Jackie Northam

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Royal Dutch Shell has signed a provisional agreement to develop oil and gas fields in Iran, a move that could signal energy companies will not be deterred from doing business with the Islamic Republic despite uncertainty whether a Trump administration will scrap a nuclear deal agreed to by world powers.

President-elect Donald Trump spoke by phone with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in one of the many routine, get-acquainted chats he'll have before entering the White House.

These talks rarely if ever make news, but Wednesday's conversation raised eyebrows because Trump lavished praise on Sharif and Pakistan despite years of tension between the two countries.

Here's part of the read-out of their conversation, as released by Pakistan's Press Information Department:

The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., is a stately old building with turrets, arches and a clock tower soaring 300 feet into the air. Inside, the lobby is equally impressive with massive chandeliers, a grand staircase and a glass ceiling 10 floors up.

The 263-room hotel is without doubt luxurious. But it could also represent a massive conflict of interest for President-elect Donald Trump once he takes office.

After Donald Trump is sworn in as president on Jan. 20, he will follow a time-honored tradition and make his way from the U.S. Capitol down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Along the way, just a few blocks before he reaches the White House, he'll pass the Trump International Hotel. The 263-room luxury hotel is becoming the focus of a debate over conflict of interest between Trump and his business dealings.

One of China's wealthiest men has been on a buying spree in Hollywood, snapping up cinemas and movie production companies. Now Wang Jianlin, the chairman of the Beijing-based Dalian Wanda Group has acquired another piece of Americana: Dick Clark Productions.

Call it a win for the Walloons.

The Belgian government says it has broken a deadlock over a major trade agreement between the European Union and Canada, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. The deal had been held up in the final days by Wallonia, a tiny French-speaking enclave in the small country of Belgium.

The Walloons still aren't budging.

Thursday is supposed to be signing day in Brussels for a major free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union, an agreement seven years in the making, which involves 29 countries with a combined population of more than 500 million.

The media was lined up. Special pens were set aside. VIPs were making travel plans, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and many European leaders.

But the Walloons are still saying, "No deal."

When foreign leaders loot their homelands, they sometimes like to stash their valuables in the U.S. Yachts, mansions and artwork have all been purchased in America with laundered money, according the the U.S. Justice Department.

It happens often enough that the department has set up a special unit dedicated to tracking down international kleptocrats.

The U.S. and the Philippines are long-standing allies, but you would never know it from the way President Rodrigo Duterte is talking these days.

Since his election in June, Duterte has been unleashing anti-American rhetoric, which has included demands that the U.S. withdraw special operations forces helping to fight Islamists in the southern Philippines. He has also threatened to cancel joint naval patrols and warns this will be the last year the two countries will hold joint military exercises, saying they haven't benefited the Philippines.

Saudi Arabia is such an influential player in the oil industry that any action it takes — or is rumored to take — can sway global markets. So it's not surprising there's a lot of speculation about whether its massive state oil company, Saudi Aramco, is trying to buy a refinery in Texas.

Dozens of massive container ships are stranded at sea, looking for a place to dock after one of the world's largest shipping companies went bankrupt. Lars Jensen, the CEO of Sea Intelligence Consulting, which focuses on container shipping, says the container ships are operated by the South Korean-owned Hanjin Shipping company.

"It is some 85 to 90 vessels, and they really are scattered all over the world," he says.

Just over a month ago, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague issued two important rulings. One soundly rejected Beijing's extensive claim of sovereignty in the South China Sea. The other focused on whether China had caused environmental damage as it constructed artificial islands in the region to help prop up its claim.

Justin Trudeau has had a number of careers: schoolteacher, snowboard instructor, and since last year, prime minister of Canada. Now he's an action hero. A new issue of Civil War II from Marvel Comics, being released Aug. 31, has Trudeau facing evil-doers in the halls of Canada's Parliament — and in the boxing ring.

The front cover shows Trudeau sitting in the corner of a boxing ring, elbows resting on the ropes. He's wearing boxing shorts, a tank top emblazoned with a large maple leaf and a smile that's a bit difficult to read.

The massive container ships that ply the high seas bring us pineapples and mangoes in winter, and computers and cheap t-shirts all year round. But the shipping industry is a volatile, cyclical and ferociously competitive business. There are good years and bad years.

And then there's this year.

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