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Tesla boss Elon Musk wins defamation trial sparked by ‚pedo guy‘ tweet

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) boss Elon Musk gained a stunning legal victory on Friday as a federal court jury swiftly rejected the $190 million defamation claim brought by a British cave explorer who Musk had branded a “pedo guy” on Twitter.

FILE PHOTO – SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks at the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 13, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The unanimous verdict by a jury of five women and three men was returned after about 45 minutes of deliberation on the fourth day of Musk’s trial, which was closely watched by legal experts because it is believed to be the first major defamation lawsuit by a private individual to go to trial over tweets.

Musk, 48, who had testified during the first two days of the trial in his own defense and returned to court on Friday to hear closing arguments from the two sides, exited the courtroom after the verdict and said: “My faith in humanity is restored.”

Outside the courthouse, cave explorer Vernon Unsworth told a throng of reporters he was resigned to his defeat. “I accept the jury’s verdict, take it on the chin and get on with my life.”

The case stems from a public quarrel between Musk and Unsworth, who gained fame for his leading role in coordinating the successful rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand in July 2018.

Unsworth, 64 had chided Musk in a CNN interview for delivering a mini-submarine, which was never used, to the site of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system. Unsworth called Musk’s intervention a “P.R.” stunt and said the high-tech entrepreneur should “stick his submarine where it hurts.”

Musk responded two days later on Twitter with three posts that became the basis of the defamation case. The first questioned Unsworth’s role in the rescue, while the second said, “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it,” using a slang term of pedophile.

The third tweet, in reply to a follower who asked Musk about the second tweet, said, “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.”

In closing arguments on Friday, Unsworth’s lead attorney, L. Lin Wood, summed up his case by castigating Musk as a “billionaire bully” who had “dropped a nuclear bomb” on Unsworth in his Twitter blast.

Wood said Musk’s “pedo guy” remark was a slur that would overshadow Unsworth’s relationships and job prospects for years to come and urged jurors to teach the Tesla chief executive and SpaceX founder a lesson by awarding Unsworth $190 million, including $150 million in punitive damages.

Two days earlier, under questioning on the witness stand, Musk had estimated his net worth at $20 billion.

But the jury was apparently swayed by the arguments put forth by Musk’s attorney, Alex Spiro, who said the tweets in question arose from an argument between two men and amounted to an off-hand insult that no one could be expected to take seriously.

“In arguments you insult people,” he said. “There is no bomb. No bomb went off.”

Spiro also said Unsworth failed to demonstrate that he suffered any harm from Musk’s comments, which the South African-born businessman apologized for in court earlier in the week.

Additional reporting by Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Grant McCool

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Westpac economists now see RBA delaying rate cut to April

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FILE PHOTO: A pedestrian looks at his phone as he walks past a logo for Australia’s Westpac Banking Corp located outside a branch in central Sydney, Australia, November 5, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Analysts at Westpac Banking Corp (WBC.AX) now expect the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) will cut interest rates in April, rather than February, following a second month of surprisingly upbeat jobs data.

In a note to clients, chief economist Bill Evans said the dip in unemployment to a nine-month low of 5.1% in December was probably enough to delay a cut.

“It is sufficiently strong a signal for the Board, which has emphasised the labour market as a key policy driver, to opt for a deferment of the rate cut process pending further information,” said Evans.

The RBA holds its next policy meeting on Feb. 4 and the market had already sharply scaled back the chance of an easing following Thursday’s employment report.

Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Sam Holmes

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Merkel gibt Klimaaktivisten Sukkurs | NZZ

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Die deutsche Bundeskanzlerin stellt sich in ihrer Rede am WEF gegen Trump.

Die deutsche Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel hält am Donnerstag ihre Rede am Weltwirtschaftsforum (WEF) in Davos. 

Gian Ehrenzeller / EPA

Greta Thunberg gegen Donald Trump: So lautete das meistbeachtete, möglicherweise von den Medien etwas hochstilisierte Wortführer-Duell am Weltwirtschaftsforum (WEF). Am Donnerstag hat die 17-jährige Klimaschutzaktivistin Greta Thunberg Beistand in Gestalt der deutschen Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel erhalten. Diese legte sich in ihrer Rede für die jungen Umweltschützer ins Zeug – und garnierte ihre Worte mit Spitzen gegen den amerikanischen Präsidenten Donald Trump.

Manche Passagen hätten dabei von Thunberg stammen können. «Die Frage der Erreichung der Ziele des Pariser Abkommens könnte eine Frage des Überlebens sein», sagte Merkel etwa. Dort seien ja nicht mehr alle Länder dabei – aber viele, ergänzte sie in Anspielung auf den Ausstieg der USA. Europa stehe mit dem Ziel der EU-Kommission, zum ersten klimaneutralen Kontinent zu werden, ein «Jahrzehnt des Handelns» bevor. Die Rede setzte einen scharfen Kontrast zu jener Trumps, der die Ökoaktivisten als «Alarmisten» bezeichnet hatte. Am Donnerstag legte der US-Finanzminister Steven Mnuchin nach und riet, Thunberg solle an einem College Ökonomie studieren «und dann zurückkommen».

Auch in anderen Teilen der Rede hatte Merkel Kritik am US-Präsidenten eingebaut, ohne ihn direkt beim Namen zu nennen. Die Deutschen seien nicht von der Sorte, dass sie immer darüber redeten, was bei ihnen super laufe, sagte sie in einer Spitze gegen Trumps WEF-Rede am Dienstag. Der Präsident hatte dabei eine Lobeshymne auf die USA und sich selbst gesungen. Deutschland werde sich für den Multilateralismus einsetzen, sagte Merkel. Trump hatte am Rande des WEF derweil die EU aufgefordert, bald ein neues Handelsabkommen mit den USA abzuschliessen. Sonst drohten neue Strafzölle auf Autoimporte und weitere Waren.

Trotz dieser Rhetorik scheint Merkels Glanz als eine Art Gegen-Trump und europäisches Gesicht des Westens zu verblassen. Auch deshalb wird in Davos mit einiger Sorge die Zukunft Europas diskutiert. Bundesrat Ignazio Cassis hat am Donnerstag in einem Mediengespräch über ein geschlossenes Panel zu diesem Thema unter der Co-Moderation des Präsidenten des Europäischen Parlaments berichtet: «Natürlich ist jetzt die Position Europas in der Welt eine grosse Frage. Ich glaube, so ernsthaft habe ich die Diskussion über dieses Thema noch nie erlebt wie an diesem Treffen.» Ein wichtiger Fokus für Cassis ist am WEF auch die Position der Schweiz in Europa, konkret der Fahrplan beim institutionellen Rahmenvertrag. Brüssel habe Verständnis für die innenpolitische Situation der Schweiz, erklärte der Aussenminister: «Es braucht unter Freunden manchmal Geduld, etwas Gutes zu machen. Wir sind nicht an Olympischen Spielen: Es geht nicht um Sekunden. Aber Geduld ist endlich.» Es sei jetzt an der Schweiz, Vorschläge zur Klärung der drei offenen Punkte zu machen: Lohnschutz, Unionsbürgerrichtlinie und staatliche Beihilfen.

Das Ende der Geduld der EU lässt sich wohl auf die Abstimmung vom 17. Mai terminieren. Dann entscheiden Volk und Stände über die Begrenzungsinitiative der SVP gegen die Personenfreizügigkeit. «Die EU akzeptiert, dass bis dahin nicht viel läuft», sagte Cassis dazu. Es geht also am WEF durchaus auch um subtile Diplomatie und nicht bloss um medienwirksame Duelle.



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Oil falls 2% as specter of China virus threatens fuel demand

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices fell more than 2% on Thursday on concern that the spread of a respiratory virus from China could lower fuel demand if it stunts economic growth, but losses were limited by a drawdown in U.S. crude inventories.

FILE PHOTO: Oil pump jacks work at sunset near Midland, Texas, U.S., August 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jessica Lutz

Brent crude LCOc1 futures lost $1.46, or 2.3%, to $61.75 a barrel by 11:12 a.m. EST (1612 GMT), after having touched $61.25 a barrel, lowest since early December.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures fell $1.45, or 2.6%, to $55.29 a barrel. The contract earlier fell to $54.77 a barrel, the lowest since November.

Two Chinese cities that were at the epicentre of a new coronavirus outbreak that has killed 17 people and infected nearly 600 were put in lockdown on Thursday as health authorities around the world scrambled to prevent a global pandemic.

The potential for a pandemic has stirred memories of the Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2002-03, which also started in China and dented economic growth, causing a slump in travel.

“Such health issues represent significant impediments to normal travel and as a result, have forced the oil market to discount some significant weakening in jet and diesel fuel demand that is extremely difficult to measure until the spread of the health virus is contained,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of trading advisory firm Ritterbusch and Associates.

With coronavirus cases detected as far as away as the United States, global stock markets also felt the effects of fears that the virus could spread further as millions of Chinese prepare to travel for the Lunar New Year this weekend. <MKTS/GLOB>

Beijing said on Thursday that it had canceled major public events, including two well-known Lunar New Year temple fairs, to curb the spread.

“We estimate a price shock of up to $5 (a barrel) if the crisis develops into a SARS-style epidemic,” JPM Commodities Research said in a note, citing historical oil price movements.

The U.S. bank maintained its forecast for Brent to average $67 in the first quarter and $64.50 throughout 2020.

Tempering losses, U.S. crude inventories USOILC=ECI fell 405,000 barrels last week, although gasoline stockpiles rose to their highest on record after 11 weeks of consecutive builds, the Energy Information Administration reported.[EIA/S]

“The report was modestly supportive,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.

China, meanwhile, released data on Thursday showing its gasoline exports rose by nearly a third last year thanks to new refineries.

This week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said it expects a surplus of 1 million barrels per day in the first half of the year.

Additional reporting by Julia Payne in London and Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Bernadette Baum

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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