Turkey’s lira weakens 4 percent, Trump says won’t take pastor’s detention ‘sitting down’

A street vendor sells food on a main street in central Ankara, Turkey August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

By Daren Butler, David Dolan and Humeyra Pamuk

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s battered lira weakened 3 percent on Friday after a Turkish court rejected an American pastor’s appeal for release, drawing a stiff rebuke from President Donald Trump, who said the United States would not take the detention “sitting down”.

The case of Andrew Brunson, an evangelical Christian missionary from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for two decades, has become a flashpoint between Washington and Ankara and accelerated a widening currency crisis.

The lira has lost nearly 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year as investors fret about President Tayyip Erdogan’s influence over monetary policy.

Heavy selling in recent weeks has spread to other emerging market currencies and global stocks and deepened concerns about the economy, particularly Turkey’s dependence on energy imports and whether foreign-currency debt poses a risk to banks.

Borrowing costs may rise further after both Moody’s and Standard Poor’s ratings agencies cut Turkey’s sovereign credit ratings deeper into “junk” territory late on Friday.

“They should have given him back a long time ago, and Turkey has in my opinion acted very, very badly,” Trump told reporters at the White House, referring to Brunson. “So, we haven’t seen the last of that. We are not going to take it sitting down. They can’t take our people.”

Trump’s comments came after a court in Izmir province rejected an appeal to release Brunson from house arrest, saying evidence was still being collected and the pastor posed a flight risk, according to a copy of the court ruling seen by Reuters.

Brunson is being held on terrorism charges, which he denies. Trump, who counts evangelical Christians among his core supporters, has increasingly championed the pastor’s case.

It was not immediately clear what additional measures, if any, Trump could be considering. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Trump on Thursday that more sanctions were ready if Brunson were not freed.

The United States and Turkey have imposed tit-for-tat tariffs in an escalating attempt by Trump to induce Erdogan into giving up the pastor. Erdogan has cast the tariffs, and the lira’s sell-off, as an “economic war” against Turkey.

The lira last traded at 6.0100 to the dollar at 2159 GMT, 3 percent weaker after tumbling as much as 7 percent earlier. Turkey’s dollar bonds fell, while the cost of insuring exposure to Turkish debt rose.

As the row deepens, Turkey has sought to improve strained ties with European allies. In a telephone call on Friday, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak and his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire discussed U.S. sanctions against Turkey and cooperation between their countries, Albayrak’s ministry said.

SPEED-BUMPS

“Diplomatic negotiations hit speed-bumps and that’s not unusual in these kinds of situations,” said Jay Sekulow, a personal attorney for Trump who is also representing Brunson’s family. “We remain hopeful there will be a prompt resolution. Having said that, we fully support the president’s approach.”

Whatever action the United States takes looks likely to cause more pain for Turkish assets.

People change money at a currency exchange office in Istanbul, Turkey August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

People change money at a currency exchange office in Istanbul, Turkey August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

“There has been no improvement in relations with the U.S. and additional sanctions may be on the horizon,” said William Jackson of Capital Economics in a note to clients, adding that the lira could see a downward trend in 2019 and beyond.

Turkey’s banking watchdog has taken steps to stabilize the currency, limiting futures transactions for offshore investors and lowering limits on swap transactions. On Friday, it further broadened those caps.

But some economists have called for more decisive moves.

Turkey and its firms face repayments of nearly $3.8 billion on foreign currency bonds in October, Societe Generale has calculated. It estimates Turkey’s short-term external debt at $180 billion and total external debt at $460 billion – the highest in emerging markets.

Companies that for years have borrowed abroad at low-interest rates have seen their cost of servicing foreign debt rise by a quarter in lira terms in two months.

After each downgrading Turkey by one notch, S&P said it expected a recession next year while Moody’s said a weakening of Turkey’s public institutions had made policymaking less predictable.

Fitch Ratings had earlier said the absence of an orthodox monetary policy response to the lira’s fall, and the rhetoric of Turkish authorities, had “increased the difficulty of restoring economic stability and sustainability”.

DEEP CONCERNS

Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, told investors on Thursday that Turkey would emerge stronger from the currency crisis, insisting its banks were healthy and signaling it could ride out the dispute with Washington.

Economists gave Albayrak’s presentation a qualified welcome and the lira initially found some support, helped by Qatar’s pledge to invest $15 billion in Turkey.

Deep concerns remain about the potential for damage to the economy, however. Turkey is dependent on imports, priced in hard currency, for almost all of its energy needs.

Erdogan has remained defiant, urging Turks to sell their gold and dollars for lira. But foreign currency deposits held by local investors rose to $159.9 billion in the week to Aug. 10, from $158.6 billion a week earlier, central bank data showed.

Turkish markets will be closed from midday on Monday for the rest of the week for the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival.

(Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay, Tuvan Gumrukcu, and Nevzat Devranoglu in Ankara; Karin Strohecker and Claire Milhench in London; Jeff Mason and Karen Freifeld in Washington; Editing by Catherine Evans and James Dalgleish)

How a mother’s tough choice gave her son a potential U.S. asylum advantage

Catarina Miguel, aunt of Yaiser, who was separated from his mother at the U.S. Mexico border and is in detention, is interviewed in the room she has ready for him at her home West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., in this still image from video, taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS TV/Zach Fagenson

By Kristina Cooke and Reade Levinson

SAN FRANCISCO/WEST PALM BEACH (Reuters) – For two months in detention after being separated from her 14-year old son by U.S. border officials, Catalina Sales worried about how he was doing and when she would see him again.

On July 25, they were finally brought back together at a facility near El Paso, Texas. The reunion was happy but brief.

Sales, who entered the United States illegally on May 30, made a difficult choice: She refused to sign a paper agreeing that if she were deported, her son Yaiser would accompany her back to Guatemala. She wanted to give him the chance, she said, to pursue asylum in the United States even if she is sent back.

Because of that, she and her son were separated again after just two hours together, and he was sent back to the Florida children’s facility where he had previously been held.

The decision that kept them separated also gave her son a better chance of being allowed to stay in the U.S. legally, a Reuters analysis of data from the courts’ Executive Office for Immigration Review suggests.

FILE PHOTO: Immigrant children are led by staff in single file between tents at a detention facility next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S., June 18, 2018. Picture taken June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Immigrant children are led by staff in single file between tents at a detention facility next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S., June 18, 2018. Picture taken June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

More than 2,500 families were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border in the spring as part of a zero-tolerance policy toward illegal immigration that ended in June. By separating them from their parents, the government rendered the children “unaccompanied minors,” which conferred certain advantages on them under U.S. immigration law, including a different, more child-friendly asylum process not available to children never separated from their families.

Additionally, a network of immigration lawyers specializing in children often agree to represent unaccompanied minors for free. And should they fail at an initial hearing with an asylum officer, the children have the opportunity to present their claims anew before an immigration judge.

Overall, although this was not something Sales could have known when she made her decision, unaccompanied children from the so-called Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras win their immigration cases more than twice as often as others from those countries, Reuters’ analysis found. In the last three years, 40 percent of unaccompanied children from the countries were allowed to remain in the United States compared to 19 percent for others from the countries.

There is no record of how many separated parents have opted for their children to pursue separate asylum proceedings even if it meant leaving them behind. But at least six other reunited families with Sales in El Paso on July 25 made the same decision she did, according to Taylor Levy, legal coordinator at the Annunciation House in El Paso, which is working with the parents.

Both Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Health and Human Services, which arranges care for children in immigration custody, declined to comment on the Sales’ case.

On Thursday, a San Diego federal judge said the form given to separated parents to sign did not constitute a legally valid waiver of their children’s asylum claims and ordered their deportations temporarily halted until the issue was resolved. The form “was not designed to advise parents of their childrens’ asylum rights, let alone to waive those rights,” wrote Judge Dana Sabraw in his order.

‘HE WANTS A BETTER LIFE’

After being reunified that day in El Paso, parents and children were loaded on a bus and asked to sign papers agreeing to be deported with their children. Those who refused to sign, including Sales, were led off the bus, according to interviews with four detainees and a court filing, leaving their children behind.

Sales said that after speaking to Yaiser for two hours on the bus, she realized she could not sign papers that might forfeit her son’s chance to remain in the United States and study instead of returning to Guatemala, where they were unsafe and Yaiser had fewer educational opportunities.

“He told me that he wanted to stay, that he didn’t want to go back, but that he wanted me to stay with him…. I felt sad,” Sales told Reuters by phone from the immigration detention facility where she is being held. “The simple truth is he wants a better life.”

Sales remains hopeful that both of them will eventually be granted asylum and allowed to stay in the United States. If her asylum claim is unsuccessful, she hopes her son’s will succeed, and that he can live with his aunt and uncle, who have applied to sponsor him.

In an interview with Reuters from the Florida facility where he is being housed, Yaiser said that he and the other re-separated children on the bus that day were sad when their parents were taken away again.

“We started crying because we couldn’t say goodbye after we’d only seen them for a short time.”

Two other fathers on the bus with Sales told Reuters they felt pressured by immigration officials to choose the option of being deported with their child.

“They told us … this was the only option,” said one of the fathers, who spoke on condition that he be identified only by his initials, S.T.

At a July 31 congressional hearing, ICE official Matthew Albence denied that officials were coercing people into agreeing to deportation.

Albence told Congress that many parents want their children to stay in the United States. “A great many of these individuals do not wish to have their child returned home with them,” he said. “The reason most of them have come in the first place is to get their children to the United States” and many have spent their life savings to do so, he said.

The government said 154 parents had decided against reunification as of August 16, according to a court filing. The filing doesn’t include the parents’ reasons.

‘IT WOULD BE SAFER’

Another father on the bus, identified in court documents only by his initials J.M., spoke to Reuters about his reason for not agreeing to be deported with his 16-year-old son.

“The problem with Honduras is that they recruit them for gangs, and I didn’t want that for him,” he told Reuters from detention. “Of course, I would have preferred to be with my son, but I made that choice for his well-being. I have to accept that.” His son was returned to the Casa Padre youth shelter in Brownsville, he said.

During their reunion on the bus, Yaiser told his mother he wanted to stay in the U.S. to study and make her proud, Sales said. But he also told her he hoped she could stay with him because “it would be safer.”

Yaiser’s attorney, Jan Peter Weiss, visited him at the Florida facility on Saturday. “He is very sad,” said Weiss. “He asked about his mother every other sentence. ‘Is my mother alright? What do you think is going to happen to her?’”

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, the law firm representing Sales, declined to comment for this story.

(Reporting by Reade Levinson in West Palm Beach and Kristina Cooke in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Salvador Rodriguez in San Francisco and Tom Hals in Delaware; Editing by Sue Horton)

U.S. imposes sanctions on Myanmar military over Rohingya crackdown

Rohingya refugees, who crossed the border from Myanmar two days before, walk after they received permission from the Bangladeshi army to continue on to the refugee camps, in Palang Khali, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh October 19, 2017. Reuters photographer Jorge Silva: "This picture was taken after a huge group of people crossed into Bangladesh and then had to wait three days and nights for the Bangladeshi Army's permission to continue walking into the makeshift camps. The line of people seemed endless. Long hours moving slowly across the embankments of the rice field. Mothers with babies and pregnant women, elderly people with illnesses, men carrying their entire life on their shoulders. They were safe from violence, but the challenge of surviving was still waiting for them on this side of the river." REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on four Myanmar military and police commanders and two army units for involvement in what it called “ethnic cleansing” and other human rights abuses against the country’s Rohingya Muslims, the Treasury Department said.

The sanctions marked the toughest U.S. action so far in response to Myanmar’s crackdown on the Rohingya minority which started last year and has driven more than 700,000 people into neighboring Bangladesh and left thousands of dead behind.

But the Trump administration did not target the highest levels of the Myanmar military and also stopped short of calling the anti-Rohingya campaign crimes against humanity or genocide, which has been the subject of debate within the U.S. government.

“Burmese security forces have engaged in violent campaigns against ethnic minority communities across Burma, including ethnic cleansing, massacres, sexual assault, extrajudicial killings, and other serious human rights abuses,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker, using an alternative name for Myanmar.

“Treasury is sanctioning units and leaders overseeing this horrific behavior as part of a broader U.S. government strategy to hold accountable those responsible for such wide-scale human suffering,” Mandelker said.

The sanctions targeted military commanders Aung Kyaw Zaw, Khin Maung Soe, Khin Hlaing, and border police commander Thura San Lwin, in addition to the 33rd and 99th Light Infantry Divisions, the Treasury said.

A Reuters special report in June gave a comprehensive account of the roles played by the two infantry divisions in the offensive against the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s military has denied accusations of ethnic cleansing and says its actions were part of a fight against terrorism.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Tim Ahmann and Makini Brice, David Brunnstrom; Editing by Bill Rigby)

More U.S. states deploy technology to track election hacking attempts

FILE PHOTO: A man types into a keyboard during the Def Con hacker convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. on July 29, 2017. REUTERS/Steve Marcus/File Photo

By Christopher Bing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A majority of U.S. states has adopted technology that allows the federal government to see inside state computer systems managing voter data or voting devices in order to root out hackers.

Two years after Russian hackers breached voter registration databases in Illinois and Arizona, most states have begun using the government-approved equipment, according to three sources with knowledge of the deployment. Voter registration databases are used to verify the identity of voters when they visit polling stations.

The rapid adoption of the so-called Albert sensors, a $5,000 piece of hardware developed by the Center for Internet Security https://www.cisecurity.org, illustrates the broad concern shared by state government officials ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, government cybersecurity experts told Reuters.

CIS is a nonprofit organization based in East Greenbush, N.Y., that helps governments, businesses and organization fight computer intrusions.

“We’ve recently added Albert sensors to our system because I believe voting systems have tremendous vulnerabilities that we need to plug; but also the voter registration systems are a concern,” said Neal Kelley, chief of elections for Orange County, California.

“That’s one of the things I lose sleep about: It’s what can we do to protect voter registration systems?”

As of August 7, 36 of 50 states had installed Albert at the “elections infrastructure level,” according to a Department of Homeland Security official. The official said that 74 individual sensors across 38 counties and other local government offices have been installed. Only 14 such sensors were installed before the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

“We have more than quadrupled the number of sensors on state and county networks since 2016, giving the election community as a whole far greater visibility into potential threats than we’ve ever had in the past,” said Matthew Masterson, a senior adviser on election security for DHS.

The 14 states that do not have a sensor installed ahead of the 2018 midterm elections have either opted for another solution, are planning to do so shortly or have refused the offer because of concerns about federal government overreach. Those 14 states were not identified by officials.

But enough have installed them that cybersecurity experts can begin to track intrusions and share that information with all states. The technology directly feeds data about cyber incidents through a non-profit cyber intelligence data exchange and then to DHS.

“When you start to get dozens, hundreds of sensors, like we have now, you get real value,” said John Gilligan, the chief executive of CIS.

“As we move forward, there are new sensors that are being installed literally almost every day. Our collective objective is that all voter infrastructure in states has a sensor.”

Top U.S. intelligence officials have predicted that hackers working for foreign governments will target the 2018 and 2020 elections.

Maria Benson, a spokesperson for the National Association of Secretaries of States, said that in some cases installations have been delayed because of the time spent working out “technical and contractual arrangements.”

South Dakota and Wyoming are among the states without Albert fully deployed to protect election systems, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The South Dakota Secretary of State’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The Wyoming Secretary of State’s office said it is currently considering expanding use of the sensors.

(Reporting by Chris Bing; Editing by Damon Darlin and Dan Grebler)

Colorado baker in case of Supreme Court sues state over ‘persecution’

FILE PHOTO: Baker Jack Phillips decorates a cake in his Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado U.S. on September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) – A Colorado baker who won a narrow Supreme Court victory over his refusal to make a wedding cake for a gay couple is suing the state after it launched another case against him for declining to create a cake for a transgender woman.

Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in the city of Lakewood, accuses Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission of violating his constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of religion, equal protection and due process, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver on Tuesday.

“This lawsuit is necessary to stop Colorado’s continuing persecution of Phillips,” the written complaint alleges. Also named in the lawsuit are Governor John Hickenlooper and Cynthia Coffman, the state attorney general.

Phillips seeks permanent injunctions against the state from taking any enforcement action against Phillips, who the lawsuit says was “vindicated” by the Supreme Court ruling.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado’s civil rights commission was hostile toward Phillips’ Christian beliefs when it cited him for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012, but did not rule on whether he violated Colorado’s public accommodation statute.

Through a spokeswoman, the civil rights commission declined to comment on Phillips’ lawsuit.

The lawsuit stems from a complaint filed by Denver attorney Autumn Scardina with the civil rights commission in 2017, in which she claims that Phillips refused to bake a cake that “celebrates my transition from male to female,” court documents showed.

Scardina did not immediately return a phone message left at her law office.

The director of the state’s Civil Rights Division, Aubrey Elenis, ruled in June that Phillips discriminated against Scardina.

“The evidence thus demonstrates that the refusal to provide service to (Scardina) was based on (her) transgender status,” Elenis wrote in a probable cause determination.

The finding by Elenis requires both sides to resolve the issue through “compulsory mediation,” the document said.

Phillips is also seeking $100,000 in punitive damages against Elenis “for her unconstitutional actions,” according to the lawsuit.

Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, a group that advocates for the LGBTQ community, blasted the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the conservative Christian group whose lawyers represent Phillips.

“We have seen the ADF launch similar lawsuits across the country that target nondiscrimination laws and civil rights agencies, and this broad lawsuit they filed on behalf of Jack Phillips reads as more of the same,” Ramos said.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Dan WHitcomb)

U.S. official warns of more actions against Turkey if pastor not freed

FILE PHOTO: U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson reacts as he arrives at his home after being released from the prison in Izmir, Turkey July 25, 2018. Picture taken July 25, 2018. Demiroren News Agency/DHA via REUTERS/File photo

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is warning more economic pressures may be in store for Turkey if it refuses to release a jailed American pastor, a White House official said on Tuesday, in a dispute that has further strained relations between the NATO allies.

The tough message emerged a day after White House national security adviser John Bolton met privately with Turkish ambassador Serdar Kilic about the case of evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson. Bolton warned him that the United States would not give any ground, a senior U.S. official said.

The White House official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said “nothing has progressed” thus far on the Brunson case.

“The administration is going to stay extremely firm on this. The president is 100 percent committed to bringing Pastor Brunson home and if we do not see actions in the next few days or a week there could be further actions taken,” the official said.

Further actions would likely take the form of economic sanctions, the official said, who added: “The pressure is going to keep up if we’re not seeing results.”

Relations between Turkey and the United States have been soured by Brunson’s detention, as well as diverging interests on Syria. Trump doubled tariffs on imports of Turkish steel and aluminum last week, contributing to a precipitous fall in the lira.

The United States is also considering a fine against Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank for allegedly helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions. Earlier this month, the United States imposed sanctions on two top officials in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s cabinet in an attempt to get Turkey to turn over Brunson.

Brunson is accused of backing a coup attempt against Turkish Erdogan two years ago, charges that he has denied. He is being tried on terrorism charges.

Brunson has appealed again to a Turkish court to release him from house arrest and lift his travel ban, his lawyer told Reuters on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Mary Milliken and James Dalgleish)

U.S. warns on Russia’s new space weapons

The sun reflects off the water in this picture taken by German astronaut Alexander Gerst from the International Space Station and sent on his Twitter feed July 17, 2014. REUTERS/Alexander Gerst/NASA/Handout via Reuters

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United States voiced deep suspicion on Tuesday over Russia’s pursuit of new space weapons, including a mobile laser system to destroy satellites in space, and the launch of a new inspector satellite which was acting in an “abnormal” way.

Russia’s pursuit of counterspace capabilities was “disturbing”, Yleem D.S. Poblete, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, told the U.N.’s Conference on Disarmament which is discussing a new treaty to prevent an arms race in outer space.

A Russian delegate at the conference dismissed Poblete’s remarks as unfounded and slanderous.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, at the Geneva forum in February, said a priority was to prevent an arms race in outer space, in line with Russia’s joint draft treaty with China presented a decade ago.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled in March “six new major offensive weapons systems”, including the Peresvet military mobile laser system, Poblete said.

“To the United States this is yet further proof that the Russian actions do not match their words,” she said.

Referring to a “space apparatus inspector”, whose deployment was announced by the Russian defense ministry last October, Poblete said: “The only certainty we have is that this system has been ‘placed in orbit’.”

She said its behavior on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before, including other Russian inspection satellite activities, adding: “We are concerned with what appears to be very abnormal behavior by a declared ‘space apparatus inspector’.”

Russia’s pursuit of counterspace capabilities “is disturbing given the recent pattern of Russian malign behavior,” she said, and its proposed treaty would not prohibit such activity, nor the testing or stockpiling of anti-satellite weapons capabilities.

Alexander Deyneko, a senior Russian diplomat in Geneva, dismissed what he called “the same unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions, on suppositions and so on”.

The United States had not proposed amendments to the Sino-Russian draft treaty, he said.

“We are seeing that the American side are raising their serious concerns about Russia, so you would think they ought to be the first to support the Russian initiative. They should be active in working to develop a treaty that would 100 percent satisfy the security interests of the American people,” he said.

“But they have not made this constructive contribution,” he said.

China’s disarmament ambassador Fu Cong called for substantive discussions on outer space, leading to negotiations.

“China has always stood for peaceful use of outer space and we are against weaponization of outer space, an arms race in outer space, or even more turning outer space into a battle field,” he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

More than 100 large wildfires in U.S. as new blazes erupt

Smoke rises over a hillside on fire in Fairfield, California, the U.S., August 10, 2018, in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Erika Bjork/Twitter/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Six large new wildfires erupted in the United States, pushing the number of major active blazes nationwide to over 100, with more expected to break out sparked by lightning strikes on bone-dry terrain, authorities said on Saturday.

More than 30,000 personnel, including firefighters from across the United States and nearly 140 from Australia and New Zealand, were battling the blazes that have consumed more than 1.6 million acres (648,000 hectares), according to the National Interagency Coordination Center.

“We are expecting that there will be more fire-starts today,” Jeremy Grams, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma, said in an interview on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: A still frame taken from a timelapse video sourced from social media dated August 6, 2018 shows the Holy Fire as seen from Rancho Santa Magarita, California, U.S. ARTHUR WHITING/via REUTERS

FILE PHOTO: A still frame taken from a timelapse video sourced from social media dated August 6, 2018, shows the Holy Fire as seen from Rancho Santa Magarita, California, U.S. ARTHUR WHITING/via REUTERS

He said dry thunderstorms, which produce lightning but little rain, are expected for parts of the Rocky Mountain region, while the U.S. northwest has critical fire weather conditions that include strong winds and low relative humidity.

Firefighters were battling another day of extremely hot temperatures and strong winds on Saturday, the National Interagency Coordination Center said.

The fires have scorched states from Washington to New Mexico, with California among the hardest hit.

A mechanic helping to fight the Carr Fire near Redding in northern California was killed in a car crash on Thursday, the eighth person to die in that conflagration.

The 190,873-acre (77,243-hectare) Carr Fire has destroyed nearly 1,100 homes.

About 100 miles (160 km) southwest of the Carr Fire, about 3,500 firefighters are battling the Mendocino Complex Fire, which has burned 328,226 acres (132,828 hectares) as of Saturday and was the largest fire on record in California.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Richard Borsuk)

Erdogan tells Turks to buy free-falling lira as Trump doubles metals tariffs

FILE PHOTO: A money changer counts Turkish lira banknotes at a currency exchange office in Istanbul, Turkey August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo

By Behiye Selin Taner and Tuvan Gumrukcu

ISTANBUL/ANKARA (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan told Turks on Friday to exchange their gold and dollars into lira, with the country’s currency in free fall after President Donald Trump turned the screws on Ankara by doubling tariffs on metals imports.

The lira has long been falling on worries about Erdogan’s influence over monetary policy and worsening relations with the United States. That turned into a rout on Friday, with the lira diving more than 18 percent at one point, the biggest one-day drop since Turkey’s 2001 financial crisis.

It has also lost more than 40 percent this year, hitting a new record low after Trump took steps to punish Turkey in a wide-ranging dispute.

Trump said he had authorized higher tariffs on imports from Turkey, imposing duties of 20 percent on aluminum and 50 percent on steel. The lira, he noted on Twitter, “slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar!”

“Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!” he said in an early morning post.

Those duties are double the level that Trump imposed in March on steel and aluminum imports from a range of countries.

The White House said he had authorized the move under Section 232 of U.S. trade law, which allows for tariffs on national security grounds.

While Turkey and the United States are at odds over a host of issues, the most pressing disagreement has been over the detention of U.S. citizens in Turkey, notably Christian pastor Andrew Brunson who is on trial on terrorism charges. A delegation of Turkish officials held talks with counterparts in Washington this week but there was no breakthrough.

Waves from the crisis spread abroad, with investors selling off shares in European banks which have large exposure to the Turkish economy.

The lira sell-off has deepened concern particularly about whether over-indebted companies will be able to pay back loans taken out in euros and dollars after years of overseas borrowing to fund a construction boom under Erdogan.

Erdogan’s characteristic defiance in the face of the crisis has further unnerved investors. The president, who says a shadowy “interest rate lobby” and Western credit ratings agencies are attempting to bring down Turkey’s economy, appealed to Turks’ patriotism.

“If there is anyone who has dollars or gold under their pillows, they should go exchange it for lira at our banks. This is a national, domestic battle,” he told a crowd in the northeastern city of Bayburt. “This will be my people’s response to those who have waged an economic war against us.”

“The dollar cannot block our path. Don’t worry,” Erdogan assured the crowd.

“AMERICAN-MADE CRISIS”

Erdogan, elected in June to a new executive presidency, enjoys the support of many Turks even though food, rent, and fuel prices have all surged. “This crisis is created by America,” said Serap, a 23-year-old clerk at a clothes store in central Istanbul.

However, the Istanbul Chamber of Industry expressed its concern about the lira while some economists were less impressed by the government’s handling of the crisis.

“The basic reason the exchange rate has gone off the rails is that confidence in the management of the economy has disappeared both domestically and abroad,” said Seyfettin Gursel, a professor at Turkey’s Bahcesehir University.

“Confidence needs to be regained. It is obvious how it will be done: since the final decision-maker of all policies in the new regime is the president, the responsibility of regaining confidence is on his shoulders.”

Turkey’s sovereign dollar-denominated bonds tumbled with many issues trading at record lows. Hard currency debt issued by Turkish banks suffered similar falls.

Meanwhile, the cost of insuring exposure to Turkey’s sovereign debt through five-year credit defaults swaps has spiraled to the highest level since March 2009, topping levels seen for serial defaulter Greece, which has three bailouts in the last decade.

THE TWEET AND THE SWORD

New Finance Minister Berat Albayrak – Erdogan’s son-in-law – acknowledged that the central bank’s independence was critical for the economy, promising stronger budget discipline and a priority on structural reforms.

Presenting the government’s new economic model, he said the next steps of rebalancing would entail lowering the current account deficit and improving trust.

This did nothing to revive the currency. “The tweet is mightier than the Turkish sword,” Cristian Maggio, head of emerging markets strategy at TD Securities, said in a note to clients. “Albayrak’s plan was uninspiring at best.”

Erdogan, a self-described “enemy of interest rates”, wants cheap credit from banks to fuel growth, but investors fear the economy is overheating and could be set for a hard landing. His comments on interest rates — and his recent appointment of his son-in-law as finance minister — have heightened perceptions that the central bank is not independent.

The central bank raised interest rates to support the lira in an emergency move in May, but it did not tighten at its last meeting.

 

(Additional reporting by Karin Strohecker, Claire Milhench and Ritvik Carvalho, Lisa Lambert and Susan Heavey; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk and David Dolan; Editing by Dominic Evans, Catherine Evans and David Stamp)

Two police officers among four fatally shot in Canada: authorities

Emergency vehicles are seen at the Brookside Drive area in Fredericton, Canada August 10, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. Kev Bourque/via REUTERS

By Anna Mehler Paperny

FREDERICTON, New Brunswick (Reuters) – Four people, including two police officers, were killed in a shooting in eastern Canada on Friday in the latest eruption of gun violence across the country that has led to calls for weapons bans in cities.

Police said a suspect was taken into custody just three weeks after a gunman walked down a busy Toronto street, killing two people and wounding 13 others before taking his own life.

Police in Fredericton, a city of about 56,000 that is the capital of the province of New Brunswick, said two of the dead were police officers but gave few details about the circumstances of the shooting and did not release names. They said the suspect was being treated for serious injuries.

Local media images showed emergency vehicles converging on a tree-lined residential street. Nearby facilities were closed and authorities imposed a lockdown for residents before issuing an all-clear message.

“It was scary,” said Marlene Weaver, who was in bed on Friday morning when she heard shots ring out in her neighborhood. “It takes you back to the shooting in Moncton.”

Three RCMP officers were killed and two more were wounded in 2014 in Moncton, New Brunswick, about 195 km (121 miles) from Fredericton, in one of the worst incidents of its kind in Canada.

Gun laws in Canada are stricter than in the United States but a proliferation of weapons has led to an increase in gun-related crimes in recent years.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were assisting Fredericton authorities in the investigation.

New Brunswick had only three homicide shootings in 2016, according to Statistics Canada.

“Awful news coming out of Fredericton,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter. “My heart goes out to everyone affected by this morning’s shooting. We’re following the situation closely.”

Jeff Magnussen, general manager of a golf course near the site of the shooting, said by phone he heard multiple gunshots before 8 a.m. local time.

“You hear a lot about gun violence in the United States,” he said, “but this morning when I heard those noises, what’s starting to sink in is that those noises were people losing their lives. To have it happen so close to us is shocking. Now we’re becoming the story that nobody wants to hear.”

In the wake of the Toronto bloodshed, the city council voted overwhelmingly to urge the federal government to ban the sale of handguns in the city. Gun laws are under federal jurisdiction.

“Why does anyone in this city need to have a gun at all?” Toronto Mayor John Tory said. Canada’s largest city has had 241 shooting incidents this year, resulting in 30 deaths, a 30 percent increase in fatalities.

On Thursday, Ontario pledged more money for police and to keep suspects behind bars while they await trial on gun crimes charges, as the Canadian province grapples with rising shootings involving domestically obtained weapons.

(Additional reporting by Danya Hajjaji and Allison Martell in Toronto and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Jeffrey Benkoe)