Fiat Chrysler, PSA Peugeot Boards Approve Merger

The boards of Fiat Chrysler and PSA Peugeot announced Thursday fast-moving plans to merge the two companies creating the world’s fourth-largest automaker with enough scale to confront “the new era in mobility.”The merger would bring together Italian-American Fiat Chrysler, with its strong footprint in North America where it makes at least two-thirds of its profits, and France’s PSA Peugeot, the No. 2 automaker in Europe. Both lag in China, despite the participation of the Chinese shareholder Dongfeng, in PSA Peugeot, and are catching up in the transition to electrified powertrains.The 50-50 merger is expected to create synergies of 3.7 billion euros ($4 billion), a figure that the automakers said they expect to achieve without any factory closures – a concern of unions in both France and Italy where the carmakers have more model overlap.The new company would have combined revenues of 170 billion euros, an operating profit of over 11 billion euros and produce 8.7 million cars a year – behind Toyota, Volkswagen and the Renault-Nissan alliance. The combined market capitalization would be around $50 billion.Once a merger is finalized, PSA Peugeot CEO Carlos Tavares will be chief executive of the new company with Fiat Chrysler Chairman John Elkann taking the role of chairman.  Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley would have a senior executive role and work closely with Tavares.“This convergence brings significant value to all the stakeholders and opens a bright future for the combined entity,” Tavares said in a statement.Manley called it “an industry-changing combination,” and noted the long history of cooperation with the Groupe PSA in the industrial vehicle sector in Europe.The 11-member board will be made up of five members from each company plus Tavares, who is locked in as CEO for five years.The automakers said that the new company would be able to meet the challenges of powertrain electrification, connectivity and autonomous driving “with speed and capital efficiency.”The combined company will be able to share in the cost of developing those technologies with their “strong global R&D footprint,” they said, adding that will also save on investments in vehicle platforms and save money with greater purchasing power.Both companies “share the conviction that there is compelling logic for a bold and decisive move that would create an industry leader with the scale, capabilities and resources to capture successfully the opportunities, and manage effectively the challenges in the new era in mobility,” the statement said.The merger decision comes about five months after a similar deal with French automaker Renault fell apart, mostly over French government concern about the role of Renault’s Japanese alliance partner Nissan. There were no signs of resistance to this deal, beyond concerns for jobs.French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire answers reporters, Oct. 31, 2019 in Paris.French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in a statement that he “favorably welcomes” the proposed merger.“This operation responds to the automobile sector’s need to consolidate to face the challenges of future mobility,” Le Maire said, adding that the government would be vigilant about preserving French factories and the location of company headquarters.He also is seeking that the new group will create a European electric battery industry, something the French government has pushed for to ensure that European carmakers can reduce their dependence on U.S. and Asian battery technology.The companies said head offices would continue to operate in France, Italy and the United States, and that shares would be traded in the main exchanges in those three countries. The parent company would be based in the Netherlands, as is currently the case with Fiat Chrysler.European automakers have been eyeing consolidation for years in a bid to share the costs of new technology and tackle the issue of overproduction on the continent. Fiat gains some of the advantages that Peugeot has developed in electrified powertrains that should help ease its transition in the face of tough new EU emissions standards. And PSA gains access to North America, which it has long sought.The prospective FCA-PSA tie-up with Peugeot “follows intensive discussions between the senior managements of the two companies.” Both have strong shareholder participation by the founding families – the Peugeots in France and the heirs to the Agnelli family in Italy, represented by Elkann.As part of the agreement, the main shareholders – the Peugeots, the Agnelli family investment arm Exor, as well as the Chinese investor Dongfeng and the French state investment bank – agree to maintain their stakes for seven years. The only exception is that the Peugeots could increase their stake by up to 2.5% during the first three years by buying shares from Dongfeng and the French investment bank.The next step in the deal is expected to be a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, which could come before the end of the year. 

Рада підтримала виділення мільярда гривень шахтарям

Верховна Рада України 31 жовтня розглянула правки до державного бюджету і підтримала урядову ініціативу про виділення 1 млрд гривень шахтарям. Про це повідомляє пресслужба уряду.

Відповідний законопроєкт підтримав 291 депутат.

«Парламент підтримав пропозицію уряду про виділення 1 млрд грн на вирішення гострих проблем вугледобувної галузі, виплати заробітної плати шахтарям», – мовиться у повідомленні.

15 вересня у Верховній Раді зареєстрували проєкт державного бюджету. Парламент схвалив його у першому читанні. Остаточно законопроєкт про державний бюджет мають ухвалити до 1 грудня.

 

The Real-World Inspiration for Monsters Like Dracula, Frankenstein

Dracula, Frankenstein and other monsters may have literary origins, but Hollywood has turned them into iconic characters that have scared and thrilled audiences for decades.In the new exhibit, “Natural History of Horror,” the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County explains the link between art and reality, and shows how filmmakers looked to science and archeology as inspiration for hair-raising movie monsters.
 
“It’s really been a journey since those films were created to see how these different monsters have been interpreted and reinterpreted over the years,” said Jeff Pirtle, director of archives and collections, at NBC Universal.
 
“When you look at, for instance, Dracula, all you have to do is see a man in a cape and a tuxedo underneath — it’s an iconic image,” said Beth Werling, collections manager in the museum’s history department. “You know, it’s the suave, sophisticated Dracula during the day, and a vampire at night. You look at Frankenstein and the green makeup and the flat head and the bolts coming out of the neck, you know what you’re looking at.”
 
Visitors can see original monster movie posters and props donated by Universal, including the ball and chain that shackled Frankenstein’s reanimated corpse in the 1931 movie.
 
There is also a reproduction of the costume from the 1954 film “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” with movable gills.
 
Beyond the props, the exhibit highlights the real-life inspirations for the Hollywood horrors.
 The myth and science that inspired the Creature from the Black Lagoon movie. (Photo: Elizabeth Lee / VOA)Milicent Patrick designed the “creature” from the Black Lagoon by studying reptiles, amphibians, fish and pictures of extinct animals. One of the creature’s origins came from the discovery in 1938 of coelacanths — fish that some biologists thought at the time to be the missing link between sea and land creatures.
 
The discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 inspired “The Mummy” in 1932. In the new exhibit, the wrappings of a real mummy are displayed near fake wrappings from the movie.
 
“The prop is pretty much what the originals were made out of — linen cloth, very coarsely woven. And in our case, with the prop mummy wrappings, they were dubbed with Fuller’s earth (clay material) to give them the kind of dusty, crusty look to age them,” Werling said. Fuller’s earth is “kind of like a dirt-like mixture that you would use when you wanted to age something or have something look dusty. As a matter of fact, it was used also in the makeup for Boris Karloff in ‘The Mummy.’ ”
 
For Dracula, the prop for the vampire bat is on display, along with a real bat and information on how Europeans used to think vampires caused various types of diseases.
 
The monsters may look different and have different origins, but they share a common thread in the horror films.
 
“What it really encompasses is characters that all they really want is to be loved,” Pirtle said. “Because you see Dracula, you see Frankenstein, you see the Mummy, you see the bride of Frankenstein, and it’s characters that just want to be accepted. And I think that’s just a universal theme that audiences identify with.”
 
Love and acceptance may explain why filmmakers keep making movies inspired by these Hollywood horrors.“Natural History of Horror” is on display now until April 19, 2020.

На міжбанку переважають продавці валюти, гривня посилюється

Торги в парі гривня-долар на українському міжбанківському валютному ринку 31 жовтня розпочалися з активного продажу іноземної валюти, що на тлі низького попиту призводить до просідання котирувань. «Основна частина угод не перевищує поріг 500 тисяч доларів», – відзначає сайт «Мінфін».

«У гривні знову є шанс зміцнити свої позиції щодо долара, а основними драйверами поведінки учасників торгів будуть завершення місяця у клієнтів та банків та поведінка готівкового ринку і стан ліквідності в системі», – відзначили експерти сайту «Мінфін».

За даними сайту Finance.ua, станом на 12:00 котирування склали 24 гривні 81 – 84 копійки за долар, це нижче рівня відкриття торгів на 13 копійок.

Національний банк України опівдні оприлюднив довідкове значення курсу 24 гривні 83 копійки за долар, це на 17 копійок менше за офіційний курс на 31 жовтня.

As Economy Slows, New ECB Head Lagarde Faces Big Challenges

Europe’s economy is losing strength. Top officials at the European Central Bank are at odds over policy. And it’s even unclear whether they can do much to help anyway.It adds up to a full in-tray for Christine Lagarde as she takes over as ECB president on Friday.The former head of the International Monetary Fund succeeds Mario Draghi, who as head of the central bank for the 19 countries that use the euro helped keep the currency union together through a financial crisis.While the crisis has abated, the pressures of the job have not diminished, with the ECB president acting as the final backstop for Europe’s economy and global uncertainties on the rise.Here’s a look at the main challenges Lagarde faces.A weakening economyGrowth has dropped significantly even since Draghi announced a big stimulus package on Sept. 12. Analysts think Lagarde may not have to change policy for a while as that stimulus runs, but big risks still loom over the global and European economies. Trade disputes between the U.S. and major economies like China and Europe have hurt manufacturing. Brexit has yet to be resolved, keeping businesses uncertain about how to invest.The ECB’s next move may be to provide even more stimulus, rather than raising interest rates back to where they were before the global financial crisis.Central Bank powerAnd yet providing more stimulus could be complicated, in part because so much has already been spent.The ECB’s benchmark interest rate on deposits left overnight from banks is already at an unprecedented minus 0.5%. Bank officials have said it could be cut further, but at some point the ECB would reach a point where adverse side effects such as the impact on bank profits may outweigh the benefits.Draghi’s plan to have the ECB buy 20 billion euros ($22 billion) a month in corporate and government bonds will continue to help hold down market borrowing costs for companies and governments. Eventually, however, there won’t be enough government bonds to buy up. The ECB has a self-imposed limit of buying no more than a third of any government’s debt.And it’s not clear how much good more rate cuts and bond purchases would do.Rates are already negative, and the ECB already pumped 2.6 billion euros ($2.9 billion) into the economy through bond purchases from 2015 to the end of 2018. Despite that, inflation has remained below the ECB’s goal of under 2%. Growth has not led to increases in wages and inflation as seen in earlier eras, and not just in Europe; economists say aging populations, digitalization and globalization that can shift jobs to lower wage locations may all play a role.“The workings of the economy are changing,” said Maria Demertzis, deputy director of the Bruegel think tank in Brussels. “This is a big challenge for the ECB: what can they do to stimulate the economy, both because they have almost exhausted the instruments that they have, but also because the digital transformation implies that the economy simply works differently.”DiplomacyPrecisely that question led to unusually strong criticism from several members on the ECB governing board, including the central bank heads from Germany, the Netherlands and Austria.Lagarde can use her political and negotiating skills honed as French finance minister and head of the IMF to manage the rift.Yet it’s more than a matter of winning people over with diplomacy. The dispute reflects uncertainty about how the economy works and how it will respond, or not, to stimulus.Lagarde, an engaging public speaker, will also need all her communications skills to rebut criticism from German economists and news media that the bank’s low-rate policies are depriving savers of returns and benefitting shaky southern European governments. Draghi has often noted that 11 million jobs were created since the peak of post-crisis unemployment in 2013.Fixing EuropeLagarde repeated as recently as Wednesday Draghi’s plea for governments that are in good financial shape to spend more on projects such as infrastructure that can help economic growth, and to not let the central bank carry the whole burden. Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has insisted on running budget surpluses.
 
“After the crisis in 2008 everyone worked together and countries … did their job. But since then … countries that have budgetary space have not made the necessary efforts” in investment to support growth, Lagarde said on RTL radio. “Notably countries like Netherlands, Germany and some others in the world.”“Those that have a margin of maneuver – why not use this budget surplus and invest in infrastructure, which really needs it? Why not invest in education, why not invest in innovation?”The broader question, said Demertzis, is that the eurozone lacks a central budget to stabilize its economic ups and downs but instead relies on budget decisions in 19 member countries. French President Emmanuel Macron has pushed for a central budget, but German skepticism has limited its size and purpose.
 
“It really needs to be a fiscal capacity at the eurozone level,” said Demertzis.
“Politically, that is a very, very difficult thing to do. If Lagarde has the political acumen, which I think she does, she may be able to move that conversation in that direction, which would be extremely welcome.” 

Миколаївська митниця заявляє про обшуки через можливу втрату 160 млн гривень

Миколаївська митниця Державної фіскальної служби заявляє про обшуки через можливу втрату 160 мільйонів гривень. На території митниці працюють співробітники Служби безпеки України та Державного бюро розслідувань.

«Мною особисто була подана інформація до ДБР щодо можливих неправомірних дій тодішнього керівництва митниці. Зокрема, мова йде про те, що через митницю було пропущено 17 партій з мінеральними добривами без начислення антидемпінгового мита. Внаслідок цього є підозра, що держава понесла збитки на суму 162,7 мільйона гривень», – заявив начальник Миколаївської митниці

За його словами, наразі правоохоронці проводять обшуки за ознаками правопорушення, передбаченого статтею 364 Кримінального кодексу України «Зловживання владою або службовим становищем».

Служба безпеки України та Державне бюро розслідувань наразі не коментували обшуки.

Rights Envoy Urges Greece to Transfer Migrants to Mainland

A European top official says the situation in Greece’s migrant camps is “explosive” and is urging the country’s authorities to transfer asylum-seekers from islands to the mainland.
 
The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic said Thursday that “the situation of migrants, including asylum-seekers, in the Greek Aegean islands has dramatically worsened over the past 12 months.”Greek authorities are struggling to cope with a sharp rise in the number of arrivals over the summer months on Lesbos and other islands in the eastern Aegean Sea where European Union-funded camps are suffering severe overcrowding and outbreaks of violence.Mijatovic, who visited camps in Lesbos, Samos and Corinth, added that Greece should implement urgent measures “to address the desperate conditions in which thousands of human beings are living.

Hungary’s Orban: Good Relations With Russia Are Necessity

Hungary’s prime minster said Wednesday after hosting a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that good relations with Russia are a necessity because of his country’s geographical location.Analysts see Prime Minister Viktor Orban as Putin’s closest ally in the European Union and Hungary has long advocated for the end of sanctions against Russia for actions in Ukraine, saying they hurt the Hungarian economy. Trade between Hungary and Russia increased in 2018 for the first time since sanctions were put in place.”It’s a simple geographical fact: No country can change its address,” Orban said during a news conference with Putin about Hungary’s need to cooperate with Russia. “Every country is located where God created it. For Hungary, it means being in a Moscow-Berlin-Istanbul triangle.”A convoy transporting Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in central Budapest, Hungary, Oct. 30, 2019.Orban mentioned Hungary’s membership in the European Union and NATO but said that it did “not rule out establishing political cooperation with Russia on certain issues.”Orban said Hungary, which depends greatly on Russian gas and oil, was trying to cooperate with Russia on issues like preventing migration to Europe, stabilizing the Middle East and aiding Christian communities around the world.TurkStream gas pipeline Orban also said it was a priority for his country to join the TurkStream gas pipeline to increase supply routes to Hungary for Russian gas.Putin said that Russia expects to complete construction of the TurkStream pipeline to Turkey this year and build extensions to Bulgaria and Serbia the following year. He added that an extension to Hungary could be built quickly, and Orban welcomed the prospect.Putin pointed to Hungary’s role as a top customer for Russian natural gas and as a key transit hub.”Russian gas supplies to Western Europe go via Hungary, and its underground depots allow serving European customers when consumption peaks,” Putin said. “We view Hungary as a priority partner in the distribution of Russian natural gas in Europe.”Protecting ChristiansThe Russian leader also praised Orban for organizing a meeting with representatives of Christian communities from the Middle East, saying that Russia sees the protection of Christians in Syria and other conflict areas as a top priority.
 
“The Middle East is the cradle of Christianity, and Christians are in peril there, facing persecution, being killed, raped and robbed. Russia will do everything to protect Christians in the Middle East. We must help them restore and preserve their holy sites, preserve their congregations,” he said.Putin added that the Russian military in Syria is also helping restore mosques and assisting Jewish communities.Speaking later at a meeting with Christian leaders from the Middle East, Putin said, “We are concerned with a massive exodus of Christians from the Middle East.””We are watching what’s happening to the Christians in the Middle East with tears in our eyes,” Putin said.
 

Syria’s Warring Parties Meet to Draft New Constitution

Syrian government and opposition delegates have begun meeting to draft a new constitution as a prelude to U.N.-supervised elections for their war-torn country.After nearly nine years of war, U.N. mediator Geir Pedersen calls the meeting of Syria’s arch-enemies an historic moment.  At the official launch of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, he welcomed members with words of encouragement and urged them to strive for a durable solution to years of division and suffering.   He said the first gathering of the committee of 150 government, opposition and civil society members brings together diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds, as well as a wide spectrum of political leanings.  Pedersen added the varied composition of views and beliefs presents difficulties as well as opportunities for meaningful change.  “I know that it is not easy for all of you to be here together in this room, and I respect that… But the fact that you are here today sitting together face-to-face ready to start a dialogue and negotiations, is, I believe, a powerful sign of hope for Syrians everywhere, both inside and outside the country,” Pedersen said.  The United Nations reports hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in Syria’s long-running civil war.  It says 6.7 million people have fled as refugees to other countries and 6.2 million are displaced within Syria.Pedersen said it will be difficult to reconcile so many divergent views, especially when the risks and dangers of military escalation in Syria remain a daily threat.  He advised patience and steadfastness, and promised U.N. help to facilitate the process every step along a difficult path.His words were greeted with professions of good will from the warring parties.  Syrian government co-chair of the committee Ahmad Kuzbari noted that a constitution is the cornerstone and solid building block on which states are built.He said his delegation is prepared to consider possible amendments to Syria’s existing constitution.  But he added that the process must safeguard the country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, with no outside interference in internal affairs.Opposition co-chair Hadi Albahra said Syrians seek a nation that respects all people, without discrimination.  He said the only victory that is worth having is one based on justice and peace, not on one side winning the war.  Such a victory, he warned, is not sustainable. 

NATO Chief Calls For Russian Troop Withdrawal From Ukraine

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has welcomed the withdrawal of Ukrainian and Russia-backed separatist forces from a frontline area in eastern Ukraine, but reiterated calls for Moscow to “withdraw all their troops.””We welcome all efforts to reduce tensions,” Stoltenberg said during a visit to the Ukrainian port city of Odesa on Wednesday, adding that “there is a long way to go because there are still cease-fire violations.””NATO states very clearly that Russia has a special responsibility to… withdraw all their troops, all their officers” from eastern Ukraine, he added.Stoltenberg’s comments come a day after Ukrainian government troops and the separatists started a disengagement process in the town of Zolote in the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk.Ukrainian armed forces have been fighting the separatists in Luhansk and the neighboring Donetsk region in a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people since April 2014.Under a deal reached earlier this month to end the five-year conflict, the sides agreed to start withdrawing from their positions in Zolote and the nearby town of Petrivske.Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystayko voiced hope on October 29 that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy would meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, next month for peace talks mediated by the leaders of France and Germany, in what is known as the Normandy format.Putin’s aide Vladislav Surkov also welcomed steps to resume the disengagement of forces in eastern Ukraine, telling the TASS news agency: “If everything works out in Zolote, similar procedures in Petrivske should follow immediately. And after that, preparations may begin for another Normandy Quartet summit.”On October 30, Stoltenberg and the ambassadors from NATO’s top decision-making body – the North Atlantic Council – arrived in Odesa for a two-day trip, and visited four vessels – from Bulgaria, Italy, Romania, and Spain – that are conducting patrols in the Black Sea.Meeting with Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Stoltenberg highlighted the Western military alliance’s “support for Ukraine’s ambitious reforms, including in defense and security,” according to a NATO statement.”The visit today sends a clear message that NATO stands in solidarity with Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.

Global Trafficking Networks Behind British Migrant Tragedy

British and Belgian police are continuing to investigate the people-smuggling networks that helped to transport the 39 migrants who were found dead in the back of a refrigerated truck near London last week. It’s believed they suffocated in the sealed container. Henry Ridgwell reports on the growing industry in human cargo that brings tens of thousands of migrants to Europe every year.

«Нафтогаз»: ми стійко пройдемо опалювальний сезон за будь-яких сценаріїв

Україна стійко пройде опалювальний сезон за будь-яких сценаріїв, заявив перший заступник голови правління НАК «Нафтогаз України» Сергій Перелома.

«Незалежно від погодних умов, незалежно від сценарію, який може розвиватися з транзитом природного газу, групою «Нафтогаз» за участю оператора газотранспортної системи і «Укртрансгазу» неодноразово проводились навчання, на яких моделювалися різні сценарії як погодних умов, так і різні сценарії споживання. Також ми моделювали і відсутність транзиту, і обмеження імпорту природного газу з європейських країн. Будь-який сценарій підтверджує, що ми стійко проходимо опалювальний сезон», – сказав Перелома.

За даними «Нафтогазу», Україна накопичила понад 21 мільярд кубометрів газу у своїх підземних сховищах. У компанії раніше наголошували, що для стабільного проходження нового осінньо-зимового сезону Україна потребує не менш ніж 20 мільярдів кубометрів газу в підземних сховищах газу.

До початку минулого опалювального сезону Україна накопичила в підземних сховищах 17,2 мільярда кубометрів газу, що було рекордним показником за шість років.

Ризиком для України перед початком нового опалювального сезону є ймовірне припинення або суттєве скорочення російського транзиту газу через українську газотранспортну систему (ГТС) з січня 2020 року, коли завершується дія довгострокової угоди на транзит.

Національна валюта знову балансує на межі 25 гривень за долар

На українському міжбанківському валютному ринку триває зміцнення національної валюти. За даними сайту Finance.ua, станом на 12:30 котирування склали 24 гривні 99 копійок – 25 гривень 2 копійки за долар.

Національний банк України встановив опівдні довідкове значення курсу 25 гривень 1 копійка за долар, це на 10 копійок менше за офіційний курс на 30 жовтня.

Фахівці сайту «Мінфін» виділяють серед чинників, які грають на користь гривні, розрахунки по аукціону з продажу облігацій внутрішньої державної позики (ОВДП), для чого нерезиденти продають валюту. «Чиновники продали облігацій на 1,574 млрд гривень (основна сума продажу 1,391 млрд — папери терміном обігу 700 днів) і сьогодні покупці повинні по ним розрахуватися з державою», – ідеться в повідомленні.

Також посилює національну валюту зниження ліквідності в банківській системі (коррахунки банків на ранок 30 жовтня знизилися на 2,549 млрд гривень — до 49,39 млрд гривень), що зменшує для фінансових установ можливість виходу на ринок для купівлі долара.

Denmark Allows Russia-Germany Gas Pipeline

Denmark said Wednesday that it is giving permission for a joint German-Russian underwater gas pipeline to be laid through its territory, in a blow to the United States, which had fiercely opposed the project.The decision by the Danish Energy Agency to approve the Nord Stream 2 pipeline’s route is a victory for the governments of Russia and Germany, which had staunchly supported it.The plan to transport natural gas about 1,200 kilometers (746 miles) through the Baltic Sea from Russia to Europe has come under fire from U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration and several European countries, who argue that it could increase Europe’s dependence on Russia as a supplier of energy.The government agency said it had granted a permit to Switzerland-based Nord Stream 2 “to construct a section of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipelines on the Danish continental shelf southeast of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea.”FILE – A general view shows the headquarters of Gazprom, with a board of Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of Gazprom seen in the foreground, in Moscow.Washington, which wants to sell its liquefied natural gas to Europe, has threatened sanctions against companies involved in the undersea pipeline.While the pipeline is wholly owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom, half of the project’s 8 billion euro ($8.9 billion) cost is covered by five European energy and chemicals companies including Shell, BASF and ENGIE.Germany, Europe’s biggest economy which is also the world’s biggest importer of natural gas, already relies heavily on Russian gas. So far, Chancellor Angela Merkel has deftly kept the pipeline off the table while imposing sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine.Asked whether any political obstacles to the project remain after the Danish decision, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said: “We have always said that there is a political dimension to Nord Stream 2, and we have always said that gas transit through Ukraine must have a future.”
 
Seibert noted that Merkel discussed the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin two days ago, and said Germany continues to support three-way talks between Russia, Ukraine and the European Commission on gas transit.The Nord Stream 2 pipeline starts in Russia and passes through Finnish, Swedish, Danish and German marine areas before going ashore at the German coast. It can transport 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year.Russia, Finland, Sweden and Germany earlier have issued permits.
 

UK’s Brexit Deal Estimated to Cost Almost $100 Billion

A respected British think tank slammed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal on Wednesday, concluding that the economy would be 3.5% smaller compared with staying in the European Union.The study by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research says the agreement would deliver a 70 billion-pound ($90 billion) blow to the U.K. Researchers said that the outlook is clouded by political and economic uncertainty.“We would not expect economic activity to be boosted by the approval of the government’s proposed Brexit deal,” the group said.The researchers based their prediction on the assumption that the U.K. would leave the bloc with a free trade agreement with the EU after a transition lasting until 2021 while negotiating new deals with other nations. It said that higher “barriers to goods and services, trade and restrictions to migration,” would force the economy to slow.As politicians squabble over how and when Britain will leave the EU, Brexit is reshaping the economy. Initially planned for March, Brexit was pushed back to Halloween and now is not likely to happen before January. Companies are meanwhile shifting investments, creating new supply chains and stockpiling goods to mitigate any damage that would occur from leaving the EU, with or without a deal.The NIESR estimated that the economy was 2.5 % smaller than it would have been had Britain not voted in 2016 to leave the European Union.The British government says it plans a different scenario than the one considered by the think tank.“We are aiming to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union, which is more ambitious than the standard free trade deal that NIESR has based its findings on,” the Treasury department said in a statement.The research suggested a no-deal Brexit would cause an even greater loss to the economy, with a 5.6% blow to GDP.Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said the figures “come as no surprise”.“The Tories’ obsession with Brexit at any cost puts our future prosperity at risk,” he said. “It is unconscionable that any government would voluntarily adopt a policy that would slow economic growth for years to come.”

Africa’s Only Wheelchair Rugby League Battles It Out

South Africa is home to one of the world’s top rugby’s teams. It’s also home to Africa’s only national league of wheelchair rugby. But while wheelchair rugby is an amateur sport with limited resources, there is no shortage of dedication and determination.The finals of the South African Wheelchair Rugby League mean the country’s best players literally get to crash things out on the court.As a boy, Okkie Anker of Pretoria dreamed of becoming part of South Africa’s top rugby team, the Springboks.  But he broke his neck during a high school match in 2011. Now, he considers himself honored to have played twice for the Wheelboks, South Africa’s national wheelchair rugby team, and face off rugby’s famous pregame challenge ritual.“From the first day, I was just loving the game, and the contact and the adrenalin that pumps is almost the same than normal rugby. We faced the haka two times in 2013 and three times in 2015. … It was a great experience to still face the haka and then sing the national anthem,”  Anker said.Leratho Netchane is not only taking the lead during warmup, she became Africa’s first female wheelchair rugby player 12 years ago. After taking some time off, she’s back, playing with the Mustangs of Bloemfontein in the Free State Province and encouraging the next generation of players.“With the limited resources that we have, we are trying. And I believe that the Lord is going to take us where we need to go, because now whatever we do, especially as a team, we’re not doing it only for ourselves,” Netchane said.Playing wheelchair rugby is pricey. An imported, specialized high-performance wheelchair alone costs just over 8,000 U.S. dollars.  But former Wheelbok and Mustang player, Jared McIntyre, developed a beginner’s wheelchair that costs about one-fifth the price of imported ones.“If we have the means to … as I mentioned, as in South Africa, create awareness amongst the sport with cost-effective chairs, we can just as well do it in other countries. And one of these days, you know, have more African countries competing against each other,” Mcintyre said.South Africa’s wheelchair rugby team hasn’t competed internationally since 2015 because it’s been simply too expensive.South Africa Wheelchair Rugby Vice President David Jacobs says despite the cost, they’re working to develop the sport across Africa.“With our affiliation to the South African Rugby Union and the other rugby unions in South Africa, we’re now slowly starting to create further awareness. And once that awareness got a good foundation, we’ll then look at rolling that out into the rest of Africa into the rugby-playing countries of Africa,” Jacobs said.After plenty of sweat, the Mustangs lifted the trophy for the fourth time running in this year’s South African Wheelchair Rugby League.Finances permitting, South Africa Wheelchair Rugby hopes to compete internationally again next year.