United Tech buys Rockwell in $US23 b deal

Aerospace and industrial company United Technologies Corp has no immediate plans to sell off other businesses after it agreed to acquire avionics supplier Rockwell Collins Inc in a $US23 billion ($A29 billion) deal that creates a powerhouse aerospace supplier.

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On Tuesday United Tech also knocked down speculation that the acquisition would prompt it to spin off other businesses, such as Carrier air conditioners or Otis elevators.

“We need the cash flows from all the businesses to help pay down some of this debt” and retain an investment-grade credit rating, United Tech Chief Executive Officer Greg Hayes said on a conference call with analysts.

United Tech expects to borrow $US15 billion to fund the deal, Hayes said, and it will assume $US7 billion in Rockwell Collins debt as part of the transaction announced on Monday, which is expected to close by the third quarter of 2018.

“Because the deal is structured as a conventional acquisition with debt, United Tech has to pay some of this off before doing anything else,” said Robert Stallard, analyst at Vertical Research Partners.

The acquisition creates a major supplier to Boeing Co, Airbus SE and Bombardier at a time when the plane makers are pressing for price cuts and trying to compete against suppliers on services and spare parts.

It also marks the second large aerospace deal that creates an engines-to-seating supplier, following jet engine maker Safran SA’s pending $US7.7-billion deal to buy seat maker Zodiac Aerospace. Safran said Tuesday it would look at assets that might come up for sale after the United Tech-Rockwell deal.

Safran is part of CFM International, a joint venture with General Electric Co that makes LEAP engines used on Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

United Technologies shares slumped 5.7 per cent and were the Dow’s biggest decliners, while shares of fellow Dow component, plane maker Boeing, fell 1.4 per cent. Rockwell Collins shares rose 0.3 per cent.

Syrian army breaks IS siege on Deir al-Zor

A military media unit run by Hezbollah, a key Damascus ally, said the advancing forces reached an army garrison at the edge of the city.

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The army and allied forces have made a swift lunge through militant lines in recent days to relieve an enclave in the Euphrates city, where Islamic State has besieged the garrison and some 93,000 civilians since 2014.

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The Syrian army’s breaking of a years-long siege by the Islamic State group of Deir al-Zor city is a “very important strategic victory,” the Kremlin said on Tuesday.

“Commander-in-chief Vladimir Putin has congratulated the Russian military command (in Syria) as well as the command of the Syrian government troops with this very important strategic victory over the terrorists with the aim of freeing Syria from ISIL,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

Earlier Tuesday a Russian warship in the Mediterranean fired cruise missiles at IS fighters near the town of Al-Shula to aid the Syrian army, the Russian defence ministry said.

A Russian warship in the Mediterranean fired cruise missiles Tuesday toward IS group targets in the eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour. AAP

“As a result of these strikes there was damage to the infrastructure, underground communications, weapon stockpiles of the terrorists, and this allowed the armed contingents of government forces… to rapidly advance, break through IS defences and unblock the city (of Deir al-Zor),” Peskov said.

Putin has also “sent a telegram to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad” praising the victory, he added.

Syria’s army and allied fighters, backed by Russian air support, have been advancing towards Deir al-Zor on several fronts in recent weeks, and on Tuesday arrived inside the Brigade 137 base on its western edge.

Government forces and tens of thousands of civilians in the city have been trapped under the IS siege for over two years, facing food and medical shortages.

‘The sooner people leave the better’: Hurricane Irma now Category Five storm

Irma picked up strength and has become an “extremely dangerous” Category Five hurricane as it approached the Caribbean on Tuesday, the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre reported.

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“Preparations should be rushed to completion in the hurricane warning area,” the NHC said in its bulletin.

The monster hurricane, the most powerful of the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale, is about 270 miles east of the island of Antigua packing maximum sustained winds of 175 miles per hour.

Hurricane advisories were issued for territories that dot the West Indies, including parts of the Leeward Islands, the British and US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in preparation for the intensifying storm that could pummel the area with life-threatening wind, storm surges and torrential rain by Tuesday evening, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).

8 am Special Advisory: #Irma is now a category 5 #hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph (280 km/h) More: 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/tW4KeGdBFb pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/QU1LWq7QsA

— NHC Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantic) September 5, 2017

Irma’s centre was about 410 miles (660 kilometers) east of the Leeward Islands, grinding westward at 13 miles per hour (20 kilometers per hour), the NHC said.

“On the forecast track, the centre of Irma will move near or over portions of the northern Leeward Islands Tuesday night and early Wednesday.”

“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” it stressed.

Irma is expected to make landfall along the string of French islands that includes Guadeloupe late Tuesday before heading to Haiti and Florida.

The storm was moving towards the west at 14 miles per hour, and is expected to drop between four and eight inches of rain when it hits land.

“These rainfall amounts may cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” the NHC warned.

The storm is also is expected to “cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.”

Hurricane Irma – which has triggered alarm and alerts from the French West Indies to Florida – comes after of Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas and Louisiana late last month.

A Category Four strength was the maximum attained by Harvey, which dumped as many as 50 inches of rain in some parts of Houston, turning neighbourhoods into lakes.

This enhanced satellite image made available by the NOAA GOES Project shows Irma, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017 (AAP)AAP

The NHC cautioned that it was still too early to forecast Hurricane Irma’s exact path or what effects it might have on the continental United States, but warned of likely effects to hit some areas by later this week.

“There is an increasing chance of seeing some impacts from Irma in the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys later this week and this weekend. In addition, rough surf and dangerous marine conditions will begin to affect the southeastern US coast by later this week,” the centre said.

Irma will be the second powerful hurricane to thrash the United States and its territories in as many weeks. 

Residents in Texas and Louisiana are still reeling from the catastrophic effects of the deadly Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas on Aug. 25 and dumped several feet of rain, destroying thousands of homes and businesses.

Irma is forecast to strengthen over the next 48 hours and could “directly affect Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, and Cuba as a dangerous major hurricane later this week,” the NHC said.

In preparation for the storm, the economically struggling Puerto Rico government on Monday declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. Governor Ricardo Rossello announced the opening of storm shelters able to house up to 62,000 people. Schools will be closed on Tuesday.

“Despite the economic challenges Puerto Rico is facing, the approved budget has $15 million for the emergency fund,” Governor Ricardo Rosselló said in a statement.

Emergency shelters

The island of about 3.4 million people has 456 emergency shelters prepared to house up to 62,100 people.

To help residents prepare for the storm, the Puerto Rican government activated a price freeze on basic necessities, including food and water, medicines, power generators and batteries.

Telemundo TV station WIPR in Puerto Rico showed long lines of shoppers stocking up on bottled water, flashlights, batteries, generators, food and other items.

The executive director of the state power authority, Ricardo Ramos, told the station that the power grid was so vulnerable from lack of investment that parts of the US territory could be without power for three to four months.

“We’re preparing for the worst-case scenario,” he said.

US carrier in position

A US aircraft carrier with a field hospital and dozens of aircraft able to conduct rescue or supply missions has been positioned protectively in the area, according to Alejandro de la Campa of the Caribbean division of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Local press identified the carrier as the USS Kearsarge.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz Soto ordered 900 municipal employees – police, emergency personnel, and aid and social workers – to report for rotating 12-hour shifts.

Even if that island is spared a direct hit, the mayor said, three days of pounding rain will do heavy damage.

Irma’s precise path remains unclear. But several projections have it passing over the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before turning north toward Florida and then possibly swinging up the US East Coast.

Scrambling amid the uncertainty, Florida declared a state of emergency to facilitate preparations.

For now, hurricane warnings have been issued for the islands of Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Martin, Sint Maarten, St. Barthelemy, Saba and St. Eustatius; the British Virgin Islands; US Virgin Islands; Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra. A warning means hurricane conditions are expected in the next 36 hours.

Anne Laubies, prefect of Saint Barthelemy, warned the hurricane posed the greatest danger the island had faced in 20 years, with more people endangered in flood-prone areas because of a rise in population.

Long queues of people rushed to get batteries and bottled water, while many cut trees around their dwellings and sought to tie down objects and seal their windows.

A hurricane watch – meaning hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours – has been issued for Guadeloupe.

Irma is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 3 to 6 inches (7.6-15 cm) across the Leeward Islands, with isolated maximum amounts of 10 inches (25 cm) across the northern Leeward Islands. 

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What happens to ‘Dreamers’ after Trump revokes their residence rights?

That move threatens the futures of some 800,000 people, many now in schools, with jobs and families in the United States.

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What is the ‘Dreamers’ program? 

In a presidential order in June 2012, president Barack Obama launched DACA  — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — that aimed to provide a stable future for people who arrived in the country illegally as children and stayed. Dubbed “Dreamers”, they were granted under presidential order the right to remain and study or work legally, renewing their status regularly.

The program was devised after Congress failed to pass legislation to address the status of millions of illegal immigrants who had lived in the country for decades, many with families, permanent homes and businesses.

DACA applied to people who were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and had been continually present in the US since 2007. It covered anyone in school or who had a graduate certificate, who was serving in the armed forces, and who had never been convicted of a serious crime.

Related readingWhy end DACA? 

But Trump argued that DACA protected people who broke US laws, was unfair to legal immigrants, and encroached Congress’s power to make immigration laws.

The government also argued that legal challenges by a number of states made DACA and a 2014 sister program, DAPA, untenable.

DAPA was a proposed Obama program to open the way for other illegal immigrants, those who came as adults, to gain legal status, but was blocked from implementation by legal challenges. Recently Texas led other states in a threatened action to similarly seek to block DACA.

Faced with legal challenges, the Trump administration said it falls to Congress to fix the problem, not the executive branch.

But legal experts say Obama’s DACA order was constitutionally sound and would survive court challenges. “The least disruptive alternative would have been to let the DACA program continue,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr of Cornell University. 

0:00 Protest Outside WH After DACA Announcement Share Protest Outside WH After DACA Announcement

What happens to the Dreamers? 

Encouraged by Obama’s move, about 800,000 people registered under DACA, confident that they would be safe from expulsion. Now the government has access to all their personal data, making it hard for most to hide.

About 200,000 of them will see their resident permits expire by the end of 2017. Another 275,000 expire in 2018, and the rest between January and August 2019.

Under Trump’s order, those with permits are safe until their expiry. People with permits that expire within the next six months — before March 5, 2018 — can apply to renew them before October 5. But new applications will not be accepted.

Once their DACA permits expire, individuals will not have the legal right to work, and theoretically could be deported any time — though current policy only threatens illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes.

The White House has indicated that the six month grace period gives Congress an opportunity, if it wants, to come up with legislation that could replace DACA and strengthen its legal foundations. 

Skarsgard takes on clown villain Pennywise

Bill Skarsgard could hear the crew whispering excitedly when he first arrived on the set of his new horror film It, based on the classic novel by Stephen King.

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“They were like, ‘Oh, Pennywise is on set today,'” the lanky, 191cm tall, Swedish-born actor told AAP.

“I thought, ‘That was cool. They’re super excited’.”

The crew and other cast, mostly boys, had been shooting for one and a half months in Canada, but Skarsgard, purposely, had stayed away.

Skarsgard plays Pennywise, the sadistic, blood-thirsty, supernatural clown who intermittently appears from the sewers and abducts children in the small town of Derry, Maine.

The actor did not want to build rapport with the young cast.

His first scene was with 14-year-old Jack Grazer and it required Skarsgard, in his full terrifying clown prosthetics, make-up and costume, to crawl out of a fridge.

Pennywise’s mouth is dripping with drool.

“I didn’t want to hold anything back and I’m mocking him and he’s crying,” Skarsgard recalled.

“He has a hard time breathing so I’m mocking that and I’m in his face and drooling over him and smelling him.

“I’m so into his face.

“Then they said ‘cut’.

“I was like ‘Oh no! Are you OK Jack?’.

“I thought I traumatised him.”

Skarsgard is great in the scene, but young Grazer was also impressive.

Grazer instantly stopped his tears and then gave Skarsgard a true Hollywood moment.

“Jack goes, ‘I love what you’re doing man. I love what you’re doing’,” Skarsgard laughs.

“It was the funniest thing ever.

“They are all little professional actors.”

King first published It in 1986 and Tim Curry played Pennywise in 1990’s It TV mini-series.

King didn’t push to be involved in the new film, but director Andy Muschietti and the screenwriters and producers showed the author drafts of the script, audition tapes and screened the film for him.

To their relief King’s reaction was positive.

Skarsgard, whose previous roles include Allegiant, Atomic Blonde and Hemlock Grove, comes from a family of actors headed by his father Stellan and including brothers Alexander, Gustaf and Valter.

He joked if his Hollywood career dried up he could now hire himself out as a clown at kids’ birthday parties.

“Maybe that will be my go-to gig,” he laughed.

It opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday (September 7)