Walmart raises U.S. tobacco purchase age to 21 starting in July By Reuters

© Reuters. Walmart’s logo is seen outside one of the stores in Chicago By Nandita Bose WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Walmart (NYSE:) Inc said on Wednesday it will raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 across its U.S. stores starting July 1, responding to growing regulatory and political pressure to curb a surge

S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite hit record highs

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite both returned to record territory on Tuesday, as investors seized on the dovish signals from the Federal Reserve and other major central banks to drive a months-long recovery despite continued uncertainty over the outlook for the global economy. The main US equities benchmark was up 0.8 per cent just

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Metropolitan Police said in a statement that he was “further arrested” on his arrival at a London police station on behalf of United States authorities, who have issued an extradition warrant.
The UK Home Office confirmed the extradition request in a statement, adding, “He is accused in the United States of America of computer related offences.”

Assange arrived at Westminster Magistrates Court Thursday afternoon.

Officers made the initial move to arrest Arrange after Ecuador withdrew his asylum and invited authorities into the embassy, citing the Australian’s bad behavior.

Assange was initally detained for “failing to surrender to the court” over a warrant issued in 2012 and was in custody at a central London police station, police said.

He will appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London as soon as is possible, police added.

LIVE UPDATES: Julian Assange arrested in London

The whistleblower has been holed up at the embassy, yards from the Harrods department store in Knightsbridge, since 2012, when he was granted asylum as part of a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was facing allegations of sexual assault.

The Swedish case has since been dropped, but Assange feared US extradition due to his work with WikiLeaks and remained in the embassy. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno said in a video statement Thursday that his country withdrew Assange’s asylum due to his “discourteous and aggressive behaviour,” “the hostile and threatening declarations of his allied organisation against Ecuador” and “the transgression of international treaties.”

Assange “violated the norm of not intervening in internal affairs of other states,” Moreno said. “The most recent incident occurred in January 2019, when WikiLeaks leaked Vatican documents. Key members of that organisation visited Mr Assange before and after such illegal acts,” he added.

In July 2016, WikiLeaks published nearly 20,000 emails from Democratic National Committee staffers that appeared to show the committee favoring presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the US presidential primary.

Assange then told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the email release was timed to coincide with the start of the Democratic National Convention.
A US court filing in November 2018 inadvertently revealed US government efforts to criminally charge Assange.

Alan Duncan, the British Foreign Office’s Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, thanked Ecuador for lifting Assange’s asylum.

“It is absolutely right that Assange will face justice in the proper way in the UK. It is for the courts to decide what happens next,” Duncan said in a statement.

“We are very grateful to the Government of Ecuador under President Moreno for the action they have taken,” the statement continued. “Today’s events follow extensive dialogue between our two countries.”

Assange expulsion from Ecuador embassy would be 'illegal,' his legal team saysAssange expulsion from Ecuador embassy would be 'illegal,' his legal team says
On April 4, WikiLeaks tweeted from its verified account, “BREAKING: A high level source within the Ecuadorian state has told @WikiLeaks that Julian Assange will be expelled within “hours to days” using the #INAPapers offshore scandal as a pretext–and that it already has an agreement with the UK for his arrest.”

In a statement released Friday, Assange’s own legal team said that expelling him from the embassy would “violate international refugee law.”

“It will be a sad day for democracy if the UK and Ecuadorean governments are willing to act as accomplices to the Trump administration’s determination to prosecute a publisher for publishing truthful information,” the statement read.

The Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry denied the rumors in a statement, calling them “fake news” and adding that the allegation of a deal with the UK “misrepresents reality.”

CNN’s Milena Veselinovic, Erin McLaughlin and Hadas Gold contributed to this report.

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Former Youth and Gender PS Lillian Omollo has dismissed claims that money she holds in several banks are proceeds of crime.

While opposing an application by Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) for the cash to be forfeited to the government, Ms Omollo said there is no connection between the money and the National Youth Service to warrant the forfeiture.

Further, Ms Omollo said there is no evidence to support the allegation that the subject bank accounts contain proceeds of crime.

The agency moved to court in October last year and obtained orders freezing the accounts at Equity and Diamond Trust Bank.

ARA argued that they have reasonable grounds to believe that the funds were stolen from NYS.


The accounts had in total Sh33 million.

They include six accounts at Equity Bank registered in the name of Lillian Muthoni Mbogo which had $67,331.9, an account in the name of LIDI Estates Ltd which had $28,981, another account in the same bank and the same name and which had Sh2,297,495 and another with $8,979.83.

Another account at Equity in Ms Omollo’s name had Sh1.68 million, while another registered as Sahara Consultants held at Diamond Trust Bank had Sh5.65 million.

Three other accounts registered in her children’s names had more than Sh11 million.

The agency believes that the monies were unlawfully acquired and successfully had them frozen pending the determination of forfeiture.


High Court judge Mumbi Ngugi had directed ARA and Ms Omollo to file their submissions ahead of the hearing on June 6.

But Ms Omollo argued the application is premature and fatally defective because she has not been convicted of any crime.

She is currently facing charges, together with former senior government officials at NYS, over the loss of Sh468 million.

Ms Omollo said she presented clear, cogent and irrefutable evidence showing her legitimate and lawful source of the funds only for the police to dismiss it.


The former PS claimed that the amounts were from her farming business in Bondo and payments for consultancy services to her husband who worked in South Sudan.

“I deny the allegations that no reasonable explanation was given showing legitimate source of funds, principally because on November 19, 2018, I duly gave and delivered to the applicant my documents and evidence showing legitimate sources of funds held in the subject bank accounts”, she said.

Ms Omollo says ARA conclusion that the funds held in the said bank accounts were stolen from the NYS is incorrect, irrational, unreasonable and malicious for deliberately ignoring her clear evidence in their possession.

“I vehemently deny the allegations that the money held in the subject bank accounts are proceeds of crime,” she said.

Ms Omollo said as the PS she ensured that the applicable control systems, standards and procedures required, were duly complied with while procuring goods and services.

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Morrison, a former Tourism Australia director, and his center-right Liberal National Coalition government are seeking re-election on a platform of tax cuts and economic stability.

“At this election there is a clear choice. It is a choice that will determine the economy that Australians live in, not just for the next three years but for the next decade,” he said at a press conference announcing the election.

The prime minister, who came to office following a bruising intra-party putsch in August last year, faces a fierce challenge from the opposition Labor Party, led by former union leader Bill Shorten.

Labor’s platform of climate change action and greater spending on health and education has so far resonated with voters. The coalition government hasn’t been ahead in any poll for more than a year and in a national Newspoll in early April trailed Labor by 52 to 48.

In fact, Morrison is in a precarious position even before voting begins. After losing multiple seats to resignations, his Liberal National coalition has been forced into minority government and will need to win additional seats to retake majority power.

The most high-profile resignation was that of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who quit after his party stripped him of his role as leader in August. Former foreign minister and one-time leadership contender Julie Bishop followed shortly after him.

Australian political experts said Morrison faces an uphill battle and the public might have already stopped listening.

“A lot of hostility is now locked in, reinforced by the general disillusionment with politics. There is a feeling that people are just looking to move on from ‘this lot’,” University of Canberra professor Michelle Grattan said in the Conversation on April 4.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten and Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek wave after delivering their budget reply on April 4 in Canberra.

Political chaos

Australia has two houses of parliament — the House of Representatives and the Senate. To win power, an Australian government must get a majority of the 151 seats in the House of Representatives.

No Australian prime minister has faced re-election in 12 years, since former longtime leader John Howard lost the 2007 election to the Labor Party’s Kevin Rudd.

Rudd was dumped by his party shortly before the 2010 election and replaced with Julia Gillard, who became Australia’s first female prime minister.

But Gillard’s time in power was rocky. She was unexpectedly forced into minority government in 2010 and then rolled by Rudd in a vengeful partyroom spill in 2013.

Rudd then went on to lose the 2013 election to former trainee priest and boxer Tony Abbott, who ended six years of Labor government with the promise of stability.

But Abbott, an arch conservative, proved unpopular with the electorate. He was soon dumped by his party as well and replaced by Malcolm Turnbull in 2015. Turnbull found himself removed from power and replaced with Morrison less than three years later in 2018.

The political chaos has become a joke inside the country. There were reports after Turnbull took power in 2015 that paramedics decided to stop using the question “Who is the Prime Minister?” to test patients’ mental capacities, as it was getting too hard to remember.

In comparison, Labor leader Shorten has been a beacon of stability. He has led Labor since their election defeat in 2013, making him the longest-serving major party leader in Australia for 12 years.

Whether he can win and then survive the merry-go-round of Australian leaders remains to be seen.

Far-right party dilemma

Australian voters will also pass their verdict on a number of far-right insurgent parties who have gained prominence in the past three years.

Senator Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party, which won four seats in the Australian senate in 2016, is currently polling at about 7% of the electorate according to Newspoll, higher than its result in the past election.

Australia's sixth PM in a decade. Why does it seem so ungovernable?Australia's sixth PM in a decade. Why does it seem so ungovernable?

Australia’s election comes in the shadow of twin terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15. The alleged shooter, Australian Brenton Tarrant, released a lengthy manifesto filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sentiment shortly before the attack.

The attack has raised questions about the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment inside of Australia, especially in regard to Muslims.

At the 2016 election, Hanson ran on a platform which included drastically cutting immigration and placing security cameras in Australian mosques.

Other parties have been formed to compete for Hanson’s votes, including a party led by Senator Fraser Anning, whose controversial comments blaming Muslim immigration after the Christchurch shooting made headlines around the world.

If successful, both parties could draw votes both from the center-right Liberal National coalition as well as traditional blue collar Labor voters.

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In a letter Wednesday to House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, Mnuchin said that “the Treasury Department will not be able to complete its review” by Wednesday’s deadline Democrats had given Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig to turn over six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns.

Highlighting what he called the “unprecedented nature of this request,” Mnuchin said that he would be overseeing the Treasury’s handling of the request and that the Department of Justice was being consulted “to ensure that our response is fully consistent with the law and Constitution.”

Mnuchin’s decision to involve himself and the Justice Department in processing the returns suggests that he does not feel compelled to stick to a deadline, making for a prolonged and politicized process. Congressional Democrats believe the law clearly allows them to ask for the information in this way, with Rettig acknowledging in a hearing earlier Wednesday that requests are typically handled by the IRS commissioner.

Mnuchin stressed in the letter that his and the Justice Department’s involvement was to protect all American taxpayers from the potential implications of the request.

“The Committee’s request raises serious issues concerning the constitutional scope of Congressional investigative authority, the legitimacy of the asserted legislative purpose, and the constitutional rights of American citizens,” he wrote. “The legal implications of this request could affect protections for all Americans against politically-motivated disclosures of personal tax information, regardless of which party is in power.”

Neal said Wednesday that he would discuss the proper response with counsel since the Treasury Department “has decided not to allow the IRS to comply with my request by the April 10 deadline.”

The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, on Wednesday called Mnuchin’s involvement “a sign of political interference,” adding that “if Secretary Mnuchin does not provide the president’s tax returns, he will break the law.”

Mnuchin’s letter follows the directive in a letter from Trump’s attorney William Consovoy asking the Treasury Department to “refrain from divulging the requested information until it receives a formal legal opinion from” the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Democrats anticipate lengthy battle

A week after Neal made his formal request for Trump’s tax information, including information on eight of the President’s business entities, Democrats are fully anticipating a drawn-out political and legal showdown as the administration digs in and Democrats prepare to go to court.

“They want to rig this thing. They’ve already started to do that,” Rep. Bill Pascrell, a Democrat from New Jersey, told CNN. “Their excuses for not giving them up are the most hypocritical I have ever heard of any subject in the Congress, and I’ve been here 22 years. … They’re trying to rig it? Good. We’re ready for you.”

Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee huddled Tuesday afternoon to discuss potential next moves and to talk about other issues before their committee.

Neal said Tuesday that he plans to send a follow-up request for the information in writing before taking more drastic steps. There are still questions about whether the committee would issue a subpoena on top of the request or if the request would be grounds enough to trigger a fight in court if the IRS didn’t comply.

Mnuchin defends consultation between White House and Treasury on Trump tax returns

Earlier Wednesday, Mnuchin said he was consulting with the Justice Department on Neal’s request.

“We need to make sure that the IRS and the individual taxpayer info does not become subject to political wills,” said Mnuchin on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund. “I take the obligation very seriously to make sure we follow the law correctly.”

When asked by CNN if he had spoken Rettig in recent days, Mnuchin said, “I speak to the IRS commissioner regularly. It’s my job to supervise the IRS. I’m not going to comment on specific conversations that we’ve had together.”

Democrats are relying on a 1920s-era law that has never been challenged in court before. The IRS statute, known as 6103, says three people on Capitol Hill — the Senate Finance Committee chairman, the head of the Joint Committee on Taxation and the chairman of House Ways and Means Committee — can ask for any individual’s tax information for legislative purposes and the secretary of the treasury “shall furnish” the request. It’s a provision that’s been employed before and is typically used for research purposes by the Joint Committee on Taxation. But asking for the president’s tax returns is uncharted territory, a fact that the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee was cognizant of as he was waiting to make the request.

“We wanted to make sure that the case we constructed was one that stood up under the critical scrutiny of the courts,” Neal told CNN last week.

Allies of the President have argued that the Democrats have no right to see his returns. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that Democrats would never see them and the American public had already settled the politics of it when they elected Trump.

“They knew they were not going to get these taxes,” Mulvaney said of Democrats. “That is not going to happen, and they know it. This is a political stunt by my former colleagues.”

During a tense exchange before the Financial Services Committee on Tuesday afternoon, Mnuchin wouldn’t commit to what precisely the Treasury Department would do next.

Asked if he would comply, Mnuchin said he would “comply with the law” but stopped short of saying he would commit to handing over the returns.

Democratic Rep. Nydia Velázquez of New York shot back, “And the law says — upon a written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate or the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the secretary shall furnish. So that’s the law. “

Mnuchin responded, “Again, I just want to be very clear. … I have said that I will comply with the law. I have not made a comment one way or another whether we would supply the tax returns. I want to be very clear on that. We have said we will comply with the law.”

No matter what comes next, Democrats say they are ready for the fight.

“Let ’em try it,” Pascrell said. “We’re ready. We’re ready. I am smacking my lips on this one, and America should be also.”

This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.

CNN’s Donna Borak, Gregory Wallace and Donna Borak contributed to this report.

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Climate change will crush real estate values for unprepared investors: Report

For any investor, measuring opportunity against risk is critical. And for real estate investors in particular, risk is rising exponentially in the age of climate change. To that end, big real estate firms are pouring significant resources into calculating climate risk and its likely effect on property portfolios—everything from increasingly extreme weather to sea-level rise.

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