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Portugal's finance chief wins race to head eurogroup

Published: Monday, December 04, 2017 @ 6:44 AM
Updated: Monday, December 04, 2017 @ 6:43 AM


            Latvia's Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola, 2nd right, Slovakia's Finance Minister Peter Kazimir, left, Luxembourg's Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna, 2nd left, and Portugal's Finance Minister Mario Centeno pose for photographers as they arrive for a meeting of eurozone finance ministers at the Europa building in Brussels on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. Eurozone finance ministers meet Monday to elect a new president for the club of 19 nations that share the euro currency. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Latvia's Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola, 2nd right, Slovakia's Finance Minister Peter Kazimir, left, Luxembourg's Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna, 2nd left, and Portugal's Finance Minister Mario Centeno pose for photographers as they arrive for a meeting of eurozone finance ministers at the Europa building in Brussels on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. Eurozone finance ministers meet Monday to elect a new president for the club of 19 nations that share the euro currency. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Portuguese Finance Minister Mario Centeno has won the race to become the top official of the 19-country eurozone, the body which has been at the forefront of the single currency bloc's crisis-fighting efforts in the past few years.

Centeno said that his peers elected him as the eurogroup's new president and that he would take up his post Jan. 13.

He had been overwhelming favorite to win the race to succeed Dutchman Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who has been at the helm for nearly five crisis-ridden years, largely centered on cash-strapped Greece. He defeated Luxembourg's Pierre Gramegna, Slovakia's Peter Kazimir and Latvia's Dana Reizniece-Ozola.

Centeno takes over at a time when the eurozone is in far better shape than it has been for years — the economy is growing strongly, while worries over Greece's future in the bloc have subsided and the country is poised to exit its bailout era next summer.

Centeno's victory has the potential to symbolize a new era for the eurozone, all the more so as he comes from less-wealthy southern Europe.

While eurozone governments still insist that countries must keep their public finances in shape, there's a greater acknowledgement that the austerity of the past few years has taken a heavy toll on people, particularly in countries like Portugal and Greece.

Following the recent departure of long-time German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, considered the high priest of austerity in the eurozone, a Centeno victory encapsulates that shift.

Portugal was one of four eurozone countries that had to be bailed out during the region's debt crisis. In 2011, the country required a 78-billion-euro ($93 billion) rescue after its budget deficit grew too large and bond market investors asked for hefty premiums to lend to the government. In return for the financial lifeline, Portuguese governments had to enact a series of spending cuts and economic reforms. Portugal exited its bailout program in 2014.

Though the strategy may have worked in bringing Portugal's public finances into better shape, austerity accentuated a deep recession and sharply raised unemployment. Following a backlash against austerity, the Socialist Party came to power in December 2015, with Centeno, a former Bank of Portugal analyst, taking the post of finance minister.

Before Monday's vote, Centeno said that his aim would be to "generate consensus" in the "challenging" period ahead.

Achieving that consensus isn't always easy given that the governments of the eurozone come from a variety of political traditions with differing mandates and economic agendas.

Dijsselbloem was considered a skilled operator in bridging differences and maintaining a consensus over austerity. That was especially the case during the Greek crisis of 2015, which saw the country nearly crash out of the euro before the newly elected left-led government in Athens agreed to a last-minute international bailout.

Dijsselbloem's Labor Party fared poorly in Dutch elections this year and is no longer part of the coalition government, meaning he can't remain in the eurogroup.

Before Monday's meeting, he said that keeping the eurogroup "together and united" should be the primary purpose of the next eurogroup president.

"It's the only way we take decisions in the eurogroup," he said.

___

Pan Pylas reported from London.

Georgia student discovers birth brother attended same college, had same major

Published: Saturday, December 16, 2017 @ 8:35 AM

DNA helped a Georgia college student connect with his sibling and birth parents.
Getty Images
DNA helped a Georgia college student connect with his sibling and birth parents.(Getty Images)

The slogan for purchasing a DNA test kit on the genealogy website Ancestry.com is "Open a world of possibilities."

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For a Georgia college junior, a DNA test earlier this week opened up his family history and helped him connect to a long-lost sibling and his birth parents.
Kieron Christian Graham, 20, is majoring in political science at Kennesaw State University, which is located northwest of Atlanta. He was adopted in 1997 when he was 3 months old. Growing up, he knew the first names of his birth mother and father and that his birth mother had another child named "Vincent," who was nine years older, BuzzFeed reported.

"I periodically would look for them and check on Facebook, but I never knew their last name so it was always hard," Graham said.

His adoptive parents gave him an AncestryDNA test kit as an early Christmas present. On Tuesday he received the results in an email, BuzzFeed reported. Out of the 100 loose matches was a strong match to a 29-year-old man named Vincent Ghant, who also had taken a DNA test.

When Graham checked on Facebook, he found a Vincent Grant whose birthday matched the documents his adoptive parents had. He sent Ghant a friend request, and as they chatted on Tuesday, Graham mentioned the name of his birth mother, Shawn.

“My heart stopped,” Ghant told BuzzFeed. “I asked my mother about him throughout my life, but the pain was so heavy on her that it was hard for her to drum up the words to explain it to me. ... So it just got to the point where I was, like, I'll just wait for her when she's ready.”

The two men learned they were not only brothers, but they also were attending the same college, were both majoring in political science and lived only 15 minutes apart, BuzzFeed reported. Oddly enough, they also attended a class together.

The brothers finally met at a local bar this week, BuzzFeed reported. Graham recalled Ghant telling him, "I've been thinking about you for 20 years."

Ghant said the meeting was “very emotional.”

“I was excited but a little bit scared if he had any resentment towards my family,” Ghant said.

Graham had no hard feelings, understanding that his birth mother was a single parent and chose adoption to give him a better life.

"When I realized he didn't [have resentment] and that he had a great life, I was amazed," Ghant said.

Graham has since contacted his birth mother and plans to meet with her this weekend. He said he also plans to meet with his birth father, BuzzFeed reported.

"My birth father broke down in tears," he said.

Graham also met Ghant’s 17-year-old brother, Christian,

Graham told BuzzFeed that his adoptive parents have been wholly supportive of his journey of discovery. They also plan to meet Graham's birth mother and that entire side of the family, he said.

Precious photos show Santa visiting infants at Ohio hospital

Published: Saturday, December 16, 2017 @ 5:36 AM

Santa Claus and friend.
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
Santa Claus and friend.(Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Santa Claus made a special trip to an Ohio hospital to spread Christmas love to babies in the newborn intensive care unit.

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At Akron Children’s Hospital, 66 families received a special visit from St. Nick, who held the infants and chatted with the babies’ older siblings, WJW reported.

The hospital posted some of the photographs on its Facebook page. 

Baby’s first Christmas! Santa made the holiday season much brighter for 66 families and their precious babies in our...

Posted by Akron Children's Hospital on Thursday, December 14, 2017

The touching photos were courtesy of Simon Says Smile, a volunteer program provided by Black Dog Photo Co., and started by Ashley Smas and Molly Conger.

The program was started as a result of Molly’s son, Simon, who spent 82 days in Akron Children’s NICU due to an esophageal atresia and prematurity.

Simon is now a healthy 5-year-old, WJW reported.

“When your child is in the NICU you don’t have the opportunity to get regular hospital photos as you would at an adult hospital. I treasure the photos they [Black Dog Photo Co.] took for us that day and wanted to share that gift with others in the same situation,” Conger told WJW.

The photos show Santa bonding with the babies, some of whom are wearing their Christmas outfits.

Watch: Coyote attacks dog in suburban Chicago yard

Published: Saturday, December 16, 2017 @ 4:55 AM

Coyote.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Coyote.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

An Illinois couple posted a scary video that showed their dog being attacked by a coyote.

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It happened very quickly in the Chicago suburb of Northfield, WGN reported.

Boozer, a cairn terrier, was outside when a coyote rushed in and circled it. The coyote then attacked, biting the 14-pound dog’s head and dragging it around the back yard.

The couple's home surveillance camera captured the attack. That’s when Barnaby Dinges’ wife ran into the yard screaming, scaring the coyote away, WGN reported.

“Literally we're on the phone and she just screams, 'oh my God.' I think she drops the phone. And I didn't know what was going on," Dinges told WGN. "I looked at this camera. And I just couldn't believe it. The coyote just came out of nowhere."

Boozer suffered several injuries, including a deep gash to his head that required staples and a "gouge" mark on his eye. However, the veterinarian believes Boozer will make a full recovery.

The family's home in Northfield is located near forest preserves, and the couple said they are sharing video of the attack as a warning to pet owners.

"I think this video shows ... in 10 or 15 seconds your family pet can be gone forever," Dinges said.

California swimmer hospitalized after sea lion bites him on the arm

Published: Saturday, December 16, 2017 @ 4:22 AM

Sea lion.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Sea lion.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A California man was hospitalized after being bitten on the arm by a sea lion in the waters off San Francisco, The Los Angeles Times reported.

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The attack occurred Thursday near Aquatic Park, San Francisco police said. The man had been swimming when the sea lion approached him. The man said he felt threatened and began splashing water at the animal, Officer Matthew Reiter said during a news conference.

“When it didn't work, he yelled at it and then the sea lion came up and bit him on the arm,” said Reiter, a member of the department's marine unit.

He said the man then used his arm to push the animal away and it left. People aboard a nearby sailboat rescued the swimmer and called the Coast Guard.

“The boat saved his life,” Reiter said. “Had that boat not seen him, this could have been a different story."

Reiter applied a tourniquet in an attempt to stop heavy bleeding, the Times reported. The swimmer was taken to a hospital "with a serious extremity injury," the San Francisco Fire Department said in a tweet.

The swimmer was talking the whole time, Reiter said.

“He was more worried about his clothes on the beach than he was about anything else,” he said. “It was a good sign.”