By Ian Chua SYDNEY (Reuters) – Manufacturing activity across much of Asia shrank in February with China suffering a seventh straight month of decline, a blow to policymakers who only a day earlier resumed an easing cycle in a fresh effort to spur growth. Business surveys from China to Indonesia showed no signs of reversing a weakening trend, forcing factories in the trade-reliant region to shed yet more jobs and cut prices, a move that could worsen a global disinflationary trend. China aims to lay off 5-6 million workers from "zombie enterprises" over the next two to three years, two sources with ties to the country's leadership told Reuters.
Five Cambodian fisherman have confessed to raping and assaulting French tourists on an isolated Thai beach, Cambodia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. Thai police said four French tourists were attacked late on Saturday on Koh Kood, a remote island near Thailand’s maritime border with Cambodia known for its untamed jungle and pristine beaches. Thai police investigators said the attackers swam from their fishing boat to assault the group and raped two women at knifepoint.
Federal prosecutors who uncovered a huge corruption scheme at oil company Petrobras are looking into whether Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva received undue favors from engineering firms they are investigating. In a letter to the Supreme Court made public on Monday, the head of the investigation, Deltan Dallagnol, argued for a federal probe because some of the alleged gifts were made while Lula was still in office. The prosecutors suspect favors were extended to Lula by executives of engineering firms Odebrecht and OAS that have been charged with corruption and money laundering in the massive bribery and political kickback scandal involving contracts with state-run Petroleo Brasileiro SA. If the Supreme Court authorizes the probe, it would be the first time federal prosecutors will be looking to link the once wildly popular leftist president and Brazil's biggest ever corruption case.
By Nathaniel Taplin and Pete Sweeney SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Activity in China's manufacturing sector shrank more sharply than expected in February, surveys showed on Tuesday, prompting smaller companies to shed workers at the fastest pace in seven years and suggesting Beijing will have to ramp up stimulus to avoid a deeper economic slowdown. The official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 49.0 in February from January's reading of 49.4 and below the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction. It was the lowest reading since November 2011.
By John Davison and John Irish BEIRUT/GENEVA (Reuters) – A senior official from Syria's main opposition group said on Monday that a fragile international attempt to halt nearly five years of fighting was in danger of collapse because of attacks by government forces. The cessation of hostilities drawn up by Washington and Moscow faced "complete nullification" because Syrian government attacks were violating the agreement, the official of the Saudi-backed opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said. The Kremlin said the process was under way, although it had always been clear it would not be easy.
By Emily Stephenson SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – Donald Trump's Republican presidential rivals urged him on Monday to ask the New York Times to release a recording of an interview he did with the newspaper's editorial board, following a report he told it he was not serious about his immigration proposals. News website BuzzFeed reported on Monday that Trump had suggested to the Times' editorial board in an off-the-record briefing on Jan. 5 that he would likely not stand by his immigration proposals if elected president. Trump, the Republican front-runner, has called for deporting all illegal immigrants and has said he would get the Mexican government to pay for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
A Donald Trump rally in Virginia was repeatedly disrupted on Monday by protesters, including some from the Black Lives Matter movement, in a stark display of the divisions the Republican front-runner's presidential campaign has long been accused of sowing. A Time magazine photographer trying to document the exit of dozens of black protesters from the rally in southwestern Radford, Virginia, was grabbed by the neck and shoved to the ground by a U.S. Secret Service agent. Hecklers disrupted the rally on a day when the New York billionaire fended off criticism that he had not clearly condemned white supremacist support during an interview on CNN on Sunday.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Monday that she hopes Apple Inc. will still comply with the court order by a federal judge in California to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. "It is still our hope that they will see their way clear to complying with that order as thousands of other companies do every day," Lynch said in an interview with Fox News. Asked about the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails, Lynch said the investigation would be done independently and refused to disclose information.
By James Pearson and Jack Kim SEOUL (Reuters) – A U.S. student held in North Korea since early January was detained for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan from his Pyongyang hotel and has confessed to "severe crimes" against the state, the North's official media said on Monday. Otto Warmbier, 21, a University of Virginia student, was detained before boarding his flight to China over an unspecified incident at his hotel, his tour agency told Reuters in January. North Korea has a long history of detaining foreigners and has used jailed U.S. citizens in the past to exact high-profile visits from the United States, with which it has no formal diplomatic relations.