Mounira al-Mahdia, a celebrated 1920s diva. The houseboat of another singer, Badia Masabni, was said to be so popular among Cairo’s elite that a rumor spread at the time that governments were formed aboard.

Back then, there were at least 200 houseboats up and down the Nile. But under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, many of the structures were moved to clear the river for water sports, said Wael Wakil, 58, who was born and raised in the houseboat he still lives on.

That left about 40 boats moored where they sit now, next to Kit Kat, a neighborhood named after a local World War II-era nightclub popular among Allied soldiers.

installed a pair of German spies on one houseboat in the area — with the help, in some tellings, of a belly dancer.

largely open to the public, became crowded with private clubs and cafes.

The authorities have made clear that they want more of those: The houseboat owners say they have been told that they can pay more than $6,500 to temporarily dock elsewhere while they apply for commercial licenses to open cafes or restaurants in their former homes. But that, they argue, is hardly a fair or attractive option.

“They’re destroying the past, they’re destroying the present, and they’re destroying the future, too,” said Neama Mohsen, 50, a theater instructor who has lived on one of the houseboats for three decades. “I see this as a crime, and no one can stop it. They’re taking away our lives as if we’re criminals or terrorists.”

Today, some of the houseboats are owned by politicians and businessmen, others by bohemians, still others by middle-class Egyptians who know no other life.

Mr. Wakil said his family moved to their houseboat in 1961. He remembers growing up fishing off its deck. Whenever he dropped a toy in the Nile, he said, a passing boatman would rescue it.

Now Mr. Wakil, a retired finance manager, has packed up, and is getting ready to move to an apartment his wife owns in the desert.

“But nothing will come close to compensating for this,” he said.

From Ms. Soueif’s favorite place in the house, the dressing room where she gives her grandchildren baths, she can see a mango tree in her riverbank garden that has not fruited for four years. Suddenly, this year, it produced what promises to be a bumper crop.

But this type of mango cannot be picked before mid-July. By then, if nothing changes, she and her houseboat will be gone.

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WTO strikes global trade deals deep into overtime

  • Deals reached on food, health and fishing
  • Formerly defiant India joins consensus
  • Package seen boosting credibility of WTO

GENEVA, June 17 (Reuters) – The World Trade Organization agreed on the first change to global trading rules in years on Friday as well as a deal to boost the supply of COVID-19 vaccines in a series of pledges that were heavy on compromise.

The deals were forged in the early hours of the sixth day of a conference of more than 100 trade ministers that was seen as a test of the ability of nations to strike multilateral trade deals amid geopolitical tensions heightened by the Ukraine war.

Delegates, who had expected a four-day conference, cheered after they passed seven agreements and declarations just before dawn on Friday.

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Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told them: “The package of agreements you have reached will make a difference to the lives of people around the world. The outcomes demonstrate that the WTO is in fact capable of responding to emergencies of our time.”

Earlier she had appealed to WTO members to consider the “delicate balance” required after nearly round-the-clock talks that have at times been charged with anger and accusations.

The package, which the WTO chief called “unprecedented”, included the two highest profile deals under consideration – on fisheries and on a partial waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights for COVID-19 vaccines.

The accord to curb fishing subsidies is only the second multilateral agreement on global trading rules struck in the WTO’s 27-year history and is far more ambitious than the first, which was designed to cut red tape.

At one stage, a series of demands from India, which sees itself as the champion of poor farmers and fishermen as well as developing countries, appeared set to paralyse talks but accommodations were found, trade sources said.

The WTO’s rules dictate that all decisions are taken by consensus, with any single member able to exercise a veto.

‘LOT OF BUMPS’

“It was not an easy process. There were a lot of bumps, just like I predicted. It was like a roller coaster, but in the end we got there,” an exhausted but elated Okonjo-Iweala told a final news conference.

The deal to ban subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing or fishing of an over-fished stock has the potential to reverse collapsing fish stocks. Though pared back significantly, it still drew approval.

“This is a turning point in addressing one of the key drivers of global over-fishing,” said Isabel Jarrett, manager of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign to reduce harmful fisheries subsidies.

Okonjo-Iweala said it was the first step after 21 years of talks towards what she hoped would be a more comprehensive deal.

The deal on a partial IP waiver to allow developing countries to produce and export COVID-19 vaccines has divided the WTO for nearly two years, but finally passed. It has also drawn the fiercest criticism from campaign groups that say it barely expands on an existing exemption in WTO rules and is too narrow by not covering therapeutics and diagnostics.

“Put simply, it is a technocratic fudge aimed at saving reputations, not lives,” said Max Lawson, co-chair of the People’s Vaccine Alliance.

The pharmaceutical industry was also critical of the deal, saying that there is currently a surplus of shots which governments and other authorities haven’t figured out how to distribute and administer.

“Rather than focus on real issues affecting public health, like solving supply chain bottlenecks or reducing border tariffs on medicines, they approved an intellectual property waiver on COVID-19 vaccines that won’t help protect people against the virus,” Stephen Ubl, President of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), said in an emailed statement.

One agreement also reached was to maintain a moratorium on e-commerce tariffs, which business says is vital to allow the free flow of data worldwide. read more

Overall, many observers said the deals should boost the credibility of the WTO, which was weakened by former U.S. President Donald Trump’s crippling of its ability to intervene in trade disputes, and set it on a course for reform.

European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said the WTO meeting had clinched outcomes of global significance despite unprecedented challenges.

“The profound divergences here amply confirm that a deep reform of the organisation is urgently needed, across all its core functions,” he said, adding he would work to get it agreed at the next ministerial conference due in 2023.

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Writing by Emma Farge and Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Richard Pullin, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Toby Chopra

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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WTO reaches initial deal as India’s defiance tempered

A general view of the room during the speech of Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the opening ceremony of the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), at the World Trade Organization, in Geneva, Switzerland, June 12, 2022. Martial Trezzini/Pool via REUTERS

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  • Intense talks went on until dawn, still ongoing
  • Negotiations cover fishing, vaccine, food security
  • Agreement reached on Thursday on digital tariffs
  • India, formerly seen as a spoiler, expects more deals

GENEVA, June 16 (Reuters) – Major members of the World Trade Organization reached an initial deal on Thursday, winning over India which said it was confident more global accords could be achieved as negotiations on fishing, vaccines and food security entered their final hours.

Ministers from more than 100 countries convened at the global trade watchdog’s headquarters in Geneva this week for the first time in more than four years to agree new trade rules, a feat many thought unlikely in an era of high geopolitical tensions. read more

The body’s 164 members must all agree for new rules to pass, meaning that one member alone can block deals.

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During the June 12-15 meeting, extended into the evening of a fifth day on Thursday, that member has been India.

However, a provisional agreement to extend a moratorium on applying duties to electronic transmissions until at least 2023 was reached despite earlier opposition from New Delhi. read more

Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, who had struck a defiant stance on a range of topics earlier in the week, told journalists he expected more “solid decisions” to come.

New Delhi, which has a history of blocking multilateral negotiations, has previously stuck to long-held demands to maintain subsidies for fisheries and agriculture and pushed for extra reforms, trade sources said.

India maintains it is fighting to protect livelihoods in developing nations.

Delegates were more upbeat on Thursday about a package of deals with trade-offs possible, without specifying what the compromises would be. EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis tweeted that members were “getting closer”. WTO deputy director-general Anabel Gonzalez said she was “hopeful”.

Negotiators were in intense talks in the so-called ‘Green Room’ of the WTO for most of the night. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao were no longer in Geneva, trade sources said.

Negotiations resumed around 0700 GMT Thursday and were expected to conclude in the evening, they added.

One of the possible outcomes of the talks is a pared-back version of a deal designed to curb fishing subsidies that cause over-fishing, a document seen by Reuters showed.

Another is a partial waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines designed to allow developing countries to produce them and pledges to ease the food security crisis although tussles over the precise wording continued, sources said.

WTO officials have maintained throughout the meetings a belief that deals can be reached, saying talks often look hopeless until a final bargain is reached.

Observers expressed frustration with the process.

“The ministerial (conference) laid bare the increasing dysfunction that inhibits collective action at the WTO,” said Jake Colvin, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, adding that members should not reward “obstructionism”.

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Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington and Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Alison Williams, Elaine Hardcastle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Amateur Investors Rode the Bull Up. Now the Bear Looms.

Millions of amateur investors got into the stock market during the pandemic — some gingerly, some aggressively, some determined to teach Wall Street bigwigs a lesson — and almost couldn’t help but make money, riding a bull market for the better part of two years.

Now they may have to wrestle with a bear.

“It definitely isn’t as easy to trade in this market,” said Shelley Hellmann, a 47-year-old former optometrist in Texas who began actively investing in April 2020 while isolating from her family.

Tracking stock movements on an iPad Mini in her bedroom, she banked big gains as the market soared. Within a couple of months, she was considering making day trading a full-time gig. But since the S&P 500 peaked on Jan. 3, profits have been harder to come by.

“Sometimes I am glad to not be red for the year,” she said.

Five months of bumpy declines have put the S&P 500 on the precipice of a bear market — a drop of 20 percent or more from its most recent high, which is considered a psychological marker of investors’ dimmed view of the economy. Including a tumble of 4 percent on Wednesday, the index is down more than 18 percent from its peak on Jan. 3.

bored sports bettors or meme-stock aficionados who piled into GameStop — have tapped the brakes, or scrambled to shuffle their portfolios into more defensive positions.

grim reaper slaying low interest rates and stock market bulls.

bid-ask spread — the small difference between the highest price a buyer is willing to pay and the lowest a seller is willing to accept — kept costing him fractions that added up.

By January, some of his classes had resumed in person, and with them his onerous commute from the Bronx. Instead of trading for an hour every morning, he cut back to twice a week. The market was also becoming a lot choppier, and it was increasingly difficult to hold his positions. He had always used stop-loss orders — instructions to sell when a stock dropped to a certain price — to prevent disastrous declines. But with constant drops, he kept getting pushed out of his trades.

which measures retail investors’ behavior and sentiment, based on a sample of accounts that completed trades in the past month. Their interests have been shifting toward less volatile names and more stable holdings like shorter-term bonds, the firm said.

Ms. Hellmann, who started actively trading in the early days of the pandemic, said she was sticking with it, learning more and refining her approach as she goes along.

She often rises at 3 a.m. and turns on CNBC to begin plotting her strategy for the day, which involves studying stocks’ price movements, a process she compared to learning to catch a softball — watching its arc, then trying to figure out the physics of where it will land. “That is what I’m doing with price and volume,” she said.

Long a buy-and-hold investor, she began with roughly $50,000 — money that came from shares of ConocoPhillips that she inherited in 2014 after the death of her grandfather, who had been a propane salesman. Her approach has grown increasingly complex over the past two years: Last fall, she took a large position in an exchange-traded fund that bets against the price of natural gas — which has gone up as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine roiled energy markets.

“The war causing natural gas to spike up at a time when it seasonally comes down did not help me much,” she said.

Even so, she’s more than quintupled her money since early 2020, riding the strength of a rally that has the S&P 500 up nearly 80 percent since it bottomed out in March 2020, even with its recent fall.

Experiencing losses after a period of gains can be instructive, said Dan Egan, vice president of behavioral finance and investing at Betterment, which builds and manages diversified portfolios of low-cost funds and provides financial planning services.

“If you have a good initial experience with investing, you see this is part of it, it will be OK,” he said. “We get bumps and bruises that you need to learn what pain feels like,” he said.

Eric Lipchus, 40, has felt plenty of pain in his nearly two decades of full-time day trading — he owned options on Lehman Brothers, the investment bank that imploded during the financial crisis of 2008-9. Before that, he had watched his older brother and father dabble in the markets during the dot-com boom and bust.

“I have been on a roller coaster,” he said. “I am making OK money this year but it’s been up and it’s been down. It seems like it could be a tough year — not as much upside as in previous years.”

Challenging conditions like investors are now facing can get stressful in a hurry, Mr. Lipchus said. Right now, he’s keeping half his portfolio in cash — and is taking a fishing trip to the Thousand Islands in a couple of weeks to clear his head.

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Will War Make Europe’s Switch to Clean Energy Even Harder?

At the Siemens Gamesa factory in Aalborg, Denmark, where the next generation of offshore wind turbines is being built, workers are on their hands and knees inside a shallow, canoe-shaped pod that stretches the length of a football field. It is a mold used to produce one half of a single propeller blade. Guided by laser markings, the crew is lining the sides with panels of balsa wood.

The gargantuan blades offer a glimpse of the energy future that Europe is racing toward with sudden urgency. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia — the European Union’s largest supplier of natural gas and oil — has spurred governments to accelerate plans to reduce their dependence on climate-changing fossil fuels. Armed conflict has prompted policymaking pledges that the more distant threat of an uninhabitable planet has not.

Smoothly managing Europe’s energy switch was always going to be difficult. Now, as economies stagger back from the second year of the pandemic, Russia’s attack on Ukraine grinds on and energy prices soar, the painful trade-offs have crystallized like never before.

Moving investments away from oil, gas and coal to sustainable sources like wind and solar, limiting and taxing carbon emissions, and building a new energy infrastructure to transmit electricity are crucial to weaning Europe off fossil fuels. But they are all likely to raise costs during the transition, an extremely difficult pill for the public and politicians to swallow.

unwinding efforts to shut coal mines and stop drilling new oil and gas wells to replace Russian fuel and bring prices down.

proposed a carbon tax on imports from carbon-producing sectors like steel and cement.

And it has led the way in generating wind power, especially from ocean-based turbines. Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, for example, has been instrumental in planting rows of colossal whirligigs at sea that can generate enough green energy to light up cities.

Europe, too, is on the verge of investing billions in hydrogen, potentially the multipurpose clean fuel of the future, which might be generated by wind turbines.

halted approval of Nord Stream 2, an $11 billion gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea that directly links Russia to northeastern Germany.

As Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said when she announced a plan on March 8 to make Europe independent of Russian fossil fuels: “We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us.” The proposal calls for member nations to reduce Russian natural gas imports by two-thirds by next winter and to end them altogether by 2027 — a very tall order.

This week, European Union leaders are again meeting to discuss the next phase of proposals, but deep divisions remain over how to manage the current price increases amid anxieties that Europe could face a double whammy of inflation and recession.

On Monday, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres warned that intense focus on quickly replacing Russian oil could mean that major economies “neglect or kneecap policies to cut fossil fuel use.”

price of palladium, used in automotive exhaust systems and mobile phones, has been soaring amid fears that Russia, the world’s largest exporter of the metal, could be cut off from global markets. The price of nickel, another key Russian export, has also been rising.

Mr. Rasmussen and other executives added that identifying suitable areas for wind turbines and obtaining permits required for construction take “far too long.” Challenges are based on worries that the vast arrays of turbines will interfere with fishing, obstruct naval exercises and blight views from summer houses.

To Kadri Simson, Europe’s commissioner for energy, renewable energy projects should be treated as an “overriding public interest,” and Europe should consider changing laws to facilitate them.

“We cannot talk about a renewables revolution if getting a permit for a wind farm takes seven years,” Ms. Simson said.

Still, environmental regulations and other rules relating to large infrastructure installations are usually the province of countries rather than European Union officials in Brussels.

And steadfast opposition from communities and industries invested in fossil fuels make it hard for political leaders to fast-track energy transition policies.

In Upper Silesia, Poland’s coal basin, bright yellow buses display signs that boast they run on 100 percent electric, courtesy of a grant from the European Union. But along the road, large billboards mounted before the invasion of Ukraine by state-owned utilities — erroneously — blame Brussels for 60 percent of the rise in energy prices.

Down in the Wujek coal mine, veterans worry if their jobs will last long enough for them to log the 25 years needed to retire with a lifelong pension. Closing mines not only threatens to devastate the economy, several miners said, but also a way of life built on generations of coal mining.

“Pushing through the climate policy forcefully may lead to a drastic decrease in the standard of living here,” said Mr. Kolorz at Solidarity’s headquarters in Katowice. “And when people do not have something to put on the plate, they can turn to extreme populism.”

Climate pressures are pushing at least some governments to consider steps they might not have before.

German officials have determined that it is too costly to keep the country’s last three remaining nuclear power generators online past the end of the year. But the quest for energy with lower emissions is leading to a revival of nuclear energy elsewhere.

Britain and France say they plan to invest in smaller nuclear reactors that can be produced in larger numbers to bring down costs.

Britain might even build a series of small nuclear fusion reactors, a promising but still unproven technology. Ian Chapman, chief executive of the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority, said every route to clean energy must be tried if there is to be any hope of reaching net zero emissions in three decades, the deadline for avoiding catastrophic climate change. “We’ve got to do everything we possibly can,” he said.

In the short term, much of what the European Union is proposing involves switching the source of fossil fuels, and, in particular, natural gas, from Russia to other suppliers like the United States, Qatar and Azerbaijan, and filling up storage facilities as a buffer. The risk is that Europe’s actions will further raise prices, which are already about five times higher than a year ago, in a market where supplies are short in part because companies are wary of investing in a fuel that the world ultimately wants to phase out.

Over the longer term, Europe and Britain seem likely to accelerate their world-leading rollout in renewable energy and other efforts to cut emissions despite the enormous costs and intense disruptions.

“The E.U. will almost certainly throw hundreds of billions of euros at this,” said Henning Gloystein, a director for energy and climate at Eurasia Group, a political risk firm. “Once the trains have left the station, they can’t be reversed.”

Melissa Eddy contributed reporting.

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