Category Archives: News

worldwide news

Trump: House Report Proves ‘No Collusion’

U.S. President Donald Trump has commended the release of a report by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee, saying it proves there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. 

Questioned about it during a joint news conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump said, “We were honored. It was a great report. No collusion, which I knew anyway.”

He called the investigation “a witch hunt,” echoing a phrase he had tweeted earlier that morning, and added: “If we can get along with Russia, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. But there has been nobody tougher on Russia than me.” 

Trump was questioned about the 243-page report released Friday by the House Intelligence Committee. The report contained a large number of redactions and a conclusion that while the meddling by Russia was real, collusion with the Trump campaign was not. 

It called contacts between Russian officials and campaign aides “ill-advised” and said at least one person might have given answers in legal testimony that were “incomplete.”

The Republicans on the committee said their report was based on interviews with 73 people and a review of more than 300,000 documents.

But the committee’s ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff of California, told reporters that the report exemplified “the [Republican] majority’s fundamentally flawed approach to the investigation and the superficial and political nature of its conclusions.”

The report criticized intelligence officials, saying they leaked information before and after the election that installed Trump as president. It pointed out reports published by The Washington Post, The New York Times, NBC and CNN as examples of dangerous leaks. 

Much of the information in the section on leaks was redacted, a fact that gave rise to criticism of the report itself. 

Representative Devin Nunes, the California Republican who is chairman of the committee, told reporters that he hoped a more transparent version of the report could be released later. He indicated the redactions were not the doing of the committee, but instead of federal agencies vetting the report. He said the committee “will convey our objections to the appropriate agencies and looks forward to publishing a less redacted version in the near future.”

A Democratic rebuttal of the report called its conclusions “misleading and unsupported by the facts and the investigative record.” It also faulted the congressional investigators for failing to interview key witnesses and issue subpoenas to get crucial information. Schiff accused the Republicans on the committee of “adopting the role of defense counsel for key investigation witnesses.”

The report included the caveat that other investigations, including that of special counsel Robert Mueller, might have access to facts that the committee could not obtain. In addition to the House Intelligence Committee and Mueller’s probe, the Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating the matter.

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Former Vermont Governor Who Presided Over Liberal Swing Dies

Former Democratic Gov. Philip Hoff, who’s credited with starting Vermont’s transition from one of the most Republican-entrenched states in the country to one of the most liberal, has died. He was 93.

Hoff, who became the first Democrat elected governor of Vermont in more than 100 years in 1962, died on Thursday, according to The Residence at Shelburne Bay, where he had been living.

“Phil Hoff forever changed the state of Vermont,” said Steve Terry, a former journalist who helped write a biography titled “Philip Hoff: How Red Turned Blue in the Green Mountain State.” ”His influence in the 1960s has molded and created the Vermont many of us know today.”

During his six years in office, Hoff helped start a process that evolved into the state’s environmental movement. He focused on reducing pollution and cleaning up the state’s rivers and streams.

He also emphasized education reform and helped revamp the state’s judicial system.

Hoff’s policies helped refocus state government on meeting the needs of residents, a philosophy embraced by his Republican successor, Deane C. Davis.

The office has alternated between Democratic and Republican governors since Hoff was elected.

At the mid-point of the 20th century, Vermont remained one of the most Republican states in the country. The state was dominated by a couple of political families, but Hoff shook up the staid Vermont political structure.

He became governor when the state was under a federal court mandate to reapportion the state House, where each of the state’s 241 cities and towns were represented by a single person, no matter the community’s population.

“The people of Vermont have clearly said that they don’t want to continue with the old ways, and if we fail to respond to forces at work in our society, we face a bleak future,” Hoff said at his 1963 inaugural address.

“I loved it any time he came into the office because there was a sense of vibrancy and life,” said U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, who joined Hoff’s Burlington law firm after graduating from law school in 1964. Two years later, Hoff appointed Leahy as Chittenden County state’s attorney, a post he held for eight years, until his 1974 election to the U.S. Senate.

“I’d see the governor all the time,” Leahy said. “I was the star-struck young lawyer in his office. I’d see people staying in the halls, just waiting to say hi to him. We’d have meetings with him. It was exciting.”

Philip Henderson Hoff was born on June 29, 1924, in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. He took time off from Williams College to serve in the Navy during World War II and returned to Williams after the war. He graduated and went on to law school at Cornell University before moving to Burlington in 1951.

Hoff first ran for office in 1958 for a seat on the Burlington Board of Aldermen. He was defeated.

Two years later, he was elected to the Vermont House after running what Terry called “a minimalist campaign.” He had no campaign literature of his own and instead handed out brochures promoting the presidential candidacy of U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

After one term in the Legislature, Hoff won the race for governor in 1962 after he campaigned on the need for change and to end 100 years of one-party rule.

Hoff was briefly considered as a vice presidential candidate in 1968 but withdrew his name when it became clear his friend, Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine, was being considered. Hoff ran for the U.S. Senate in 1970, but lost to the incumbent GOP Sen. Winston Prouty.

Hoff returned to the Legislature in 1982 after being elected to the state Senate. He served three, two-year terms.

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The Store Where Everything Is Made in America

From T-shirts, socks and toys to knives and lanterns, a store in upstate New York takes pride in only selling goods that are made in America. Olga Loginova from VOA’s Russian service talked to the store owner about his business, which emerged after the 2008 financial crisis.

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The Store Where Everything Is Made in America

From T-shirts, socks and toys to knives and lanterns, a store in upstate New York takes pride in only selling goods that are made in America. Olga Loginova from VOA’s Russian service talked to the store owner about his business, which emerged after the 2008 financial crisis.

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New Secretary of State Pompeo Gets Right To Work

Newly sworn in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is already on his first trip as the chief U.S. diplomat, headed first to a NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, and then to the Middle East. He boarded a plane just a couple of hours after his confirmation vote in the Senate. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine has more from Washington.

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Consumers Close Wallets, Trim US 1st Quarter Growth

The U.S. economy likely slowed in the first quarter as growth in consumer spending braked sharply, but the setback is expected to be temporary against the backdrop of a tightening labor market and large fiscal stimulus.

Gross domestic product probably increased at a 2.0 percent annual rate, according to a Reuters survey of economists, also held back by a moderation in business spending on equipment as well as a widening of the trade deficit and decline in investment in homebuilding.

Those factors likely offset an increase in inventories. The economy grew at a 2.9 percent pace in the fourth quarter. The government will publish its snapshot of first-quarter GDP Friday at 8:30 a.m. 

Don’t lose sleep

The anticipated tepid first-quarter growth will, however, probably not be a true reflection of the economy, despite the expected weakness in consumer spending. First-quarter GDP tends to be soft because of a seasonal quirk. The labor market is near full employment and both business and consumer confidence are strong.

“I would not lose sleep over first-quarter GDP, there is the residual seasonality issue,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “Overall the economy is doing very well and will continue to do well this year and into 2019.”

Economists expect growth will accelerate in the second quarter as households start to feel the impact of the Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion income tax package on their paychecks. Lower corporate and individual tax rates as well as increased government spending will likely lift annual economic growth to the administration’s 3 percent target, despite the weak start to the year.

Federal Reserve officials are likely to shrug off weak first-quarter growth. The U.S. central bank raised interest rates last month in a nod to the strong labor market and economy, and forecast at least two rate hikes this year.

Minutes of the March 20-21 meeting published earlier this month showed policymakers “expected that the first-quarter softness would be transitory,” citing “residual seasonality in the data, and more generally to strong economic fundamentals.”

Consumer spending lackluster

Economists estimate that growth in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, braked to below a 1.5 percent rate in the first quarter. That would be the slowest pace in nearly five years and follows the fourth quarter’s robust 4.0 percent growth rate.

Consumer spending in the last quarter was likely held back by delayed tax refunds and impact of tax cuts. Rebuilding and clean-up efforts following hurricanes late last year probably pulled forward spending into the fourth quarter.

“Our new consumer survey found that 37 percent of consumers thought they didn’t get any extra income from the tax cut or did not know what to do with it,” said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York. “It is possible this means that there is a lag in the consumer response to tax cuts.”

Business spending

Business spending on equipment is forecast to have slowed after double-digit growth in the second half of 2017. The expected cooling in equipment investment partly reflects a fading boost from a recovery in commodity prices. Economists expect a marginal impact on business spending on equipment from rising interest rates and more expensive raw materials.

“While we do not expect rising rates to crush equipment spending, a slowdown nevertheless appears in store,” said Sarah House, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Higher interest rates will hurt at the margin.”

Investment in homebuilding is forecast to have declined in the first quarter after rebounding in the October-December period. Government spending probably contracted after two straight quarterly increases. Spending is, however, expected to rebound in the second quarter after the U.S. Congress recently approved more government spending.

Trade was likely a drag on GDP growth for a second straight quarter after royalties and broadcast license fees related to the Winter Olympics boosted imports.

With consumer spending slowing, inventories probably accumulated in the first quarter. Inventory investment is expected to have contributed to GDP growth after subtracting 0.53 percentage point in the fourth quarter.

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Consumers Close Wallets, Trim US 1st Quarter Growth

The U.S. economy likely slowed in the first quarter as growth in consumer spending braked sharply, but the setback is expected to be temporary against the backdrop of a tightening labor market and large fiscal stimulus.

Gross domestic product probably increased at a 2.0 percent annual rate, according to a Reuters survey of economists, also held back by a moderation in business spending on equipment as well as a widening of the trade deficit and decline in investment in homebuilding.

Those factors likely offset an increase in inventories. The economy grew at a 2.9 percent pace in the fourth quarter. The government will publish its snapshot of first-quarter GDP Friday at 8:30 a.m. 

Don’t lose sleep

The anticipated tepid first-quarter growth will, however, probably not be a true reflection of the economy, despite the expected weakness in consumer spending. First-quarter GDP tends to be soft because of a seasonal quirk. The labor market is near full employment and both business and consumer confidence are strong.

“I would not lose sleep over first-quarter GDP, there is the residual seasonality issue,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “Overall the economy is doing very well and will continue to do well this year and into 2019.”

Economists expect growth will accelerate in the second quarter as households start to feel the impact of the Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion income tax package on their paychecks. Lower corporate and individual tax rates as well as increased government spending will likely lift annual economic growth to the administration’s 3 percent target, despite the weak start to the year.

Federal Reserve officials are likely to shrug off weak first-quarter growth. The U.S. central bank raised interest rates last month in a nod to the strong labor market and economy, and forecast at least two rate hikes this year.

Minutes of the March 20-21 meeting published earlier this month showed policymakers “expected that the first-quarter softness would be transitory,” citing “residual seasonality in the data, and more generally to strong economic fundamentals.”

Consumer spending lackluster

Economists estimate that growth in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, braked to below a 1.5 percent rate in the first quarter. That would be the slowest pace in nearly five years and follows the fourth quarter’s robust 4.0 percent growth rate.

Consumer spending in the last quarter was likely held back by delayed tax refunds and impact of tax cuts. Rebuilding and clean-up efforts following hurricanes late last year probably pulled forward spending into the fourth quarter.

“Our new consumer survey found that 37 percent of consumers thought they didn’t get any extra income from the tax cut or did not know what to do with it,” said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York. “It is possible this means that there is a lag in the consumer response to tax cuts.”

Business spending

Business spending on equipment is forecast to have slowed after double-digit growth in the second half of 2017. The expected cooling in equipment investment partly reflects a fading boost from a recovery in commodity prices. Economists expect a marginal impact on business spending on equipment from rising interest rates and more expensive raw materials.

“While we do not expect rising rates to crush equipment spending, a slowdown nevertheless appears in store,” said Sarah House, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Higher interest rates will hurt at the margin.”

Investment in homebuilding is forecast to have declined in the first quarter after rebounding in the October-December period. Government spending probably contracted after two straight quarterly increases. Spending is, however, expected to rebound in the second quarter after the U.S. Congress recently approved more government spending.

Trade was likely a drag on GDP growth for a second straight quarter after royalties and broadcast license fees related to the Winter Olympics boosted imports.

With consumer spending slowing, inventories probably accumulated in the first quarter. Inventory investment is expected to have contributed to GDP growth after subtracting 0.53 percentage point in the fourth quarter.

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Amazon Delivers Profits, a $20 Prime Hike, NFL Games

Amazon.com Inc. more than doubled its profit Thursday and predicted strong spring results as the world’s biggest online retailer raised the price for U.S. Prime subscribers, added U.S. football games and touted its cloud services for business.

The results showed the broad strength of the company, which has been expanding far beyond shipping packages, the business that has drawn the ire of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The forecast beat expectations on Wall Street, sending shares up 7 percent to a new record in afterhours trade and adding $8 billion to the net worth of Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive and largest shareholder.

Seattle-based Amazon is winning business from older, big box rivals by delivering virtually any product to customers at a low cost, and at times faster than it takes to buy goods from a physical store. It is expanding across industries, too, striking a $130 million deal to stream Thursday night games for the U.S. National Football League online and working to ship groceries to doorsteps from Whole Foods stores nationwide.

Sales jumped 43 percent to $51.0 billion in the quarter, topping estimates of $49.8 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.

Prime now $119

Prime, Amazon’s loyalty club that includes fast shipping, video streaming and other benefits, has been key to Amazon’s strategy. Its more than 100 million members globally spend above average on Amazon.

The company announced Thursday it will increase the yearly price of Prime to $119 from $99 for U.S. members this spring.

The fee hike is expected to add a windfall to Amazon’s subscription revenue, already up 60 percent in the first quarter at $3.1 billion.

“We do feel it’s still the best deal in retail,” Brian Olsavsky, Amazon’s chief financial officer, said on a call with analysts. He said the number of items Prime members can get within two days had grown fivefold since the last price increase four years ago.

Advertising and the cloud

Despite the surge in shopping, Olsavsky gave credit for Amazon’s $1.6 billion profit last quarter to two younger businesses: advertising and Amazon Web Services.

Revenue from third-party sellers paying to promote their products on Amazon.com was an unusually large bright spot during the quarter, with sales in the category, which includes some other items, growing 139 percent to $2.03 billion. This included $560 million from an accounting change.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), which handles data and computing for large enterprises in the cloud, won new business and saw its profit margin expand. It posted a 49 percent rise in sales from a year earlier to $5.44 billion, beating estimates.

Amazon remains the biggest in the space by revenue, and its stock trades at a significant premium to cloud-computing rival Microsoft Corp.

Amazon’s shares have also outperformed the S&P 500, rising 30 percent this year as of Thursday’s market close, compared with the S&P’s less than 1 percent decline.

More workers, spending

Notorious for running on a low profit margin, Amazon has still reaped rewards for shareholders as it has bet on new services like voice-controlled computing and has expanded across continents and industries.

Global headcount was up 60 percent from a year earlier at 563,100 full-time and part-time employees, thanks to a hiring spree and an influx of workers from Whole Foods Market.

The company plans to increase its video content spending this year, Amazon’s Olsavsky said, with a prequel to “The Lord of the Rings” in the works. The third quarter will also see extra spending to prepare for the busy holiday season.

Amazon is working with JPMorgan Chase & Co and Berkshire Hathaway Inc to determine how to cut health costs for hundreds of thousands of their employees.

And it is expanding its retail footprint outside the United States, particularly in India. Amazon’s international operating loss grew 29 percent to $622 million in the first quarter.

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Federal Agency Loses Track of 1,474 Migrant Children

The Department of Health and Human Services lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children it placed with sponsors in the United States, an agency official told a Senate subcommittee Thursday.

The children were taken into government care after they showed up alone at the Southwest border. Most of the children are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and were fleeing drug cartels, gang violence and domestic abuse.

The agency learned the 1,475 children could not be found after making follow-up calls to check on their safety, the committee was told. 

The news has raised concern that the children could fall into the hands of human traffickers or be used as laborers by people posing as relatives. 

“You are the worst foster parents in the world. You don’t even know where they are,” said Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. “We are failing. I don’t think there is any doubt about it. And when we fail kids, that makes me angry.”

Since the dramatic surge of border crossings in 2013, the federal government has placed more than 180,000 unaccompanied minors with parents or other adult sponsors who are expected to care for the children and help them attend school while they seek legal status in immigration court. 

An AP investigation in 2016 found that more than two dozen of those children had been sent to homes where they were sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work for little or no pay. Since then, the Department Health and Human Services has boosted outreach to at-risk children deemed to need extra protection, and last year offered post-placement services to about one-third of unaccompanied minors. 

But advocates say it is hard to know how many minors may be in dangerous conditions, in part because some disappear before social workers can follow up with them, and they never show up in court. 

Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio gave HHS and the Department of Homeland Security until Monday to deliver a time frame for improving monitoring.

“These kids, regardless of their immigration status, deserve to be treated properly, not abused or trafficked,” said Portman, who chairs the subcommittee. “This is all about accountability.”

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