New Era Begins in Canada: Legal Recreational Marijuana

A new era begins in Canada Wednesday when it becomes only the second country to legalize recreational marijuana.

Although medicinal pot has been legal since 2001, Canada will join Uruguay as the only nation where customers can buy it in retail shops.

The first cannabis store opens at midnight Wednesday in Newfoundland, the country’s easternmost province.

Each of the 13 provinces will set its own rules for selling marijuana. Some will allow private shops while others will only sell it through government-run stores. But mail order sales will be permitted across all of Canada.

Only licensed growers can sell marijuana on the retail market. 

The federal minimum age for using marijuana is 18, but most provinces have set it at 19.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began the push to legalize marijuana across the country more than two years ago, in part, to shut down the black market and prevent underage use.

US to Open Trade Talks With Britain, EU, Japan

The White House has announced plans to negotiate separate trade deals with Britain, the European Union and Japan.

“We are committed to concluding these negotiations with timely and substantive results for American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Tuesday.

He added that the White House wanted to “address both tariff and non-tariff barriers and to achieve fairer and more balanced trade.”

As required by law, Lighthizer sent three separate letters to Congress announcing the intention to open trade talks.

He wrote that the negotiations with Britain would begin “as soon as it’s ready” after Britain’s expected exit from the European Union on March 29.

Lighthizer called the economic partnership between the U.S. and EU the “largest and most complex”in the world, noting the U.S. has a $151 billion trade deficit with the EU

Writing about Japan, Lighthizer said it is “an important but still often underperforming market for U.S. exporters of goods,” noting that Washington also has a large trade deficit with Tokyo.

The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Oregon’s Ron Wyden, cautioned the administration against making what he called “quick, partial deals.” 

“The administration must take the time to tackle trade barriers comprehensively, including using this opportunity to set a high bar in areas like labor rights, environmental protection and digital trade,” he said.

President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on European steel and aluminum exports earlier this year and has threatened more tariffs on cars as a reaction to what he said were unfair deals that put the U.S. at a disadvantage.

Cosmonaut Describes Aborted Soyuz Launch

Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin says the force he felt during a Soyuz emergency landing last week was like having a concrete block on his chest.

Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague spoke separately Tuesday about their frightening experience when an unknown mishap caused their Russian Soyuz to abort its mission 60 kilometers (37 miles) above Kazakhstan.

The spacecraft was on its way to the International Space Station when the emergency lights flashed in the cabin just minutes into the flight.

“There was no time to be nervous because we had to work,” Ovchinin told Russian television. “We had to go through the steps that the crew has to take and prepare for emergency landing … so that the crew is still functioning after landing.”

Ovchinin recalled being violently shaken from side by side as the crew cabin separated from the rocket, followed by a force seven times stronger then gravity as the cabin plunged through the atmosphere, followed by the shock of the parachutes yanking open.

Back home in Houston, Hague told the Associated Press, “We knew that if we wanted to be successful, we needed to stay calm and we needed to execute the procedures in front of us smoothly and efficiently as we could.”

Hague said he and Ovchinin were hanging upside down when the cabin landed back on Earth. They shook hands and cracked jokes.

Neither man was hurt, and an investigation is under way to find out why the rocket failed.

Hague said he is disappointed to be back home instead of walking in space, but he’s happy to be reunited with his wife and their two young sons, and is ready to fly again as soon as NASA gives him the word.

“What can you do? Sometimes you don’t get a vote,” Hague told the Associated Press. “You just try to celebrate the little gifts that you get, like walking the boys to school this morning.”

This was the first aborted Soyuz launch in more than 30 years.

The Russian spacecraft has been the only way to send replacement crews to the International Space Station since NASA retired the space shuttle fleet in 2011.

Two private U.S. companies — Boeing and SpaceX — are working on a new generation of shuttles.

Immigrant Caravan Organizer Held After Trump Threatens Honduras

The organizer of a migrant caravan from Honduras was detained Tuesday in Guatemala after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw funding and aid from Honduras if the flow of migrants north to the United States was not stopped.

Guatemalan police detained Bartolo Fuentes, a former member of the Honduran Congress, from the middle of a large crowd he and three other organizers had led from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, since Saturday, bound for Mexico.

The Honduran security ministry said Fuentes was detained because he “did not comply with Guatemalan immigration rules” and would be deported back to Honduras in the coming hours.

Up to 3,000 migrants, according to organizers’ estimates, crossed from Honduras into Guatemala on Monday on a trek northward, after a standoff with Guatemalan police in riot gear and warnings from Washington that migrants should not try to enter the United States illegally.

Guatemala’s government has not given official figures for how many migrants are in the group. 

Trump tweet

“The United States has strongly informed the President of Honduras that if the large Caravan of people heading to the U.S. is not stopped and brought back to Honduras, no more money or aid will be given to Honduras, effective immediately!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

It was Trump’s latest effort to demonstrate his administration’s tough stance on immigration.

The message was driven home by Vice President Mike Pence, who wrote in a tweet that he had spoken to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

“Delivered strong message from @POTUS: no more aid if caravan is not stopped. Told him U.S. will not tolerate this blatant disregard for our border & sovereignty,” Pence tweeted.

The move could further encourage Honduras to move closer to China because of what the Central American country sees as weak U.S. support, amid intensified efforts by Beijing to win recognition from Central American countries currently aligned with Taiwan.

Hernandez said last month that cuts in U.S. support for Central America would hinder efforts to stem illegal immigration. He welcomed China’s growing diplomatic presence in the region as an “opportunity.”

In an interview with Reuters, Hernandez lamented that prior U.S. commitments to step up investment in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador had been scaled back since Trump took office.

Honduras is one of a dwindling number of countries that still have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, an island nation off the Chinese coast that Beijing views as a renegade province.

Last week, Pence told Central American countries the United States was willing to help with economic development and investment if they did more to tackle mass migration, corruption and gang violence. Thousands of migrants have left the impoverished region in recent years.

Growing group

The current group making their way north plan to seek refugee status in Mexico or pass through to the United States, saying they are fleeing poverty and violence.

The group more than doubled in size from Saturday, when it set off from northern Honduras in what has been dubbed the “March of the Migrant,” an organizer said.

“What Trump says doesn’t interest us,” organizer Fuentes said in an interview shortly before his detention. “These people are fleeing. These people are not tourists.”

He was traveling with hordes of men, women and children, packs in hand, walking northward on a Guatemalan highway about 55 miles (89 km) from the border with Honduras.

Widespread violence and poverty prompt thousands of Central Americans, mainly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, to make the arduous journey north toward Mexico and the United States in search of a better life.

Guatemala said in a statement on Sunday that it did not promote or endorse “irregular migration.” Guatemalan police initially blocked migrants from reaching a customs booth, Reuters images showed.

Trump ran for president in 2016 on promises to toughen U.S. immigration policies and build a wall along the 2,000-mile (3,220-km) border with Mexico.

Illegal immigration is likely to be a top issue in Nov. 6 U.S. congressional elections, when Democrats are seen as having a good chance of gaining control of the House of Representatives from Trump’s fellow Republicans.

Egyptian President Urges Russia to Resume Flights to Resorts

Egypt’s president urged Russia on Tuesday to resume direct flights to Egyptian resorts as he discussed ways to bolster ties with Russian officials and lawmakers.

Moscow suspended the flights after a bomb planted by the Islamic State group brought a Russian passenger plane down over Sinai in October 2015, killing all 224 people on board. 

Flights between Moscow and Cairo resumed in April after Egyptian officials beefed up airport security. Talks about restoring direct air travel to Egypt’s Red Sea resorts have dragged on.

Addressing the Russian parliament’s upper house, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi emphasized that restoring the flights was essential for Egypt’s tourism industry.

Following meetings in Moscow with top Russian lawmakers and Cabinet ministers, el-Sissi met over dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi later in the day.

The two leaders have developed a close personal rapport and sought to expand bilateral ties, which have strengthened considerably over the past few years.

El-Sissi is on his fourth trip to Russia since taking office in 2014, and Putin visited Egypt in 2015 and 2017.

Egypt has signed deals to buy billions of dollars’ worth of Russian weapons, including fighter jets and assault helicopters. When Putin visited Cairo last December, officials signed a deal for Russia to build a nuclear power plant in Dabaa. 

Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, told reporters that the two presidents will discuss the implementation of the nuclear plant contract, as well as prospects for the resumption of flights to the Red Sea resorts and other issues.

He said that el-Sissi will be offered a presentation of Russian weapons, including those which Egypt has expressed interest in buying.

Ushakov noted that bilateral trade rose by 62 percent last year reaching $6.7 billion and continued to expand at a swift pace this year.

Russian grain exports currently account for about 70 percent of Egypt’s needs, he said

Ushakov added that Putin and el-Sissi will discuss international issues, focusing on the situation in Syria, Libya, Yemen and the Palestinian-Israeli settlement.

Following broader talks Wednesday, the two presidents are set to sign a comprehensive strategic partnership treaty that would further boost Russian-Egyptian ties.

 

                   

Turkish Official: Police Found Evidence of Khashoggi Slaying

Police searching the Saudi Consulate found evidence that Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi was killed there, a high-level Turkish official said Tuesday, and authorities appeared ready to also search the nearby residence of the consul general after the diplomat left the country.

The comment by the Turkish official to The Associated Press further intensified the pressure on Saudi Arabia to explain what happened to Khashoggi, who vanished Oct. 2 while visiting the consulate to pick up paperwork he need to get married.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Saudi Arabia to talk to King Salman and his son, the 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, about the fate of the journalist who wrote critically about the Saudis for The Washington Post.

While it was all smiles and handshakes in Riyadh, one prominent Republican senator said he believed that the crown prince, widely known as MBS, had Khashoggi “murdered.”

“This guy has got to go,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said of MBS while speaking on Fox News. “Saudi Arabia, if you’re listening, there are a lot of good people you can choose, but MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself.”

Saudi officials have called Turkish allegations that a team of 15 Saudi agents killed Khashoggi “baseless,” but U.S. media reports suggested that the kingdom may acknowledge the writer was killed at the consulate, perhaps as part of a botched interrogation.

The close U.S. ally is ruled entirely by the Al Saud monarchy, and all major decisions in the ultraconservative kingdom are made by the royal family.

Post Publisher and CEO Fred Ryan said the Saudi government “owes the Khashoggi family and the world a full and honest explanation of everything that happened to him,” noting that Tuesday marked two weeks since the disappearance of the 59-year-old journalist.

“The Saudi government can no longer remain silent, and it is essential that our own government and others push harder for the truth,” Ryan added.

​’Certain evidence’

The high-level Turkish official told the AP that police found “certain evidence” of Khashoggi’s slaying at the consulate, without elaborating. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing. 

Police planned a second search at the Saudi consul general’s home, as well as some of the country’s diplomatic vehicles, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. Leaked surveillance video showed diplomatic cars traveled to the consul general’s home shortly after Khashoggi went into the consulate. 

Consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi left Turkey on Tuesday afternoon, state media reported, just as police began putting up barricades around his official residence. Saudi Arabia did not immediately acknowledge he had left or offer a reason for his departure.

Earlier in the day, U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the “inviolability or immunity” of people or premises granted under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations “should be waived immediately.” That convention covers diplomatic immunity, as well as the idea that embassies and consulates sit on foreign soil in their host countries.

“Given there seems to be clear evidence that Mr. Khashoggi entered the consulate and has never been seen since, the onus is on the Saudi authorities to reveal what happened to him,” Bachelet said.

Turkey had wanted to search the consulate for days. Permission apparently came after a late Sunday night call between King Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Certain areas of the consulate were to remain off-limits, although officials would be able to inspect surveillance cameras, Turkish media reported.

Erdogan told journalists Tuesday that police sought traces of “toxic” materials and suggested parts of the consulate had been recently painted, without elaborating. 

In Riyadh, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir greeted Pompeo at the airport. The former CIA chief didn’t make any remarks to the media.

​’Strong and old allies’

Soon afterward, Pompeo arrived at a royal palace, where he thanked King Salman “for accepting my visit on behalf of President [Donald] Trump” before the two went into a closed-door meeting. Pompeo then met a smiling Prince Mohammed, the heir apparent to the throne of the world’s largest oil exporter.

“We are strong and old allies,” the prince told Pompeo. “We face our challenges together.” 

Pompeo was to have dinner Tuesday night with Prince Mohammed and was expected to fly to Turkey on Wednesday.

Trump previously warned of “severe punishment” for the kingdom if it was found to be involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance, which has spooked investors. 

Trump’s warning drew an angry response Sunday from Saudi Arabia and its state-linked media, including a suggestion that Riyadh could wield its oil production as a weapon. The U.S. president has been after King Salman and OPEC to boost production to drive down high oil prices, caused in part by the coming reimposition of oil sanctions on Iran.

On Monday, however, Trump offered a different theory after speaking by telephone with King Salman.

“It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers,” Trump said. “I mean, who knows? We’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.”

The New York Times and the Post have reported, citing anonymous sources, that Saudi officials may soon acknowledge Khashoggi’s slaying at the consulate but blame it on a botched intelligence operation.

That could, like Trump’s comments, seek to give the kingdom a way out of the global firestorm of criticism over Khashoggi’s fate.

“The effort behind the scenes is focused on avoiding a diplomatic crisis between the two countries and has succeeded in finding a pathway to de-escalate tensions,” said Ayham Kamel, the head of the Eurasia Group’s Mideast and North Africa division.

“Riyadh will have to provide some explanation of the journalist’s disappearance, but in a manner that distances the leadership from any claim that a decision was made at senior levels to assassinate the prominent journalist.”

UN Anti-Graft Body in Guatemala Says Visas Denied, Revoked

A U.N. commission investigating corruption in Guatemala said Tuesday that President Jimmy Morales’ government has denied or revoked visas for about a dozen of its personnel including staffers probing the president, his relatives and the ruling party.

The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala said in a statement that the Foreign Ministry notified it Monday that three current visas were withdrawn, eight were denied for officials and two were denied for family members.

Among those affected is Colombian lawyer Luis Fernando Orozco, who is investigating Morales over purported illegal campaign financing during the 2015 election.

Another is Cesar Rincon, also a Colombian lawyer, and the commission’s representative on a case against Morales’ son and brother over alleged falsification of documents to obtain government funds.

Rincon is also the lead investigator in the investigation against former President Otto Perez Molina, who was forced to resign in 2015 and is behind bars awaiting trial.

The commission known as CICIG for its initials in Spanish said it was evaluating the situation.

There was no immediate public comment from the government.

Morales, who campaigned on the slogan “neither corrupt nor a thief,” has repeatedly denied involvement in any corruption.

However, critics see his moves to hamstring CICIG as protecting his own interests and those close to him.

Morales recently declined to give the commission another two-year mandate, giving it until the end of its current term next September to wrap up its work and leave.

He has also refused to let CICIG chief Ivan Velasquez, a Colombian national, return to the country from a work trip to the United States, defying multiple court orders in the process.

Working hand-in-hand with Guatemalan prosecutors, the commission has brought corruption cases against dozens of powerful politicians, public officials and businesspeople.

The visa denials also affect Yilen Osorio, who heads up an investigation of alleged bribery implicating the current vice president of congress and others; and Vicenzo

Caruso, an Italian investigator who last month pressed the case before congress to lift the immunity from prosecution that Morales enjoys as sitting president.

CICIG had sought visa renewals for 42 of its personnel nearly two months ago, and approvals were given for staffers not involved in high-profile cases.

Google to Charge for Apps on Android Phones in Europe

Google says it will start charging smartphone makers to pre-install apps like Gmail, YouTube and Google Maps on Android handsets sold in Europe, in response to a record $5 billion EU antitrust fine.

The U.S. tech company’s announcement Tuesday is a change from its previous business model, in which it let phone makers install its suite of popular mobile apps for free on phones running its Android operating system.

It’s among measures the company is taking to comply with the July ruling by EU authorities that found Google allegedly abused the dominance of Android to stifle competitors, even as it appeals the decision.

The company will also let phone makers install rival versions of Android, the most widely used mobile operating system.

Trump Threatens to Cut Aid to Honduras If Migrant Caravan Isn’t Stopped

President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off aid to Honduras if its government does not stop a large ‘caravan’ of migrants headed toward the United States.

A group estimated at 1,600 to 2,000 people hoping to arrive in the U.S. marched from Honduras into Guatemala Monday, fleeing violence and poverty in their home country. The group twice pushed past police sent to stop them – first at the border, then at the Guatemalan town of Esquipulas.

Mexico’s immigration authority warned later that day that only migrants who meet entry requirements would be allowed into that country.

The march started with fewer than 200 members in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula one of the world’s most dangerous places. Singing the Honduran national anthem, praying and chanting, “Yes we can,” the ranks of the march swelled as it crossed the country.

Just a day earlier, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had urged the governments of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to persuade their citizens to stay home.

The U.S. provided about $127 million in aid to Honduras in 2016, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development, a year when the country’s GDP totaled about $22 billion, according to the World Bank.

In April, Trump threatened to withdraw aid from the Central American country after a similar caravan of about 1,000 set out from that nation in the direction of the U.S.

Huawei Launches New flagship Phones in Bid to Keep No. 2 Spot

Huawei unveiled new flagship smartphones with novel smart camera and video features on Tuesday, as it seeks to sustain momentum among price-conscious consumers.

The Chinese company, which overtook Apple this year to become the No. 2 smartphone maker by units – behind South Korea’s Samsung (005930.KS) – introduced its Mate 20 phone series using Leica camera technology.

Huawei’s new premium phone line-up has four models available around the world, expect in the United States where sales are effectively banned over whispered national security concerns.

The new line-up includes the Mate 20, with list prices ranging from 799-849 euros ($925-$983), depending on memory configuration.

The fuller-featured Mate 20 Pro, is priced as low as 799 pounds at some UK retailers and list priced at 849 pounds or 1,049 euros across Europe. A comparable iPhone X Max from Apple costs 1,099 pounds in the UK.

The new phones include a new ultra-wide angle lens, as well as a 3x telephoto lens and a macro that shoots objects as close as 2.5 centimeters (1 inch).

Mate P20 models take advantage of artificial intelligence features built into Huawei’s own Kirin chipsets.

Features available to Mate 20 users include being able to isolate human subjects and desaturate the colors around them in order to highlight people against their backgrounds.

Huawei incorporates bigger light-sensing chips than rival phones to take better pictures in low-light conditions.

Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza said that in a highly commoditized smartphone market of look-alike phones, Huawei is managing to differentiate itself with camera and personalization features.

“With the Mate 20, Huawei is setting the bar for what users can expect from photography using a smartphone,” Cozza said.

The Chinese phone maker managed to surpass Apple to take the No. 2 spot in the second quarter, industry data shows, despite being effectively excluded from the U.S. market.

However, Apple commanded 43 percent of the premium market and a lion’s share of profits, CounterPoint Research estimated.

“Huawei is clearly ticking all the key boxes needed to displace rivals – and not just Android-powered rivals,” said Ben Wood, research chief of mobile industry consulting firm CCS Insight.

Wood said Huawei’s move to match Apple iPhone’s characteristic swipe gestures and face unlock features on its Mate 20 Pro could, in theory, make it easier for committed Apple buyers to switch, although he said that was unlikely near term.

“But it’s clear that Huawei has an eye on the future and is ready to take share from Apple if the time comes that a loyal iPhone owner decides to try something else,” he said.

The new premium phone line-up from the world’s biggest telecom equipment maker includes four models, the Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 X, with a 7.2 inch display screen, and a Porsche Design limited edition phone.