Category Archives: News

worldwide news

Pompeo: US Won’t Send Any Americans to Russia for Questioning

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States will not send Americans to Russia for questioning. Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to let U.S. investigators question officials in Moscow about Russia’s interference in U.S. 2016 elections if Russian investigators are allowed to question American officials. U.S. President Donald Trump called Putin’s proposal an “incredible offer.” But in an interview with VOA on Thursday, Pompeo rejected the idea. Zlatica Hoke reports.

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Pompeo: US Won’t Send Any Americans to Russia for Questioning

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States will not send Americans to Russia for questioning. Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to let U.S. investigators question officials in Moscow about Russia’s interference in U.S. 2016 elections if Russian investigators are allowed to question American officials. U.S. President Donald Trump called Putin’s proposal an “incredible offer.” But in an interview with VOA on Thursday, Pompeo rejected the idea. Zlatica Hoke reports.

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China Boosts Liquidity as Trade War Threatens Economy

Chinese policymakers are pumping more liquidity into the financial system and channeling credit to small- and medium-sized firms, and Beijing looks set to further loosen monetary conditions to mitigate threats to growth from a heated Sino-U.S. trade war.

The world’s second-biggest economy has started to lose momentum this year as a government campaign to reduce a dangerous build-up of debt has lifted borrowing costs, hitting factory output, business investment and the property sector.

As an intensifying trade conflict raises risks to exporters and overall growth, many economists expect the central bank to further reduce reserve requirements in the coming months, on top of the three reductions made so far this year.

Benchmark rate unchanged

However, few see a cut in the benchmark policy rate this year, as authorities walk a fine line between keeping liquidity conditions supportive and preventing any destabilizing capital outflows that could put the skids on a fragile yuan currency.

On Wednesday, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) plans to introduce incentives that will boost the liquidity of commercial banks.

These are aimed at encouraging banks to expand lending and increase their investment in bonds issued by corporations and other entities, such as local government financing vehicles (LGFVs).

The PBOC has also been ensuring ample liquidity by allowing commercial banks to tap its Medium-Term Loan Facility (MLF), especially lenders that have invested in bonds rated AA+ and below, the source said.

The improved cash conditions have been reflected in reduced short-term borrowing costs for banks, with the country’s key seven-day money rate at 2.6409 percent Thursday, 37 basis points lower than recent highs at the end of June.

Economy expansion slows

The combination of lower interbank rates and the push to boost bank support should help to ease financing pressures for weaker firms, analysts said.

“This should spell good news for lower-grade bond markets which have been suffering from a flight to quality-grade bonds, and some firms have subsequently found access to liquidity difficult,” analysts at Everbright Sun Hung Kai said in a note.

China’s economy expanded a slower-than-expected 6.7 percent in the second quarter, and June factory output growth weakened to a two-year low as the trade dispute with the United States intensified.

To be sure, markets don’t expect aggressive policy loosening, given Beijing’s broad deleveraging pledge and fears that doing so could hit the yuan and trigger a spike in capital outflows.

Trade war worries have already weighed on the yuan, which hit a one-year low on Thursday.

Focus on small, medium businesses

A key focus is on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which account for 80 percent of all jobs in China, and have suffered from rising borrowing costs and a shrinking credit pool amid Beijing’s three-year-long crackdown on off-balance sheet financing and a corporate debt build-up.

A trader at a state-run copper smelter in southern China told Reuters his firm has resorted to selling inventory to raise cash in light of the tougher financing conditions.

“Banks give, but the cost has gone up,” said the trader, who declined to be identified as he was not authorized to comment on his firm’s finances.

While the PBOC did not respond to faxed questions about its plans, a Shanghai-based trader at an Asian bank said the bond market had seen a notable pick-up in the volume of trade of LGFV debt.

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China Boosts Liquidity as Trade War Threatens Economy

Chinese policymakers are pumping more liquidity into the financial system and channeling credit to small- and medium-sized firms, and Beijing looks set to further loosen monetary conditions to mitigate threats to growth from a heated Sino-U.S. trade war.

The world’s second-biggest economy has started to lose momentum this year as a government campaign to reduce a dangerous build-up of debt has lifted borrowing costs, hitting factory output, business investment and the property sector.

As an intensifying trade conflict raises risks to exporters and overall growth, many economists expect the central bank to further reduce reserve requirements in the coming months, on top of the three reductions made so far this year.

Benchmark rate unchanged

However, few see a cut in the benchmark policy rate this year, as authorities walk a fine line between keeping liquidity conditions supportive and preventing any destabilizing capital outflows that could put the skids on a fragile yuan currency.

On Wednesday, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) plans to introduce incentives that will boost the liquidity of commercial banks.

These are aimed at encouraging banks to expand lending and increase their investment in bonds issued by corporations and other entities, such as local government financing vehicles (LGFVs).

The PBOC has also been ensuring ample liquidity by allowing commercial banks to tap its Medium-Term Loan Facility (MLF), especially lenders that have invested in bonds rated AA+ and below, the source said.

The improved cash conditions have been reflected in reduced short-term borrowing costs for banks, with the country’s key seven-day money rate at 2.6409 percent Thursday, 37 basis points lower than recent highs at the end of June.

Economy expansion slows

The combination of lower interbank rates and the push to boost bank support should help to ease financing pressures for weaker firms, analysts said.

“This should spell good news for lower-grade bond markets which have been suffering from a flight to quality-grade bonds, and some firms have subsequently found access to liquidity difficult,” analysts at Everbright Sun Hung Kai said in a note.

China’s economy expanded a slower-than-expected 6.7 percent in the second quarter, and June factory output growth weakened to a two-year low as the trade dispute with the United States intensified.

To be sure, markets don’t expect aggressive policy loosening, given Beijing’s broad deleveraging pledge and fears that doing so could hit the yuan and trigger a spike in capital outflows.

Trade war worries have already weighed on the yuan, which hit a one-year low on Thursday.

Focus on small, medium businesses

A key focus is on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which account for 80 percent of all jobs in China, and have suffered from rising borrowing costs and a shrinking credit pool amid Beijing’s three-year-long crackdown on off-balance sheet financing and a corporate debt build-up.

A trader at a state-run copper smelter in southern China told Reuters his firm has resorted to selling inventory to raise cash in light of the tougher financing conditions.

“Banks give, but the cost has gone up,” said the trader, who declined to be identified as he was not authorized to comment on his firm’s finances.

While the PBOC did not respond to faxed questions about its plans, a Shanghai-based trader at an Asian bank said the bond market had seen a notable pick-up in the volume of trade of LGFV debt.

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Rosenstein Defends Charging Foreign Agents US Can’t Arrest

The top law enforcement official overseeing the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election is defending the prosecution of foreign agents who may never see the inside of a U.S. courtroom.

Speaking Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also said the Justice Department will notify the U.S. public when it identifies efforts by foreign government to target U.S. politics. Rosenstein unveiled a report identifying the major cyber threats that the U.S. faces.

“Exposing schemes to the public is an important way to neutralize them,” he said. “The American people have a right to know if foreign governments are targeting them with propaganda.”

He offered a rebuttal to criticism that charging foreign agents involved in cyber-attacks or covert campaigns to sow dissent is futile if they are unlikely to be extradited.

“That is a shortsighted view,” he said.

Indictments as deterrent

The debate has been sparked by the probe of special counsel Robert Mueller, who has indicted more than two dozen Russian nationals on charges related to Russia’s meddling in the election.

Rosenstein said such indictments can act as a deterrent.

“People who thought they were safely under the protection of foreign governments when they committed crimes against America sometimes later find themselves in federal prisons,” he said.

He added that at a minimum, the indictments impede the suspects from traveling to other countries that might extradite them. He said revealing the charges also serves to air the allegations to the U.S. public, bolstering confidence in the justice system.

More active approach

Rosenstein signaled a more active approach by the Justice Department to counter foreign influence and cyber operations. The report outlines how the department will work to expose the foreign efforts without damaging counter-intelligence efforts or wading into U.S. politics.

“The challenge calls for the application of neutral principles,” he said.

More broadly, the report identifies six categories of cyber threats and current efforts to counter them.

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Rosenstein Defends Charging Foreign Agents US Can’t Arrest

The top law enforcement official overseeing the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election is defending the prosecution of foreign agents who may never see the inside of a U.S. courtroom.

Speaking Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also said the Justice Department will notify the U.S. public when it identifies efforts by foreign government to target U.S. politics. Rosenstein unveiled a report identifying the major cyber threats that the U.S. faces.

“Exposing schemes to the public is an important way to neutralize them,” he said. “The American people have a right to know if foreign governments are targeting them with propaganda.”

He offered a rebuttal to criticism that charging foreign agents involved in cyber-attacks or covert campaigns to sow dissent is futile if they are unlikely to be extradited.

“That is a shortsighted view,” he said.

Indictments as deterrent

The debate has been sparked by the probe of special counsel Robert Mueller, who has indicted more than two dozen Russian nationals on charges related to Russia’s meddling in the election.

Rosenstein said such indictments can act as a deterrent.

“People who thought they were safely under the protection of foreign governments when they committed crimes against America sometimes later find themselves in federal prisons,” he said.

He added that at a minimum, the indictments impede the suspects from traveling to other countries that might extradite them. He said revealing the charges also serves to air the allegations to the U.S. public, bolstering confidence in the justice system.

More active approach

Rosenstein signaled a more active approach by the Justice Department to counter foreign influence and cyber operations. The report outlines how the department will work to expose the foreign efforts without damaging counter-intelligence efforts or wading into U.S. politics.

“The challenge calls for the application of neutral principles,” he said.

More broadly, the report identifies six categories of cyber threats and current efforts to counter them.

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Cyberattacks on 2018 US Political Campaigns Already Underway

Hackers targeted the campaigns of at least three candidates running for Congress in the upcoming 2018 U.S. elections, but the attacks were detected and thwarted, a Microsoft executive said Thursday.

The attempted attacks tried to use a fake Microsoft domain as a landing page for phishing attacks, said Tom Burt, Microsoft vice president for customer security and trust. He refused to name which candidates were targeted, citing privacy concerns.

“They were all people who, because of their positions, might have been interesting targets from an espionage standpoint, as well as an election disruption standpoint,” Burt told an audience at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.

He also did not identify the source of the phishing attacks, though the tactic was similar to those used by Russian operatives to target the Republican and Democratic parties during their presidential nominating conventions in 2016.

Burt said Microsoft coordinated with the U.S. government and was able to take down the fake domains. He also said none of the campaign staffers targeted by the phishing attacks were infected.

​More attacks are coming

Thursday’s revelation came in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s news conference Monday in Helsinki, Finland, after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump sided with Putin, supporting the Russian leader’s assertions that his country did not meddle with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Trump’s comments, which directly contradicted the findings of the U.S. intelligence community, have drawn harsh criticism from politicians, and former diplomatic and intelligence officials.

Current intelligence and security officials have warned repeatedly that not only was Russia responsible for meddling in the 2016 election, but that more attacks — both in the form of hacks and in the form of more subtle information operations — are coming.

Russia taking lead

“What we assessed and reassessed and have carefully gone over still stands,” U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said of Russia’s efforts.

“It’s undeniable that the Russians are taking the lead on this,” Coats added, speaking during an appearance at the same security forum. “They are the ones who are trying to undermine our basic values, divide us with our allies.”

But U.S. and private sector officials say that, at least to this point, Russian efforts to influence the 2018 elections appear to be somewhat subdued.

“We’re not seeing the targeting of the actual state and local election systems that we saw in 2016 right now,” said Jeanette Manfra, the Department of Homeland Security’s assistant secretary for cybersecurity.

New tools working

For now, some leading private sector technology and social media companies agree.

Facebook, which Russia used to run ads and false news stories as part of its 2016 influence campaign, thinks some of that could be related to more awareness and crackdowns on the fake accounts Russian-linked operatives had been using.

“The new tools that would identify and remove fake accounts like the IRA [Russia’s Internet Research Agency] was running, combined with the new requirements for transparency in advertising, are such that I think we’re not seeing that same conduct,” Monika Bickert, head of Facebook’s product policy and counterterrorism, said.

“But we are watching for that activity,” Bickert said.

Microsoft’s Burt is also cautious, despite his experts “not seeing the same level of activity by the Russian activity groups” as they did two years ago.

“It doesn’t mean we’re not going to see it,” he said. “There’s a lot of time left.”

“I think we should all be prepared, given that capability and will, that they’ll do it again,” U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen warned Thursday. “We would be foolish to think they’re not.”

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Cyberattacks on 2018 US Political Campaigns Already Underway

Hackers targeted the campaigns of at least three candidates running for Congress in the upcoming 2018 U.S. elections, but the attacks were detected and thwarted, a Microsoft executive said Thursday.

The attempted attacks tried to use a fake Microsoft domain as a landing page for phishing attacks, said Tom Burt, Microsoft vice president for customer security and trust. He refused to name which candidates were targeted, citing privacy concerns.

“They were all people who, because of their positions, might have been interesting targets from an espionage standpoint, as well as an election disruption standpoint,” Burt told an audience at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.

He also did not identify the source of the phishing attacks, though the tactic was similar to those used by Russian operatives to target the Republican and Democratic parties during their presidential nominating conventions in 2016.

Burt said Microsoft coordinated with the U.S. government and was able to take down the fake domains. He also said none of the campaign staffers targeted by the phishing attacks were infected.

​More attacks are coming

Thursday’s revelation came in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s news conference Monday in Helsinki, Finland, after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump sided with Putin, supporting the Russian leader’s assertions that his country did not meddle with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Trump’s comments, which directly contradicted the findings of the U.S. intelligence community, have drawn harsh criticism from politicians, and former diplomatic and intelligence officials.

Current intelligence and security officials have warned repeatedly that not only was Russia responsible for meddling in the 2016 election, but that more attacks — both in the form of hacks and in the form of more subtle information operations — are coming.

Russia taking lead

“What we assessed and reassessed and have carefully gone over still stands,” U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said of Russia’s efforts.

“It’s undeniable that the Russians are taking the lead on this,” Coats added, speaking during an appearance at the same security forum. “They are the ones who are trying to undermine our basic values, divide us with our allies.”

But U.S. and private sector officials say that, at least to this point, Russian efforts to influence the 2018 elections appear to be somewhat subdued.

“We’re not seeing the targeting of the actual state and local election systems that we saw in 2016 right now,” said Jeanette Manfra, the Department of Homeland Security’s assistant secretary for cybersecurity.

New tools working

For now, some leading private sector technology and social media companies agree.

Facebook, which Russia used to run ads and false news stories as part of its 2016 influence campaign, thinks some of that could be related to more awareness and crackdowns on the fake accounts Russian-linked operatives had been using.

“The new tools that would identify and remove fake accounts like the IRA [Russia’s Internet Research Agency] was running, combined with the new requirements for transparency in advertising, are such that I think we’re not seeing that same conduct,” Monika Bickert, head of Facebook’s product policy and counterterrorism, said.

“But we are watching for that activity,” Bickert said.

Microsoft’s Burt is also cautious, despite his experts “not seeing the same level of activity by the Russian activity groups” as they did two years ago.

“It doesn’t mean we’re not going to see it,” he said. “There’s a lot of time left.”

“I think we should all be prepared, given that capability and will, that they’ll do it again,” U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen warned Thursday. “We would be foolish to think they’re not.”

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