Off the Wires

Migrant smuggling 'general' extradited to Italy

June 8th, 2016  |  Source: AFP

An Eritrean dubbed "the general", suspected of controlling a migrant trafficking network responsible for shipping thousands of people to Europe and sending some to a watery grave, has been extradited to Italy.Medhanie Yehdego Mered, 35, who had been on a wanted list since 2015 for international people smuggling, was arrested in the Sudanese capital Khartoum and flown to Italy late Monday.

He is "the accused ringleader of one of the four largest criminal migrant trafficking organisations", the Sudanese interior ministry said in a joint statement with the country's British and Italian embassies.

Referred to in wiretapped conversations between his subordinate traffickers as "the general" for his control over a large area and number of "troops", Mered is accused of organising the smuggling of up to 8,000 people a year on migrant boats.

Investigators believe his organisation was responsible for packing migrants onto a boat that sank in 2013 off the Italian island of Lampedusa, claiming at least 360 lives in one of the worst disasters in the Mediterranean.

His arrest is "a key turning point in the fight against people trafficking," prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi told a press conference, while Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano dubbed it "an extraordinary result" in a bid to stop "merchants of death".

- 'Disregard for lives' -

It is the first time a suspected top smuggler has been arrested in Africa and brought to face justice in Italy, which has been overwhelmed by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people since the migrant crisis began in 2008.

Mered allegedly directed operations in Africa but also kept fellow operators in Italy up to date on the arrival of boats, so migrants could be picked up and squeezed for more money to continue to their final destinations in Europe.

 

 


SECRET SERVICE AGENT BOOK ROCKS CLINTON CAMPAIGN

June 5th, 2016  |  Source: Drudge Report

Posted directly outside President Clinton's Oval Office, Former Secret Service officer Gary Byrne reveals what he observed of Hillary Clinton's character and the culture inside the White House while protecting the First Family. 


Coming in 3 weeks his tell-all book: 'CRISIS OF CHARACTER!'

Specific details of the agent's confessional are being held under tight embargo.

"What I saw in the 1990s sickend me," Byrne explains. "I want you to hear my story."

'CHARACTER' is set for release June 28. [It ranked #60,436 on AMAZON's bestsellers list late Saturday.] 


Payday loans face new limits under proposal from U.S. consumer bureau

June 2nd, 2016  |  Source: Reuters

The U.S. agency charged with protecting consumers from financial abuse unveiled a proposal on Thursday that would limit short-term borrowings known as “payday” loans, which can carry interest rates as high as 390 percent.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposal includes having lenders determine if some borrowers can afford to take out debt. It also calls for restrictions on loan rollovers.

Payday lenders typically cater to low-income borrowers who need cash in a pinch but cannot access financing from mainstream banks. The name comes from the idea that a borrower would take out an emergency loan and repay it with the next paycheck. Since the loans often are not collateralized, lenders take the risk of not being repaid and charge higher rates.

"Too many borrowers seeking a short-term cash fix are saddled with loans they cannot afford and sink into long-term debt," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement, calling the proposal "mainstream" and "common-sense."

"It’s much like getting into a taxi just to ride across town and finding yourself stuck in a ruinously expensive cross-country journey."

The industry has braced for new regulation from the CFPB since the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law gave it authority over the payday loan market, and anticipation of new federal rules has already created political fractures on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service have cracked down on alleged fraud and racketeering in the industry. Payday lenders are one of the targets of "Operation Chokepoint," an FBI investigation into business relationships between banks and potential law-breaking companies.

The CFPB's proposal includes a "full-payment" test for people borrowing up to $500 over a short period. Lenders would have to determine whether a borrower could afford each loan payment and still meet basic living expenses, according to a summary.

It would bar lenders from taking auto titles as collateral and would make it difficult for them to "push distressed borrowers into reborrowing." It would also cap the number of short-term loans made in quick succession. At the same time, it would limit the number of times a lender could try to debit a borrower's bank account for an outstanding payment, with the CFPB saying failed withdrawal attempts rack up bank fees for borrowers.

The proposal presents two alternatives for longer-term loans. One caps interest rates at 28 percent and the application fee at $20. The other is an installment loan of equal payment amounts, with the loan's total cost capped at 36 percent.

The agency said current practices ensnare borrowers in "debt traps" with accumulating fees and interest, and that they encourage people to take out new loans to pay off old debts, all of which can leave them broke, without bank accounts, or carless.

Lenders say they fill a critical hole in the economy, allowing people living paycheck to paycheck to cover basic costs and those in need, who may have poor credit records, to quickly take out loans.

LONG FIGHT, POLITICAL FRACTURES

The fight over the proposal will span months. The agency will evaluate comments on the proposal, due Sept. 14, before issuing final regulations. It is also beginning a review of "other potentially high-risk loan products and practices" such as open-end credit.

Cordray was scheduled to discuss the proposal later on Thursday at a hearing in Kansas City, Missouri. A coalition of advocacy groups supporting reforms planned a rally in the city, while detractors have already begun voicing concerns.

On the political front, Republicans, who are widely critical of the bureau, say restricting small dollar, short-term loans will cut off struggling consumers' access to a legal financial lifeline during emergencies.

Democrats generally support reform, but are divided on how it should be carried out.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and other proponents for stronger financial regulation have lined up behind the CFPB.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, on the other hand, has promoted the approach used in her home state of Florida which is considered more permissive. She has sponsored a bill with other members of the House of Representatives from the state to delay the CFPB rules for two years and exempt states with laws similar to Florida's.


Gotthard tunnel: World's longest and deepest rail tunnel opens in Switzerland

June 1st, 2016  |  Source: BBC

The world's longest and deepest rail tunnel has officially opened in Switzerland, after almost two decades of construction work.

The 57km (35-mile) twin-bore Gotthard base tunnel will provide a high-speed rail link under the Swiss Alps between northern and southern Europe.

Switzerland says it will revolutionise European freight transport.

Goods currently carried on the route by a million lorries a year will go by train instead.

The tunnel has overtaken Japan's 53.9km Seikan rail tunnel as the longest in the world and pushed the 50.5km Channel Tunnel linking the UK and France into third place.

§Switzerland's engineering triumph


Time's Myspace Data Breach

May 31st, 2016  |  Source: The Street.com

The latest hacking outbreak is yet another reminder that cybercrime is a global epidemic. 

Another day, another hacking incident in the headlines, with embarrassed corporate executives scrambling to figure out what happened (and to cover their posteriors).

Time (TIME) on Tuesday morning confirmed reports that Myspace, a Time Inc. social networking site, has been the victim of a major data breach. As many as 360 million Myspace user records were reportedly stolen.

Shortly before the Memorial Day weekend, Myspace's IT security personnel learned that stolen Myspace usernames, passwords and email addresses were being posted by an online hacker forum. The hacking incident is still under investigation and the full scope of the breach remains unclear.

If you're looking for profitable but relatively safe ways to put your hard-earned cash to work, you should pinpoint "mega-trends" with momentum. One such investment opportunity is cyber security, which is one of the surest growth opportunities you'll ever find.

The best play on cyber security is networking giant Cisco Systems(CSCO) . The stock has enjoyed a recent post-earnings rally, but it still has plenty of upside left. Cisco exemplifies the strong underlying fundamentals that you should look for in a stock. The company sits on a huge cash hoard and controls proprietary technology that's increasingly coveted by consumers and businesses around the world.

Cisco offers considerable capital appreciation potential, but it's also a defensive growth play for investors worried about the market's current volatility. Cisco holds cash and short-term investments (quarterly) of $63.51 billion, which provides the company with a cushion for any market downturn. This war chest also allows the company to make the consistently strong research and development spending that's necessary to maintain its edge in a fiercely competitive industry.

Meanwhile, corporate America has compiled a record amount of cash that it intends to tap for long-deferred IT investments, another multi-year boon for Cisco.

Companies are increasingly defined by the right combination of 1s and 0s, not by bricks and mortar. This digital transformation has given rise to the "extended enterprise," and with it a breeding ground for attacks on IT systems. As we've just witnessed with Time, hackers are relentless around the world.

Cisco is dominant in the technologies that make the extended enterprise possible; it's also a pioneer in creating computer defenses along the extended outreaches of these virtual empires.

Read more here: https://www.thestreet.com/story/13590071/1/time-s-myspace-data-breach-buy-this-leading-cybersecurity-stock.html


Barack Obama Under Fire From Brexit Campaigners

May 31st, 2016  |  Source: HuffPo

Backlash time after his ‘back of the queue’ threat

Brexit campaigners have ridiculed Barack Obama for threatening the UK with a backlash if it quits the EU.

A new attack ad by the Grassroots Out campaign hits back at the US President’s warning that Britain would go to ‘the back of the queue’ in trade talks outside the European Union.

With just over three weeks to go to the EU referendum, the campaign placed full-page adverts in 21 regional newspapers on Tuesday.

The ad, which plays on the original ‘Hope’ poster that helped get Obama first elected in 2008, is designed to seize on Britons’ anger at being told how to vote by a politician from overseas.

Its final pay-off line is: “Don’t Be Bullied By Barack”.

Read on here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/brexit-campaign-ridicules-barack-obama-grassroots-out-peter-bone-mp_uk_574d8fdbe4b0ebf6a32a0e57?edition=uk


Venezuelans resort to looting as food shortages hit crisis point

May 27th, 2016  |  Source: FT.com

On one side, under the burning midday sun of Maracay in north-central Venezuela, hundreds of angry people have been waiting in line since 4am to buy food. On the other side, a group of military men guard the gate of a supermarket. The high-noon showdown is tense.

“There is nothing left to sell. If you really wanted to buy food, you should have started queueing at two in the morning,” yells one of the military men. “That is the people’s food,” an angry mother of four retorts. “People are losing patience . . . we are all tired.”

Snaking queues for scarce staples are a common sight across Venezuela and looting is becoming routine. This poses the biggest risk to Nicolás Maduro, the socialist president.

“The situation is very, very critical,” says Marianella Herrera, a professor of food and nutritional public policy at the Central University of Venezuela, who also runs Fundación Bengoa, a watchdog dealing with issues around nutrition. “The anguish when it comes to acquiring food is gigantic and generates violence.”

Only days before the supermarket showdown, hundreds of people had broken into the wholesale market next door, which had been guarded by paratroopers in red berets. Eyewitnesses say there was a “stampede”, with people rushing to get their hands on packs of rice, sugar and cornmeal flour.

“[It is] written in the Bible, people will kill each other for food,” the voice of a woman can be heard on an amateur video of the looting. To some, like Marcial Salazar, who sells vegetables at the market, the situation is understandable: “People are hungry for food, and hungry for having someone good in power.”

Mr Salazar opens the fridge at his household of six to the Financial Times. Its only contents are a handful of mangoes picked from a nearby tree and plastic bottles filled with tap water. Next to it, a bucket contains half a kilogramme of black beans, half a kilogramme of dried pasta and one kilogramme of maize flour: “That’s all for the week.”

Read on here; ($): http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/0c2b0db8-21a4-11e6-9d4d-c11776a5124d.html#axzz49r6b3imH


Moscow frees Ukraine pilot in swap for Russians held in conflict

May 25th, 2016  |  Source: Reuters

Ukrainian military pilot Nadiya Savchenko arrived home in Kiev on Wednesday after nearly two years in a Russian jail, part of a prisoner swap in which two Russians held in Ukraine were returned to Moscow.

Handing over Savchenko, whose release had been demanded by Western governments and who has become a national hero in Ukraine, is likely to ease tensions between Moscow and the West a few weeks before the European Union decides whether to extend sanctions against Russia.

"A presidential plane with Ukraine's hero Nadiya Savchenko has landed," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in a post on Twitter.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Savchenko, who while in Russian jail was elected a member of the Ukrainian parliament, was granted a pardon by Russian President Vladimir Putin to allow her to leave jail and return home.

Peskov also said that the two Russians, Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, were now back in Russia, having landed at Moscow's Vnukovo airport on a special flight from Kiev.

Ukraine accused them of being Russian special forces officers fighting in eastern Ukraine, though Moscow has never acknowledged the two were following its orders.


U.S. new home sales race to eight-year high, prices surge

May 24th, 2016  |  Source: Reuters

New U.S. single-family home sales surged to a more than eight-year high in April and prices hit a record high, offering further evidence of a pick-up in economic growth that could allow the Federal Reserve to raises interest rates soon.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday new home sales jumped 16.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of619,000 units, the highest level since January 2008. The percent increase was the largest since January 1992.

March's sales pace was revised up to 531,000 units from the previously reported 511,000 units. Economists had forecast new home sales, which account for about 10.2 percent of the housing market, rising to only a 523,000 unit-rate last month.

New home sales are volatile month-to-month and April's increase probably exaggerates the housing market strength.

Still, last month's gain pushed new home sales well above their first-quarter average of 531,667 units. New home sales increased in three regions, but fell in the Midwest.

RELATED COVERAGE

·        U.S. household debt rises to $12.25 trillion in first quarter: New York Fed


Snowden calls for whistleblower shield after claims by new Pentagon source

May 23rd, 2016  |  Source: The Guardian

Accusations that Pentagon retaliated against a whistleblower undermine argument that there were options for Snowden other than leaking to the media

Edward Snowden has called for a complete overhaul of US whistleblower protections after a new source from deep inside the Pentagon came forward with a startling account of how the system became a “trap” for those seeking to expose wrongdoing.

The account of John Crane, a former senior Pentagon investigator, appears to undermine Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other major establishment figures who argue that there were established routes for Snowden other than leaking to the media.

Crane, a longtime assistant inspector general at the Pentagon, has accused his old office of retaliating against a major surveillance whistleblower, Thomas Drake, in an episode that helps explain Snowden’s 2013 National Security Agency disclosures. Not only did Pentagon officials provide Drake’s name to criminal investigators, Crane told the Guardian, they destroyed documents relevant to his defence.

Snowden, responding to Crane’s revelations, said he had tried to raise his concerns with colleagues, supervisors and lawyers and been told by all of them: “You’re playing with fire.”

Read on here: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/may/22/snowden-whistleblower-protections-john-crane?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+USA+-+morning+briefing+2016&utm_term=173670&subid=11002792&CMP=ema_a-morning-briefing_b-morning-briefing_c-US_d-1




About Value News Network

Value is the only commonality in an increasingly complex, challenging and interdependent world.
Laurance Allen: Editor + Publisher

Connect with Us