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OPEC looks to cut oil production to support falling price

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  • VIENNA — OPEC countries were gathered Thursday to find a way to support the falling price of oil, with analysts predicting the cartel and some key allies, like Russia, would agree to cut production by at least 1 million barrels per day.

    Crude prices have been falling since October because major producers — including the U.S. — are pumping oil at high rates and due to fears that weaker economic growth could dampen energy demand. The price of both benchmark U.S. crude and the standard for internationally traded oil fell 22 per cent in November.

    The oil minister of Saudi Arabia, the heavyweight within OPEC, said Thursday that the country was in favour of a cut.

    “I think a million (barrels a day) will be adequate personally,” Khalid Al-Falih said upon arriving to the meeting in Vienna. That, he said, would include production for both OPEC countries as well as non-OPEC countries, like Russia, which have in recent years been co-ordinating their production limits with the cartel.

    That view was echoed by others, including the oil ministers of Nigeria and Iraq.

    “I am optimistic that the agreement will stabilize the market, will stop the slide in the price (of oil),” said Iraq’s Thamir Ghadhban.

    Investors did not seem convinced, however, and were pushing the price of oil down sharply again on Thursday, partly due to broader concerns that a trade war between the U.S. and China could escalate and hurt global growth. The international benchmark for crude, Brent, was down $1.52 at $60.04 a barrel.

    The fall in the price of oil will be a help to many consumers as well as energy-hungry businesses, particularly at a time when global growth is slowing.

    U.S. President Donald Trump has been putting pressure publicly on OPEC to not cut production. He tweeted Wednesday that “Hopefully OPEC will be keeping oil flows as is, not restricted. The World does not want to see, or need, higher oil prices!”

    While Saudi Arabia has indicated it is willing to cut production, its decision may be complicated by Trump’s decision to not sanction the country over the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. U.S. Senators say, after a briefing with intelligence services, that they are convinced that Saudi’s de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman , was involved in Khashoggi’s death. Some experts say that gives the U.S. some leverage over the Saudis, though Al-Falih denied that on Thursday.

    When asked if the Saudis had permission from Trump to cut production, Al-Falih replied: “I don’t need permission from any foreign governments.”

    Experts say this week’s meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will influence the price of oil over the coming months. How strongly it does so could depend on Russia’s contribution, which will be determined in a meeting on Friday.

    Analysts at Commerzbank estimate that if Russia is willing to step up its production cuts, OPEC and non-OPEC countries could trim production by a combined 1.3-1.4 million barrels a day. This “would be enough to rebalance the oil market next year,” they wrote in a note to investors.

    OPEC’s reliance on non-members like Russia highlights the cartel’s waning influence in oil markets, which it had dominated for decades. The OPEC-Russia alliance was made necessary to compete with the United States’ vastly increased production of oil in recent years, particularly since 2016. By some estimates, the U.S. this year became the world’s top crude producer.

    OPEC is also riven by internal conflict, especially between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. One of the key questions in Thursday’s talks is whether to exempt Iran from having to cut production, as its energy industry is already hobbled by U.S. sanctions on its crude exports.

    Meanwhile, Qatar, a Saudi rival and Iranian ally, said this week it would leave OPEC in January. While it said it was purely a practical decision because it mainly produces natural gas and little oil, the move was viewed as a symbolic snub to the Saudi-dominated organization.

    ___

    David Rising and Geir Moulson in Berlin and Anthony Mills in Vienna contributed to this report. Piovano reported from London.

    Kiyoko Metzler And Carlo Piovano, The Associated Press






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    France shooting: 2 dead, several wounded in Strasbourg

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  • PARIS — A shooting in the French city of Strasbourg killed two people and wounded 11 others, officials said, sparking a broad lockdown and major security operation around a world-famous Christmas market Tuesday. Authorities said the shooter remains at large.

    French prosecutors said a terrorism investigation was opened into the shooting, though authorities haven’t announced a motive. It’s unclear if the market — which was the nucleus of an al-Qaida plot in 2000 — was targeted. The city is also home to the European Parliament, which was locked down after the shooting.

    The gunman has been identified and has a criminal record, according to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner. The prefect of the Strasbourg region says the gunman had been flagged as a suspected extremist.

    The attack came as France has been wracked by four weeks of protests against President Emmanuel Macron, and police forces have been stretched by fighting rioting and other protest-related unrest. Macron himself adjourned a meeting at the presidential palace on Tuesday night to be able to monitor the events, his office said, indicating the gravity of the attack.

    The interior minister and the Paris prosecutor, who is in charge of anti-terror probes in France, headed Tuesday night to Strasbourg. The prosecutor’s office says the investigation is for murder and attempted murder in relation with a terrorist enterprise.

    Several of the wounded are in critical condition, Castaner said.

    In multiple neighbourhoods of Strasbourg, the French Interior Ministry called on the public to remain indoors. French soldiers were on patrol after the shooting.

    “Our security and rescue services are mobilized,” Castaner said.

    Local authorities tweeted for the public to “avoid the area of the police station,” which is close to the city’s Christmas market. Strasbourg’s well-known market is set up around the city’s cathedral during the Christmas period and becomes a major gathering place.

    Images from the scene show police officers, police vehicles and barricades surrounding the sparkling lights of the market.

    European Parliament spokesman Jaume Duch said that “the European Parliament has been closed and no one can leave until further notice.” It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were inside.

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that “my thoughts are with the victims of the shooting …. Strasbourg is like no other a city which is a symbol of peace and European democracy.”

    France has been hit by several extremist attacks, including the 2015 Paris shootings, which killed 130 people and wounded hundreds, and a truck attack in Nice that killed dozens in 2016.

    Some Strasbourg residents have reported on social media that they heard gunfire in some parts of the city centre.

    Prime Minister Edouard Philippe tweeted that “the situation is still underway, priority is given to security forces and rescuers.”

    Strasbourg, about 500 kilometres (310 miles) east of Paris, is on the border with Germany.

    The drama recalled a millennial terror plot on Strasbourg’s Christmas market that still marks the collective memory. Ten suspected Islamic militants were convicted and sentenced to prison in December 2004 for their role in a plot to blow up the market on New Year’s Eve 2000.

    The Algerian and French-Algerian suspects — including an alleged associate of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden — went on trial in October on charges they were involved in the foiled plot for the attack.

    They were sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to nine years.

    Sylvie Corbet, Lori Hinnant And Elaine Ganley, The Associated Press


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    New psychiatric assessment ordered for alleged Fredericton shooter

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  • FREDERICTON — A Fredericton man accused of murdering four people in an August shooting spree has been ordered to undergo a 60-day psychiatric assessment.

    It will determine if Matthew Raymond can be found criminally responsible for the crimes he has been accused of.

    He is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Fredericton police constables Sara Burns and Robb Costello, and civilians Donnie Robichaud and Bobbie Lee Wright.

    Raymond was previously found fit to stand trial after a shorter assessment. Details of the arguments seeking the assessments are under a publication ban

    Defence lawyer Alison Menard said Tuesday the longer assessment is to assess the mental state of an accused at the time of an alleged offence.

    “Did they suffer from a mental disorder which would exempt them from responsibility?” she said outside court.

    “In certain circumstances, people who suffer from a mental disorder can be found not criminally responsible because they are lacking the intent element of the offence because of the mental disorder.”

    The case returns to court on Feb. 8, 2019.

    Raymond is alleged to have fired from his apartment window with a long gun, killing the two civilians as they loaded a car for a trip on Aug. 10, and the two police officers as they responded to the scene.

    Raymond has previously told a judge there is evidence that would allow him to be “exonerated” immediately because of temporary insanity.

    As he has in previous court appearances, Raymond stood in court Tuesday, and complained to the judge about the jail-issued orange jumpsuit and orange sweatshirt he was wearing.

    “I should be in casual clothes. I’m not supposed to be in orange at all,” he said.

    Raymond was also upset over documents he took from a file folder and waved in the air.

    “It concerns these documents I should not have in my possession. There are photographs and evidence. Only the court should have these documents,” he said.

    The documents concerning the investigation are under a publication ban, but Raymond said guards where he’s being held are able to see them.

    He said a guard came into his cell in the middle of the night and was looking at the documents.

    “There’s no (expletive) way someone should be in my (expletive) cell in the middle of the night looking at my (expletive),” he said.

    Former friends and acquaintances of Raymond have offered varying memories of the accused murderer, ranging from a boy who retreated into video games, a pleasant supermarket co-worker and an increasingly isolated loner in recent years.

    Some business owners have described Raymond, who is in his late 40s, as becoming reclusive and occasionally unpleasant in the year before the alleged shootings.

    Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press




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    december, 2018

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