Elizabeth Warren: Americans would be ‘eating dirt’ without ‘rules’ to rein in ‘rich’ people

Sen. Elizabeth Warren told Americans this week that she is a staunch supporter of free markets — provided “rules” are crafted to control “the rich and powerful.”

The Massachusetts Democrat told MSNBC that low unemployment and high consumer confidence should not fool voters into thinking the economy is strong because the nation’s “lived experience” has plateaued or worsened under President Trump.

“I believe in markets right down to my toes,” she said when asked why democratic socialists are stars within the party. “But I also believe markets have to have rules. Otherwise rich and powerful just keep sucking up all the value and everybody else ends up eating dirt. … I think that big parts of this economy are not working for the American people.”

The senator then said that corporations “don’t share” with employees when they are doing well.

“The way I see this, is the lived experiences of most hard-working Americans across this country are not improving under the Trump administration,” she told anchor Stephanie Ruhle on Thursday. “What’s happening to them is they’re still stuck with flat incomes and rising core expenses. And the Trump administration is helping drive up those expenses.”

Mrs. Warren then blasted the Trump administration for enabling “for-profit colleges that cheat our young people.”

The senator declined to give credence to rumors that she might run for president in 2020. She wrapped up the segment instead by talking about her re-election campaign.

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Deadly LA market shooting started with domestic feud

A man’s feud with his grandmother turned into a bizarre and deadly confrontation that ended with a supermarket worker dead and dozens of people held hostage in a store miles away.

Gene Evin Atkins, 28, was booked Sunday on suspicion of murder after an explosion of violence that a relative said may have been brewing for weeks.

Melyda Corado, 27, was shot to death Saturday at a Trader Joe’s market in the Silver Lake neighborhood after a gunfight that shattered the store’s glass doors, witnesses said.

“I’m sad to say she didn’t make it. My baby sister. My world,” her brother, Albert Corado said on Twitter.

On Sunday, grieving family members, co-workers and customers remembered Corado as lively, hardworking and always smiling. A makeshift memorial of flowers, candles and notes grew on the sidewalk outside of the store.

“Yesterday marks the saddest day in Trader Joe’s history as we mourn the loss of one our own,” company spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel said in a statement.

The violence began when Atkins shot his 76-year-old grandmother several times at their South Los Angeles home after she complained about his having too many television sets on, said a cousin, Charlene Egland.

Mary Elizabeth Madison was taken to a hospital in critical condition but Egland said she underwent surgery and was improving Sunday.

Madison raised Atkins from the age of 7 and he had never been violent toward her but recently had seemed upset and distant, Egland said.

“He didn’t seem right to me,” Egland said.

For the past two or three weeks, the two had argued over Atkins’ girlfriend, who was staying at their home, Egland said.

“She didn’t want the girl over there anymore,” Egland said.

Egland said she was walking toward the house when she heard about six gunshots. Another cousin, who lives in the house, came running from the porch and shouted to Egland, “I think Gene shot my mama!”

Police said Atkins’ girlfriend was grazed in the head by a bullet, but the injury is not life threatening.

Egland ran to call 911 but Atkins allegedly forced his wounded girlfriend into his grandmother’s car and drove away.

A stolen-car device helped police track the car to Hollywood but Atkins refused to pull over, police said.

During the chase, Atkins fired at officers, blowing out the car’s back window, and there was more shooting before the car crashed into a pole outside the Trader Joe’s, followed by another shootout with police, Police Chief Michel Moore said.

Customers and employees frantically dove for cover and barricaded themselves inside storerooms and bathrooms as bullets flew.

Glass fragments injured a 22-year-old woman who later took herself to a hospital for treatment, police said.

As he heard gunfire, Sean Gerace, who was working in the back of the supermarket, grabbed several of his co-workers and the group made their way into an upstairs storage area. He grabbed a folding ladder and tossed it out a window, helping his colleagues escape to safety, he told KNBC-TV.

“I grabbed an emergency ladder, barricaded the hallway, grabbed a weapon, put the ladder out the window and just tried to get the attention of the SWAT officer,” Gerace told the television station.

About three hours later, Atkins — who’d been shot in the left arm — agreed to handcuff himself and walked out the front door, surrounded by four of the hostages. He was being held on $2 million bail Sunday and it wasn’t clear if he had an attorney to comment on the allegations.

A gun was found inside the store, police said.

Trader Joe’s said the store — known by customers as a neighborhood hangout with great customer service — would remain closed for the foreseeable future.

Atkins, who has two daughters, bounced between several jobs, including working as a security guard, but had been repeatedly fired, Egland said. His grandmother had tried to help him find employment and “was just trying to make him do better,” she said.

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Gunman dead after shooting 14, killing one, in Toronto: Canadian police

TORONTO (Reuters) – Fourteen people, including a young girl, were shot near downtown Toronto, police in Canada’s biggest city said on Sunday, with one person killed and the gunman also dead.

People leave an area taped off by the police near the scene of a mass shooting in Toronto, Canada, July 22, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

The young girl was in a critical condition, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said.

Police are seen near the scene of a mass shooting in Toronto, Canada, July 22, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

“We are looking at all possible motives… and not closing any doors,” Saunders told reporters at the site of the shooting.

Paramedics, firefighters and police converged on the shooting in Toronto’s east end, which has many popular restaurants, cafes and shops.

Police said the gunman had used a handgun. Earlier reports said nine people had been shot.

Slideshow (5 Images)

Reports of gunfire in the city’s Greektown neighborhood began at 10 p.m. local time (0200 GMT Monday), CityNews.com said.

Witnesses said they heard 25 gunshots, the news website reported.

Toronto is grappling with a sharp rise in gun violence this year. Deaths from gun violence in the city jumped 53 percent to 26 so far in 2018 from the same period last year, police data last week showed, with the number of shootings rising 13 percent.

Toronto deployed about 200 police officers from July 20 in response to the recent spate in shootings, which city officials have blamed on gang violence.

Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters that the city has a gun problem and guns were too readily available to too many people.

Reporting by Denny Thomas and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Paul Tait

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Mortgage, Groupon and card debt: how the bottom half bolsters U.S. economy

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – By almost every measure, the U.S. economy is booming. But a look behind the headlines of roaring job growth and consumer spending reveals how the boom continues in large part by the poorer half of Americans fleecing their savings and piling up debt.

FILE PHOTO: A Walmart employee helps a customer load a 50″ TV he bought on sale in Broomfield, Colorado, U.S., November 28, 2014. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo

A Reuters analysis of U.S. household data shows that the bottom 60 percent of income-earners have accounted for most of the rise in spending over the past two years even as the their finances worsened – a break with a decades-old trend where the top 40 percent had primarily fueled consumption growth.

With borrowing costs on the rise, inflation picking up and the effects of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts set to wear off, a negative shock – a further rise in gasoline prices or a jump in the cost of goods due to tariffs – could push those most vulnerable over the edge, some economists warn.

That in turn could threaten the second-longest U.S. expansion given consumption makes up 70 percent of the U.S. economy’s output.

To be sure, the housing market is far from the dangerous leverage reached in 2007 before the crash. With unemployment near its lowest since 2000 and job openings at record highs, people may also choose to work even more hours or take extra jobs rather than cut back on spending if the money gets tight.

In fact, a growing majority of Americans says they are comfortable financially, according to the Federal Reserve’s report on the economic well-being of U.S. households published in May and based on a 2017 survey.

Yet by filtering data on household finances and wages by income brackets, the Reuters analysis reveals growing financial stress among lower-income households even as their contribution to consumption and the broad economy grows.

The data shows the rise in median expenditures has outpaced before-tax income for the lower 40 percent of earners in the five years to mid-2017 while the upper half has increased its financial cushion, deepening income disparities. (Graphic: tmsnrt.rs/2LdUMBa )

It is this recovery’s paradox.

A hot job market and other signs of economic health encourage rich and poor alike to spend more, but tepid wage growth for many middle-class and lower-income Americans means they need to dip into their savings and borrow more to do that.

As a result, over the past year signs of financial fragility have been multiplying, with credit card and auto loan delinquencies on the rise and savings plumbing their lowest since 2005.

FILE PHOTO: Shoppers ride escalators at the Beverly Center mall in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 8, 2013. REUTERS/David McNew/File Photo

Myna Whitney, 27, a certified medical assistant at Drexel University’s gastroenterology unit in Philadelphia, experienced that firsthand.

Three years ago, confident that a steady full-time job offered enough financial security, she took out loans to buy a Honda Odyssey and a $119,000 house, where she lives with her mother and aunt.

Since then she has learned that making $16.47 an hour – more than about 40 percent of U.S. workers – was not enough.

“I was dipping into my savings account every month to just make all of the payments.” Whitney says. With her savings now down to $900 from $10,000 she budgets down to toilet paper and electricity. Cable TV and the occasional $5 Groupon movie outings are her indulgences, she says, but laughs off a question whether she dines out.

“God forbid I get a ticket, or something breaks on the car. Then it’s just more to recover from.”


Stephen Gallagher, economist at Societe Generale, says stretched finances of those in the middle dimmed the economy’s otherwise positive outlook.

“They are taking on debt that they can’t repay. A drop in savings and rise in delinquencies means you can’t support the (overall) spending,” he said. An oil or trade shock could lead to “a rather dramatic scaling back of consumption,” he added.

Some economists say that without the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts enacted in January spending, which has grown by around 3 percent a year over the past few years, could already be stalling now.

In the past, rising incomes of the upper 40 percent of earners have driven most of the consumption growth, but since 2016 consumer spending has been primarily fueled by a run-down in savings, mainly by the bottom 60 percent of earners, according to Oxford Economics.

This reflects in part better access to credit for low-income borrowers late in the economic cycle.

Yet it is the first time in two decades that lower earners made a greater contribution to spending growth for two years in a row.

Slideshow (7 Images)

“It’s generally really hard for people to cut back on expenses, or on a certain lifestyle, especially when the context of the economy is actually really positive,” said Gregory Daco, Oxford’s chief U.S. economist. “It’s essentially a weak core that makes the back of the economy a bit more susceptible to strains and potentially to breaking.”


While the Fed expects the labor market to get even hotter this year and next, policymakers have been perplexed that wages do not reflect that.

With inflation factored in, average hourly earnings dropped by a penny in May from a year ago for 80 percent of the country’s private sector workers, including those in the vast healthcare, fast food and manufacturing industries, Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show.

“It stinks,” says Jennifer Delauder, 44, who runs a medical lab at Huttonsville Correctional Center in West Virginia. In seven years her hourly wage has risen by about $2 to $14.

She took on two part-time jobs to help pay rent, utilities and a student loan. But she still sometimes trims her weekly $15 grocery budget to make ends meet, or even gathers broken fans, car parts, and lanterns to sell as scrap metal. A $2,000 hospital bill early this year wiped out her savings.

Even so, Delauder, a grandmother, recently signed papers for a mortgage of up to $150,000 on a house. “I’m paying rent for a house. I might as well pay for a house that I own,” she said.

Hourly wages for lower- and middle-income workers rose just over 2 percent in the year to March 2017, compared with about 4 percent for those near the top and bottom, while spending jumped by roughly 8 percent.

That reflects both higher costs of essentials such as rent, prescription drugs and college tuition but also some increased discretionary spending, for example at restaurants.

Economists say one symptom of financial strain was last year’s spike in serious delinquencies on U.S. credit card debt, which many poorer households use as a stop-gap measure. The $815-billion market is not big enough to rattle Wall Street, but could be an early sign of stress that might spread to other debt as the Fed continues its gradual policy tightening.

More borrowers have also been falling behind on auto loans, which helped bring leverage on non-mortgage household debt to a record high in the first quarter of this year.

While painting a broadly positive picture, the Fed’s well-being survey also noted that one in four adults feared they could not cover an emergency $400 expense and one in five struggled with monthly bills. This month the central bank reported to Congress that rising delinquencies among riskier borrowers represented “pockets of stress.”

That many Americans lack any financial safety net remains a concern, New York Fed President John Williams told Reuters in an interview last month. “Even though the overall picture is pretty good, pretty solid, or strong,” he said, “this is a problem that continues to hang over half of our country.”

(Graphic: Poorer Americans help fuel economic boom – at a price – tmsnrt.rs/2LdUMBa)

Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Additional reporting by Ann Saphir in San Francisco and Howard Schneider in Washington; Editing by Tomasz Janowski

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Harper homers, Nationals outlast Braves, rain in 6-2 win

WASHINGTON (AP) – Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals closed out a rainy weekend at home on a high note.

Harper homered, Max Scherzer struck out seven in six innings and the Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 6-2 on Sunday in a game hampered by a pair of long weather delays.

Anthony Rendon also had two hits and drove in two runs for Washington, extending his hitting streak to 10 games and helping the Nationals earn a split of the series after Saturday’s game was rained out. Adam Eaton and Juan Soto each had three hits.

“It’s part of it. We play outdoors,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of the rain. “But the boys hung in there. They were all pretty loose in the clubhouse, honestly. Watching Shark Week. So, it was good.”

The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 55 minutes by rain, and another downpour stopped play for almost 100 minutes between the sixth and seventh innings.

Two days after a heated exchange with teammate Stephen Strasburg during Friday’s 8-5 loss, Scherzer (13-5) allowed two runs and eight hits in his third straight win. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has pitched six or more innings in his last 19 starts, though the Braves made him work for it.

“A division team, they know everything I got,” Scherzer said. “They absolutely grind apart every at-bat. It’s really hard to put them away. Our defense played outstanding today.”

Speaking with reporters for the first time since Friday’s dugout disagreement with Strasburg, Scherzer shed no new light on the exchange, saying only: “Look, it was miscommunication, settled it. It’s over. End of story.”

Kelvin Herrera got five outs for his first save with Washington.

Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz (7-6), an All-Star who spent much of this week in Washington, gave up four runs and nine hits over 5 2/3 innings.

“Just waiting around this long, it’s kind of irritating,” he said of Sunday’s delays. “I’m ready to get out of D.C. It’s been a while here.”

Harper singled in Eaton to give Washington a 4-2 lead in the sixth. Matt Adams added another RBI single in the seventh, and Harper hit a solo drive in the eighth for his 24th homer.

Scherzer was staked to an early 3-0 lead and then got some help from his defense.

Atlanta rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. led off the third with a drive off the wall in center, but he was thrown out by Harper while trying for a double. With a runner on first in the fifth, Freddie Freeman’s blast to right was chased down by Eaton on the warning track.

Then in the seventh, Michael A. Taylor made a leaping catch at the wall in center to rob Dansby Swanson of extra bases with one runner on.

Washington got off to a fast start with three runs in the first. Rendon drove in Eaton and Harper with a triple down the right-field line, and then scored on Soto’s groundout.

Swanson drove in Atlanta’s runs with a groundout in the second and a single in the fourth, but the Braves couldn’t land any big blows on Scherzer.

“Got his pitch count up, but that guy never gives in,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s an unbelievable competitor, as good as there is in the game.”


Saturday’s game will be made up Aug. 7 as part of a split doubleheader, with games beginning at 1:05 and 7:05 p.m.


The Nationals acquired minor league right-hander Jacob Condra-Bogan from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for outfielder Brian Goodwin. The Nationals also recalled lefty Sammy Solis from Triple-A Syracuse.


Braves: All-Star 2B Ozzie Albies, who left Friday’s game with right hamstring tightness, got the day off.

Nationals: RHP Sean Doolittle (left toe inflammation) experienced extended soreness after throwing off the mound Friday. An MRI Saturday revealed a stress reaction, comparable to a bone bruise, in the bridge of his foot and he is wearing a walking boot. … RHP Koda Glover (right shoulder tendinitis) was reinstated from the 60-day DL and optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.


Braves: LHP Sean Newcomb (8-5, 3.51 ERA) pitches the opener of a two-game series in Miami on Monday. He already has beaten the Marlins twice this season, allowing one run in 12 innings.

Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (6-6, 3.72 ERA) opens a three-game series in Milwaukee on Monday night. He is 2-4 with a 4.93 ERA in nine career starts versus the Brewers.


More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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Senators push sanctions to send Putin election meddling warning

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A pair of prominent Republican U.S. senators said on Sunday that the United States must move promptly to prepare new sanctions against Russia to discourage interference in upcoming elections.

FILE PHOTOS: Republican U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (L) and Lindsey Graham are seen in this combination photo from U.S. Senate hearings on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. on March 14, 2018 and on June 18, 2018 respectively. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photos

Senator Lindsey Graham said additional sanctions needed to be teed up before President Donald Trump holds a second meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the U.S. leader came under heavy criticism for failing to confront Putin about interference in the 2016 election at a summit last Monday.

“You need to work with Congress to come up with new sanctions because Putin’s not getting the message,” Graham said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “We need new sanctions, heavy-handed sanctions, hanging over his head, and then meet with him.”

Undaunted by the backlash in his own party to his first meeting, Trump invited Putin to a White House meeting sometime this autumn. Congressional elections will take place in November.

Representative Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, questioned the wisdom of Putin being ushered into the White House.

Talking to Putin about matters such as the civil war in Syria, Gowdy said, “is very different from issuing an invitation. Those should be reserved for, I think, our allies like Great Britain and Canada and Australia and those who are with us day in and day out.” Gowdy made his remarks during an interview on television’s “Fox News Sunday.”

Republican Senator Marco Rubio wants a vote on a bill called DETER that would impose new sanctions if U.S. intelligence officials determine Russia meddled in U.S. elections. Rubio co-authored the legislation with Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen, a bipartisan effort revived by the fallout of last week’s summit.

“What I think is indisputable is that they did interfere and they will do so in the future,” Rubio said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Last Thursday, Rubio and Van Hollen, noting the “urgency of the challenge before our nation,” wrote to the chairmen of the Senate Banking and Foreign Relations committees pressing them to hold hearings on the legislation before the start of an early August recess.


Putin has denied that Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election after the U.S. intelligence community concluded Russia interfered through cyber attacks and social media in a bid to boost Trump’s candidacy.

Under pressure from Congress, which last year passed a tough sanctions law targeting Russia, the U.S. Treasury in April imposed sanctions on Russian officials and oligarchs for election meddling and “malign” activities.

The DETER Act would make sanctions more automatic and aim to punish Russia’s finance, energy, defense and other sectors.

The U.S. director of national intelligence would be required to conclude if any foreign nations interfered in elections one month after Americans cast their votes, triggering strict sanctions within 10 days if interference was detected.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week identified the bill as a potential step Congress could take to push back against Russia as Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called for sanctions and other deterrents.

But the U.S. oil and gas industry is lobbying against the bill because of worries that heightened sanctions could affect U.S. investments in Russia, congressional sources said.

U.S. businesses could face an uphill battle, however, if they aim to block or defang the legislation.

“The sanctions are only implemented if Russia is deemed to have interfered in our election. Pretty hard to say: ‘C’mon guys, don’t take that too seriously.’ I mean, what representative of any industry could credibly make that argument? That’s pretty tough,” Democratic Senator Chris Coons said in a hallway interview late last week with Reuters.

Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Writing by Amanda Becker and Richard Cowan; Editing by Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney

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You ain’t never seen a show like this

Like everyone else, I freaking love Aladdin. I wanted this Australian production to – well – to sing. And it did. I wanted it to be just like the movie. And it was.

First, salaam and good evening, and a warning: there’s no Apu. Iago (Aljin Abella) is a person, not a parrot. But he and his boss, evil royal vizier Jafar (Adam Murphy) are fantastic — I don’t know how they keep it together when they’re doing their ‘evil laughter’ routine. I certainly lost it. And the script is peppered with cute references to monkeys and parrots in honour of the missing furred and feathered sidekicks.

Aladdin: a visual spectacular.

Aladdin: a visual spectacular.

Photo: Supplied – Deen van Meer

Also, you get bonus songs. Not bonus songs written years later to bulk out a musical version, but songs by the original songwriters Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who also wrote the soundtracks for The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. These songs were only cut from the original movie because the movie had to take childish attention spans into account.

My favourite is Proud of Your Boy. In the original movie storyboards Aladdin sung this to his mother, promising to one day be good and stop stressing her out by stealing bread at the markets. She was later cut, the sequence never fully animated, but it was storyboarded in a series of lovely, tender drawings.

In the musical, the song appears as though Aladdin’s singing to his dead parents. Aladdin (Ainsley Melham) fills it with sweet pathos, and the various reprises throughout the show tie the story together and add emotional depth.

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Prominent S Korea politician found dead in possible suicide

A prominent liberal South Korean lawmaker embroiled in a corruption scandal was found dead on Monday, police said, in what appeared to be one of the country’s highest-profile suicides in recent years.

Three-term lawmaker Roh Hoe-chan of the small opposition Justice Party was found dead near a Seoul apartment building on Monday morning. Paramedics tried to resuscitate him before he was pronounced dead, police said.

South Korean media including Yonhap news agency reported Roh leapt to his death from the building after leaving a suicide note saying he feels sorry to his family.

Police said they couldn’t immediately confirm the report.

Roh faced an investigation over an allegation that he received money from an associate of an influential blogger jailed over an online opinion-rigging scandal. The allegation tarnished Roh’s clean and reform-minded image.

The independent counsel investigating the rigging scandal, Huh Ik-bum, told a televised briefing that he feels distressed with the “tragic news” of Roh’s death. Huh said he personally “respects” Roh and will pray for his soul.

South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates among developed countries. A string of business executives, K-pop stars and other celebrities have killed themselves.

If Roh’s death is determined as a suicide, he would be the highest-profile politician who killed himself or herself since former President Roh Moo-hyun jumped to his death in 2009 amid a corruption scandal involving his family.

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Oil prices fall on demand concerns as G20 warns of risks to growth

TOKYO (Reuters) – Oil prices fell on Monday because of increasing concerns about fuel demand after finance ministers and central bank governors from the G20 warned that global economic growth risks have increased amid rising trade and geopolitical tensions.

file photo: Oil barrels are pictured at the site of Canadian group Vermilion Energy in Parentis-en-Born, France, October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Brent crude LCOc1 dropped 10 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $72.97 a barrel by 0350 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures CLc1 declined 8 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $68.18 a barrel.

Finance ministers and central bank governors ended the meeting of the Group of 20 largest economies in Buenos Aires over the weekend calling for more dialogue to prevent trade and geopolitical tensions from hurting growth.

“Global economic growth remains robust and unemployment is at a decade low,” the finance leaders said in a statement. “However, growth has been less synchronized recently, and downside risks over the short and medium term have increased.”

The talks occurred amid escalating rhetoric in the trade conflict between the United States and China, the world’s largest economies, which have so far slapped tariffs on $34 billion worth of each other’s goods.

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened on Friday to impose tariffs on all $500 billion of Chinese exports to the United States unless Beijing agrees to major structural changes to its technology transfer, industrial subsidy and joint venture policies.

“The impact of the trade war and the recognition that President Trump and his administration are serious about going to the mat on this issue is finally starting to register in the consciousness of traders and investors in oil and other financial markets,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

Economic growth and oil demand growth are closely correlated as expanding economies support fuel consumption for trade and travel as well as for automobiles.

U.S. energy companies last week cut the number of oil rigs by the most since March as the rate of growth has slowed over the past month or so with recent declines in crude prices.

Drillers cut 5 oil rigs in the week to July 20, bringing the total count down to 858, General Electric Co’s (GE.N) Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its closely followed report on Friday. RIG-OL-USA-BHI

The U.S. rig count, an early indicator of future output, is higher than a year ago when 764 rigs were active as energy companies have been ramping up production in anticipation of higher prices in 2018 than previous years.

Hedge funds and money managers cut their bullish wagers on U.S. crude for the first time in nearly a month, a further sign of weaker sentiment for the market.

The speculator group cut their combined futures and options positions by 34,067 contracts to 423,650 in the week to July 17, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said on Friday.

Most of the reduction occurred as money managers reduced their long position, or bets that oil prices would rise.

Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Additional reporting by Jane Chung in SEOUL; editing by Richard Pullin and Christian Schmollinger

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Outdoor Retailer Demo Experience brings outdoor adventure to urban Denver

Berne Broudy, a Vermont resident, is a seasoned cyclist, skier and kayaker. On Sunday, she added a new outdoor sport to her résumé: packrafting.

Packrafts are small inflatable boats that can shrink to the size of a paper towel roll and be used to help backpackers cross bodies of water. They were on full display at the Outdoor Retailer Demo Experience at Confluence and Commons Parks, which allowed attendees to test the waters with a variety of cutting-edge outdoor equipment.

“It was super fun and such an awesome way to start the show because I had a mini adventure in downtown Denver,” Broudy said.

Broudy has attended Outdoor Retailer for nearly 20 years and said she enjoys connecting with the outdoor retail community every year.

“You have the chance to be one-on-one with product developers and the people inventing the technologies that are changing outdoor sports,” she said.

More than 50 businesses were present at the Demo Experience, Marisa Nicholson, show director for Outdoor Retailer, said. The Outdoor Retailer Summer Market show runs through Thursday and is relocating to Denver after spending approximately two decades in Utah.

At Commons Park, companies showed off products from tents to water filtration systems while attendees roamed from tent to tent, played cornhole and sprayed themselves down with sunscreen.

Nearby, at the junction of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River, Confluence Park became an urban oasis for outdoor enthusiasts. People tested out the latest in outdoor sports technology, from newly patented stand-up paddleboards to packrafts, and played with their dogs and children at the riverfront.

“So far, I’ve paddled some of the best, most premium paddleboards in the market and, as expected, I’m truly impressed and I’m looking forward to trying some of the other boards as well,” said Andre Niemeyer, publisher of supconnect.com, a stand-up paddleboarding publication.

Peter Hall, founder and CEO of Hala, a stand-up paddleboarding company, was also present at the Demo Experience on Sunday. Over the years, he has enjoyed watching the sport develop and gain popularity.

“Really, we’re just a small but growing brand, but it’s fun to get in the mix and show people,” he said.

Bringing together retailers and outdoor enthusiasts from across the country, the Demo Experience kicked off Outdoor Retailer Summer Market by allowing attendees to experience products for themselves, Nicholson said.

“I think that’s part of the demonstration — this is our industry’s opportunity to show these products in a natural environment,” she said. “It’s a good way to get people energized before tomorrow.”

Ultimately, organizers aimed to take advantage of Denver’s surroundings, Nicholson said.

“The urban experience is there right in downtown Denver,” she said. “There’s great running trails, biking trails and the opportunity to partake in some of the water activities. It was an opportunity for retailers to think about how they can engage in areas in and around them.”

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