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Hamas official says it has received new proposal for three-stage truce

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Hamas official says it has received new proposal for three-stage truce
© Reuters. Satellite view of the U.S. military outpost known as Tower 22, in Rukban, Rwaished District, Jordan October 12, 2023 in this handout image. Planet Labs PBC/Handout via REUTERS

By Raneen Sawafta, Fadi Shana and Nidal al-Mughrabi

WEST BANK/GAZA/DOHA (Reuters) -Hamas said on Tuesday it had received and was studying a new proposal for a ceasefire and release of hostages in Gaza, presented by mediators after talks with Israel, in what appeared to be the most serious peace initiative for months.

A senior Hamas official said the proposal involved a three-stage truce, during which the group would first release remaining civilians among hostages it captured on Oct. 7, then soldiers, and finally the bodies of hostages that were killed.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not indicate how long the three stages would last or what was envisioned to follow the final stage.

But it was the first time since the collapse of the only brief truce of the war so far, in late November, that details were released of a new proposal being considered by both sides.

The ceasefire proposal followed talks in Paris involving CIA Director William Burns, Qatar’s prime minister, the chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service and the head of Egyptian intelligence.

In a mark of the seriousness of the negotiations, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said he was going to Cairo to discuss it, his first public trip there for more than a month.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated his vow not to pull troops out of Gaza until “total victory”, a reminder of the huge gap in the public stances of the warring sides about what it would take to halt combat even temporarily.

Hamas, whose fighters precipitated the war by storming into Israeli towns on Oct. 7 killing 1,200 people and capturing 253 hostages, says it will release its remaining captives only as part of a wider deal to end the war permanently.

Israel, which has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians so far in a war that has devastated the enclave, says it will not stop fighting until the militant group which has ruled Gaza since 2007 is entirely eradicated.

Netanyahu is under pressure from Israel’s closest ally the United States to chart a clear path towards ending the war, and domestically from relatives of hostages who worry that negotiations are the only way to bring them home. But far-right parties in his ruling coalition say they will quit rather than endorse a deal to free hostages that left Hamas intact.

HOSPITAL RAID

The diplomatic advances were announced hours after Israeli commandos, disguised as medical workers and Muslim women, stormed into a hospital in the West Bank in an undercover raid. They killed three Palestinian militants, including a paralysed fighter shot dead on the bed where he was being treated.

In Gaza itself, there was intense fighting in both the northern and southern halves of the enclave, with battle resuming in the north even as Israeli forces are trying to storm the main southern city Khan Younis.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli troops advancing in Khan Younis stormed the hospital where the rescue service has its headquarters, and ordered staff and displaced civilians out at gunpoint. Israel denied this.

Reuters could not independently verify either account.

Fighting intensified around Gaza’s largest hospital still in service, the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, which is surrounded by Israeli troops, the World Health Organization said.

Hamas leader Haniyeh said he was studying the ceasefire proposal. The priority for Hamas was to end the Israeli offensive – now in its fourth month – and secure a full pull-out of Israeli forces from Gaza, Haniyeh said.

Netanyahu, speaking during a visit to an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, said: “We will not compromise on anything less than total victory.”

“That means eliminating Hamas, returning all of our hostages and ensuring that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel.”

Until then no Palestinian prisoners will be freed from Israeli jails, Netanyahu said.

Sami Abu Zuhri, another senior Hamas official, said Netanyahu’s comments “prove he isn’t interested in the success of the Paris meeting and doesn’t care about (Israeli) prisoners’ lives”.

DRESSED AS MEDICS

In the raid at the Ibn Sina (BitStamp:) hospital in the West Bank city of Jenin, about a dozen troops, including three in women’s garb and two dressed as Palestinian medical staff, paced through a corridor with rifles, CCTV footage showed.

Hamas said one of the men killed was a Hamas member. Islamic Jihad said the other two killed were brothers who belonged to it. Ibn Sina said one of the brothers had been receiving treatment for an injury that paralysed his legs.

The Israeli military said one of the men was armed, and one was planning an attack on Israel similar to Oct. 7 from inside the hospital. It said the incident showed militants were using civilian areas and hospitals as shelters and “human shields”.

But Palestinian officials said the three were not engaged in fighting, and called the raid a violation of humanitarian law which protects hospitals treating wounded combatants.

The Israeli undercover squad broke into the hospital, headed to the third floor and killed them using silenced pistols, hospital sources said.

“They executed the three men as they slept in the room… in cold blood, by firing bullets directly into their heads inside the room, where they were being treated,” hospital director Najy Nazzal said.

In Rafah, on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials held a mass burial on Tuesday for around 100 unidentified bodies handed over by Israel, including some believed to have been dug up from cemeteries by advancing Israel troops.

Issa Abu Sarhan had come to look for his son among the corpses.

“I had buried my son in Al-Nimsawi cemetery in Khan Younis, and I heard that the Jews took the bodies from the cemetery, so I came here when I heard that bodies had been received to search for my son,” he said.

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Wendy’s, blasted over CEO’s pricing comment, vows no price hikes at busy times

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Wendy's, blasted over CEO's pricing comment, vows no price hikes at busy times
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Wendy?s restaurant displays a “Now Hiring” sign in Tampa, Florida, U.S., June 1, 2021. REUTERS/Octavio Jones/File Photo

By Waylon Cunningham and Deborah Mary Sophia

DALLAS (Reuters) -Wendy’s said on Wednesday it has no plans to raise menu prices at times of peak demand, after the burger chain weathered heavy criticism on social media since its CEO said earlier this month it would start testing “dynamic pricing”.

CEO Kirk Tanner told investors on a call this month that starting as early as 2025, Wendy’s (NASDAQ:) would begin testing features including “dynamic pricing and daypart offerings”. Dynamic pricing refers to surge pricing based on demand, especially during peak hours of the day.

This practice often raises prices at busy times, similar to how Uber (NYSE:) adjusts ride fares.

Tanner’s comment this week sparked an online backlash. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren in a post on the social media platform X on Wednesday called it “price gouging plain and simple.”

Wendy’s, in a statement to Reuters, said on Wednesday it “would not raise prices when our customers are visiting us most.”

Its initiative to add digital menuboards to certain stores would instead allow Wendy’s to offer discounts to customers more easily, “particularly in the slower times of day,” it added.

“We said these menuboards would give us more flexibility to change the display of featured items. This was misconstrued in some media reports as an intent to raise prices when demand is highest … We have no plans to do that,” the company said.

Warren’s post on X, previously Twitter, said Wendy’s plan “means you could pay more for your lunch, even if the cost to Wendy’s stays exactly the same. It’s price gouging plain and simple, and American families have had enough.”

“I guess I won’t be eating at Wendy’s anymore,” one Reddit user said in a post, while others on X called for boycotts.

Analysts and consultants were skeptical of the idea of surge pricing at restaurants.

Wendy’s “dynamic pricing” was a hot topic at a restaurant conference in the Dallas area, with several executives saying customers – already skittish after recent price increases – would likely be scared off by unpredictable prices.

“I don’t see it taking off any time soon,” said Victor Fernandez, a senior analyst at restaurant analytics firm Black Box Intelligence.

Michael Lukianoff, CEO of SignalFlare.ai, who has consulted with restaurants about pricing for years, said that “dynamic pricing” is a great success in other industries such as airlines, but would not work in restaurants.

“Customers will shop elsewhere,” he said.

Wendy’s sales have already slowed. Placer.ai data showed visits to Wendy’s outlets declined in all three months of the fourth quarter of 2023.

Wendy’s shares, which dropped about 14% in 2023, were up 1% on Wednesday. The company also recently issued a profit forecast for this year below Wall Street estimates, hurt by higher commodity and labor costs.

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Apple shareholders reject AI disclosure proposal

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Apple to disclose AI plans later this year, CEO Tim Cook says
© Reuters. Apple logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

By Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) -Apple plans to disclose more about its plans to put generative artificial intelligence to use later this year, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said during the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday.

Cook said that the iPhone maker sees “incredible breakthrough potential for generative AI, which is why we’re currently investing significantly in this area. We believe that will unlock transformative opportunities for users when it comes to productivity, problem solving and more.”

Apple (NASDAQ:) has been slower in rolling out generative AI, which can generate human-like responses to written prompts, than rivals such as Microsoft (NASDAQ:) and Alphabet (NASDAQ:)’s Google, which are weaving them into products.

On Wednesday, Cook argued that AI is already at work behind the scenes in Apple’s products but said there would be more news on explicit AI features later this year. Bloomberg previously reported Apple plans to use AI to improve the ability to search through data stored on Apple devices.

“Every Mac that is powered by Apple silicon is an extraordinarily capable AI machine. In fact, there’s no better computer for AI on the market today,” Cook said.

Apple shareholders on Wednesday rejected a measure asking the company to disclose more information about how it uses artificial intelligence in its business and its ethical guidelines for the technology.

The proposal, which was defeated at the company’s annual shareholder meeting, was put forth by the pension trust of the AFL-CIO, the largest American labor union federation, which has also proposed AI measures at other technology companies.

A similar proposal will be heard at Walt Disney (NYSE:)’s annual meeting in April.

At Apple, the AFL-CIO asked for a report on the company’s use of AI “in its business operations and disclose any ethical guidelines that the company has adopted regarding the company’s use of AI technology.”

In its supporting statement in Apple’s proxy materials, the AFL-CIO wrote that “AI systems should not be trained on copyrighted works, or the voices, likenesses and performances of professional performers, without transparency, consent and compensation to creators and rights holders.”

Apple opposed the measure, saying that disclosures could tip its hand on strategy as it competes against rivals in the fast-moving AI field.

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UMG to generate 250 million euros in savings by 2026, flags job cuts

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UMG to generate 250 million euros in savings by 2026, flags job cuts
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Universal Music Group logo is seen displayed in this illustration taken, May 3, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

(Reuters) – Universal Music Group (AS:) will cut jobs and streamline its operations with the aim of generating 250 million euros ($271.03 million) in run-rate savings by 2026.

In the first phase of the plan, which will be introduced immediately, the group plans to save 125 million euros in 2025, including 75 million euros in 2024, the company said.

“Our organizational redesign achieves efficiencies in targeted cost areas while providing our labels with unprecedented capabilities to deepen artist and fan connections via new experiential, commerce, and content offerings,” the group said in a statement.

UMG also posted a 9.2% year-on-year increase in adjusted core profit (EBITDA), to 677 million euros in the fourth quarter, as its revenue rose to 3.21 billion euros, up 9.0% from previous year.

It proposed a year-end dividend of 0.27 euros per share, bringing total dividend payout in 2023 to 0.51 per share.

($1 = 0.9224 euros)

(This story has been refiled to add ‘euros’ in the headline)

(Reportin by Dagmarah Mackos, editing by Tassilo Hummel)

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