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Thousands of police descend on Baltimore to enforce curfew after riots

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Thousands of police descend on Baltimore to enforce curfew after riots
Reuters / Phuket Gazette


PHUKET: As night falls on Baltimore on Tuesday, thousands of police and National Guard troops fanned out to enforce a new curfew and prevent further violence as the mayor fended off criticism that she responded sluggishly to a night of rioting, looting and fires.

More than 3,000 police from Maryland, New Jersey and the District of Columbia, and National Guard members in helmets, took up posts in front of businesses and hospitals in Baltimore a day after the worst rioting in the United States in years.

Shops were looted, buildings burned to the ground, 20 officers injured and police arrested more than 250 people in the violence that erupted following Monday’s funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died in a hospital on April 19 a week after sustaining injuries in police custody.

The death of Freddie Gray gave new energy to the public outcry that flared last year after police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri; New York City and elsewhere.

For nearly a week after Gray died from a spinal injury, protests in Baltimore had been peaceful and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she acted cautiously on Monday because she wanted to avoid a heavy-handed response that would incite more violence.

“It’s a very delicate balancing act, when we have to make sure that we’re managing but not increasing and escalating the problem,” said Rawlings-Blake, 45, an African-American and Democrat who grew up in the city 40 miles (64 km) from Washington, D.C.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said he had called Rawlings-Blake repeatedly Monday but that she held off requesting the National Guard until three hours after looting started.

“The mayor of Baltimore had the city of Baltimore police on the ground. Quite frankly, they were overwhelmed. All the rest of the (boots) on the ground came from us,” the Republican governor said the day after declaring a state of emergency in the largely black city.

Rawlings-Blake imposed a one-week curfew but stressed the need to respond in a way that did not incite more violence.

Bars and restaurants were shutting down early since they did not expect clients due to the 10 p.m. curfew for all adults, which will last the rest of the week.

“We have no exceptions other than for medical or coming and going from work. We will be stopping people who are out after curfew. We are taking that seriously. We don’t want to engage in any forceful action,” Police Commissioner Anthony Batts told reporters.

Peaceful protesters marched through some Baltimore streets on Tuesday, but there was no sign of the rock- and brick-throwing that set off a night of looting and arson that burned 19 buildings and left one person in critical condition.

“They tore the city down last night, and today we’re trying to rebuild it again,” said Perry Hopkins, who formed a line of men from the community separating police from the crowd in the afternoon.

Volunteers armed with brooms cleaned up debris from burned out and looted buildings in the city of 620,000 people, where schools, many businesses and some government offices closed until security improved.

The security crisis disrupted the city’s daily routines. In a rare move, the Major League Baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox will be played as scheduled Wednesday but closed to the public.

Acrid smoke hung over the streets and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it was sending two teams to Baltimore to investigate the multiple blazes on Monday night.

Gray was arrested on April 12 while running from officers. He was taken to the police station in a van, with no seat restraint and suffered a spinal injury.

Six officers have been suspended, and the U.S. Justice Department is investigating possible civil rights violations.

DELICATE BALANCING ACT

“There’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday,” said President Barack Obama, who said he spoke to the governor and the mayor. “It is counterproductive.”

Obama also said at a news conference the problems in places such as Baltimore were not new and need to be addressed by everyone.

“We can’t just leave this to the police,” Obama said, adding that “we as a country have to do some soul searching. This is not new. It’s been going on for decades.”

Almost a quarter of people in Baltimore live below the poverty line and decayed, crime-ridden areas of the city inspired the gritty television police drama “The Wire.”

Monday’s ransacking of stores, pharmacies and a shopping mall and clashes with police in riot gear was reminiscent of rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 after authorities declined to indict a white police officer who shot dead an unarmed black teenager.

Police in Ferguson came under intense criticism last year for quickly adopting a militarized posture, using armored vehicles, showing heavy weapons and using tear gas.

Baltimore police Captain John Kowalczyk told reporters that the city had prepared for protests by teenagers on Monday. But as the violence increased, older people were involved.

“When we deployed our officers yesterday, we were deploying for a high school event,” Kowalczyk said. “I don’t think there’s anyone in the country that would expect us to deploy with automatic weapons and armored vehicles to an event with 13- 14- and 15-year-olds.”

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Economy

Local investor sentiment dampened by Brexit woes and slump in Chinese economy

The Thaiger

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Local investor sentiment dampened by Brexit woes and slump in Chinese economy | The Thaiger

The British pound fell today as investors fret over PM Boris Johnson’s chances of pushing his Brexit deal through the British parliament, while Asian markets were mostly down after data showed China’s economy expanded at its slowest pace in nearly three decades.

The pound rallied almost to US$1.30 yesterday following news that negotiators had hammered out an agreement that would avoid Britain leaving the EU without a divorce deal – a move many warn would be economically catastrophic. But the brief celebrations were soon tempered by the realisation that the British PM faces an uphill task in getting the deal past lawmakers, with opposition MPs and even some in his own Conservative party saying they won’t pass it.

Most importantly, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up Johnson’s government, said it was “unable to support these proposals”.

Forex traders sold sterling, pushing it back down below $1.29, and it extended losses in Asia. Focus is now on a crucial vote in London on the deal scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday).

“Much will depend on the PM’s ability to get some if not all DUP and (Scottish National Party) MPs onside, in addition to also getting the backing from the 21 ex-Conservative MPs he expelled from the party last month,” said National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril.

“Rejection of the deal might well see more political brinkmanship around a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, but the most likely scenario would be yet another extension of the 31 October Brexit date.”

Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, said whichever way the vote goes, “traders should prepare themselves for some severe volatility on Monday morning, with multiple big-figure moves a strong possibility”.

China growth slows again

Asian equity markets, meanwhile, were mostly lower after China said its economy expanded 6% in the third quarter, the slowest pace in 27 years, as leaders struggle to address weak domestic demand and the long-running US trade war.

The reading was a drop from the previous three months but in line with an AFP forecast and the government’s 6-6.5% target for the year.

While the National Bureau of Statistics said the economy “maintained overall stability”, it added that it “is under mounting downward pressure” from weakness at home and abroad.

Shanghai ended down 1.3% with Stephen Innes at AxiTrader saying traders were concerned the figures were not weak enough to prompt the Chinese central bank to embark on a big stimulus drive.

“With the People’s Bank of China, who arguably have plenty of policy ammunition to right the ship, probably unwilling to turn on the monetary taps, investors are taking risk off the table,” he said in a note.

Hong Kong was off 0.5% amid concern over the possibility of more violent protests over the weekend, while Sydney closed down 0.5 percent and Singapore eased 0.4%.

Seoul shed 0.8% and Wellington lost 0.7%, with Taipei and Manila also lower. But Tokyo closed 0.2 higher at a 10-month high, while Mumbai and Jakarta also edged up.

Hopes for the China-US trade talks were given a lift after Beijing’s commerce ministry said negotiators have “accelerated efforts” to hammer out details of last Friday’s mini-deal and were holding talks on moving on to the next phase of a wider agreement.

Donald Trump said Wednesday he hopes to sign the deal with President Xi Jinping at the APEC summit in Chile next month.

And the Turkish lira jumped more than 1% after Ankara said it would pause military operations in northern Syria for five days and US Vice President Mike Pence said Washington would not impose any fresh sanctions.

Key markets today…

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2857 from $1.2891 at 2050 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 86.48 pence from 86.31 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1122 from $1.1127

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.63 yen from 108.62 yen

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4% at 7,152.55

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.2% at 22,492.68 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.5% at 26,719.58 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.3% at 2,938.14 (close)

West Texas Intermediate: UP four cents at $53.97 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 22 cents at $59.69 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.1% at 27,025.88 (close)

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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Philippines

Powerful 6.4 earthquake kills five in the Philippines

May Taylor

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Powerful 6.4 earthquake kills five in the Philippines | The Thaiger

PHOTO: AFP

A strong 6.4 magnitude earthquake has struck the southern Philippines, killing five, including one child, destroying property and disrupting power supply. The death toll is expected to rise.

The powerful quake was felt across the Mindanao region, even causing a 3-storey shopping mall to burst into flames. Residents were evacuated and a child was killed when a house collapsed in the town of Datu Paglas.

AFP reports that the quake was 14 kilometres deep and followed by two aftershocks. The Philippines is part of the “Ring of Fire”, a zone of constant seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific.

Several injuries have been reported as a result of falling debris. The shopping mall that caught fire was evacuated when the quake struck, but it’s not yet known if there were still people inside as the fire took hold.

The mall was still on fire three hours later as nearly 100 firemen battled to put it out.

Residents on the coast in Davao fled to higher ground fearing a tsunami, even though a government seismologist reassured people there was no tsunami risk as the quake had occurred inland.

It’s understood that prisoners in the municipal jail in the town of Bansalan were also let out, but placed in handcuffs and held outside for the duration of the evacuation.

SOURCE: AFP

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World

Key ally rejects PM Johnson’s Brexit plan – Sterling sags

The Thaiger

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Key ally rejects PM Johnson’s Brexit plan – Sterling sags | The Thaiger

The British Pound tumbled again today after UK PM Boris Johnson’s key ally in parliament said it “could not support” his plans for a Brexit deal, throwing a spanner in the works – just as Britain and the EU were closing in on an agreement.

The comment caused an immediate reaction from this morning’s Asia Pacific markets.

After years of wrangling, the two sides said they were edging towards the basis for a treaty allowing Britain to avoid an economically catastrophic “no-deal” exit from the European Union.

With both teams working through the night, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there had been “good progress, and work is ongoing”, while France’s deputy foreign minister said Thursday a deal was “within reach but is not guaranteed”.

There had been optimism that a deal was in the offing, just two weeks before Britain is due to leave the bloc, as they worked towards a solution on the vexed question of British-ruled Northern Ireland.

But Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) dropped a bombshell hours before the start of a crunch EU summit Thursday, saying it cannot support the plan.

“As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity” on Value Added Tax, the DUP, which props up Johnson’s government, said in a statement on Twitter.

“We will continue to work with the Government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster had met Johnson several times this week to discuss the progress of talks and had described as “nonsense” previous reports that she was ready to give way.

The pound, which earlier in the day was hovering at five-month highs around $1.2877 sank to $1.2750 before edging back slightly, while it also lost ground to the euro.

The DUP are against any deal that would tie Northern Ireland to EU rules but cut the rest of the United Kingdom loose.

Markets react

In early trade, London’s FTSE added 0.1%, Paris was flat and Frankfurt eased 0.2%. In Asia, most markets were in the red, with traders unable to take advantage of weak US retail data that raised the chances of another Federal Reserve interest rate cut. Comments in the Fed’s Beige Book update on the economy also pointed to a slowdown.

Hong Kong added 0.7% but Shanghai finished 0.1% lower and Tokyo lost 0.1%.

Sydney sank 0.8%, Singapore shed 0.7% and Seoul retreated 0.2%t, with Wellington and Manila also off. There were gains in Taipei, Mumbai, Bangkok and Jakarta.

Speculation about a possible US rate cut provided support to higher-yielding currencies against the dollar, with the Australian dollar 0.6 percent up and the South Korean won 0.1 percent stronger. The Thai baht, the Mexican peso and the South African rand also posted healthy gains.

Oil prices fell after data pointed to a sharp rise in US stockpiles that reinforced worries about the impact on demand from the China-US trade war and the global economic slowdown.

Key markets today

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2784 from $1.2817 at 2100 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 86.65 pence from 86.33 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1081 from $1.1073

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.80 yen from 108.71 yen

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,175.09

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1% at 22,451.86 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.7% at 26,848.49 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1% at 2,977.33 (close)

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 56 cents at $52.80 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 55 cents at $58.87 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.1% at 27,001.98 (close)

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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