Mauritius President to resign

Mauritius President to resign over expense claims, prime minister says

Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim delivers a speech in Paris in 2015.

The President of Mauritius will resign next week, the island country's prime minister has said.

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim will step down over allegations she misused a credit card given to her by a charity.

Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said Gurib-Fakim, who was facing impeachment proceedings over the alleged expense irregularities, had agreed to step down after the country's 50-year independence celebrations on March 12.

"The President of the Republic told me that she would resign from office and we agreed on the date of her departure," Jugnauth told reporters in Port Louis, the country's capital.
"The interests of the country come first," he said.

Attempts to obtain comment from Gurib-Fakim and her office were not immediately successful.

The president was left fighting for her political career after local media published a report that she had paid for personal expenses on a credit card given to her by London-based charity Planet Earth Institute (PEI) in 2016.

The report alleged that Gurib-Fakim had spent thousands of dollars on the card on clothing and luxury items.

She has denied any wrongdoing and said she had refunded all the money.
"I do not owe anything to anybody. Why is this issue coming up now almost a year later on the eve of our independence day celebrations," she said on March 7, Reuters news agency reported.
The Planet Earth Institute is accredited to the United Nations Environmental Program and its mission is the "scientific independence of Africa." When contacted, a spokeswoman for PEI declined to comment.

Gurib-Fakim was appointed to the PEI board in 2015, but resigned two years later in 2017.
She is internationally renowned and is feted on the world stage, and is the recipient of the L'Oréal-UNESCO award for women in science.

Despite her huge international profile, commentators say Gurib-Fakim's popularity closer to home was waning.

Mauritians increasingly saw her as a "president in transit," because of her frequent trips abroad, said Rabin Bhujun, managing editor of ION News, a digital news platform in the country.
"How does it benefit the country for her to be on the Forbes list? This is an important factor which encouraged the government to get rid of her.

They felt she wasn't a heavyweight in politics and had no problem sacking her," Bhujun said.


Russia's Defense Ministry says a Russian cargo plane has crashed in Syria, killing 32 people onboard.

Russian cargo plane crashes in Syria, 32 killed

 Russian military says a Russian cargo plane crashes near Hmeimim base in Syria.
All people on board of the aircraft, including 26 passengers and six crew members died in the incident, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The Russian An-26 plane crashed near Syrian Hmeimin base on Tuesday when landing, according to the ministry of defence.

The Latest on the war in Syria (all times local):

4 p.m.

Russia says a military cargo plane has crashed at the Russian air base in Syria, killing all 32 people onboard.

The Defense Ministry says the An-26, with 26 passengers and six crew members onboard, crashed Tuesday just 500 meters (1,600 feet) from the runway. The military blamed the crash on a technical error.

Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, leases a military base in Syria near the Mediterranean coast.


2 p.m.

U.N. war crimes investigators say a Russian plane was apparently behind a deadly airstrike in November in Syria's Idlib province that killed 84 people at a marketplace, an attack which could amount to a war crime.

The findings were reported by the U.N.'s Commission of Inquiry on Syria on Tuesday.

It's the first time the commission has pinned responsibility for civilian deaths in Syria on Russia. The report says "all available information" indicates a Russian plane carried out the Nov. 13 airstrike that hit a market, surrounding houses and a police station run by Western-backed Syrian rebels in the town of Atarib, in northern Idlib.

At least 84 people were killed and about another 150 were wounded in the attack.

The commission, which was created 6-1/2 years ago to document alleged human rights violations by any side in Syria's war, says the plane that carried out the airstrike took off from an air base in Syria run by Russian forces, the Hemeimeem air base.


12:30 p.m.

A war-monitoring group says Syrian government shelling and airstrikes killed 80 people in the besieged eastern suburbs of Damascus the previous day, making it the deadliest day there since the U.N.'s Security Council last month demanded a cease-fire across Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 80 died and dozens more were wounded on Monday as government forces ignored the U.N. call and pressed their assault on the rebel-held eastern Ghouta.

The United Nations estimates 400,000 people are trapped under a government siege in the area.

The Syrian American Medical Society charity, which supports several hospitals in eastern Ghouta, gave a slightly lesser death toll from the Observatory, saying 79 people were killed.


12:05 p.m.

The Russian defense ministry has extended an offer to Syrians in the besieged eastern suburbs of Damascus, saying armed rebels with their families - not just civilians - can also leave eastern Ghouta through a safe corridor.

The ministry says its negotiators in Syria late on Monday called on all rebels leaders in eastern Ghouta to allow civilians leave the area, which has been under a crippling siege for weeks. It says the rebels are also free to leave the enclave with their weapons and families unhindered.

The first shipment of humanitarian aid reached eastern Ghouta on Monday but was cut short on Tuesday after Syrian government forces began shelling the area again.

Russia has been a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, helping him the tide of the bloody civil war in his favor.


10:55 a.m.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry says the country plans to establish camps in nine locations in northern Syria to house people displaced by fighting amid Ankara's offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said on Tuesday that the camps would be built in a zone controlled by Turkish-backed forces, as well as in Idlib province where Turkish forces are trying establishing a "de-escalation zone" under an agreement reached between Turkey, Russia and Iran.

Aksoy said the camps would host a total of 170,000 people.

Turkey controls a swath of territory revolving around the town of al-Rai, al-Bab and Jarablus - a border zone that Turkey and Turkey-backed rebels took from the Islamic State group in 2016.

Turkey has also launched a campaign to oust a Syrian Kurdish militia from the enclave of Afrin that Ankara considers to be "terrorist" and linked to an insurgency within Turkey's own borders.


10:45 a.m.

The International Committee for the Red Cross says it was forced to halt aid delivery to the besieged eastern suburbs of Damascus the previous day after the security situation deteriorated while aid workers were on the ground.

Ingy Sedky, the ICRC spokeswoman in Syria says most of the aid from a 46-truck convoy was delivered to the town of Douma in eastern Ghouta on Monday but the mission was cut short before the rest of the supplies could be unloaded.

Iyad Abdelaziz, a member of the Douma Local Council, says nine aid trucks had to leave the area after government shelling and airstrikes intensified in the evening.

Monday's shipment was the first to enter eastern Ghouta amid weeks of a crippling siege and a government assault that has killed hundreds.

Stormy Daniels: I’m Now Free to Tell My Trump Story

Stormy Daniels 'free to tell her story' after Trump lawyer statement

The newspaper says Mr Cohen declined to answer why the "private transaction" was made

An adult film star who has been embroiled in allegations of an affair with President Donald Trump is free to tell her story, her manager has said.

Stormy Daniels is no longer bound by a non-disclosure contract after Mr Trump's lawyer admitted he paid her, manager Gina Rodriguez says.

Mr Trump's personal lawyer confirmed in a statement to media he privately paid Ms Daniels $130,000 (£95,000) in 2016.

Ms Rodriguez says that acknowledgement allows her client to speak freely.

"Everything is off now, and Stormy is going to tell her story," Ms Rodriguez told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Her statement comes after Trump lawyer Michael Cohen told the New York Times he paid Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

"Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly," Mr Cohen told the New York Times.

He said he told the Federal Election Commission the same after a watchdog group filed a complaint about the payment, claiming that it had served as an "in-kind" political contribution to Mr Trump's campaign.

An X-rated cover-up?

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC Washington

Donald Trump's lawyer and all-around fixer Michael Cohen has said he doesn't plan "further comment" on his six-figure payment to Stormy Daniels. His statements, however, raise more questions than they answer.

While he said the money came from his "personal funds" and was not reimbursed directly or indirectly by the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign, that leaves open the possibility that he was compensated by other parties - including Mr Trump himself.

Why, in his generosity, would Mr Cohen give $130,000 to Ms Daniels? The Wall Street Journal has reported that it was in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement about a decade-old affair between Mr Trump and Ms Daniels. Circumstantial evidence - that Ms Daniels had been in contact with media outlets prior to the transfer and has since gone silent - lends credence to this line.

Porn actress Stormy Daniels alleged in 2011 that she had an affair with Mr Trump in 2006

Even though the alleged affair is long since past, a story about possible hush money and an attempted cover-up just weeks before the presidential election is much more dangerous for a White House already on its heels. And if it turns out there's more to the money trail than has been disclosed, an embarrassing situation could quickly morph into a criminal inquiry.

"The payment to Ms Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone," Mr Cohen said.

The lawyer has previously said Mr Trump "vehemently denies" it occurred.

The revelations on Wednesday follow US media reports that the porn actress known as Ms Daniels was paid to sign an agreement stopping her discussing an alleged affair.

She first said she had a relationship with Mr Trump in a 2011 interview.

In a 2011 interview with InTouch magazine, the actress said she began a sexual relationship with Mr Trump in 2006, shortly after Melania Trump gave birth to his son Barron.

The reports re-emerged in January when the Wall Street Journal reported that she was paid to sign a non-disclosure agreement in the run-up to the 2016 election, which prevented her from discussing the alleged liaison.

Ms Clifford was believed to be in discussion with US media about an television appearance to discuss Mr Trump at the time, the report said.

Responding to questions from CNN about why the payment was made, Mr Cohen said: "Just because something isn't true doesn't mean that it can't cause you harm or damage."

"I will always protect Mr Trump," Mr Cohen added.

On 30 January, Ms Daniels' publicist released a statement in her name denying having an affair with Mr Trump.

But many - including Ms Daniels herself - were quick to note that the signature attached to that denial did not bear much resemblance to another copy of her autograph which had been attached to an earlier statement.
Ms Daniels hosted a Super Bowl party last month

That denial had been released by Mr Cohen on 10 January.

She has since made several public appearances on television and at strip clubs, but has remained tight-lipped when asked directly about Mr Trump in interviews.

Minutes after Mr Trump's first formal State of the Union address to Congress, she gave an interview to late night comedian Jimmy Kimmel.

In it, she refused to directly answer whether she had signed a non-disclosure agreement, or if she had "ever made love to someone whose name rhymes with Lonald Lump".


Assailant caught in US school shooting, 'numerous fatalities'

Horrific mass shooting at a Florida high school

n this frame grab from video provided by WPLG-TV, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland evacuate the area Picture: WPLG-TV/APSource:AP

MIAMI: A gunman opened fire Wednesday at a Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused "numerous fatalities" and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody following the incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometres) north of Miami.
AT LEAST one person is dead and dozens of people have been injured following a horrific mass shooting at a Florida high school.

Coral Springs Police was called to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland following reports of an active shooter on the scene.

Authorities warned the public to stay away from the area as the campus remains in lockdown.

It remained unknown exactly how many people were shot, however, it is understood there have been “multiple fatalities”.
The shooting, one of several in the United States since the start of the year, will once again throw the spotlight on the country's epidemic of gun violence and the ready accessibility of weapons, with 33,000 gun-related deaths annually.

Emergency crews on the scene near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Picture: ABCNewsSource:Supplied

The superintendent of the county's school district, Robert Runcie, said he believed there were "numerous fatalities," and that the gunman may have been a former student.

"Just a horrible day for us," Runcie said, adding that the incident appeared to be over.
So far, 14 "victims" had been or were being taken to local hospital, the sheriff's office said. Earlier reports suggested that between 20 and 50 people had been hurt.

"This is a very tragic situation for everybody involved," Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky told CNN, adding that she had spoken to a number of students.

"They were very scared," she said. "And almost in shock when they came out."
Asked about security, the mayor said a police officer is always stationed at the school and there was a "single point of entry."
Television images showed students being led out of the school by heavily armed police officers and an armoured vehicle filled with a SWAT team arriving at the scene.

One injured victim was seen being placed into an ambulance on a stretcher.

Police officers in helmets, bulletproof vests and armed with automatic weapons could be seen stationed at several points around the sprawling school complex, which houses nearly 3,000 students.
Student Jeiella Dodoo told CBS News that she and her schoolmates had evacuated their classroom calmly after hearing what they thought had been a routine fire alarm.

Parents wait for news following the horrific mass shooting. Picture: Joel Auerbach/APSource:AP

"The alarm went off so we had to evacuate from our classes," she said. "Then we heard gunshots.
"I heard about six gunshots," she said, "and then some people started running and then everyone started running because we were like 'If it's real, then just run.'"
A math teacher at the school told CBS that he was hiding with six of his students.
"We are fine. We are waiting," he said.

Caesar Figueroa told CNN his daughter was hiding in a closet and texting her family.
"She's trapped with her 10 friends. She said she heard gunshots. A window blew and everybody is screaming and running, and she said she ran in the closet and she's still there," Figueroa said.
The Broward Sheriff’s office confirmed the suspected shooter is now in custody, however, stressed the scene remains active.

“So far we have at least 14 victims,” the Sheriff’s office said.

“Victims have been and continue to be transported to Broward Health Medical Center and Broward Health North hospital.”

"My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting," President Donald Trump said on Twitter.

"No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school."
Coral Spring Police told concerned parents over Twitter the school remained on lockdown as a precaution.

Since January 2013, "there have been at least 283 school shootings across the country -- which averages out to one school shooting a week," according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit group that advocates for gun control.

Police handcuff the suspected gunmen following the shooting

Since the 2012 massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were shot dead, warning procedures and emergency drills have multiplied at US schools.

The goal is to teach school children how to react to a shooter who opens fire at random.

Classified Information: Ex-CIA officer arrested

Ex-CIA officer arrested for retaining classified information

Ex-CIA Officer Arrested for Retaining Notebooks Full of Classified Information

WASHINGTON: An ex-Central Intelligence Agency officer was detained at a US airport on Monday night regarding the charges that he illegally held on to highly classified information, the US Justice Department said Tuesday.

Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a US citizen who now resides in Hong Kong, used to keep a top secret clearance and started doing work for the CIA in 1994.

The Justice Department stated that in 2012, FBI agents searched his hotel rooms during the vacations to Virginia and Hawaii. They identified he had two small books comprising handwritten information on specifics such as the true names and numbers of spy recruits and covert CIA employees.
He was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

The case is going to be prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. But Lee made his first court appearance on Tuesday before a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn. The judge ordered Lee held without bail.

A federal public defender who represented Lee at Tuesday’s hearing declined to comment.
Based upon an affidavit filed by an FBI agent, Lee, 53, served in the US Army from 1982 through 1986 and worked for the CIA from 1994 through 2007.

The FBI agent wrote that Lee and his family left Hong Kong in August 2012 to travel to northern Virginia. During the trip, they stayed in hotels in which the FBI found the books.

The small books were found inside Lee’s luggage, sealed in a small clear plastic vacation pack.
The handwritten information inside varied with regard to classification, however, the agent said no less than one page contained top secret information, “the disclosure of those might lead to extremely grave trouble for the national security of the United States.”

The agent also noted that classified cables Lee wrote when he had been a case officer talking about his interactions with CIA assets were revealed in the two books.

Lee was interviewed by the FBI five separate times in 2013 and do not share he had the books. He also met with former CIA colleagues about that period without giving back the materials to the government, the Justice Department said.

Nigerian Police killed, four North Americans kidnapped

Two Americans, two Canadians kidnapped in Nigeria: Police killed

Nigerian Police killed, four North Americans kidnapped

NIGERIA: Two Americans and two Canadians have already been kidnapped and two Nigerian police escorts murdered during an ambush in northern Kaduna state, police said Wednesday, in the recent abduction intended for foreigners.

State police spokesman Mukhtar Aliyu said, “unknown armed men” seized the four North Americans on the way to Abuja at 7:00 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Tuesday.
“They involved in a brutal gun battle with the two police escorts attached to the expats, who regrettably died,” he added.

No additional information was given and Aliyu said “every possible means” happen to be used to rescue the four abductees and arrest the kidnappers.

In Washington, a State Department official known as the abduction of only one US citizen.
“We are familiar with reports of a US citizen kidnapped in Nigeria,” he told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The safety and security of US citizens overseas are among our top priorities,” he added.

A State Department travel advisory for urges US citizens to “reconsider” visiting Nigeria, warning that “violent crime including armed robbery, assault, carjacking, kidnapping and rape frequently occurs all over the country.”

Global Affairs Canada. that manages Canada’s diplomatic and consular relations, is “aware of reports of the kidnapping of two Canadian citizens in Nigeria,” spokesman John Babcock said, “Consular officials in Nigeria are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information,” he added.
Kidnapping has long been a problem in Nigeria’s southern states, where high-profile individuals, including the families of prominent politicians, are regularly seized.

Victims are generally released after a couple of days as soon as a ransom is paid.

These days the crime has multiply throughout the country since the economic situation has stalled. A crackdown on cattle rustling has been ascribed to increasing number of abductions in the north.
In October this past year, an armed group took four British missionaries doing work for a medical charity in the oil-rich but impoverished state of Delta in the south.

One among the hostages was killed even though the three other hostages were later released.
Also in October, the Vatican said an Italian priest was kidnapped near Benin City, the capital of Edo state, which borders Delta state to the north. He was also later released.

Safety on the Kaduna-Abuja road came under intense scrutiny during the past year as soon as the federal government announced the closure of the capital’s only airport for essential runway repairs.
Many foreign missions and corporations advised staff to limit their travel through the closure period, as all domestic and a few international flights were switched to Abuja.

In July 2016, Sierra Leone’s defence attache to Nigeria was kidnapped by men in military fatigues armed with AK-47 rifles at a fake checkpoint on the Abuja-Kaduna road.

Oil Prices Rises Above $70 per barrel

As oil hits US$70, warning lights flash up in Asia

Oil price top 70USD

SINGAPORE, ASIA: Oil prices have risen above $70 per barrel for the first time since 2014 as investors bet supply cuts led by OPEC will dominate the market this year.
But some traders are sounding a warning - the world’s biggest crude-consuming region, Asia, is showing signs of an impending downward correction.

Prices for Brent crude oil futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, have risen by more than 50 percent since mid-2017 and hit $70 per barrel this week for the first since December 2014. Average Asian physical crude oil prices also moved over $70 per barrel in January.

“A healthy (price) correction could be on the cards,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.

One reason, traders say, is that the supply of oil products remains ample. In the last three years, refiners enjoyed high profits because of relatively cheap crude oil, which is used to make fuels like diesel or gasoline.

As a result, Asian refiners processed an unprecedented 23 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil in late 2017.

China, by far Asia’s biggest oil consumer, is now producing so much fuel that its refiners have turned to exports to find buyers. And their purchases of crude could fall.

Chinese diesel exports (DL-CNEXP) have surged by almost 3,000 percent since early 2015, to a record of more than 2 million tonnes last December, according to customs data. Its gasoline exports (GL-CNEXP) are up by 365 percent since early 2015, to more than 1 million tonnes in December.

Its total December refined oil products reached a record 6.17 million tonnes, according to customs data announced on Friday.

“This drop in margins could reduce Asian refiners’ demand for incremental crude in the near term and weigh on global (crude) prices,” said Sukrit Vijayakar, director of energy consultancy Trifecta.

Singapore refining margins (DUB-SIN-REF), which act as Asia’s benchmark, have slumped by 90 percent from their 2017 high to below $6 per barrel this week - the lowest seasonal level in five years.

BMI Research said in a note this week: ”In Q1, the balance of risk to Brent (prices) lies to the downside.”

Price hit 70USD


The crude market’s focus has so far been no signs of tightening supplies as the Middle East dominated Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia lead production cuts aimed at propping up prices.

With global oil consumption also strong amid healthy global economic growth, investor sentiment has been positive.

Ole Hansen, head of the commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, said this week that ”bullish news tends to get more attention than potentially bearish signals.” Yet, another of the bearish signals is rising U.S. oil production, which is threatening to derail OPEC’s and Russia’s efforts to tighten supplies.

Despite a recent drop due to extreme cold, U.S. crude oil output (C-OUT-T-EIA) is widely expected to break through 10 million bpd soon, largely thanks to shale production, which would take it to similar levels as top producers Saudi Arabia and Russia, who hit peak output of over 11 million bpd and about 10.7 million bpd respectively in recent years.

“Oil prices have been undeniably bullish this week despite the lingering concerns over the current bull rally running out of steam ... It must be kept in mind that rising production from U.S. shale has the ability to expose the oil to downside risks,” said Lukman Otunuga, Analyst at futures brokerage FXTM.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects U.S. output to surpass 11 million bpd by 2019.

Soaring U.S. supplies mean U.S. WTI crude prices are over $5.5 per barrel cheaper than Brent (CL-LCO1=R), off which most international crude supplies are priced.
Taking advantage of their competitive prices, U.S. crude oil exports are rising, including to faraway Asia.

Feeling the pinch from mounting competition and the pressure from refiners, OPEC’s No.2 and No.3 producers, Iran and Iraq, cut their crude oil prices this week to remain competitive with customers struggling from lower profits. - Reuters

SOURCE:  Reuters

H&M ‘racist’ ad: Black child in a hoodie

Black child in a hoodie that reads: "I'm the coolest monkey in the jungle." And the white child is the "survival expert."

H&M ‘racist’ ad

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN: A racism scandal at H&M is the latest indication of management problems at the Swedish clothing giant, once the darling of shoppers but now struggling to make the switch to e-commerce, analysts say.

The fast-fashion group is one of Sweden’s largest export brands and industrial heavyweights, alongside Ikea, Spotify, Electrolux and Volvo.

Owned by the Persson family dynasty, it has been listed on the Stockholm stock exchange since 1974.

It has collaborated with superstars like Beyoncé and Madonna, and prestigious fashion houses including Sonia Rykiel, Lanvin and Kenzo have designed exclusive collections for the group.

H&M is one of the most well-known brands in the world, with global brand consultancy Interbrand ranking it the 23rd best known company worldwide in 2017 - ahead of Ikea and fashion luxury goods manufacturer Hermes.

But lately, H&M has struggled to lure shoppers into its 4,553 stores around the world, and has been slow to develop its online offering.

“It’s (been) one of the toughest years for H&M,” Joakim Bornold, an economist at the investment bank Nordnet told AFP, noting that the company’s stock price has fallen by 35 per cent since January 2017.

In December, the group announced a 4 per cent drop in fourth quarter sales from the previous year, to 50.4 billion kronor.

Not only have H&M sales almost never declined, but the drop was bigger than analysts had expected.

H&M, which also owns the brands COS, Monki, Weekday, Cheap Monday, Arket and H&M Home, said in December it would be closing stores, but didn’t specify how many or where.

The company will publish its full-year earnings report on January 31.

“They have failed in describing their vision for the e-commerce business and how they plan to compete with truly digital companies,” Bornold said.

“That, combined with worse sales figures than expected, has affected investors’ faith in the company.”

Chief executive Karl-Johan Persson rejects that analysis.

“Our digital strategy is crystal clear. E-commerce, for all our brands, is definitely a part of the company that is going very well and is profitable,” insists Persson, heir to the company founded by his grandfather Erling.

At 42, he has headed the group for eight years. Some observers have questioned whether he’ll soon be shown the door, though his father Stefan Persson, the chairman of the board, has ruled out such a move.

Racism scandal

As if the company’s earnings weren’t problematic enough, H&M last week found itself in the middle of a social media storm, accused of racism.

Its online catalogue featured an advertisement of a black boy sporting a hoodie with the words “Coolest monkey in the jungle” written on it.

According to Gothenburg University marketing professor Eva Ossiansson, the gaffe is a sign that H&M has lost its Midas touch.

“It signals that the company has problems to cope with, both in terms of how their business should develop with regard to e-commerce and the digitalisation in our society, as well as in their communication,” she said.

The company tried to quash the criticism by apologising and withdrawing the ad and the item from sale. But the damage was done.

NBA superstar LeBron James expressed his anger on Instagram on January 9, hours after the garment was removed from sale.

“@hm u got us all wrong! And we ain’t going for it! Straight up!” James said, including a photo of the same ad but with a crown superimposed on the boy’s head, and the text on the hooded sweater replaced by a crown.

“Enough about y’all and more of what I see when I look at this photo. I see a Young King!! The ruler of the world, an untouchable Force that can never be denied!” the athlete said.

Canadian R&B singer The Weeknd, who collaborated with H&M on its spring and autumn collections last year, meanwhile severed his contract with the company.

“In some cases, in order to create a buzz, companies like to stretch their communication and commercials beyond borders,” Ossiansson said, adding: “It’s risky.”

Lisa Magnusson, editorialist at Swedish paper of reference Dagens Nyheter, meanwhile played down the scandal, saying people should be more upset about the working conditions of the labourers in Asia who make H&M clothes for pennies.

She noted that if every garment were sold for just three kronor more, those workers’ salaries could be doubled. - AFP


Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger Pay Dropped

Disney CEO Bob Iger's pay fell 17% to US$36m in 2017

 Disney CEO, Bob Iger

US: Walt Disney Co. Chairman-Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger received $36.3 million in compensation during the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, down 17% from the previous fiscal year.

Disney made the disclosure as part of the company's proxy statement filing Friday. The 66-year-old Iger received a $15.2 million cash bonus tied to results, including segment operating income and return on invested capital.

His base salary remained flat at $2.5 million, as did stock awards at about $9 million. Non-equity incentive compensation fell to $15.2 million from $20 million.

CFO Christine McCarthy's total compensation fell to $8.95 million from $10.2 million, according to the statement, and Chief Strategy Officer Kevin Mayer's total pay declined to $8.4 million from $10.1 million. General Counsel Alan Braverman's total compensation slid to $8.45 million from $11.12 million. Chief Human Resources Officer M. Jayne Parker's pay also fell to $5.09 million from $5.6 million.

Iger will get paid more during the current fiscal year. Disney announced a $52.4 billion stock deal in December to buy the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox. As part of that deal, Iger signed a new contract boosting his salary and giving him an additional $100 million in stock awards. He has postponed his planned retirement four times.

Iger extended his contract last month as chairman-CEO for another two years, in order to oversee the integration of the Fox assets into Disney -- assuming the deal passes muster with federal regulators.

Iger had previously said that he was committed to stepping down at the end of his most recent extension, through mid-2019. But spearheading the biggest acquisition in Disney's nearly 100-year history required him to stay. The extension came at the request of the Disney board as well as that of 21st Century Fox.

The proxy statement also officially notified Disney shareholders of the annual meeting, set for March 8 in Houston. - Reuters

SOURCE:  Reuters

Sloane Stephens: Grand Slam Title "Overwhelming" Experience

First grand slam title was 'overwhelming', says Stephens

American Sloane Stephens during Interview

MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA (Reuters) - Without a victory since her stunning U.S. Open triumph last September, American Sloane Stephens admitted on Saturday how the experience of becoming a grand slam winner had been "overwhelming".

"I think it's always a tough transition when you go from not playing tennis for 11 months to winning a grand slam," Stephens told a news conference at the Australian Open, which begins on Monday.

"It's never going to be anything you expected. In terms of that, it's a little bit overwhelming."

The 24-year-old has lost all six of her matches following her win at Flushing Meadows, struggling to manage the expectations and extra demands on her time.

"But after the U.S. Open, after the match, I did three-and-a-half hours of press... and I was like, 'this sucks, what have you done'?

"I think things like that have changed. There's obviously more demand. These things are mandatory now. With that, it's been a bit challenging. But I only do the things that are mandatory, so it's easy."

Despite her poor form, Stephens goes into the Australian Open with a chance to back up her U.S. Open victory. Her disappointing results, she said, were not a huge concern.

American Sloane Stephens with her gland slam title

"I think you have to kind of put everything in perspective, evaluate where you are," she said.

"I think personally I had a lot of things going on. I'm not going to look back on it. It's a new year, new season. I'm hoping not to get injured. There are tons of things to look forward to. I'm not going to dwell too much on that." Stephens' victory in New York came completely out of the blue, having only returned from a long-term foot injury which required surgery.

Having won a grand slam once, though, why not again? "I would like to win another grand slam," she said. "It was tough. Obviously, it's doable because I did it. I'd definitely like to do it again."

Seeded 13th, Stephens will begin her Australian Open campaign with a first-round encounter against China's Zhang Shuai.

Hawaii False Ballistic Missile Alert

Hawaii officials mistakenly warn of inbound missile

HONOLULU - A false alarm that warned of a ballistic missile headed for Hawaii sent the islands into a panic Saturday, with people abandoning cars in a highway and preparing to flee their homes until officials said the cellphone alert was a mistake.

In a conciliatory news conference later in the day, Hawaii officials apologized for the mistake and vowed to ensure it will never happen again.

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi said the error happened when someone hit the wrong button.

"We made a mistake," Miyagi said.

For nearly 40 minutes, it seemed like the world was about to end in Hawaii, an island paradise already jittery over the threat of nuclear-tipped missiles from North Korea.

The emergency alert, which was sent to cellphones statewide just before 8:10 a.m., said: "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL."

On the H-3, a major highway north of Honolulu, vehicles sat empty after drivers left them to run to a nearby tunnel after the alert showed up, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. Workers at a golf club huddled in a kitchen fearing the worst.

Professional golfer Colt Knost, staying at Waikiki Beach during a PGA Tour event, said "everyone was panicking" in the lobby of his hotel.

"Everyone was running around like, 'What do we do?'" he said.

Richard Ing, a Honolulu attorney, was doing a construction project at home when his wife told him about the alert. His wife and children prepared to evacuate while he tried to figure out what was happening.

Cherese Carlson, in Honolulu for a class and away from her children, said she called to make sure they were inside after getting the alert.

"I thought, 'Oh my god, this is it. Something bad's about to happen and I could die,'" she said.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tweeted there was no threat about 10 minutes after the initial alert, but that didn't reach people who aren't on the social media platform. A revised alert informing of the "false alarm" didn't reach cellphones until 38 minutes later, according to the time stamp on images people shared on social media.

The incident prompted defense agencies including the Pentagon and the U.S. Pacific Command to issue the same statement, that they had "detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii."

The White House said President Donald Trump, at his private club in Florida, was briefed on the false alert. White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said it "was purely a state exercise."

House Speaker Scott Saiki said the system Hawaii residents have been told to rely on failed miserably. He also took emergency management officials to task for taking 30 minutes to issue a correction, prolonging panic.

"Clearly, government agencies are not prepared and lack the capacity to deal with emergency situations," he said in a statement.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige apologized for the "pain and confusion" caused by the alert.

The alert caused a tizzy on the islands and across social media.

At the PGA Tour's Sony Open on Oahu, Waialae Country Club was largely empty and players were still a few hours from arriving when the alert showed up. Workers streamed into the clubhouse trying to seek cover in the locker room, which was filled with the players' golf bags, but instead went into the kitchen.

Several players took to Twitter. Justin Thomas, the PGA Tour player of the year, tweeted, "To all that just received the warning along with me this morning ... apparently it was a 'mistake'?? hell of a mistake!! Haha glad to know we'll all be safe."

In Honolulu, hair salon owner Jaime Malapit texted his clients that he was cancelling their appointments and was closing his shop for the day.

"I woke up and saw a missile warning and thought 'no way.' I thought 'No, this is not happening today,'" Malapit said.

Brian Naeole, who was visiting Honolulu from Molokai, said he wasn't worried since he didn't hear sirens and neither TV nor radio stations issued alerts.

"I thought it was either a hoax or a false alarm," he said.

Ing, the Honolulu lawyer, tried to find some humor in the situation.

"I thought to myself, it must be someone's last day at work or someone got extremely upset at a superior and basically did this as a practical joke,' he said. "But I think it's a very serious problem if it wasn't that, or even it was, it shows that we have problems in the system that can cause major disruption and panic and anxiety among people in Hawaii."

Others were outraged. Hawaii U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz tweeted the false alarm was "totally inexcusable" and was caused by human error.

"There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process," he wrote.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said on social media the panel would launch an investigation.

With the threat of missiles from North Korea in people's minds, the state reintroduced the Cold War-era warning siren tests last month that drew international attention. But there were problems there, too.

Even though the state says nearly 93 percent of the state's 386 sirens worked properly, 12 mistakenly played an ambulance siren. At the tourist mecca of Waikiki, the sirens were barely audible, prompting officials to add more sirens there and to reposition ones already in place.


Trump Lawyer Arranged $130,000 Payment for Adult-Film Star’s Silence

‘He chased her around hotel room in his underpants’: Porn star claims Donald Trump paid $130,000 to keep affair secret

Donald Trump is alleged to have had a tryst with porn star Stormy Daniels, right

US: President Donald J. Trump pushed back against damning reports on Friday that he paid US$130,000 to a porn star a month before the 2016 election in return for her keeping mum about a sexual encounter they allegedly had more than a decade ago.

The porn star, Stormy Daniels, has stayed silent on the salacious claims, except for a statement of denial supposedly signed by her and circulated by Trump’s personal lawyer.

But on Friday night, another porn star, Alana Evans, shed some light on the matter, telling The Daily Beast that Daniels told her one day after the alleged tryst that Trump had chased her around a hotel room “in his tighty-whities”.

“All I’m going to say is: I ended up with Donald in his hotel room. Picture him chasing me around his hotel room in his tighty-whities,” Evans said her fellow porn star told her the morning after she supposedly had sex with Trump in July 2006.

“Stormy said she met Donald Trump and then tells me about the golf tournament and how she’s supposed to hang out with him later that night, and she invited me,” Evans said.

But Evans said she wasn’t intrigued and told her friend she had other plans. That evening, Evans said Daniels called her repeatedly, asking her to come over.

“Stormy calls me four or five times, by the last two phone calls she’s with Donald and I can hear him, and he’s talking through the phone to me saying, ‘Oh come on Alana, let’s have some fun! Let’s have some fun!’” Evans said.

Trump - whose third wife, Melania, had given birth to their son, Barron, just months before - continued, “Come to the party, we’re waiting for you,” according to Evans.

“I was like, ‘OMG! It’s Donald Trump!’” Evans said. “Men like him scare me because they have so much power and this was way before his presidential nomination. So I bailed on them and turned my phone off.”

The following morning, Evans apologised for not meeting up with Daniels, at which point she told her about Trump’s “tighty-whities”.

“I was like, ‘Oh I really didn’t need to hear that!’” Evans said. “Then she said he offered her keys to his condos in Florida, and I was like, ‘Wow, guess you had a good night,’ and that was the last we ever spoke of it.”

Daniels - real name Stephanie Clifford - has starred in 150 films,
including 'Nymphos' and 'Good Will Humping'

After The Wall Street Journal first reported Trump’s alleged hush money payment to Daniels on Friday, his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, came out swinging.

“These rumours have circulated time and again since 2011,” Cohen said in a statement to The New York Daily News. “President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Ms. Daniels.”

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, did not return repeated requests for comment, but Cohen provided The News with a photocopy of a letter that he claimed was signed and written by her.

“Rumours that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false,” Daniels supposedly wrote in the letter. “If indeed I did have a relationship with Donald Trump, trust me, you wouldn’t be reading about it in the news, you would be reading about it in my book.”

Nonetheless, Daniels posed with Trump for a photo at the celebrity golf event that she ended up posting to her MySpace page.

Daniels is not the only porn star Trump supposedly tried to bed during the golf tournament.

Jessica Drake came forward with allegations in 2016 that Trump tried to forcibly kiss her after they met during the Lake Tahoe event. Trump supposedly also offered Drake US$10,000 in exchange for having sex with him. - AP

Popular Posts