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Scant progress evacuating Ukrainian civilians despite Russian ceasefire promise By Reuters

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© Reuters. A satellite image shows a damaged bridge and craters in a field, amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, in Irpin, Ukraine, March 8, 2022. Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

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By Natalia Zinets

LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russia announced a new ceasefire in Ukraine on Wednesday to let civilians flee besieged cities, but there were only limited signs of progress providing escape routes for hundreds of thousands of people trapped without medicine or fresh water.

The governor of Sumy, an eastern city, said civilian cars were leaving for a second day through a safe corridor set up to Poltava further west.

But by midday in Ukraine there was no confirmation that any of the other evacuation corridors had been successfully opened, including a route out of Mariupol, seen as the most urgent, where the Red Cross has described conditions as “apocalyptic”.

The mayor of Enerhodar, site of Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant which Russian forces seized last week in a battle that raised global alarm, said humanitarian supplies would be allowed in and buses would take residents out on the way back.

The greatest humanitarian concern is Mariupol, a southern port surrounded by Russian troops for more than a week.

Residents there have been sheltering underground from relentless bombardment, unable to evacuate their wounded, and with no access to food, water, power or heat. Local ceasefires to let them leave have failed since Saturday.

Kyiv said 30 buses and eight trucks of supplies failed to reach it on Tuesday after they came under Russian shelling in violation of the ceasefire. Moscow has blamed Kyiv for failing to halt fire.

More than 2 million people have fled Ukraine since President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion nearly two weeks ago. Moscow calls its action a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbour and dislodge leaders it calls “neo-Nazis.”

Kyiv and its Western allies dismiss that as a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war against a democratic country of 44 million people.

In recent days, Russia has also accused Ukraine of having tried to develop biological or nuclear weapons. On Wednesday, the Kremlin said Washington must explain what Moscow described as Ukrainian biological weapons labs. Western countries call that an attempt to fabricate a new pretext for the invasion retroactively.

Ukraine’s nuclear power plant operator said it was concerned for safety, both at Enerhodar and at Chernobyl, mothballed site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, where it said a power cut due to fighting meant spent nuclear fuel could not be cooled.

‘RETALIATORY MEASURES’

The war has swiftly cast Russia into economic isolation never before visited on such a large economy. The United States said on Tuesday it was banning imports of Russian oil, a major policy change after energy was previously exempted from sanctions.

Western companies have swiftly withdrawn from the Russian market. In a stark symbol, McDonalds said on Tuesday it was shutting its nearly 850 restaurants in Russia. Its first, which drew huge queues to Moscow’s Pushkin Square when it opened in 1990, had been an emblem of the end of the Cold War.

Starbucks (NASDAQ:) , Coca-Cola (NYSE:), Pepsi and others made similar announcements. Imperial Brands (OTC:), the UK-listed maker of Winston cigarettes, joined the stampede out on Wednesday, shutting its factory in Volgograd.

Russia’s ruling United Russia party said it proposed seizing assets of foreign companies that leave.

“We will take tough retaliatory measures, acting in accordance with the laws of war,” Andrei Turchak, secretary of the party’s council, wrote on its website.

Banishing Russia, the world’s top exporter of combined oil and gas, from markets is sending shockwaves through the global economy at a time when inflation in the developed world is already at levels not seen since the 1980s. Retail fuel pump prices have surged to records. [O/R]

Both Ukraine and Russia are also major global exporters of food and metals. Prices of grain and food oils have soared worldwide, punishing poor countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Trade in nickel, critical in electric vehicle production, was called off on Tuesday in London after the price more than doubled.

Ukraine said on Wednesday it was halting exports of rye, barley, buckwheat, millet, sugar, salt and meat for the rest of the year.

‘WAR MACHINE’

U.S. President Joe Biden acknowledged that Americans’ bills would rise but said it was necessary to restrict Russia’s ability to wage war.

“The American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin’s war machine,” he said.

Britain said it would phase out Russian oil by the end of 2022, while the European Union published plans to cut its reliance on Russian gas by two thirds this year.

China, which signed a friendship pact with Russia three weeks before the invasion, has yet to join the West in condemning Moscow or imposing sanctions.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told the New York Times Washington could “essentially shut” down Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp or any Chinese companies that kept supplying chips or other advanced technology to Russia.

U.S. intelligence chiefs told lawmakers on Tuesday that China appeared to have been unsettled by difficulties Russia was facing in Ukraine and the strength of the Western reaction.

High oil prices prompted by Russia’s invasion could cut a full percentage point off the growth of big developing economies such as China, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey, a World Bank official said.

‘OUR TASK’

Western countries believe Moscow had aimed to quickly topple the Kyiv govenrment in a lightning strike, and is being forced to adjust after underestimating Ukrainian resistance. Russia has taken substantial territory in the south but has yet to capture any major cities in northern or eastern Ukraine, with an assault force stalled on a highway north of Kyiv.

Russia is desperate for some kind of victory in cities like Mariupol and Kyiv, before it negotiates peace, Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, wrote on Facebook (NASDAQ:) on Wednesday. “Therefore, our task is to withstand for the next 7-10 days,” he said.

Ukrainians fear the next big target will be Odessa, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port. Residents are preparing to defend the historic city of 1 million, a polyglot centre of culture with wide resonance for Ukrainians and Russians alike. A giant blue and yellow banner reading “Odessa-Ukraine” was draped atop sandbags in the near-deserted city centre.

“We did not surrender Odessa to Hitler, and we will not surrender it to anyone else,” said Galyna Zitser, director of the Odessa Philharmonic, which on Tuesday put on its first performance since the crisis began.

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Teladoc Tumbled 38% After Big First-Quarter Loss. Is It Just a Pandemic Play?

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After pandemic drop, Canada’s detention of immigrants rises again By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Two closed Canadian border checkpoints are seen after it was announced that the border would close to “non-essential traffic” to combat the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the U.S.-Canada border crossing at the Thousand Isla

By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is locking up more people in immigration detention without charge after the numbers fell during the pandemic, government data obtained by Reuters shows.

Authorities cite an overall rise in foreign travelers amid easing restrictions but lawyers say their detained clients came to Canada years ago.

Canada held 206 people in immigration detention as of March 1, 2022 – a 28% increase compared with March 1 of the previous year. Immigration detainees have not been charged with crimes in Canada and 68% of detainees as of March 1 were locked up because Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) fears they are “unlikely to appear” at an immigration hearing, according to the data.

The rise puts Canada at odds with Amnesty International and other human rights groups that have urged Ottawa to end its use of indefinite immigration detention, noting CBSA has used factors such as a person’s mental illness as reason to detain them.

A CBSA spokesperson told Reuters that “when the number of entries (to Canada) goes up, an increase in detention is to be expected.” CBSA has said in the past it uses detention as a last resort.

A lawyer told Reuters her detained clients have been in Canada for years.

In the United Kingdom, too, immigration detention levels rose last year after dropping earlier in the pandemic, according to government statistics. Unlike Canada, the United States and Australia, European Union member states have limits on immigration detention and those limits cannot exceed six months.

The rise in detentions puts people at risk of contracting COVID-19 in harsh congregate settings, refugee lawyers say.

Julia Sande, Human Rights Law and Policy Campaigner with Amnesty, called the increase in detentions “disappointing but not surprising,” although she was reluctant to draw conclusions from limited data.

The number of immigration detainees in Canada dropped early in the pandemic, from a daily average of 301 in the fourth quarter (January through March) of 2019-20 to 126 in the first quarter (April through June) of 2020-21.

FEW NO-SHOWS AS DETENTIONS DROPPED

Detaining fewer people did not result in a significant increase in no-shows at immigration hearings – the most common reason for detention, according to Immigration and Refugee Board data.

The average number of no-shows as a percentage of admissibility hearings was about 5.5% in 2021, according to that data, compared to about 5.9% in 2019.

No-shows rose as high as 16% in October 2020, but a spokesperson for the Immigration and Refugee Board said this was due to people not receiving notifications when their hearings resumed after a pause in the pandemic.

Refugee lawyer Andrew Brouwer said the decline in detention earlier in the pandemic shows Canada does not need to lock up as many non-citizens.

“We didn’t see a bunch of no-shows. We didn’t see the sky fall … It for sure shows that the system can operate without throwing people in jail,” Brouwer said.

He added that detainees face harsh pandemic conditions in provincial jails – including extended lockdowns, sometimes with three people in a cell for 23 hours a day.

Refugee lawyer Swathi Sekhar said CBSA officials and the Immigration and Refugee Board members reviewing detentions took the risk of COVID-19 into account when deciding whether someone should be detained earlier in the pandemic but are doing so less now.

“Their position is that COVID is not a factor that should weigh in favor of release,” she said.

“We also see very, very perverse findings … [decision-makers] outright saying that individuals are going to be safer in jail.”

The Immigration and Refugee Board did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

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Nasdaq futures rise as market attempts comeback from April sell-off, Meta shares soar

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Stock futures rose in overnight trading as the market shook off the April sell-off and investors reacted positively to earnings from Meta Platforms.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 70 points or 0.2%. S&P 500 futures gained 0.7% and Nasdaq 100 futures jumped 1.2%.

The moves came as shares of Meta surged more than 18% after hours following a beat on earnings but a miss on revenue, a sign that investors may see signs of relief in the beaten-up tech sector. Shares were down 48% on the year heading into the results.

Meanwhile, shares of Qualcomm gained 5.6% in extended trading on the back of strong earnings while PayPal rose 5% despite issuing weak guidance for the second quarter.

“I think a lot of people want to believe that earnings are going to pull us out of this, but earnings are not what got us into this,” SoFi’s Liz Young told CNBC’s “Closing Bell: Overtime” on Wednesday. “… But the reality is there are so many macro headwinds still in front of us in the next 60 days that the market is just hard to impress.”

The after-hour activity followed a volatile regular trading session that saw the Nasdaq Composite stoop to its lowest level in 2022, as stocks looked to bounce back from a tech-led April sell-off. The index is down more than 12% since the start of April.

In Wednesday’s regular trading, the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended at 12,488.93, after rising to 1.7% at session highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 61.75 points, or 0.2%, to 33,301.93 propped up by gains from Visa and Microsoft, while the S&P 500 added 0.2% to 4,183.96.

Investors await big tech earnings on Thursday from Apple, Amazon and Twitter, along with results from Robinhood. Jobless claims are also due out Thursday.

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