JERUSALEM, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Seen from above, it could be mistaken for a COVID-19 lockdown: highways typically jammed with traffic nearly deserted, save for a few pedestrians unhurriedly crossing the street.
But Thursday's virtual standstill in Israel - captured by Reuters drone video - is in fact an annual affair as the country marks Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
Businesses close, air traffic is halted and most Israelis refrain from driving on the Jewish "Day of Atonement", emptying city centres and streets across the country.
Many in Israel's Jewish majority mark Yom Kippur by fasting during the 25-hour holy period, which began at dusk on Wednesday and ends after dark on Thursday.
Others, including many children, take advantage of the deserted highways to ride bicycles, scooters and skateboards without fear of being hit by cars or trams, even in major cities such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Last year, the holiday standstill...
SEOUL, Sept 16 (Reuters) - The missiles fired by North Korea on Wednesday were a test of a new "railway-borne missile system" designed as a potential counter-strike to any forces that threaten the country, state news agency KCNA reported on Thursday.
The missiles flew 800 km (497 miles) before striking a target in the sea off North Korea's east coast, KCNA said.
On Wednesday, South Korean and Japanese authorities said they had detected the launch of two ballistic missiles from North Korea, just days after it tested a cruise missile that analysts said could have nuclear capabilities. read more
The North Korean launches came the same day that South Korea tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), becoming the first country without nuclear weapons to develop such a system.
The two Koreas have been in an increasingly heated arms race, with both sides unveiling more capable missiles and other weapons.
The tests by nuclear-armed North Korea...
PARIS, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Hospitals, care homes and health centres have suspended around 3,000 workers across France for failing to comply with mandatory COVID vaccination, the government said on Thursday, as countries around Europe weigh how far to go to combat the pandemic.
While Italy is set to announce later on Thursday that proof of vaccination or a negative test will be compulsory for all workers, going further than any other country in the region, the Netherlands plans a similar step - but only to go to bars or clubs.
Britain, meanwhile, says it is highly likely to require front-line health and social care workers in England to be vaccinated as part of a plan to contain the virus during winter.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron's decision in mid-July to require a similar health pass to go anywhere from restaurants to gyms and museums, and make the jab mandatory for health workers, has massively increased vaccination take-up.
With the mandate...
Sept 16 - A federal judge on Thursday blocked part of a sweeping anti-protest bill enacted by Florida Republicans and Governor Ron DeSantis, writing that officials’ reaction to peaceful protests in the summer of 2020 is akin to the unlawful racist backlash seen during 1960s protests against Jim Crow laws.
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee said that the governor made an embarrassing mistake – or worse – when his offices “conflated a community celebration of a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery with a protest."
He issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the new definition of rioting under the Combating Public Disorder Act.
DeSantis’ lawyers in defending the law had submitted to the court a Facebook post as evidence that Black Floridians continue to freely exercise their protest rights – except the flyer actually announced a “Black Joy" event celebrating America’s first official Juneteenth...
LONDON, Sept 16 (Reuters) - The European Union should allow clearing houses in Britain to continue serving customers in the bloc to avoid a significant risk of market disruption, nine financial industry bodies said on Thursday.
Britain fully left the EU last December and the London Stock Exchange, whose LCH SwapClear arm clears the bulk of swaps denominated in euros, has temporary permission to continue serving customers from the EU until June 30 next year.
Brussels is putting pressure on banks to shift activity worth trillions of euros to Deutsche Boerse's Eurex arm in Frankfurt where it could be directly supervised for any threats to financial stability.
In a letter on Thursday to EU financial services chief Mairead McGuinness, the industry associations call on her to provide certainty to the market by either extending the current temporary permission or granting open-ended permission to allow a "natural" shift in business from London to Frankfurt already...
Sept 16 (Reuters) - Iran’s new government has approved use of U.S. firm Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ.N) COVID-19 vaccine, a senior official said on Thursday, as the Islamic Republic fights a fifth wave of infections.
The announcement came eight months after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei banned imports of vaccines made by the United States and Britain - though Iran has since accepted vaccines developed by Western firms but manufactured elsewhere.
President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration is under public pressure to broaden its sources of vaccines as infections mount in its deadliest wave yet.
“The Johnson & Johnson single-dose corona vaccine has been approved,” the head of Iran's Food and Drug Administration, Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz, was quoted as saying by Iranian media.
He did not say where the vaccine would be produced or refer to the ban.
In January, Khamenei banned the government from importing COVID-19 vaccines from United States...
DUBLIN, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Ryanair (RYA.I) lifted its five-year passenger forecast on Thursday, saying the delivery of an existing Boeing (BA.N) order and increased use of older aircraft would allow it to grow faster without the need for an additional large plane deal.
Europe's largest low cost carrier last week abruptly ended talks with the U.S. planemaker over a new order of the larger 737 MAX 10 jets, worth tens of billions of dollars, due to differences over price.
Shares of the airline jumped 7% on Thursday after it raised its passenger growth forecast.
"If we don't do another order until 2025, frankly we couldn't care less. The one great thing about the airline industry is we know there's going to be another crisis in five years' time (to drive down jet prices)," Chief Executive Michael O'Leary told an analyst call after Ryanair's annual general meeting.
The Irish airline, one of Boeing's biggest customers, will keep talking to the planemaker,...
NAIROBI, Sept 16 (Reuters) - A Kenyan court on Thursday sentenced a former sports minister to six years in prison after finding him guilty over the siphoning of funds meant for athletes in the Brazil Olympics five years ago.
The East African nation enjoyed its most successful Olympics in Rio, winning six gold medals, six silvers and one bronze in track and field, but the performance was blighted by claims of corruption among senior government officials and team bosses.
A magistrate's court in Nairobi found Hassan Wario, who was the sports minister at the time, guilty of abuse of office in connection with the loss of funds.
Issuing a ruling in the case that started in 2018, the court gave Wario, who was appointed Kenya's ambassador to Austria after serving in the cabinet, the alternative of paying a 3.6 million shillings ($32,742) fine to avoid going to jail.
Stephen Soi, who was the team leader and was tried alongside Wario, was found guilty of...
KINSHASA, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Police beat a journalist and fired tear gas to disperse a small crowd in Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa on Wednesday during an opposition protest over alleged election meddling, eyewitnesses said.
Around 20 protesters gathered in response to a call by opposition leader Martin Fayulu and were met with stiff resistance from police. Police beat and temporarily detained Patient Ligodi, a journalist working for Radio France International, while he was interviewing Fayulu.
"They threw me to the ground and started to hit me," Ligodi said in a video shared on social media.
Video shot by broadcaster France 24 showed Ligodi being dragged into a police car by several armed officers.
RFI condemned the use of force. It said that Ligodi was aggressively questioned in a police van before being thrown from the vehicle while it was moving.
The police, who had banned the march citing concerns about the coronavirus...
JAKARTA, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Indonesian navy has increased patrols around its Natuna islands in the South China Sea after Chinese and U.S. vessels were detected nearby in international waters, despite saying there were no disturbance from the vessels, a navy official said on Thursday.
Five navy vessels, assisted by an air patrol, have been deployed in North Natuna Sea to secure the area, Indonesian Navy western fleet commander Arsyad Abdullah told reporters.
"The Navy's position on the North Natuna Sea is very firm in protecting national interests within the Indonesian jurisdiction in accordance with national law and international law that have been ratified so that there is no tolerance for any violations in the North Natuna Sea," Arsyad said.
In 2017, Indonesia renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea, as part of a push back against China's maritime territorial ambitions.
The coronation of new champions Emma Raducanu and Daniil Medvedev left tennis fans salivating at the prospect of what is to come as the curtain dropped on Grand...Sep 13 2021
LONDON, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Britain is to begin replacing or scrapping European Union regulations that were copied into British law before the country's exit from the bloc, Brexit minister David Frost said on Thursday.
To avoid uncertainty and confusion as Britain untangled itself from the EU after 40 years, the government automatically carried thousands of EU laws and regulations into British law so that they would still apply after Brexit.
"We now have the opportunity to do things differently," Frost said in a statement.
Earlier he told parliament's upper chamber, the House of Lords: "I want to be clear, our intention is eventually to amend, to replace or to repeal all that retained EU law that is not right for the UK."
Frost cited data rights, rules on genetically modified organisms, clinical trials and port services as examples of areas where the government planned to move away from EU regulations.
The government also said it planned to replace...
WASHINGTON, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has ordered a sweeping review of the ethics rules governing financial holdings and dealings by senior officials at the U.S. central bank, a Fed spokesperson said on Thursday.
Powell ordered the review late last week, the spokesperson said in an emailed statement, following recent reports that two of the Fed system's 12 regional reserve bank presidents had been active investors during 2020, a notably volatile year for asset prices as the country battled the COVID-19 pandemic.Those revelations, originally reported by the Wall Street Journal, prompted senior U.S. lawmakers - including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts - to demand more stringent restrictions on such activities. read more
"Because the trust of the American people is essential for the Federal Reserve to effectively carry out our important mission, Chair Powell late last week directed Board staff to take a fresh and comprehensive...
SHENZHEN, China, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Wu Lei says his small construction company in central China has accepted commercial paper from property developer Evergrande (3333.HK) as payment for two years but with that paper's value now in doubt, his firm is on the verge of collapse.
China Evergrande Group, saddled with more than $300 billion in total liabilities equivalent to 2% of China's GDP, is in the throes of a liquidity crisis that has it scrambling to raise funds to pay its many lenders and suppliers.
Wu, 35, was one of around a hundred protesters who descended on the headquarters of the country's No. 2 real estate developer in Shenzhen this week desperately seeking assurances of payment.
"We were working for Evergrande, so our suppliers trusted us with the materials without us paying upfront. Now they're suing me, courts have frozen my property and I've sold my car. And I still have employees who need to be paid," he said.
The plight of Wu and many...
MOSCOW, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Low wages and rising prices are crucial issues for Russians at parliamentary elections this week, but maintaining financial stability matters more to the Kremlin than driving growth, economists say, with inflation a lingering concern.
The Sept. 17-19 election, the last major vote before a presidential poll in 2024, comes as Russia is recovering from its worst economic downturn in more than a decade, the result of the COVID-19 pandemic and low prices for oil, its major export.
With vaccinations underway and commodity prices recovering this year, the economy is growing faster than previously expected, expanding 10.3% year-on-year in the second quarter.
Inflation has remained stubbornly high despite five interest rate hikes this year, reaching an annual 6.84% in mid-September.
The central bank's most recent key rate increase, by 25 basis points to 6.75%, was last week.
Higher prices are a major concern for voters: Oxford...
WASHINGTON/CANBERRA, Sept 16 (Reuters) - China on Thursday denounced a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia, saying such partnerships should not target third countries and warning of an intensified arms race in the region.
Under the arrangement, dubbed AUKUS, the United States and Britain will provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.
France, which loses its own submarine deal with Australia, called the plans brutal and unpredictable.
The United States and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China's growing power and influence, particularly its military buildup, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.
U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not mention China by name in the joint announcement and senior Biden administration officials, who...
BRUSSELS, Sept 16 (Reuters) - The European Union set out a formal strategy on Thursday to boost its presence in the Indo-Pacific and counter China's rising power, pledging to seek a trade deal with Taiwan and to deploy more ships to keep open sea routes.
The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell insisted the strategy was also open to China, particularly in areas such as climate change, but diplomats told Reuters that deeper ties with India, Japan, Australia and Taiwan were aimed at limiting Beijing's power.
Borrell also said Wednesday's agreement between the United States, Australia and Britain to establish a security partnership for the Indo-Pacific, in which the EU was not consulted, showed the need for a more assertive foreign policy.
He said the EU was eager to work with Britain on security but that London had shown no interest since it left the bloc, expressing regret that Australia had cancelled a $40 billion submarine deal with France. read more...
BRUSSELS, Sept 16 (Reuters) - The European Union set out a formal strategy on Thursday to increase its presence in the Indo-Pacific and counter China's rising power, although Australia's decision to cancel an arms contract with France may complicate cooperation. L1N2QI0R7 read more
Here are the main focus areas of the EU's strategy:
- TRADE: The EU will work to finalise trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, seek a deal with India and strengthen stronger ties with countries where it already has a trade deal, such as South Korea. The EU will also pursue a trade and investment agreement with Taiwan.
- CLIMATE CHANGE: The EU aims to help the transition towards green energy in the Indo-Pacific region, making renewable hydrogen a priority.
- OCEANS: Promising a greater diplomatic presence, the EU aims to help uphold the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to prevent overfishing in the region, offering expertise in protecting marine areas,...
TOKYO, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Japan's exports extended double-digit gains in August, led by strong shipments of chip manufacturing equipment, although the pace of growth weakened as COVID-19 hit key Asian supply chains and slowed factory production.
The trade growth is unlikely to dispel worries about the outlook for Japan's economy, which has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels after taking an enormous hit from a collapse in global trade in the first quarter of 2020.
Exports rose 26.2% in August compared with the same month a year earlier, the Ministry of Finance said on Thursday, marking the sixth straight month of double-digit growth as strong demand for chip-making equipment offset slowing U.S and European Union-bound shipments of cars.
However, the growth was slower than the 34.0% expected by economists in a Reuters poll and the 37.0% advance in the previous month.
"Exports have been driving the economy. The recovery scenario for Japan's economy...
ROME, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Italy is poised to become the first country in Europe to make it obligatory for all workers to have a COVID-19 "Green Pass", with the cabinet due to approve the measure at a meeting later on Thursday, officials said.
The pass is a digital or paper certificate showing someone has received at least one vaccine dose, tested negative or recently recovered from the disease.
It was originally conceived to ease travel among European Union states, but Prime Minister Mario Draghi's broad, unity government has rapidly extended its use in an effort to persuade more people to be inoculated and blunt the spread of the virus.
While some European countries have ordered their health workers to get vaccines, none have made the Green Pass mandatory for all employees, making Italy a test case for the continent.
There have been sporadic protests in recent weeks against the growing pressure to get a jab, but most political parties as well as the...
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Malaysia said on Thursday audit firm KPMG has agreed to pay a 333 million ringgit ($80.11 million) settlement to resolve all claims related to their fiduciary duties on auditing of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) accounts from 2010 to 2012.
The finance ministry said in a statement that the settlement will conclude a lawsuit filed against the auditor in July, and that KPMG will expedite the payment.
KPMG confirmed to Reuters in an email that a settlement has been reached in the claim filed against a number of defendants including some partners of the audit firm.
"This settlement represents a collective agreement by all the parties, including the Malaysian government," it said.
The outcome, it said, will enable all involved to "move forward and focus on other important business, health and economic issues", and for the firm to focus on building public trust.
The finance ministry said the settlement was valued at...
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