Boohoo online fashion retailer sees its profits double – BBC News

Image copyright Boohoo
Image caption Boohoo has seen its sales rise to nearly 300m

Annual pre-tax profits at online fashion retailer Boohoo have almost doubled to 31m – up from just under 16m last year.

Its sales have jumped by 51% to almost 300m, thanks to new overseas markets.

The Manchester-based firm puts its success down to “combining cutting-edge, aspirational design with an affordable price tag”.

Its booming sales growth has also been reflected in its share price, which has more than trebled in the past year.

On its stock market flotation in 2014, it was valued at 560m. It is now worth about 2bn.

The firm has gone from strength to strength in recent years, while its High Street rivals have had to deal with increasing competition from Boohoo and other online retailers.

Image copyright Boohoo
Image caption Boohoo has been able to test online sales of new items, before manufacturing them in bigger numbers

Its only temporary misstep was a profit warning in 2015 that unnerved investors and sent its share price down by some 40% – something the online retailer has now put behind it.

“Boohoo has seen strong sales across multiple markets, and significant volume growth in sales,” says John Stevenson, retail analyst at Peel Hunt.

According to its latest results, Boohoo’s revenue grew 33% in the UK, more than 50% in Europe, 140% in the US and 40% in the rest of the world.

The company now has 5.2 active million customers worldwide, and crucially is able to rely on social media “influencers” and video bloggers – “vloggers” – to spread the word to its 18 to 24-year-old target market.

Digital engagement

“Boohoo has been able to halve the amount it spends on marketing over the past five years, because of this shift to social media,” says Mr Stevenson.

“Relatively speaking, it has a far more engaged social media base than many other retailers – and it can use digital as a call to arms.”

It is an online marketing strategy that High Street chains are now scrambling to emulate.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Boohoo relies on social media “influencers” and vloggers to reach its target audiences

The key to its success is that Boohoo is able to batch-produce items “in the low hundreds” to trial for sale on its website; something that is not a viable option for fashion chains with bricks-and-mortar stores.

This ability to “test and repeat” allows the online retailer to have a constant flow of new items on its website, with only about a third of them ever being reordered for bigger production runs if the initial sales prove successful.

Crucially, this means that online fashion retailers like Boohoo can potentially respond much more quickly to changing fashion tastes than can their High Street rivals.

With its constant product changes and low prices – dresses can start for as little as 8 – Boohoo can set its own prices. “They don’t have to follow the lead of, say Marks and Spencer,” says Peel Hunt’s John Stevenson.

Image copyright Boohoo
Image caption Boohoo recently bought fashion site Nasty Gal for 20m to aid its US expansion

Growth plans

Over the past 12 months, Boohoo has bolstered its international expansion plans through its 20m acquisition of struggling US fashion site Nasty Gal, which it completed in February.

The US purchase has given Boohoo access to Nasty Gal’s intellectual property and customer database that will help its US expansion plans.

Earlier this year, it also bought the smaller online fashion retailer Pretty Little Thing, which was founded by the sons of Boohoo co-founder Mahmud Kamani.

Boohoo plans to expand Pretty Little Thing, which has more than a million active customers, in new markets and said it had shown strong profitable growth in the first two months since the takeover.

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Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39697246

Would visiting Parliament inspire you to vote? – BBC News

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Media captionCan you convince people to vote in one day?

With a general election weeks away, figures suggest voter apathy remains unchanged. Two women who don’t like politics paid a visit to Parliament, but did it convince them to vote?

“I feel like politicians make decisions for people they don’t know anything about,” says LaTifah Atkinson, a 26-year-old woman from north London.

She is a university graduate who runs her own business. She has never voted.

“I currently don’t vote because I don’t understand what I’m voting for,” she says.

Fellow businesswoman, Chiara Stone, a 36-year-old mother of two, is also disaffected by politics.

She says MPs are not worth what they earn.

“I don’t think we feel Parliament does represent us because we don’t understand how it works,” she says.

She is not alone. A third of people eligible to vote didn’t cast a vote in the last general election.

According to new parliamentary research, two-thirds of people aged 18 to 34 feel they know little or nothing about Parliament.

Beyond the act of voting, the British public are “no more politically engaged this year than last” – despite last year’s EU referendum – it suggests.

So what can be done?

The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme took LaTifah and Chiara to Parliament for a day. It turned out to be the day Theresa May sought to call a general election.

Image caption Iain Duncan Smith said the Commons can be a “bear pit”

First stop was the House of Commons, for a tour with veteran Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith and a seat to watch that day’s debate.

Both women said the infighting, the hustle and bustle, and even the way MPs addressed each other left them confused and alienated.

‘Twitter feed’

“You don’t really have much faith in them when they are in the House of Commons having a debate and they look bored,” she added.

“How am I supposed to be interested if you look obviously bored and you’re scrolling through your Twitter feed in the debate?”

“I think it is in Parliament’s interests to get more people voting,” Chiara added.

“And I think if you want to get more people voting then you need to make it accessible for them in this modern age.

“I think the problem is that so much of it is steeped in so much tradition and history, which is quite British, but then you also have to move with the times.”

Image caption Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said politics mattered

After that, the pair were able to sit down with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“Do you feel Parliament represents you?” he asked.

“I suppose no, we don’t really think it represents us,” Chiara said.

“Politics affects lives,” he added.

He told LaTifah: “You’ve had a housing issue, that’s a political decision. It’s a political decision to build council housing, or not. It’s a political decision to regulate rents, or not.

“That’s politics. Politics matters.”

‘Intimidating’ place

Mr Corbyn has been an MP for 24 years. But for new MPs, joining the Commons can be just as overwhelming as visiting on a day trip.

The SNP’s Hannah Bardell – one of Westminster’s newest MPs who joined the Commons in 2015 – says even new MPs can be left in a daze by the workings of Parliament.

“It was quite intimidating and quite emotional. I spent a lot of time getting lost,” she says of her first few days.

“This place is designed to intimidate you and I think a lot of us just thought, ‘No, we’re not going to be intimidated, we’re here to do a job and do our best.'”

Image caption The SNP’s Hannah Bardell is one of Parliament’s newest MPs

The final stop was a trip to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee to hear business leaders give evidence about the impact of Brexit.

“We’ve had sessions talking about the film industry, to people in television and today we were talking to people in the fashion industry,” Tory MP Damian Collins, who chairs the committee, says.

“We can hold inquiries or hold hearings on any issue that is related to the work of that government department. What we try to do is look at the issues and then decide as a group what is the right thing to do.”

‘It is complex’

So did it work?

“It was better than I thought it would be,” LaTifah says, with Big Ben looming behind her.

“I do know who I would vote for and being here today, I can say that I would confidently vote for the first time in 26 years.”

“It was massively different to how I thought it would be. I’ve come away now feeling that I have a good grasp of how politics works. But it is complex,” Chiara added.

Image copyright Getty Images

But she says she is still baffled by the behaviour of MPs in the Commons.

“It is just really hard to follow, all the language and the traditions they use, it didn’t really make much sense.”

They both said they have a great appreciation of what the role of an MP entails.

“But I also feel that it is a two-way street,” LaTifah says.

“It is not just about the politicians and what happens in Parliament, it is about the public and the people doing their part as well.

“If we don’t challenge MPs, they can’t make changes on our behalf.”

Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-39706755

Trump’s first 100 days on the global stage

Washington (CNN)The 45th president entered office raging against a post-WWII order built by the United States, pledging instead that he would put “America First.

The US, President Donald Trump said during his campaign, could no longer afford to be the world’s policeman. On the stump he also dismissed core alliances in Europe and Asia, raged at trade pacts, derided international organizations such as the UN and trash-talked allies (Mexico) and competitors (China) alike.
But since his inauguration, Trump has steadily reversed course on those fronts and a host of others.
    The populist president has now embraced NATO, reaffirmed relationships with allies, reinforced international norms against chemical weapons use by bombing Syria and has sent more US troops to help rein in global conflicts.
    Almost 100 days after Trump entered the White House dismissing the international system, Trump seems to be assuming a US president’s traditional foreign policy role: being that system’s biggest defender.
    “It’s a total 180,” said James Jeffrey, a former US ambassador to Iraq and Turkey. “And to a certain degree, it’s right.”

    Rhetoric hits reality

    Analysts in Washington and overseas say a number of factors are at work, including the reality of dealing with global events, appeals from foreign leaders and the rise of experienced foreign policy mavens to Cabinet positions.
    But some caution that the President, with no foreign policy experience, hundreds of unfilled national security staff positions and a reliance on equally inexperienced family members, is a reactive and tactical leader who still lacks a strategic vision — preferring to disseminate his thoughts in 140-character bursts.

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    They also point to the fact that many of the problems shadowing Trump’s presidency in these first few months are tied to potentially compromising connections his circle has with global entities.
    The FBI is investigating whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow while Russia was allegedly hacking Democratic organizations to benefit the Republican candidate during 2016. Trump’s first national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, had to step down after a controversial call with the Russian ambassador, while his work as a foreign agent during the transition has drawn scrutiny. Meanwhile, the Trump family still maintains myriad international business holdings.
    Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said these ties should check the optimism of any observers who think Trump is adopting a reassuringly standard approach to foreign policy.
    “We’re comforting ourselves that this is normal and we should resist that view,” she said.

    Learning curve

    Every president goes through a learning curve and Trump is no exception.
    “There’s no school for president,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East peace negotiator for the State Department now at the Wilson Center. “The issue for me is, is he learning? That’s the key question.”
    Miller and Jeffrey pointed to the fact that Trump has surrounded himself with deeply experienced advisers, notably Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
    They “believe deeply in this system, and there’s a reason we believe in this system, because the alternative is chaos,” Jeffrey said.
    Trump has shown a willingness to defer to them, Miller added.
    Before his election, Trump backed torture. After taking office, he reversed course, saying Mattis had told him he’d always done better with “a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers.”

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    Others, though, say giving them a seat at the table isn’t enough.
    “I’m heartened by the fact that he appears to be listening to the counsel of those people,” said Christine Wormuth, a former undersecretary of defense in the Obama administration. “I would not go so far as to say I’m optimistic.”
    Her concern, she said, is that “it’s not clear to me President Trump has a real strategic vision for the role the United States should be playing.”
    “I have a sense of what America First means to him in terms of trade, but trade is only one dimension of our foreign policy,” said Wormuth, a senior advisor in the CSIS International Security Program. “It’s one thing to say he wants better deals with this country or that country. What about problems outside the trade sphere?”

    Military power

    Trump has largely turned to the military to address global flashpoints, sending the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier near the Korean Peninsula last week, dropping the “Mother of All Bombs” on ISIS positions in Afghanistan on April 13 and sending Tomahawk missiles into Syria the week before.
    At the same time, he’s moving to drastically cut the State Department budget, Wormuth noted.
    “Everyone is focused on the Tomahawk strike, the dust-up with North Korea,” Wormuth said. “Those were tactical responses. Eventually the Trump administration is going to have to have an actual strategy and there’s going to have to be a diplomatic component if we’re going to have any real success.”
    Miller pointed to an ongoing Trump evolution in which “the realities of what it takes to campaign are giving way to the realities of governance, and that means adopting positions that are well considered and thought through.”
    He points to an early declaration that the US would move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem; the Trump campaign’s dismissal of the Export-Import Bank; and the suggestion that Japan and South Korea develop their own nuclear weapons. All these positions seem to have quietly been abandoned.

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    Earlier this month, Trump alluded to the difference between campaigning and engaging with the world. The President’s most pressing security challenge may be North Korea, which is poised to conduct a sixth nuclear test in its increasingly aggressive pursuit of a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it. Trump wants China to help with the challenge.
    Trump wrote on Twitter over the Easter weekend, “Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem?”
    Foreign leaders have also had some sway, said Jeffrey, particularly Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and leaders from Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia.
    “The system has been very good to them,” Jeffrey said of the global order, and they get “nervous” with a president “who comes in and disses the whole thing.”
    He continued, “They all march off to Washington and plead to him, ‘Be the world’s policeman,’ and he agreed.”

    Coming around on NATO

    Jeffrey believes the shift in Trump’s view was reflected when Mattis, Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly affirmed the US commitment to NATO at a German security conference in February.
    “That’s the moment when I think people started breathing a sigh of relief,” Jeffrey said. “In that sense, it’s a return to normal.”
    Others aren’t yet sure. Miller pointed to Trump’s mercurial character. “People don’t fundamentally change,” he said. “Can you keep your demons in check? It gets to fundamental questions of character.”
    Wormuth also questioned whether Trump can learn to be consistent: “Part of what’s important in foreign policy is consistency and clarity in what you’re communicating to your friends and enemies. Deploying unpredictabilty every now and then has value, but being seen by your allies as unreliable is dangerous.”
    Conley, of CSIS, said the damage is already done. “Our foreign policy used to be built on principles, the international trading order, international law, the security framework,” she said. “When you shake those foundations, no one can rely on anything.”
    She pointed to the way longtime US allies are hedging, with Europe increasing its defense spending and Japan and Middle Eastern countries adjusting their defense posture and boosting arms purchases. The EU has made warmer overtures to China and issued a strategic document that stressed the need to lessen its reliance on the US.
    Those alliances are “like a vase,” Conley said. “Once broken, you can glue it back together, but it’s never as strong as it once was.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/26/politics/trump-foreign-policy-100-days/index.html

    United Airlines in new PR disaster after giant rabbit dies on UK flight

    Airline launches investigation after rabbit set to be the worlds biggest found dead after travelling from London to Chicago

    United Airlines is facing another PR disaster after a potentially record-breaking giant rabbit perished onboard one of its transatlantic flights.

    The three-foot (90cm) continental giant rabbit named Simon, which was 10 months old, died while travelling from London Heathrow to OHare airport in Chicago, the Sun reported.

    Breeder Annette Edwards, from Worcestershire, told the newspaper that Simon was expected to grow to be the worlds biggest rabbit after his father Darius grew to 4ft 4in (1.32m). She said his buyer was a famous celebrity.

    A United spokeswoman confirmed the airline had offered assistance to one of its customers and was reviewing the incident. She said: We were saddened to hear this news. The safety and wellbeing of all the animals that travel with us is of the utmost importance to United Airlines and our PetSafe team.

    We have been in contact with our customer and have offered assistance. We are reviewing this matter.

    The death of Simon comes less than three weeks after a video showing passenger David Dao being dragged off a United Express flight sparked widespread outrage.

    Dao, a 69-year-old from Kentucky, was seen with a bloodied face after being forcibly taken off the plane by Chicago airport officers who had been summoned by United employees when he would not give up his seat.

    Speaking after the incident, United chief executive Oscar Munoz said: The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened.

    Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologise to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.

    The most recent figures from the US Department of Transportation dating from 2015 but released this February show 35 animal deaths occurred during transit across 17 carriers in the US.

    United accounted for 14 animal deaths in that period with a further nine reported injured among the nearly 100,000 animals carried by the company.

    Edwards told the Sun: Something very strange has happened and I want to know what. Ive sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before. The client who bought Simon is very famous. Hes upset.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/26/united-airlines-new-pr-disaster-giant-rabbit-simon-dies-uk-flight

    CIA director Mike Pompeo repeatedly cited WikiLeaks to attack Clinton during campaign

    (CNN)Donald Trump’s administration has taken a tough stance on WikiLeaks in recent weeks.

    US officials told CNN last week that the Justice Department has prepared charges to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference on Thursday that Assange’s arrest is a “priority” of the administration.
    But no Trump administration official went further in condemning the group than CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who, in a speech two weeks ago, called WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service.”
      Pompeo’s comments immediately drew attention to a tweet from July 2016 in which he linked to the WikiLeaks document dump of emails from the Democratic National Committee. Critics used the tweet to call out Pompeo for his dramatic reversal on WikiLeaks.
      When Pompeo was asked about the tweet at his confirmation hearing in January, he said he never viewed WikiLeaks as a “credible source of information.”
      Pompeo, however, repeatedly cited the group to attack Hillary Clinton during the campaign, a CNN KFile review of his tweets and media appearances shows. He claimed the emails were proof of DNC collusion against Bernie Sanders, and cited emails released by the group to argue that Democrats should call on Hillary Clinton to drop out of the presidential race.
      In an appearance on Fox Business during the Democratic National Convention in July, Pompeo dismissed the Clinton campaign’s concerns at the time that Russia was behind WikiLeaks release of the hacked emails.
      “Well, it’s classic Clinton, right? When you find out you got a problem, you deflect, you deny,” Pompeo said. “You create a contretemp where there really is none. Frankly, it’s pretty clear who invited the Russians to do damage to America, and it was Hillary Clinton. She put classified information on a private server, inviting the Chinese, the Iranians, the Russians, all have access to it. I hope they didn’t get it, but even the former director of the CIA said he thinks they probably did. So, the person who’s put American national security risk isn’t Donald Trump, it’s Hillary Clinton.”
      That same week, Pompeo told the Washington Examiner that the emails released by WikiLeaks showed that President Obama and Clinton colluded against Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.
      “We can now see the fix was in for President Obama and Secretary Clinton to make sure that Bernie Sanders would never be elected. That’s embarrassing to many Democrats, so they’re flailing about trying to find separate storyline to deflect from the true substance of what was in those emails,” he said.
      When WikiLeaks released Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s emails in October of 2016, Pompeo sent five tweets citing the revelations from the emails to attack Clinton and also mentioned the emails in media appearances.
      “.@HillaryClinton team emailed anti-Catholic bigotry & said evangelicals are even worse. She must explain how thats okay & disavow,” Pompeo wrote in one tweet on October 19, referencing an email exchange released by WikiLeaks showing top Clinton aides making critical comments about Catholics and evangelicals.
      Pompeo also seized on an email containing excerpts of Clinton’s paid speeches, tweeting on October 26: “.@HillaryClinton said in a private speech that she wants open borders. This may work in Brazilian boardrooms, but is bad for Kansas families.”
      One tweet from Pompeo previewed an upcoming Fox appearance to discuss “newly released emails of @HillaryClinton & her cronies.” Pompeo noted during the appearance that “what you see in these emails is the people closest to Hillary Clinton don’t trust her either.” Pompeo made similar comments speaking with local Fox affiliate in Kansas.
      In October, Pompeo was quoted by the Wichita Eagle as citing the emails about Catholics to argue that Democrats should call on Clinton to withdraw from the presidential race.
      A spokesperson for the CIA pointed CNN’s KFile to a written response Pompeo sent to Sen. Angus King following his confirmation hearing.
      “The tweet I sent in July 2016 was not meant as an endorsement of Wikileaks or its practices, but rather remarked on the content of the material now in the public domain,” he wrote. “I understand the concern over the tweet’ s reference to Wikileaks, given how disclosures by Wikileaks have targeted American institutions and democracy. The tweet was sent in reference to political issues in the middle of a hard-fought campaign. Based on additional briefings and information, including the reports released by the Intelligence Community, I now have a much deeper understanding of Wikileaks and its harmful activities.”

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/24/politics/kfile-mike-pompeo-wikileaks/index.html

      You can’t out-crazy Kim Jong Un

      (CNN)President Trump had a pretty full national security plate Monday: Lunch with ambassadors from the nations that make up the UN Security Council, a meeting with his Defense Secretary and Joint Chiefs Chairman, and dinner with Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

      Top of the menu: North Korea.
      In fact, speaking briefly for the cameras at that very lunch, the President made clear he finds the status quo on the peninsula “unacceptable,” and he called on UNSC members to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
        “This is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not,” he said. “North Korea is a big world problem, and it’s a problem we have to finally solve. People put blindfolds on for decades and now it’s time to solve the problem.”
        Putting aside the falsehood that the international community has somehow blindfolded itself to this issue, the President has a point. North Korea poses a significant threat to peace and security, not only on the peninsula and in the region, but also potentially to the United States and the rest of the world.
        Five of America’s seven treaty alliances are in the Pacific region, alliances that demand US military assistance in case of attack on our friends. One of those alliances is with the Republic of South Korea, a nation in which we have stationed nearly 30,000 American troops.
        And remember, the Korean War isn’t over, at least not technically.
        We never signed a treaty. We stopped fighting in 1953 and signed an armistice to “insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved.”
        That final settlement has never been made. That’s why Vice President Mike Pence visited the “demilitarized zone” last week and not the border. And it’s why, according to some experts, young Kim Jong Un has absolutely no intention of giving up his toys. He knows that while he can produce a bomb, he can’t produce a peace. And what he really wants is survival — for him and the regime.
        As The Economist noted this week, Kim “watched Moammar Gadhafi of Libya give up his nuclear program in return for better relations with the West — and end up dead.”
        So, the young dictator makes it clear he will continue to pursue nuclear and ballistic missile technology so that, one day, he can — if needed — launch a nuke at his enemies.
        We must take him at his word.
        Bluster? Yes, of course. But he backs that bluster up with constant tests, constant research and constant resources. Kim means business.
        Sometimes that business pays off. Sometimes, not so much. But for Kim, there is really no such thing as failure. Each time he attempts a launch or sets off a bomb, he learns. Each time, win or lose, he wins.

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        He wins because he advances his knowledge. He wins because he proves his seriousness. And he wins because he makes it more attractive for other nations to buy him off. The focus on him elevates him. It elevates the status of North Korea. And maybe, just maybe, helps put him in a better position to ensure the regime’s sustainability.
        It’s sort of like that scene from the movie “Lethal Weapon,” where undercover cop Martin Riggs (played by Mel Gibson) tries to pay for a truckload of cocaine with a hundred bucks and then urges the police on scene to fire at will, even though Riggs himself is sure to be caught in the crossfire.
        “You wanna see crazy?”
        Only Kim Jong Un isn’t just crazy. He is cruel, and he is calculating. And he still appears to calculate that, while North Korea is dramatically weaker than the rest of the world — as well as his southern neighbors — he can raise the stakes high enough that the playing field gets leveled pretty darn fast.
        Even if he doesn’t win the escalation race, even if we beat him to the punch with a pre-emptive strike, he can make it very costly, indeed. The death and destruction he could rain down on Seoul alone in just the span of a couple of hours (some estimates have it at more than 100,000 casualties) — not to mention a restart to the Korean War — would be bloody, brutal and disastrous.

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        And that’s why there are no good options. Only “least worst” ones: More sanctions. More pressure. More diplomacy. More deterrence.
        These aren’t sexy solutions. They won’t grab headlines. They won’t provide the instant gratification of, say, Tomahawk missiles striking Syria.
        They require time, and there is precious little of that as Kim advances his programs. They require multilateral efforts and international consensus, and there is little patience for that inside the “America First” crowd. They require the energetic cooperation of China, and there is — despite the Trump administration’s claim to the contrary — little evidence of that, either.
        But they are still worth exploring, if only because a pre-emptive strike pre-empts only a North Korean nuclear missile from hitting us or our friends — and not a larger war.
        Don’t get me wrong. If we get to the point where we need to strike, we should strike. That should always remain an option, as it was under President Obama and his predecessors.
        But even as we prepare for that dreadful possibility, we should exhaust every other avenue.
        And frankly, we should take some measure of comfort that the Trump administration appears to be doing just that. For all his own bluster, Trump has presided over what appears to be a normal, rigorous and deliberate interagency process to discuss and debate solutions to the North Korea problem.
        The first trip Mattis took was to the Pacific region, followed shortly by the secretary of state and more recently the vice president. All of them shored up the confidence of allies and partners about America’s firmness and commitment to dealing with the threat.
        The President will bring congressional leaders to the White House on Wednesday for a briefing on North Korea, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads to New York on Friday to lead a special ministerial meeting at the United Nations devoted to North Korea.
        Two of President Trump’s first official visitors were Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Indeed, he spoke to both leaders again just Sunday, telling Xi, according to the White House readout, that the United States and China must “strengthen coordination in achieving the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
        He’s right about that as well. The path to Pyongyang runs through Beijing. No other nation in the world has as much leverage on the North as does China. China knows it, too, though they claim otherwise and are timid about using it. Their spotty implementation of sanctions in the past should not be allowed to continue, even if it hurts the Chinese economy.
        The Chinese desire stability on the peninsula, and so have been all too willing to look the other way as imports and exports pass over that border. It has been a fool’s purchase. Now, with an increasingly intransigent and nuclear-capable Kim and the specter of chaos and conflict on China’s border, one hopes Beijing will finally realize that illicit trade wasn’t the only thing happening while they gazed elsewhere.
        It couldn’t have been lost on Xi that Kim shot off a missile just two days before the Chinese President arrived in Washington. It was a message intended as much for him as it was for the United States. And it must have left a bitter taste.
        If stability is what the Chinese want, they have to know by now they can’t possibly get it by looking the other way. They need to look a little harder at themselves and at Pyongyang. They need to look south. And with the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson now heading north, it seems as though the Trump administration is only too happy to remind them.

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        And that’s where the President has it wrong. No, not moving the ships. That’s a key mission for the Navy, providing a measure of deterrence. I’m talking about his own bluster over it. He should take a page from his Cabinet and the national security process he’s put in place and focus on solutions, not threats.
        First of all, we don’t want to scare the wrong Korea. Our South Korean allies have a lot invested in this relationship and a lot to lose if we don’t find a peaceful solution.
        And second, Kim is not a rational actor and not above over-reacting. Pulling a Martin Riggs may make for great soundbites, but this is no movie script. You can’t out-crazy Kim Jong Un.

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/24/opinions/north-korea-threat-opinion-kirby/index.html

        Best hotels in Mauritius: How top designers remade luxury in paradise

        (CNN)Luxury hotels have staked claims to Mauritius’s famed beaches for decades, but over the last couple of years, elite designers have remade venerable island institutions and built new paradise retreats from the ground up.

        Oberoi Mauritius, Turtle Bay Marine Park, Balaclava

        While this isn’t a couples-only resort, the Oberoi feels like a honeymooners retreat. There is a kids’ club for the little ones, but everything from the waterfall at the entrance to the villas with private pools says romantic luxury getaway.
          Repeatedly voted the best hotel in Mauritius at the World Travel Awards, this is the sort of place where guests return to their room to find their tub filled with rose petals.
          The famed Thai resort brings its chic Asian style to a retreat that’s meant as a couples getaway.
          Seriously, they offer a “romance concierge” who can organize a couple’s massage or set up a private candlelight dinner inside the rooms overlooking the beach. They can even organize a wedding.
          The hotel is secluded, beautiful and enjoys glorious sunsets every evening. The spa is one of the best in Mauritius.

          Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa

          Recently renovated, the Shangri-La combines modern Asian design with family-friendly amenities.
          Long owned by South African hotel magnate Sol Kerzner, Shangri-La was brought in to spruce up the place and take over the management.
          The hotel used to reflect a particularly South African sense of Mediterranean design. Now it has modern Asian interiors, with rough or natural woodwork balanced by soft earth tones that work to make the ocean water appear even more vibrant.
          The resort has four beaches and a private island, Ilot Mangnie, that’s only for guests. Another private island, Ile aux Cerfs, has an 18-hole golf course designed by Bernhard Langer.

          The Address Boutique Hotel

          The Address is run by Indigo Hotels, best known for its business hotels around Mauritius’s commercial centers.
          This is a hybrid, with the functionality of a business hotel with some of the amenities of a resort. It’s not a beach getaway. The hotel is built inside a gated community along a lagoon.
          Rooms overlook trees and waterways, and homes are designed with a vaguely Mediterranean sensibility.
          The hotel is designed as a series of terraces overlooking an indoor central atrium, while outside seating and lounge chairs are arranged under the shade of sails. Residents of the community of Port Chambly may wander in for a meal at the restaurants.
          Just drive slowly. The streets are paved with rough volcanic rocks.

          20 degres sud

          One of the best-kept secrets in Mauritius, this 36-room boutique hotel is hidden down a narrow neighborhood street in Grand Baie. The location removes it from the main tourist drag by the marina, but keeps guests on the white-sand beaches of the bay.
          The hotel itself is sheltered by an old coconut grove, with balconies overlooking the water.
          Dining in the hotel is exquisite, but there are more creative options on offer as well, like a meal above the 90-year-old Lady Lisbeth, which carries up to eight people for a cruise around the bay while enjoying a gourmet meal.
          The hotel also organizes a longer dinner journey by catamaran to the abandoned island of le Plate, where tables are set among the ruins of the old Dutch governor’s mansion.

          SO Sofitel Mauritius

          A stunning design by Thai architect Lek Bunnag, who calls the style “tropical architecture” with roofs that drop low and create huge volumes of space inside, supported by columns that are equal parts ornamental and structural.
          This creates a circulation of air that eliminates the need for air conditioning while keeping temperatures comfortable.
          French-Japanese designer Kenzo Takada created the uniforms and the interiors, giving a soft edge to simple shapes and designs that evoke Zen gardens with occasional bursts of flowers.
          Despite the high-design concepts, the Sofitel welcomes children and has a kid-friendly pool and play area. But it’s the main public areas that inspire, from the moated restaurant that appears supported by beams of light, to the spa that “floats” amid naturally flowing stream.

          Constance Le Prince Maurice

          Named for the Dutch prince whose name was given to the island, this resort is one of the few in Africa to land in “world’s best hotels” lists.
          The suites are really little villas, some of which extend over the water, others have romantic private pools.
          There’s a large kids club and the staff are very welcoming to families.
          The decor evokes the spice trade, both in colors and style.
          The seafaring theme extends into the dining — one of the restaurants floats over the ocean. Joined together by gangplanks, it makes each space feel like a secluded island getaway.

          Hotel Riu Le Morne

          This adults-only retreat sits at the foot of Le Morne mountain, a World Heritage Site.
          The mountain towers in the background, while the white-sand beaches are among the best in the country.
          The water sports offerings are particularly enticing, but there’s also an arts program for the less adventurous.
          The resort covers a huge area along the coast, but creates open spaces within the property so that it never feels crowded. It’s on a stretch of the coast that’s home to several ultra-luxurious properties, hidden by the mountain from the rest of the island.

          Lux* Belle Mare

          London-based interior designer Kelly Hoppen said she wanted to create a sense of barefoot luxury when she revamped the Lux.
          She did lighten it up, giving it a modern sensibility with lots of taupe and blonder woods, accented with splashes of color.
          Mauritius doesn’t need help with its color palette. The ocean and the tropical plants provide all of that.

          La Palmeraie

          Modeled on a Moroccan riad, La Pameraie’s corridors connect a series of geometrically aligned courtyards and gardens that eventually spill onto the white sand beaches of Palmar.
          Upon arrival, guests are asked to choose a scent from selection of perfume testers, ranging from fruity to spicy smells that fill the room at bedtime.
          Balconies overlook the ocean with views that change as the sun moves through the sky, and create a feeling of privacy from the beachgoers below.
          Although Belle Mare is home to a string of resorts, this side along Palmar also feels more local.
          Next door to the hotel is a park where Mauritians buy juices from vendors and picnic. Farther along is a beachfront housing complex for people lucky enough to live here.

          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/24/hotels/best-hotels-and-resorts-in-mauritius/index.html

          Trump to sign agriculture executive order Tuesday

          (CNN)President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on Tuesday that looks to help the US agriculture business by establishing a task force to identify impediments to the business’ growth.

          Trump will sign the executive order after a meeting with 15 farmers from across the country, including Zippy Duvall, the president of the American Farm Bureau; Bill Northey, the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture; and Lisa Johnson Billy, a farmer and former Oklahoma House member.
          The executive order, according to Ray Starling, special assistant to the President for agriculture, will require the task force, led by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, to produce a report for the President in 180 days on the impediments to farming in the United States. The task force will be made up of White House and administration staff.
            Among the issues the farmers want to discuss with the President: Immigration and trade.
            “There is certainly language in the EO that talks about how do we ensure access to a reliable workforce. I suspect tomorrow that is something that a number of folks will bring up with the President,” Starling said.
            And on trade, Starling said the farmers want to make sure the President understands “how important that agriculture trade is,” especially trade with Canada and Mexico.
            All this comes as Trump tries to crack down on illegal immigration to the United States, an issue that could leave many farms short-staffed due to their reliance on foreign — and sometimes, undocumented — workers.
            “That is a problem, a constant issue for agriculture that is not new,” Starling said. “It is perhaps more pressing now.”
            The executive order also sunsets the White House Rural Council, an Obama-era project that was meant to focus federal programs serving rural areas.

            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/24/politics/trump-agriculture-executive-order/index.html

            Venezuela anti-government protesters paralyse major roads as more die

            Turmoil has been caused by food shortages, rising unemployment and anger at presidents authoritarian restrictions on elections and democratic institutions

            Venezuelas major transport arteries juddered to a halt on Monday as opposition protestors blocked major roads and staged sit-ins across the country.

            Tens of thousands of people joined the latest protests, which follow a month of anti-government demonstrations, political clashes and looting that have left at least 22 people dead.

            Four people were reported to have been killed, including two in the Andean state of Mrida, and two in the western Barinas state.

            The turmoil which is the bloodiest since 2014 has been caused by worsening food shortages, rising unemployment and anger at president Nicols Maduros increasingly authoritarian restrictions on elections and democratic institutions.

            In Caracas, large crowds blocked the Francisco Fajardo freeway, the largest in the capital. Some waved up-turned Venezuelan flags, a nautical signal of distress.

            I came because I want to see the end to this embarrassment of a government before I leave this world, said 90-year-old Elba Prez, who had walked more than two kilometres alongside her husband to join protesters. I am quite old so I hope they hurry up.

            In Puerto Ordaz, a city in eastern Venezuela that was once a bastion of government support, protesters also blocked several of the citys main avenues.

            Venezuelan
            Venezuelan opposition activists demonstrate against the president in Caracas. Photograph: Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images

            Carlos Mrquez, a taxi driver, said he was joining the street protests because last years efforts to unseat the government through a signature campaign and recall referendum were denied by electoral authorities.

            Marquz said that although he expected to lose all his business for the day, the protest was worth it. I hope the government calls for elections so that this doesnt take a violent turn, he said.

            Unlike most previous rallies, the current wave of protests have well-defined goals: an electoral calendar, the liberation of all political prisoners and the re-establishment of constitutional norms, including the separation of powers.

            The latter is a major source of concern. Last month, the supreme court briefly stripped parliament of its authority. The ruling has since been partially reversed but the opposition say the judiciary should be changed because it has put politics above the constitution.

            Law student Jos Fernandez said he wanted to live in a country where rule of law is respected.

            We will come out as often and stay as long as we need to, until Maduro announces general elections.

            On Sunday, during his weekly televised address to the nation, President Nicolas Maduro said his party was ready to contest regional elections. I want elections now. This is what I say as head of state, as head of government. After last Wednesdays huge and bloody demonstrations, he had also talked vaguely of prompt and total elections.

            But opposition leader Henrique Capriles has said that the protests will continue until the government adheres to the countrys constitution.

            Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/24/venezuela-protests-roads-blocked-nicolas-maduro

            US considers banning laptops on flights from UK airports

            All travellers from Europe could face ban aimed at thwarting terrorists who want to smuggle explosive devices in consumer items

            The Trump administration is considering barring passengers flying to the US from UK airports from carrying laptops, sources have told the Guardian.

            The proposed ban would be similar to one already imposed on travellers from several Middle Eastern countries.

            British officials understand that their US counterparts are looking at extending the ban which prevents any devices larger than a smartphone being taken as carry-on luggage to flights from Europe.

            One Whitehall source suggested to the Guardian that although it was not certain that the ban would be extended to the UK, the US was considering doing so.

            The US government unexpectedly imposed the ban in late March for flights from 10 airports in the Middle East.

            Passengers must stow their devices in checked-in baggage on flights from the affected airports in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

            All are close US allies and none are covered by the Trump administrations attempts to ban travellers from six other mostly Muslim nations.

            Hours after sending a confidential edict from the US Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) to airlines, the Trump administration hastily arranged a press briefing to explain that the ban had been imposed after intelligence emerged that terrorists favoured smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items. The TSA directive is understood to be valid until 14 October.

            It was not immediately clear why US authorities might want to extend the ban on taking electronic devices such as tablets, e-readers and laptops to flights from European airports.

            Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for the US Department of Homeland Security, said: Weve said we will continue to evaluate the threat environment and make determinations based on that assessment, but we have not made any decisions on expanding the current restrictions against large electronic devices in aircraft cabins from selected airports.

            The UK has also banned electronic devices on flights from six countries: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey, with UK airlines including British Airways and easyJet among those affected.

            The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, denied that the UK ban on laptops implied that airport security in the countries affected meant their airport security was lax.

            While the US ban applies to anything larger than a smartphone, the UK regulations give specific dimensions.

            The bans sparked criticism from technology experts, who said the new rules appeared to be at odds with basic computer science.

            Nicholas Weaver, researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, said last month: It doesnt match a conventional threat model. If you assume the attacker is interested in turning a laptop into a bomb, it would work just as well in the cargo hold.

            Restricting electronic devices to checked baggage for flights from the Middle East has been a commercial boost to US carriers at the expense of their Gulf rivals, which include Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.

            US airlines have long contended that the three fast-growing carriers benefit from unfair government subsidies with which American, Delta and United cannot compete and have lobbied the Trump administration to intervene. All three Gulf airlines consistently deny that they receive such benefits.

            However, extending the restriction would potentially hit US airlines, given the volume of traffic across the Atlantic to airports such as Heathrow. American airlines operate a relatively small number of flights to destinations in the Middle East.

            Some Middle Eastern airlines have resorted to lending tablets to business and first-class passengers and allowing them to check devices at the gate, rather than the check-in counter.

            Anushka Asthana, Sabrina Siddiqui and Gwyn Topham contributed to this report

            Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/25/us-considers-banning-laptops-on-flights-from-uk-airports