North America Stay updated with Business News, Pakistan news, Current world news and latest world news with Business Recorder.. Thu, 05 Mar 2015 20:02:16 +0000 SRA Framework 2.0 en-gb US jobless claims rise; Q4 productivity revised down;-q4-productivity-revised-down.html;-q4-productivity-revised-down.html imageWASHINGTON: The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week and nonfarm productivity contracted more sharply than previously thought in the fourth quarter.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased by 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 320,000 for the week ended Feb. 28, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters had expected claims to fall to 295,000 last week.

In a second report, the department said productivity fell at a 2.2 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, instead of the 1.8 percent pace it had reported last month.

Copyright Reuters, 2015

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) North America Thu, 05 Mar 2015 14:13:55 +0000
Obama calls injured ambassador after South Korea attack imageWASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama on Wednesday called a former aide and now US ambassador in Seoul to wish him well following a blade attack in the South Korean capital.

"The President called US Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, Mark Lippert, to tell him that he and his wife Robyn are in his thoughts and prayers, and to wish him the very best for a speedy recovery," said Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council spokeswoman.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri) North America Thu, 05 Mar 2015 04:56:32 +0000
EU, Cuba in 'frank' talks to normalize relations imageHAVANA: The European Union and Cuba held a third round of "frank" talks on Wednesday aimed at normalizing relations, as Havana and Washington work through their own historic rapprochement.

The two-day session in Havana, part of a dialogue that began 11 months ago, is aimed at tackling sensitive human rights issues and finalizing an agreement "on political dialogue and cooperation," meant to turn the page on a decade of estrangement.

The talks are being led by European chief negotiator Christian Leffler and Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno. The pair headed the two previous rounds, in Brussels in August and in Havana in April.

"The discussions were frank and constructive," Moreno said, however no agreements were announced.

A European diplomat told AFP: "Our agenda is focused on cooperation, with the ambition to start dealing with the two other major topics (political dialogue and commerce) and set a stage for the next steps."

A Thursday evening press conference scheduled by the visiting EU delegation will take stock of the progress made during the closed-door discussions.

The talks mark the first meeting between the European bloc and Havana since the United States and Cuba surprised the world by announcing in December that they would move to restore relations after half a century.

The EU launched its normalization process with the Americas' only communist nation to encourage President Raul Castro to pursue reforms allowing for private initiatives without changing the one-party political system.

This week's sessions, initially scheduled for January, had been postponed by Cuba just before the thaw with Washington was announced.

The EU hailed the move, calling it a historic turning point. However, Spain in January urged the EU to speed up its process of normalization to not lose ground to Washington, particularly on trade.

Meanwhile, France announced Tuesday that President Francois Hollande will travel to Cuba in May, the first visit by a French chief of state.

An accord with Havana would facilitate European aid to the ailing Cuban economy, and possibly ease the island's exports to EU nations.

Cuban tobacco, one of the country's main exports, is subject to a 26 percent tariff in the EU, slowing sales.

Bilateral trade has increased, however, and the EU is Cuba's second biggest trading partner after Venezuela, with exchanges valued at $3.7 billion in 2012, according to the latest Cuban government figures.

While Cuba exports mostly raw materials, it imports mainly manufactured goods from the European Union.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri) North America Thu, 05 Mar 2015 04:16:11 +0000
Obama to enjoin new generation in Selma address imageSELMA: President Barack Obama will call for a new generation of Americans to take up the torch kindled by civil rights leaders 50 years ago in Selma, Alabama, when he visits the historic town Saturday.

America's first black president will stand at the famed Edmund Pettus Bridge, accompanied by wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia, to argue that events half a century ago are not confined to history, a White House official said.

On March 7, 1965, some 600 peaceful voting rights activists were attacked by police with clubs and tear gas at the bridge, a seminal moment in America's democracy.

The history of what happened at Selma on "Bloody Sunday" has recently returned to prominence thanks to an Oscar-nominated film starring actor David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King.

Obama has often said his journey from Chicago community activist to the White House would not be possible without the likes of King and Selma marcher and now Congressman John Lewis.

"He views Selma as something more than a piece of history we celebrate every once in a while," a White House official told AFP.

"The whole family will be going, and he is eager to take the opportunity to remind his own daughters of their obligations to this country, and perhaps encourage their generation to pick up the torch that the marchers in Selma passed on to us."

He will tell the crowd it is still true that "ordinary people who love their country can change it."

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri) North America Thu, 05 Mar 2015 04:12:00 +0000
Israel's Netanyahu warns Obama against Iran nuclear deal imageWASHINGTON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday against accepting a nuclear deal with Iran that would be a "countdown to a potential nuclear nightmare" by a country that "will always be an enemy of America".

"If the deal now being negotiated is accepted by Iran, that deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons - it will all but guarantee that Iran will get those nuclear weapons, lots of them," the Israeli leader said in a 39-minute speech to the U.S. Congress that offered a point-by-point critique of Obama's Iran diplomacy.

In an appearance that strained U.S.-Israeli relations and was boycotted by dozens of Obama's fellow Democrats, Netanyahu said Iran's leadership was "as radical as ever," could not be trusted and the deal being worked out with world powers would not block Iran's way to a bomb "but paves its way to a bomb."

"This deal won't be a farewell to arms, it will be a farewell to arms control ... a countdown to a potential nuclear nightmare," Netanyahu told lawmakers and visitors in the House of Representatives. His speech drew 26 standing ovations.

Netanyahu both inveighed against the emerging terms of a deal and suggested broadening the scope of negotiations to require a change to Iran's regional posture - an idea swiftly rejected by the Obama administration as de facto "regime change" in Tehran. But Netanyahu also avoided any call for new U.S. sanctions now or for a total rollback of Iranian nuclear technologies - a signal that Israel might be able to resign itself to less.

Netanyahu's speech culminated a diplomatic storm triggered by his acceptance in January of a Republican invitation that bypassed the White House and Obama's fellow Democrats, many of whom considered it an affront to the president.

Obama refused to meet Netanyahu, saying that doing so just ahead of Israel's March 17 general election would be seen as interference. Aides to Obama said he would not be watching the speech, broadcast live on U.S. television.

Underscoring the partisan divide over Netanyahu's address, House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said afterwards that as a friend of Israel, she was near tears during his speech, calling it "an insult to the intelligence of the United States." She said she was "saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran."

Netanyahu entered the chamber to a cacophony of cheers and applause, shaking hands with dozens of lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner, before taking a podium and telling lawmakers he was deeply humbled.

At the start of the speech, he sought to defuse the intense politicization of his appearance, which has hardened divisions between Republicans and Democrats over the White House's approach to stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

He said he was grateful to Obama for his public and private support of Israel, including U.S. military assistance and contributions to Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system.

"I regret that some see my appearance here as political," he said. "I know that no matter which side of the aisle you sit on, you stand with Israel."

Although given the cold shoulder by the U.S. administration, Netanyahu on Monday offered an olive branch, saying he meant no disrespect to Obama by accepting an invitation to speak to U.S. lawmakers that was orchestrated by the president's rival Republicans.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu appeared to offer another possible avenue for an Iran deal but put very strict conditions on it.

Having previously demanded a total elimination of Iranian nuclear projects with bomb-making potential, he said the United States should not ease its restrictions until Iran improves its overall conduct, a comment that could stiffen support among Republicans to maintain U.S. sanctions on Iran or seek to escalate them.

But the Israeli leader did not specifically call for new penalties, something Obama has said would undermine ongoing talks and would prompt a veto if passed by Congress.

"If the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed they should at the very least be prepared to insist that Iran changes its behavior before the deal expires," Netanyahu said. The terms under consideration a suspension of restrictions on Iran's sensitive nuclear activities in as little as 10 years.

He added that while Israel and similarly minded Arab states might not like such a deal, "we could live with it".

He added that the drop in oil prices put the United States and other countries in a stronger position to negotiate with Iran.

"Iran's nuclear program can be rolled back well beyond the current proposal by insisting on a better deal and keeping up the pressure on a very vulnerable regime, especially given the recent collapse of the price of oil."

Copyright Reuters, 2015

]]> (Imaduddin) North America Tue, 03 Mar 2015 20:45:36 +0000
Boehner says US House to vote Tuesday on clean DHS funding imageWASHINGTON: US House Speaker John Boehner told Republicans he will allow a vote on a clean Department of Homeland Security funding bill Tuesday, overriding conservative efforts to block President Barack Obama's immigration plan.

Senior aides in the room confirmed that Boehner told members at his party's Tuesday morning caucus that he was prepared to swiftly put a clean DHS funding bill to a vote, effectively ending the congressional battle that had threatened to shut down a critical agency designed to protect Americans.

It would likely pass easily because such a measure would earn support from Democrats who are united in seeking to secure DHS funding without amendments that would repeal President Barack Obama's controversial executive orders on immigration from last November.

"As you've heard me say a number of times, the House has done its job by passing legislation to fund DHS and block the president's executive actions on immigration," Boehner told rank-and-file Republicans, according to a person in the room.

"Unfortunately, the fight was never won in the other chamber."

Boehner invoked the threat of terrorism as a rationale for ending the fight and funding DHS through the end of the fiscal year on September 30, saying pushing the agency into shutdown would be a mistake.

"With more active threats coming into the homeland, I don't believe that's an option," he said, according to a source.

"Imagine if, God forbid, another terrorist attack hits the United States."

Boehner, who has been under intense pressure from a small band of far-right conservatives to stand firm and insist on linking the two issues, ultimately retreated from those demands when it became clear there was no path to victory on the issue.

The House passed a measure attaching the immigration rollback to DHS funding, but Democrats blocked it repeatedly in the Senate.

Congress must fund DHS by Friday or the agency will run out of money, although in the event of a shutdown most border personnel, airport screeners and Secret Service agents would remain on the job without pay.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Imaduddin) North America Tue, 03 Mar 2015 20:12:50 +0000
Netanyahu insists US Congress speech not political imageWASHINGTON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Tuesday his speech to a joint meeting of the US Congress was not political stunt, as he was received with a standing ovation.

Around 50 Democratic members stayed away from the event, during which Netanyahu was expected to warn that the nuclear deal being negotiated between the United States and Iran would threaten Israel's security.

But many more lawmakers from both sides of the aisle did attend, and Netanyahu began his speech with praise for Republicans and Democrats and for US President Barack Obama.

"I know that my speech has been the subject of much controversy. I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political," he said.

"That was never my intention. You want to thank you, Democrats and Republicans, for your common support for Israel year after year, decade after decade."

"We appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel. Some of that is widely known," he said, citing the close security cooperation between the countries.

"In each of those moments he was there. Some of what the president has done for Israel may never be known because it touches on some of the most sensitive and strategic issues that arise between an American president and an Israeli prime minister. I know it and I'll always be grateful to President Obama for that support."

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Imaduddin) North America Tue, 03 Mar 2015 20:06:03 +0000
Michelle Obama to visit Japan, Cambodia imageWASHINGTON: US First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Japan later this month, part of a drive to promote girls' education around the world.

The White House said Tuesday that Obama will visit Tokyo and the historic city of Kyoto from March 18 to 20 before moving on to Siem Reap, Cambodia, close to the famous temples of Angkor.

The trip is part of the "Let Girls Learn" initiative, encouraging adolescent girls to complete their studies.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) North America Tue, 03 Mar 2015 14:09:17 +0000
An Iran with nuclear weapon would threaten Israel, US: Rice imageWASHINGTON: An Iran with a nuclear bomb would threaten Israel and the United States, an advisor to President Barack Obama said on Monday, amid a crisis between Washington and Israel over Tehran's atomic ambitions.

"Given their support for terrorism, the risk for a nuclear arms race in the region and the danger to the entire global nonproliferation regime, an Iran with a nuclear weapon would not just be a threat to Israel, it is also an unacceptable threat to the United States of America," said US National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri) North America Tue, 03 Mar 2015 04:32:07 +0000
Two years after Boston attacks, trial to get under way

imageNEW YORK: Opening arguments begin on Wednesday in the trial of the 21-year-old man accused in the worst attack on US soil since the September 11 strikes: the Boston Marathon bombings nearly two years ago.

Kyrgyzstan-born US Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces the death penalty if convicted of bombing Boston's signature race, killing three people and wounding 264, on April 15, 2013.

It is one of the most anticipated trials in the United States since Timothy McVeigh was convicted of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people, and is expected to arouse strong emotions in Boston.

It follows a two-month jury selection process delayed by ferocious snowstorms and attempts from the defence to move the trial outside the city of 645,000, arguing it would be impossible to find an impartial jury.

District Judge George O'Toole, who will preside over the trial, has already rejected three attempts to move the case and Friday, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit also threw out the request.

In a last-ditch attempt, considered largely procedural, the defence filed a fourth demand for a change of venue late Monday.

O'Toole initially expected opening arguments to begin January 26, but the process of whittling down more than 1,300 candidates to a 12-person jury with six alternates is expected to be approved only Tuesday.

The trial is expected to incite strong emotions.

More than a dozen of the wounded lost limbs, and an eight-year-old child was among those who were killed.

Some victims and their relatives are expected to attend. And Tsarnaev supporters who subscribe to a multitude of conspiracy theories are also expected to gather outside court.

O'Toole refused a request from the defence to ban protesters on the grounds that Tsarnaev will be tainted by their inflammatory opinions.

The defendant has been held in near-solitary confinement in federal prison outside Boston. Flanked by his lawyers, he has listened attentively and at times appeared tense during jury selection.

He pleads not guilty to 30 federal charges, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.

He and his older brother Tamerlan, 26, both of part Chechen descent, are accused of carrying out the bombings alone, without the backing of a terror group. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police four days after the attack.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri) North America Tue, 03 Mar 2015 04:09:38 +0000