MILAN, Aug 11 (Reuters Breakingviews) - Italy’s likely next government has some big spending plans. A coalition of rightist parties looks poised to win general elections in September, making Giorgia Meloni of the nationalist Brothers of Italy party prime minister. High public debt and European Union vigilance will puncture the group’s wildest trial balloons.
The abrupt fall of Mario Draghi’s executive last month paves the way for yet another Italian government. An alliance including Brothers of Italy, the anti-immigration League and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia would command 49% of votes, opinion polls show, well ahead of its divided political rivals. Meloni’s party, which has roots in post-war neo-fascism, opposed Draghi’s agenda and has a eurosceptic past, may capture 24% of the vote.
High on the alliance’s agenda is slashing taxes to boost consumer demand. While the group has yet to publish an official manifesto, its plans include extending a flat...
LONDON, Aug 11 (Reuters Breakingviews) - Entain (ENT.L) is on a dealmaking spree. Jette Nygaard-Andersen, chief executive of the $10 billion UK bookie, has bought five companies this year for over $1 billion in total. Her swoop for Croatia’s SuperSport, announced on Thursday, exemplifies the logic. Entain wants to plant flags across the map so that a regulatory crackdown in one country, like the United Kingdom, makes less overall difference. There are also savings in switching smaller bookies’ systems for Entain’s. Investors bid the Ladbrokes owner’s shares up by more than 5%.
The question is what this all means for Entain’s M&A dance with perennial $14 billion suitor MGM Resorts International (MGM.N), with which it has a U.S. sports-betting joint venture. MGM would like to control its own destiny in that burgeoning market and get its hands on Entain’s technology. But the UK group rebuffed its advances last year. At current market prices, and assuming MGM paid a 20%...
BERLIN, Aug 11 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday pushed for the construction of a pipeline from Portugal through Spain and France to central Europe to wean Europe from Russian energy dependence.
"Such a pipeline would massively relieve the supply situation now," Scholz told reporters in a news conference in Berlin.
He said he had touched upon the issue in talks with the leaders of Spain, Portugal, France and the European Commission in Brussels and lobbied strongly for setting up such a project.
PARIS, Aug 11 (Reuters) - The head of the European Space Agency (ESA) has warned economic damage from heatwaves and drought could dwarf Europe's energy crisis as he called for urgent action to tackle climate change.
Director General Josef Aschbacher told Reuters successive heatwaves along with wildfires, shrinking rivers and rising land temperatures as measured from space left no doubt about the toll on agriculture and other industries from climate change.
"Today, we are very concerned about the energy crisis, and rightly so. But this crisis is very small compared to the impact of climate change, which is of a much bigger magnitude and really has to be tackled extremely fast," he said.
HOSTENS, France, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Firefighters flew to France from across Europe to battle a "monster" wildfire raging for a third day near the wine-growing heartland of Bordeaux on Thursday, with no let-up in blistering temperatures likely before the weekend.
More than 1,000 firefighters backed by water-bombing aircraft tried to contain the blaze in the southwestern Gironde region that has forced thousands of people from their homes and scorched 6,800 hectares of forest.
"It's an ogre, it's a monster," Gregory Allione from the French firefighters body FNSPF told RTL radio.
FRANKFURT, Aug 11 (Reuters) - RWE (RWEG.DE) is holding talks with a larger number of suppliers of liquefied natural gas (LNG), not just Qatar and North America, CEO Markus Krebber said, as Germany's largest power producer continues its efforts to replace Russian gas volumes.
RWE earlier this year said it was in discussions with potential LNG suppliers in the United States and Qatar, as Germany tries to diversify away from Russia, its largest supplier of natural gas.
Sources told Reuters in May that talks with Qatar have proven difficult over disagreement regarding key contract clauses, most notably differences over how long supply agreements would run. read more
CHARMEY, Switzerland, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Swiss army helicopters have been drafted in to airlift water to thousands of thirsty farm animals sweltering under this summer's soaring temperatures in the country's Alpine meadows.
Lower rainfall this year forced farmers to call on the army to swoop in with much-needed refreshments for their animals and prevent a drought causing feed shortages later in the year.
A two-week operation is now under way with Super Puma helicopters flying to refill the near-empty reservoirs used by farmers for their cows, whose milk is often used to make Gruyere cheese, and other animals such as pigs and goats.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Brazilian woman Sabine Coll Boghici, 48, was arrested on Wednesday on allegations she was part of a bizarre scheme to defraud her 82-year-old mother, Genevieve Boghici, the wife of the late art collector Jean Boghici, out of money, artwork and jewelry totaling some 724 million reais ($142.42 million).
Her arrest has exposed a disturbing web of fraud that police say lasted years and involved alleged psychics to swindle artwork by some of Brazil's most emblematic painters. Four other people were also arrested and two others, Diana Rosa Aparecida Stanesco Vuletic and Slavko Vuletic, are on the run.
The scam began in 2020 when Genevieve was approached by a supposed psychic with prophecies of her daughter's imminent death.
MOSCOW, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Russia on Thursday condemned a resolution by Latvia's parliament that designated Russia as a "state sponsor of terrorism".
"Considering that there is no substance, except for animalistic xenophobia, behind this decision, it is necessary to call the ideologues nothing more than neo-Nazis," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram.
The resolution said that "Latvia recognises Russia's actions in Ukraine as targeted genocide against the Ukrainian people", and called for greater military, financial, humanitarian and diplomatic backing for Ukraine. read more
Russia says it had to send its armed forces into Ukraine to "denazify" a country that it says is ruled by neo-Nazis, and has also applied the term to critics in the Baltic states.
Ukraine and the West have dismissed Russia's use of the word as propaganda, aimed at justifying an imperial-style war of conquest by likening Ukraine to the Nazi German invaders...
SEOUL, Aug 11 (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has declared victory over COVID-19 and his sister indicated that he too caught the virus, while vowing "deadly retaliation" against South Korea, which the North blames for causing the outbreak.
Kim ordered the lifting of maximum anti-epidemic measures imposed in May though adding that North Korea must maintain a "steel-strong anti-epidemic barrier and intensifying the anti-epidemic work until the end of the global health crisis", North Korea's KCNA news agency reported on Thursday.
North Korea has never confirmed how many people caught COVID, apparently because it lacks the means to conduct widespread testing.
BERLIN, Aug 11 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has no concrete plans yet for a visit to China, he said on Thursday.
There were talks but no date had been set yet, Scholz said at a news conference in Berlin.
He stressed the importance of German companies not being too dependent on China but being able to rely on diversified supply chains.
HONG KONG, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Ferry services between Macau and the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen will be suspended from Aug. 12, Macau's government said on Thursday, due to measures to curb COVID-19 infections, just days after it had been relaxed.
Ferry services had resumed on Aug. 8.
LONDON, Aug 11 (Reuters) - The dollar lost further ground versus other major currencies on Thursday, after traders reined in bets on an aggressive interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve after softer-than-expected U.S. inflation data the previous day.
The dollar index remained on the back foot in European trading hours, slipping 0.2% to 105.000, after recording its biggest daily fall in five months, of 1%, the previous day.
Data on Wednesday showed U.S. consumer prices were unchanged in July, month on month, after advancing 1.3% in June. read more
Aug 11 (Reuters) - Metro system riders in California's San Francisco Bay Area may have noticed a new station guard in recent months.
A 5-year-old Harris's hawk named Pac-Man has taken up the perch at El Cerrito del Norte station, where he's on the look out - not for fare evaders, but pigeons.
Ricky Ortiz, a falconer with Falcon Force and Pac-Man's handler, began patrolling with the bird at the station this summer, contracting with the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, or BART, to keep the pigeons at bay and protect commuters from pigeon poop.
ORLANDO, Fla., Aug 10 (Reuters) - An inverted U.S. Treasury yield curve almost always heralds recession, but the yawning gap between high short-term funding costs and falling long-term borrowing rates may accelerate the economic downturn it presages.
From a banking sector perspective, the inverted curve, combined with near-9% inflation and post-2008 regulation - the deepest, highest, and toughest in decades, respectively - offers cause for concern.
Although banks are in pretty good shape, the downward-sloping curve will erode net interest margins and curb lending, while this year's rout in stocks and bonds will require them to divert more cash towards repairing torpedoed capital buffers.
MAAN, Syria, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Returning to their orchards after years of war, Syrian pistachio farmers hoping to revive their valuable crop have had their hopes dashed by scorched trees and the ravages of climate change.
Laden with maroon-coloured bunches of nuts that are harvested in summer, the pistachio tree is known in Syria as "a golden tree in a poor land", reflecting the value of a fruit long exported across the Middle East and Europe.
But farmers near the northwestern village of Maan are harvesting just a quarter of the crop they gathered before the war, farmer Nayef Ibrahim said.
UTRECHT, Netherlands/PALERMO, Italy, Aug 11 (Reuters) - As Europe braces for another heatwave, one group of workers has little choice but to sweat it out: the couriers shuttling around town getting lunches and dinners to customers.
"It's hot, sometimes really hot. But what can we do? God is in charge of the weather," says Gennaro Guarracino, 47, who delivers food by scooter around the Italian city of Naples for the company Glovo.
Temperatures were expected to reach 34-38 degrees (93-100 degrees Fahrenheit) across Western Europe on Thursday.
FREETOWN, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Six police officers were killed in anti-government protests in northern and western Sierra Leone on Wednesday, the head of police said on Thursday.
Two officers were killed in the capital, Freetown, three in the northern town of Kamakwie and one in the northern city of Makeni, police inspector general William Fayia Sellu told Reuters.
Protests were concentrated in the north and west - opposition heartlands - of the West African country. At least two civilians also died in coastal Freetown.
Sierra Leone's government previously said that there had been deaths, but not how many, as hundreds of protesters threw rocks and burned tyres in the streets out of frustration at worsening economic hardship and other issues. read more
The internet was shut down on Wednesday and the government imposed a 3 p.m. curfew in a bid to stem the violence.
BEIJING, Aug 11 (Reuters) - A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said on Thursday that he had no information to offer at the moment when asked to comment on a media report that President Xi Jinping will visit Saudi Arabia next week.
The Guardian reported on Thursday that plans are underway in Saudi Arabia for a gala reception for Xi, without saying where it got the information from.
Xi has not made any official visit to a foreign country since January 2020.
VILNIUS, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Latvia's parliament on Thursday designated Russia as a "state sponsor of terrorism" over the war in Ukraine and called on Western allies to impose more comprehensive sanctions on Moscow in order to bring an end to the conflict.
"Latvia recognises Russia's actions in Ukraine as targeted genocide against the Ukrainian people," the Baltic nation's parliament said in a resolution.
Western nations should increase their military, financial, humanitarian and diplomatic backing for Ukraine and support initiatives condemning Russia's actions, it added.
NEW YORK, Aug 10 (Reuters) - SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T) is set to post a gain of $34.1 billion by reducing its stake in Alibaba Group Holding (9988.HK) from 23.7% to 14.6%. read more
But the Japanese conglomerate will not sell its shares directly in the market. It is using a complex security called "prepaid forward contracts," which is a derivative largely used by investors.
Here's how these contracts work:
Aug 11 (Reuters) - The average price of U.S. retail gasoline fell below $4 per gallon on Thursday for the first time in months, giving some relief to drivers in the world's largest consumer of the fuel.
The national average price for regular unleaded gas fell to $3.990 a gallon on Aug. 11, according to the American Automobile Association.
Gasoline prices peaked at a record $5.02 in June. That high cost curbed spending, and prices have also dropped as market fears of severe restrictions on supply have ebbed since Russia first invaded Ukraine in February.
KYIV, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Artists have painted brilliant sunflowers over heaps of burnt-out cars destroyed in Russia's invasion of Ukraine - upsetting some locals who wonder if it is too soon to beautify the wreckage of war.
The group of painters from Ukraine and the United States say they plan to sell digital images of the work as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and raise money for Ukrainian artists, rebuilding projects and other causes.
The cars were largely recovered in the city of Irpin, on the outskirts of the capital, from a bridge destroyed by Ukrainian forces to halt the advance of Russian tanks, Trek Kelly, a Los Angeles-based muralist who helped initiate the project, said.
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