GM more than doubles self-driving car test fleet in California

The GM logo is seen at the General Motors Warren Transmission Operations Plant in Warren, Michigan
The GM logo is seen at the General Motors Warren Transmission Operations Plant in Warren, Michigan October 26, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

October 5, 2017

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – General Motors Co’s <GM.N> self-driving unit, Cruise Automation, has more than doubled the size of its test fleet of robot cars in California during the past three months, a GM spokesman said on Wednesday.

As the company increases the size of its test fleet, it has also reported more run-ins between its self-driving cars and human-operated vehicles and bicycles, telling California regulators its vehicles were involved in six minor crashes in the state in September.

“All our incidents this year were caused by the other vehicle,” said Rebecca Mark, spokeswoman for GM Cruise.

In the past three months, the Cruise unit has increased the number of vehicles registered for testing on California streets to 100 from the previous 30 to 40, GM spokesman Ray Wert

said.

Cruise is testing vehicles in San Francisco as part of its effort to develop software capable of navigating congested and often chaotic urban environments.

Investors are watching GM’s progress closely, and the automaker’s shares have risen 17 percent during the past month as some analysts have said the company could deploy robot taxis within the next year or two.

A U.S. Senate panel approved legislation on Wednesday that would allow automakers to greatly expand testing of self-driving cars. Some safety groups have objected to the proposal, saying it gives too much latitude to automakers.

As Cruise, and rivals, put more self-driving vehicles on the road to gather data to train their artificial intelligence systems, they are more frequently encountering human drivers who are not programmed to obey all traffic laws.

In filings to California regulators, Cruise said the six accidents in the state last month involved other cars and a bicyclist hitting its test cars.

The accidents did not result in injuries or serious damage, according to the GM reports. In total, GM Cruise vehicles have been involved in 13 collisions reported to California regulators in 2017, while Alphabet Inc’s <GOOGL.O> Waymo vehicles have been involved in three crashes.

California state law requires that all crashes involving self-driving vehicles be reported, regardless of severity.

Most of the crashes involved drivers of other vehicles striking the GM cars that were slowing for stop signs, pedestrians or other issues. In one crash, a driver of a Ford Ranger was on his cellphone when he rear-ended a Chevrolet Bolt stopped at a red light.

In another instance, the driver of a Chevrolet Bolt noticed an intoxicated cyclist in San Francisco going the wrong direction toward the Bolt. The human driver stopped the Bolt and the cyclist hit the bumper and fell over. The bicyclist pulled on a sensor attached to the vehicle causing minor damage.

“While we look forward to the day when autonomous vehicles are commonplace, the streets we drive on today are not so simple, and we will continue to learn how humans drive and improve how we share the road together,” GM said in a statement on Wednesday.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Additional reporting by Joseph White in Detroit; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney)

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United States win Presidents Cup golf over International team

PGA: The Presidents Cup-Day Four
Oct 1, 2017; Jersey City, NJ, USA; Kevin Chappell of the United States tees off at hole 10 in the final round of the Presidents Cup golf tournament at Liberty National Golf Course. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com via USA TODAY NETWORK

October 2, 2017

By Andrew Both

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (Reuters) – The United States won their seventh consecutive Presidents Cup over the International team on Sunday even as the final margin of eight points disguised the one-sided nature of the event.

A Sunday rally by the beleaguered Internationals, who won six of the 12 singles matches and halved three others, allowed the visitors to avoid a record defeat and escape Liberty National with a little pride.

The U.S., led by unbeaten Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, prevailed 19-11 to claim the cup for the 10th time in 12 stagings of the biennial event.

The record winning margin is 11-1/2 points by the Americans in 2000.

The result left the International team searching for ways to make the event more competitive heading into the 2019 installment at Royal Melbourne in Australia.

But no matter what they had done it would not have been enough to stop the home team this time.

“It’s tough to be on the receiving end of another loss for all of us,” International captain Nick Price said after presiding over his third straight defeat at the helm.

“This is a juggernaut of a U.S. team. They’re an overpowering team.”

The American team certainly impressed Donald Trump, the first sitting U.S. President to present the cup to the winning captain.

“I’ve been watching this from the beginning, and I have to say our team U.S.A., wow, did you play well,” Trump said.

Winning captain Steve Stricker concurred.

“U.S.A. team golf is in a great spot,” Stricker said of his team, which has an average age of less than 32 years.

“Looks like they could be around together for a long time. They played well all year long and they came here with a lot of confidence. They continued it right through this tournament here.”

The International team of players from the rest of the world, excluding Europe, started the final day needing to sweep every match to snatch victory.

A touch embarrassed after performing miserably in the foursomes and four-ball matches, the Internationals performed much better in man-to-man play on Sunday, though it was too little, too late.

“It was really weird being out there today, knowing there was no chance of losing,” said world number one Johnson.

Among the International winners in singles were former world number ones Jason Day and Adam Scott, as well as Hideki Matsuyama, currently the team’s top-ranked player.

American losers included the past three major champions, Jordan Spieth, who has not won a singles match in either Presidents or Ryder Cup events, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka.

Spieth won his first four matches this week, but he still copped a friendly ribbing at the winning team’s press conference.

“I’ve got a question. How does it feel to be 0-5 in singles,” Johnson asked Spieth.

(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Gene Cherry)

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Apple sees sharp increase in U.S. national security requests

A 3D printed Apple logo is seen in front of a displayed cyber code in this illustration
A 3D printed Apple logo is seen in front of a displayed cyber code in this illustration taken March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

September 29, 2017

By Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) – Apple Inc <AAPL.O> has received more than four times as many national-security related requests from the U.S. government in the first half of this year versus a year ago, according to a company report on Thursday.

Apple said it had received between 13,250 and 13,499 national security requests affecting between 9,000 and 9,249 users. That compares with a range of 2,750 and 2,999 requests affecting between 2,000 and 2,249 users in the first half of 2016. (http://apple.co/2xO5fLM)

The requests come in the form of so-called National Security Letters, or NSLs, and requests under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. Apple and other companies report ranges because government rules prevent disclosing precise numbers.

Apple declined to comment beyond the figures it released.

The disclosures are voluntary, and firms like Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O> and Facebook Inc <FB.O> have yet to report any figures for 2017. In the past, those companies have issued more detailed reports, for example separating FISA requests and NSLs. The government requires they wait six months to report that level of information.

Alphabet Inc’s <GOOGL.O> Google said it had received between 0 and 499 National Security Letters requesting information on between 1,000 and 1,499 user accounts in the first half of 2017. A year previously, the number of requests was the same but the government asked about only 500 to 999 accounts, according to Google’s transparency report. Its 2017 FISA request numbers were not yet available. (http://bit.ly/2k8lDBL)

It was not immediately clear what drove the increase in requests to Apple. But Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that the number of government requests to technology companies has been increasing since 2014, when data first started to become available as part of a settlement between technology firms and the government.

“There’s not a huge track record here, but you can start to make a simple graph. The trend does seem to be upward,” Crocker said.

Crocker also said the higher requests to Apple could represent it coming in line with its peers. Despite Apple’s huge user base – it has sold more than 1.2 billion iPhones – the number of requests to it had been relatively low compared with firms like Google or Microsoft.

National security letters are a type of government subpoena for communications data sent to service providers. They are usually issued with a gag order, meaning the target is often unaware that records are being accessed, and they do not require a warrant.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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ADB raises China’s 2017 growth forecast to 6.7 percent on consumption, exports boost

FILE PHOTO: A woman pauses as she shops at a wholesale market in Yiwu
FILE PHOTO: A woman pauses as she shops at a wholesale market in Yiwu, Zhejiang province January 11, 2011. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

September 26, 2017

BEIJING (Reuters) – The Asian Development Bank raised its outlook for China’s economic growth this year on the back of strong domestic consumption, an export recovery and solid growth in services.

ADB now expects China’s economy to grow 6.7 percent in 2017, up from a previous projection of 6.5 percent made in April.

The 2018 growth forecast was also raised to 6.4 percent from 6.2 percent.

China’s economy has grown at a faster than expected 6.9 percent pace in the first half of this year, on track to beat the government’s target of around 6.5 percent despite Beijing’s efforts to curtail risky forms of investments and rising debt.

“The PRC economy remains resilient, solidifying its role as an engine of global growth,” said Yasuyuki Sawada, ADB Chief Economist.

“Supply-side reform is moving forward, but eventual success hinges on a careful balancing of the role of the market and the state, particularly as the country continues its transition to a more market and services-driven economy.”

ADB’s forecasts for China in 2017 and 2018 now match those of the International Monetary Fund, which upgraded its own China growth forecast in July.

But 6.7 percent growth for the full year would still indicate a notable slowing over the second half of the year.

A cooling property market due to strong government controls and weaker exports growth could impact overall economic output in the second half, analysts say.

Indeed, August economic data suggested the world’s second-largest economy is finally starting to lose some momentum as borrowing costs rise.

Rising debt in the economy and a reliance on credit to drive growth has also raised worries among groups including the IMF and led S&P Global Ratings last week to cut China’s sovereign credit rating.

ADB said it expects China’s monetary and financial policies will remain unchanged this year, while exchange rate reform could include a widening of the trading band for the yuan.

But the bank highlights risks that include liquidity shortages from regulatory tightening, global trade protectionism and renewed capital outflows if the dollar begins to strengthen.

(Reporting by Elias Glenn; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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NFL: National Football League roundup

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
FILE PHOTO: Dec 13, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) tries to avoid the sack by Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman (77) during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters

September 23, 2017

(The Sports Xchange) – Former Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman was suspended six games by the NFL on Friday for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

Hageman is being disciplined for a March 2016 arrest on domestic violence charges involving his then-girlfriend.

He was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list on the day of the league-wide cutdown to 53 players and then waived by the Falcons two days later.

Hageman, a second-round pick in 2014, had 18 tackles and two sacks last season.

– – –

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hold a hearing on Oct. 2 to hear arguments on the NFL emergency motion in the case of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Elliott received a preliminary injunction on Sept. 18 that allowed him to continue to play despite the NFL handing him a six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. The NFL is seeking to have Elliott serve his suspension immediately. The hearing will take place in New Orleans.

The date of the hearing assures that the running back can play against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday and against the Los Angeles Rams the following Sunday.

– – –

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans but insists he will play.

Gronkowski has been bothered by a groin injury and declared it was “nothing serious.”

Receiver Danny Amendola is also listed as questionable. He missed last Sunday’s game against New Orleans due to a concussion.

Running back Rex Burkhead (ribs) was ruled out of the contest.

Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle, concussion), receivers Phillip Dorsett (knee) and Chris Hogan (knee), cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (groin) and Eric Rowe (groin), middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower, outside linebacker Elandon Roberts (thumb), safety Nate Ebner (shoulder) and special teams ace Matthew Slater (hamstring) are also questionable.

– – –

Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford will miss his second consecutive game due to an injury to his left knee when the Vikings host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

– – –

Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams did not make the trip to London because of a lingering foot injury, coach John Harbaugh said.

The injury kept Williams out of practice this week in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium.

– – –

Defensive end Myles Garrett is doubtful and outside linebacker Jamie Collins is out for Week 3 when the Cleveland Browns visit the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

Collins suffered a concussion against the Ravens last week and did not clear the head injury protocol during the past week of practice.

Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, is likely to miss his third consecutive game with an ankle injury.

– – –

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert was ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers because of a back injury.

– – –

Atlanta Falcons right tackle Ryan Schraeder has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions due to a concussion.

Players previously ruled out for the Falcons include linebacker Vic Beasley (hamstring) and defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw (ankle). Running back Terron Ward (neck, shoulder) also was declared out.

– – –

Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

Kalil is bothered by a neck injury, and center Tyler Larsen will make his second consecutive start.

– – –

Philadelphia Eagles safety Corey Graham was ruled out of Sunday’s game against the New York Giants with a hamstring injury, halting his streak of playing in 159 consecutive games.

Starting cornerback Ronald Darby (ankle), safety Jaylen Waktins (hamstring) and defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao (wrist) also were ruled out of the contest.

– – –

The Indianapolis Colts promoted running back Matt Jones to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on Friday and waived guard Ian Silberman.

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Amazon sends accidental gift email to shoppers due to glitch

FILE PHOTO: An Amazon.com Inc driver stands next to an Amazon delivery truck in Los Angeles
FILE PHOTO: An Amazon.com Inc driver stands next to an Amazon delivery truck in Los Angeles, California, U.S. on May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

September 20, 2017

By Jeffrey Dastin

(Reuters) – A technical glitch caused Amazon.com Inc to email some of its customers erroneously that they had received a gift, the company said on Tuesday.

The email displayed an image of a crawling infant and told shoppers they had received a present from their baby registry. A number of recipients, however, reported on social media that they were not expecting a child.

“Amazon just informed me that someone has purchased a gift from my baby registry. My baby is 21, and hopes it’s a keg,” Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty said on Twitter.

The Amazon did not say what caused the malfunction or how many accounts were affected.

Major, public glitches are rare for Seattle-based Amazon, which prides itself on being a technology company, not simply an online retailer.

One day in June, some shoppers who were attempting to view product listings on Amazon were instead sent to an error message that showed the image of a dog.

And in February, its cloud storage and computing business, Amazon Web Services, suffered a technical disruption that was felt more widely.

Clients of the service from news sites to even Apple Inc had temporary difficulties because of the human-inputted error, showing how many have come to rely on Amazon’s cloud for parts of their day-to-day operations. Amazon has since made changes to prevent similar future incidents.

Amazon’s stock was largely unchanged in after-hours trade.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Sandra Maler and Lisa Shumaker)

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Waymo seeks delay in self-driving trade secret trial against Uber

Waymo unveils a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit
Waymo unveils a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 8, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

September 17, 2017

By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving car unit said critical new evidence it recently obtained in a trade secret lawsuit against Uber means a U.S. judge should postpone a trial of the case set to begin next month.

Waymo claimed in a lawsuit earlier this year that former engineer Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files before leaving to set up a self-driving truck company, which Uber acquired soon after.

Uber has denied using any of Waymo’s trade secrets. Jury selection in San Francisco federal court is scheduled to begin on Oct. 10.

For months, Waymo had been seeking to obtain a 2016 due diligence report that Uber had completed prior to obtaining Levandowski’s company. Waymo hoped it would shed light on what Uber knew about Levandowski’s downloads, and when Uber knew them.

A federal appeals court this week ordered Uber to disclose that diligence report.

In a court filing on Saturday, Waymo said the report contains critical evidence that necessitates further investigation which cannot be completed by Oct. 10.

Waymo referenced several portions of the due diligence report in the court filing, but this evidence was redacted and could not be viewed by the public.

An Uber spokesman declined to comment.

Waymo said additional depositions, including those of Levandowski and Uber’s ex-CEO Travis Kalanick, would have to be completed now that the due diligence report and other files have been disclosed to Waymo.

The case pits two companies battling to dominate the fast-growing field of self-driving cars. Alphabet Inc is currently in discussions with Lyft Inc about a possible investment, which would boost the No. 2 ride provider as it battles rival Uber for market share.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Trump bars Chinese-backed firm from buying U.S. chipmaker Lattice

FILE PHOTO: Trump waits to greet Malaysia's Najib at the White House in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump waits to greet Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak at the White House in Washington, U.S. September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

September 14, 2017

By Liana B. Baker

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump blocked a Chinese-backed private equity firm from buying a U.S.-based chipmaker on Wednesday, sending a clear signal to Beijing that Washington will oppose takeover deals that involve technologies with potential military applications.

Canyon Bridge Capital Partners’ planned $1.3-billion acquisition of Lattice Semiconductor Corp <LSCC.O> was one of the largest attempted by a Chinese-backed firm in the U.S. microchip sector and was the first announced deal for the buyout fund, which launched last year with a focus on technology investment.

U.S. regulatory scrutiny grew after Reuters reported in November that Canyon Bridge was funded partly by capital from China’s central government and had indirect links to its space program.

U.S. defense officials subsequently raised concerns about the Lattice acquisition by a firm backed by the Chinese government.

Portland, Oregon-based Lattice makes chips known as field-programmable gate arrays, which allow companies to put their own software on silicon chips for different uses. It said it no longer sells chips to the U.S. military, unlike its two biggest rivals, Xilinx Inc <XLNX.O> and Intel Corp’s <INTC.O> Altera. Trump said in an executive order that Lattice and Canyon Bridge “shall take all steps necessary to fully and permanently abandon the proposed transaction” within 30 days.

Trump’s decision chimes with the views of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which scrutinizes deals for potential national security threats.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement following the decision that “CFIUS and the president assess that the transaction poses a risk to the national security of the United States that cannot be resolved through mitigation.”

Mnuchin added that the national security risk was related the transfer of intellectual property, the Chinese government’s role in supporting the deal, the importance of semiconductor supply chain integrity to the U.S. government and the U.S. government’s use of Lattice products.

Lattice and Canyon Bridge said in a joint statement late on Wednesday they had terminated the proposed deal. Lattice also said it is committed to achieving profitable growth.

Canyon Bridge had said in an earlier statement that it was disappointed in the decision, and called the proposed transaction “an excellent deal for Lattice’s shareholders and its employees.”

SENSITIVE MOMENT

The announcement comes at a sensitive time for U.S.-China relations, which are already strained over trade issues and North Korea. The Chinese Communist Party is also preparing to hold its once-every-five-years Congress in October.

Trump’s decision ends a prolonged campaign by Canyon Bridge and Lattice to seal the deal. Canyon Bridge and Lattice had spent more than eight months trying in vain to persuade CFIUS to clear the acquisition.

Both companies had said the deal did not pose any security risks and Canyon Bridge told CFIUS it would double the number of Lattice’s employees in a bid to make the deal more palatable, according to people familiar with the matter who declined to be identified because details of the regulatory process are confidential.

The companies’ decision to appeal directly to Trump was a last-ditch gamble. It was the first such deal to hit Trump’s desk and only the fourth time in three decades that an acquisition was put in front of a president after CFIUS recommended against it.

Trump has hewed to the presidential tradition of following the advice of national security officials on deals.

The U.S. refusal potentially hurts its ability to acquire other Western semiconductor companies, which would be a big blow to a firm dedicated to technology investments. Most acquisition targets have U.S. operations, making them subject to a CFIUS review.

Palo Alto, California-based Canyon Bridge has been working on a bid for British semiconductor company Imagination Technology Group <IMG.L>, sources have previously said. If Canyon Bridge clinches that deal, it would also be subject to CFIUS review since Imagination Technologies acquired U.S. chip designer MIPS in 2013.

While Canyon Bridge could choose to divest MIPS, which accounts for a small fraction of Imagination Technologies’ business, there is no certainty that would be enough to resolve all CFIUS issues, according to the sources.

Imagination Technologies declined to comment.

Investors have been skeptical the deal would get passed since it was announced last November. Lattice shares have been trading below the deal’s $8.30 offer price and were down 1.6 percent in after-hours trading on Wednesday.

Chinese deals awaiting approval include Ant Financial’s $1.2 billion purchase of U.S. money transfer company MoneyGram International Inc <MGI.O> and China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co Ltd’s [OWREAC.UL] $2.7 billion acquisition of U.S. insurer Genworth Financial Inc <GNW.N>.

Unic Capital Management’s $580-million acquisition of U.S. semiconductor testing company Xcerra Corp <XCRA.O> is also awaiting approval.

(Reporting by Liana B. Baker in New York, additional reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington; editing by Nick Zieminski and G Crosse)

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Slightly injured pope ends Colombia tour with unity appeal

Pope Francis during Angelus prayer in Cartagena, Colombia
Pope Francis during Angelus prayer in Cartagena, Colombia, September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Federico Rios

September 11, 2017

By Philip Pullella and Noe Torres

CARTAGENA, Colombia (Reuters) – Pope Francis, his eye bandaged and blackened after a minor accident in the popemobile, left Colombia on Sunday after appealing to the country to “untie the knots of violence” after a 50-year civil war.

His last day in the Andean country got off to a rocky start when he lost his balance and bumped his head while riding in the popemobile. He bruised his cheekbone and cut his left eyebrow, blood staining his white cassock.

The Vatican said he received ice treatment and was fine. A smiling pope continued the trip wearing a bandage over his cut. “I was punched. I’m fine,” the 80-year-old pontiff joked afterward, the bruises on his face clearly visible.

At the end of the day, when he said Mass for about 500,000 people in the city’s port area, the bruise had swollen and he had a black bag under his eye.

“If Colombia wants a stable and lasting peace, it must urgently take a step in this direction, which is that of the common good, of equity, of justice, of respect for human nature and its demands,” he said in a strong voice in the homily of the Mass, accompanied by Caribbean and salsa music.

“Only if we help to untie the knots of violence, will we unravel the complex threads of disagreements,” he said.

The pontiff left Colombia on an Avianca flight to Rome after watching a “cumbia” troupe perform traditional coastal singing and dancing with President Juan Manuel Santos and his wife, Maria Clemencia.

Francis used the trip to urge Colombians deeply polarized by a peace plan to shun vengeance after a bloody civil war. He also said leaders had to enact laws to end injustice and social inequality that breeds violence.

Cartagena, a top tourist destination famous for its colonial walled ramparts, was the home to Saint Peter Claver, a Spanish priest who ministered to slaves in Colombia in the 1600s, defying Spanish colonial masters who treated them as chattel.

The pope used the occasion to again decry modern slavery and human trafficking and defend the rights of immigrants.

MILLIONS STILL IN SLAVERY

Human rights groups estimate that millions of people around the world are victims of human trafficking and forms of modern slavery such as forced labor and prostitution.

“Here in Colombia and in the world, millions of people are still being sold as slaves; they either beg for some expressions of humanity, moments of tenderness, or they flee by sea or land because they have lost everything, primarily their dignity and their rights,” the pope said just before praying before Claver’s relics.

Some 300 Afro-Colombians who receive assistance from the Jesuit religious order, of which the pope is a member, prayed with him in the church.

Francis visited the impoverished neighborhood of San Francisco and blessed the cornerstone of a shelter for at-risk Afro-Colombian girls vulnerable to child prostitution, drugs and violence.

Earlier in the day, the first Latin American pope said he was praying for the well-being of all countries on the continent but particularly Venezuela, which has been caught up in a social and economic crisis.

“I express my closeness to all the sons and daughters of that beloved nation, as well as to all those who have found a place of welcome here in Colombia,” referring to the tens of thousands of Venezuelans who have crossed the border to find food and medicine.

“From this city, known as the seat of human rights, I appeal for the rejection of all violence in political life and for a solution to the current grave crisis, which affects everyone, particularly the poorest and most disadvantaged of society,” he said.

National Human Rights Day is celebrated in Colombia on Sept. 9, in honor of Claver, who died in 1654.

Venezuela has been convulsed by months of near-daily protests against leftist President Nicolas Maduro, who critics say has plunged the oil-rich country into the worst economic crisis in its history and is turning it into a dictatorship.

World bodies and foreign governments have expressed concern about the shortage of food and medicine in Venezuela and called for political dialogue between Maduro and the opposition. Church leaders in Venezuela have made a series of highly critical speeches since late last year.

(Additional reporting by Helen Murphy and Anastasia Moloney in Bogota; Editing by Helen Murphy and Peter Cooney)

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Japan’s second-quarter economic growth revised down from stellar first reading

FILE PHOTO: Tokyo's Akasaka business district is seen in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Tokyo’s Akasaka business district is seen in Tokyo, Japan July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

September 8, 2017

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s economic growth in the second quarter was much slower than seen in a stellar preliminary reading, government data showed on Friday, confounding hopes for a long awaited pick-up in domestic demand.

The downgrade was widely expected after data used to revise gross domestic product (GDP) figures showed capital spending in April-June rose at a slower annual pace than the previous quarter.

While the disappointing data may weaken confidence in the government’s economic policies and the business outlook, analysts still expect the economy to sustain a steady recovery as robust global demand underpins exports and a tightening job market improves the prospects for higher wages.

Japan’s economy, the world’s third largest, expanded at an annualized rate of 2.5 percent in the April-June quarter, less than the initial estimate of annualized 4.0 percent growth, Cabinet Office data showed. That was also lower than a median market forecast for a revision to a 2.9 percent.

On the quarter, the economy grew a revised 0.6 percent in real, price-adjusted terms, against a preliminary reading of a 1.0 percent increase and the median estimate of a 0.7 percent expansion.

Capital expenditure, a key component of gross domestic product (GDP), rose 0.5 percent for the quarter, marked down from the preliminary estimate of a 2.4 percent increase.

The data follows a recent run of indicators that suggests economic growth should continue in the current quarter thanks to solid exports and factory output.

Wage growth and household spending, however, remain lackluster despite a tight job market.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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