US House committee could open impeachment hearings as soon as next week

CNN report

CNN reports that the US House Intelligence Committtee could open hearings on President Trump’s impeachment as soon as next week.

A separate report from the WSJ says they are seeking documents about the delay in aid to the Ukraine.

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In swipe at Trump, China tells U.N. tariffs could plunge world into recession

© Reuters. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York © Reuters. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York

By David Lawder and David Brunnstrom

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The Chinese government’s top diplomat said on Friday that tariffs and trade disputes could plunge the world into recession and Beijing was committed to resolving them in a “calm, rational and cooperative manner.”

In a blunt speech to the annual United Nations General Assembly, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said: “Erecting walls will not resolve global challenges, and blaming others for one’s own problems does not work. The lessons of the Great Depression should not be forgotten.”

Taking a clear swipe at U.S. President Donald Trump, who started a damaging trade war on China nearly 15 months ago, Wang added, without naming the U.S. leader:

“Tariffs and provocation of trade disputes, which upset global industrial and supply chains, serve to undermine the multilateral trade regime and global economic and trade order.

“They may even plunge the world into recession.”

In successive rounds of tit-for-tat tariffs, the United States and China have levied punitive duties on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other’s goods, roiling financial markets and threatening global growth.

A new round of high-level talks between the world’s two largest economies is expected in Washington in the first half of October.

Wang’s remarks, unusually pointed for a Chinese diplomat, coincided with word that the Trump administration is considering radical new financial pressure tactics on Beijing, including the possibility of delisting Chinese companies from U.S. stock exchanges.

Sources told Reuters on Friday that the move would be part of a broader effort to limit U.S. investments into Chinese companies, in part because of growing security concerns about their activities.

News of the potential restrictions on portfolio investments restrictions sent U.S. stocks and oil prices lower on Friday on fears that U.S.-China trade tensions would again escalate. An increase in U.S. tariffs to 30% from 25% on $ 250 billion in Chinese imports is scheduled for Oct. 15 if no progress is made before then.

U.S. and Chinese rhetoric on trade this week had seesawed between harsher and more conciliatory, with Trump issuing a sharp rebuke of China’s trade practices and state-led development model in his speech before the General Assembly on Tuesday, adding that he would not accept a “bad deal.”

On the same day, Wang warned the United States not to interfere with China’s sovereignty. But on Thursday he said China was willing to consider increased purchases of farm products and predicted that talks would lead to a resolution if both sides took more steps to improve goodwill.

Trump said on Wednesday a trade deal with China could come sooner than people think, and praised the Chinese purchases.

NORTH KOREA

At the United Nations, Wang also took aim at Trump’s policy on North Korea, in which groundbreaking talks between Pyongyang and Washington have stalled, largely over the U.S. refusal to ease punishing sanctions.

Wang said it was necessary for the United Nations to consider invoking the rollback terms of North Korea-related sanctions resolutions “in the light of new developments” on the Korean Peninsula “to bolster the political settlement of the Peninsula issue.”

He said “the realistic and viable way forward” was to promote “parallel progress in denuclearization and the establishment of a peace mechanism” to gradually build trust “through phased and synchronized actions.”

Wang criticized the U.S. withdrawal this year from a treaty governing intermediate range nuclear missiles, and said China was against the deployment of such missiles in the Asia-Pacific region.

He said China would continue to take an active role in the international arms control process and added that it has initiated domestic legal procedures to join the Arms Trade Treaty.

Trump has said he intends to revoke the U.S. signature to the treaty, which regulates the $ 70 billion global cross-border trade in conventional arms and seeks to keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers.

So far, 104 countries have joined the pact, which the General Assembly approved in 2013.

Wang reiterated comments made earlier in the week, stressing China’s commitment to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of another country, an apparent reference to Beijing’s displeasure at criticism of its handling of protests in Hong Kong.

“On the international stage, we speak for justice and oppose hegemonism or bullying,” Wang said.

Shortly before Wang’s speech, China and Kiribati formally resumed diplomatic ties at a ceremony he presided over at the Chinese Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.

The move followed the Pacific island state’s decision to ditch relations with Taiwan, which the United States supports with arms supplies and which Beijing considers a renegade province.

“I do believe that there is much to learn and gain from the People’s Republic of China, and the re-establishment of our diplomatic relations is just the beginning,” Kiribati’s President Taneti Maamau said at the event.

The Solomon Islands and Kiribati are the latest countries to switch relations to China, leaving self-ruled Taiwan with formal ties to only 15 countries.

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Biden says Trump “could be impeached” based on House probe results

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday that President Trump “could be impeached” depending on the results of a House investigation into whether Mr. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son, Hunter.

“I know Trump deserves to be investigated. He is violating every basic norm of a president,” Biden said in Iowa. “Depending on what the House finds [Trump] could be impeached.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Trump repeatedly pressured Zelensky to open an investigation into Hunter Biden in a July call with the Ukrainian president. This interaction with Zelensky may be the subject of a whistleblower report to the inspector general of the intelligence community that the Trump administration is refusing to provide to Congress.

Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company owned by Mykola Zlochevsky, a wealthy associate of Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian Ukrainian president who was forced into exile in 2014. Zlochevsky was subsequently investigated for corruption, and a new prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, took over the investigation in 2015, according to Politifact

Speaking to reporters in Iowa on Saturday, Biden said that he had never spoken to his son about his business dealings in Ukraine. He accused Mr. Trump of “trying to intimidate a foreign leader” by asking Zelensky to investigate the younger Biden.

“Trump’s doing this because he knows I’ll beat him like a drum. And he’s using the abuse of power and every element of the presidency to try to do something to smear me,” Biden said. He also said that Mr. Trump “crossed a line,” and called on the president to release the transcript of the July call with Zelensky.

For his part, Mr. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and accused the media of trying to create a conspiracy. He pointed out that Biden, while he was vice president, threatened to withhold aid from Ukraine unless it ousted Shokin, which Ukraine agreed to do.

“The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, want to stay as far away as possible from the Joe Biden demand that the Ukrainian Government fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son, or they won’t get a very large amount of U.S. money, so they fabricate a story about me and a perfectly fine and routine conversation I had with the new President of the Ukraine. Nothing was said that was in any way wrong, but Biden’s demand, on the other hand, was a complete and total disaster. The Fake News knows this but doesn’t want to report!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

However, Shokin was perceived by the U.S. and its allies as not pursuing corruption cases aggressively enough, Politifact points out, and he was suspected of trying to protect pro-Russian interests. The case against Zlochevsky languished while Shokin was a prosecutor.

In a heated interview with CNN on Thursday, the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, admitted that he asked Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden and his son. However, Giuliani said he wasn’t ordered by Mr. Trump to investigate Biden and didn’t inform the president of his investigation until after the fact.

Bo Erickson and Rob Legare contributed reporting.

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‘Bad things could happen’: Turning to tech to tame the crypto jungle

© Reuters. Joel Fruhman, right, and Dan Fruhman, directors of BCB Group pose for a photograph in London © Reuters. Joel Fruhman, right, and Dan Fruhman, directors of BCB Group pose for a photograph in London

By Tom Wilson

LONDON (Reuters) – “Hi guys, could you please show me a firm bid for 100 bitcoin?” a seller texts on Skype.

“One sec. $ 10270.”

Two minutes later: “Sorry guys, that was an old order from Friday when skype wasn’t working.” 

“I really think we should get off skype. Bad things could happen. Someone is going to make an expensive mistake.” 

*****

A messaging exchange over a potential $ 1 million deal, between a European asset manager looking to sell bitcoin and broker Joel Fruhman, illustrates the casual and often chaotic nature of cryptocurrency dealmaking.

Trades involving hundreds of thousands, or millions, of dollars are routinely struck via brief chats on apps like Skype, WhatsApp, WeChat or Zoom, often with scant certainty over the identities of participants or the legal basis of agreements.

“We’d end up in a Zoom call with about five ‘introducers’ – we didn’t really know who any of them were,” said Fruhman, a physicist by training who started a cryptocurrency brokerage business with his brother Dan in their British hometown of Manchester in 2018.

“And who were we? What was our credibility?”

Over-the-counter (OTC) trading – buying and selling through a broker – is now beginning to change, however.

It is moving toward electronic automation as the cryptocurrency sector matures from the province of online enthusiasts to emerging financial assets drawing increasing mainstream interest, Reuters interviews with more than a dozen industry players show.

This is a fundamental shift, as messaging apps have for years been the predominant platforms.

It is a key front in attempts by cryptocurrency enthusiasts with roots in the traditional finance industry to drag into the mainstream a singular, largely unregulated sector born on the web a decade ago as a symbol of rebellion against the establishment and offering users near-anonymity.

OTC trading is favored by big investors like hedge funds because cryptocurrency exchanges often suffer from thin liquidity, and large buy and sell orders can move the market.

But the opaqueness of the messaging process and its impracticality for use on a large scale, plus the glitches that could cause the “expensive mistake” warned of by Fruhman, have left it fraught with risk.

Now, as spreads – the differences between bid and ask prices for immediate orders – tighten as liquidity in crypto markets grows, OTC brokers and market makers are seeking to move away from unsophisticated chats and offer quotes electronically, with automated execution and settlement.

“Things have shifted quite rapidly toward electronic trading,” said George Zarya, CEO of London-based cryptocurrency exchange BeQuant, which also runs an OTC desk and is planning to switch toward automation.

“Anything that is liquid – bitcoin or ethereum – these markets are going to go electronic. That’s a natural path that traditional markets have gone through.”

The changes are likely to appeal to larger investors using algorithms and high-frequency trading for whom split-second timings are important, according to the interviews with cryptocurrency OTC brokers, market makers and investors.

Alameda Research, a crypto trader based in California and Hong Kong, launched an almost entirely automated OTC desk around six months ago that is already seeing flows of $ 20 million-$ 30 million a day, said Ryan Salame, its Asia-Pacific head of OTC.

For Salame, the future of OTC trading is electronic, with prices for all but the smallest coins to be quoted electronically.

“This is just the next step how you stay more competitive. Each desk is trying to be more competitive and making better systems,” he said. “It’s just a by-product of spreads coming in so much that I can’t update in the chat fast enough to give people the pricing they’re expecting.” 

‘CAN YOU SELL A FEW MILL?’

The Fruhman brothers, Joel aged 29 and Dan 28, built a contact book packed with bitcoin miners they met on internet forums and apps as they grew interested in the emerging technology.

Miners use computers to solve complex mathematical puzzles, competing against others and earning rewards in the form of new digital coins. As recently as a few years ago, individual crypto enthusiasts could mine bitcoin from their bedrooms.

But many had a problem, the Fruhmans found: They were producing bitcoin faster than they could convert them to the cash they needed to clear the hefty electricity bills run up by their high-powered computing gear working overtime. 

“We saw something very clear: A bunch of guys with a lot of bitcoin valued in USD, who had no idea how to turn that into money,” said Joel. “It started with one request, which was just one of these guys, our mate, who was like: ‘Can you sell a few mill?'”

Late last year, in an attempt to tap bigger investors and offer more sophisticated back-office services, the brothers swapped their contact book for a stake in a startup run by ex-financiers well-versed in the infrastructure of the financial system, from escrow accounts to settlement systems.     

The startup, BCB Group, then based in London’s financial district, offered something the Fruhmans lacked: regular access to clients from mainstream finance willing and able to buy the regular supply of digital coin offered by their mining contacts.

“It’s not the stoned 22-year-old that we were dealing with a year and a half ago,” said Joel. “And it’s not the equity traders, the Goldman Sachs (NYSE:). They’re kind of in between – it’s growing from one into the other.”

    

TRADE BLOSSOMS IN BITCOIN BUBBLE

Global cryptocurrency trading volumes are highly erratic. Over the past year, bitcoin alone – by far the largest coin – has seen daily volumes of between $ 900 million and $ 3 billion, according to research firm Coin Metrics.

Brokers estimate the OTC market typically accounts for 10% to 30% of global volumes on any given day.  

The OTC market blossomed as bitcoin’s value soared during its 2017 bubble. That was when miners, wealthy individual investors, hedge funds and companies earning revenue in crypto grew active in the market.

Now, said the industry players who spoke to Reuters, the market is seeing a new shift as the predominance of messaging apps wanes and the more sophisticated tools used in traditional markets like equities and bonds become increasingly common. 

“Doing stuff over Skype and over these voice chats is not really scalable,” said Kevin Zhou, co-founder of San Francisco-based OTC desk Galois Capital.

The evolution is partly being driven by newer entrants to the sector, many of whom are tooled up with cutting-edge tech. Some, like Chicago-based Jump Trading, are from the traditional proprietary trading worlds. Others, such as Alameda Research, specialize in cryptocurrencies. 

And the changes are popular with big investors.

“I prefer to use electronic because all our algorithms are fully automated,” said Andrea Leccese, president of Bluesky Capital in New York, an investment firm that often runs orders of $ 5 million-$ 10 million through OTC desks. “If we can send our quote electronically to the OTC broker, it’s much better for us.” 

“It’s fair to say more or less half of OTC trading is going through technical innovation like making fully electronic platform, and that’s even better on our side.” 

Cryptocurrency regulation is patchy across the world, with curbs on the illegal use of digital coins the priority, and the implications of increasing automation in OTC trading are unclear. But, some market players say, because the changes are likely to attract more mainstream investment they could be a factor in speeding up the introduction of the kind of securities rules seen in traditional markets.

MACHINE VS MAN

While increasing automation may be inevitable, many OTC desks are in a bind. Some clients are loath to ditch the personal relationships they have established with their brokers and the apps they use to communicate.

New York-based Genesis Global Trading sees around $ 1 billion a month in volume, CEO Michael Moro said. While that’s down from the $ 2 billion-$ 2.5 billion a month during bitcoin’s 2017 boom, volumes are now rising between 10% and 20% a month.

Genesis uses TradeBlock, a New York firm that provides tools for trading cryptocurrencies, to execute its deals – but can’t completely abandon messaging apps.

“We will give market color over (Skype), but the actual transactions are over TradeBlock,” Moro said. “When your clients that are buying $ 5, $ 10 million say, ‘Hey, let’s just chat on Skype’, to get them to change their behavior and say, ‘No, we don’t do Skype’, you end up creating a friction.”

For the Fruhman brothers, personal relationships will remain key. 

“The plan is to go to an automated platform, where they’ll be able to request quotes on our front-end website,” said Dan. “But the interesting thing is that a lot of people actually like the human-to-human interaction.” 

“It’s not just ‘like’,” said Joel, quickly. “If you’re trading $ 20 million, you’re not clicking a button – you want to push on the price, you want to get a feel, you want to maybe break it up.”

“I think there’ll always be this human OTC component for institutional clients.”

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Wait … Trump Admin have been discussing a currency transaction tax that could weaken the dollar

US media with a piece on policy options being canvassed in the White House

Via Washington Post:

  • Top White House advisers notified President Trump earlier this month that some internal forecasts showed that the economy could slow markedly over the next year
  • Administration officials have scrambled this week to assemble a menu of actions Trump could take to avert an economic downturn. Few aides have a firm sense of what steps he would seriously consider, in part because he keeps changing his mind.
  • Ideas that have been discussed include imposing a currency transaction tax that could weaken the dollar and make U.S. exports more competitive; creating a rotation among the Federal Reserve governors that would make it easier to check the power of Chair Jerome H. Powell … pushing to lower the corporate tax rate to 15 percent in an effort to spur more investment. 
US media with a piece on policy options being canvassed in the White HousePreparing the next policy initiative

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U.S. and Britain discuss trade deal that could take effect on Nov. 1

© Reuters. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton arrives for a meeting with Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid  at Downing Street in London © Reuters. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton arrives for a meeting with Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid at Downing Street in London

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain and the United States are discussing a partial trade accord that could take effect on Nov. 1, the day after Britain is due to leave the European Union, a senior Trump administration official said on Tuesday.

The official also said visiting U.S. national security adviser John Bolton and British trade minister Liz Truss had discussed the possibility of the two countries’ leaders signing a road map declaration toward a trade deal at this month’s G7 summit meeting in France.

The official told reporters that Bolton and British finance minister Sajid Javid had discussed the possibility of a temporary trade agreement that covered all sectors and could last for something like six months.

During his two-day London visit, Bolton told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that President Donald Trump wanted to see a successful British exit from the European Union on Oct. 31 and that Washington would be ready to work fast on a U.S.-UK free trade agreement.

Bolton, who has now left Britain, was seeking an improved U.S.-British relationship with Johnson after sometimes tense ties between Trump and Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.

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Thousands of migrant children could be detained indefinitely

Watch the full report on “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell” at 6:30 p.m. ET.


An unprecedented number of unaccompanied migrant children are at risk of spending the rest of their childhoods in federal custody, CBS News learned in an exclusive interview with the head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the agency that cares for these children. 

The federal government is required to pursue “prompt and continuous efforts toward family reunification” of unaccompanied migrant children, according to a landmark court settlement, but for thousands of kids in ORR care, that reunion may never happen.

“Unfortunately, I have well over 4,000 of those children in my care at this time at the Office of Refugee Resettlement,” the director, Jonathan Hayes, told CBS News in June. “So conceivably someone could come into our care at 15 years old and not have an identifiable sponsor in the United States and remain with us for a few years.” 

On their 18th birthdays, many of the children will be taken from ORR’s youth holding facilities, referred to as shelters, to adult detention centers operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The number of children in this group has risen sharply in recent years, an “alarming” and “deeply concerning” trend, according to three former agency officials who spoke with CBS News. 

Children in ORR custody are labeled internally as belonging to one of four groups: Category One children have an identified parent or legal guardian — referred to as a sponsor — in the U.S.; Category Two kids may end up with a relative; Category Three children have potential sponsors who identify as distant family or close family friends.

The children who may be stuck in federal custody — Category Four — have no identifiable sponsor, according to the government.

As of June, Category Four children represented roughly one-third of all kids in ORR care, a far greater portion than in past years, according to former ORR Director Bob Carey, who served during the last two years of the Obama administration. 

“It’s deeply concerning. It’s a significant increase from what we saw during the Obama administration. I think the numbers were really small, I would think under 10 percent,” said Carey, who is now a policy adviser at the nonprofit Exodus Institute. 

A February 2016 report by the Government Accountability Office called the use of Category Four designations “rare.” 

Another former ORR official, who asked not to be named, called the sudden change troubling. “Having a third of kids be CAT 4, there’s something that’s strange about that,” the former ORR official said. “That’s alarming to me, particularly because the system was never designed for long-term care.”

Why so many migrant kids could be held indefinitely

A landmark 1997 court settlement known as the Flores Agreement requires the federal government to try to unite unaccompanied migrant children with relatives as quickly as possible. However, those efforts may be harder to fulfill than in previous years, according to Mark Greenberg, former Acting Assistant Secretary of the Administration for Children and Families, which oversees ORR. Greenberg said potential sponsors may be too afraid to come forward, a view shared by Carey and the other former ORR official. 

All three said they’ve long feared that the Trump administration’s immigration policy changes would have a “chilling effect” on potential sponsors. They cited the “zero tolerance” initiative that separated children from parents and a now-scrapped 2018 rule mandating that all members of a sponsors’ household be fingerprinted, as well as talk of raids by ICE

Agency statistics show in fiscal year 2018 there was a dramatic drop in the percentage of children released from ORR care compared to previous years.

Separated from his father, then labeled Category Four

Texas attorney Ricardo de Anda represents a 9-year-old former Category Four boy who was separated from his father in May 2018 as a result of “zero tolerance.” They fled Guatemala after the father, an Evangelical Christian, had been “brutally attacked and tortured by members of (the 18th Street Gang) because of … preaching against a life of crime,” according to a federal court complaint filed by de Anda.

The father was sent back to Guatemala and is in hiding, but has had maintained contact with U.S. attorneys. With no other family in the U.S., the boy was classified as Category Four. During the next nine months he would be moved to four different ORR facilities, breaking his leg along the way, according to de Anda. 

De Anda located a family who wanted to take the boy in, and introduced the boy’s parents to them through a series of video conferences and phone calls. The father signed forms at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala agreeing to designate the family as the boy’s sponsor.

ORR rejected the request, according to court documents. “Per policy, we are not able to reunify any child with people that are not known by the family,” the agency wrote to de Anda. That policy is known as the “pre-existing relationship” rule.

The boy sued and was allowed to go live with the sponsor family. ORR did not respond to questions about the boy’s case.

De Anda thinks more kids should get the opportunity afforded his client. He says the government should get rid of the Category Four classification altogether.

“The reason children are stacking up in in these detention camps is because ORR does not allow qualified American families to take these children in,” de Anda said. “I know for a fact, just from my practice, how many Americans are willing to open their doors to take these children in. But the door is absolutely closed to them. And as a result these children are stacking up and they’re languishing.”

For many kids in long-term ORR care, life can be particularly unstable, said attorney Neha Desai, Director of Immigration at the nonprofit National Center for Youth Law.

“A couple of kids I can think of off the top of my head have been in our custody literally for years, bouncing up and down (between various facilities),” Desai said. 

She said kids are often beholden to the case workers tasked with vetting their sponsors. 

“A case worker that is actively and creatively exploring options for a youth may be able to pursue a potential sponsor that another less zealous case manager may have never identified in the first place,” Desai said. 

Some Category Four children end up in ORR’s foster care system, but the majority remain in ORR’s network of nearly 170 shelters, some of which have been the subject of withering widespread criticism. The largest such shelter, in Homestead, Florida, was criticized in May by some of its own child residents in the form of testimonials filed in court. Children there described fear and anxiety over punishment for breaking seemingly small rules — showering too long, or hugging a sibling in violation of a no-touching policy.  

An Amnesty International report released July 17 found at least 97 Category Four children in Homestead. The facility’s director said that for children without sponsors, the preference is for them to be “repatriated,” or deported, rather than risk that they remain in a non-relative’s home where trafficking could be a risk.

“Amnesty International is alarmed by this rationale, which could result in children being unlawfully returned to harm in the countries that they fled,” the report’s authors wrote. 

Keeping count

As attorneys, advocates and former ORR officials track similar cases, they question how the system could be both seemingly overflowing with unplaceable kids, while also apparently becoming more efficient by the day. 

Agency statistics show the average length of care for migrant children dropping from a high of 93 days in November 2018 to as low as 45 days in June. 

“I’m not sure how those numbers are being calculated, because it doesn’t really make sense if some children are not being released to sponsors and they’re staying in our care,” Carey said. 

He and others said they want the agency to release statistics that differentiate between the average length of care for children who have been released, and the average length of care for all children currently in ORR custody.

ORR did not reply to questions seeking average statistics that differentiate between the average length of care for children who are released, and the average length of care for the agency’s entire population, including those who remain in custody.  

ORR statistics show the overall population of unaccompanied migrant children has decreased from more than 13,000 in June to 10,100 as of Tuesday, amid an annual summertime decrease in immigration across the southern border. It is not clear if the number of children labeled Category Four has also decreased during that time.

“They could be indefinitely in our custody which is not a healthy situation for children, not knowing what their future is, not having access to recreation, education, being separated from their family members. And these children are for the most part already traumatized,” Carey said.

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Trump says he could impose more tariffs on China if he wanted

Comments from Trump:

  • Europe and China are pumping money into their systems
  • Says he could impose more tariffs on China if he wanted
  • Says he expects some action from German car company
  • Tariffs only having positive impact on US
  • We have a long way to go with China on trade
  •  Lowering interest rates would boost stock market

Stocks don’t like the latest Trump comments.
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Video: What to watch for in the non-farm payrolls report and why CAD could rally

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Baghdad could feel effects of U.S. economic sanctions against Iran

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