BMW invests in California-based mobile carpooling app

DETROIT BMW (BMWG.DE) i Ventures, an arm of the German automaker, said it has invested an undisclosed amount in California-based Scoop Technologies, maker of a mobile carpooling app called Scoop. BMW has made similar investments in several mobility-related startups. (Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit, Editing by Franklin Paul)

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MIDEAST STOCKS-Gulf may trade narrowly, supported by oil

DUBAI May 17 Gulf bourses may trade narrowly on Tuesday as oil prices remain firm but there is a lack of other news to stimulate activity.Brent crude futures are up 0.5 percent at $49.22 a barrel, near a six-month high of $49.47 reached on Monday. Asian shares have recovered from two-month lows after a rebound in technology giant Apple and oil price gains boosted Wall Street. But Gulf markets have been trading narrowly over the last week in modest volumes, and activity may not pick up significantly over the next two months, during the holy month of Ramadan and the summer season. Also, many companies are tapping the bond market, which may distract institutional funds from regional equity markets. Banks including Dubai's Noor and Saudi Arabia's Aljazira and AlBilad are in the preliminary stages of arranging Islamic bond issues. Vodafone Qatar may come under pressure after it posted a net loss of 180 million riyals ($49.5 million) for the three months to March 31, compared to a loss of 66 million riyals a year earlier. (Reporting by Celine Aswad; Editing by Andrew Torchia)

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Europe becoming 'bad word' due to migrant crisis, other woes: Italy minister

LONDON Europe is becoming "a bad word" due to the strains of the migrant crisis and growing inequality among euro zone countries that risk driving the continent apart, Italy's Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said on Wednesday.Speaking at an event hosted by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which was set up 25 years ago after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Padoan said governments were not doing enough to tackle the region's big problems."In terms of language, in many cases let's face it, Europe is becoming a bad word and that is very serious," said Padoan.With the euro zone struggling to shake off debt worries that have nearly split the currency bloc in recent years, Padoan said an even greater threat now came from the possible breakdown of Europe's borderless Schengen region as some countries introduce emergency controls to stem the movement of migrants. "If Schengen fails, this is going to be much more destructive than a crisis of the euro zone," he said. More than one million refugees and migrants entered Europe last year, many fleeing wars in the Middle East. Padoan said the crisis was "not a one-off shock" but "a major structural change that is going to be with us for a long time." Border controls between Schengen countries are usually not allowed, but in a situation of emergency checks can be reintroduced for a maximum of two years.ECONOMIC CHALLENGEHeavily-indebted Italy has been lobbying the European Union for more fiscal leeway in its 2016 budget, both to help manage the influx of migrants and to keep a recovery in the euro zone's third-largest economy on track after three years of recession. The EU Commission will rule on Italy's request this month.France, Italy and Spain are set to miss EU budget targets this year and next without urgent government action, European Commission forecasts showed earlier this month.Italy's debt, the second highest in the EU after Greece's, is expected to stay flat at 132.7 percent of national output this year after rising steadily in recent years. Padoan lamented the uneven pace of reforms in the euro zone, saying this was making ultra-easy monetary policy from the European Central Bank less effective in fostering growth."In a monetary union, if speeds of reform are different then the impact of a single monetary policy is much less efficient because, by definition, if you strike the average you will make someone unhappy on one side and someone happy on the other side," Padoan said.Padoan said a British vote to leave the EU in a June 23 referendum would be a systemic concern as other European countries could consider a similar move. 'Brexit' would also reduce the benefits of integration for the rest of the EU. "The cost of Brexit outweighs the benefits," he added. (Reporting by John Geddie and Marc Jones; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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U.S. government and North Carolina escalate legal fight over transgender law

WASHINGTON/WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. A fight between the Obama administration and North Carolina over a state law limiting public bathroom access for transgender people escalated on Monday as both sides sued each other, trading accusations of civil rights violations and government overreach.The U.S. Justice Department's complaint asked a federal district court in North Carolina to declare that the state is violating the 1964 Civil Rights Act and order it to stop enforcing the ban.Hours earlier, North Carolina's Republican governor, Pat McCrory, and the state's secretary of public safety sued the agency in a different federal court in North Carolina, accusing it of "baseless and blatant overreach."The so-called bathroom law, passed in March and known as HB 2, prohibits people from using public restrooms not corresponding to their biological sex.It has thrust North Carolina into the center of a national debate over equality and privacy, and has now led the state into what could be a long and costly legal battle with the U.S. government.Americans are divided over how public restrooms should be used by transgender people, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, with 44 percent saying people should use them according to their biological sex and 39 percent saying they should be used according to the gender with which they identify. By passing the law, North Carolina became the first state in the country to ban people from using multiple occupancy restrooms or changing rooms in public buildings and schools that do not match the sex on their birth certificate.U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Monday the department "retains the option" of curtailing federal funding to North Carolina unless it backs down. "None of us can stand by when a state enters the business of legislating identity and insists that a person pretend to be something or someone that they are not," Lynch said at a news conference, comparing the measure to Jim Crow-era racial discrimination laws and bans on same-sex marriage.Lynch said the department is monitoring other U.S. jurisdictions that have passed or considered laws similar to North Carolina's but declined to say whether the agency was planning any action against them. White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the North Carolina law “mean-spirited” but McCrory said in his complaint that it is "common sense privacy policy."North Carolina Republicans say the law stops men from posing as transgender to gain access to women's restrooms. BILLIONS AT STAKENorth Carolina stands to lose $4.8 billion in funds, mainly educational grants, if it does not back down, according to an analysis by lawyers at the University of California, Los Angeles Law School.The Justice Department's complaint named the state of North Carolina, McCrory, the state's Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina system as defendants. The 17-campus University of North Carolina system says it takes federal non-discrimination laws very seriously but must also adhere to state laws like HB 2. "In these circumstances, the University is truly caught in the middle," UNC President Margaret Spellings said.McCrory told reporters that North Carolina had been forced to pass the law after the Charlotte city council passed an ordinance that allowed transgender people access to bathrooms based on gender identity in public and private buildings. "We’re taking the Obama admin to court. They're bypassing Congress, attempting to rewrite law & policies for the whole country, not just NC," McCrory wrote on Twitter. The Republican leaders of North Carolina's state legislature also sued the U.S. government over the law on Monday, hours after McCrory's lawsuit.The law is also being challenged in federal district court by critics including the American Civil Liberties Union. (Additional reporting by Julia Edwards in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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North Carolina faces Monday deadline on U.S. challenge to bathroom law

WASHINGTON North Carolina officials say they will respond by Monday to the U.S. government's challenge to a controversial law on public restroom access for transgender people, but it was unclear if the state would defy Washington and risk a legal battle.In the newest chapter of transgender Americans' fast-evolving fight for equal rights, the federal government has notified North Carolina that its law is a civil rights violation. The law, which went into effect in March, requires transgender people to use public bathrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.If the state does not pull back from implementing the first-of-its-kind statute, it could face a federal lawsuit, according to three letters that the U.S. Justice Department sent last week to North Carolina officials.The department declined to say whether it would take legal action, but the letters suggest it is willing to do so, setting the stage for a potentially costly court fight over an issue that has already sparked several boycotts against the state. The letters were "a statement that they clearly are ready to litigate" on behalf of transgender people in North Carolina, said Chai Feldblum, a commissioner at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The commission works with the Justice Department to investigate discrimination charges by public employees.The president of the University of North Carolina system and a spokesman for North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said in response to inquiries from Reuters that they would respond to the Justice Department by a Monday deadline that the department set. But the state officials declined to say how they would reply. The state's department of public safety, , which also received a letter, did not respond to requests for comment. McCrory and other Republican state leaders publicly affirmed their support for the law after they got the letters last week. They said the Justice Department's conclusion that the law discriminates against public employees and university members amounts to government "overreach." If state officials do not abandon the law and the Justice Department successfully sues for a court order forcing the state to stop enforcing it, the state would have to comply or face the loss of federal funding.North Carolina stands to lose $4.8 billion in federal funding, mainly educational grants, if it does not back down from the law, according to an analysis by lawyers at the University of California, Los Angeles Law School. The Justice Department and McCrory squared off over the same issue last year through amicus briefs in a case involving a similar bathroom rule at Virginia schools. The administration's position was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the same court that would hear appeals in any future federal case over the North Carolina law.The law is already being challenged in federal district court by critics including the American Civil Liberties Union. (Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, NC, and Julia Edwards in Washington; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Mary Milliken)

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