The Associated Press


The Trump administration is poised to announce that it will blacklist Iran’s entire financial sector, dealing another blow to an economy that is already reeling under U.S. sanctions.

Administration officials and congressional aides say the decision is expected on Thursday.

The move is expected to hit 14 Iranian banks that have thus far escaped the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions and, more importantly, subject foreign, non-Iranian financial institutions to penalties for doing business with them.

Thus, it will effectively cut them off from the international financial system.

The officials and aides spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly preview the decision, which is to be announced by Treasury Department on Thursday afternoon.

It was not immediately clear if the blacklisting would come with a grace period or tailored exemptions that would permit some limited transactions to continue.

The move comes as the U.S. has stepped up efforts to kill the 2015 Iran nuclear deal from which President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018.

Since then, Trump has steadily increased pressure on Iran by imposing sanctions on its oil sales, blacklisting government officials and killing a top general in an airstrike.

Last month, the administration unilaterally announced that it had restored all international sanctions against Iran that had been eased or lifted under the nuclear deal.

While almost the entire rest of the world has vowed to ignore those sanctions, violating them will come with significant risk of losing access to the U.S. financial system.

Critics say the sanctions will further cut off Iran’s ability to import humanitarian goods, although U.S. officials insist there are exceptions for legitimate items such as food and medicine.

Author: The Associated Press

Source: Western Journal: Trump Admin To Slap Devastating New Sanctions on Iran

As the Trump administration moves toward antitrust action against search giant Google, it’s campaigning to enlist support from state attorneys general across the country.

President Donald Trump pushed his campaign against Big Tech on Wednesday, touting curbs on legal protections for social media platforms he denounces as biased against conservative views.

“In recent years, a small group of technology platforms have tightened their grip over commerce and communications in America,” Trump said at a White House event with Attorney General William Barr and Republican attorneys general from several states.

“They’ve used this power to engage in unscrupulous business practices while simultaneously waging war on free enterprise and free expression.”

The anticipated lawsuit against Google by the Justice Department could be the government’s biggest legal offensive to protect competition in almost 20 years.

Lawmakers and consumer advocates accuse Google of abusing its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and boost its profits.

For over a year, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission have pursued sweeping antitrust investigations of Big Tech companies, looking into whether Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple have hurt competition, stifled innovation or otherwise harmed consumers.

And a bipartisan coalition of 50 U.S. states and territories, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, announced a year ago on the steps of the Supreme Court that they were investigating Google’s business practices. They cited “potential monopolistic behavior.”

Now the Justice Department appears to be approaching legal action against Google and soliciting the support of state attorneys general on an issue of rare bipartisan agreement.

Along with the antitrust drive, the Justice Department has asked Congress to roll back legal protections for online platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter.

Trump signed an executive order earlier this year challenging the protections from lawsuits under a 1996 telecommunications law.

The White House said Wednesday the legislative proposal would protect the open internet and prevent hidden manipulation by social media.

In addition, Barr said, the government will provide individuals the ability to pursue legal claims against online platforms for “bad-faith censorship.”

Social media platforms can abuse consumers’ trust “by deciding which voices they are going to amplify and which they are going to throttle, and by improperly tracking, collecting user data and even facilitating criminal activity,” Barr said.

The Justice Department’s antitrust officials are expected to discuss their planned action against Google in Washington meetings and a conference call with the state attorneys general on Thursday.

“Big Tech has a powerful influence on commerce and our daily lives, warranting significant scrutiny,” Washington state attorney general Bob Ferguson said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Any effort to abuse that influence for competitive gain calls for vigorous enforcement of the antitrust laws.”

The Trump administration has long had Google in its sights. A top economic adviser to the president said two years ago that the White House was considering whether Google searches should be subject to government regulation.

The company, based in Mountain View, California, has denied the claims of liberal bias and insists that it never ranks search results to manipulate political views.

Google has argued that although its businesses are large, they are beneficial to consumers. It maintains that its services face ample competition.

A House Judiciary subcommittee has pursued its own bipartisan investigation of Big Tech’s market dominance.

The panel’s chairman, Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, accused Google in a July hearing of leveraging its dominant search engine to steal ideas and information from other websites and manipulating its results to drive people to its own digital services.

Antitrust regulators in Europe have cracked down on Google in recent years by imposing multibillion-dollar fines and ordering changes to its practices.

Google, whose parent is Alphabet Inc., controls about 90 percent of global web searches. Its dominance in online search and advertising enables it to target millions of consumers for their personal data.

Google dwarfs other search competitors such as Microsoft’s Bing and Yelp and has faced harsh criticism for favoring its own products over competitors at the top of search results.

Google also owns the leading web browser in Chrome, the world’s largest mobile operating system in Android, the top video site in YouTube and the most popular digital mapping system.

Author: The Associated Press

Source: Western Journal: Trump Urges States To Rein In Big Tech with DOJ Poised To Nail Google

The United States slapped additional sanctions on Iran on Monday after the Trump administration’s unilateral weekend declaration that all United Nations penalties that were eased under the 2015 nuclear deal had been restored.

The announcement sets the stage for a showdown at the annual U.N. General Assembly this week. The U.N. has rejected U.S. legal standing to impose the international sanctions.

“The United States has now restored U.N. sanctions on Iran,” President Donald Trump said in a statement issued shortly after he signed an executive order spelling out how the U.S. will enforce the “snapback” of the sanctions.

“My actions today send a clear message to the Iranian regime and those in the international community who refuse to stand up to Iran.”

Speaking to reporters with fellow Cabinet secretaries at the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo then announced the administration was hitting more than two dozen Iranian individuals and institutions with penalties.

Nearly all of them, however, including the Iranian defense ministry and its atomic energy agency, were already subject to U.S. sanctions that the administration had re-imposed after Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

Trump’s executive order mainly affects Iranian and foreign entities involved in conventional weapons and ballistic missile activity.

A U.N. arms embargo on Iran is to expire in October under the terms of the nuclear deal, but Pompeo and others insist the snapback has rescinded its termination.

Accompanied by Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, Pompeo said the U.S. was acting because the rest of the world is refusing to confront Iran.

“No matter where you are in the world, you will risk sanctions,” he said, warning foreign companies and officials not to do business with targeted Iranian entities.

Craft said, “As we have in the past, we will stand alone to protect peace and security.”

The administration declared on Saturday that all U.N. sanctions against Iran had been restored because Tehran is violating parts of the deal in which it agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

But few U.N. member states believe the U.S. has the legal standing to restore the sanctions because Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018. The U.S. argues it retains the right to do so as an original participant in the deal and a member of the security council.

The remaining world powers in the deal — France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia — have been struggling to offset the sanctions that the U.S. re-imposed on Iran after the Trump administration left the pact, which the president said was one-sided in favor of Tehran.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s nuclear agency, said Monday that there is still a broad agreement among the international community that the nuclear pact should be preserved.

At a conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Salehi said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, has been “caught in a quasi-stalemate situation” since Trump pulled out.

While insisting it is not pursuing a nuclear weapon, Iran has been steadily breaking restrictions outlined in the deal on the amount of uranium it can enrich, the purity it can enrich it to, and other limitations.

At the same time, Iran has far less enriched uranium and lower-purity uranium than it had before signing the deal, and it has continued to allow international inspectors into its nuclear facilities.

Author: The Associated Press

Source: Western Journal: Trump Administration Takes Significant Action Against Iran

The Trump administration is moving forward with a policy that expands protections for religious groups on college campuses and threatens to cut federal education funding to colleges that violate free speech rules.

The rule was issued by the Education Department on Wednesday and cements much of what President Donald Trump outlined in a March 2019 executive order demanding wider speech protections at U.S. colleges.

As part of the policy, the Education Department can suspend or terminate grants to public universities found in court to have violated the First Amendment. In extreme cases, schools could become ineligible for any further grants.

The same actions could be taken against private universities found in court to have violated their own speech codes.

Public universities could also lose funding if they fail to provide religious student groups the same rights and benefits as other campus groups, including the use of campus facilities and access to student fee funding.

That edict does not apply to private colleges, which have more flexibility in limiting speech on their campuses.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the new rule protects the rights of students, teachers and religious institutions.

“Students should not be forced to choose between their faith and their education, and an institution controlled by a religious organization should not have to sacrifice its religious beliefs to participate in Department grants and programs,” DeVos said in a statement.

In his March 2019 executive order, Trump directed a dozen federal agencies to tie their university funding to free speech rules.

The new policy applies only to certain Education Department grants, and it was not immediately clear if similar policies are being prepared by other agencies.

The policy was welcomed by a variety of religious groups that say colleges too often discriminate against students based on their faith.

Some groups cited a 2018 case at the University of Iowa, which disbanded several religious groups that declined to adopt a policy forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The university launched its crackdown after a gay student was rejected from a leadership position in a campus Christian group.

In its policy, the Education Department specifically forbids colleges from discriminating against religious student groups based on “leadership standards” that are “informed by sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The policy benefits Muslim student groups by allowing them to choose their leaders according to their faith’s principles, according to Ismail Royer, director of the Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team for the Religious Freedom Institute.

“This right should be reserved for all student religious organizations, and not usurped by university officials based on their own shifting, unpredictable standards,” Royer said in a statement.

Author: The Associated Press

Source: Western Journal: New Trump Rule Protects Free Speech, Religious Freedom on College Campuses

A Justice Department investigation has found Yale University is illegally discriminating against Asian-American and white applicants, officials said Thursday.

The findings detailed in a letter to the college’s attorneys mark the latest action by the Trump administration aimed at rooting out discrimination in the college application process, following complaints from students about the admissions process at some Ivy League schools.

The two-year investigation concluded that Yale “rejects scores of Asian American and white applicants each year based on their race, whom it otherwise would admit,” the Justice Department said.

The investigation stemmed from a 2016 complaint against Yale, Brown and Dartmouth.

“Yale’s race discrimination imposes undue and unlawful penalties on racially-disfavored applicants, including in particular Asian American and White applicants,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, who heads the department’s civil rights division, wrote in a letter to the college’s attorneys.

Prosecutors found that Yale has been discriminating against applicants to its undergraduate program based on their race and “that race is the determinative factor in hundreds of admissions decisions each year.”

The investigation concluded that Asian-American and white students have “only one-tenth to one-fourth of the likelihood of admission as African American applicants with comparable academic credentials,” the Justice Department said.

“Unlawfully dividing Americans into racial and ethnic blocs fosters stereotypes, bitterness, and division,” Dreiband said in a statement.

“It is past time for American institutions to recognize that all people should be treated with decency and respect and without unlawful regard to the color of their skin.”

The investigation found that Yale uses race as a factor in multiple steps of the admissions process and that Yale “racially balances its classes.”

The Supreme Court has ruled colleges and universities may consider race in admissions decisions on a limited basis, but schools bear the burden of showing why their consideration of race is appropriate.

Yale has previously denied that its admissions process discriminates against Asian-Americans or any other ethnic group.

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Responding to the 2018 announcement of the investigation, Yale’s president said race is one of “a multitude” of factors the school considers when weighing applications.

“Yale College could fill its entire entering class several times over with applicants who reach the 99th percentile in standardized testing and who have perfect high school grade point averages, but we do not base admission on such numbers alone,” President Peter Salovey wrote.

“Rather, we look at the whole person when selecting whom to admit among the many thousands of highly qualified applicants.”

Over the previous 15 years, he said, the number of Asian-American students in Yale’s incoming classes grew from 14 percent to 22 percent. He added that the school’s approach “complies fully with all legal requirements and has been endorsed repeatedly by the Supreme Court.”

The Justice Department has ordered Yale immediately to agree not to use race or national origin in upcoming admissions decisions.

The government also said that if Yale proposes to continue to use race or national origin as a factor in future admissions decisions, the college must first submit a plan to the Justice Department “demonstrating its proposal is narrowly tailored as required by law, including by identifying a date for the end of race discrimination.”

The Justice Department has previously raised similar concerns about Harvard University, which prosecutors accused of “engaging in outright racial balancing,” siding with Asian-American students in a lawsuit alleging the Ivy League school discriminated against them.

A federal judge in 2019 cleared Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants. That ruling has been appealed and arguments are scheduled for next month.

Author: The Associated Press

Source: Western Journal: Trump Admin Cracks Down on Yale’s Discrimination Against Asian-American, White Applicants

U.S. companies added 291,000 jobs in January, a big increase from December, but much of that strength likely reflected unusually warm weather during the month.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that the January job gain was larger than had been expected, compared to a revised December figure of 193,000.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said that warmer-than-normal weather for January played a big role in the increase. He said without that impact, the job gain would probably have been around 150,000.

The ADP report is coming out ahead of the Labor Department’s release of the January jobs report on Jan. 31. Many analysts expect that report will show a job gain of 150,000 in January, compared to 145,000 jobs in the government’s report in December. Analysts believe the unemployment rate will remain at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent.

The ADP report showed a gain of 47,000 construction jobs and an increase of 96,000 jobs in leisure and hospitality, two areas where the warmer weather probably played a role. Zandi said those two categories showed the impact of weather on the data.

Manufacturing added 10,000 jobs in January while education was up 24,000 and health care jobs rose by 47,000.

Zandi said a variety of factors from a deadly virus in China to Boeing’s shutdown of production of the troubled 737 MAX jetliner will reduce growth in the first part of the year.

Author: The Associated Press

Source: The Epoch Times: US Companies Added 291,000 Jobs in January: Survey

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