PARIS, August 24 -- Donald Trump landed in France with First Lady Melania for the G7 summit Saturday, after taking a swipe at fellow leaders, calling them "friends of mine, for the most part" but not in "100 percent of the cases".
The president threw shade at some of America's closest partners on Friday evening, mere hours before he'd see them in Biarritz at the Group of Seven summit. He threatened to tax French 'like they've never seen before' and characterized world leaders attending the event as 'friends for the most part' in front of Marine One. 'We're going to France. We'll have a good few days. I think it will be very productive, seeing a lot of leaders who are friends of mine, for the most part,' he said of his trip, smirking as he added, "Wouldn't say in 100 percent of the cases, but for the most part." He did not say which leaders were getting under his skin, but Trump offered several hints in the comments he delivered outside the White House before he left for Europe with first lady Melania. She arrived into Biarritz wearing a yellow dress with pink stiletto heels and sunglasses. The first lady had departed Washington wearing a Chanel jacket, white pants and a black top. Trump harped on France's digital tax, which he said U.S. tech companies don't deserve. He noted that he's 'not the biggest fan of the tech companies,' which he again accused them of interfering in his election.
Yet, he said, their regulation should be up to the United States, and not foreign countries like France. "I don't like what France did. They put a digital tax on our tech companies," he said. "Those are great American companies, and frankly, I don't want France going out and taxing our companies, very unfair." He cautioned French President Emmanuel Macron against moving ahead with the action that could spark a protracted trade war with the United States. It is understood the two world leaders will have an unscheduled lunch together Saturday. "If they do that, we'll be taxing their wine, or doing something else. We'll be taxing their wine, like they've never seen before," Trump promised. Whether he meant for the earlier jab about his 'friends' in the global community to land on Macron or another leader he'll be seeing like German Chancellor Angela Merkel was unclear.
STUTTGART, August 24 -- Elon Musk has talked about making an electric Tesla Van for a while, Volkswagen has teased the return of its iconic bus as an EV.
But Mercedes-Benz beat everybody to the punch in this critical segment with the 2020 Mercedes-Benz EQV—an electric van that seats up to eight and runs a claimed range of over 200 miles. At least in Europe. Mercedes-Benz showed off a “concept” version of the EQV previously, but it was rather obviously very close to production-ready. That’s backed up now that we have the real deal just in time for this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show next month.
The press release only talks about the public charging network services in Europe, so it may be unlikely we’ll be getting this electron-powered van Stateside, but you never know. That said, the EQV has a 90 kWh battery pack centrally mounted under the floor of the van, offering a claimed preliminary range estimate of 405 km, or roughly 250 miles on a single charge. The van is driven by a single motor on the front axle with an output of 150 kw, or 204 horsepower, and 362 nm of torque, or just about 267 lb-ft. On a 110 kw public DC rapid charger, the Mercedes claims the EQV can charge from 10 to 80 percent of its battery capacity in around 45 minutes. On an AC charger, like a standard public parking charger or using the Mercedes-Benz Wallbox Home 11 kW charger that can be installed in your house, the battery should charge in less than 10 hours. The EQV picks up a little bit of the exterior design language of the EQC crossover, and inside it gets some rose gold accent touches and adaptable seating with optional bench seats, which means you can shove up to eight people in this thing. The EQV is nice and acceptable because it’s just an electric version of the regular Mercedes-Benz van, so it’s very practical. EVs do not all need to be fancy! Just zoom around town without contributing to localized pollution! And now it can. In Europe.
LONDON, August 24 -- The world’s first solar farm to power a railway line directly is due to plug into the track near Aldershot, paving the way for solar-powered trains.
From Friday, about 100 solar panels at the trackside site will supply renewable electricity to power the signalling and lights on Network Rail’s Wessex route. The 30kW pilot scheme could pave the way for a larger project capable of directly powering the trains that use this route from next year. The solar breakthrough comes as Network Rail plans to spend billions of pounds electrifying rail lines to avoid running trains on diesel. This could help reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and costs. Solar panels are already used to power the operations of train stations, including Blackfriars in central London. But the Aldershot project is the first time a solar array will bypass the electricity grid to plug directly into a railway’s “traction” system.
Network Rail hopes to use the scheme, developed by the charity 10:10 Climate Action and Imperial College London, to solar-charge its rail lines across the country. Stuart Kistruck, a director for Network Rail’s Wessex route, said: “We have ambitions to roll this technology out further across the network should this demonstrator project prove successful, so we can deliver a greener, better railway for our passengers and the wider public.” The research team behind the project, called Riding Sunbeams, estimates that solar could power 20% of the Merseyrail network in Liverpool, as well as 15% of commuter routes in Kent, Sussex and Wessex. There is also scope for solar trams in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham, London and Manchester, according to the team. The researchers began work on the plans over two years ago to discover whether bypassing the electricity grid could make solar power a more efficient energy source for trains. Innovate UK awarded the project funding from the Department of Transport after it proved that connecting solar power directly to rail, tube and tram networks could help meet a significant share of their electricity needs.
For an apparently abandoned village, Doel certainly seems to have a life, and it’s not just tourists. Despite many inhabitants taking up offers of cash premiums and selling voluntarily around 2000, Doel still has residents who have endured, residents who are once again legally allowed to stay there.
“Court bailiffs appearing at doors used to be a fairly normal occurrence; and so was dealing with vandalism because the municipality wouldn’t provide the appropriate measures to help,” said Brian Waterschoot. Waterschoot is a member of Doel2020, a group responsible for promoting and representing the village through dialogue discussions about its future. “Looting, arson; these were all things that Doel regularly had to deal with, with little done to prevent them from happening,” he explained. While there might not be many of them, the village’s few remaining inhabitants have a certain pride in their houses. As a result, there is a surreal contrast in the village between quaint homes and buildings left exposed to the elements and the whims of vandals. “We settled with the authorities to stop further deterioration of buildings and vandalism by allowing people to live there. Metal plates have been installed to prevent access to abandoned houses, and a barrier that requires a Belgian ID card has been set up on the main road. People now feel a bit safer,” said Waterschoot. There are many buildings that could be habitable or that could be assigned a new function with a minimum of effort, he added. “The current situation is that we’re just trying to live in relative peace. Everyone has different reasons for being in the area, but we all share a common concern,” said Waterschoot. That concern is crystal-clear: What comes next?
The future of Doel
While it has existed in a state of administrative deadlock for years, progress is being made on the issue of Doel with a view towards the long term. After years of uncertainty, some things have changed for the better. One important reason for this is the “complex project”, which aims to create a framework to be implemented by 2030. This is the first opportunity we’ve had in years to sit together and discuss Doel, said Waterschoot. In May 2019, the Flemish government announced that it had selected the so-called ninth alternative for the expansion of the port of Antwerp, which combines a limited new dock that connects to the existing Deurganck dock with new container capacity via a more compact building strategy. In this scenario, Doel is safe, said Waterschoot. The future of Doel and the form the village can take are now the things that need to be researched carefully. Doel can never become the village it once was but the potential is enormous, explained Waterschoot. Its location close to the River Schelde, the port, the history of the village and the historic buildings that are left are all important features which a future Doel could be proud of, he added. One further plan for the future of Doel is a project being developed by the architects of the University of Leuven. The students have prepared detailed repair schedules for three valuable historic buildings in the derelict village. In this way, the students hope to warm the government and the people from the neighborhood to the idea of the reconstruction of the village.
Another question that is yet to be answered is what would be done with the destroyed buildings. “In a way, it could make sense to keep some of these buildings in their current state, as they indeed show the impact of a government failing to act,” said Waterschoot. This decision may have given a reprieve to the people of Doel, but what happens next remains unknown. For now, the future of the village is similar to its past, uncertain, hopeful and well supported by a few loyal residents refusing to give it up.
LONDON, August 20 -- Asking prices for London homes showed their first annual increase since 2017 this month, as the Brexit-battered market started to show signs of life.
New seller prices were up 1.3 per cent from a year earlier, property website Rightmove Plc said in a report published Monday. They eased just 0.1 per cent on the month, the smallest decline for any August since 2006. Rightmove said a shortage of supply is helping to underpin prices, with the number of new sellers down almost 11 per cent on the year. Meanwhile, sales agreements jumped in what is normally a slow month, suggesting buyers and sellers alike are now taking the plunge after years of waiting for Brexit to be resolved. “It’s been three years since the vote and Brexit fatigue has kicked in,” Chris Osmond, sales director at London-based estate agent JOHNS&CO, said in a comment accompanying the report. “After all, life goes on and you can only put plans on hold for so long. We’ve also seen the number of vendors wanting to cash in on long-held investments increase.”
August also saw the largest number of sales nationwide in four years. Rightmove Director Miles Shipside said that uncertainty ahead of the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline had potentially encouraged homeowners to sell earlier in the year than normal. Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid is mulling stamp duty reforms for U.K. home sellers as part of a budget due later this year, he told The Times in an interview published Saturday. While the newspaper reported that tax burden would be shifted from home buyers to sellers to give larger tax bill for those who have benefited from rising property prices, Javid later said he won’t support that in a tweet. Nevertheless, “we need bold measures on housing,” he said. The property market has struggled in the recent years, with the prospect of Britain leaving the European Union weighing on prices. London has been particularly badly affected. A separate report by Acadata found house prices in the capital barely rose in the year through June, with several areas losing more than 10%. Across the country, the picture is mixed. Asking prices were lower than a year earlier in the southeast and the southwest, while northern England, Scotland and Wales -- regions where house prices are cheaper on average -- showed solid increases, according to Rightmove.
BERN, August 19 -- Two fighters from Switzerland’s Air Force escorted a plane belonging to the Rossiya Airlines special air carrier en route from Moscow to Marseille for several minutes.
On board the Ilyushin-96 liner, were members of the Russian delegation going to France for talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French leader Emmanuel Macron, including Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov, along with a group of journalists. When the plane entered Switzerland’s airspace, two fighters approached it, one on each side at an altitude of 10.6 kilometers. The fighters took turns to flying close to the airliner, at certain moments hovering just several meters away from the liner’s wings and escorted it across Swiss airspace for some time to the border with France, where they turned away. Swiss Air Force jets have approached and escorted Rossiya Airlines aircraft many times in the past.
ROTTERDAM, August 19 -- The Maastunnel in Rotterdam reopened again in both directions after two years of renovations.
During the work, the tunnel was closed in the direction of Rotterdam-Zuid. Since 6:00 a.m. on Monday morning, traffic can fully use the tunnel again, Dutch media reported. The renovation to the tunnel started in July 2017. In the two years that followed, concrete rot was dealt with on the roadways and the floor beneath, and the technology in the tunnel was updated so that it meets the latest safety requirements. The two sides of the tunnel were tackled in turns. One of them always had to be open in a northerly direction, in order to keep the city center and Erasmus MC accessible. The Maastunnel has been connecting the banks of the Nieuwe Maas for some 75 years and is the Netherlands oldest tunnel. The renovations on the tunnel is not yet complete. From December on the Maastunnel will be temporarily closed for pedestrians and cyclists.
COPENHAGEN, August 15 -- Shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk (MAERSKb.CO) on Thursday posted second-quarter profit above expectations and reaffirmed its full-year guidance.
But Maersk also warned a trade war between the United States and China could hurt the container sector. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) totalled $1.36 billion (1.13 billion pounds), topping the $1.24 billion forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll. Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, said it still expects EBITDA for the full year to total $5 billion.
LONDON, August 15 -- Parliament will block a no-deal Brexit if unelected people behind Prime Minister Boris Johnson try to wrench Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31 without agreement, former finance minister Philip Hammond (pictured) said on Wednesday.
The United Kingdom is heading towards a constitutional crisis at home and a showdown with the EU as Johnson has vowed to leave the bloc in 77 days time without a deal unless it agrees to renegotiate a Brexit divorce. After more than three years of Brexit dominating EU affairs, the bloc has repeatedly refused to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement which includes an Irish border insurance policy that Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, agreed in November. Hammond, who served as May’s finance minister for three years, said unelected people in Johnson’s Downing Street office were setting London on an “inevitable” course towards a no-deal Brexit by demanding the backstop be dropped. “The people behind this know that that means that there will be no deal,” Hammond told the BBC. “Parliament is clearly opposed to a no-deal exit, and the prime minister must respect that.” The former minister’s first public intervention since resigning indicates the determination of a group of influential lawmakers to thwart Johnson if he goes for a no-deal Brexit. Hammond said he was confident parliament, where a majority oppose a no-deal Brexit, would find a way to block that outcome.
It is, however, unclear if lawmakers have the unity or power to use the 800-year-old heart of British democracy to prevent a no-deal Brexit on 31 October – likely to be the United Kingdom’s most consequential move since World War Two. Opponents of no deal say it would be a disaster for what was once one of the West’s most stable democracies. A disorderly divorce, they say, would hurt global growth, send shock waves through financial markets and weaken London’s claim to be the world’s preeminent financial center. Brexit supporters say there may be short-term disruption from a no-deal exit but that the economy will thrive if cut free from what they cast as a doomed experiment in integration that has led to Europe falling behind China and the United States. Heading towards one of the biggest constitutional crises in at least a century, Britain’s elite are quarreling over how, when and even if the result of the shock 2016 referendum will be implemented. Part of the problem is that Britain’s constitution, once touted as a global model, is uncodified and vague. It relies on precedent, but there is little for Brexit. The House of Commons speaker John Bercow told an audience in Scotland that lawmakers could prevent a no-deal Brexit and that he would fight any attempt to prorogue, or suspend, parliament “with every bone in my body”. “We cannot have a situation in which parliament is shut down – we are a democratic society,” the Telegraph quoted Bercow as saying at an event on the sidelines of the Edinburgh Festival. “And parliament will be heard and nobody is going to get away, as far as I am concerned, with stopping that happening,” added the 56-year-old who says he voted ‘Remain’ in the 2016 Brexit referendum. Johnson, who replaced May after she failed three times to get her Brexit deal through parliament, has refused to rule out proroguing the House of Commons and Brexit supporters have vociferously encouraged him to do so if necessary.
Hammond said the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum did not tout no deal as a likely option, so to leave under those conditions would be a betrayal of the referendum that would reduce the nation to an “inward-looking little England”. The United Kingdom, he said, would be under threat with referendums likely on Scottish independence and a united Ireland. Johnson’s top adviser, Dominic Cummings, has reportedly said he could delay calling a general election until after Oct. 31, even if he lost a no confidence motion, allowing for a no-deal Brexit while parliament is dissolved. Clearly with him in mind, Hammond said there were people “who are pulling the strings in Downing Street, those who are setting the strategy.”
MOSCOW, August 13 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to pay a visit to France on August 19 to discuss Ukraine with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Not only the situation in Ukraine is on the agenda. Also the future work in the Normandy format (Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany) will be addressed, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "Indeed, a working visit of the Russian president to France on August 19 is being prepared, this will be a one-day visit," Peskov said. The leaders will focus on bilateral cooperation and economic ties, international issues, namely Ukraine, as well as the prospects of continuing work in the Normandy format, he noted. Peskov has not ruled out that the sides could discuss the repatriation of the remains of a French general, Charles-Etienne Gudin de La Sablonniere, who was killed on the battlefield near Smolensk in 1812. His remains were unearthed this July by a team of archaeologists. "Certainly, if our French vis-a-vis consider it necessary to bring up this issue, I’m sure this issue will be discussed," Peskov said, stressing that Putin and Macron usually have a frank discussion on various issues. The Normandy format negotiations for ironing out the Donbass crisis have been underway since June 2014. The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany gathered in Normandy for the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of D-Day (the landing of allied troops on the beaches of Normandy in 1944) to discuss the settlement of the conflict in Donbass for the first time. Since then, a number of phone conversations and high-level meetings have taken place as well as contacts between the foreign ministers.