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Showing posts with label America. Show all posts
Showing posts with label America. Show all posts

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Facebook Takes On The World Of Cryptocurrency With 'Libra' Coin - Backed by Mastercard, Visa, Stripe, Kiva, PayPal, Lyft, Uber and Women's World Banking

Facebook Takes On The World Of Cryptocurrency With 'Libra' Coin - Backed by Mastercard, Visa, Stripe, Kiva, PayPal, Lyft, Uber and Women's World Banking

Facebook Takes On The World Of Cryptocurrency With 'Libra' Coin - Backed by Mastercard, Visa, Stripe, Kiva, PayPal, Lyft, Uber and Women's World Banking


San Francisco, (APP - 19th Jun, 2019) Facebook unveiled plans Tuesday for a new global cryptocurrency called Libra, pledging to deliver a stable virtual money that lives on smartphones and could bring over a billion "unbanked" people into the financial system.

The Libra coin plan, backed by financial and nonprofit partners, represents an ambitious new initiative for the world's biggest social network with the potential to bring crypto-money out of the shadows and into the mainstream.

Facebook and some two dozen partners released a prototype of Libra as an open source code for developers interested in weaving it into apps, services or businesses ahead of a rollout as global digital money next year.

The nonprofit Libra Association based in Geneva will oversee the blockchain-based coin, maintaining a real-world asset reserve to keep its value stable.

The association's Dante Disparte said it could offer online commerce and financial services at minimal cost to more than a billion "unbanked" people -- adults without bank accounts or those who use services outside the banking system such as payday loans to make ends meet.

"We believe if you give people access to money and opportunity at the lowest cost, the way the internet itself did in the past with information, you can create a lot more stability than we have had up until now," Disparte, head of policy and communications, told AFP.

Facebook will be just one voice among many in the association, but is separately building a digital wallet called Calibra.

"We view this as a complement to Facebook's mission to connect people wherever they are; that includes allowing them to exchange value," Calibra vice president of operations Tomer Barel told AFP.

"Many people who use Facebook are in countries where there are barriers to banking or credit." But the move raised questions about how such a new money would be regulated, with one lawmaker calling for a pause on Libra.

"Given the company's troubled past, I am requesting that Facebook agree to a moratorium on any movement forward on developing a cryptocurrency until Congress and regulators have the opportunity to examine these issues," said Maxine Waters, chair of the financial services committee in the US House of Representatives.

Meanwhile French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said such digital money could never replace sovereign currencies.

"The aspect of sovereignty must stay in the hands of states and not private companies which respond to private interests," Le Maire told Europe 1 radio.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said Facebook's new currency would have to withstand scrutiny of its operational resilience and not allow itself to be used for money laundering or terror financing.

ING economists Teunis Brosens and Carlo Cocuzzo said in a research note it was not clear what Libra was or how it might be overseen while US Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat and banking committee member, voiced concerns over Facebook's checkered record on protecting users' privacy.

- Backed by real cash - Libra Association debuted with 28 members including Mastercard, Visa, Stripe, Kiva, PayPal, Lyft, Uber and Women's World Banking.

Calibra is being built into Facebook's Messenger and WhatsApp with a goal of letting users send Libra as easily as they might fire off a text message.

Libra learned from the many other cryptocurrencies that have preceded it such as bitcoin and is designed to avoid the roller-coaster valuations that have attracted speculation and caused ruin.

Real-world currency will go into a reserve backing the digital money, the value of which will mirror stable currencies such as the US dollar and the euro, according to its creators.

"It is backed by a reserve of assets that ensures utility and low volatility," Barel said.

The Libra Association will be the only entity able to "mint or burn" the digital currency, maintaining supply in tune with demand and assets in reserve, according to Barel.

"It is not about trusting Facebook, it is effectively trust in the association's founding organizations that this is independent and democratic," Disparte said.




Friday, May 24, 2019

US restrictions on Huawei to obstruct global 5G network rollout, industry earnings: report

US restrictions on Huawei to obstruct global 5G network rollout, industry earnings: report




US restrictions on Huawei to obstruct global 5G network rollout, industry earnings: report



NEW YORK - The US restrictions on sale and transfer of American technologies to Chinese telecom giant Huawei would hold back the launch of 5G networks and earnings of the tech sectors across the world, Swiss leading investment bank UBS said in a latest research report.

"Lengthy restrictions on Huawei could slow the global rollout of 5G networks," said the report released on Wednesday.

"These developments increase the likelihood telecom providers take a wait-and-see approach on the dispute before making 5G purchase for their next generation networks," it added.

Assuming the current restrictions stay in place, UBS estimated that industry earnings would decline by low-single-digits percentage for the US tech players in general.

While for the Asian tech sector, such losses would expand by mid-single-digits percentage. Yet the bank saw a neutral impact for Europe's tech industry.

Washington last week declared a national emergency over what it claimed are technological threats, and announced restrictions on sale and transfer of American technologies to Huawei.

"US companies are now required to obtain licenses to transfer technology to Huawei, effectively restricting them from selling new components, chips or software to the Chinese company and its 70 affiliates without prior US government approval," UBS explained to its clients.

Yet the US Department of Commerce on Monday issued a 90-day temporary license, effective from May 20 to Aug 19, which allows "specific limited engagement in transactions involving the export, reexport, and transfer of items" to Huawei.

"However, rather than a reprieve for the Chinese firm itself, the slight easing of rules is squarely aimed at Huawei's past customers, such as rural broadband providers or owners of its Android phones," UBS said.

The financial institution further pointed out that the impact on the global supply chain would be contingent on "the length and severity of restrictions imposed on Huawei."

In response to the US restrictions on Huawei, Ren Zhengfei, the company's founder and president, said on Tuesday that Huawei never wants to "walk alone" in the global markets, but has made good preparations for any extreme circumstances, adding that it would not reject the US supply chain. 

Source: ChinaDaily

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

U.S. B-52 bombers reach Middle East in message to Iran

U.S. B-52 bombers reach Middle East in message to Iran

U.S. B-52 bombers reach Middle East in message to Iran


DOHA (Reuters) - American B-52 Stratofortress bombers sent to the Middle East over what Washington describes as threats from Iran have arrived at a U.S. base in Qatar, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said.

The U.S. military said on Tuesday that a number of B-52 bombers would be part of additional forces being sent to the Middle East to counter what the Trump administration says are “clear indications” of threats from Iran to U.S. forces there.

Iran has dismissed the new U.S. deployments, including of an aircraft carrier, as old news announced now to intimidate it through “psychological warfare”, at a time when Washington is also tightening financial sanctions. The USS Abraham Lincoln is replacing another carrier rotated out of the Gulf last month.

A picture taken by U.S Air Force personnel stationed in Al Udaid air base and posted on the CENTCOM website showed two aircraft. The caption said: “B-52 Arrival. U.S. B-52H Stratofortress aircraft assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron are parked on a flight line May 8, 2019.”

The media officer at Al Udaid, near Doha, did not immediately respond to a phone call and email requesting comment and details. CENTCOM is responsible for U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Washington has tightened sanctions on Iran this month, eliminating waivers that had allowed some countries to buy its oil, with a goal of reducing Tehran’s crude exports to zero. Iran has responded by scaling back some curbs on its nuclear program, although it remains compliant with a deal to restrict its nuclear activity which Washington abandoned a year ago.

Read this news in Urdu 





Tuesday, May 14, 2019

US-China talks break up after US raises tariffs

US-China talks break up after US raises tariffs

US-China talks break up after US raises tariffs




WASHINGTON (AP) -- Trade talks between the U.S. and China broke up Friday with no agreement, hours after President Donald Trump more than doubled tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports.

Trump asserted on Twitter that there was "no need to rush" to get a deal between the world's two biggest economies and later added that the tariffs "may or may not be removed depending on what happens with respect to future negotiations."

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, confirmed that the talks had concluded for the day but could not say when they would resume.

Hours earlier, the Trump administration hiked tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports to 25% from 10%, escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington. China's Commerce Ministry vowed to impose "necessary countermeasures" but gave no details.

The tariff increase went ahead even after American and Chinese negotiators briefly met in Washington on Thursday and again on Friday, seeking to end a dispute that has disrupted billions of dollars in trade and shaken global financial markets. After a short session on Friday, the lead Chinese negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, left the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative about midday. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin shook hands with Liu as he left.

In the afternoon, a motorcade of sport-utility vehicles and a police escort, both with lights flashing, carried the Chinese delegation away from their lodgings at the Willard InterContinental Hotel .

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Chinese newspaper Global Times, citing "an authoritative source," tweeted that "talks didn't break down. Both sides think that the talks are constructive and will continue consultations. The two sides agree to meet again in Beijing in the future."

In an interview with reporters later in the day, Vice Premier Liu He said: "We will make no concessions on matters of principle."

The Trump administration escalated the confrontation again after the Chinese delegation left town. Lighthizer announced Friday evening that he was preparing to impose tariffs on the $300 billion in Chinese imports that haven't already been targeted. The government will have to get public comment before it can target more Chinese goods.

On Wall Street, stocks fell initially Friday but turned positive on optimism over future talks.

Earlier, Trump asserted in a tweet that his tariffs "will bring in FAR MORE wealth to our Country than even a phenomenal deal of the traditional kind. Also, much easier & quicker to do."

In fact, tariffs are taxes paid by U.S. importers and often passed along to consumers and companies that rely on imported components.

American officials accuse Beijing of backtracking on commitments made in earlier rounds of negotiations. "China deeply regrets that it will have to take necessary countermeasures," a Commerce Ministry statement said.

U.S. business groups appealed for a settlement that will resolve chronic complaints about Chinese market barriers, subsidies to state companies and a regulatory system they say is rigged against foreign companies.

The latest increase extends 25% duties to a total of $250 billion of Chinese imports, including $50 billion worth that were already being taxed at 25%. Trump has said he is planning to expand penalties to all Chinese goods shipped to the United States.

Beijing retaliated for previous tariff hikes by raising duties on $110 billion of American imports. But regulators are running out of U.S. goods for penalties due to the lopsided trade balance.

Ford spokeswoman Rachel McCleery said the carmaker is most concerned about any retaliatory tariffs China might impose.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based company says 80% of the vehicles it assembles in the U.S. are sold domestically, but it does export some vehicles to China.

"While most of the vehicles we sell in China are built in China, Ford does export a number of vehicles to China from the U.S.," McCleery said. "Our biggest concerns are impacts retaliatory tariffs would have on our exports and our expanding customer base in China."

Chinese officials have targeted operations of American companies in China by slowing customs clearance for them and stepping up regulatory scrutiny that can hamper operations.

The latest U.S. increase might hit American consumers harder, said Jake Parker, vice president of the U.S.-China Business Council, an industry group. He said the earlier 10% increase was absorbed by companies and offset by a weakening of the Chinese currency's exchange rate.

A 25% hike "needs to be passed on to the consumer," Parker said. "It is just too big to dilute with those other factors."

Despite the public acrimony, local Chinese officials who want to attract American investment have tried to reassure companies there is "minimal retaliation," he said. "We've actually seen an increased sensitivity to U.S. companies at the local level," he added.

The higher U.S. import taxes don't apply to Chinese goods shipped before Friday. Shipments take about three weeks to cross the Pacific Ocean by sea, giving negotiators more time to reach a settlement before importers may have to pay the increased charges.

Liu, speaking to Chinese state TV upon his arrival Thursday in Washington, said he "came with sincerity." He appealed to Washington to avoid more tariff hikes, saying they are "not a solution" and would harm the world.

"We should not hurt innocent people," Liu told CCTV.

Also Thursday, Trump said he received "a beautiful letter" from Chinese President Xi Jinping and would "probably speak to him by phone."

The two countries are sparring over U.S. allegations Beijing steals technology and pressures companies to hand over trade secrets in a campaign to turn Chinese companies into world leaders in robotics, electric cars and other advanced industries.

This week's setback was unexpected. Through late last week, Trump administration officials were suggesting that negotiators were making steady progress.

U.S. officials say they got an inkling of China's second thoughts about prior commitments in talks last week in Beijing but the backsliding became more apparent in exchanges over the weekend. They wouldn't identify the specific issues involved.

A sticking point is U.S. insistence on an enforcement mechanism with penalties to ensure Beijing lives up to its commitments. American officials say China has repeatedly broken past promises.

China wants tariffs lifted as soon as an agreement is reached, while U.S. officials want to keep them as leverage to ensure compliance.

"A real enforcement mechanism is critical," the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai said in a statement.

___

AP Business Writer Joe McDonald and AP videojournalist Dake Kang in Beijing and Alexandra Olson in New York contributed to this report.




Saturday, May 11, 2019

Facebook co-founder speaks against Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook co-founder speaks against Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook co-founder speaks against Mark Zuckerberg


New York (AFP): One of the co-founders of Facebook called on Thursday for the social media behemoth to be broken up, warning that the company’s head, Mark Zuckerberg, had become far too powerful.

"It’s time to break up Facebook," said Chris Hughes, who along with Zuckerberg founded the online network in their dorm room while both were students at Harvard University in 2004.

In an editorial published in The New York Times, Hughes said that Zuckerberg’s "focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks," and warned that his global influence had become "staggering."

Zuckerberg not only controls Facebook but also the widely used Instagram and WhatsApp platforms, and Hughes said that Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than a check on the chief executive’s power.

"Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability," said vice president of global affairs and communications Nick Clegg.

"But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company."

Clegg, a British former deputy prime minister, reasoned that carefully crafted regulation of the internet is the way to hold technology companies accountable, and noted that Zuckerberg has been advocating for just that.

Facebook and its family of services have many competitors, and can find corporate efficiencies when it comes to data centers, talent and other resources that can work on its various offerings, Clegg said.

Hughes, who quit Facebook more than a decade ago, was pictured in the newspaper together with Zuckerberg when both were fresh-faced students launching Facebook as a campus networking tool.

He accused Facebook of acquiring or copying all of its competitors to achieve dominance in the social media field, meaning that investors were reluctant to back any rivals because they know they cannot compete for long.

Zuckerberg "has created a leviathan that crowds out entrepreneurship and restricts consumer choice," wrote Hughes, who is now a member of the Economic Security Project, which is pushing for a universal basic income in the United States.

After buying up its main competitors Instagram, where people can publish photos, and WhatsApp, a secure messaging service, Facebook now has 2.7 billion monthly users across its platforms and made a first quarter profit of $2.43 billion this year.

- ‘Break up Facebook’s monopoly’ -

"The most problematic aspect of Facebook’s power is Mark’s unilateral control over speech. There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people," said Hughes.

The company has been rocked by a series of scandals recently, including allowing its users’ data to be harvested by research companies and its slow response to Russia using Facebook as a means to spread disinformation during the 2016 US election campaign.

The company is reportedly expecting to face a fine of $5 billion. It has also been investing heavily in staff and artificial intelligence to fight misinformation and other abuses at its platform.

"The American government needs to do two things: break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people," Hughes said, urging the government to break away Instagram and WhatsApp and prevent new acquisitions for several years.

"Even after a breakup, Facebook would be a hugely profitable business with billions to invest in new technologies -- and a more competitive market would only encourage those investments," he said.

Hughes said the break-up, under existing anti-trust laws, would allow better privacy protections for social media users and would cost US authorities almost nothing.

Hughes said that he remained friends with Zuckerberg, noting that "he’s human. But it’s his very humanity that makes his unchecked power so problematic."




Thursday, May 9, 2019

China, US clash at UN over Uighur detentions

China, US clash at UN over Uighur detentions

China, US clash at UN over Uighur detentions


United Nations (United States) (AFP) - China angrily assailed the United States on Tuesday for calling on countries at the United Nations to deprive Beijing of a seat at a UN forum over its treatment of the Uighur minority.

It was the second time in as many weeks that the two countries openly clashed at the United Nations over the rights of the Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities held in camps in China's Xianjiang region.

Last week, the United States invited the head of the World Uighur Congress, Dolkun Isa, to address the UN forum on indigenous peoples, infuriating China.

US diplomat Courtney Nemoff said ahead of elections on Tuesday that China's treatment of Uighurs should be a factor in deciding on membership to the UN forum tasked with protecting indigenous people worldwide.

"The United States is alarmed that more than a million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims have suffered arbitrary detention, forced labor, torture, and death in camps in China's Xinjiang" region, said Nemoff.

"These atrocities must be stopped. We call on member states to bear this in mind in this important forum."

A Chinese diplomat took the floor to strongly reject the US statement.

"The US representative made an unreasonable accusation against China and defamation against China," he said, expressing Beijing's "strong displeasure over this and our firm opposition to it."

Despite the US appeal, China's candidate, Zhang Xiaoan, was elected by acclamation to the 16-member UN forum along with four other representatives from Burundi, Namibia, Denmark and Russia.

Beijing claims the camps in Xinjiang are "vocational training centers" to steer people away from extremism and reintegrate them, in a region plagued by violence blamed on Uighur separatists or Islamists.

In his address at the UN, Isa said Uighurs were being rounded up to live in "an open-air prison," deprived of their religious rights and freedom.

The Chinese diplomat told the meeting that Isa was a "terrorist designated by the Chinese government" and supported by the US, which "is utilizing him to attack China and defame China, with no basis at all."

The United States was among a group of countries that asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to raise the plight of the Uighurs during his visit to China last month.

Guterres told Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that "human rights must be fully respected in the against terrorism," according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.




Friday, April 12, 2019

Next budget to be made in light of IMF programme - Asad meets Facebook, Uber, Procter & Gamble, Coca Cola and Pepsico at a roundtable conference

Next budget to be made in light of IMF programme - Asad meets Facebook, Uber, Procter & Gamble, Coca Cola and Pepsico at a roundtable conference

Next budget to be made in light of IMF programme - Asad meets Facebook, Uber, Procter & Gamble, Coca Cola and Pepsico at a roundtable conference


–-IMF team to visit Pakistan this month to finalise modalities 

–Sources claim govt and IMF will be able to conclude deal before June

–World Bank president lauds Pakistan’s reform process, assures continued support

 ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and International Monitory Fund (IMF) have reportedly finalised the talks for the next bailout programme and have agreed to move forward towards the staff level agreement, it has been learnt.

According to sources, after the positive talks with the IMF officials in Washington, the Fund would be sending its mission to Pakistan this month to finalize the agreement.

“We can say that both sides have finalized talks after which the staff level mission will be visiting to finalize the Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP), to be presented the same to IMF Board for a final agreement,” said an official. “With the finalization of the remaining process, the final agreement for next bailout package will most likely conclude near June/before next financial year.”

The financial budget of 2019-20 will be made in light of the IMF programme, he claimed.

Minister of State on Revenue Hammad Azhar, during a press conference on Thursday, also claimed that the talks with IMF officials went positive. “We will decide about modalities of the agreement when the staff level mission arrives in Pakistan,” he added.

Apart from other conditions, Dr Ashfaq Hassan, renowned economist, said that the IMF’s condition of generating 34pc more revenue (Rs5.4 trillion) was unrealistic and difficult to meet.

On the other hand, he added, unlike the IMF’s targets, the Federal Board of Revenue has already proposed the government to fix its target in the range of Rs5.1 trillion in the next budget 2019-20 against revised estimates of Rs4.1 trillion for the outgoing financial year.

Apart from the revenue side, curtailing of primary balance within the desired limits will be the biggest challenge for the government to strike the initial agreement (staff-level), sources said.

Ahead of the talks in Washington on next bailout programme, IMF had projected a sharp decline in GDP growth rate for Pakistan from 5.2pc in 2018 to 2.9pc in 2019 and a further decline to 2.8 in 2020. It projected a sharp rise in inflation from 3.9pc in 2018 to 7.6pc in 2019.

IMF in its latest report “World Economic Outlook (WEO), Growth Slowdown, Precarious Recovery” states that in the absence of further adjustment policies in Pakistan, growth is projected to remain subdued at about 2.5pc, with continued external and fiscal imbalances weighing on confidence.

As per official statement of Ministry of Finance, Finance Minister Asad Umar held a series of meetings with the IMF and World Bank official as part of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings 2019.

Umar met the new head of the World Bank David Malpass and briefed him on Pakistan’s macroeconomic situation. They also discussed the continuation of Pakistan’s ongoing engagement with the bank. Malpass appreciated the reform process in the country and assured continued World Bank support.

During his meeting, World Bank officials assured him of complete cooperation with Pakistan.

He also met officials of the IMF, including its First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton, and spoke about the ongoing negotiations with the IMF.

The finance minister also met members of the US-Pakistan Business Council and assured them that the government is working to facilitate foreign investors.

“We are trying to make it easier for foreign companies to invest in Pakistan,” he told companies like Facebook, Uber, Procter & Gamble, Coca Cola and Pepsico at a roundtable conference.

The companies expressed keen interest in Pakistan’s market and shared their future plans as well as issues where they needed support from the government.

Read on source




Saturday, February 23, 2019

Trump says U.S. has developed 'much better' relations with Pakistan recently

Trump says U.S. has developed 'much better' relations with Pakistan recently

Trump says U.S. has developed 'much better' relations with Pakistan recently


(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that the United States has developed a “much better” relationship recently with Pakistan, which has long been at odds with the United States over the war in Afghanistan.



Trump, speaking at a White House event on trade negotiations with China, noted that relations had improved over the “last short period of time” and added that the United States may set up some meetings with Pakistan.

U.S. envoys say Pakistan has an important role to play in Afghan peace talks, given its links to the Taliban.

Taliban representatives are due to meet U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar on Feb. 25 in the next round of talks. The Taliban has refused to allow the participation of the Afghan government, which it regards as a U.S. puppet.

Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Pakistani ambassador on Wednesday over remarks that Afghan peace talks could be affected if India resorted to violence after last week’s deadly attack on Indian paramilitary police in the disputed Kashmir region, for which Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group claimed responsibility.

The Taliban had earlier announced that its team would meet U.S. negotiators this week in Islamabad. The meetings did not take place for reasons that remain unclear.




Friday, January 18, 2019

American anchor for Iranian TV is arrested on visit to US

American anchor for Iranian TV is arrested on visit to US

American anchor for Iranian TV is arrested on visit to US


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A prominent American anchorwoman on Iranian state television has been arrested by the FBI during a visit to the U.S., the broadcaster reported Wednesday, and her son said she was being held in a prison, apparently as a material witness.

Marzieh Hashemi, who worked for the network’s English-language service, was detained in St. Louis, where she had filmed a Black Lives Matter documentary after visiting relatives in the New Orleans area. She was then taken to Washington, according to her elder son, Hossein Hashemi.


The FBI said in an email that it had no comment on the arrest of the woman who was born Melanie Franklin in New Orleans and has worked for Iran’s state television network for 25 years.


American-born news anchor Marzieh Hashemi in a studio in Tehran, Iran, in an undated photo provided by Iranian state television's English-language service, Press TV. (Press TV via AP)
Hossein Hashemi said his mother lives in Tehran and comes back to this country about once a year to see her family, usually scheduling documentary work somewhere in the U.S. as well.

“We still have no idea what’s going on,” said Hashemi, a research fellow at the University of Colorado who was interviewed by phone from Washington. He also said he and his siblings had been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.

The incident comes as Iran faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual citizens and other people with Western ties. Those cases have previously been used as bargaining chips in negotiations with world powers.


Federal law allows judges to order witnesses to be arrested and detained if the government can prove their testimony has extraordinary value for a criminal case and that they would be a flight risk and unlikely to respond to a subpoena. The statute generally requires those witnesses to be promptly released once they are deposed.

Marzieh Hashemi, an American citizen, had not been contacted by the FBI before she was detained and would “absolutely” have been willing to cooperate with the agency, her son said.

Asked whether his mother had been involved in any criminal activity or knew anyone who might be implicated in a crime, Hashemi said, “We don’t have any information along those lines.”

Hashemi said his mother was arrested as she was about to board a flight from St. Louis to Denver. A spokesman for St. Louis Lambert International Airport declined to comment and referred questions to the FBI.

The constitutionality of the material witness law has “never been meaningfully tested,” said Ricardo J. Bascuas, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law. “The government only relies on it when they need a reason to arrest somebody but they don’t have one.”

No matter the reason for Marzieh Hashemi’s detention, she should have been granted a court appearance by now, Bascuas said.

She apparently was unable to call her daughter until Tuesday night. The family is trying to hire an attorney, but it has been difficult because she has not been charged with a crime, her son said.

Iran’s state broadcaster held a news conference and launched a hashtag campaign for Hashemi, using the same techniques families with loved ones held in the Islamic Republic use to highlight their cases.

“We will not spare any legal action” to help her, said Paiman Jebeli, deputy chief of Iran’s state IRIB broadcaster. Iran’s Press TV aired footage of her anchoring news programs and discussing the war in Syria, set to dramatic music.

There were no references to any case against Hashemi in U.S. federal courts, nor in Missouri.

Hashemi describes herself online as having studied journalism at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She converted to Islam in 1982 at age 22 after meeting Iranian activist students in Denver.

She married a man she met while in journalism school. They had two sons and a daughter. Her husband is dead, said Hashemi’s brother, Milton Leroy Franklin of the New Orleans suburb of Metairie.

Last week, Iran confirmed it is holding U.S. Navy veteran Michael R. White at a prison, making him the first American known to be detained under President Donald Trump’s administration.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told state TV that Hashemi’s arrest indicates the “apartheid and racist policy” of the Trump administration.

“We hope that the innocent person will be released without any condition,” Ghasemi said.

At least four other American citizens are being held in Iran, including Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his 82-year-old father, Baquer, both serving 10-year sentences on espionage charges. Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences, respectively. Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang was sentenced to 10 year in prison.

Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a permanent U.S. resident from Lebanon who advocated for internet freedom and has done work for the U.S. government. He was sentenced to 10 years on espionage-related charges.

Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him. His family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance.




Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Trump requests Pakistan's help on Afghan peace after Twitter tirade

Trump requests Pakistan's help on Afghan peace after Twitter tirade

Trump requests Pakistan's help on Afghan peace after Twitter tirade


(CNN)US President Donald Trump sent a letter to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan requesting his country's help to end the nearly two-decades long conflict in Afghanistan, just weeks after engaging in a Twitter spat with the Pakistani leader.


The letter, confirmed by the National Security Council and the State Department, requests Khan's "full support for the U.S. effort to advance the Afghan peace process," according to a State Department spokesperson. An NSC spokesperson described the letter in a statement as asking for "full support for the U.S.-led Afghan peace process," but the phrase "U.S.-led" was later removed.

Trump's request follows a month of often harsh presidential language about Pakistan. Trump complained to Fox News in November that Islamabad doesn't do "a damn thing" for the US and charged that its government had helped Osama bin Laden hide. Later that month, he took to Twitter in an extended diatribe, assailing Pakistan for doing "nothing for us."

Denying sanctuary
The NSC and State Department said that in Trump's letter to Khan, which was disclosed by Pakistan, "the President recognizes that Pakistan has the ability to deny the Taliban sanctuary on its territory. The letter also makes clear that Pakistan's assistance with the Afghan peace process is fundamental to building an enduring US-Pakistan partnership."

The letter also specifically calls for Pakistan's cooperation with US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who is traveling to Pakistan on his second trip to the region in as many months. According to a State Department note, he is expected to meet with "Afghan government officials and other interested parties to support and facilitate an inclusive peace process in Afghanistan."

Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs seemed receptive to the US President's overture, saying in a statement, "since Pakistan has always advocated a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan, US decision is welcomed. Pakistan reiterates its commitment to play a facilitation role in good faith. Peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility."


The news of Trump's letter to Khan comes just weeks after the US President provoked a geopolitical spat on Twitter, suggesting Pakistan withheld information about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

"We paid Pakistan Billions of Dollars & they never told us he was living there. Fools!" he wrote in part in a tweet in late November.

"We no longer pay Pakistan the $Billions because they would take our money and do nothing for us, Bin Laden being a prime example, Afghanistan being another. They were just one of many countries that take from the United States without giving anything in return. That's ENDING!," he added.
The Pakistani Prime Minister fired back, tweeting that the "record needs to be put straight on Mr Trump's tirade against Pakistan."

Source: CNN




Wednesday, September 12, 2018

More than 44,000 Catholic Women Demand Answers From Pope Francis Over Sex Abuse Crisis

More than 44,000 Catholic Women Demand Answers From Pope Francis Over Sex Abuse Crisis

44,000 Catholic Women Demand Answers From Pope Francis Over Sex Abuse Crisis

More than 44,000 Catholic women have signed a letter pressing Pope Francis to explain exactly when and how he found out about sexual abuse and misconduct allegations against a high-ranking former cardinal.

“Our hearts are broken, our faith tested, by the escalating crisis engulfing our beloved Church,” states the passionately worded letter organized by the Catholic Women’s Forum. “We are angry, betrayed and disillusioned.” 

“We, your flock, deserve your answers now.”

For the past two weeks, Francis’ papacy has been thrown into crisis by claims that U.S. cardinals and Vatican officials covered up for then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Even though the Vatican has known about his allegedly abusive behavior with seminarians since at least 2000, McCarrick received clerical promotions and continued publicly representing the church, The Associated Press reports.

The accusations against Francis himself were brought up by the Vatican’s former U.S. ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. The archbishop, who has long been a critic of the Argentine pontiff, claims Francis rehabilitated McCarrick, lifting canonical sanctions imposed by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Francis officially removed McCarrick from ministry in June after a church investigation determined that he had sexually abused an altar boy in 1971. McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals the following month.

Soon after Vigano’s allegations came to light, Francis told reporters that he would “not say a single word” on the subject and suggested that journalists read Vigano’s claims and make up their own minds.

The archbishop’s accusations and Francis’ silence have roiled the U.S. Catholic Church, with some in the hierarchy coming to the pope’s defense while others demand a thorough investigation. On Tuesday, the Vatican said Francis will meet with a delegation of U.S. cardinals and bishops about the issue on Thursday.



The thousands of signatures on the letter to Pope Francis are evidence of how deeply this crisis has affected Catholic women, who see themselves as the backbone of the church.

The letter from the Catholic Women’s Forum, an international network that seeks to amplify the voices of faithful Catholic women, has continued to gather signatures since it was first published on Aug. 30. Signers include prominent female American Catholic theologians, professors, business executives, writers and speakers. 

Mary Rice Hasson, the forum’s director, told HuffPost that the group’s web team is working hard to delete duplicate signatures. They are also deleting any signatures from men, who are being asked to sign a separate online letter.

The women’s letter has already been sent to the pope twice ― through personal channels and through the apostolic nuncio in Washington, D.C. Hasson said via email that as long as the number of signatures continues to swell, the organization will continue to send it to Francis weekly.

Hasson added that she’s not surprised by the surge of signatures, given the “depth of feeling” around this issue. Although the number of abuse cases involving priests dropped sharply after the Catholic Church adopted reforms in 2002, she said the church is still falling short in holding the hierarchy accountable and acknowledging sexual misconduct by bishops and cardinals.

“These women love our Church, and they are heartbroken and appalled, not only at the underlying abuse, but also by an ecclesial culture that looked the other way in the face of egregious sexual abuse and misconduct,” Hasson wrote.

The letter to the pope specifically states that the women want to know when Francis learned about McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct and abuse, and whether Francis released the former cardinal from any restrictions imposed by Benedict. 

In the letter, the Catholic Women’s Forum also takes the opportunity to remind Francis how important women are to the church. 

Fifty-four percent of American Catholics are women, according to the Pew Research Center. Catholic women are more likely than men to say they attend Mass at least once a week (43 percent vs. 35 percent) and more likely to say they pray every day (67 percent vs. 49 percent).

“We are not second-class Catholics to be brushed off while bishops and cardinals handle matters privately,” the letter states. “We are the hands, the feet, and the heart of the Church. In short, we are the Church, every bit as much as the cardinals and bishops around you.”

Hasson said she was heartened by reports that the Vatican is preparing a response to Vigano’s allegations, describing it as simply “the right thing to do.”

“Our Church leaders need to realize that we cannot go back to ‘business as usual,’ absent significant efforts to address the situation,” Hasson said.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.



China puts off licenses for US companies amid tariff battle

China puts off licenses for US companies amid tariff battle

BEIJING (AP) -- Amid a worsening tariff battle, China is putting off accepting license applications from American companies in financial services and other industries until Washington makes progress toward a settlement, a business group says.

The disclosure Tuesday is the first public confirmation of U.S. companies' fears that their operations in China or access to its markets might be disrupted by the battle over Beijing's technology policy. China is running out of American imports for penalties in response to President Donald Trump's tariff hikes, which has prompted worries regulators might target operations of U.S. companies.

The license delay applies to industries Beijing has promised to open to foreign competitors, according to Jacob Parker, vice president for China operations of the U.S.-China Business Council. The group represents some 200 American companies that do business with China.

In meetings over the past three weeks, Cabinet-level officials told USCBC representatives they are putting off accepting applications "until the trajectory of the U.S.-China relationship improves and stabilizes," Parker said.

Chinese authorities have promised to increase foreign access to areas including banking, securities, insurance and asset management.

"There seem to be domestic political pressures that are working against the perception of U.S. companies receiving benefits" during the dispute, Parker said.

As for what improvement might entail, Parker said Chinese officials want an end to Trump's tariff hikes and a negotiated settlement. He declined to identify the officials but, in a sign Beijing wants foreign companies to help lobby Washington, said the meetings represented "unprecedented access" for his group.

Beijing matched Trump's earlier tariff increase on $50 billion of imports but is running out of American goods for retaliation due to their lopsided trade balance. China bought American goods worth about $1 for every $3 of goods it exported to the United States.

Trump is poised to decide whether to raise duties on $200 billion of Chinese goods. Beijing has issued a $60 billion list of goods for retaliation.

A foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said Monday that China will "definitely take countermeasures" if the tariff hike goes ahead.

Economists have warned Beijing might target service industries such as engineering or logistics, in which the United States runs a trade surplus with China.

Chinese commentators have suggested Beijing might use its multitrillion-dollar holdings of U.S. government debt as a weapon, though that would impose costs on China. State-controlled media have encouraged boycotts of Japanese and South Korean products in past disputes with those governments.

The government said in June it would impose unspecified "comprehensive measures" if necessary. That left U.S. companies on edge about whether Beijing will use its heavily regulated economy to disrupt their operations by withholding licenses or launching tax, anti-monopoly or other investigations.

Chinese leaders reject Trump's demand to roll back official industry plans such as "Made in China 2025," which calls for state-led creation of global champions in robotics, artificial intelligence and other technologies.

Washington, Europe and other trading partners say those plans violate Beijing's market-opening commitments. But Communist leaders see them as a path to prosperity and global influence.

Chinese negotiators agreed in May to narrow their multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States by purchasing more American soybeans and other products. Beijing scrapped that deal after Trump's first tariff increase went ahead July 6.

In addition to rolling back industry plans, the Trump administration wants Beijing to reduce the privileges of state-owned companies and eliminate requirements for foreign companies to hand over technology to Chinese partners.

In their meetings with the USCBC, Chinese officials expressed willingness to buy more American exports but "showed no appetite at all" to talk about industry reform, technology policy or other U.S. priorities, Parker said.

"I don't consider that to be very positive for any kind of negotiated outcome in the short term or medium term," he said.

Chinese regulators have shown their willingness to attack foreign companies in disputes with other governments.

Last year, Beijing destroyed South Korean retailer Lotte's business in China after it sold a golf course in South Korea to the country's government for construction of a missile defense system opposed by Chinese leaders.

Beijing closed most of Lotte's 99 supermarkets and other outlets in China. Seoul and Beijing later mended relations, but Lotte gave up and sold its China operations.




Monday, September 3, 2018

Pentagon cancels $300 million aid to #Pakistan

Pentagon cancels $300 million aid to #Pakistan

WASHINGTON: The US military said it has made a final decision to cancel $300 million in aid to Pakistan that had been suspended over Islamabad’s perceived failure to take decisive action against militants, in a new blow to deteriorating ties.


The Trump administration says Islamabad is granting safe haven to insurgents who are waging a 17-year-old war in neighboring Afghanistan, a charge Pakistan denies.

But US officials had held out the possibility that Pakistan could win back that support if it changed its behavior.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in particular, had an opportunity to authorize $300 million in CSF funds through this summer – if he saw concrete Pakistani actions to go after insurgents. Mattis chose not to, a US official told Reuters.

“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy the remaining $300 (million) was reprogrammed,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said.

Faulkner said the Pentagon aimed to spend the $300 million on “other urgent priorities” if approved by Congress. He said another $500 million in CSF was stripped by Congress from Pakistan earlier this year, to bring the total withheld to $800 million.

The disclosure came ahead of an expected visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the top US military officer, General Joseph Dunford, to Islamabad. Mattis told reporters on Tuesday that combating militants would be a “primary part of the discussion.” Reuters



Thursday, August 30, 2018

PRESIDENT Donald Trump`s Google threat smacks of Chinese govt-style internet control

PRESIDENT Donald Trump`s Google threat smacks of Chinese govt-style internet control

PRESIDENT Donald Trump seemed especially jealous of Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday. First, Trump again mused about extending presidential term limits because he wants to preside over the 2026 World Cup. That was probably a joke.



Less funny were Trump`s repeated threats to punish Google if it doesn`t appease his political demands. That smacks of the kind of authoritarianism and internet control that Xi and the Chinese Communist Party have mastered.

Set aside the reality that there`s zero evidence Google`s search algorithm is `RIGGED`, as Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning. As Maggie Haberman of The New York Times pointed out, Trump doesn`t use a computer, so there`s little chance he did his own research. The disturbing part is that Trump is suggesting Google is doing something `illegal` by returning search results that reflect badly on him personally and he`s threatening retribution.

In China, the internet is censored so heavily, even references to Winnie the Pooh are blocked because Xi doesn`t like being com-pared to the cartoon character. Forget about publishing anything online that criticises Xi directly, his government or anything the Communist Party deems improper, unharmonious or subversive. You will be jailed.

But the main way Xi controls the internet is by forcing companies who own and manage internet platforms both Chinese and foreign firms to do the political bidding of the party. Companies that don`t comply face punishment dressed up as `regulation` as well as the scorn that comes with the party publicly accusing them of committing offences against the Chinese people.

When a Marriott employee `liked` a tweet from a pro-Tibet group, the Chinese government shut down Marriott`s website in China, called in company executives for police interrogation and demanded the offending employee be fired. Marriott completely caved and apologised. Mercedes-Benz similarly prostrated itself to Beijing when it removed an Instagram post that quoted the Dalai Lama. Major US air carriers have scrubbed the word `Taiwan` from their websites under severe pressure from Beijing.

Even Google itself has been secretly developing a censored search engine and compiling data for blacklists in an ill-conceivedattempt to re-enter the Chinese market.

Trump could be forgiven for thinking that Google might bow to an authoritarian who threatens its business and reputation.

To be sure, the United States has laws, customs and institutions that should prevent the Chinese-style internet control Trump seems to envy. But the fact that our head of state is attempting to exert pressure to intimidate Google into changing the way it operates to favour his own political agenda is a dangerous step toward a slippery slope.

That`s not to say giant internet platforms that wield enormous power and influence don`t deserve more scrutiny and oversight.

Google, Facebook and Twitter must be more transparent about how they decide who gets access and prominence on their platforms and why. It`s a national conversation that may require some government regulation or oversight.

But the way Trump and some other conservative leaders have distorted this debate is counterproductive. As my colleague Catherine Rampell recently observed, conservative complaints of bias or `shadow banning` on social media are muddied when leaders reveal their ineptitude, such as whenHouse Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy simply couldn`t figure out how to adjust his Twitter settings.

Government and the tech sector need to work together to figure out how to ensure that huge internet platforms aren`t abused or weaponised for evil purposes. Some calls are easy. Russian intelligence agencies should not be able to easily spread propaganda.

Myanmar`s military leaders should not be allowed to promote genocide.

But Trump tipped his hand when he made it all about politics and himself. In contrast to China, we have the First Amendment. It protects conservatives` right to speak, and it protects those who criticise the president from having their voices suppressed in a relative way because the president believes he can threaten the companies that distribute that content.

Trump may not like that most of his media coverage is negative, but unlike Xi he doesn`t have the power to censor his critics. If he wants to know why Google searches on `Trump News` return mostly negative results, he should put down Twitter and pick up a mirror.

By arrangement with The Washington Post




Friday, January 26, 2018

Facebook: Russian agents created 129 U.S. election events - Reuters

Facebook: Russian agents created 129 U.S. election events - Reuters

Facebook: Russian agents created 129 U.S. election events

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc said Russian agents created 129 events on the social media network during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, according to testimony to Congress, shedding more light on Russia’s purported disinformation drive aimed at voters.


FILE PHOTO: Balloons are seen in front of a logo at Facebook's headquarters in London, Britain, December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo


Facebook, in a written statement to U.S. lawmakers released on Thursday and dated Jan. 8, said that 338,300 different Facebook accounts viewed the events and that 62,500 marked that they would attend. The company said it did not have data about which of the events took place.

Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, said in September only that Russians had created “several promoted events.”

Copies of the event pages that have surfaced since then show that at least some of them were political rallies centered on divisive subjects, such as immigration. Russia denies the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that it tried to meddle in American democracy.

Facebook delivered the details to Congress this month in response to written questions from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.

Facebook said that it had found “overlap” between the online marketing done in 2016 by Russian agents and by President Donald Trump’s campaign and called it “insignificant.” The company said it was not in a position to either substantiate or disprove allegations of collusion between the two camps.

Trump denies any collusion and has described investigations by congressional panels and a special counsel as a witch hunt.

Facebook has previously said some 126 million Americans may have seen Russian-backed political content on Facebook over a two-year period, and that 16 million may have been exposed to Russian information on Instagram.

Facebook, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google testified about misuse of their services before three congressional committees in October and November.

Also in its written response to follow up questions, Facebook said that last year it removed Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab from its list of free anti-virus offerings to users who go to the social media site from a computer that may be infected with malicious code.

Facebook said it no longer provided Kaspersky Lab as a recommended anti-virus option but that it was “unable to easily reconstruct how many Facebook users downloaded Kaspersky software.”

Kaspersky Lab has repeatedly denied allegations by U.S. security officials that its software could enable Russian espionage, a fear that led to the U.S. government last year to ban the use of its products in federal computer networks.

A Kaspersky spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the testimony.



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