Jamie Dimon Slams Bitcoin as a Fraud – Trending Stuff

JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said he would fire any employee trading bitcoin for being “stupid.”

The cryptocurrency “won’t end well,” he told an investor conference in New York on Tuesday, predicting it will eventually blow up. “It’s a fraud” and “worse than tulip bulbs.”

Bitcoin initially slipped after Dimon’s remarks. It was down as much as 2.7 percent before recovering. Last week, it slumped after reports that China plans to ban trading of virtual currencies on domestic exchanges, dealing another blow to the $150 billion cryptocurrency market.

Tulips are a reference to the mania that swept Holland in the 17th century, with speculators driving up prices of virtually worthless tulip bulbs to exorbitant levels. That didn’t end well.

In bitcoin’s case, Dimon said he’s skeptical authorities will allow a currency to exist without state oversight, especially if something goes wrong. “Someone’s going to get killed and then the government’s going to come down,” he said. “You just saw in China, governments like to control their money supply.”

Dimon differentiated between the bitcoin currency and the underlying blockchain technology, which he said can be useful. Still, he said banks’ application of blockchain “won’t be overnight.”

Read a QuickTake: The excitement over bitcoin and blockchain

The bank chief said he wouldn’t short bitcoin because there’s no telling how high it will go before it collapses. The best argument he’s heard, he said, is that it can be useful to people in places with no other options — so long as the supply of coins doesn’t surge.

“If you were in Venezuela or Ecuador or North Korea or a bunch of parts like that, or if you were a drug dealer, a murderer, stuff like that, you are better off doing it in bitcoin than U.S. dollars,” he said. “So there may be a market for that, but it’d be a limited market.”

To be sure, Dimon later noted that his daughter purchased some bitcoin.

Gundlach’s Concerns

“It’s interesting that somebody with that high profile of the establishment is out there with that bold statement,” Jeffrey Gundlach, chief investment officer of DoubleLine Capital, said on a webcast Tuesday after Dimon’s remarks. 

Gundlach said he doesn’t have a view on bitcoin but that he’s concerned it may be more vulnerable to manipulation than enthusiasts admit. “Maybe I’m just too old, but I’m going to let this mania go on without me.”

One place where cryptocurrencies and traditional finance are coming together is at CBOE Holdings Inc., the owner of the Chicago Board Options Exchange. Last month, the firm teamed up with Gemini Trust Co. — the startup created by the Winklevoss twins made famous by the 2010 Facebook film “The Social Network” — with a plan to offer bitcoin futures.

CBOE’s chairman and CEO, Ed Tilly, defended such efforts after Dimon’s remarks.

“Like it or not, people want exposure to bitcoin,” Tilly said. Believers can bet on its rise, and Dimon is welcome to take the other side, he said. “We’re happy to be the ones in the middle.”

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

Powerful quake hits Mexico’s coast, tsunami waves reported – Trending Stuff

At least five people died in a massive earthquake that struck the southern coast of Mexico early Friday, promting tsumani waves in the nation that measured up to 2.3 ft.

The United States Geological Survey said that a magnitude 8.1 quake hit about 73 miles off Tres Picos, Mexico, along Mexico’s southern coast.

Its epicenter was 102 miles west of Tapachula in Chiapas state and had a depth of about 21 miles. The quake was so powerful, it sent people fleeing 650 miles away in Mexico City.

Chiapas’ Gov. Manuel Velasco told Milenio TV that at least three people have been killed in the region. He said the quake damaged hospitals and schools.Two children also died in Tabasco state.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center early Friday confirmed tsunami waves in Mexico, with the largest wave so far measuring 2.3 feet. A tsunami warning was issued for the coasts of Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Honduras and Ecuador.

Civil protection officials in Mexico were checking for damage in Chiapas, but the quake was so powerful that frightened residents in Mexico City fled apartment buildings, often in their pajamas, and gathered in groups in the street.

Around midnight buildings swayed strongly for more than minute, loosening light fixtures from ceilings. Helicopters crisscrossed the sky above Mexico City with spotlights.

Zhaira Franco, 35, who was in Mexico City, told The New York Times that she heard an alarm for about 30 seconds before feeling the quake. She said her building swayed so much that it hit the building next door.

“The house moved like chewing gum and the mild and internet went out momentarily,” said Rodrigo Soberanes, who lives near San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, a poor largely indigenous state popular with tourists.

Civil Defense in Chiapas said on its Twitter account that its personnel were in the streets aiding people and warned residents to prepare for aftershocks. But it made no immediate comment about damage

The USGS reported a magnitude 5.7 aftershock about 12 minutes later. 

In neighboring Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales spoke on national television to call for calm while emergency crews checked for damage. Local radio in the Central American country reported one death, but it could not be confirmed.

“We have reports of some damage and the death of a single person, even though we still don’t have exact details,” Morales said. He said the possible death occurred in San Marcos state near the border with Mexico.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist in California who works with the U.S. Geological Survey, said such a quake was to be expected.

“Off the west coast of Mexico is what’s known as the subduction zone, the Pacific Plate is moving under the Mexican peninsula,” she said. “It’s a very flat fault, so it is a place that has big earthquakes rather frequently because of that.”

“There’s likely to be a little tsunami going to the southwest. It is not going to be coming up and affecting California or Hawaii,” she said. “For tsunami generation, an 8 is comparatively small.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/

Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals – Trending Stuff

A magnified image of clothing microfibres from washing machine effluent. 1 study found that a jacket can shed as many as 250,000 fibres each wash. Photograph: Courtesy of Rozalia Project

A different small study in the Republic of Ireland published in June also found microplastic contamination in a few tap water and well samples. “We don’t know what the [health] impact is and for that reason we should follow the precautionary principle and put enough effort into it now, immediately, so we can find out what the real risks are,” said Dr Anne Marie Mahon at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, who conducted the research.

Mahon stated there were two principal concerns: the chemicals or pathogens which microplastics can harbour as well as very small plastic particles. “If the fibres are there, it is possible that the nanoparticles are there too that we can’t measure,” she said. “Once they are in the nanometre range they can really penetrate a cell and that means they can penetrate organs, and that would be worrying.” The Orb investigations caught particles of more than 2.5 microns in size, 2,500 times larger than a nanometre.

Microplastics can bring bacteria found in sewage, Mahon said: “Some studies have shown there are more harmful pathogens on microplastics downstream of wastewater treatment plants.”

Plastic fibres found in tap water across the world

Microplastics are known to contain and absorb toxic compounds and research on animals shows they are released in the body. Prof Richard Thompson, at Plymouth University, UK, told Orb: “It became clear very early on that the plastic would release those chemicals and that actually, the conditions in the gut would facilitate really quite rapid release.” His research has shown microplastics are found in a third of fish caught in the UK.

The scale of international microplastic contamination is only starting to become clear, with studies in Germany finding fragments and fibers in all of the 24 beer manufacturers they analyzed, as well as in sugar and honey. In Paris in 2015, researchers discovered microplastic falling out of the air, which they estimated deposits three to 10 tonnes of fibres on the city annually, and that it had been also present in the air in people’s homes.

This research led Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at King’s College London, to tell a UK parliamentary inquiry in 2016: “If we breathe them in they could potentially deliver chemicals to the lower parts of our lungs and maybe even across into our circulation.” Having seen the Orb data, Kelly told the Guardian that research is urgently needed to ascertain whether eating plastic particles is a health risk.

The new research tested 159 samples using a standard technique to remove contamination from other sources and was performed at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. The samples came from across the world, including from Uganda, Ecuador and Indonesia.

How microplastics end up in drinking water is for now a mystery, but the atmosphere is one obvious source, with fibers drop by the wear and tear of clothes and carpets. Tumble dryers are another potential source, with almost 80% of US households having dryers that port to the open air.

“We really think that the lakes [and other water bodies] can be contaminated by cumulative atmospheric inputs,” said Johnny Gasperi, at the University Paris-Est Creteil, who did the Paris studies. “What we observed in Paris tends to demonstrate that a huge amount of fibres are present in atmospheric fallout.”

Vinyl fibers may also be flushed into water systems, using a recent research finding that each cycle of a washing machine could release 700,000 fibres into the environment. Rains could also sweep up microplastic pollution, which might explain the family wells utilized in Indonesia were found to be contaminated.

In Beirut, Lebanon, the water supply comes from natural springs but 94 percent of the samples were contaminated. “This research only scratches the surface, but it seems to be a very itchy one,” said Hussam Hawwa, at the environmental consultancy Difaf, which collected samples for Orb.

This
This planktonic arrow worm, Sagitta setosa, has eaten a blue plastic fiber about 3mm long. Plankton support the marine food chain. Photograph: Richard Kirby/Courtesy of Orb Media

Current standard water treatment systems do not filter out all of the microplastics, Mahon said: “There is nowhere really where you can say these are being trapped 100%. In terms of fibres, the diameter is 10 microns across and it would be very unusual to find that level of filtration in our drinking water systems.”

Water may not offer a microplastic-free option as the they were also found in a few samples of commercial water tested in the US for Orb.

Almost 300m tonnes of plastic is produced annually and, with just 20% recycled or incinerated, a lot of it ends up littering the air, land and sea. A report in July found 8.3bn tonnes of plastic has been produced since the 1950s, with the investigators warning that plastic waste is now ubiquitous in the environment.

“We are increasingly smothering ecosystems in plastic and I am very worried that there may be all kinds of unintended, adverse consequences that we will only find out about once it is too late,” said Prof Roland Geyer, from the University of California and Santa Barbara, who headed the study.

Mahon said the tap water investigations raise a red flag, but that more work is needed to replicate the results, find the sources of contamination and assess the possible health impacts.

She said plastics are very useful, but that management of the waste has to be drastically improved: “We need plastics in our lives, but it is us that is doing the damage by discarding them in very careless ways.”

Xi, Putin Lead Tributes as Trump Tweets Fidel Castro is Dead!

Leaders from all over the world and of all political colors responded to the death of Fidel Castro, the 90-year-old previous Cuban leader and revolutionary, with tweets and declarations of compassion, appreciation and criticism of exactly what his project let loose.

This sensible and strong guy constantly looked with self-confidence to the future, composed Russian President Vladimir Putin, stressing the enduring relationship in between the 2 nations. He embodied high perfects of a resident, political leader and patriot , was truly persuaded of the rightness of the cause, to which he provided his entire life. His memory will live permanently in the hearts of Russian residents.

Twitter: Donald J. Trump on Twitter

In a telegram read out on China Central Television, President Xi Jinping explained Castro as the creator of Cuban communism, and a terrific figure in our times and history.

U.S. President Barack Obama provided a declaration using acknowledgements to Castros household and stated the United States extended a hand of relationship: the Cuban individuals should understand that they have a buddy and a partner in the United States of America.” President-elect Donald Trump kept it basic initially, tweeting to his 16 million fans: Fidel Castro is dead! Later on, Trump stated in a declaration Castros tradition is among “unthinkable suffering” which his administration “will do all it can to guarantee the Cuban individuals can lastly start their journey towards success and liberty.

French President Francois Hollande composed that Castro embodied the Cuban transformation, in the hopes it had actually excited then in the disillusions it had actually provoked. Star of the Cold War, he represented an age which had actually ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. He had actually had the ability to represent for Cuban individuals the pride of the rejection of external dominance.”

Castro passed away in Havana late Friday and will be cremated on Saturday. The federal government revealed prepare for public occasions beginning Monday, with a rally a day later on at Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana then a three-day procession to bring his ashes to Santiago de Cuba for a funeral service on Dec. 4.

Apartheid Opponent

In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma stated Castro motivated Cubans to support the battle versus apartheid. The Cuban individuals, under the management and command of President Castro, joined us in our battle.

Twitter: Rafael Correa on Twitter

Indias Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country grieves the loss of a fantastic buddy. We stand in assistance with the Cuban Government and individuals in this terrible hour, he tweeted. Fidel Castro was among the most renowned characters of the 20th century.”

Twitter: Enrique Pea Nieto on Twitter

Nicols Maduro, the Venezuelan president, required to Twitter with a call to arms: “To all the revolutionaries of the world, we need to continue with his tradition and his flag of self-reliance, of socialism , of homeland.” Castro and Maduros predecessor, the late Hugo Chvez, had actually been close political allies.

Elsewhere in Latin America, Rafael Correa , president of Ecuador, tweeted: “He was a huge one. Fidel dead. Long live Cuba ! Long Live Latin America!” Mexican President Enrique Pea Nieto composed in a tweet: “I lament the death of Fidel Castro Ruz, leader of the Cuban Revolution and the emblematic referral of the 20th century … Fidel Castro was a buddy of Mexico, a promoter of a bilateral relationship based in uniformity, discussion, and regard.”

Former Sweden Prime Minister Carl Bildt was less favorable. With his transformation in 1959 Fidel Castro established a still having a hard time Communist dictatorship, he stated. Neither a political nor a financial design. RIP

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com//news/articles/2016-11-26/world-leaders-react-to-death-of-ex-cuba-leader-fidel-castro

Ecuador tells Assange to avoid political activity online and feed the cat – Trending Stuff

Ecuador tells Assange to avoid political activity online and feed the cat – Trending Stuff

Julian Assange has been in the Ecuadorian embassy in central London since June 2012. He initially sought asylum following a series of legal challenges through British courts to a European arrest warrant issued by Sweden, where he was accused of rape and sexual assault, which he denies.

In February, a judge upheld a warrant for his arrest for skipping bail, meaning that although Swedish prosecutors havedropped their investigation into alleged sexual offences, Assange faces being arrested if he leaves the embassy, and fears he would be subsequently extradited to the US for questioning about WikiLeaks activities.

Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP

More Iranians ‘buying’ passports in other countries to evade U.S travel ban, sanctions – Trending Stuff

More Iranians ‘buying’ passports in other countries to evade U.S travel ban, sanctions – Trending Stuff

More Iranians are paying big money to buy passports in neighboring countries through bribery or fraudulent information, in a bid to evade U.S. sanctions and the Trump administration’s travel ban on Iran and six other nations, multiple sources have told Fox News. 

The Iranians are getting passports from a number of nations, sources said. But Iran’s influence with some elements of the Iraqi goverment is now so prominent the issuing of passports through payoffs and corruption there has become a growing concern, Iraqi and other sources told Fox News.

“It means that Iranians aren’t then flagged as being from a country barred by the United States,” one Iraqi insider told Fox News. “Mostly, it has been used by business people and merchants wanting to get around the economic sanctions and continue doing business with the West.”

One longtime Iraq-based, Western security expert stressed the Iranian influence inside Iraq has become “significantly heightened” since the ISIS onslaught, along with the establishment of a “Shia corridor” that enables unprecedented access – from Tehran through Baghdad, onto Damascus and then Beirut, posing a direct threat to Israel’s security.

Several counter-terrorism specialists in the U.S also affirmed that security concerns over the passport issue have been heightened in recent months.

“It is going on, and it is not difficult to do – especially if you have a friendly government helping you out,” noted a former intelligence official currently working as a counter-terrorism consultant in the Middle East. “Iran has many allies in high-level positions in Baghdad.”

Sanctions are in the process of being re-imposed on Iran  (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Sources also believe the passport issue may be a factor in the assassination of three Iraqi officials in just the last three months. The director of a provincial Iraqi Citizenship Department, Col. Amer Qasem Mohammed, and his aide, Lt. Col. Shaker Mahmoud were killed on Wednesday afternoon by gunmen on the road between Diyalah, near the Iranian border, and Baghdad. 

And in late June, Col. Safa Hassan al-Dulaimi – the head of the directorate of passports in the southern Iraqi province of Babil – was assassinated in broad daylight on his way home. Several Iraq sources claimed the motive behind the assassination stemmed from his refusal to issue forged Iraqi passports to the powers behind the Iranian-backed militias.

Long-running international sanctions against Iran were lifted following the 2015 signing of the Iran nuclear deal – formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). But President Donald Trump in May pulled the United States out of the controversial agreement, prompting the U.S. Treasury to institute new sanctions against money transfer services, some state-operated airlines, as well as individuals aligned with the Iranian  Revolutionary Guards and missile program.

A full slate of U.S sanctions will be re-imposed by November.

Corruption remains a prominent problem in much of the Middle East

The Iranian government does not officially permit its country’s citizens to hold a second passport. But intelligence bureaucrats are known to allow select business figures to carry other passports for ease of travel, and doing buisness eabroad.

Several Iraqi officials denied the notion of a fraudulent passport operation.

“Iraqi passports are issued with a high security standard and it is impossible to make forged passports through the institutes or through the officers who issue them. We get the eye cornea prints and fingerprints, we guarantee high security,” General Saad Maan Al Mousawi, a spokesperson for Iraq’s Ministry of the Interior, told Fox News. “But I say it is possible to fake the passports after they have been issued, if someone lost their passport or it was stolen, it could be forged. But not through legal ways.”

US WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAN DEAL HELPING WIND DOWN YEMEN WAR, OFFICIALS SAY

EXILED AFGHAN LEADER, AND ONE-TIME U.S. ALLY, WARNS AGAINST “PEACE” WITH TALIBAN FROM POSITION OF WEAKNESS

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani  (REUTERS)

Another high-ranking ministry official, who requested not to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media, also insisted Iraq has not issued frauduently obtained passports for Iranian nationals. He said that if Iranians who could legitimately claim Iraqi citizenship want a passport, they must first obtain Iraqi national documents “which is not easy, is a long procedure, and requires the father to be Iraqi.”

But Iraq isn’t the only neighboring country doling out passports to Iranians.

According to one Afghan government official, the problem is most evident in the border province of Herat, where national identification cards can be easily purchased on the black market, or through unscrupulous channels, thus making it significantly easier to obtain a passport under false pretenses.

One Kabul authority said Iranians have been known to pay between $5000-$10000 to acquire all the needed documents – beginning with a national identification card – which then allows them to apply for a second passport.

While both the Iraqi and Afghanistan passports have little value on the internationally recognized Henley index of travel freedom, both ranking close to the bottom, their holders are not on the U.S travel ban list. Moreover, in the latest available Corruptions Perceptions Index, unveiled in February, Iraq ranked as the 169th most corrupt country out of 180, while Afghanistan fell almost at the bottom, standing at 177.

Representatives for Iranian and Afghanistan governments did not respond to a request for comment.

“The proliferation of forged documents enables a host of illegal activities, like the travel of sanctioned or wanted individuals and other forms of illegal immigration. It is also a deliberate attack on the authority to secure its borders,” said David Ibsen, Executive Director of the not-for-profit, non-partisan policy organization Counter Extremism Project (CEP). “This is not surprising, as Iran will do what it can to circumvent sanctions.”

And the problem isn’t contained in neighboring countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Reuters investigation published in June revealed the Comoros Islands, a small nation off the east coast of Africa, suddenly had to cancel the passports “purchased” by more than 100 Iranians –including those of senior executives in industries all targeted by international sanctions.

The legitimate purchasing of a passport in some countries is legal, and traditionally tied to individuals agreeing to invest a certain amount of money to boost small economies. This so-called “citizenship by investment” has been used by Iranians in a number of countries. 

U.S has top-notch security for entry, but no system is foolproof, experts caution  (istock)

“Diplomats and security sources in the Comoros and the West are concerned that some Iranians acquired the passports to protect their interests as sanctions crimped Iran’s ability to conduct international business,” the Reuters report stated. “While none of the people or companies involved faced sanctions, the restrictions on Iran could still make a second passport helpful. Comoros passports offer visa-free travel in parts of the Middle and Far East and could be used by Iranians to open accounts in foreign banks and register companies abroad.”

Iranians are also among the largest national groups to be buying up passports as part of the Citizenship by Investment program for the Commonwealth of Dominica, as well as the island of Grenada. Passports from those countries allow visa-free travel to more than 100 countries.

This is not a new problem, some experts told Fox News.

A July, 2013 Congressional hearing on homeland security documented “the acquisition by hundreds and perhaps thousands of Iranian nationals of legitimate, original passports, codulas, and other national identity documents from Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela and Bolivia” had been granted largely to operatives in the Quds Force, Ministry of Intelligence and other intelligence services in Iran who can then “move across the region relatively undetected because they are no longer identifiable as Iranians.”

Recommendations at the time were made to “focus on the thousands of passports” that had been issued by these countries to Iranians, given the “vast bulk of people receiving these passports by complicit governments” were not tourists but agents “whose primary objective is to find vulnerabilities and points of entry into the United States, identify vulnerable targets in the region and prepare a military response if Iran’s nuclear program were to be attacked.”

The small Caribbean island of St. Kitts and Nevis drew the indignation of the U.S Treasury Department in late 2014 after three suspected Iranian operatives were seized using St. Kitts passports to launder money at the behest of banks in Tehran, in violation of U.S sanctions.

Furthermore, more than 5,000 passports then had to be annulled as they did not have listed a birthplace or were awarded to individuals who had changed their names.

The island did make a formal announcement in 2011 that going forward, Iranian investors would be suspended from participation in the citizenship by investment program, citing the “unfolding events coming from the international community” and re-asserting its own position as a “country friendly to all, and an enemy to none.”

But Iranians living abroad were, according to National Interest, were still applying for the citizenship in droves.

In August this year, Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) of Saint Lucia suddenly announced Iranians were no longer eligible for the program, saying they were “unable to undertake due diligence checks on site in Iran and validate documents issued from Iran.” No mention was made of second citizenships already issued.

“We know that much of the international Islamist terrorism is being directed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (ICRG). If entrants can acquire a passport from an ESTA eligible country, then they could more easily gain entry to the U.S,” noted Tom Wilson, Research Fellow in the Center on Radicalization and Terrorism at the Henry Jackson Society, referring to the “Electronic System for Travel Authorization,” which facilitates visa waivers to the U.S.

“Iranians who hold second passports may well be able to buy property in the U.S, or do business with ordinary Americans,” Wilson said. “In particular is the concern that key Iranian figures will use these passports to try and avoid the full effects of sanctions.”

One British-based lawyer – a leader in facilitating legitimate pathways for people to procure second nationalities through investment – told Fox News that since Trump took office, and made clear the Iran nuke deal was in jeopardy, there has been a sharp pullback in taking on Iranian cases. 

“It’s not worth the hassle,” the lawyer said. 

A spokesperson for the U.S State Department insisted national security remains the top priority when adjudicating visa applications.

“Every prospective traveler to the United States undergoes extensive security screening. Maintaining robust screening standards for visa applicants is a dynamic practice that must adapt to emerging threats,” the representative insisted.

“We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening process, allow travel and immigration to the United States while protecting U.S citizens and excluding individuals who might pose a threat.”

But security experts emphasized that while U.S technology and screening is top-notch, it is not unassailable.

“As long as the demand is there, criminals will find a way,” said Larry Johnson, former Secret Service agent and now CEO of CyberSponse. “In the meantime, the United States Government has to remain vigilant.”

Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/

Trump administration’s opposition to breastfeeding resolution sparks outrage – Trending Stuff

Trump administration’s opposition to breastfeeding resolution sparks outrage – Trending Stuff

US delegation to the World Health Assembly reportedly deployed threats to try to browbeat nations into backing off the resolution

Advocates for improved nutrition for babies have expressed outrage over reports that the Trump administration bullied other governments in an attempt to prevent the passage of an international resolution promoting breastfeeding.

The US delegation to the World Health Assembly in Geneva reportedly deployed threats and other heavy-handed measures to try to browbeat nations into backing off the resolution.

Under the terms of the original WHO text, countries would have encouraged their citizens to breastfeed on grounds that research overwhelmingly shows its health benefits, while warning parents to be alert to inaccurate marketing by formula milk firms.

The New York Times first reported how the Trump administration reacted forcefully to the resolution, which otherwise had the consensus support of all other assembly members. It pushed to remove a phrase from the draft text that would exhort governments to protect, promote and support breast-feeding.

The administration also used its network of diplomats to lean on member states. Turning on the delegation from Ecuador, the US government said that unless the South American nation withdrew its backing of the resolution it would face punitive trade moves and even the potential loss of military help in its battle against gang violence.

The resolution was eventually passed with US support, but only after the Russian government reintroduced it using a modified text.

Lucy Sullivan, executive director of 1,000 Days, the US-headquartered international group working to improve nutrition for babies and infants, said in a Twitter thread that the US intervention amounted to public health versus private profit. What is at stake: breastfeeding saves women and childrens lives. It is also bad for the multibillion-dollar global infant formula (and dairy) business.

The online network of mothers, Moms Rising, called the US governments move stunning and shameful. We must do everything we can to advocate for public policies that support and empower breastfeeding moms.

Patti Rundall of the UK-based campaign Baby Milk Action told the New York Times: We were astonished, appalled and also saddened. What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the US holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on the best way to protect infant and young child health.

Under an internal code of the World Health Organisation, baby formula companies are banned from explicitly targeting mothers and their health carers. Advertising is also controlled.

A Guardian investigation with Save the Children earlier this year found that formula milk firms were using aggressive methods to skirt around the regulations in order to press mothers and healthcare professionals to choose powdered milk over breastfeeding. The measures were particularly intensively deployed in the poorest regions of the world, where most growth in the baby milk formula business is now concentrated.

A plethora of studies have shown the stark health improvements brought about by breastfeeding in the US and around the world. A Harvard study in 2016 estimated that 3,340 premature deaths a year among both mothers and babies could be prevented in the US alone given adequate breastfeeding.

The milk formula industry has been struggling against stagnating sales in recent years, but is still worth $70bn annually. The small number of giants that produce it are concentrated in the US and Europe.

One of those giants, Abbott Nutrition, is part of the healthcare multinational Abbott Laboratories that contributed to Trumps inauguration ceremonies in January 2017.

During the deliberations over the breastfeeding resolution, according to the New York Times, the US delegation made threatening suggestions that Washington would cut its funding for the WHO. As the single largest donor to the world body, awarding $845m last year, that threat would not have been taken lightly.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

The Best and Worst Airlines and Airports of 2018 – Trending Stuff

The Best and Worst Airlines and Airports of 2018 – Trending Stuff

Last summer, on a bucket list trip through Southern Africa, I took a total of six flights with South African Airways. On the first one, a 15-hour trip from New York’s JFK Airport to Johannesburg, my air vent and seat-back screens were both broken. On my next five flights, the situation was only marginally better.

Within a week of my return, a customer service agent at South African Airways received an angry note from me, citing the airline’s outdated planes and unsympathetic flight attendants. Surely, I wasn’t the only one complaining: The company seemed well-versed in responding to inquiries of this nature. Staff apologized quickly and gave me a mileage credit. It didn’t undo the terrible flights, but the swift show of humanity is rare in the aviation industry.

It’s also the reason that the deep-in-debt carrier took the fifth slot in this year’s 2018 AirHelp Score report from  AirHelp, a company that advocates on behalf of air travelers for compensation in cases of delays or cancelations. Its sixth annual survey uses data from the first quarter of the year to rank the 72 international airlines for which the company had statistically significant data.

Overall rankings are based on three factors: on-time performance, quality of service (gleaned from public reviews on an array of reliable websites), and a claims-processing score (which reflects how a company handles customer complaints).

“South African Airlines has a fantastic claims-processing score,” explains Ashley Raiteri, an industry adviser for AirHelp—the airline earned 8.69 points of a possible 10—and it’s also got a good track record of keeping flights on time.

“Irregularities in flights are going to happen,” Raiteri adds. “What’s important is whether the airline has planned for that so they can make the experience less hellish for the consumer.”

With that in mind, here are the best and worst airlines of the year, according to AirHelp, along with their on-time performance records.

The 10 Best Airlines of 2018

A Qatar Airways jet gets hosed down in Chicago.

Photographer: Jeff Schear/Getty Images North America

  • 1. Qatar Airways (89 percent on-time performance)
  • 2. Lufthansa (76 percent)
  • 3. Etihad Airways (86 percent)
  • 4. Singapore Airlines (85 percent)
  • 5. South African Airways (85 percent)
  • 6. Austrian Airlines (80 percent)
  • 7. Aegean Airlines (90 percent)
  • 8. Qantas (89 percent)
  • 9. Air Malta (86 percent)
  • 10. Virgin Atlantic (82 percent )

The Worst Airlines of 2018

Despite its name, WOW is not impressing the statisticians at AirHelp.

Photographer: Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images Europe

  • 63. Jet Airways (65 percent on-time performance)
  • 64. Aerolineas Argentinas (85 percent)
  • 65. Iberia (84 percent)
  • 66. Korean Air (64 percent)
  • 67. Ryanair (86 percent)
  • 68. Air Mauritius (69 percent)
  • 69. EasyJet (79 percent)
  • 70. Pakistan International Airlines (61 percent)
  • 71. Royal Jordanian Airlines (83 percent)
  • 72. WOW Air (75 percent)

Surprises exist on both lists. Iberia—which ranked among the best airlines on a similar report from FlightStats last year that was configured purely according to on-time performance—appears in AirHelp’s worst airlines list, a reflection of its poor “claim processing score.” KLM and Emirates, airlines with passionate fan bases, ranked 11th and 16th, respectively, just outside the top 10.

U.S. carriers didn’t fare particularly well: American Airlines Inc. performed best, at 23rd of 72, followed by United Airlines Inc. in 37th place and Delta Air Lines, Inc. in 47th place. “Delta has a great on-time performance, but in dealing with claims, more often than not they either ignore them or reject them out of hand, forcing customers into court in order to pay what they’re legally obligated to pay,” Raiteri tells Bloomberg. While the three airlines won nearly identical scores in “quality of service,” Delta was the category leader by a few tenths of a point.

The only budget carrier to crack the top ranks: Norwegian.

Photographer: AFP/AFP

While budget carriers did not fare well, with Ryanair DAC, EasyJet Airline Co., and WOW Air all appearing among the bottom 10 airlines, there was one exception: Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA ranked 12th overall, reflecting a 76 percent on-time record and very good scores both for claims processing and quality of service.

The data concerning best and worst airports contain similar surprises. No American hubs were ranked in the top 30—Seattle-Tacoma took the domestic lead, in the 33rd slot—while a large number of Brazilian airports dominated the charts, something Raiteri attributes to good local weather and a “hub and spoke” route network that keeps flights moving smoothly and on time.

AirHelp’s data for airports cover 141 destinations. They factor in on-time performance, quality of service, and online consumer sentiment, but its rankings heavily favor the first two criteria.

“Different airports deal with different problems,” Raiteri explains, saying that Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta has recently battled a series of power outages, while airports in Scandinavia tend to get knocked for weather delays, despite their sleek looks and efficient service.

“In some places, the local culture can leave people feeling cold,” Raiteri adds, describing the direct style of security agents in northern Europe. Here are the best and worst airports of 2018.

The 10 Best Airports of 2018

Hamad International Airport, in Doha, ranks as this year’s top airport.

Photographer: Veronica Garbutt/Lonely Planet Images

  • 1. Hamad International Airport, Doha (DOH)
  • 2. Athens International Airport, Athens (ATH)
  • 3. Tokyo Haneda International Airport, Tokyo (HND)
  • 4. Cologne Bonn Airport, Cologne, Germany (CGN)
  • 5. Singapore Changi Airport, Singapore (SIN)
  • 6. Nagoya Chubu Centrair Airport, Nagoya, Japan (NGO)
  • 7. Viracopos International Airport, Campinas, Brazil (VCP)
  • 8. Amman Queen Alia Airport, Amman, Jordan (AMM)
  • 9. Guararapes-Gilberto Freyre International Airport, Recife, Brazil (REC)
  • 10. Quito International Airport, Quito, Ecuador (UIO)

The Worst Airports of 2018

The worst airport of 2018: Kuwait International.

Photographer: JD Dallet/arabianEye

  • 132. Eindhoven Airport, Eindhoven, Netherlands (EIN)
  • 133. Bordeaux Merignac, Bordeaux, France (BOD)
  • 134. Edinburgh Airport, Edinburgh (EDI)
  • 135. Boryspil International Airport, Kiev, Ukraine (KBP)
  • 136. Manchester Airport, Manchester, United Kingdom (MAN)
  • 137. Stockholm Bromma Airport, Stockholm (BMA)
  • 138. Paris Orly, Paris (ORY)
  • 139. Lyon–Saint-Exupéry Airport, Lyon, France (LYS)
  • 140. London Stansted Airport, London (STN)
  • 141. Kuwait International Airport, Farwaniya, Kuwait (KWI)

One note of optimism: Raiteri says most airlines and airports that descended in the rankings this year did so because the marketplace is becoming more competitive, not because their individual performance is declining.

“What we mostly see is improvement, to be honest,” he tells Bloomberg. “Most airlines have been late to recognizing their responsibility, but after all the publicity that United got last year, we’re seeing airlines taking a much different approach to dealing with passengers.”

For both airlines and airports, he says, “We don’t see folks falling in rank due to poor performance—but because another entity is doing better and pushing them down.” Consider it a silver lining the next time you’re stranded at the gate.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

Mexico earthquake kills at least 61 and sparks mass evacuations – Trending Stuff

Mexico earthquake kills at least 61 and sparks mass evacuations – Trending Stuff
Patients and physicians outside a hospital in Villahermosa, in Tabasco state. Photograph: EPA

The tsunami warning centre recorded initial waves a metre over wave level off the city of Salina Cruz. It predicted waves of 30cm and a metre for the Cook Islands, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guatemala and Kiribati.

Guatemala’s president, Jimmy Morales, said he had reports of an death close to the border with Mexico, in San Marcos state. “We have reports of some damage and the death of one person, even though we still don’t have details,” he said.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist in California who works with the US Geological Survey, said a quake was to be expected. “Off the west coast of Mexico is what’s called the subduction zone: the Pacific plate is moving under the Mexican peninsula,” she said.

The Mexican seismological authority said the quake was and triggered a series of size 6 aftershocks.

“Chiapas is historically a very seismic state due to the interaction of five tectonic plates,” it stated at a report on the earthquake. The state has suffered three tremors above size 7 since 1970, including one on 7 November 2012 that measured 7.3.