use, seeing the country as a production base and testing ground until U.S. Federal Law changes.

“While there are opportunities in certain states in the USA for Coke to develop and sell a product it would put their banking relationships at jeopardy,” said Bruce Campbell, a portfolio manager at Stonecastle Investment Management who has invested in marijuana producers.

“Entry into a legalized Canadian market allows them to develop and build a brand while not breaking any laws.”

Both Coke and Aurora, in separate statements, said they were interested in cannabidiol infused beverages but could not comment on any market speculation.

Coke and Aurora would likely develop beverages that will ease inflammation, pain and cramping, the BNN report said here&_gucid=&_gup=twitter&_gsc=gQCuZEQ, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The move would make Coke the first major manufacturer of non-alcoholic beverages to step into the market for cannabis-related products, following announcements by Corona maker Constellation Brands (STZ.N) and Molson Coors Brewing Co (TAP.N).

The world’s largest spirits maker Diageo (DGE.L) is also reportedly in talks with at least three Canadian cannabis producers as it considers a possible investment. bit.ly/2PBJbL0

Sales in U.S. legal markets should nearly triple to $16 billion by 2020 from $5.4 billion in 2015, according to market research firm Euromonitor International, and Constellation says cannabis globally could be worth $200 billion in 15 years.

HEALTHY

Hard on the heels of a $5.1-billion deal to buy Costa Coffee last month, analysts said a move into marijuana-infused drinks fit with Coke’s moves toward a healthier product portfolio. Cannabidiol or CBD is one of hundreds of molecules found in marijuana plants, and contains less than 0.1 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component that makes people high. It does not cause intoxication.

“Along with many others in the beverage industry, we are closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive CBD as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world,” Coke said in its statement on Monday.

Aurora’s shares rose 14 percent while U.S-listed shares of fellow Canadian producers Canopy Growth Corp (CGC.N) and Tilray Inc (TLRY.O) gained respectively 3 and 7 percent. Coca-Cola shares were marginally higher in a U.S. market struggling against expectations of another round of Chinese trade tariffs.

Vivien Azer, an analyst with brokerage Cowen, said she would not be surprised to see Pepsi PEP.N seeking a similar tie-up.

“We continue to expect to see more deals between Canadian cannabis companies and the larger players in the global alcohol market who have yet to gain exposure to the category,” she said.

Reporting by Uday Sampath and John Benny in Bengaluru, Martinne Geller in London; editing by Patrick Graham

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in is set to cross the heavily militarized border on Tuesday for his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seeking to cement a breakthrough in faltering nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

The inter-Korean summit will be a litmus test for another meeting Kim has recently proposed to U.S. President Donald Trump, giving clues to whether Kim is serious about denuclearization, a commitment he made at their first encounter in June.

Trump has asked Moon to be “chief negotiator” between himself and Kim, according to Moon’s aides, after Trump canceled a trip to Pyongyang by his secretary of state last month.

“I’d like to have frank dialogue with Chairman Kim on how to find a point of contact between U.S. demands for denuclearization and North Korea’s demands for ending hostile relations and security guarantees,” Moon told a meeting with senior secretaries on Monday.

Moon, himself the offspring of a family displaced by the 1950-53 Korean War, will fly into the North’s capital of Pyongyang, landing at 10 a.m. (0300 GMT), his chief of staff Im Jong-seok told a news briefing on Monday. He is expected to be greeted by Kim before an official welcoming ceremony.

The two leaders will sit down for formal talks after lunch, which will be followed by a musical performance and welcome dinner.

Accompanying corporate executives, including Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee and the chiefs of SK Group and LG Group, will meet with North Korean Deputy Prime Minister Ri Ryong Nam in charge of economic affairs, Im said.

On Wednesday, Moon and Kim are expected to unveil a joint statement, and a separate military pact designed to defuse tensions and prevent armed clashes, Im said.

Moon will return home early Thursday.

‘EVERYTHING IN BLANK’

Moon is hoping to help jumpstart nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington, by engineering a proposal that combines a concrete framework for the North’s denuclearization and a joint declaration ending the 1950-53 Korean War, Seoul officials said.

The war ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving U.S.-led U.N. forces including South Korea technically still at war with the North.

But U.S. officials remain “unenthusiastic” about declaring an end to the war without any substantial action toward denuclearization from the North, Seoul officials said.

South Korea is pinning high hopes on Kim’s remarks to Moon’s special envoys earlier this month that he wants to achieve denuclearization within Trump’s first term in office ending in early 2021, the first time line he has given.

Agreeing on a timetable is a core task for Moon, as it would induce U.S. action, said Lee Jung-chul, a professor at Soongsil University in Seoul.

“Given U.S. scepticism that South Korea may have oversold Kim’s willingness to denuclearise, how President Moon delivers his sincerity toward denuclearization to Trump would be a key factor for the fate of their second summit,” Lee told a forum on Monday in Seoul.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Joyce Lee; Editing by Lincoln Feast

STAY CONNECTED

WP Facebook Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com