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Kuwaitis voted on Saturday in an election energized by the participation of opposition candidates for the first time since 2012 and focused on recent government austerity measures aimed at tackling the oil-rich nation's deficit.
The parliament of Western-allied Kuwait was due to run until July 2017, but the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, dissolved it in October, saying "security challenges" in the region - an apparent reference to wars in Iraq and Syria - should be met by consulting the popular will.
More than 290 candidates, including 14 women, are standing for 50 seats in an assembly that enjoys legislative powers but has often been at odds with the government of one of the world's wealthiest countries, thwarting attempts to strengthen fiscal discipline.
Turnout appeared to be low in the first few hours after polls opened but officials said they expected a pick up before they close at 2000 local (1700 GMT). Many of the voters who cast their ballot after polls opened at 0800 (0500 GMT) said they hoped the election would inject new blood into parliament.
"I hope we will have a better parliament than the previous one," said a 22-year-old Islamic Waqf Affairs ministry employee after she voted for the first time at a girls' school in the upper middle class al-Rawda district in southern Kuwait City.
"We want young men who can help turn Kuwait into a financial and commercial hub, and who can help give people their rights without the help of influential people," said Amal Abul, 45, a department head at the education ministry.
The opposition, comprising Islamists, liberals and pan-Arabists, won a majority in the February 2012 election but boycotted another in December that year over changes to voting rules that activists said favored pro-government candidates.
Campaigning has focused mainly on austerity measures adopted in the past year after officials forecast a deficit of 9.5 billion dinars ($31 billion) for the 2016/17 fiscal year. The OPEC state relies on oil for about 90 percent of its revenues.
Although the deficit is likely to be smaller than forecast as it was based on an oil price of $25 a barrel, many Kuwaitis fear the government will try to raise prices further and cut many of the perks they have enjoyed for decades, including free health care, education, subsidized basic products, free housing or land plots and interest-free loans to many citizens.
The cabinet has approved economic reforms, including increasing gasoline prices by as much as 80 percent.
"The raising of fuel prices and electricity prices has severely hurt citizens," 23-year-old Abdallah, said after he cast his ballot at a public school in the upper middle class al-Rawda district in Kuwait City.
Kuwait, a U.S. ally occupied by Iraq in 1990-91, has relatively open politics by Gulf standards and has avoided the protests that have rocked several Arab states since 2011.
But a series of assemblies have been dissolved due to power struggles between the opposition and the cabinet, in which the ruling family holds top posts.
While the assembly can pass legislation and question ministers, the emir has the final say and picks a prime minister who selects a cabinet.
Amal al-Jarallah, a 50-year-old Education Department employee, said she wanted to see MPs try to improve health and education standards and help working mothers.
Asked if she wanted to see women in parliament, she said: "If they are qualified, yes. But that is not an issue."
(Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Alexander Smith)...
HONG KONG - The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government and institutions welcomed the launch of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect (SZHKSC) on Friday evening.
The SZHKSC will be launched on Dec 5, according to a joint announcement by the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong.
The SZHKSC is a mutually beneficial collaboration project. Following the successful implementation of the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, the SZHKSC will help further promote the opening up of the Chinese mainland's capital markets as well as the internationalization of the renminbi (RMB), according to a HKSAR government statement.
It will also reinforce Hong Kong's position as an international financial center and a premier offshore RMB hub, it said.
John Tsang, Financial Secretary of the HKSAR, said, "The SZHKSC will be implemented very soon. We will closely monitor its implementation so that it will contribute to the economic and financial reforms of our country and reinforce Hong Kong's position as an international financial centre."
Welcome from HKEX
Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) welcomed the latest timetable for the launch of the SZHKSC.
The HKEX market has been ready in terms of technical systems and operations for the launch of program, said an HKEX statement.
HKEX has completed three rounds of connectivity testing and market rehearsals to ascertain technical readiness of the market infrastructure and operational readiness of market participants, the statement said.
"I want to thank everyone for their support to ensure a smooth launch of Shenzhen Connect," said HKEX chief executive Charles Li.
"We're ready for another milestone in our mutual market access initiative. Shenzhen Connect will open up another mainland market for international investors," Li said.
Welcome from HK Monetary Authority
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) welcomes the timetable.
Norman Chan, chief executive of the HKMA, said, as the second channel for mutual access to stock markets of mainland and Hong Kong, the SZHKSC is an important initiative to enhance Hong Kong's position as an international financial center.
The HKMA has recently appointed two additional primary liquidity providers and introduced measures to enhance transparency of the RMB market liquidity, Chan said.
"I believe this will further strengthen Hong Kong's role as the global hub for offshore RMB business in support of RMB internationalisation," he noted.
Fidel Castro, Cuba's former president and leader of the Communist revolution, has died aged 90, his brother Raul has announced.
"The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening," President Raul Castro said.
Fidel Castro ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost 50 years before Raul took over in 2008.
His supporters said he had given Cuba back to the people. But he was also accused of suppressing opposition.
Ashen and grave, President Castro told the nation in a late night broadcast on state television that Fidel Castro had died and would be cremated on Saturday.
There would now be several days of national mourning on the island.
Barring the occasional newspaper column, Fidel Castro had essentially been retired from political life for some time, the BBC's Will Grant in Havana reports.
In April, Fidel Castro gave a rare speech on the final day of the country's Communist Party congress.
He acknowledged his advanced age but said Cuban communist concepts were still valid and the Cuban people "will be victorious".
"I'll soon be 90," the former president said, adding that this was "something I'd never imagined".
"Soon I'll be like all the others, "to all our turn must come," Fidel Castro said.
1926: Born in the south-eastern Oriente Province of Cuba
1953: Imprisoned after leading an unsuccessful rising against Batista's regime
1955: Released from prison under an amnesty deal
1956: With Che Guevara, begins a guerrilla war against the government
1959: Defeats Batista, sworn in as prime minister of Cuba
1961: Fights off CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles
1962: Sparks Cuban missile crisis by agreeing that USSR can deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba
1976: Elected president by Cuba's National Assembly
1992: Reaches an agreement with US over Cuban refugees
2008: Stands down as president of Cuba due to health issues
Throughout the Cold War, Fidel Castro was Washington's bete noire.
An accomplished tactician on the battlefield, he and his small army of guerrillas overthrew the military leader Fulgencio Batista in 1959 to widespread popular support.
Within two years of taking power, he declared the revolution to be Marxist-Leninist in nature and allied the island nation firmly to the Soviet Union.
Yet, despite the constant threat of a US invasion as well as the long-standing economic embargo on the island, Castro managed to maintain a communist revolution in a nation just 90 miles off the coast of Florida.
Despised by his critics as much as he was revered by his followers, he outlasted ten US presidents and defied scores of attempts on his life by the CIA.
Key US stock indexes renewed their record closing highs on Friday due to hopes for the year-end shopping season.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 19,152, marking a new record for the 4th straight trading day. That's up 68 points, or 0.36 percent, from the last trading session on Wednesday. Markets were shut on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite also rose 18 points, or 0.34 percent, to finish at a record 5,398.
Investors placed buy orders as major department stores and other retailers logged brisk sales on Thursday, when the year-end shopping season began in full swing.
Market players say expectations for President-elect Donald Trump are another factor behind increasingly solid personal consumption in the US.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday presented a Russian passport to U.S. actor Steven Seagal, and said he hoped it would serve as a symbol of how the fractious ties between Moscow and Washington are starting to improve.
At a ceremony where Seagal signed his new passport in front of Putin, the Russian leader said: "I want to congratulate you and express the hope that this is another, albeit small, gesture and it might be a sign of the gradual normalization of relations between our countries."
(Reporting by Christian Lowe; Editing by Vladimir Soldatkin)
Tony Blair says that Britain's departure from the European Union is not etched in stone.
In an interview with the New Statesman, the former British prime minister said the process could be halted.
"It can be stopped if the British people decide that, having seen what it means, the pain-gain cost-benefit analysis doesn't stack up," Blair told the magazine.
The former Labour Party boss believes that parliament -- or the British people -- will in the end be allowed to pass judgment on the specific exit deal negotiated with the EU.
That puts him at odds with Prime Minister Theresa May, who has rejected calls for a second referendum, while insisting that "Brexit means Brexit." She's also appealing a court ruling that parliament should have a vote before the formal exit negotiations begin.
May has committed to triggering the legal exit process by the end of March. That will set off two years of frantic negotiations over the terms of Britain's exit from the trading bloc.
Blair makes the case for a public evaluation of whatever deal is negotiated. Will Britain retain access to the EU's giant free trade area? Or will it be forced to go it alone and negotiate new trade deals with Europe and the rest of the world?
"Why wouldn't you keep your options open? Why wouldn't you say, 'We took this decision, we took it before we saw what its consequences are; now we see its consequences, we're not so sure?' " he asked.
The public got its first official look at the cost of Brexit on Wednesday. The U.K. will be forced to borrow an extra £58.7 billion ($72.6 billion) over the next five years because of an economic slowdown triggered by the exit, according to estimates published by the Office of Budget Responsibility.
The independent government agency said growth will slump to just 1.4% next year -- the weakest rate since 2009.
Blair, who has expressed a desire to reengage in policy debates in the U.K., cited the example of a deal offered to Nissan (NSANY) following the referendum. In exchange for continued investment in the U.K., May is believed to have offered the Japanese automaker certain commitments.
But the specifics of the deal remain a closely held government secret.
"I don't know what the terms of that deal are, but we should know," Blair said. "Because that will tell us a lot about what [the government is] prepared to concede in order to keep access to the [EU] single market."
Blair won three consecutive general elections, the last in 2005. He was the Labour Party's longest serving prime minister but faced fierce criticism over his decision to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Now he is intent on returning to policy debates by leading a resurgence of the center-left.
"You've got to learn the right lessons of Brexit, Trump and these popular movements across the Western world," he said. "Otherwise you're going to end up in a situation where you seriously think that the populism of the left is going to defeat the populism of the right. It absolutely won't."
Asahi Group Holdings is set to become Japan's first beer maker to produce a flagship product in Europe.
President Akiyoshi Koji has told reporters the company will start brewing its "Super Dry" beer at factories in Italy and the Netherlands in 2018.
Asahi purchased 4 European beer brands last month for about 2.6 billion dollars. They include Birra Peroni in Italy and Royal Grolsch in the Netherlands.
Company officials say they want to strengthen their brand overseas by doubling sales of its mainstay product in Europe.
Japan's beer market is steadily drying up, and that has prompted the company to look abroad.
Bailey White, 13, stood patiently in line with her little brother Keaton at the gift store inside the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue on Wednesday afternoon, each clutching a stuffed terrier named Charlie that cost $35 per item.
The beagle, with a Trump monogram on its white bandana, was modeled on the pet dog of Eric Trump, the son of President-elect Donald Trump. It was one of the few items left on the shelves of the store, which had sold out of that morning's fresh batch of red "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN" t-shirts by noon.
Bailey and Keaton, 10, however, were happy with their score. The children, who had traveled to New York from Florida originally for the Thanksgiving Day Parade, told Reuters they were huge fans of Donald Trump, listing at the top of their reasons his commitment to reduce illegal immigration. Or, as the younger brother puts it, "To stop bad guys from getting in our country."
As businesses around the president-elect's glitzy New York home have had to deal with extra security and crowds reducing foot traffic sales in the lead up to Fifth Avenue’s busiest shopping weekend, Trump souvenirs have been flying off the shelves at the billionaire's gift store.
Trump supporters like the White siblings and their mom Laura have proven to be a boon for at least one of the his businesses in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. presidential election.
In just one hour, a Reuters reporter counted at least 100 people crowding the shop located on the lower level of the Tower to buy hats, pins and more. Many were disappointed to find the $30 dollar red "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN" hat and all campaign t-shirts out of stock.
Just one door over, a single salesman sat in dim lighting in the middle of the day at a New York City souvenir store, also in Trump Tower, greeting visitors with, "Looking for Trump merchandise?" before redirecting them.
When asked if the number of visitors inside the Trump Tower had increased since the presidential results, a security guard in the building replied: "One hundred percent."
Outside, where some of the world's most well-known retailers spend more on rent than in just about any other city, shoppers had to fight through security, crowds and media packs to enter the Gucci store or tony jeweler Tiffany's.
Rosalia Betancourt, 69, first trekked to Trump Tower two days after Trump was elected in search for the eponymous red hat. They were sold out.
When Betancourt, who moved to New York from Venezuela more than four decades ago, braved holiday crowds a week later on Wednesday, she had to leave empty-handed once again.
"It's all right" she said. "I guess I'll go online. It just has to be red."
Sari Nielsen, 71, was waiting at the Trump Cafe next door to the shop for the crowds to die down.
"I want to buy my nephew Pete a Trump golf hat for Thanksgiving," said Nielsen, who moved to New York in 1975 from Argentina.
Shoppers also had the option of buying Trump cufflinks, blankets, bags, perfume, candy, books authored by members of the family and more.
The line shortened somewhat during lunchtime when visitors turned their attention to the Trump Grill, which does not offer reservations but a $25 dollar fixed-price meal.
Trisha Williams, 50, of San Jose, California also made the trip to New York for the parade with her son Cayden, 8, who stayed up and watched the election. The two stood outside the Trump Tower with their gold Trump store bags.
"We wanted to experience it all and buy some merchandise," Trisha said.
But many of the items she wanted to buy were not available.
"They didn't really have very much," Trisha said noting that a saleswoman at the store gave her a card outlining how she can make purchases online and that she's already followed her advice.
"I wanted a jacket with a Trump logo and a t-shirt, but they didn't really have anything left."
(Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York; Editing by Leela de Kretser and Diane Craft)...
China will defend its rights under World Trade Organization tariff rules if US President-elect Donald Trump moves toward executing his campaign threats to levy punitive duties on goods made in China, a senior Chinese trade official said on Wednesday.
Zhang Xiangchen, China's deputy international trade representative, also told a news conference that a broad consensus of academics, business people and government officials have concluded that China is not manipulating its yuan currency to gain an unfair trade advantage as Trump has charged.
"I think after Mr Trump takes office, he will be reminded that the United States should honor its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization," Zhang said through an interpreter. "And as a member of the WTO, China also has the right to ensure its rights as a WTO member."
Trump has said China is "killing us" on trade and that he would take steps to reduce the large US goods trade deficit with China, including labeling Beijing a currency manipulator soon after he takes office in January and levying duties of up to 45 percent to level the playing field for US manufacturers.
Zhang, who spoke at the closing news conference for a two-day technical meeting of US and Chinese trade officials in Washington, said China has been closely watching Trump's statements on the campaign trail and as he prepares to take office. He said that no matter how the leadership changes, the shared economic interests between the United States and China far outweigh their differences and cooperation should continue.
Ulaanbaatar /MONTSAME/ On Wednesday, the cabinet approved thequota for hunting in 2017. It permitted hunting 68 male bighorn sheep, 75 male ibexes, 32 otters, 10 roe deers, 10 boars, 100 gazelles and 400 game birds, for special purposes, and 500 taimens for sport fishing.
According to a professional instution’s estimation, the above mentioned quota is not harmful for the growth of population of the animals.
The quoted prices for a head of game animals were also increased by up to 30 percent, taking into account the rise of inflation rate since 2001 and 2005 and the recommendations given by specialized organizations, the Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Experimental Biology.
In 2016, the hunting quota was 60 male bighorn, 70 male ibexes, 30 otters, 20 grey wolves, 10 boars, 10 roe deers, 150 gazelles and 400 hunting birds, and catch&release quota for taimens were 400, as approved in 2015.
So far this year, 37 soums of 13 provinces have accumulated some MNT 940 million from hunting permit fees.