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US President Donald Trump (L) greets Switzerland’s President Ueli Maurer before a meeting at the White House on May 16, 2019, in Washington, DC.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump said “hope not” when he was asked Thursday if the United States is going to war with Iran.

That answer to a reporter’s question during a photo opportunity at the White House with Swiss President Ueli Maurer came amid growing concern about a conflict between the U.S. and Iran.

Meanwhile, members of Congress blasted the Trump administration for being left in the dark about details about the situation with Iran — and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump lacks authority to declare war on Iran.

“The responsibility in the Congress is for Congress to declare war,” said Pelosi, D-Calif.

“So I hope the president’s advisors recognize that they have no authorization to go forward in any way. They cannot call the authorization, AUMF, the authorization for the use of military force, that was passed in 2001, as any authorization to go forward in the Middle East now,” she said.

“I like what I hear from the president that he has no appetite for this,” she added. “One of the places that I agree with the president is that both of us in our opposition to the war in Iraq and I hope the same attitude will prevail with the president of the United States even though some of his supporters are rattling sabers.”

The Trump administration has sent an aircraft carrier strike group and bombers to the Middle East in response to what it has characterized “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran.

Those indications include a purported threat from Iran against U.S. diplomatic posts in Iraq, as well as worry that Iran is setting the stage to place rocket launchers on ships in the Persian Gulf.

On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department ordered nonemergency government employees to leave the American embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Erbil.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Armed Services Committee, told reporters Thursday: “The American people have been kept in the dark. It is disgraceful and despicable that we’re on the verge of war, and the American people are given this kind of confused and chaotic picture of what the situation is on the ground.”

Blumenthal said hat he and other senators have heard that “we are supposedly going to have a briefing on Tuesday” from the Trump administration about the Iran situation.

But, Blumenthal added, “we’re hearing it may be too late because hostilities may have begun or there may be an escalation on the military situation.”

That would be “petrifying,” he said.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., evoked the Vietnam War in his criticism of the administration’s Iran planning.

“Literally. I don’t know if someone in the White House is waiting for a Gulf of Tonkin moment here to initiate military action against Iran,” Durbin said, referring to the purported attack by North Vietnam on an American naval vessel in 1964, which has been viewed as a bogus pretext by President Lyndon Johnson to escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

“That would be a serious mistake, and under our Constitution, this president has to seek the authority to do from Congress,” Durbin said.

New York Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said “the administration should give us a classified briefing as soon as possible.”

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England will ban plastic stirrers, straws and cotton swabs from 2020

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A ban on plastic drinks stirrers, straws, and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs will come into force in England next April.

“Urgent and decisive action is needed to tackle plastic pollution and protect our environment,” Environment Secretary Michael Gove said in a statement Wednesday.

“These items are often used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down, ending up in our seas and oceans and harming precious marine life,” he added.

The ban follows on from a consultation which found that more than 80% of respondents supported a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, with 90% backing a ban on drinks stirrers and 89% in favor of a ban on cotton swabs. The consultation ran from October 22, 2018 to December 3, 2018, and had 1,602 respondents.

Outlining details of the ban, the U.K. government said there would be exemptions to make sure that people with a disability or medical requirements could continue using plastic straws.

In practice, this means that while restaurants and bars will not be allowed to display plastic straws or “automatically hand them out” they will be able to provide them upon request.

Another exemption will apply to the use of plastic-stemmed cotton swabs for “medical and scientific purposes” where such items are “often the only practical option.”

The CEO of Surfers Against Sewage, Hugo Tagholm, said the charity welcomed the ban. “Stopping the production and distribution of these single-use plastic menaces will prevent them from polluting beaches nationwide,” he added. “It’s a really positive and bold step in the right direction in the battle against plastic pollution.”

Several major businesses are already looking to move away from using plastic in their stores. Fast food giant McDonald’s is rolling out paper straws to stores in the U.K. and Ireland, while upscale supermarket Waitrose now only offers paper straws in its cafes.

The issue of plastic pollution is a big problem. Europeans produce 25 million tons of plastic waste per year, according to the European Commission. Less than 30% of this is collected for recycling.

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Twitter exchange with Elon Musk lands a British man a job at Tesla

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Elon Musk, chairman and CEO of Tesla, addresses a press conference in Beijing on October 23, 2015.

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Tesla has hired a British man behind a viral tweet that caught the attention of Elon Musk last month.

Adam Koszary, who engineered a viral Twitter exchange between Musk and an English museum, will begin a new role as Tesla’s social media manager in July.

Back in April, Koszary, the digital lead for the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), tweeted a photo of a ram with the caption: “Look at this absolute unit.”

The picture has been liked more than 100,000 times to date – and its popularity really took off when Elon Musk used the image as his own profile picture on Twitter.

“I’m an absolute unit too,” he said in a tweet, temporarily changing his Twitter bio to “absolute unit.”

In response, the MERL switched its own picture for one of Elon Musk, sparking an ongoing exchange between the two accounts.

Koszary, who had been due to start a new job at the U.K.’s Royal Academy of Arts (RAA), announced on Twitter on Tuesday that he had instead accepted a role with Tesla.

“I’m no longer moving to the Royal Academy. Instead, I’ll be Tesla’s Social Media Manager from July,” he said.

The RAA said in a tweet on Tuesday that it was “very sad that the lovely and talented Adam now won’t be joining us, but know he’ll do a great job at Tesla.”

A spokesperson for Tesla was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.



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People in these cities earn world’s highest salaries, research says

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San Francisco, California

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Average salaries in San Francisco have risen by 31% since 2018, with the city taking the crown for the highest-paying city in the world this year, according to Deutsche Bank research.

In 2019, people in San Francisco can expect to be paid an average of $6,526 per month — that’s 142% more than the average New Yorker’s income.

Deutsche Bank’s analysis, which compared incomes and living costs in 56 cities worldwide, found that average earnings in San Francisco, where residents had the strongest purchasing power in the world, had increased by 88% over the last five years.

Zurich, Switzerland, came in second, offering an average monthly income of $5,896, although it lost the top spot this year after seeing average earnings decline by 18% over the last five years.

New York City, with average monthly earnings hitting $4,612, was the third highest-paying city in the world. Monthly salaries saw a year-on-year increase of 12% in New York, helping the city hold onto the third spot in the ranking.

Boston and Chicago, which both offer monthly incomes in excess of $4,000, were also ranked among the 10 highest paying cities.

The 10 highest paying cities

  1. San Francisco, U.S.
    Monthly salary: $6,526
  2. Zurich, Switzerland
    Monthly salary: $5,896
  3. New York, U.S.
    Monthly salary: $4,612
  4. Boston, U.S.
    Monthly salary: $4,288
  5. Chicago, U.S.
    Monthly salary: $4,062
  6. Sydney, Australia
    Monthly salary: $3,599
  7. Oslo, Norway
    Monthly salary: $3,246
  8. Copenhagen, Denmark
    Monthly salary: $3,190
  9. Melbourne, Australia
    Monthly salary: $3,181
  10. London, U.K.
    Monthly salary: $2,956

A number of the cities paying the highest salaries had seen a decline in earnings, the data showed. Sydney, Australia, was ranked sixth on the list, but its residents’ incomes decreased 8% year-on-year and were nearly 20% lower than they were five years ago. Meanwhile earnings in Oslo lost 11% since 2018 and were a third lower than five years previous, and London’s incomes were 13% lower than they were last year.

The biggest year-on-year losses were seen in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where a decline of 45% left monthly incomes at $527.

Salaries in Johannesburg, South Africa, fell by 26% and came in at $1,223 per month in 2019, while the Turkish city of Istanbul saw earnings tumble 31%, leaving residents with $433 each month.

Cities offering the lowest monthly incomes were Cairo, Egypt, where residents earned $206, and Lagos, Nigeria, where residents were paid $236 per month, according to Deutsche Bank.

Monthly rent

Hong Kong, which has notoriously high housing costs, was the most expensive city for renting a mid-range two-bedroom apartment. Average earnings came in under $2,500, but rent costs were $3,685 — that’s 127% higher than the cost of renting a similar apartment in New York.

San Francisco and New York were the next most expensive cities for apartment rentals, while Cairo, Bangalore and New Delhi were the cheapest.

  1. Hong Kong
    Monthly rent for average 2-bedroom apartment: $3,685
  2. San Francisco, U.S.
    Monthly rent for average 2-bedroom apartment: $3,631
  3. New York, U.S.
    Monthly rent for average 2-bedroom apartment: $2,909
  4. Zurich, Switzerland
    Monthly rent for average 2-bedroom apartment: $2,538
  5. Paris, France
    Monthly rent for average 2-bedroom apartment: $2,455

Disposable income

Despite being one of the most expensive cities in the world for housing costs, San Francisco’s residents had the most disposable income leftover after paying their rent, with the analysis assuming two working people were sharing a two-bedroom apartment.

According to the researchers, San Franciscans could have $4,710 left to spend each month after paying their rent, which is 149% more than New Yorkers were expected to have leftover.

Residents of Zurich had the second highest disposable incomes, with $4,626 per month leftover after rent. U.S. cities dominated the top five, with Chicago, Boston and New York rounding out the list.

  1. San Francisco, U.S.
    Disposable income after rent: $4,710
  2. Zurich, Switzerland
    Disposable income after rent: $4,626
  3. Chicago, U.S.
    Disposable income after rent: $3,298
  4. Boston, U.S.
    Disposable income after rent: $3,188
  5. New York City, U.S.
    Disposable income after rent: $3,157
  6. Sydney, Australia
    Disposable income after rent: $2,615
  7. Melbourne, Australia
    Disposable income after rent: $2,485
  8. Oslo, Norway
    Disposable income after rent: $2,342
  9. Copenhagen, Denmark
    Disposable income after rent: $2,285
  10. Wellington, New Zealand
    Disposable income after rent: $2,075

Despite being low down when it came to housing costs, people who live in Cairo, Egypt, Dhaka, Bangladesh and Philippine capital Manila had the least disposable income left after paying rental costs, according to Deutsche Bank.

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