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Britain faces pre-Brexit budget battle

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Britain’s finance minister will try to navigate a political minefield Monday when he unveils a budget that could be scuppered by the final terms of Brexit next year.

Philip Hammond’s appearance in parliament was moved forward a month to give lawmakers a chance to consider it quickly and then focus on legislation needed to get Britain safely out of the European Union in March.

London and Brussels remain locked in negotiations and it is still uncertain whether Prime Minister Theresa May can get an eventual deal with the EU backed by lawmakers.
The spending plan that emerges from Hammond’s red briefcase will be studied warily by May’s ruling coalition partners from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.
The small group is a kingmaker that could yet sink both the draft agreement with Brussels and May’s government in protest over the emerging outlines of a Brexit deal.

This level of uncertainty forced Hammond to admit Sunday that “frankly, we’d need to have a new budget that sets out a different strategy” should negotiations fail to salvage an agreement between all sides.

He also pledged to keep “fiscal buffers” in place to handle any scenario.

But Hammond argues that a workable solution is both possible and likely to bring a “Brexit dividend” that gives a boost to lagging economic growth.

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Global counterfeit drugs market hits $200b

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The counterfeit drug market is worth around $200 billion worldwide annually, the World Health Organisation (WHO) report has said. It lamented that it has become the most lucrative trade of illegally copied goods with devastating impact on innocent users.

Almost half the fake and low-quality medicines reported to the WHO between 2013 and 2017 were found to be in sub-Saharan Africa, said the report, also backed by Interpol and the Institute for Security Studies.

“Counterfeiters prey on poorer countries more than their richer counterparts, with up to 30 times greater penetration of fakes in the supply chain,” said the report.

Substandard or fake anti-malarials cause the deaths of between 64,000 and 158,000 people per year in sub-Saharan Africa, the report said.

When Moustapha Dieng came down with stomach pains one day last month he did the sensible thing and went to a doctor in his hometown of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital.

The doctor prescribed a malaria treatment but the medicine cost too much for Dieng, a 30-year-old tailor, so he went to an unlicensed street vendor for pills on the cheap.

“It was too expensive at the pharmacy. I was forced to buy street drugs as they are less expensive,” he said.

Within days he was hospitalised – sickened by the very drugs that were supposed to cure him.

Tens of thousands of people in Africa die each year because of fake and counterfeit medication, an E.U.-funded report released on Tuesday said. The drugs are mainly made in China but also in India, Paraguay, Pakistan and the United Kingdom.

Nigeria said more than 80 children were killed in 2009 by a teething syrup tainted with a chemical normally used in engine coolant and blamed for causing kidney failure.

For Dieng, the cost can be measured in more than simple suffering. The night in hospital cost him more than double what he would have paid had he bought the drugs the doctor ordered.

“After taking those drugs, the provenance of which we don’t know, he came back with new symptoms … All this had aggravated his condition,” said nurse Jules Raesse, who treated Dieng when he stayed at the clinic last month.

Fake drugs also threaten a thriving pharmaceutical sector in several African countries.

That has helped prompt Ivory Coast – where fake drugs were also sold openly – to crack down on the trade, estimated at $30 billion by Reuters last year.

Ivorian authorities said last month they had seized almost 400 tons of fake medicine over the past two years.

Able Ekissi, an inspector at the health ministry, told Reuters the seized goods, had they been sold to consumers, would have represented a loss to the legitimate pharmaceutical industry of more than $170 million.

“They are reputed to be cheaper, but at best they are ineffective and at worst toxic,” Abderrahmane Chakibi, Managing Director of French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi’s sub-Saharan Africa branch.

But in Ivory Coast, many cannot afford to shop in pharmacies, which often only stock expensive drugs imported from France, rather than cheaper generics from places like India.

“When you have no means you are forced to go out onto the street,” said Barakissa Cherik, a pharmacist in Ivory Coast’s lagoon-side commercial capital Abidjan.

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Donald Trump loses out in mid-term elections

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Donald Trump and the Republican party were dealt a decisive blow after the Democratic Party regained control of the House after a resounding victory at the mid-term elections. 

President of the United States, Donald Trump

Democratic majority in the lower chamber for the first time in eight years will restrict his ability to steer his programme through Congress.

But Mr. Trump’s Republicans are set to strengthen their grip on the Senate.
Tuesday’s vote was seen as a referendum on a polarising president, even though he is not up for re-election till 2020.
The election confirms a historical trend for the party that is not in the White House to make gains in the mid-terms.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi – who is set to become speaker, a position she held from 2007 to 2011 – told cheering supporters in Washington: “Thanks to you, tomorrow will be a new day in America.”

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Oil prices soar despite US sanctions on Iran

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Oil futures climbed yesterday, finding solid footing on higher ground as U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil take hold, though the Trump administration’s decision to grant waivers to eight buyers of the country’s crude has helped to limit the price gains.

 US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before departing the White House for the G7 summit in Washington, DC, on June 8, 2018. 

The rebound sees crude attempting to bounce back from a sharp October selloff that pushed both the global and U.S. benchmarks into correction territory.

Meanwhile, natural-gas futures jumped by more than seven percent yesterday dealings, buoyed by expectations that cold weather will lead to a significant lift in demand.

West Texas Intermediate crude for December CLZ8, +0.29 percent rose 56 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $63.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. January Brent crude LCOF9, +0.44 percent the global benchmark, rose $1.05, or 1.4 percent, to $73.88 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange.

The renewed sanctions took effect yesterday, but the Trump administration late last week announced it granted waivers to eight countries, which it identified yesterday as China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey, who can temporarily continue importing Iranian crude.

Other countries not granted the waivers, but that are significant importers of Iranian oil include France, Spain and the United Arab Emirates, said James Williams, an energy economist at WTRG Economics.

“The important thing to remember is that those waivers are not 100 percent but rather some unknown reduction. Some will go to zero eventually,” he said.

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Sexually abused maid executed in Saudi Arabia for killing employer in self-defense

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Saudi Arabia has executed an Indonesian immigrant, Tuti Tursilawati, without first informing the Indonesian Government, according to Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Tuti Tursilawati was sentenced to death in 2011 for murdering her employer in Saudi Arabia, out of self-defense. According to Tuti, she killed him because she was being sexually abused. She was sentenced to death in 2011 and was executed on the 29th of October, 2018.

Monday’s execution marks the fourth time Saudi Arabia has failed to give notice to the Indonesia Minister of foreign affairs, before carrying out a death penalty on an Indonesian migrant worker in the past three years.

This comes as Saudi Arabia continues to face calls to explain the death of a prominent journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

The death penalty was carried out despite appeals against the death sentence by the Indonesian Government both in court and in a letter to the Saudi Arabian King.

Currently, there are 18 Indonesian migrant workers on death row in Saudi Arabia.

In March, an Indonesian migrant worker, Muhammad Zaini Misrin, was executed for killing his employer, and two other Indonesian female domestic help, Siti Zaenab, and Karni, were beheaded in April 2015.

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