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US seen likely to win in effort to shut down WTO’s appeals court

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The United States is likely to succeed in shutting down the World Trade Organization’s supreme court because other WTO members are powerless to stop it, diplomats, lawyers and officials said at a conference in Geneva on Friday.

The United States has blocked appointments of judges to the Appellate Body, throwing the WTO into crisis as it runs out of legal muscle to rule on international trade disputes.

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The European Union has made proposals to reform the way the judges work, but U.S. Ambassador Dennis Shea poured cold water on several of them on Thursday, saying appeals judges had “strayed” from what was agreed when the WTO was set up in 1995.

One diplomat from a large developing country said on Friday the United States regretted setting up the appeals system and it was not putting forward any ideas to reform it.

“We have no leverage,” he said. “The other side is flexing its muscles.”

“Moral suasion is all that is left,” said a Geneva-based trade lawyer.

Another trade lawyer and former negotiator for a U.S. ally said various alternatives being put forward were “band-aids”.

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“I don’t think there’s anything right now that the other (WTO) members can do. And I don’t think that any of these other band-aid solutions amount to anything,” he said.

A trade lawyer and former staffer on the Appellate Body’s secretariat said the United States was using hard leverage in many areas of trade, with its tariff war and regional trade agreements as well as at the WTO.

The trade experts were speaking at an event organized by the Cato Institute at Geneva’s Center for Trade and Economic Integration, on condition that the names and affiliations of speakers were not reported.

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Attendees included senior officials from the WTO and ambassadors from WTO missions as well as veteran trade lawyers. Organizers said that U.S. officials had been invited to take part but declined.

Reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Andrew Roche

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Louisiana Democrat re-elected governor — despite Trump’s rallies for the Republican candidate

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The Associated Press has called the Lousiana's governor's race for incumbent Democrat John Bel Edwards.

Edwards triumphed over Republican businessman Eddie Rispone, who called to concede.

The outcome is another major political loss for President Donald Trump, who had held multiple campaign rallies for Rispone.

During his most recent rally, Trump begged the crowd to give him a "big win" in the election.

Eddie Rispone has conceded the #lagov race to Gov. John Bel Edwards, giving the Democrat four more years in ruby red Louisiana despite Trump’s best efforts to flip the seat. Edwards camp says Rispone called minutes ago to concede. #lagov #lalege

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Press secretary says it is ‘dangerous for the country’ to question whether she is putting out honest info

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Press secretary Stephanie Grisham on Saturday argued it was "dangerous for the country" for anyone to challenge the veracity of her claims.

Grisham made her argument after President Donald Trump went to Walter Reed Hospital for an unannounced doctor's visit, resulting in a great deal of speculation.

Following the visit, Grisham claimed Trump was "healthy" and "without complaints" -- a claim many found unlikely as the president has spent a good deal of time as president airing his many grievances.

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Sondland used WhatsApp to communicate with Ukraine — and won’t turn over the messages: report

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Ambassador Gordon Sondland used WhatsApp to send encrypted messages to a top Ukranian official, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

The communication occurred with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to President Volodymr Zelensky, when Sondland was in Kyiv, the newspaper reported.

"Sondland was also texting back and forth on WhatsApp with Yermak throughout the trip, and had been communicating with other Ukrainian officials over the messaging app in the preceding and subsequent months, according to people familiar with his interactions," The Post reported.

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