Day: October 20, 2018

sd-fi-sandiego-booziest-cities-20181020

San Diego No. 1 booziest city…


San Diegans apparently have an outsized fondness for beer, wine and spirits, helping lift the metro area to the top of a new list of the booziest cities in America.

That’s according to a study assembled by Delphi Behavioral Health Group, a company that owns and operates drug and alcohol detox and treatment centers. Curious about testing the theory that staying sober can help consumers save money, Delphi decided to probe data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual Consumer Expenditure Survey.

Based on expenditure stats tabulated by the BLS, a San Diego consumer spent on average $1,112 last year on alcohol, easily catapulting the metro area to No. 1, past San Francisco, the leader in 2016. That year, San Diego came in at No. 2, at an annual expenditure of $850 per household, Delphi found.

San Diego’s spending on booze rose more than 30 percent in just one year, according to the study. Could it be the explosive growth of the region’s craft beer industry that’s contributing to all that imbibing?

After all, a soon-to-be released report found that San Diego County has more craft brewing locations — about 178 — than any other U.S. county. Not only that, but local breweries produced 1.1 million barrels of beer in 2017, up from 900,000 in 2016.

While Delphi doesn’t offer any explanations of its own for the area’s growing affinity for adult beverages, it surmises that San Francisco’s 23 percent drop may have had something to do with last year’s wine country wildfires that “may have kept San Francisco residents away from weekend trips to nearby vineyards.”

Meanwhile, San Diego’s neighbor to the north, Los Angeles, ranked a distant 14th, with an average household expenditure of $620, still up 20 percent.

According to Delphi’s analysis, here are the top 10 tipsiest cities:

1. San Diego: $1,112

2. Seattle: $986

3. San Francisco: $875

4. Boston: $823

5. Anchorage: $788

6. Denver: $771

7. Minneapolis-St. Paul: $754

8. Baltimore: $724

9. St. Louis: $684

10. Washington, D.C.: $662

lori.weisberg@sduniontribune.com

(619) 293-2251

Twitter: @loriweisberg



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What's at stake if investors begin to shun…


FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The disappearance of a Saudi journalist last seen entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul has shaken confidence in the country as a place to do business, with potential consequences for billions of dollars in investments going into and out of the country.

It’s a blow, analysts say, to efforts by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to convince the world that the country is a reputable place to strike the deals needed to power a wide-ranging transformation of the economy.

As allegations emerge that Jamal Khashoggi was gruesomely murdered, political pressure to isolate Saudi Arabia is increasing.

Here is a look at the Saudi leader’s economic plans and what is at stake if business leaders begin to shun the country.

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Q: Why does Prince Mohammed need foreign investors?

A: The crown prince wants to diversify the economy away from oil and transform its business and political model. For years, oil revenues paid for plenty of government sector jobs and benefits. That model has come under strain amid a growing population and a period of low oil prices.

The prince’s Vision 2030 strategy foresees the creation of a vibrant private sector. As part of that, he wants to develop new industries like alternative energy, tourism and entertainment. Projects include a new business zone near the Red Sea called NEOM that would focus on advanced manufacturing, renewable energy, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology.

Saudi Arabia has its own companies in more traditional fields like construction, which would get a lot of that investment. But the country would need technology, expertise and financing from outside to carry out Prince Mohammed’s ideas. He wants, for instance, to have his Public Investment Fund — the state-backed investment vehicle — raise more money by selling a stake in chemicals company SABIC to state oil firm Saudi Aramco. Analysts say Saudi Aramco would likely have to borrow to make the deal happen. The PIF itself has already borrowed $11 billion from international banks.

“Foreign investment is a main pillar of Vision 2030,” said Sebastian Sons, an expert on Saudi Arabia at the German Council on Foreign Relations. “The old tradition is on the brink. Diversification of the economy is strongly needed and Vision 2030 is the strategy for that.”

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Q: How would the Khashoggi disappearance affect that?

A: Foreign investors already had doubts about the country amid regional conflicts like a blockade of neighbor Qatar and a brutal war against rebels in Yemen. Saudi Arabia ranks 92nd out of 190 countries on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index, which measures things like ability to enforce contracts and get goods in and out of the country. Another cloud was cast over the business environment when Prince Mohammed locked up several dozen members of the Saudi elite in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel and seized what the country’s attorney general said was more than $100 billion in assets.

The Khashoggi scandal comes at a time when “the private sector is cowed and hurting in many ways,” said David Butter, an analyst with the Middle East and North Africa program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.

The hotel incident shows that “they don’t know if their assets are safe from sequestration.” And grisly details reported in news media about Khashoggi’s alleged killing “are just going to make the private sector even more worried,” he said.

The war in Yemen has led to horrors such as an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition that killed 40 children, but the Khashoggi incident is harder to play down as a regrettable mishap of war. Butter said Prince Mohammed’s image as the “face of future reform is now much more difficult to sustain.”

Turkish authorities say Khashoggi was killed. The Saudis have denied involvement.

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Q: Are people losing faith in Saudi Arabia as a business destination?

A: Foreign business and political leaders are dropping out of next week’s Future Investment Initiative, an annual event started last year to showcase the country as a place to do business. Among those cancelling are U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

Sons of the German Council on Foreign Relations, said the no-shows “are a serious indicator for Mohammed bin Salman that he is losing trust, that Saudi Arabia is not seen as the ideal place to invest.”

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Q: Why are the Saudis investing abroad as well?

A: They’ve been buying stakes mainly in technology firms to diversify their revenue and show the country as forward-looking and tech-friendly place.

The sovereign fund has invested $3.5 billion in Uber, for example. It has pledged $45 billion for the SoftBank Vision Fund, a private equity fund that has taken stakes in Uber and messaging software maker Slack Technologies Inc.

The question now is, whether companies will be leery of Saudi money for fear it will taint their reputations. Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Group, has said he is freezing talks for Saudi investment in his space companies. Other executives have limited themselves to the symbolic rebuke of shunning next week’s Saudi conference. Others have simply kept quiet.

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Q: How likely are sanctions against Saudi Arabia?

A: Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham called for Saudi Arabia to be punished if it is confirmed it organized Khashoggi’s disappearance. But they did not specify what that might mean in practice.

The 2016 Global Magnitsky Act makes it possible to impose visa bans barring entry into the U.S. and targeted sanctions on individuals for committing human rights violations or acts of significant corruption. Congress can submit proposed names.

Analyst Butter at the Royal Institute said the prospect of sanctions was unclear but that “any kind of sanctions would have a strong symbolic effect.”

President Donald Trump has promised “severe punishment” if regime involvement is proved, but has also said he does not want to cost U.S. jobs by curtailing U.S. sales of military equipment to the Saudis.



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Thousands turn out for anti-Brexit protest in London…


LONDON (AP) — Tens of thousands of protesters marched through central London on Saturday to demand a new referendum on Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Organizers want the public to have a final say on the government’s Brexit deal with the EU, arguing that new facts have come to light about the costs and complexity of Britain’s exit from the bloc since Britons voted to leave in 2016.

Some 150 buses ferried thousands of activists from across the country to the British capital, and organizers estimated that over 500,000 took part.

“What’s clear is that the only options on the table now from the prime minister are a bad Brexit deal, or no deal whatsoever,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who joined the “People’s Vote March,” told the BBC. “That’s a million miles away from what was promised 2 1/2 years ago.”

Khan said Saturday’s protest was a “march for the future” for young Britons, including those who were too young to vote in Britain’s 2016 EU membership referendum, when those who favored leaving the bloc won narrowly by 52 percent to 48 percent.

The mayor, from the opposition Labour Party, has previously backed mounting calls for a fresh referendum so that the public can have a say on whether they accept Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal or choose to stay in the EU.

May, the leader of Britain’s Conservatives, has ruled out another public vote on the subject.

Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, but negotiations over the divorce have been plagued by disagreements, particularly over the future border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It will be the U.K.’s only land border with the EU after Brexit, for Ireland is part of the EU and Northern Ireland is part of the U.K.

One of the great accomplishments of the 1998 peace deal that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland was to dismantle the police and military presence at the border with Ireland. Many on both sides do not want a hard border again.

There are also growing fears of a “no-deal” British exit, which could create chaos at the borders and in the EU and the British economies.

May, speaking at an inconclusive EU summit in Brussels this week, said she would consider having a longer post-Brexit transition period — one that could keep Britain aligned to EU rules and obligations for more than two years after its March departure. Pro-Brexit politicians in Britain, however, saw it as an attempt to bind the country to the bloc indefinitely.

“This week’s fresh chaos and confusion over Brexit negotiations has exposed how even the best deal now available will be a bad one for Britain,” said Andrew Adonis, a Labour member of the House of Lords. “Voters will neither forgive nor forget if (lawmakers) allow this miserable Brexit to proceed without people being given the final say.”



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King asserts authority…


DUBAI (Reuters) – So grave is the fallout from the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi that King Salman has felt compelled to intervene, five sources with links to the Saudi royal family said.

Last Thursday, Oct. 11, the king dispatched his most trusted aide, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, governor of Mecca, to Istanbul to try to defuse the crisis.

World leaders were demanding an explanation and concern was growing in parts of the royal court that the king’s son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to whom he has delegated vast powers, was struggling to contain the fallout, the sources said.

During Prince Khaled’s visit, Turkey and Saudi Arabia agreed to form a joint working group to investigate Khashoggi’s disappearance. The king subsequently ordered the Saudi public prosecutor to open an inquiry based on its findings.

“The selection of Khaled, a senior royal with high status, is telling as he is the king’s personal adviser, his right hand man and has had very strong ties and a friendship with (Turkish President) Erdogan,” said a Saudi source with links to government circles.

Since the meeting between Prince Khaled and Erdogan, King Salman has been “asserting himself” in managing the affair, according to a different source, a Saudi businessman who lives abroad but is close to royal circles.

Saudi officials did not immediately respond to Reuters questions about the king’s involvement in helping to supervise the crisis. A spokesman for Prince Khaled referred Reuters to government representatives in Riyadh.

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and leading critic of Prince Mohammed, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Turkish officials say they believe the Saudi journalist was murdered there and his body removed, allegations which Saudi Arabia has strongly denied.

Initially the king, who has handed the day-to-day running of Saudi Arabia to his son, commonly known as MbS, was unaware of the extent of the crisis, according to two of the sources with knowledge of the Saudi royal court. That was partly because MbS aides had been directing the king to glowing news about the country on Saudi TV channels, the sources said.

That changed as the crisis grew.

“Even if MbS wanted to keep this away from the king he couldn’t because the story about Khashoggi’s disappearance was on all the Arab and Saudi TV channels watched by the king,” one of the five sources said.

“The king started asking aides and MbS about it. MbS had to tell him and asked him to intervene when Khashoggi’s case became a global crisis,” this source said.

Since he acceded to the throne in January 2015, the king has given MbS, his favorite son, increasing authority to run Saudi Arabia. But the king’s latest intervention reflects growing disquiet among some members of the royal court about MbS’s fitness to govern, the five sources said.

MbS, 33, has implemented a series of high-profile social and economic reforms since his father’s accession, including ending a ban on women driving and opening cinemas in the conservative kingdom.

But he has also marginalized senior members of the royal family and consolidated control over Saudi’s security and intelligence agencies.

His reforms have been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, a purge of top royals and businessmen on corruption charges, and a costly war in Yemen.

Khashoggi’s disappearance has further tarnished the crown prince’s reputation, deepening questions among Western allies and some Saudis about his leadership.

“Even if he is his favorite son, the king needs to have a comprehensive view for his survival and the survival of the royal family,” said a fourth Saudi source with links to the royal court.

“In the end it will snowball on all of them.”

Saudi officials did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

MISCALCULATION

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied any role in Khashoggi’s disappearance. But the sources familiar with the royal court said the reaction from the United States, an ally for decades, had contributed to the king’s intervention.

“When the situation got out of control and there was an uproar in the United States, MbS informed his father that there was a problem and that they have to face it,” another source with knowledge of the royal court said.

The crown prince and his aides had initially thought the crisis would pass but they “miscalculated its repercussions”, this source said.

Turkish officials have made clear they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, and two Turkish sources have told Reuters police have audio recordings to back up that assertion.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican close to President Donald Trump, on Tuesday accused MbS of ordering Khashoggi’s murder and called him a “wrecking ball” who is jeopardizing relations with the United States. He did not say what evidence he was basing the allegation on.

Trump said on Thursday he presumed Khashoggi was dead but that he still wanted to get to the bottom of what exactly happened. Asked what would be the consequences for Saudi Arabia, Trump said: “Well, it’ll have to be very severe. I mean, it’s bad, bad stuff. But we’ll see what happens.”

Trump has previously said “rogue killers” may have been responsible and has ruled out cancelling arms deals worth tens of billions of dollars. On Tuesday, Trump said he had spoken with MbS and that the crown prince told him he did not know what had happened in the consulate where Khashoggi went missing.

The case poses a dilemma for the United States, as well as Britain and other Western nations. Saudi Arabia is the world’s top oil exporter, spends lavishly on Western arms and is an ally in efforts to contain the influence of Iran.

But in a sign of the damage, a succession of international banking and business chiefs, including IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, JP Morgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon and Ford Chairman Bill Ford, have pulled out of a high-profile investment conference in Saudi Arabia this month.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday also abandoned plans to attend, as did Britain’s trade minister and the French and Dutch finance ministers, putting the event in question.

Saudi officials have said they plan to move forward with the conference, scheduled for Oct. 23-25, despite the wave of cancellations.

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud is seen during a meeting with U.N Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the United Nations headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. March 27, 2018. To match Insight SAUDI-POLITICS/KING REUTERS/Amir Levy/File Photo

Neither JP Morgan nor Ford would elaborate on the reasons for the decision not to attend and did not comment on whether concerns about the disappearance of Khashoggi were a factor.

Lagarde had previously said she was “horrified” by media reports about Khashoggi’s disappearance. An IMF spokesperson did not give a reason for her deferring her trip to the Middle East.

TAKING CONTROL

Before the king’s intervention, Saudi authorities had been striking a defiant tone, threatening on Sunday to retaliate with greater action against the U.S. and others if sanctions are imposed over Khashoggi’s disappearance. A Saudi-owned media outlet warned the result would be disruption in Saudi oil production and a sharp rise in world oil prices.

“Reaction and threats to the possible sanctions of the last 24 hours were still (coming) from the crown prince,” the businessman close to royal circles said on Monday. “The king is now holding the file personally … and the tone is very different.”

The king has spoken directly with Erdogan and Trump in recent days. Both the king and his son met U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he visited Riyadh on Tuesday.

King Salman, 82, spent decades as part of the inner circle of the Al Saud dynasty, which long ruled by consensus. In four decades as governor of Riyadh, he earned a reputation as a royal enforcer who punished princes who were out of line.

Whether he is willing or able to resume that role in this crisis remains unclear, palace insiders say. One source with links to the royal court said the king was “captivated” by MbS and ultimately would protect him.

Still, there is precedent for the king’s intervention.

He stepped in this year to shelve the planned listing of national oil company Saudi Aramco, the brainchild of MbS and a cornerstone of his economic reforms, three sources with ties to government insiders told Reuters in August. Saudi officials have said the government remains committed to the plans.

And when MbS gave the impression last year that Riyadh endorsed the Trump administration’s still nebulous Middle East peace plan, including U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the king made a public correction, reaffirming Riyadh’s commitment to the Arab and Muslim identity of the city.

Despite these rare instances of pushback, several of the sources close to the royal family said that King Salman had grown increasingly detached from decisions taken by MbS.

“He has been living in an artificially-created bubble,” said one of the sources. Lately, though, the king’s advisers have grown frustrated and begun warning him of the risks of leaving the crown prince’s power unchecked.

“The people around him are starting to tell him to wake up to what’s happening,” the source said.

Reporting by Reuters correspondents; Editing by Nick Tattersall

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Javier Bardem condemns Woody Allen 'public lynching'…


Javier Bardem has spoken out in support of Woody Allen, who directed him and his wife Penélope Cruz in the 2008 comedy Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Bardem’s comments emerged from a masterclass at the Lumiere festival in Lyon, France. The Spanish actor, who also appeared in the 007 film Skyfall and won an Oscar for best supporting actor for the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men, said he would be happy to work for Allen again.

“At the time I did Vicky Cristina Barcelona, the allegations were already well known for more than 10 years, and two states in the US deemed he was not guilty.”

He added: “If the legal situation ever changes, then I’d change my mind. But for now I don’t agree with the public lynching that he’s been receiving, and if Woody Allen called me to work with him again I’d be there tomorrow morning. He’s a genius.”

Bardem’s attitude contrasts strongly with a number of high-profile actors, including Colin Firth, Greta Gerwig, and Timothée Chalamet, who have said they regret working with Allen and won’t do so again, following a newspaper article in 2013 by Allen’s daughter Dylan Farrow in which she repeated accusations of child sexual abuse by her father, alleged to have taken place in 1992. Allen denies all the allegations. An investigation by the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic of Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut concluded in 1993 that no abuse had taken place, and New York state’s Department of Social Services cleared Allen later the same year following a child welfare investigation.

Allen, meanwhile, has said that he intends to keep working despite the hostility of large sections of the film industry. Page Six, the New York Post’s gossip section, reported Allen as saying: “I’m a writer. It’s what I am. What I do. What I always will be. I’ll write. Since I continually have ideas it’ll be new ideas and I’ll write new things.”

Allen’s most recent film, A Rainy Day in New York, has yet to secure a release date.



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Crown prince had 'no knowledge'…


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s crown prince had no knowledge of the specific operation that resulted in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul this month, a Saudi official familiar with the investigation said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud is seen during a meeting with U.N Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the United Nations headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Levy/File Photo

“There were no orders for them to kill him or even specifically kidnap him,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity and adding that there was a standing order to bring critics of the kingdom back to the country.

“MbS had no knowledge of this specific operation and certainly did not order a kidnapping or murder of anybody. He will have been aware of the general instruction to tell people to come back,” the source said, using the initials of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The source said the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body were unclear after it was handed over to a “local cooperator” but there was no sign of it at the consulate.

Reporting by Yara Bayoumy; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Sandra Maler

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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