Brazil will be top-ranked team at World Cup in Qatar

October 6th, 2022

ZURICH (AP) — Brazil will go to this year’s World Cup as the top-rated team after extending its lead over second-place Belgium in the latest FIFA rankings released Thursday.

Brazil won its two warmup games in September — against Ghana and Tunisia — while Belgium lost to the Netherlands in one of its two Nations League games.

Argentina stayed at No. 3 and 2018 World Cup champion France is still at No. 4.

The World Cup in Qatar starts on Nov. 20.

Host Qatar will be the 50th-ranked team, just ahead of No. 51 Saudi Arabia. Ghana will be the lowest ranked team at No. 61.

Group B at the World Cup is the strongest by rankings with all four teams in the top 20 — No. 5 England, No. 16 United States, No. 19 Wales and No. 20 Iran.

Italy rose one place to No. 6 and is the highest-ranked team that failed to qualify for the World Cup, missing back-to-back editions. Spain fell one place to No. 7, with Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark unchanged to complete the top 10.

Germany, the 2014 champion, is No. 11, just ahead of 2018 finalist Croatia.

Also, Russia rose two places to No. 33 despite not playing a recognized game in 2022 because the national team was suspended following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


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Biden to mark IBM investment with Democrats in tough races

October 6th, 2022

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is ready to celebrate a new $20 billion investment by IBM in New York’s Hudson River Valley with two House Democrats running in competitive races in next month’s critical midterm elections.

Biden is taking part in a Thursday afternoon announcement at the IBM facility in Poughkeepsie, New York. He is expected to hold out the company’s plans as part of what the White House says is a manufacturing “boom” spurred by this summer’s passage of a $ 280 billion legislative package intended to boost the U.S. semiconductor industry and scientific research.

Democrats facing tough midterms races have largely avoided appearing with Biden in the leadup to November’s elections. But Biden, whose approval ratings remain underwater, will be joined by two House incumbents in competitive New York races who are bucking the trend: Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney and Pat Ryan.

“When I heard @POTUS was looking to see the benefits of the CHIPS & Science Act first-hand, I told him that the Hudson Valley was the perfect place,” Maloney wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “I’m thrilled to host him in Poughkeepsie this week to celebrate the major wins and good-paying jobs we are delivering here in NY.”

The CHIPS and Science Act, which Biden signed into law in August, was a rare piece of legislation for which the president was able to win bipartisan support.

IBM’s $20 billion investment over the next decade is intended to bolster research and development and manufacturing of semiconductors, mainframe technology, artificial intelligence and quantum computing in New York’s Hudson River Valley, according to the White House.

The IBM investment comes on the heels of chipmaker Micron announcing earlier this week an investment of up to $100 billion over the next 20-plus years to build a plant in upstate New York that could create 9,000 factory jobs.

Maloney, chairman of the powerful Democratic congressional campaign fundraising arm, is running against Republican state Assemblyman Mike Lawler in New York’s 17th District. Ryan is up against state Assemblyman Colin Schmitt in the 18th District.

The boundaries of most New York districts, including Maloney’s and Ryan’s, have been affected by redistricting.

Ryan in August won a close special election to serve out the term of Democrat Antonio Delgado, who vacated his 19th District seat after he was appointed lieutenant governor by Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul. Ryan is running to serve a full term in the 18th District, where he lives.

Maloney, who had served New York’s 18th District since 2013, decided to run in the 17th District. His Hudson Valley home fell inside the new boundaries after redistricting.

Hochul, who took office last year after Democrat Andrew Cuomo resigned amid sexual harassment allegations, is also scheduled to attend. She’s looking to win a full term in next month’s election against Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin.

Later Thursday, Biden will head to central New Jersey for a fundraiser at the home of Gov. Phil Murphy in support of the Democratic National Committee. In the evening, he heads to Manhattan for a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser hosted by James Murdoch, the son of conservative News Corp. publisher Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch and his wife, Kathryn, a climate change activist, were major donors to Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. In 2020, Murdoch resigned from the board of News Corp. amid differences over editorial content at his father’s company, which operates The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. The elder Murdoch is also chairman of Fox Corp., which includes Fox News Channel.

While Biden has been kept at arms length by many Democratic candidates, he’s been a prodigious fundraiser for his party this election cycle, raising more than $19.6 million for the Democratic National Committee.

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Associated Press writers Michelle L. Price in New York City and Michael Catalini in Trenton, New Jersey, contributed to this report.


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Judge fines Lebanese bank heist figure, issues travel ban

October 6th, 2022

BEIRUT (AP) — A Lebanese judge on Thursday fined and issued a six-month travel ban to a woman who stormed her bank with a fake pistol and took her trapped savings to cover her sister’s cancer treatment.

Lebanon’s cash-strapped banks have imposed strict limits on withdrawals of foreign currency since 2019, tying up the savings of millions of people. About three-quarters of the population has slipped into poverty as the tiny Mediterranean country’s economy continues to spiral. The Lebanese pound has lost 90% of its value against the dollar.

Sali Hafez last month broke into a BLOM Bank branch in Beirut with activists from the Depositors’ Outcry protest group, and stormed into the manager’s office. They forced bank employees to hand over $12,000 and the equivalent of about $1,000 in Lebanese pounds.

Hafez was widely celebrated as a hero, and went into hiding for weeks.

Her lawyer, Ali Abbas, told The Associated Press that Hafez turned herself in Wednesday night, and that the bank had pressed charges. Another sister involved in the heist was with Sali.

“The judge decided to let them go on a bail of 1 million pounds each, and a six-month travel ban,” Abbas said in a phone interview from the Justice Palace.

One million Lebanese pounds was once worth over $666, but has since devalued to $25.

Following the incident last month, the Depositors’ Outcry had vowed to support more bank raids, and about a dozen of similar incidents have since occurred.

On Wednesday, Lebanese lawmaker Cynthia Zarazir staged a sit-in at her bank branch with a lawyer, demanding to withdraw $8,500 to cover expenses for a surgery.

These developments have rocked the Lebanese banks, who say they have been unjustly targeted for tiny Mediterranean country’s fiscal crisis. The Association of Banks in Lebanon temporarily closed for a week, before partially reopening last week, citing security concerns.

Lebanon for over two years has been struggling to implement a series of reforms to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout program and make its battered economy viable again.


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Children as young as 2 among dead in Thai mass shooting – police

October 6th, 2022

BANGKOK (Reuters) – The victims of a mass shooting at a daycare centre in Thailand included children as young as 2 years old, a local police official said on Thursday.

Chakkraphat Wichitvaidya, superintendent of Na Klang police station, also told Thai Rath TV that the gunman had been discharged from the police force last year.

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)


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Thai PM says mass shooting incident ‘shocking’

October 6th, 2022

BANGKOK (Reuters) – A mass shooting on Thursday at a daycare centre that killed at least 34 people, including 22 children, was a shocking incident, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said, sending condolences to the families of the victims.

On his Facebook page, Prayuth ordered all agencies to urgently treat the wounded.

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)


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Europe’s leaders gather in Prague but Russia isn’t invited

October 6th, 2022

PRAGUE (AP) — Leaders from around 44 countries are gathering Thursday to launch a “European Political Community” aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity across the continent, with Russia the one major European power not invited.

The meeting in the Czech capital Prague is the brainchild of French President Emmanuel Macron and is backed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. It’s taking place amid the backdrop of Russia’s war on Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24, and as pressure builds to allow Ukraine to join the European Union.

The summit will involve the 27 EU member countries, aspiring partners in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, as well as neighbors like Britain – the only country to have left the EU – and Turkey.

“This meeting is a way of looking for a new order without Russia. It doesn’t mean that we want to exclude Russia forever, but this Russia — Putin’s Russia — has not a seat,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters.

“Unhappily you cannot build a security order with Russia. Russia is isolated,” Borrell said.

Critics claim the new forum is an attempt to put the brakes on EU enlargement. Others fear it may become a talking shop, perhaps meeting once or twice a year but devoid of any real clout or content.

In a speech unveiling his idea in May, Macron may have fueled the enlargement concerns.

“The war in Ukraine and the legitimate aspiration of its people, just like that of Moldova and Georgia, to join the European Union, encourages us to rethink our geography and the organization of our continent,” he said.

But even with the outpouring of support for Ukraine — in the form of weapons so it can fight back or shelter for people fleeing — Macron said, “we all know perfectly well that the process which would allow them to join, would in reality take several years, and most likely several decades.”

What is needed, Macron said, is “a new space for political and security cooperation, cooperation in the energy sector, in transport, investments, infrastructures, the free movement of persons and in particular of our youth.”

The inaugural European Political Community summit at Prague Castle will kick off with an opening ceremony, followed by a series of meetings where leaders will discuss the key challenges Europe faces; security, energy, climate, the dire economic situation, and migration.

No EU money or programs are on offer, and no formal declaration will be issued after the summit.

The forum, an EU official involved in preparations said, “does not replace existing organizations, structures or processes and does not aim to create new ones at this stage.”

The proof of its worth will probably only be known once a second summit is held.


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UK business inflation expectations rise in September – BoE

October 6th, 2022

LONDON (Reuters) -British businesses’ expectations for consumer price inflation in one year’s time rose to 9.5% last month, up from 8.4% in August, a Bank of England survey showed on Thursday.

The BoE’s Decision Maker Panel survey of chief financial officers also showed that businesses expected output prices to rise by 6.6% in the year ahead, up from expectations of 6.5% in August.

The survey was conducted between Sept. 2 and 16 and received 2,522 responses.

(Reporting by Muvija M, Editing by Kylie MacLellan)


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Taiwan Sept inflation rate edges up slightly, but still below 3%

October 6th, 2022

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s inflation heated up in September, with the consumer price index (CPI) rising 2.75% from a year earlier, broadly in line with economists’ predictions though also below 3% for the second month in a row.

The pace quickened from a 2.66% year-on-year reading for August, the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics said in a statement on Thursday.

In a Reuters poll of 19 economists, the CPI was expected to rise by 2.7% from a year earlier.

Core CPI, a better measure of underlying price pressures, rose an on-year 2.79% last month, compared to 2.73% in August. It excludes more volatile energy, vegetable and fruit prices.

Directorate official Tsao Chih-hung told reporters that October’s inflation rate should be a little lower than September’s, and that they still believed inflation had peaked in the second quarter.

Inflation will likely continue to abate as the year progresses, Tsao added.

The inflation rate had hit a near 14-year high of 3.59% in June.

Like its peers, Taiwan’s central bank is keeping a wary eye on price rises as it considers monetary policy.

Last month the bank raised its benchmark policy rate for the third time this year, though only by a mild 12.5 basis points (bps) to 1.625%.

The central bank said it expected CPI would rise 2.95% in 2022, slightly revising up the outlook from 2.83% predicted in June.

But Taiwan’s inflation has never been as bad as in the United States or Europe.

The central bank, whose governor said last month it will need to keep inflation forecasts for next year in mind when it comes to the direction of monetary policy, holds its next quarterly rate-setting meeting in mid-December.

(Reporting by Liang-sa Loh and Ben Blanchard; Editing by David Goodman and Kim Coghill)


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Stocks gain as dollar eases, oil gets a boost from OPEC+ deal

October 6th, 2022

By Amanda Cooper

LONDON (Reuters) – Global shares rose on Thursday as the dollar eased ahead of U.S. jobs data that could offer a steer on the outlook for interest rates, while oil prices surged after OPEC+ agreed to cut output.

Investors are anxiously waiting for confirmation from Friday’s U.S. non-farm payrolls report of the resilience of the world’s largest economy.

Right now, a mixed picture is forming, after job openings figures suggested hiring is slowing, while measures of private-sector employment and service sector activity pointed to a stronger September than many had expected.

The dollar, which has been on a seemingly unstoppable upward path this year, retreated on Thursday, feeding some risk appetite and boosting the commodities complex, where oil was holding around its highest in three weeks.

The overarching view, however, is that Friday’s jobs report will do little to weaken the Federal Reserve’s determination to raising interest rates fast to tackle inflation – a view confirmed by a number of central bank officials overnight.

“The Fed officials have been giving out a clear message lately on the goal of getting inflation under control, without being concerned about the domestic economy or the turmoil in the global financial markets,” Saxo Bank strategist Charu Chanana said.

“While the two key indicators, Friday’s monthly payroll report and the monthly CPI data on October 13, could still distort the market pricing of the Fed’s message, that would make the Fed’s job that much harder.”

The MSCI All-World index of global shares was up 0.3% on the day, heading for a week-on week gain of 5.3%, its largest weekly increase since the week of March 18 this year. This is on the heels of September’s 9.7% decline.

Overnight, San Francisco Federal Reserve President Mary Daly underscored the U.S. central bank’s commitment to curbing inflation with more interest rate hikes, although she also said the Fed will not simply barrel ahead if the economy starts to crack.

Complicating the near-term outlook further is next week’s data on U.S. consumer inflation, which is expected to have slowed for a third month in September to 8.1%, still its highest since the mid-1980s.

“We’re in two environments right now and the market is trying to decide whether we are in an inflationary or recessionary one,” Justin Onuekwusi, head of EMEA retail investments at Legal & General Investment Management, said.

“What this means in the short-term is that good news is bad news as the Fed is seen putting its foot on the brakes harder if we get good data, and if we get weaker data it’s seen as a sign that Fed and other central banks will loosen (monetary policy) earlier,” he said.

U.S. non-farm payrolls data is due on Friday and analysts polled by Reuters expect 250,000 jobs were added last month. This would mark the smallest increase so far in 2022. The unemployment rate is expected to come in at 3.7%.

The dollar eased 0.1% against a basket of major currencies on Thursday, after having risen 0.7% the day before, while U.S. Treasury yields were up just 2 basis points at 3.78%.

CRUDE REALITY

Just as investors appeared to get some respite from a relentless march higher in energy costs – not least in Europe, where consumers are facing a doubling in their utility bills compared with last year – crude oil jumped for a fourth day.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners, including Russia, have agreed to the deepest cut in production since the COVID-19 pandemic began, choking off supply to an already tight market.

Oil prices rose to their highest since mid-September. Brent crude futures were up 0.8% at $94.07 a barrel while U.S. futures rose 0.6% to $88.31.

Oil is up about 15% so far this year, but it’s a far cry from the near-record of $139.13 a barrel in early March. Concern over economic slowdown has seen the price fall in four out of the last five months.

“Clearly, demand destruction could also help to partly offset these supply cuts, although how much demand destruction we see will really depend on the severity of any upcoming recession,” ING strategist Warren Patterson said.

Meanwhile, in Europe, stocks bounced back after a dip in the previous session, with investors awaiting more economic data and minutes of the European Central Bank’s September meeting for clues on the pace and path of rate hikes. [.EU]

The STOXX 600 index was up 0.5%, while S&P 500 futures fell 0.2%. Nasdaq futures dipped 0.1%, suggesting more modest losses at the opening bell later.

(Additional reporting by Dhara Ranasinge in London and Stella Qiu in Sydney; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)


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New S Korea gov’t seeks to abolish gender equality ministry

October 6th, 2022

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s new conservative government said Thursday it will push to abolish a ministry on gender equality and create a new agency tasked with broader responsibilities, one of President Yoon Suk Yeol’s contentious campaign promises that roiled March’s hotly contested election.

During the campaign, Yoon faced criticism that his vow to scrap the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family sought to appeal to young male voters who decry gender equality policies in a highly competitive job market. Yoon said it was time to launch a body with more comprehensive roles, saying women in South Korea no longer faced structural barriers to success.

The prospect for his government’s plans to scrap the ministry is still unclear as it requires approval from the liberal-controlled Parliament. A women’s committee at the main liberal opposition Democratic Party has vowed to thwart the government’s plans, saying they would not resolve systemic discrimination against women in South Korea.

Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min told a televised briefing Thursday that the new paradigm for government polices for women must be about equal rights for both men and women, unlike the current approach that only focuses on resolving inequalities facing women.

Lee said the gender equality ministry has made efforts to address discrimination against women. But he said the ministry is limited in its ability to handle an array of broader urgent issues including gender and generational conflicts, a shrinking population and social problems for the elderly.

Lee said the ministry’s duties on gender equality and family and juvenile issues would be transferred to the Health and Welfare Ministry, while its responsibilities on women’s employment would go to the Ministry of Employment and Labor.

He said the Yoon government would want to establish a new agency in charge of population, family and gender equality issues under the Health and Welfare Ministry.

Lee said he had informed the Democratic Party of the restructuring plans and that opposition party officials voiced worries that the plans would end up scaling back current roles by the gender equality ministry. Lee said under the reorganization plans, the roles and tasks provided to the ministry would be conducted more effectively.

Earlier this week, a women’s committee at the Democratic Party issued a statement accusing the Yoon government of attempting to use the restructuring plans to divert public attention from several alleged foreign policy missteps including controversial comments by Yoon caught on a hot mic in the United States. It said it will take strong steps to obstruct the plans from becoming law.

The Yoon government and the Democratic Party have been on a collision course on a number of issues including government pushes to investigate past incidents allegedly involving the Democratic Party chief and other previous government officials. Last week, the Democratic Party, which has a majority status at the National Assembly, passed a motion calling for the dismissal of Yoon’s foreign minister, but the president has refused to accept it.


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