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Ill-Tempered Spanish Election May Lead to Greater Deadlock, Division

For the third time in four years Spaniards head to polling stations Sunday, and are likely to confirm a Europe-wide electoral pattern of voters moving away from traditional parties.

With the emergence of new populist-based factions, European politics is becoming more fragmented, leading to minority governments, misshapen governing coalitions, more political deadlock and less predictability. That is likely to be the fate of Spain come Sunday, with some analysts forecasting another snap election may have to be called later in the year.

The election will confirm the fragmentation of politics, according to Ivan Llamazares, a political scientist at Universidad de Salamanca. He says it will “be very difficult to form stable legislative majorities in the coming years” in Spain thanks to a breakdown in centrist, consensual politics.

The Socialists, led by Pedro Sanchez, the current prime minister, are expected to attract the largest share of the vote in an ill-natured general election on April 28, which has seen tempers fray and accusations of treason being hurled with abandon. The rise of the ultra-nationalist Vox party, which last December won 12 seats in the regional parliament in Andalusia, has added a sharpness and volatility to the election.

Socialists more united under Sanchez

Coming out on top of the polls Sunday will be a remarkable achievement in itself for Sanchez — until last year the Socialists were mired in vicious splits and appeared out for the count following two bruising electoral defeats. Pollsters suggest Sanchez’s party will secure 30 percent of the vote.

But, despite their revival, the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) will likely be denied an overall majority. It will be best positioned, though, to try to form a formal coalition government, the first at the national level since the restoration of democracy in 1977, predict pollsters and analysts.

Sanchez began the Socialist comeback last May when he seized on a string of corruption scandals to unseat the Conservative government of Mariano Rajoy with a surprise no-confidence motion that attracted the support of lawmakers in the the leftist Podemos party as well as Catalan and Basque nationalists.

Since then as the prime minister of a minority government, Sanchez has been astute in rebuilding the PSOE’s base with a series of progressive actions. They have included hiking the minimum wage, appointing a female-dominated Cabinet and starting the legal process to move the embalmed body of the late military dictator, Gen. Francisco Franco, from a huge mausoleum near Madrid, which has become a shrine for far-right activists.

Those moves have helped the PSOE shoot ahead in the opinion polls of the Conservative Popular Party (PP). Until 2015, the PSOE and the PP alternated in power, sometimes relying on Catalan or Basque nationalists to make up the numbers to secure a working parliamentary majority. But with newer populist-based parties vying for votes, including the right-of-center Ciudadanos, leftist Podemos as well as the far-right Vox, the ease of what was in essence a two-party political system has long disappeared.

Vox party: ‘Make Spain great again’

One factor that has helped Sanchez the most, according to Anna Rosenberg, a global investment adviser, has been the emergence of Vox, which promises “to make Spain great again” and crack down on immigration. “People are really scared of the rise of the right-wing parties and that will mobilize voters that might not have been expected to vote before,” she forecast.

Vox, an ultra-nationalist party led by Santiago Abascal, has risen from nowhere to become a serious electoral force. Last December it won 12 seats in regional elections in Andalusia, overturning a post-1977 article of political faith in Spain that an avowedly far-right party couldn’t establish itself because of memories of Spain’s long-running dictatorship. Franco ruled Spain from 1939 to his death in 1975.

Ivan Llamazares says Vox, which is attracting Conservative voters angry with Catalan efforts to separate from Spain, “has fragmented the right and pulled its two main parties, the conservative PP and center-right Ciudadanos, to more extreme ideological positions.”

Vox leaders say pollsters are getting it wrong. They maintain they will be able to form a right wing coalition after Sunday’s vote with the PP and Ciudadanos. “I don’t expect the socialists to be able to form a government,” says party official Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros.

Last week Sanchez told supporters at an election rally in his hometown outside Seville that he hadn’t been able in his short stint as prime minister to take on the more ambitious structural reforms he believes the country needs, from overhauling a moribund education system to shaking up labor market regulations. “But we have managed to change its course,” he said.

Sunday’s election will determine whether that is true or not. Or if Spain is heading for greater, paralyzing deadlock.


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Prince Harry Attends Pubic Event as Royal Baby Wait Goes On

Prince Harry has attended a service commemorating war dead from Australia and New Zealand as he and his wife Meghan await the birth of their first child.


Meghan is due to give birth soon, though the couple hasn’t revealed the due date or their birth plans.


Harry was a last-minute addition to Thursday’s Anzac Day service at Westminster Abbey, attending alongside his sister-in-law Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Prince William is visiting New Zealand, where he has met survivors of the Christchurch mosque attacks.


Harry’s attendance led bookies to shorten the odds on the baby being born in May.


Rupert Adams of William Hill said bookmakers “were as surprised as everyone else that Harry decided to attend a public event as we assumed the baby was imminent.”



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US Adds Chinese e-commerce Site to ‘Notorious’ List for IP Protection

The U.S. Trade Representative said on Thursday it has added Pinduoduo.com, China’s third-largest e-commerce platform, to its “notorious markets” list for a proliferation of counterfeit products, as the agency also called out China as a priority to watch for intellectual property rights concerns.

In its annual review of trading partners’ protection of intellectual properties rights and so-called “notorious markets,” the U.S. Trade Representative said 36 countries warranted additional bilateral engagement over these issues. The agency kept China on the list and lifted Saudi Arabia up as a priority.

The release of the report comes as the United States and China are embroiled in negotiations to end a tit-for-tat tariff battle that has roiled supply chains and cost both countries billions. The two countries are due to resume talks in Beijing next week.

USTR also kept Alibaba Group’s taobao.com on the “notorious” list, even though the parent company has “taken some steps” to curb the offer and sale of copyright infringing products, according to the report.

The agency bumped Saudi Arabia up to priority in part due to an illicit service for pirated content called BeoutQ, the report said.

Despite “extensive engagement” in Saudi Arabia by both U.S. government and private stakeholders, treatment of intellectual property rights “continued to deteriorate,” USTR said.


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Irish Regulator Opens Inquiry Into Facebook Over Password Storage

Facebook’s lead regulator in the European Union, Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner, on Thursday said it had launched an inquiry into whether the company violated EU data rules by saving user passwords in plain text format on internal servers.

The probe is the latest to be launched out of Dublin into the social network giant. The Irish regulator in February said it had seven statutory inquiries into Facebook and three more into Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp.

Facebook in March announced that it has resolved a glitch that exposed passwords of millions of users stored in readable format within its internal systems to its employees.

The passwords were accessible to as many as 20,000 Facebook employees and dated back as early as 2012, cyber security blog KrebsOnSecurity, which first reported the issue, said in its report.

“The Data Protection Commission (DPC) was notified by Facebook that it had discovered that hundreds of millions of user passwords, relating to users of Facebook, Facebook Lite and Instagram, were stored by Facebook in plain text format in its internal servers,” the DPC said in a statement.

“We have this week commenced a statutory inquiry in relation to this issue to determine whether Facebook has complied with its obligations under relevant provisions of the GDPR,” it added.

The DPC said in February that it expected to conclude the first of its investigations into Facebook’s use of personal data this summer and the remainder by the end of the year.

Ireland hosts the European headquarters of a number of U.S. technology firms. Under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation’s (GDPR) “One Stop Shop”, the Irish commissioner is also the lead regulator for Twitter, LinkedIn Apple and Microsoft.

As part of regulations introduced last year, a firm found to have broken data processing and handling rules can be fined up to 4 percent of their global revenue of the prior financial year, or 20 million euros, whichever is higher.

Canada’s federal privacy commissioner on Thursday announced the results of a probe that found Facebook had committed serious contraventions of privacy law and failed to take responsibility for protecting the personal information of citizens.

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Київ чекає на візит місії ЮНЕСКО до Криму для перевірки стану Бахчисарайського палацу – Нищук

Україна чекає на моніторингову місію, яка перевірить стан Ханського палацу в анексованому кримському Бахчисараї, повідомив міністр культури Євген Нищук. 

Про це він сказав в ефірі Радіо Свобода. Так звані реставраційні роботи, які здійснює окупаційна влада щодо архітектурної пам’ятки, міністр назвав «брутальним нищенням ханського палацу».

«Зараз ми чекаємо на моніторингову місію, яка тільки й може нам допомогти, тому що ми прямого доступу (до Криму – ред.) не маємо. Мої особисті перемови з урядом і міністром культури Туреччини, який долучається до чих процесів; з 8 по 12 число в нас безпосередньо в Києві будуть представники ЮНЕСКО, з якими ми якраз маємо напрацювати параметри того, який чином вони будуть здійснювати місію і щодо Ханського палацу, і щодо Херсонесу, де також здійснюється чорна археологія, незаконні розкопки, де починається будівництво у заповіднику Херсонеса», – сказав Нищук.

Читайте також: «Знищення Ханського палацу в Бахчисараї – знищення серцевини кримськотатарської культури» – Джепарова​

Він додав, що перевірки стан цих пам’яток Україна може тільки за допомогою міжнародних місій.

Україна, а також провідні країни світу та міжнародні організації, вважають окупацію й анексію Росією Криму незаконними і не визнають призначених Кремлем очільників на півострові. Через анексію Криму країни Заходу запровадили проти Росії економічні санкції. Кремль окупацію заперечує і називає анексію півострова «відновленням історичної справедливості».

Київ неодноразово критикував так звану реставрацію, яку проводить російська влада в Ханському палаці. 

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Синоптики: 26 квітня в Україні до 28 тепла, на вихідних дощитиме

26 квітня в Україні, за прогнозами гідрометцентру, буде до 28 градусів тепла.

«26 квітня у західних та східних областях невеликі короткочасні дощі, окремі грози; на решті території без опадів. Вітер південний, у східній частині північно-західний, 5-10 м/с.Температура вночі 5-10°, у західних і східних областях – місцями до 13°; вдень 20-25°, на крайньому заході країни – до 28°, на узбережжі морів – 15-20°», – повідомляє Укргідрометцентр.

Щодо святкових і вихідних днів, то, за даними гідрометцентру, в суботу й неділю в західних областях будуть помірні, на Прикарпатті – значні дощі, місцями грози, на півночі країни – невеликий дощ; на решті території – без опадів.

«Температура вночі – 5-12°, вдень – 18-25°. 29-30 квітня та 1-2 травня переважатиме дощова погода, денна температура знизиться до 10-16°, на півдні країни і Закарпатті – до 15-20°», – йдеться в повідомленні.

У зв’язку зі святкуванням Великодня і Дня праці в Україні буде п’ять вихідних поспіль – від 27 квітня до 1 травня – це передбачає розпорядження уряду про перенесення робочих днів у 2019 році.

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Brent Oil Hits $75 For First Time in 2019 as Russian Exports Cut

Brent oil rose above $75 per barrel on Thursday for the first time this year as quality concerns forced the suspension of some Russian crude exports to Europe while the United States prepared to tighten sanctions on Iran.

Brent crude futures were at $75.24 by 1156 GMT, up 67 cents. They earlier hit a session high of $75.60, their strongest since Oct. 31.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was at $66.14 per barrel, up 25 cents.

Poland and Germany have suspended imports of Russian crude via the Druzhba pipeline, citing poor quality. Trading sources said the Czech Republic had also halted purchases.

The pipeline can ship up to 1 million barrels per day, or 1 percent of global crude demand, with around 700,000 bpd of flows suspended, according to trading sources and Reuters calculations.

U.S. attempts to drive Iranian oil exports down to zero also boosted prices.

The United States this week said it would end all exemptions for sanctions against Iran, OPEC’s third-largest producer, demanding countries halt oil imports from Tehran from May or face punitive action from Washington.

The U.S. decision comes amid supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries since the start of the year aimed at propping up prices.

Still, Brian Hook, U.S. special representative for Iran and senior policy adviser to the secretary of state, said on Thursday “there is plenty of supply in the market to ease that transition and maintain stable prices.”

Consultancy Rystad Energy said Saudi Arabia and its main allies could replace lost Iranian oil.

“Saudi Arabia and several of its allies have more replacement barrels than what would be lost from Iranian exports,” said Rystad’s head of oil research, Bjoernar Tonhaugen.

“Since October 2018, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the UAE, and Iraq have cut 1.3 million bpd, which is more than enough to compensate for the additional loss,” he added.

On the supply side, U.S. crude production has risen by more than 2 million bpd since early 2018 to a record of 12.2 million bpd currently, making the United States the world’s biggest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

In part because of soaring domestic production, U.S. commercial crude inventories last week soared to 460.63 million barrels, their highest since October 2017, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.





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НСЖУ нагородила кримського журналіста Семену грамотою за вірність ідеалам професії

Національна спілка журналістів України на розширеному засіданні правління в Києві нагородила кримського журналіста, автора проекту Радіо Свобода Крим.Реалії Миколу Семену грамотою за плідну творчу і громадську діяльність і вірність ідеалам журналістиці.

Грамоту передали представникам редакції Крим.Реалії, бо Микола Семена, згідно з рішенням підконтрольного Кремлю суду в Криму, не може залишати територію анексованого півострова.

22 вересня 2017 року в Сімферополі підконтрольний Кремлю Залізничний районний суд засудив Семену до двох із половиною років умовно з випробувальним терміном на три роки і забороною займатися публічною діяльністю. У грудні того ж року підконтрольний Кремлю Верховний суд Криму частково пом’якшив вирок Семені в частині додаткового покарання, скоротивши термін заборони публічної діяльності до двох років.

Захист Семени подав скаргу до Європейського суду з прав людини. Однак ЄСПЛ відмовив в пріоритетному розгляді скарги Миколи Семени.

Микола Семена стверджує, що в своїх матеріалах він реалізовував право на «вільне вираження думки».

Міністерство закордонних справ України, Держдепартамент США, Євросоюз і низка міжнародних організацій засудили винесений журналістові вирок.

Екс-президент Радіо Вільна Європа / Радіо Свобода Том Кент називав необґрунтованими звинувачення проти журналіста Миколи Семени, і зазначав, що вирок, винесений підконтрольним Кремлю судом в Криму, має бути скасований.

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South Korean Economy Shrinks Unexpectedly in 1st Quarter

South Korea’s economy unexpectedly shrank in the first quarter, marking its worst performance since the global financial crisis, as government spending failed to keep up the previous quarter’s strong pace and as companies slashed investment. 

The shock contraction reinforced financial market views that the central bank is likely to make a U-turn on policy, shifting to an easing stance and possibly cutting interest rates to counter declining business confidence and growing external risks.

A worse-than-expected downturn in the memory chips sector hit first quarter capital investment, while slumping exports amid the Sino-U.S. trade dispute erased gains from private consumption, the Bank of Korea said Thursday.

Gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter declined a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent from the previous quarter, the worst contraction since a 3.3 percent drop in late 2008 and sliding from 1 percent growth in October-December, the Bank of Korea said Thursday.

None of the economists surveyed in a Reuters poll had expected growth to contract. The median forecast was for a rise of 0.3 percent.

Government spending

“Government spending failed to keep up the bumper boost of the fourth quarter, especially for construction investment, while a drop in business investment was worse than expected due to a downturn in the chips sector,” a BOK official said, adding there was also a strong base effect after solid fourth-quarter growth.

The grim data came a day after the Moon Jae-in government unveiled a 6.7 trillion won ($5.9 billion) supplementary budget to tackle unprecedented air pollution levels and boost weak exports.

Capital investment tumbled 10.8 percent, the worst reading since 1998, while construction investment inched down 0.1 percent, the BOK said.

Exports fall

Exports fell 2.6 percent quarter-on-quarter, a sharper drop than the 1.5 percent decline in the previous three months.

Private consumption gained by 0.1 percent because of a rise in demands for durable goods.

From a year earlier, Asia’s fourth-largest economy grew 1.8 percent in the January-March quarter, compared with 2.5 percent growth in the poll and 3.1 percent in the final quarter of 2018.

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Turkey Furious at France, US Over Armenian Remembrance

France on Wednesday observed it first “national day of commemoration of the Armenian genocide” provoking a furious reaction from Turkey. 

April 24, 1915, is considered the start of the World War I-era massacres of ten of thousands of Armenians by Ottoman Turks. 

France was the first major European country to recognize the massacres as genocide in 2001.  Turkey disputes the description, saying the toll has been inflated and considers those killed to be victims of a civil war.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says nations who accuse Turkey of genocide should look at their own “bloody past.”  Erdogan has previously accused France of of being responsible for the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Rwanda’s government has also accused France of being complicit in the mass killings of minority Tutsi community by majority Hutus. 

The Turkish Foreign Ministry also strongly criticized a statement issued by the White House on the Armenian killings. 

“Today, we commemorate the Meds Yeghern and honor the memory of those who suffered in one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.  Beginning in 1915, one-and-a-half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire,” the White House statement said. 

Turkey objected to the Trump administration’s use of the Armenian term, Meds Yeghern, which means “the great calamity.” 

“We reject the statement by U.S. President Trump on the 1915 incidents on April 24, 2019,” the Turkish statement said. “Based on the subjective narrative fictionalized by the Armenians, this statement has no value at all. The distortion of history for political objectives is unacceptable.”