By Roberta Rampton WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Saturday began a broad sales pitch to the U.S. public about the merits of free trade deals, an area in which he faces stiff resistance from many in his own Democratic party. Obama has said he wants to work with Congressional Republicans to finalize the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, an agreement that would stretch from Japan to Chile, covering 40 percent of the world economy. "I’m the first to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype," Obama said in his weekly address. "But that doesn’t mean we should close ourselves off from new opportunities." The first step in working with other nations to finalize the TPP deal is to pass "fast track" legislation to streamline the passage of trade deals through Congress.
Hundreds of panicked residents fled one of the tallest towers in Dubai early Saturday as a huge fire engulfed the skyscraper, causing extensive damage to its luxury flats. The inferno gutted the upper part of 79-storey Torch tower, triggering an evacuation of nearby blocks in the Dubai Marina neighbourhood, an AFP correspondent reported. Civil defence teams cleared the building, which at 336.1 metres (1,105 feet) is one of the world's tallest residential towers. Dubai Marina is a popular expat neighbourhood that has a high concentration of residential towers.
Shortly after talks between union and oil company representatives ended on Friday night, the union notified Motiva Enterprises [MOTIV.UL] of a strike by its members at the company's 600,250 barrel per day (bpd) refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. The USW also gave notices on Friday of strikes to begin in 24 hours at Motiva's 235,000 bpd Convent, Louisiana and 238,000 bpd Norco, Louisiana refineries and the Shell Oil Co chemical plant in Norco, the union said. "The industry’s refusal to meaningfully address safety issues through good faith bargaining gave us no other option but to expand our work stoppage," USW International President Leo Gerard said in a statement. Motiva is a 50-50 joint venture of Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Saudi Aramco [SDABO.UL].
The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine has made a mockery of the West's latest attempts to negotiate a ceasefire but may ultimately pave the way for a more durable peace, say analysts. It did not take long for the latest truce, brokered by France and Germany and signed in the Belarussian capital Minsk last week, to look as impotent as previous deals. With barely a pause, pro-Russian rebels continued their assault on the key transport hub of Debaltseve, ultimately forcing the Ukrainian military into a humiliating retreat. "It was a classic case of good intentions paving the way to hell," said Ievgen Vorobiov of the Polish Institute of International Affairs.
Europe on Friday granted Greece a crucial extension to its massive debt bailout, ending weeks of tension, but at the cost of huge concessions including a commitment to spell out reforms within two days. The 19 single currency finance ministers reached the hard-won deal to end a standoff pitting Greece against an angry Germany, suspicious that the radical leftist government in Athens was looking to ditch its austerity obligations. "The meeting was intense because it was about building trust between us," said Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem, after the talks ended with a two page statement setting out the tough conditions Athens will have to fulfil. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said the deal would mark a new era for Athens and its relationship with the European Union.
Hundreds of communities across the United States have become accustomed to the sight of mile-long oil trains rumbling by in recent years. Pembroke, Virginia, was not one of them, until now. CSX Corp is temporarily rerouting up to five oil trains through this small riverside town to bypass the site of an explosive oil train derailment that occurred 90 miles north in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, on Monday. In line with a federal protocol established last year following a string of fiery derailments across North America, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management on Tuesday informed 16 counties and cities that oil trains could be coming through their towns, local officials and fire departments said, one day after the Mount Carbon derailment.