McCarthy faces QAnon squeeze

Marjorie Taylor Greene vowed to be the left’s “worst nightmare” after she won the GOP nomination for a conservative district in Georgia on Tuesday night.

But House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is the one who is most likely to be haunted by Greene.

The rise of Greene — an unapologetic QAnon conspiracy theorist who has made disparaging remarks about Jews, Blacks, and Muslims — is threatening to hurt the entire party as Republicans seek to staunch their bleeding in suburbia and expand their base of support amid a national reckoning over racial inequality. Greene won a GOP primary runoff in a deep red northwest Georgia seat, all but guaranteeing her a spot in Congress next year.

Now Republicans up and down the ballot will have to answer for Greene’s controversial remarks. And she’s showing no signs of softening her rhetoric. During her primary victory party, Greene ripped into “spineless Republicans,” called Speaker Nancy Pelosi “a bitch,” and kicked reporters out of the event. Greene then celebrated their ouster on Twitter.

By Wednesday, Greene was already in a Twitter war with a sitting House Republican who said there is “no place in Congress for these conspiracies.” A Trump campaign spokesman then jumped to Greene’s defense.

Greene’s actions offered a preview of the type of headache-inducing behavior that Republicans fear will come to define hee and perhaps the broader GOP — especially after President Donald Trump on Wednesday called Greene a “future Republican Star.”

“If she’s the future of the Republican party, we’re in trouble,” complained freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), who was ousted in June primary by a far-right candidate after officiating a gay wedding. “QAnon is the mental gonorrhea of conspiracy theories. It’s disgusting and you want to get rid of it as fast as possible.”

“If there’s people [in the GOP] espousing these views, it’s a massive drag on the Republican party,” Riggleman added.

Yet to the consternation of many House Republicans, McCarthy (R-Calif.) did little to thwart Greene’s bid. He stayed neutral in the primary runoff, despite initially calling Greene’s comments “appalling” and saying he has no tolerance for them. POLITICO first reported on Greene’s history of racist and anti-Semitic comments in June.

Some House GOP operatives fear that ushering Greene into the party will set a dangerous precedent.

“It’s important for Republicans to stand up against people like this who are harming the whole party brand,” said former Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), who lost reelection in 2018. “That’s what they did with Steve King when they kicked him off of committees.”

McCarthy removed King from his committees in January 2019 after the Iowa Republican defended using the term “white supremacist” in an interview with the New York Times. King was defeated in a Republican primary in June, to the relief of many Republicans.

McCarthy’s office, however, said Wednesday that Greene will be welcomed into the GOP conference and given seats on congressional committees, provided she wins in November. A McCarthy spokesman added that they “look forward” to Greene “and all of our Republican candidates across the country” being victorious on Election Day.

Greene’s candidacy and her vocal embrace of QAnon — a fringe conspiracy theory that the FBI labeled as a potential domestic terrorism threat — has put McCarthy in a serious bind.

McCarthy’s top deputy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), and a dozen other House Republicans repudiated Greene and actively worked to boost her Republican primary opponent, neurosurgeon John Cowan. McCarthy, meanwhile, is trying to prevent the GOP from sinking further into the House minority, and the California Republican has tried to recruit and appeal to more women and minorities. The House currently has 13 Republican women and only one Black member, Will Hurd of Texas, who is retiring. There are 88 Democratic women serving in the House, as well as 50 Black Democrats.

But then there’s Trump, whom McCarthy has closely aligned himself with going back to the 2016 campaign. Trump, who fueled his political rise by peddling the “birtherism” conspiracy theory about former President Barack Obama, has been openly flirting with QAnon supporters. But his full-throated endorsement of Greene is his strongest nod yet to the fringe movement and will be a huge problem for the House GOP leadership. Dozens of QAnon supporters, or those who have expressed sympathy to the movement, ran for Congress this year, meaning Greene may only be the vanguard of a congressional faction that could cause long-term disruption to the party.

Meanwhile, the conservative House Freedom Caucus — a bloc of support that will be crucial for McCarthy in any future leadership bids — is also actively supporting Greene and recruited her to run for the deep red seat instead of a more competitive one.

Many GOP lawmakers, donors and strategists were angry and baffled that McCarthy didn’t intervene in the race. And some are predicting that he could suffer backlash for it — especially if things go sideways for the GOP in November.

“Kevin McCarthy puffed his chest out about stripping Steve King of his committee assignments, then sat on the sidelines and let another Steve King walk away with this race in GA14,” said one GOP source. “It’s political malpractice and Republicans will be answering for her for years to come.”

Riggleman, however, was more forgiving: “I think McCarthy was in an impossible situation.”

Democrats are already trying to make Greene the face of the GOP. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos of Illinois said Greene “is a next-generation Steve King who is now the Republican nominee for Congress because Minority Leader McCarthy refused to meaningfully oppose her racist candidacy.”

Georgia Democrats are also trying to make Greene an issue in the two Senate races taking place in the Peach State this fall and two open House seats in the suburbs of Atlanta.

“My heart hurts for all of the Republican women who have worked so hard, harder than most to get to where they are, who are now going to have to waste one second of their breath explaining how her beliefs are not theirs,” said Julie Conway, a veteran party strategist who has been warning donors, members of Congress and their aides since last spring about Greene’s candidacy.

Yet in a sign of how tight Trump’s grip is on the GOP, few Republicans — including those who campaigned against Greene — spoke out in the wake of her primary win. Scalise, GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming and NRCC Chairman Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota had no comment on Wednesday.

A spokesperson to Emmer responded by invoking Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who came under fire for repeating Jewish tropes that many feel are anti-Semitic. Omar won her primary Tuesday night.

“Are Cheri Bustos and the DCCC going to support Ilhan Omar, given the concern House Democrats have expressed repeatedly with her racism and anti-Semitism?” NRCC spokesman Chris Pack said.

House Democrats, however, responded to the Omar controversy last year by passing two resolutions decrying anti-Semitism, though the Minnesota Democrat wasn’t named in either measure.

McCarthy and GOP congressional leaders are hampered in how they can stop Greene by House rules and legal precedents. If Greene were to win in November, as expected, there’s no way the House can refuse to seat her, despite her incendiary comments.

However, Republicans don’t have to accept her into their conference even if she wins the election running as a GOP candidate. The Republican and Democratic caucuses in Congress decide who to allow into their respective ranks, and there is no requirement that leadership give Greene a committee assignment either. There have been members — such as King — who served but held no committee seats. They are allowed to vote on the floor and can be recognized for floor speeches, but they don’t have any further legislative duties.

Source: Politico, McCarthy faces QAnon squeeze

China’s debt collectors flourish as consumers flounder in a COVID-hit economy

August 13, 2020

By Samuel Shen, Cheng Leng and Ryan Woo

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – It’s not a good sign for any economy when debt collectors are booming and in China right now, the industry is on a hiring spree.

Whole Scene Asset Management, a debt recovery firm based in the southern province of Hunan, plans to double staff numbers to 400 people this year as it expands into new cities.

“Debt collection companies have been mushrooming,” said company founder Zhang Haiyan. “And with bad loans growing this year, everyone is adding new hands.”

Rival Bricsman is also hiring – hoping to boost headcount of around 1,000 by 400-500 this year after landing a deal to collect delinquent consumer loans for China Minsheng Bank <600016.SS>, people with knowledge of the matter said, declining to identified as they were not authorised to talk to media.

Bricsman, which is based in the eastern province of Jiangsu and counts other large banks amongst its clients, did not respond to a request for comment.

As increasing numbers of consumers struggle with lost income in an economy battered by the coronavirus and U.S-China tensions, a burgeoning wave of non-performing loans is sparking concern among lenders – both at specialist consumer financing firms and traditional banks – and even among debt collectors.

China is the midst of “an unfolding debt crisis”, says Joe Zhang, a business consultant and until last month vice chairman at the country’s largest debt collector YX Asset Recovery.

The delinquency rate for consumer debt is climbing and collecting on those loans has become much harder, he added, estimating that at some weaker non-bank consumer lenders, soured loans may account for 30% to 50% of their portfolios.

That bodes ill not only for Beijing’s efforts to spur domestic demand but also for the financial health of consumer lending firms which help provide credit seen as vital for shoring up the pandemic-hit economy.


The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission did not respond to a Reuters request for comment on its current assessment of risks posed by soured consumer loans.

It last said delinquency rates were under control when it noted a 0.13 percentage point rise in the non-performing loan ratio for first-quarter consumer debt compared to the start of this year. But that data only captures bank loans and not those extended by the country’s vast numbers of specialist consumer finance firms including micro lenders.

Even at banks, which generally have stricter loan criteria, concern is building.

An internal review by Bank of Shanghai Co Ltd <601229.SS> saw its non-performing loan ratio for consumer debt soar in the first quarter, said a company source familiar with the matter.

“We’ve already started to reduce our exposure in consumer finance by cutting our co-lending business with smaller platforms,” said the source, who like other lending sources was not authorised to speak to media and declined to be named.

Bank of Shanghai did not respond to a request for comment.

Chinese consumer debt has ballooned over the past five years, fuelled in part as banks scrambled to issue credit cards, with outstanding debt for bank-issued cards doubling to 17.6 trillion yuan ($2.5 trillion).

Internet-based consumer financing, which is only lightly regulated, has also grown – by a dizzying 400 times to nearly 8 trillion yuan since 2014, according to the Guanghua School of Management.

And Chinese household debt – including mortgages and unsecured consumer loans – has swollen to levels equivalent to nearly 60% of GDP, up from 18% in 2008, the peak of the global financial crisis.

Like Bank of Shanghai, some lenders are rethinking their retail strategy.

China Merchants Bank <600036.SS>, which derives about 55% of its business from individual clients, is reviewing an earlier plan to increase that portion of its business to 60%, its president Tian Huiyu said in April after its first-quarter earnings.

Shanghai ShangCheng Consumer Finance has lifted its thresholds for new borrowings while intensifying debt recovery efforts, a company manager told Reuters.

Shanghai ShangCheng did not respond to requests for comment.

“Most licensed non-bank consumer finance firms in China lost money in the first half,” the manager said, adding that many smaller firms will “need capital injections to keep afloat or they will face liquidity pressure when they write off huge amounts of soured debt.”

($1 = 6.9413 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Samuel Shen in Shanghai and Cheng Leng and Ryan Woo in Beijing; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Exclusive: Trump administration asks court to dismiss Big Tech’s challenge to social media executive order

August 13, 2020

By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration has filed a motion asking a court to dismiss a lawsuit against the president’s executive order targeting social media companies, calling it a “profound misunderstanding,” according to a copy of the motion seen by Reuters.

The lawsuit was brought in June by the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a Washington-based tech group funded by Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Twitter Inc. It marked the first major legal test of President Donald Trump’s directive.

Trump issued an executive order in May against social media companies in an attempt to regulate platforms where he has been criticized, just days after Twitter took the rare step of fact-checking one of his tweets about mail-in voting. Trump threatened to scrap or weaken a law known as Section 230, which protects internet companies from litigation over content posted by users.

The lawsuit by CDT argued Trump’s social media executive order violates the First Amendment rights of social media companies, will chill future online speech and reduce the ability of Americans to speak freely online.

The administration argues that the executive order only directs government agencies, and not private companies, to act.

“The EO challenged here imposes no obligations on any private party,” said the motion filed by the Department of Justice in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which was seen by Reuters.

“It directs executive officials to take steps that could lead various agencies to examine … allegations that large social media online platforms have displayed political bias in moderating content,” the motion said.

The lawsuit reflects long-simmering tensions between the Trump administration and social media companies that have become key tools in Trump’s political arsenal.

Avery Gardiner, CDT’s general counsel, called Trump’s executive order “unconstitutional.” CDT’s lawsuit argues that the White House ran afoul of the First Amendment, which prohibits government officials from retaliating against an individual or entity for engaging in protected speech.

“Instead of actually trying to address the merits of the issues, and to engage in litigation that will show the severe constitutional deformities of the executive order, it is resorting to legal maneuvering,” Gardiner said on Wednesday, referring to the Trump administration’s move.

The CDT has negotiated a briefing schedule with the DOJ. CDT will be filing its response by the end of August and the government is likely to respond by Sept. 21, she said.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said the administration moved to dismiss the case because “it is not a valid legal argument.”

“The left-wing lobbying organization’s brief seems to suggest it doesn’t understand how administrative action works or possibly that it doesn’t understand the nature of the judicial system,” he told Reuters on Wednesday.

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

Twitter called the executive order a “reactionary and politicized approach to a landmark law.” It declined comment on the CDT lawsuit. Google and Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump’s order seeks to channel complaints about political bias to the Federal Trade Commission. At a recent Senate hearing, the agency’s chairman, Joseph Simons, said the FTC has not taken any action to enforce the order.

The U.S. Commerce Department has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeking new transparency rules in how social media companies moderate content after Trump’s executive order directed the action. Earlier this month FCC Chairman Ajit Pai agreed to open the petition to public comment for 45 days.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington, Additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Ken Li and Matthew Lewis)

Asian stocks set to track Wall Street’s defiant rally

August 13, 2020

By Lawrence Delevingne

BOSTON (Reuters) – Asian stocks were set for broad gains on Thursday after Wall Street’s S&P 500 index briefly touched record highs, as investors appeared to shrug off worries about stalled U.S. stimulus talks and a shaky economic recovery.

Australian S&P/ASX 200 futures rose 0.69% in early trading, while New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gained about 0.4%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures rose 0.42% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 futures were flat.

Those gains came after the S&P 500 jumped on Wednesday, finishing just short of its February record closing high.

Analysts said while recent headlines suggest economic risks are growing, they also bolster the case for continued stimulus from Washington, which has given markets something to cheer.

In a wide rally led by tech-related stocks, the Nasdaq and Dow also rose sharply. The Nasdaq was the first of the three major indexes to bounce back to an all-time high in June. The Dow remains below its February peak.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 were flat.

The gains on Wall Street came despite a continued impasse between lawmakers in Washington over the next economic relief package and a warning from Federal Reserve policymakers that the U.S. recovery will be gradual and slow until the coronavirus is under control.

U.S. government bond yields dipped from one-month highs on Wednesday after the Treasury saw good demand for a record $38 billion auction of 10-year notes, but they remained higher on the day ahead of a 30-year bond auction on Thursday.

Kim Mundy, an analyst at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said Washington would continue to support the economy despite a higher then expected inflation report.

“Monetary policy will remain very accommodative in the U.S. for a long time,” she wrote.

The dollar index fell about 0.3% amid mixed messages from U.S. markets, and the Australian dollar fell 0.04% versus the greenback at $0.716.

Ray Attrill, Head of FX Strategy at National Australia Bank in Sydney, said that “the improvement in risk sentiment has carried the day” for the Aussie after initially being dragged lower by negative news out of New Zealand and second quarter wage data.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.04% versus the greenback at 106.85 per dollar, while Sterling was last trading at $1.3033, up 0.01% on the day.

Oil prices climbed after government data showed U.S. oil inventories fell across the board, bolstering hopes for increased fuel demand in the world’s biggest economy.

U.S. crude recently fell 0.19% to $42.59 per barrel and Brent was flat on the day.

Save-haven precious metals recouped some of their recent losses in a choppy session.

Gold swung from being down 2.5% to add 0.3% to $1,917.16 an ounce, a day after its biggest daily fall in seven years. Silver fell as much as 5.5% and rose as much as 6% after a 15% plunge, the largest in over a decade, on Tuesday. <GOL/R>

Spot gold dropped 0.3% to $1,912.97 an ounce.

(Editing by Sam Holmes)

Bond star Naomie Harris backs new Extinction Rebellion climate change film

August 13, 2020

By Matthew Green

LONDON (Reuters) – British actress Naomie Harris and musician Brian Eno have teamed up to produce a short film backing calls for urgent action to slow climate change, in support of civil disobedience campaign Extinction Rebellion.

Harris, who plays Eve Moneypenny in the James Bond movies “Skyfall,” “Spectre” and the forthcoming “No Time To Die”, provides the voice-over for the animation, which also explores the threat posed by the accelerating loss of species.

“I’m proud to be able to lend my voice to this project, which I hope will inspire viewers to get behind the ambitions of Extinction Rebellion with a great deal of urgency,” Harris said in a statement ahead of the film’s release on Thursday.

Called “We Must Act Now,” the film is the first of two animations backed by Hollywood stars to support Extinction Rebellion, which originated in Britain and mobilised thousands of volunteers to peacefully offer themselves for arrest at climate protests last year.

The second film, called “Climate Crisis, and Why We Should Panic,” is voiced by actress Keira Knightley, and argues for emergency action on global warming.

Hundreds of scientists and academics have backed Extinction Rebellion, saying that civil disobedience is the only option left to force governments to embrace the scale of action needed to prevent millions of deaths due to climate change.

Critics say the movement’s disruptive protests, which shut down parts of London last year, have stretched police resources and caused unnecessary inconvenience to commuters.

Nevertheless, the movement has attracted a string of celebrity backers, including Eno, who composed the animation’s soundtrack.

In January, Joaquin Phoenix, who won a best actor Oscar this year for his performance in “Joker”, starred as a medic battling to save planet Earth in a two-minute film to support Extinction Rebellion and San Francisco-based Amazon Watch.

(Reporting by Matthew Green, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Did the Xbox Series X and S Release Date Leak? – IGN Daily Fix – IGN

  1. Did the Xbox Series X and S Release Date Leak? – IGN Daily Fix  IGN
  2. How your PS4 and Xbox One games will work on PS5 and Series X  Ars Technica
  3. Existing Copies Of Control Won’t Be Upgradable To The Next-Gen Console Versions  Kotaku
  4. Halo Infinite’s Delay Is the Right Move…But a Painful One  IGN
  5. European Union Responds to Apple Blocking Project xCloud  GameRant
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Source: Google News, Did the Xbox Series X and S Release Date Leak? – IGN Daily Fix – IGN