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Who Will Be the Next Fed Chief?

President Trump says he is “very close” to picking a person for the most important economic post in the country: the head of the US Federal Reserve. Current Chair Janet Yellen, whose term expires early next year, is one of at least five candidates under consideration. Regardless of the president’s choice, most analysts who spoke with VOA don’t expect big changes in US monetary policy. But as Mil Arcega reports, others say, sooner or later the next Fed Chief could face a slowing economy.

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‘All Options on the Table’ for US Congress to Address Rohingya Muslim Crisis

The US Congress is considering a range of options to pressure Myanmar, also known as Burma, to stop the deadly attacks that have forced hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya Muslims to flee their homes. Lawmakers are considering a stand-alone sanctions bill, but activists lobbying for the Rohingyas say a White House Executive Order could have the most immediate impact. VOA’s Katherine Gypson has more from Capitol Hill.

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Senate Republicans Seek Unity after Flake, Corker Announce Retirements

At a time when Republican unity is more critical than ever to salvage President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda, the party is splintering on the issue of Trump’s governance and his fitness for office. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Senate Republicans are attempting to regroup after two members announced their retirement while making blistering critiques of the president. Even so, many fellow Republicans are standing with Trump.

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Greater Scrutiny Set for Nonimmigrant Work Visa Renewals

The United States has announced changes to its nonimmigrant work visa policies that are expected to make renewals more difficult.

In the past, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would generally approve the renewals unless the visa holder had committed a crime. Now, renewals will face the same scrutiny as the original applications.

“USCIS officers are at the front lines of the administration’s efforts to enhance the integrity of the immigration system,” USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna said, according to the announcement posted on USCIS’ website this week. “This updated guidance provides clear direction to help advance policies that protect the interests of U.S. workers.”

The new regulations could affect more than 100,000 people holding at least eight different types of work visas who fill out the I-129 form for renewals.

Sam Adair, a partner at the Graham Adair business immigration law firm in California and Texas, said that for the most part, he expected visa holders would most likely face lengthier adjudication periods in their renewal processes, as opposed to increased numbers of denials.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big shift for us,” Adair told VOA. “But I think what we’ll see is just an increase in the number of requests for evidence, an increase in the delays on the adjudication of these petitions, and really it’s going to just result in more costs for the employers who are filing these petitions.”

‘High-skilled’ workers

Of all visa holders affected by this policy, those in the United States on an H-1B, a visa for “high-skilled” workers, are the biggest group. Of 109,537 people who had to submit I-129 forms in fiscal 2017, 95,485 were H-1B holders, according to data sent to VOA by USCIS.

H-1B visas have been threatened in the past, most recently by a bill proposed this year that would have raised the minimum salary requirement for workers brought in on the visa. While advocates of the program argued that it would keep workers from being exploited, many H-1B holders feared that businesses would be less willing to hire them or keep them on board.

But some Americans support the new regulations, saying that nonimmigrant work visas hurt American workers.

“It’s prudent to make sure that the people that receive those visas are in complete compliance with all of the requirements,” Joe Guzzardi, national media director of Californians for Population Stabilization, told VOA.

“It just isn’t possible to think that there aren’t American workers that couldn’t fill these jobs,” he said, noting that while the regulations might hurt businesses, they would help Americans looking for work.

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Trump Ponders New Head for Federal Reserve

President Donald Trump says he is “very close” to picking a person for the most important economic post in the United States, the head of the Federal Reserve. Current Chair Janet Yellen’s term expires early next year and she is one of at least five candidates for the job.

Besides Yellen, the candidates include Fed board member Jerome Powell, former Fed governor Kevin Warsh, Stanford University economist John Taylor and Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn.

 

WATCH: Who Will Be the Next Fed Chief?

Moody’s Analytics economist Ryan Sweet says a new Fed chief is likely to continue current policy at least for a while because “rocking the boat” could rattle financial markets.

The Fed’s job is to manage the world’s largest economy in ways that maximize employment and maintain stable prices. During recessions, the bank cuts interest rates in a bid to boost economic growth and create more jobs.To cope with the most recent recession, the U.S. central bank slashed interest rates nearly to zero.

The jobless rate fell from 10 percent to the current 4.2 percent, and the economy stopped shrinking and began growing slowly.

Critics of the record-low interest rates said keeping rates too low for too long could spark strong inflation and damage the economy. However, the inflation rate has been below the two percent level that many experts say is best for the economy.

As a member of the Fed’s board and later as Chair, Yellen supported low interest rates and a slow, cautious return to “normal” rates. Experts also say she improved communication between the Fed and financial markets, which reduced uncertainty and reassured investors.

Trump criticized Yellen during the campaign, but then as president, praised her work. Analysts Tom Buerkle of “Reuters Breaking Views” gives the Fed credit for taking effective action during a crisis when Congress was reluctant to act.

Another candidate is former investment banker Gary Cohn, who now heads the National Economic Council at the White House. He has reportedly been working on efforts to reform taxes and boost spending on U.S. infrastructure.

Fed Board member Jerome Powell is also a candidate. He is a Republican with a background in private equity who served in a top Treasury Department post. Powell supported Yellen’s approach of slashing interest rates during the crisis, and returning them to historic levels as the economy recovers.

When rates were cut to nearly zero, Fed officials took the further step of buying huge quantities of bonds in an effort to push down long-term interest rates to give additional economic stimulus. The complex procedure is called “quantitative easing.”

“Ryan Sweet of Moody’s Analytics says when the next recession appears, Powell will be more willing to use tools like quantitative easing than more conservative candidates like Kevin Warsh and John Taylor.

Warsh is a former member of the Fed’s board, a lawyer, and a former executive of a major financial firm with experience at the president’s National Economic Council.

John Taylor of Stanford University and the Hoover Institution is an eminent economist who has served on advisory councils for presidents and congress and written books on economic topics. Taylor came up with an equation, called the “Taylor Rule,” that considers inflation as well as slack in the economy as a way to set interest rates. Some conservatives say the Taylor Rule would improve policymaking.

Critics say the economy is too complex to be managed by a computer, and the Taylor Rule would make the Fed less independent and effective.

Tara Sinclair of Indeed.com says independence is a “key part” of having an effective monetary policy. She says the interest rate-setting process and other decisions need to be separate from Congress and the administration so interest rates and other policies are based on long-run economic needs.

The president is expected to announce his choice in early November.

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Twitter Surprises With Third Quarter Earnings

Twitter is reporting a loss of $21.1 million in its third quarter, but turned in a better-than-expected profit when one-time charges and benefits are removed.

 

Shares of Twitter Inc. soared almost 9 percent before the opening bell Thursday.

 

The San Francisco company had a loss of 3 cents, but a gain of 10 cents if those non-re-occurring events are removed.  That’s 2 cents better than industry analysts had predicted, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.

 

Revenue was $589.6 million in the period, in line with expectations.

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Tea Party Groups Settle Lawsuits Over IRS Mistreatment

The Trump administration has settled lawsuits with tea party groups that received extra, often burdensome scrutiny when applying for tax-exempt status, ending another chapter in a political scandal that dogged the Obama administration and remains a source of outrage for Republicans.

The Internal Revenue Service is apologizing to the groups as part of the proposed settlement agreements outlined in court filings Wednesday. The groups and the Justice Department are asking a judge to declare it illegal for the tax agency to discriminate based on political views, according to the agreements, which still must be approved by a judge.

Republicans erupted in 2013 after the IRS apologized for submitting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status to intensive scrutiny, in part by zeroing in on groups with words like “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names. Many had their applications delayed for months and years. Some were asked improper questions about their donors and even their religious practices, an inspector general’s report found.

Hundreds of organizations joined lawsuits, alleging their constitutional rights were violated.

Much of the agency’s leadership, including top official Lois Lerner, resigned or retired over the scandal. One of the proposed settlement agreements calls senior management “delinquent” in providing control and direction over the process. And it faults Lerner for failing to tell upper-level management of the long delays in processing applications from tea party and other conservative groups.

Still, the Obama Justice Department announced in 2015 that no one at the IRS would be prosecuted in the scandal, saying investigators had found mismanagement but no evidence that it had targeted a political group based on its viewpoints or obstructed justice.

Republicans had hoped the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions would reopen its case against Lerner. But officials told members of Congress last month they would not charge Lerner, saying “reopening the criminal investigation would not be appropriate based on the available evidence.”

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Twitter Toughens Abuse Rules – and now has to Enforce Them

Twitter is enacting new policies around hate, abuse and ads, but creating new rules is only half the battle – the easy half.

The bigger problem is enforcement, and there the company has had some high-profile bungles recently. That includes its much-criticized suspension of actress Rose McGowan while she was speaking out against Harvey Weinstein, and the company’s ban, later reversed, of a controversial ad by a Republican Senate candidate.

 

The twists and turns suggest that Twitter doesn’t always communicate the intent of its rules to the people enforcing them. The company says it will be clearer about these policies and decisions in the future.

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