Immigrant portraits in New York art show face down Trump

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Immigrant faces captured in life-sized portraits by artist Betsy Ashton look the viewer straight in the eye, as if eager to tell their stories of leaving home to brave new struggles in a strange land.

Ashton said she created the oil paintings to counter what she calls a false political narrative spun by the Trump administration.

“I simply decided it was time to balance the story, time to try to counter this inflammatory rage that’s being whipped up against a group of people that don’t deserve it,” Ashton said.

Her “Portraits of Immigrants” are on display through Easter at Manhattan’s Riverside Church, about 10 miles up the Hudson River from Ellis Island, where 12 million newcomers landed from 1892 to 1954. The Statue of Liberty towers over the island, asking the world in a plaque to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

The portraits include teachers, entrepreneurs, a nurse, housekeeper, actor, politician and barista from Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe. They are newcomers and long-timers. Some are U.S. citizens, others have proper documents, one does not.


Their stories, which Ashton, a former CBS News correspondent, wrote and posted next to each portrait, tell of struggling to fit in to a new culture and learning a new language for the promise of a better life.

“The collective portrayal of the immigrant experience is what’s compelling, not just one individual story,” said Ron Kim, who came to New York from South Korea when he was 6. He is pictured in his New York State Assembly office, where he represents part of Queens, one of the city’s five boroughs.

Another immigrant immortalized in oil paint is Abdul Saboor, who taught U.S. troops the culture of his native Afghanistan before coming to the United States nearly five years ago.

For Saboor, now a U.S. citizen working for the upstate New York nonprofit that helped resettle him, Ashton’s exhibit is an opportunity for Americans “to imagine themselves in my skin.”

Both Kim and Saboor said they are keenly aware of – and disturbed by – the political hot potato that immigration has become since Donald Trump became president.

As a candidate in 2016, Trump stirred anti-immigrant fervor by accusing Mexico of sending drug dealers, gangs and rapists into the country, as his supporters loudly urged him to “build that wall” along the southern U.S. border.

As president, Trump has not only maintained a rhetorical drum beat against illegal immigrants, but also sought to narrow the pathways for legal immigration and travel. The White House did not respond to a request for comment on this story.


Ashton says hearing Trump during the campaign shortly after a Sunday sermon about the Good Samaritan inspired her to put brush to canvas to show the true stories of American newcomers.

In her neighborhood in Queens, where nearly half the population is foreign born, the English-Scottish-Welsh-German artist whose ancestors on her father’s side arrived in the country about 300 years ago, had no trouble finding immigrants.

She started with “Eddie” Rigo, who runs the espresso bar she visits each morning. He fled crime-ridden Sao Paulo where his Italian family had been in the pizza business.

Then came Beata Szakowicz Kombel, a nurse Ashton knows from doctor visits. She left Poland’s sagging economy in the early 1990s.

The collection grew to 16, and Ashton is seeking two more immigrants from troubled countries, preferably Venezuela and Syria, to complete the set.

Winning over her subjects often took salesmanship.

“I didn’t want to be in the spotlight,” said Porez Luxama, who left Haiti in the 1990s and teaches math in a New York City middle school. “But she was very convincing.”

Ashton, whose works include a portrait on display in the U.S. embassy in London, has spent two years on the project, which cost her more than $200,000 in lost income. She is seeking other venues for her exhibit after it leaves Riverside Church.

The subjects include “Angel” (not her real name), who came over on a tourist visa 20 years ago; Maria Solome, a Guatemalan housekeeper who sneaked across the Rio Grande but recently secured a green card; and John Lam who came from Hong Kong poor and now heads the Lam Group real estate investment conglomerate.

Despite their assorted origins, races and religions, Ashton said immigrants share a determination to overcome the problems that drove them from their homes.

“It’s the grit, the guts and the resilience that comes with survival, sacrifice and risk-taking,” she said. “Those are the same qualities that we celebrate in immigrants from generations past.”

(This story refiles to fix amount in paragraph 22 to $200,000)

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‘Us’ Review: Jordan Peele’s Creepy Latest Turns a Funhouse Mirror on Us

Jordan Peele’s new horror movie, “Us,” is an expansive philosophical hall of mirrors. Like his 2017 hit, “Get Out,” this daring fun-until-it’s-not shocker starts from the genre’s central premise that everyday life is a wellspring of terrors. In “Get Out,” a young black man meets a group of white people who buy — at auction — younger, healthier black bodies. What makes “Get Out” so powerful is how Peele marshals a classic tale of unwilling bodily possession into a resonant, unsettling metaphor for the sweep of black and white relations in the United States — the U.S., or us.

“Us” is more ambitious than “Get Out,” and in some ways more unsettling. Once again, Peele is exploring existential terrors and the theme of possession, this time through the eerie form of the monstrous doppelgänger. The figure of the troublesome other — of Jekyll and Hyde, of the conscious and unconscious — ripples through the story of an ordinary family, the Wilsons, stalked by murderous doubles. These shadows look like the Wilsons but are frighteningly different, with fixed stares and guttural, animalistic vocalizations. Dressed in matching red coveralls and wielding large scissors (the better to slice and dice), they are funhouse-mirror visions turned nightmares.

The evil twin is a rich, durable motif, and it winds through “Us” from start to finish, beginning with a flashback to 1986 at a Santa Cruz, Calif., amusement park. There, a young girl (the expressive Madison Curry) and her parents are leisurely wandering the park. The girl is itsy-bitsy (the camera sticks close to her so that everything looms), and she and her parents maintain a chilly, near-geometric distance from one another. She’s clutching a perfect candied apple, a portentous splash of red and a witty emblem both of Halloween and Edenic forbidden fruit. Movies are journeys into knowledge, and what the girl knows is part of the simmering mystery.

The Wilsons, a family of four headed by Adelaide (a dazzling Lupita Nyong’o) and Gabe (Winston Duke), enter many years later, introduced with an aerial sweep of greenery. The bird’s-eye view (or god’s-eye, given the movie’s metaphysical reach) evokes the opener of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” a film Peele references throughout. A true cinephile, Peele scatters “Us” with nods and allusions to old-school 1970s and ’80s movies including “Goonies,” “Jaws,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” (One disturbing scene suggests that he’s also a fan of Michael Haneke.) But “The Shining” — another story of a grotesquely haunted family — serves as his most obvious guiding star, narratively and visually.

[Read about Lupita Nyong’o and her work on the movie.]

Peele likes to mix tones and moods, and as he did in “Get Out,” he uses broad humor both for delay and deflection. There’s a cryptic opener and an equally enigmatic credit sequence, but soon the Wilsons are laughing at their vacation home. It’s a breather that Peele uses for light jokes and intimacy (Duke’s amiable performance provides levity and warmth) while he scatters narrative bread crumbs. There’s a beach trip with another family, this one headed by Kitty (a fantastic Elisabeth Moss) and Josh (Tim Heidecker), who have teenage twin girls (cue “The Shining”). At last, the movie jumps to kinetic life with the appearance of the Wilsons’ doubles, who descend in a brutal home invasion.

The assault is a master class of precision-timed scares filled with light shivers and deeper, reverberant frights. Working within the house’s tight, angled spaces — soon filled with fluid camerawork and bodies moving to dramatically different beats — Peele turns this domestic space into a double of the funhouse that loomed in the amusement park. After much scrambling and shrieking, the Wilsons and their weird twins face off in the living room, mirroring one another. Adelaide’s shadow, Red (the actors play their doubles), takes charge and splits up the Wilsons, ordering her husband, daughter and son to take charge of their terrified others while she remains with Adelaide.

A vibrant, appealing screen presence, Nyong’o brings a tremendous range and depth of feeling to both characters, who she individualizes with such clarity and lapidary detail that they aren’t just distinct beings; they feel as if they were being inhabited by different actors. She gives each a specific walk and sharply opposite gestures and voices (maternally silky vs. monstrously raspy). Adelaide, who studied ballet, moves gracefully and, when need be, rapidly (she racks up miles); Red moves as if keeping time to a metronome, with the staccato, mechanical step and head turns of an automaton. Both have ramrod posture and large unblinking eyes. Red’s mouth is a monstrous abyss.

The confrontation between Adelaide and Red testifies to Peele’s strength with actors — here, he makes the most of Nyong’o’s dueling turns — but, once Red starts explaining things, it also telegraphs the story’s weakness. “Us” is Peele’s second movie, but as his ideas pile up — and the doubles and their terrors expand — it starts to feel like his second and third combined. One of the pleasures of “Get Out” was its conceptual and narrative elegance, a streamlining that makes it feel shorter than its one hour 44 minutes. “Us” runs a little longer, but its surfeit of stuff — its cinephilia, bunnies of doom, sharp political detours and less-successful mythmaking — can make it feel unproductively cluttered.

Peele’s boldest, most exciting and shaky conceptual move in “Us” is to yoke the American present with the past, first by invoking the 1986 super-event Hands Across America. A very ’80s charity drive (one of its organizers helped create the ’85 benefit hit “We Are the World”), it had Americans holding hands from coast to coast, making a human chain meant to fight hunger and homelessness. President Reagan held hands in front of the White House even while his administration was criticized for cutting billions for programs to help the homeless.

In “Us,” the appearance of unity — in a nation, in a person — doesn’t last long before being ripped away like one of the movie’s masks. Peele piles on (and tears off) the masks and the metaphors, tethers the past to the present and draws a line between the Reagan and Trump presidencies, suggesting that we were, and remain, one nation profoundly divisible. He also busies up his story with too many details, explanations and cutaways. Peele’s problem isn’t that he’s ambitious; he is, blissfully. But he also feels like an artist who has been waiting a very long time to say a great deal, and here he steps on, and muddles, his material, including in a fight that dilutes even Nyong’o’s best efforts.

Early on, Peele drops in some text about the existence of abandoned tunnels, mines and subways in the United States. I flashed on Colson Whitehead’s novel “The Underground Railroad,” which literalizes the network of safe houses and routes used by enslaved black Americans, turning it into a fantastical subterranean passageway to freedom. In “Us,” Peele uses the metaphor of the divided self to explore what lies beneath contemporary America, its double consciousness, its identity, sins and terrors. The results are messy, brilliant, sobering, even bleak — the final scene is a gut punch delivered with a queasy smile — but Jordan Peele isn’t here just to play.


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Rated R for horror violence, featuring scissors and a pesky boat motor. Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes.

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The ‘Us’ Soundtrack Puts A Creepy Twist On Hip-Hop & Soul Classics

Horror fans know that lullabies, nursery rhymes, and children’s songs can easily be turned on their heads and into suitably eerie tracks. There’s The Evil Dead ‘s rendition of "Ring Around the Rosie," Nightmare on Elm Street‘s version of "One Two, Buckle My Shoe," Jack Nicholson’s recitation of "The Three Little Pigs" in The Shining, and even the comedic (albeit politically significant) "Run Rabbit Run" in Get Out. But for filmmaker Jordan Peele’s latest psychological thriller Us and its soundtrack, composer Michael Abels made some feel-good hip-hop, soul, and R&B hits into twisted tunes.

The Us soundtrack consists of a total of 35 tracks, and features not only Abels’ musical score for the film, but also songs from three major artists of color: Janelle Monaé, Maya Rudolph’s mother and legendary singer-songwriter Minnie Riperton, and hip-hop duo Luniz. The track that you’ve definitely heard in the Us teasers and trailers is Luniz’s massive 1995 hit "I Got 5 On It," featuring Michael Marshall. Naturally, Abels had to turn the song into the seriously sick "Tethered Remix" to fit the movie’s mood — slow and sinister. After you see Us, you’ll probably never hear the original song the same way again.

It was Peele who chose the Luniz song for the movie. "I’m making a movie in Northern California, that’s a bay area hip-hop classic and I wanted to explore this very relatable journey of being a parent [and] maybe some of the songs you listened to back in the day aren’t appropriate for your kids," the filmmaker told Entertainment Weekly. "So that was one level, and another part was, I love songs that have a great feeling but also have a haunting element to them and I feel like the beat in that song has this inherent cryptic energy, almost reminiscent of the Nightmare on Elm Street soundtrack. So those were the ideas that that song hit the bullseye on for me, and also, it’s just a dope track.”

The other non-score songs on the Us complilation include "I Like That" from Janelle Monaé’s Dirty Computer and the psychedelic, soulful melody of Minnie Riperton’s "Les Fleur." As seen on the full track list, neither of the two songs have been remixed by Abels, so it will be interesting to see how they play into the movie. While you can stream the soundtrack on Spotify, Amazon, and Apple Music, those two tracks and the original "I Got 5 On It" are only on the physical album.

Most of the album consists of Abels’s creepy score. In one track, the composer riffs on R&B group Club Nouveau’s “Why You Treat Me So Bad?,” which is sampled on the original "I Got 5 On It." On the Us album, the track is called "Pas de Deux," and is the second song on the record. It slows down the familiar beat, adds the ever-essential violins, and more suspenseful sounds for a truly horrific effect.

But the composer came into the gig aware that horror fans are tuned into how music can tease a big moment. "There are times you want to foreshadow what’s coming and other times you want to deliberately not foreshadow what’s coming,” Abels told Entertainment Weekly about his decisions with the score. “Some scares are the type of dread where you know it’s coming, and others aren’t. So we do spend a lot of time talking about what kind of scare something’s going to be, whether it’s a jump-at-you, or a slow burn.”

There are also compositions like "Immolation" and "Human" that also feature vocalists singing at the forefront, and rising above the melodies. Abels also told EW, "Jordan specifically, when we first spoke about the film, talked about how important he wanted the voices to be in the soundtrack."

Whether or not horror movies are your cup of tea, you can still listen to these tracks just to hear Abels’ brilliant work. Although, after watching the movie, it’s understandable if you’d prefer not to relive the spine-chilling scenes — at least when you’re alone.

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Jordan Peele Talks About ‘Us’ Soundtrack and Music in Film in Spotify’s First-Ever Movie Takeover (EXCLUSIVE)

Jordan Peele discusses the key role music plays in his new horror film “Us” — as well as the use of music in movie at large — in the first movie-sponsored takeover on Spotify.

Beginning Monday, March 18, the Oscar-winning director-producer-writer will take over Spotify’s TV & Movies hub in a playlist that runs one hour and 50 minutes. In the series, he talks about how he used music for “Us,” along with other surprising uses of music in film. The “Us” soundtrack includes Luniz’s “I Got 5 on It,” Janelle Monáe’s “I Like That,” Koffee’s “Toast,” Minnie Riperton’s “Les Fleur,” and the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” in addition to the score by Michael Abels (who also scored Peele’s “Get Out”).

Peele’s Spotify takeover is sponsored by “Us” distributor Universal Pictures. The deal marks the first time a single film is taking over one of Spotify’s hubs.

In addition, under the pact “Us” star Winston Duke has curated Spotify fan-favorite playlist Black Boy Joy, with tracks including “Tribe” by Bas featuring J. Cole and Chief Obi’s “Carry Go” featuring Olimade.

The playlists are available to both Spotify Premium and free users. Peele’s takeover on the music-streaming service will continue through the theatrical release of “Us,” hitting theaters on Friday, March 22.

In the Spotify sessions, Peele will cover not only the “Us” soundtrack but the use of music in other films, like Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” in Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice” or Q Lazzarus’ “Goodbye Horses,” which eerily introduced Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs.” The audio content with Peele and Duke was produced in-house by Spotify’s Creative Solutions team in collaboration with its Shows and Editorial team.

“Jordan has such a visionary approach to the interplay between music and film,” said Universal EVP of digital marketing Doug Neil. “Celebrating his voice and vision on Spotify, which reflects culture through every stream, made perfect sense as we looked to build excitement around the release of this incredible film.”

Spotify is hoping to capture more revenue from such deals selling its real estate — the Film & TV Favorites playlist featured on the TV & Movies hub has just over 1 million followers. In addition to that, it’s looking to boost time spent on the platform. “We hope Jordan’s and Winston’s curations lead our listener base to not only discover new favorite songs and artists, but also engage with ‘Us’ on a deeper level,” commented Andi Frieder, Spotify’s head of entertainment industry sales.

“Us” premiered at South by Southwest on March 8 — leaving the audience shrieking in terror — and Peele also held three other screenings for mostly black audiences, using the hashtag #UsFirst.

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May's Brexit deal lives: Northern Irish kingmakers report 'good' talks with government

LONDON (Reuters) – The Northern Irish party that is crucial to Prime Minister Theresa May’s hopes of getting her twice-defeated Brexit deal through parliament said it had good talks with British ministers on Friday but differences remained over the Irish border.

The United Kingdom’s divorce from the European Union has sown chaos throughout May’s premiership and the Brexit finale is still uncertain. Options include a long delay, exiting with May’s deal, leaving without a deal or even another referendum.

May has essentially handed Brexit supporters an ultimatum – ratify her deal by Wednesday or face a long delay to Brexit that would open up the possibility that Britain never even leaves.

To succeed, she must win over dozens of Brexit-supporting rebels in her own Conservative Party and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which has 10 lawmakers in parliament.

“We have had good discussions today. Those discussions will continue,” DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said after talks with government ministers in London.

“We want to get a deal. There has been progress made,” he told reporters. “We don’t want to leave without a deal but a lot will depend in terms of what the government can do on providing those guarantees that are necessary.”

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He said the British government was “very focused” on addressing the issue of the Irish backstop, an insurance policy that sets out what happens to the Irish border after Brexit.

Aimed at avoiding post-Brexit controls on the border between the UK province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland, the backstop has been a constant sticking point as May tries to push her deal through. Many Brexiteers and the DUP are concerned it will trap the United Kingdom in the EU’s orbit indefinitely, and have sought guarantees it will not.

The DUP said Dodds was returning to Northern Ireland on Friday evening. He would be in phone contact with the government over the weekend and return to London for more talks on Monday.

After three dramatic days in parliament this week, lawmakers voted on Thursday to have the government ask the EU for a delay beyond the date Britain is scheduled to leave – March 29.


May says she wants to minimize any delay in leaving the EU to just three months, but to achieve that she will need parliament to back her deal at the third time of asking early next week, possibly Tuesday.

Her deal, an attempt to keep close relations with the EU while leaving the bloc’s formal structures, was defeated by 230 votes in parliament on Jan. 15 and by 149 votes on March 12.

She needs 75 lawmakers to change their vote. If she can swing the DUP behind her, along with several dozen hardliners in her own party, she will be getting close to the numbers she needs. A handful of Conservatives are unlikely ever to be satisfied but she may draw in a small number of opposition Labour lawmakers.

“There will be Conservatives who vote against it come what may, that’s why in order for it to pass three things have to happen: she has to get the DUP on board, she has to persuade as many as possible of the 75 (Brexiteer) Conservatives to vote for it, and she will almost certainly need more Labour MPs,” said John Whittingdale, a Conservative lawmaker and member of the pro-Brexit faction.

“If she can deliver those three things then it might scrape through, but it’s a hell of a big mountain to climb.”


May’s de-facto deputy, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, said he hoped the United Kingdom would leave in an orderly fashion but if May’s deal was not approved then a long extension was on the cards.

“I hope that MPs (lawmakers) of all parties will be over this weekend reflecting on the way forward,” Lidington told BBC radio, adding the legal default was still that Britain would leave on March 29, unless something else is agreed.

EU leaders will consider pressing Britain to delay Brexit by at least a year to find a way out of the domestic maelstrom.

Britons voted to leave the EU in a June 2016 referendum. However Brexit comes about, opponents of the divorce worry that it will divide the West as it grapples with the U.S. presidency of Donald Trump and growing assertiveness from Russia and China.

Supporters of Brexit say that while it may bring some short-term instability, in the longer term Britain will thrive if it moves away from what they cast as a doomed experiment in European integration that is falling behind global powers such as the United States and China.

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Protesters arrested in Hong Kong over proposed China extradition law

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police on Friday arrested five women who staged a protest inside the government’s headquarters over a proposal to allow fugitives to be extradited to mainland China, stoking human rights concerns.

In February, Hong Kong’s Security Bureau submitted a paper to the city’s legislature, proposing amendments to extradition laws that would include granting the city’s leader executive power to send fugitives to jurisdictions not covered by existing arrangements, including mainland China and Taiwan.

The proposal has been strongly opposed by some lawmakers, legal and rights groups who fear such it could be exploited by Beijing’s Communist Party leaders and lead to an erosion of Hong Kong’s judicial independence.

In video footage posted online, the five, who were demanding the extradition amendments be scrapped, rushed into the lobby of government headquarters where they staged a sit-down protest.

“Oppose legalized kidnapping,” the women, including several members of the pro-democracy party Demosisto, shouted. They were later hauled out by police into vehicles.

The Hong Kong government said in a statement a total of nine protesters were “removed” for blocking the lobby of its headquarters, and that a female security guard had been injured in a skirmish. A police spokesman gave no immediate comment.

Since Hong Kong reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997 with the guarantee that it would enjoy a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not allowed in mainland China, there has been no formal mechanism for the surrender of fugitives to mainland China.

The Hong Kong Bar Association said in a statement that this was not an oversight, but a result of “grave concerns” about China’s legal and judicial system.

It said authorities were “jumping the gun” in seeking to force through such ad hoc rendition arrangements with China without a full consultation.

Some business groups, including the American Chamber of Commerce, expressed “serious reservations” about the proposal in a submission to Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security John Lee, and said they would “undermine perceptions of Hong Kong as a safe and secure haven for international business operations”.

The proposal also seeks to remove legislative oversight on individual extradition requests that may arise by giving the city leader executive authority to make such decisions.

In the February paper, the Security Bureau said “human rights and procedural safeguards” would remain unchanged. Requests in relation “to offences of a political character” shall be refused, the bureau said.

But some critics have expressed concern over how a political offense might be defined.

Demosisto, in a statement, described the proposed extradition reform as “an attempt to prepare to entrap oppositional voices for China”.

A former Chinese deputy minister for public security, Chen Zhimin, told reporters in Beijing this week that more than 300 “fugitives” wanted by mainland authorities were hiding in Hong Kong. He did not give details.

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World reacts with sadness, anger to New Zealand mosque shootings

LONDON (Reuters) – Leaders and organizations around the world expressed disgust and sorrow at the killing of 49 people in shootings at two New Zealand mosques on Friday, attacks that many blamed on the demonization of Muslims by the West.

Western leaders from Donald Trump to Angela Merkel expressed solidarity with New Zealanders, deploring what the White House called a “vicious act of hate”.

The response from some Muslim countries went further, blaming politicians and the media for stoking that hatred. The nationalities of the victims included Indian, Pakistani, Malaysian, Indonesian, Egyptian, Bangladeshi, Saudi, Somalian and Turkish, authorities said.

New Zealand police said 49 people were killed and 42 were being treated for wounds, including a four-year-old child. Three people were in custody including one man who has been charged with murder, police said.

“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 (where) 1.3 billion Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror,” Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote on social media.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the attack was a result of Muslims being demonized. “Not only the perpetrators, but also politicians & media that fuel the already escalated Islamophobia and hate in the West are equally responsible for this heinous attack,” he tweeted.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated “the urgency of working better together globally to counter Islamophobia and eliminate intolerance and violent extremism in all its forms,” a spokesman said.

Hundreds of protesters in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, chanted “Allahu akbar!” (God is Greatest) after Friday prayers.

“We will not let the blood of Muslims go in vain,” said one protester. Members of the Bangladesh national cricket team, in Christchurch for a match against New Zealand, arrived for Friday prayers as the shooting started but were not hurt.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said some of the victims may have been new immigrants or refugees.

“They are us,” she said. “The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand.”

Trump, following a phone call with Ardern, said on Twitter: “…I informed the Prime Minister … that we stand in solidarity with New Zealand – and that any assistance the U.S.A. can give, we stand by ready to help. We love you New Zealand!”

The accused gunman’s manifesto posted online praised Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose”.

Asked by a reporter if he thought white nationalism is a rising threat around the world, Trump said: “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand perhaps that’s a case, I don’t know enough about it yet.”

Trump said he had not seen the gunman’s manifesto.


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said an Australian national arrested after the attack was an “extremist, right-wing violent terrorist”.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, who is New Zealand’s head of state, said she was “deeply saddened by the appalling events”.

Pope Francis deplored the “senseless acts of violence”.

In a message of condolence sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Francis “assures all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks”.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world’s largest Muslim body, to discuss this “horrible crime”, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.

“Western hypocrisy of defending demonization of Muslims as ‘freedom of expression’ MUST end,” Zarif said on Twitter. He posted a picture of U.S. President Donald Trump saying “I think Islam hates us,” during the 2016 U.S. election campaign.

The Palestinian chief peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, called the attack a “consequence of racist ideologies that continue trying to promote religious wars”.

He compared it to the shooting last October at a synagogue in the U.S. city of Pittsburgh that killed 11 people, deadly attacks on churches in Egypt by Islamic State and an attack by a far-right Israeli gunman on a West Bank mosque in 1994 that killed 29 people.

A statement by Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, which has been accused by the United States of terrorism, said in part: “Hezbollah warns against the tendency of extremism against Muslims and foreigners and against the politics of hate that the United States nourishes in the world, rather than religious values that advocate tolerance, dialogue and acceptance of the other.”


German Chancellor Merkel mourned “with the New Zealanders for their fellow citizens who were attacked and murdered out of racist hatred while peacefully praying in their mosques”. Her foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said: “When people are murdered solely because of their religion, this is an attack on us all.”

Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim mayor of London, said Londoners stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of Christchurch. He also pointed his finger at those who promote religious hatred:

“When the flames of hatred are fanned, when people are demonized because of their faith, when people’s fears are played on rather than addressed, the consequences are deadly, as we have seen so sadly today,” he said.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said the attack brought back memories of the 2011 attack by anti-Muslim extremist Anders Breivik that killed 77 people: “It shows that extremism is nurtured and that it lives in many places.”

Al-Azhar University, Egypt’s 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Islamic learning, called the attack “a dangerous indicator of the dire consequences of escalating hate speech, xenophobia and the spread of Islamophobia”.

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Risk of no-deal Brexit recedes further, some banks say

(Reuters) – The risk that Britain will leave the European Union without an agreement on March 29 has receded further this week, some banks and asset managers say, citing the UK parliament’s resounding vote to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

At the end of January, banks informally canvassed by Reuters for their forecasts saw the “no-deal exit” probability as low but rising. Some of those banks have since revised down that risk.

Prime Minister Theresa May suffered another crushing defeat in parliament for her EU divorce deal this week. Since then, lawmakers have passed a non-binding motion ruling out a no-deal exit, and will now vote to seek to delay Britain’s departure beyond the March 29 deadline.

That expectation has helped sterling strengthen to nine-month highs against the dollar and 22-month peaks against the euro.

For an interactive version of the chart below, click here

Below are the views from a selection of investment banks and asset managers:


Has left the probability of a no-deal Brexit at 10 percent. It sees a 10 percent chance of an early election, down from 20 percent earlier.


Has cut the probability of no-deal Brexit to 5 percent and sees a 35 percent probability that Britain will not leave. Raised the probability of May’s Brexit deal eventually being agreed to 60 percent.


Sees the chance of no-deal Brexit at 20 percent. It assigns a 15 percent probability to Brexit being revoked and a 65 percent probability for a deal being passed.


Maintains its view of a 20 percent chance of no-deal Brexit.


Has cut risk of no-deal exit to 15 percent. It also raised the probability of the UK staying in the EU to 25 percent.


The probability of no-deal exit is unchanged at 20 percent.


Still sees a 10 percent chance of a no-deal Brexit but reckons the probability of another referendum has increased to 15 percent.


Has cut the chance of no-deal Brexit to 10 percent, compared to 20 percent last month and 25-30 percent before that. It puts chance of a second referendum at 35 percent.


An outlier in that it sees 53 percent odds of no-deal exit. The probability of an extension that leads to new election or another referendum is put at 12 percent.


Europe’s largest asset manager at the end of February saw a 20 percent probability of no-deal Brexit, and a 40 percent chance of a “prolonged extension” to the March 29 deadline. It did not provide updated forecasts.

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Chinese delegation to visit Argentina to discuss stalled nuclear deal: government source

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – A delegation from China will visit Argentina this month to discuss the construction of a nuclear power plant, signaling potential progress in a deal that could increase Beijing’s deepening influence in the South American nation.

An Argentine government source told Reuters this week the “technical team” from China would meet with local suppliers about the long-stalled nuclear power plant project, reportedly worth up to $8 billion.

Argentina had hoped to announce an agreement on China-financed construction of Atucha III, as it has been referred to in the past, during a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping after November’s G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

But the deal failed to emerge then, and in January Argentina’s nuclear energy undersecretary, Julian Gadano, and the ambassador to China, Diego Guelar, met with officials in Beijing for talks about the project, the government source said.

A second government source, in the foreign ministry, said talks about the nuclear plant with China were ongoing but added that there had been no “concrete progress” toward signing a deal.

If finalized, the nuclear plant would be one of the biggest projects financed in Argentina by China, which has become a key trading partner for Argentina and its biggest non-institutional lender.

The Chinese embassy in Buenos Aires did not respond to requests for comment and China National Nuclear Corporation, a state-owned nuclear firm that has held talks previously about building nuclear plants in Argentina, declined to comment.

A press officer in Argentina’s nuclear affairs department, which operates under the foreign ministry, said he was unaware of the delegation’s visit.

The power plant deal was first negotiated under the administration of former President Cristina Fernandez, a left-wing populist who left office in 2015 after striking a number of deals with China.

When Argentina signed a $56.3 billion financing deal with the International Monetary Fund to rescue its troubled economy last year, U.S. President Donald Trump voiced his support for the plan and the leadership of center-right President Mauricio Macri.

Marci, like right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro in neighboring Brazil, took a tough stance against China on the campaign trail, saying he would review some of the deals Fernandez had made with the country.

But China has emerged as a critical trading partner, investor and financier for the U.S. allies nonetheless, as part of its long-running push into Latin America.

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SEC sues Volkswagen, ex-CEO over alleged emissions fraud on investors

WASHINGTON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is suing Volkswagen (VW) and its former chief executive Martin Winterkorn over the German automaker’s diesel emissions scandal, alleging a “massive fraud” on U.S. investors.

VW was caught using illegal software to cheat U.S. pollution tests in 2015, triggering a global backlash against diesel that and has so far cost it 29 billion euros ($32.8 billion).

Regulators and investors argue VW should have informed them sooner about the scope of the scandal, while VW says it was not clear it would face billions of dollars in fines and penalties as others had paid out much lower sums for similar offences.

The SEC said in its civil complaint on Thursday that from April 2014 to May 2015, VW issued more than $13 billion in bonds and asset-backed securities in U.S. markets at a time when senior executives knew that more than 500,000 U.S. diesel vehicles grossly exceeded legal vehicle emissions limits.

VW “reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in benefit by issuing the securities at more attractive rates for the company,” the SEC said, adding it “repeatedly lied to and misled United States investors, consumers, and regulators as part of an illegal scheme to sell its purportedly ‘clean diesel’ cars and billions of dollars of corporate bonds and other securities in the United States.”

The suit filed in San Francisco seeks to bar Winterkorn from serving as an officer or director of a public U.S. company and recover “ill-gotten gains” along with civil penalties and interest.

Winterkorn, who resigned days after the scandal became public in September 2015, was charged by U.S. prosecutors in 2018 and accused of conspiring to cover up the German automaker’s diesel emissions cheating.

A lawyer for Winterkorn, who remains in Germany, declined to comment on the SEC action.

VW said in a statement the SEC complaint “is legally and factually flawed, and Volkswagen will contest it vigorously. The SEC has brought an unprecedented complaint over securities sold only to sophisticated investors who were not harmed and received all payments of interest and principal in full and on time.”

The automaker added that the SEC “does not charge that any person involved in the bond issuance knew that Volkswagen diesel vehicles did not comply with U.S. emissions rules when these securities were sold” but repeats claims about Winterkorn “who played no part in the sales”.

German markets regulator Bafin could not be reached for comment about whether it was working with the SEC.


VW has spent billions to pay claims from United States-based VW owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers, and has offered to buy back about 500,000 polluting U.S. vehicles. That figure included $4.3 billion in U.S. criminal and civil fines.

But the SEC said VW “has never repaid the hundreds of millions of dollars in benefit it fraudulently obtained.”

VW admitted to secretly installing software in 500,000 U.S. vehicles to cheat government exhaust emissions tests and pleaded guilty in 2017 to felony charges. 13 people have been charged in the United States, including Winterkorn and four Audi managers.

The SEC suit also names VW’s VW Credit and Volkswagen Group of America Finance LLC, the entity used to sell the securities.

VW also faces investor lawsuits in Braunschweig, Germany.

Critics argue that VW should have informed investors on September 3, 2015 about having used a “defeat device” to cheat emissions tests, the same day that VW managers admitted to using illegal software to U.S. regulators.

Investors were informed about VW’s diesel cheating after U.S. regulators blew the whistle on September 18, 2015.

VW argues it did not have to inform investors earlier because it did not believe it was facing significant fines.

VW’s management had sought to strike a deal with U.S. regulators behind closed doors, a process that would lead costs to be “controllable overall with a view to the business activities of Volkswagen Group,” a VW document showed.

A defense filing made with the Braunschweig court says VW’s chief financial officer was informed that there was a potential problem with United States authorities on September 14, 2015.

At the time, VW believed it could fix polluting vehicles with a software update and gauged the potential financial risk to be around 150 million euros, the Braunschweig document shows.

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