My ‘Breaking News Today’ Podcast Surpasses More Than a Half Million Downloads - That’s in the news Tuesday August 20, 2019

20Aug

Russian officials on Tuesday accused the United States of stoking tensions with the testing of a ground-launched cruise missile, a weapon previously banned under a nuclear arms treaty that was abandoned this month after 31 years. The U.S. military conducted the test Monday from San Nicolas Island, Calif., using a ground mobile launcher to hit a target more than 310 miles away. The missile had a conventional warhead. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov called the testing "regrettable." He said, "The United States has evidently set the course for fomenting military tensions." Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated Monday that Russia has a moratorium on deploying land-based intermediate-range systems -- unless the United States deploys such a system. The Kremlin leader said three days after the U.S. withdrawal, "all our actions will be of a reactive, tit-for-tat nature." The treaty, which was agreed to in late 1987 and took effect in mid-1988, banned all land-based cruise missiles with a range of between 310 miles and 3,417 miles.

 

 

 

Italy’s prime minister announced his resignation on Tuesday as he made a blistering attack on his own interior minister, Matteo Salvini, accusing him of sinking the ruling coalition and endangering the economy for personal and political gain. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, addressing parliament after it was recalled from its summer recess to decide the future of the 14-month-old government, accused League party chief Salvini of seeking to cash in on his rising popularity. With a stone-faced Salvini sitting by his side, Conte told a packed Senate,“His decisions pose serious risks for this country.” He described the actions of Salvini, who declared the coalition unworkable 12 days ago and called for snap elections, as recklessness “liable to tip the country into a spiral of political uncertainty and financial instability." Financial markets rallied on Conte’s resignation, seemingly hopeful that snap polls could be avoided amid reports the ruling 5-Star Movement might seek an alliance with the center-left opposition Democratic Party.

 

 

 

Twitter and Facebook said that China had used their social media platforms to spread disinformation against Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters. Twitter suspended 936 accounts suspected of links to the effort to "sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political protest movement on the ground." Twitter said in a blog post that it had evidence pointing to a "coordinated state-backed effort," and it announced it would no longer accept advertising from state-controlled news outlets. Facebook said later it was acting on a tip from Twitter. The moves came following the latest mass protest last weekend in which more than a million people protested against the Chinese government, which regained control of the former British colony in 1997. Sunday's peaceful march was the eleventh week of what have been often violent demonstrations.

 

 

 

Meanwhile Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday she hoped the peaceful weekend anti-government protest was the start of efforts to restore calm and that talks with non-violent protesters would provide “a way out” for the Chinese-ruled city. Anger erupted in June over a now-suspended bill that would allow criminal suspects in the former British colony to be extradited to mainland China for trial. The protests have prompted sharp reactions from Beijing, which has accused foreign countries, including the United States, of fomenting unrest in the territory. China has also sent clear warning that forceful intervention is possible, with paramilitary forces holding drills in neighboring Shenzhen. The protests are exacting a toll on the city’s economy and tourism, with the Asian financial hub on the verge of its first recession in a decade.

 

 

 

China could overwhelm the U.S. military in Asia within "hours," according to a new study by the United States Study Center, a think tank at the University of Sydney in Australia. According to the report, "China has deployed a formidable array of precision missiles and other counter-intervention systems to undercut America's military primacy." It went on to say China's ability to overwhelm U.S. bases in the region quickly could leave America struggling to defend allies, leaving its defense strategy in the region "in the throes of an unprecedented crisis." China's Foreign Ministry said it had not seen the think tank's report but emphasized that its "national defense policy is defensive in nature."

 

 

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States has not returned to the negotiation table with North Korea as quickly as it had hoped, but he added that Washington knew there would be ‘bumps on the road’ in the denuclearization talks. Speaking in an interview with CBS Tuesday, Pompeo said Washington was concerned about North Korea’s firing of short-range missiles. The latest of the missile tests by North Korea was carried out on Friday as Pyongyang fired two more short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast. The launches have complicated attempts to restart talks between U.S. and North Korean negotiators over the future of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Those denuclearization talks have been stalled despite a commitment to revive them that was made at a June 30 meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He added that Stephen Biegun, U.S. special envoy for North Korea, was in the region on Tuesday and Wednesday, but did not elaborate on the details of his trip. The State Department said last week that Biegun would travel to Japan and Seoul this week.

 

 

 

Attorney General William Barr said he was replacing the acting head of the Bureau of Prisons, Hugh Hurwitz, in the wake of the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein at a federal jail in Manhattan earlier this month. Barr had promised accountability for what he called "serious irregularities" at the facility. He said he was angry and "appalled" when he learned about the suicide, and the failure of guards to check on Epstein, who had recently been taken off suicide watch in the hours before he was found dead. Guards are supposed to check on detainees every 30 minutes in the special housing unit Epstein was in. Hurwitz will return to his former assistant director position, and Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, a former leader of the bureau, will take charge.

 

 

 

New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill on Monday fired officer Daniel Pantaleo for violating department policy by putting Eric Garner in a prohibited chokehold in 2014. Garner had an asthma attack and died. His last words, "I can't breathe," became a refrain repeated in the Black Lives Matter movement. O'Neill said it was "clear Daniel Pantaleo can no longer serve as a New York City police officer." The decision came two weeks after a police administrative judge concluded that Pantaleo had violated the policy, and recommended his termination. The 2014 incident was caught on video. Garner's family and civil rights activists had long called for Pantaleo to be kicked off the force. Pantaleo's lawyer said his client would file a lawsuit to try and get reinstated.

 

 

 

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that the Trump administration would extend authorization for limited sales to Chinese technology giant Huawei for another three months. The limited delay was designed to help rural U.S. internet and wireless providers that use Huawei gear, giving them support for existing equipment while they prepare for the ban on doing business with Huawei. The Trump administration blacklisted Huawei in May over concerns that its equipment could be used by China for spying. An initial temporary reprieve would have expired Monday. Along with the extension, Ross announced the U.S. was adding another 46 Huawei affiliates to the blacklist. Huawei denies it poses a security risk, and said the extension "does not change the fact that Huawei has been treated unjustly."

 

 

 

Texas authorities say more than 20 local governments are facing a coordinated ransomware attack. The Texas Department of Information Resources said in a statement that it believes a single source is behind all 23 of the attacks. It didn’t name the affected agencies or provide details about the attacker’s demands. Cities around the country have been targeted by ransomware attacks in recent years, including Atlanta and Baltimore, where city officials refused a demand for $76 thousand in bitcoin to restore access to its computer network. Texas officials haven’t said whether any of the affected agencies have paid a ransom. The department’s statement says the FBI and other federal agencies are involved. Texas has now joined several other states that have been targeted by recent ransomware attacks -- including Maryland, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Kentucky -- and Europe. Some of the municipalities have opted to pay the ransom -- more than a combined $1 million -- in an effort to retrieve key files.

Gov’t Document Predicting 90 Day Economic Meltdown of Economy If UK Leaves EU Without a Deal - That’s in the news Monday August 19, 2019

19Aug

The United States has made secret contact with Venezuela’s socialist party boss as close allies of President Nicolás Maduro’s inner circle seek guarantees they won’t face prosecution for alleged abuses and crimes if they cede to growing demands to remove him. That's according to a senior Trump administration official who spoke with The Associated Press. Diosdado Cabello, who is considered the most-powerful man in Venezuela after Maduro, is among a handful of top Venezuelan officials who have secretly reached out to the U.S. to negotiate safety guarantees if they help topple Maduro. A second meeting is in the works but has not yet taken place. It’s not clear whether the talks have Maduro’s approval or not. Cabello, who is 56, has also been accused by U.S. officials of being behind massive corruption, drug trafficking and even death threats against a sitting U.S. senator. The administration official said that under no circumstances is the U.S. looking to prop up Cabello or pave the way for him to substitute Maduro. Instead, the goal of the outreach is to ratchet up pressure on the regime by contributing to the knife fight the U.S. believes is taking place behind the scenes among competing circles of power within the ruling party.

 

 

 

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an explosion at a wedding hall in Afghanistan that killed 63 people and injured more than 180 over the weekend. In an IS statement, it said one of its fighters blew himself up at a "large gathering" in the Afghan capital of Kabul, while others "detonated a parked explosives-laden vehicle" as emergency services arrived at the scene. Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack as "barbaric" and blamed the Taliban for "providing a platform to terrorists." The Taliban denied any involvement in the attack, also condemning it. The U.S. and the Taliban continue to hammer out a possible peace deal that will lead to troops leaving Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban agreeing not to allow the country to be used as a base for terrorist organizations. President Donald Trump said that the U.S. is "having very good discussions" with both the Afghan government and the Taliban on a peace plan to end America's longest running war. Trump said, "It can't be a laboratory for terror." The deal would include a U.S.-Taliban ceasefire, but so far no such truce between the Taliban and the Afghan military.

 

 

 

Organizers claimed that at least 1.7 million protesters turned out for a rally Sunday afternoon in Hong Kong in a massive show of force against unpopular government leaders and a police force they accuse of brutality. The Victoria Park location and neighboring streets looked like a sea of umbrellas despite the heavy rain. Sunday's demonstration marked the eleventh weekend in a row that protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong. The initial rally in early June came in response to a proposed extradition bill that would have make it easier to send criminal suspects to China for trial. Organizers said that the movement has evolved in response to abusive tactics by the Hong Kong police and the heavy influence of Beijing on their city's politics. The enormous turnout was seen by attendees as a positive sign compared to more extreme actions, such as an airport sit-in earlier in the week that grounded hundreds of flights and erupted into violence, which prompted Beijing to describe the protests as the "first signs of terrorism." Organizers plan to march again on August 31.

 

 

 

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Moscow will not deploy new missiles on the condition that the United States show similar restraint in Europe and Asia. The announcement comes after Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, a Cold War-era pact prohibiting ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of 310 to 3,400 miles. The U.S. decided to withdraw after accusing Russia of violating the agreement, which Moscow denies. President Vladimir Putin announced Moscow's exit from the treaty following Washington's move, but Shoigu said that doesn't mean that Russia plans on ramping up another arms race between the two countries. Shoigu told the Rossiya-24 TV channel, "Unless there are such systems in Europe [deployed by Washington], we won't do anything there."

 

 

 

An Iranian oil tanker detained in Gibraltar since July 4 left the British overseas territory on Sunday. Gibraltar authorities ordered the release of the tanker, the Grace 1, after receiving written assurances it would not deliver its oil to Syria, which would have violated European Union sanctions. The U.S. had made a last-minute effort to seize the vessel on the grounds that it was linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the U.S. has labeled a terrorist organization subject to U.S. sanctions, but Gibraltar said only E.U. sanctions, not American ones, were applicable in its jurisdiction. Iran has denied the tanker was ever headed to Syria.

 

 

 

A leaked dossier compiled by the United Kingdom's Cabinet Office predicted that the country will hit a three-month meltdown at its ports, a hard Irish border, and shortages of food and medicine if it leaves the European Union without a deal on Oct. 31. Without a withdrawal agreement, the document says, the U.K. will "be vulnerable to severe extended delays" for medical supplies and food, with rising prices also a possibility. A senior source said the document is "not Project Fear," but "the most realistic assessment of what the public face with no deal." U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has maintained that he wants to leave the EU with a deal, but he has demanded a new agreement without the Irish border backstop and is willing to leave without a deal, otherwise.

 

 

 

General Electric defended itself on Monday against fraud investigators who said last week the Boston-based conglomerate had failed to put aside money to cover $29 billion in potential insurance losses and had improperly counted profit from subsidiary Baker Hughes as its own. GE’s shares fell as much as 15% on Thursday after financial investigators Harry Markopolos and John McPherson published the 175-page report alleging fraud but GE shares recouped much of the decline on Friday. On Monday, GE shares were down 0.3% at $8.77 in late morning trading. Steve Winoker, head of investor relations at GE, said in an email, “Our future liabilities (on long-term care insurance) depend on variables that will play out over decades, not years, and are dictated by rigorous testing processes, sound actuarial analysis, and the application of regulatory and accounting rules” GE’s comments follow a report last week that alleged there was fraud in the company’s accounting. GE has disclosed that its accounting is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice.

 

 

 

The Trump administration is extending a ban on the use of U.S. passports for travel to North Korea for another year. The State Department said the ban will remain in place until Aug. 31, 2020, unless revoked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The ban was imposed in September 2017 by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and renewed in 2018. Tillerson took the unusual measure following the death of an American student, Otto Warmbier, who had been detained in North Korea. The State Department says it determined “there continues to be serious risk to United States nationals of arrest and long-term detention” for Americans traveling to North Korea, according to the notice that will be published in the Federal Register this week. The ban allows certain categories of American citizens such as aid workers or journalists to obtain a special validation passport good for one trip to North Korea. The move comes amid stalled diplomatic efforts to restart nuclear talks between North Korea and the U.S.

 

 

 

Counterfeit alcohol laced with methanol has killed 25 people in Costa Rica. The Ministry of Health said in a statement Monday that 59 people have been hospitalized by methanol poisoning. Authorities shut down 10 businesses and seized more than 55 thousand containers of liquor that contained the methanol, a colorless poison found in antifreeze. Bootleg alcohol is often branded to look like a legitimate product, then it ends up in bars and stores. Experts said that bootleggers disguise the fake liquor by hiding it among cases. Carnegie Mellon professor Sridhar Tayur told Business Insider instead of buying 100 cases of authentic alcohol, the criminals buy 95 cases and mix in five cases of bootleg alcohol to turn a nice profit. A recent report estimates that illegal alcohol made up 19 percent of total alcohol in Costa Rica. Symptoms of methanol poisoning include drowsiness, confusion, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, mania, coma, seizure, heart and respiratory failure and the inability to coordinate movement. The FBI is conducting tests to determine if the bootleg alcohol is related to the deaths of multiple Americans in the Dominican Republic in May.

 

 

 

Jack Whitaker, whose Hall of Fame broadcasting career ranged from the first Super Bowl to Secretariat’s Triple Crown to short essays from major sporting events, died Sunday morning of natural causes in his sleep in Devon, Pennsylvania. He was 95. Whitaker, a Philadelphia native who was wounded on Omaha Beach three days after the D-Day Invasion, began his broadcast career at WCAU-TV in Philadelphia and spent 22 years for CBS Sports. He worked for ABC from 1982 in the news and sports divisions, and was part of the network’s Olympics coverage in 1984 and 1988. Jim Nantz, the lead CBS Sports announcer, said in a statement, “I grew up watching him deliver contemplative and contextual prose with his famous short essays, bringing class and dignity to his industry." CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said Whitaker’s "unique perspective on sports ranging from horse racing to golf to NFL football was extraordinary." Whitaker was the only living play-by-play announcer from the first 21 Super Bowls.

Gov’t Document Predicting 90 Day Economic Meltdown of Economy If UK Leaves EU Without a Deal - That’s in the news Monday August 19, 2019

19Aug

The United States has made secret contact with Venezuela’s socialist party boss as close allies of President Nicolás Maduro’s inner circle seek guarantees they won’t face prosecution for alleged abuses and crimes if they cede to growing demands to remove him. That's according to a senior Trump administration official who spoke with The Associated Press. Diosdado Cabello, who is considered the most-powerful man in Venezuela after Maduro, is among a handful of top Venezuelan officials who have secretly reached out to the U.S. to negotiate safety guarantees if they help topple Maduro. A second meeting is in the works but has not yet taken place. It’s not clear whether the talks have Maduro’s approval or not. Cabello, who is 56, has also been accused by U.S. officials of being behind massive corruption, drug trafficking and even death threats against a sitting U.S. senator. The administration official said that under no circumstances is the U.S. looking to prop up Cabello or pave the way for him to substitute Maduro. Instead, the goal of the outreach is to ratchet up pressure on the regime by contributing to the knife fight the U.S. believes is taking place behind the scenes among competing circles of power within the ruling party.

 

 

 

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an explosion at a wedding hall in Afghanistan that killed 63 people and injured more than 180 over the weekend. In an IS statement, it said one of its fighters blew himself up at a "large gathering" in the Afghan capital of Kabul, while others "detonated a parked explosives-laden vehicle" as emergency services arrived at the scene. Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack as "barbaric" and blamed the Taliban for "providing a platform to terrorists." The Taliban denied any involvement in the attack, also condemning it. The U.S. and the Taliban continue to hammer out a possible peace deal that will lead to troops leaving Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban agreeing not to allow the country to be used as a base for terrorist organizations. President Donald Trump said that the U.S. is "having very good discussions" with both the Afghan government and the Taliban on a peace plan to end America's longest running war. Trump said, "It can't be a laboratory for terror." The deal would include a U.S.-Taliban ceasefire, but so far no such truce between the Taliban and the Afghan military.

 

 

 

Organizers claimed that at least 1.7 million protesters turned out for a rally Sunday afternoon in Hong Kong in a massive show of force against unpopular government leaders and a police force they accuse of brutality. The Victoria Park location and neighboring streets looked like a sea of umbrellas despite the heavy rain. Sunday's demonstration marked the eleventh weekend in a row that protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong. The initial rally in early June came in response to a proposed extradition bill that would have make it easier to send criminal suspects to China for trial. Organizers said that the movement has evolved in response to abusive tactics by the Hong Kong police and the heavy influence of Beijing on their city's politics. The enormous turnout was seen by attendees as a positive sign compared to more extreme actions, such as an airport sit-in earlier in the week that grounded hundreds of flights and erupted into violence, which prompted Beijing to describe the protests as the "first signs of terrorism." Organizers plan to march again on August 31.

 

 

 

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Moscow will not deploy new missiles on the condition that the United States show similar restraint in Europe and Asia. The announcement comes after Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, a Cold War-era pact prohibiting ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of 310 to 3,400 miles. The U.S. decided to withdraw after accusing Russia of violating the agreement, which Moscow denies. President Vladimir Putin announced Moscow's exit from the treaty following Washington's move, but Shoigu said that doesn't mean that Russia plans on ramping up another arms race between the two countries. Shoigu told the Rossiya-24 TV channel, "Unless there are such systems in Europe [deployed by Washington], we won't do anything there."

 

 

 

An Iranian oil tanker detained in Gibraltar since July 4 left the British overseas territory on Sunday. Gibraltar authorities ordered the release of the tanker, the Grace 1, after receiving written assurances it would not deliver its oil to Syria, which would have violated European Union sanctions. The U.S. had made a last-minute effort to seize the vessel on the grounds that it was linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the U.S. has labeled a terrorist organization subject to U.S. sanctions, but Gibraltar said only E.U. sanctions, not American ones, were applicable in its jurisdiction. Iran has denied the tanker was ever headed to Syria.

 

 

 

A leaked dossier compiled by the United Kingdom's Cabinet Office predicted that the country will hit a three-month meltdown at its ports, a hard Irish border, and shortages of food and medicine if it leaves the European Union without a deal on Oct. 31. Without a withdrawal agreement, the document says, the U.K. will "be vulnerable to severe extended delays" for medical supplies and food, with rising prices also a possibility. A senior source said the document is "not Project Fear," but "the most realistic assessment of what the public face with no deal." U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has maintained that he wants to leave the EU with a deal, but he has demanded a new agreement without the Irish border backstop and is willing to leave without a deal, otherwise.

 

 

 

General Electric defended itself on Monday against fraud investigators who said last week the Boston-based conglomerate had failed to put aside money to cover $29 billion in potential insurance losses and had improperly counted profit from subsidiary Baker Hughes as its own. GE’s shares fell as much as 15% on Thursday after financial investigators Harry Markopolos and John McPherson published the 175-page report alleging fraud but GE shares recouped much of the decline on Friday. On Monday, GE shares were down 0.3% at $8.77 in late morning trading. Steve Winoker, head of investor relations at GE, said in an email, “Our future liabilities (on long-term care insurance) depend on variables that will play out over decades, not years, and are dictated by rigorous testing processes, sound actuarial analysis, and the application of regulatory and accounting rules” GE’s comments follow a report last week that alleged there was fraud in the company’s accounting. GE has disclosed that its accounting is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice.

 

 

 

The Trump administration is extending a ban on the use of U.S. passports for travel to North Korea for another year. The State Department said the ban will remain in place until Aug. 31, 2020, unless revoked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The ban was imposed in September 2017 by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and renewed in 2018. Tillerson took the unusual measure following the death of an American student, Otto Warmbier, who had been detained in North Korea. The State Department says it determined “there continues to be serious risk to United States nationals of arrest and long-term detention” for Americans traveling to North Korea, according to the notice that will be published in the Federal Register this week. The ban allows certain categories of American citizens such as aid workers or journalists to obtain a special validation passport good for one trip to North Korea. The move comes amid stalled diplomatic efforts to restart nuclear talks between North Korea and the U.S.

 

 

 

Counterfeit alcohol laced with methanol has killed 25 people in Costa Rica. The Ministry of Health said in a statement Monday that 59 people have been hospitalized by methanol poisoning. Authorities shut down 10 businesses and seized more than 55 thousand containers of liquor that contained the methanol, a colorless poison found in antifreeze. Bootleg alcohol is often branded to look like a legitimate product, then it ends up in bars and stores. Experts said that bootleggers disguise the fake liquor by hiding it among cases. Carnegie Mellon professor Sridhar Tayur told Business Insider instead of buying 100 cases of authentic alcohol, the criminals buy 95 cases and mix in five cases of bootleg alcohol to turn a nice profit. A recent report estimates that illegal alcohol made up 19 percent of total alcohol in Costa Rica. Symptoms of methanol poisoning include drowsiness, confusion, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, mania, coma, seizure, heart and respiratory failure and the inability to coordinate movement. The FBI is conducting tests to determine if the bootleg alcohol is related to the deaths of multiple Americans in the Dominican Republic in May.

 

 

 

Jack Whitaker, whose Hall of Fame broadcasting career ranged from the first Super Bowl to Secretariat’s Triple Crown to short essays from major sporting events, died Sunday morning of natural causes in his sleep in Devon, Pennsylvania. He was 95. Whitaker, a Philadelphia native who was wounded on Omaha Beach three days after the D-Day Invasion, began his broadcast career at WCAU-TV in Philadelphia and spent 22 years for CBS Sports. He worked for ABC from 1982 in the news and sports divisions, and was part of the network’s Olympics coverage in 1984 and 1988. Jim Nantz, the lead CBS Sports announcer, said in a statement, “I grew up watching him deliver contemplative and contextual prose with his famous short essays, bringing class and dignity to his industry." CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said Whitaker’s "unique perspective on sports ranging from horse racing to golf to NFL football was extraordinary." Whitaker was the only living play-by-play announcer from the first 21 Super Bowls.

Fraud Investigator Accuses General Electric of Hiding Billions in Losses - Labeling it “Bigger Fraud than Enron” - That’s in the news Friday August 16, 2019

16Aug

A fraud investigator accused General Electric of using accounting tricks to cover up tens of billions in losses in what he calls "a bigger fraud than Enron." Harry Markopolos, who blew the whistle on Bernie Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme in the 2000s, released a 170-page report Thursday that accused U.S. blue-chipper GE of committing $38 billion in accounting fraud, amounting to more than 40 percent of its market capitalization. GE shares fell 11 percent to $8.01 a share on Thursday following the release of the report, the steepest drop it's experienced in more than a decade. Markopolos said the report was based on seven months of analyzing GE's accounting into eight of its largest Long-Term care insurance deals and said "we believe the $38 billion in fraud we've come across is merely the tip of the iceberg." Markopolos said the degree of fraud surpasses that of "Enron and WorldCom combined," two of the United States' biggest accounting scandals. GE dismissed the report as false, saying it is "market manipulation."

 

 

 

Significant market signals this week - that warned of a possible recession - rebounded from historic lows on Wall Street Friday, as did the sagging major U.S. indices. Both 10-year and 30-year Treasury bonds, which tumbled to record lows Wednesday, stabilized with gains Friday. Analysts said bonds losses often indicate a coming recession. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which has also seen tremendous losses this week, kept up momentum in trading Friday, two days after it's worst daily performance of 2019 also concerned experts about a recession. By noon Friday, the Dow had gained more than 260 points, but still appeared to be headed for a net loss for the week. The S&P 500 had added 37 points and the Nasdaq 116 by mid-Friday. The recent volatility in U.S. markets has also been fueled by uncertainty with the ongoing trade conflict between the United States and China. Beijing vowed to retaliate this week after President Donald Trump said new tariffs would be placed on a list of Chinese exports. Those new taxes, however, were delayed until mid-December.

 

 

 

Hong Kong’s government announced tax cuts and higher social spending Thursday to reverse a deepening economic slump aggravated by anti-government protests and the U.S.-Chinese tariff war. The territory’s financial secretary, Paul Chan, cut this year’s official growth forecast to 0 to 1%, which could be the worst performance since 2009 during the global financial crisis. The previous forecast was 2% to 3%. Hurt by the plunge in U.S.-Chinese trade, growth already was declining before anti-government protests erupted this year over a proposed extradition law and other grievances. The changes will result in some 1.3 million taxpayers having their taxes waived. At a news conference Chan said the government will increase payments for elderly and low-income residents and provide subsidies to small businesses and parents of schoolchildren. The package will cost a total of 19.1 billion Hong Kong dollars ($2.4 billion).

 

 

 

South Korea’s military said North Korea fired two projectiles into the sea Friday to extend a recent streak of weapons tests believed to be aimed at pressuring Washington and Seoul over slow nuclear diplomacy. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the projectiles launched from the North’s eastern coast flew about 230 kilometers (143 miles) on an apogee of 30 kilometers (18 miles) before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The U.S. and South Korean militaries were analyzing the launches but didn’t immediately say whether the weapons were ballistic missiles or rocket artillery. It was North Korea’s sixth round of weapons launches since late July when it began stepping up its weapons demonstrations while expressing frustration over stalemated nuclear negotiations with the United States and continuance of U.S.-South Korea joint military drills that the North sees as an invasion rehearsal. The White House said it was aware of reports of the launches and was consulting with Seoul and Tokyo.

 

 

 

At least one person has died and 49 have been injured after a tropical storm barrelled through parts of Japan. Storm Krosa made landfall near Hiroshima in southern Japan on Thursday and is now moving north, according to Japan's Meteorological Agency. More than 400 thousand people were advised to evacuate their homes. Some 800 flights and trains were cancelled, disrupting travel during the summer holiday season. An 82-year-old man in Hiroshima died after falling into the sea on Thursday morning while tying up a boat amid strong winds. Krosa has now been downgraded to a tropical storm. It was previously classified as a severe tropical storm, one notch below the typhoon category. Video of the storm's wrath showed high winds uprooting trees, toppling trucks and spinning pods on a ferris wheel. High waves were seen smashing into a breakwater, engulfing a lighthouse, while rivers broke their banks and flooded roads. Train cancellations had hit connections on the island of Shikoku, as well as many Shinkansen bullet trains between Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima and the south-western province of Fukuoka.

 

 

 

The Federal Communications Commission approved a a measure to create a national three-digit phone number -- similar to 911 for emergencies -- that connects with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. The FCC submitted a joint report to Congress outlining the proposal to use 9-8-8 for the hotline. If established, the number will provide assistance with suicide prevention and mental health. The FCC said now is a critical time for "rapid access to crisis intervention." The commission said the new number will make it easier for Americans in crisis to access "potentially life-saving resources." More than 20 American military veterans die by suicide every day, the report said, and young members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are three times more likely to consider suicide. President Trump signed a law last year that ordered the FCC to select a number that's easy to remember during a crisis. The proposal must undergo a public review period and final FCC vote before it can take effect.

 

 

 

As many as 50 people in at least six states have come down with breathing illnesses that may be linked to e-cigarettes or other vaping products. No deaths have been reported, but at least a few have come close. Symptoms have included shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain and vomiting. Doctors say the illnesses resemble an inhalation injury, with the body apparently reacting to a caustic substance that someone breathed in. Wisconsin health officials said they’re seen 15 confirmed cases, with another 15 under investigation. New York state officials are investigating 10, Illinois has seen at least six, and Minnesota doctors this week said they have four more. California and Indiana have also been looking into reported illnesses. Most are teens, but some adult cases have also been reported. No single vaping device or liquid is associated with the illnesses. Dr. Anne Griffiths, a Minnesota lung specialist said “I really do think the primary cause of these illnesses is what’s been inhaled.”Griffiths said it’s possible illnesses previously weren’t recognized as being related to vaping. She said she found several similar case reports published in medical journals.

 

 

 

An 80-year-old, one-of-a-kind German sports car -- said to be the first car ever to carry the "Porsche" nameplate -- is on the auction block this weekend, where it's expected to fetch at least $20 million. RM Sotheby's will sell the 1939 "Porsche Type 64" Saturday at its Monterey County, Calif., auction house. German auto engineer Ferdinand Porsche designed the Type 64 car as a racing version of the KdF Wagon -- which would later evolve into Volkswagen's Beetle -- for a Nazi Party rally from Berlin to the Austrian Alps to Rome. It was built with a lightweight alloy body and more than 2,000 rivets using aircraft technology, and turned the KdF Wagon's sub-40-horsepower engine into a powerful racing machine. Three Type 64s were built -- and just one survived the war. Although engineered a Volkswagen, the Type 64 is believed to be the first car ever to bear the "Porsche" badge. Though entirely unique, the Type 64 is not expected to even approach the all-time auction record price for a car. That distinction goes to a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO -- that sold for $48.4 million last year.

Russian Jetliner Hits Flock of Birds Near Moscow. All 241 Survive Crash Landing Labeled “Miracle over Ramensk” - That’s in the news Thursday August 15, 2019

15Aug

Two Russian pilots safely landed an airliner carrying 241 people in a cornfield outside Moscow after striking a flock of birds, prompting the Kremlin to hail them as heroes who will receive top state awards. The Ural Airlines Airbus 321 was on a flight from Moscow to Crimea, and came down in a field southeast of Moscow with its landing gear up after hitting a passing flock of gulls, disrupting both engines which caught fire. Officials said 74 people, including 19 children, were treated for injuries, including six who were hospitalized. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the 234 passengers and seven crew members are alive thanks to "the heroic pilots for saving people's lives and landing the plane." State television said the incident was being dubbed the “miracle over Ramensk”, the name of the district near Moscow where the plane came down around one kilometer (0.62 miles) from Moscow's Zhukovsky International Airport. Some are drawing comparisons with U.S. Airways Flight 1549 which struck a flock of geese after takeoff from New York's LaGuardia Airport in 2009. The pilots ditched that Airbus 320 in the Hudson River saving all on board. Russia's Investigative Committee and the Interstate Aviation Committee will investigate the accident.

 

 

 

Gibraltar on Thursday allowed a detained Iranian supertanker to leave the British overseas territory despite a last-minute U.S. attempt to seize the vessel, potentially defusing tensions between London and Tehran as a British-flagged tanker remains held by the Islamic Republic. It could pave the way for a possible swap for a British-flagged tanker seized by Iran in the Gulf. The Grace 1 was seized by commandos in darkness off peninsula on July 4. Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo decided to lift the detention order after formal written assurances from Tehran that the ship will not discharge its 2.1 million barrels of oil in Syria.The seizure of the Grace 1 triggered a dispute with Tehran, which accused Britain of piracy. Two weeks later, on July 19, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized the British-flagged Stena Impero in the Gulf. The two tankers have become pawns in the standoff between Iran and the West, their fate tangled up in the diplomatic differences between the EU’s big powers and the United States. The U.S. has been asking its allies to take part in a naval mission to protect shipping in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, although European nations have been reluctant.

 

 

 

Israel's foreign ministry will bar a visit by two of its sharpest critics in the U.S. Congress, Democrats Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who planned to tour the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. President Donald Trump had earlier urged Israel on Thursday not to allow the visit by Tlaib and Omar, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and members of the Democratic party’s progressive wing. The pair have voiced support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. Under Israeli law, backers of the BDS movement can be denied entry to Israel. An Israeli official said earlier on Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior members of his cabinet held consultations on Wednesday on a “final decision” about the visit. Denying entry to elected U.S. officials could further strain relations between Netanyahu, who has highlighted his close ties with Trump in his current re-election campaign, and the Democratic leadership in Congress.

 

 

 

Hong Kong braced on Thursday for more mass demonstrations through the weekend, as China again warned against foreign interference in the city’s escalating crisis - and as mainland paramilitary forces conducted exercises just across the border, in what was widely seen as a warning to protesters in Hong Kong. Ten weeks of increasingly violent confrontations between police and protesters have plunged Hong Kong into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997, and police tactics have been toughening. Western governments, including the United States, have stepped up calls for restraint, following ugly and chaotic scenes at the city’s airport this week, which forced the cancellation of nearly 1,000 flights. The airport, one of the world’s busiest, was returning to normal but under tight security after thousands of protesters had jammed its halls on Monday and Tuesday nights, part of a protest movement Beijing has likened to terrorism. The protests represent the biggest populist challenge for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012 and show no immediate signs of abating.

 

 

 

Jeffrey Epstein's autopsy found that he had several broken bones in his neck, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing two people familiar with the matter. The autopsy was conducted Sunday, the day after the financier and convicted sex offender was found dead, hanging by a sheet inside his cell at Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center. Epstein's hyoid bone was broken. Experts said this can happen in a hanging, but is more common when someone is strangled to death. Epstein was facing sex trafficking charges. His death, which authorities say was an apparent suicide, triggered conspiracy theories. Multiple women accused Epstein of coercing them into having sex with his rich and powerful friends, and some people believe he was killed to prevent him from revealing secrets.

 

 

 

At least six police officers were shot in Philadelphia on Wednesday afternoon after a gunman opened fire as police served a warrant as part of a narcotics investigation. The male suspect was apprehended early Thursday after an hours-long standoff, police say. There were two police officers inside with the suspect during the standoff, but authorities said SWAT officers were able to get them out. The injured officers were treated and released from area hospitals. An additional officer was treated for injuries sustained in a car accident that occurred during the incident. The suspect was identified as 34-year-old Maurice Hill, according to law enforcement authorities and the suspect's lawyer. Prosecutors said Thursday that a number of charges are pending against the convicted felon, who should not have been in posession of any weapons.

 

 

U.S. stocks suffered their worst plunge of 2019 on Wednesday after the yield for long-term U.S. bonds fell below that of short-term bonds, a strong warning sign of a looming recession. It was the first such "inverted yield curve" since just before the Great Recession more than a decade ago. Such inversions, which indicate dwindling investor confidence in the economy, have come before every recession in the last half century. "Investors are tripping over themselves to get out of the way," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq all lost roughly 3 percent on Wednesday. Futures for the main U.S. stock indexes gave back early overnight gains after China vowed to respond to new U.S. tariffs.

 

 

 

Meteorologists say July was the hottest month measured on Earth since record keeping began in 1880. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - NOAA - said Thursday that July was 0.95 degrees Celsius (1.71 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the 20th century average for the month of July. The results had been expected after several European countries reported new all-time temperature records in July. Scientists say the upward trend will likely continue because of climate change. Last month narrowly topped the previous July record, set in 2016, by 0.03 C (0.05 F). June of this year had already set a sizzling record for that month over the past 140 years. The year to date is also 0.95 C (1.71 F) above the long-term average, but still slightly behind records for 2016.

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