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10 things you need to know today !

1. Biden, Harris lead 2nd night of Democrats’ debates

Hasil gambar untuk Democrats pull no punches on second night of primary debate

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, came under fire from rivals on health care, immigration, and other key issues during Wednesday’s debate. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) renewed the criticism of Biden’s record on racial issues that rattled him in the first round of debates in June.

On health care, Biden called for enhancing ObamaCare and accused Harris of “double-talk,” saying her plan combining Medicare-for-all with private insurance had hidden costs. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) criticized Biden’s history of pushing harsh crime bills. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro said Biden ignored “lessons of the past” by opposing more liberal immigration policies. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said her first act as president would be to “Clorox the Oval Office.” [The Washington Post, The Hill]

2. Fed cuts interest rates for first time in a decade

Hasil gambar untuk Fed cuts interest rates, signals it may not need to do more

The Federal Reserve announced its first interest rate cut in a decade on Wednesday at the close of a two-day policy meeting. The quarter-point rate reduction was widely expected, because Fed Chair Jerome Powell and other central bank leaders had signaled that they would do what was necessary to keep the record-long U.S. economic expansion going. Stocks plunged, however, after Powell called the reduction a “midcycle adjustment,” suggesting that more rate cuts were not guaranteed.

“Let me be clear — it’s not the beginning of a long series of rate cuts,” Powell said in a news conference after the Fed announcement. Still, he added, “I didn’t say it’s just one rate cut,”Powell said. “I didn’t say it’s just one or anything like that. When you think about rate-cutting cycles, they go on for a long time and the committee’s not seeing that. Not seeing us in that place. You would do that if you saw real economic weakness and you thought that the federal funds rate needed to be cut a lot. That’s not what we’re seeing.”

Ward McCarthy, Jefferies chief financial economist, said Powell did not make a strong case for the cut where he described once “boiling” trade issues as now “simmering.” The cut was also met by two dissenters, from Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren and Kansas City Fed President Esther George.

“The position is not well enunciated. The policy statement was ambiguous and frankly he hasn’t done anything to clarify it,” McCarthy said. “He seems like he’s not confident. My take is they’re worried about downside risks. Since they’ve already taken the step [to cut rates], they’ll probably take another, but his comments and the two dissents suggest this is not the beginning of a major easing cycle and that’s what hammered the market.”

BMO’s Jeffery said fed funds futures are now reflecting slower rate cutting by the Fed. In the fed funds futures, there is a 60% chance of a 25 basis cut for September, but a 100% chance of the next quarter point by November.

“I don’t think it accomplished anything,” McCarthy said. “It may temporarily satiate market expectations, but the price action suggested the opposite, and you know it’s not going to satiate the White House twitter account. I think the Fed has put itself in a very awkward position. It could not easily defend itself, and that’s what we’re getting out of Powell.”

President Donald Trump tweeted later in the day that he was disappointed with the rate cut and Powell “let us down,” but added that at least the Fed ended its quantitative tightening program.

The reaction from the bond market was one of confusion, and strategists were looking for Fed officials to clarify the message in coming days.

“It was a very confusing and muddled message, and I don’t think that Powell delivered clear direction for what the near term path of additional Fed easing will be, and I think that’s why the market reacted negatively,” said Mark Cabana, head of U.S. short rate strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The Dow fell as much as 478 points and ended down 333 points in its worst day since May. The 2-year Treasury yield, most reflecting the Fed ’s policy, went on a wild ride to above 1.95% from a low of 1.79% before the Fed statement.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 posted their biggest one-day drops since May. [Reuters, CNBC]

3. Trump administration sanctions Iran’s foreign minister

Hasil gambar untuk U.S. sanctions Iran’s foreign minister amid escalating tensions

The Trump administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a move expected to escalate tensions between Washington and Tehran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Zarif, Iran’s top diplomat, had been “complicit” in his country’s support of terrorism. The Treasury Department said Zarif was targeted because he “acted or purported to act for or on behalf of” Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, who was hit with sanctions a month earlier.

State Department officials argued at the time that it would be a mistake to take measures against Zarif because that could limit diplomatic options in dealing with Iran. Zarif sarcastically brushed off the sanctions. “The US’ reason for designating me is that I am Iran’s ‘primary spokesperson around the world,Is the truth really that painful? It has no effect on me or my family, as I have no property or interests outside of Iran, as I have no property or interests outside of Iran,” he tweeted. “Thank you for considering me such a huge threat to your agenda.”The sanctions freeze all U.S. assets and prohibit any U.S. person or entity from financial dealings with Zarif, and threatens sanctions against those in other countries that deal with him.

The sanctions also prohibit travel to the United States, which is already banned for Iranian officials. Under international agreement, the United States must admit those traveling to the United Nations in their official capacity. Zarif visited the United Nations in July, although the State Department limited him to U.N. headquarters and the Iranian diplomatic mission in New York nearby.

The U.S.-educated Zarif, who speaks fluent English and has a ready smile and generally calm demeanor, “has the veneer, the masquerade if you will, of being the sincere and reasonable interlocutor for the regime,” the administration official said. “Our point today is he is no such thing.”

Tensions between Washington and Iran have been growing since the Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 international nuclear deal last year and began its “maximum pressure” campaign. Initially, Tehran appeared to be exercising a policy of “maximum patience,” hoping it could outlast Trump’s time in office. But Iran became more aggressive as the United States tightened sanctions, breaching some elements of the nuclear agreement and challenging oil tankers traversing the Strait of Hormuz.

Following U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Trump reimposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports that had been lifted as part of the agreement. Earlier this year, he declined to renew waivers that exempted several Iranian customers from that ban.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran expert with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the move against Zarif will undercut Iran’s efforts to escape sanctions.

“Zarif’s recent strategy, as exemplified by tweets since April and his two trips to NYC, has been to try to lure President Trump into premature diplomacy and watering down sanctions. But this high-level designation shows that trying to cleave apart the administration is not going to be an easy task,” he said.

Zarif was appointed foreign minister by President Hassan Rouhani in 2013, and subsequently led negotiations with the Obama administration, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China that led to the nuclear accord.

From 2002 to 2007, Zarif served as Iran’s permanent representative to the United Nations, as well as in other senior diplomatic posts. Zarif, 60, first left Iran as a teenager to attend a college preparatory school in San Francisco. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international relations from San Francisco State University, and a second masters and a doctorate in international law and policy from the University of Denver.

[The Washington Post]

4. Pilot missing after Navy fighter jet crashes in Death Valley

Hasil gambar untuk 'It Looked Like a Bomb.' U.S. Fighter Jet Crashes in Death Valley National Park, Injuring 7 People

A Navy fighter jet crashed in Death Valley National Park on Wednesday. Military personnel were searching for the pilot. The FA-18E Super Hornet went down in an area known as Star Wars Canyon, where people like to stand on an overlook to watch as military planes conduct low-level training flights. After the crash, park rangers discovered that seven bystanders at the overlook had been injured, although it is unclear how they were hurt, NBC News reports.

A search was underway for the pilot of the single-seat F/A-18 Super Hornet that was on a routine training mission, said Lt. Cmdr. Lydia Bock, spokeswoman for Naval Air Station Lemoore in California’s Central Valley.“The status of the pilot is unknown at this time,” Bock said about four hours after the crash.

A military helicopter searched for the pilot

Ambulances were sent to the crash site near Father Crowley Overlook, but it wasn’t clear if anyone was transported for further medical treatment, said park spokesman Patrick Taylor. He said initial reports were that seven park visitors had minor injuries.

The lookout point about 160 miles (257 kilometers) north of Los Angeles is popular with photographers and aviation buffs who gawk at jets flying in the steep, narrow canyon.

U.S. and foreign militaries train pilots and test jets in the gorge officially called Rainbow Canyon near the park’s western entrance. Military flights there date back to World War II.

The chasm got its nickname because mineral-rich soil and red, gray and pink walls bring to mind the home planet of “Star Wars” character Luke Skywalker.

Training flights are almost a daily feature with jets thundering below the rim of the canyon and passing so close viewers can see the pilots’ facial expressions.

Aaron Cassell said he was working 10 miles away at his family’s Panamint Springs Resort when he heard roaring jets, then saw a “black mushroom cloud.” “It was like a bomb,” he said. “To me that speaks of a very violent impact.”A search was underway for the pilot of the single-seat F/A-18 Super Hornet that was on a routine training mission, said Lt. Cmdr. Lydia Bock, spokeswoman for Naval Air Station Lemoore in California’s Central Valley.

A jet that was following the downed craft pulled up and began circling, Cassell said. He didn’t see any parachute.

His father drove up to the area after the crash and saw a large black scorch mark and shattered parts of the jet scattered throughout the area between the parking lot and lookout, Cassell said. A nose cone from the jet was the size of a bowling ball and the rest of the debris was no larger than a ball cap.

The jet was from strike fighter squadron VFA-151 stationed at Lemoore. The squadron is part of an air group attached to the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis. The Super Hornet is a twin-engine warplane designed to fly from either aircraft carriers or ground bases on both air-superiority and ground-attack missions.

[The Associated Press]

5. Bin Laden’s son reportedly killed in U.S.-supported operation

Hamza bin Laden, son of late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, has been killed, The New York Times reported, citing two American officials. Hamza bin Laden was considered likely one day to become a leader of the Islamist terrorist group, which has not carried out a major attack in years. He had made numerous threats to attack the U.S., and had vowed to avenge the death of his father, who was killed in a 2011 SEAL Team 6 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

While Mr. Joscelyn said he doubted that Mr. bin Laden was next in line to lead Al Qaeda, he said he had an important role, both in terms of ties to the Taliban and as a spokesman.

“They were building him up to potentially be the No. 1 someday; he was not thought of as the heir apparent today,” Mr. Joscelyn said.

Omar bin Laden, another son of the Qaeda founder, has maintained that the group had used Hamza bin Laden for his name and potentially manipulated him into becoming its face, said Jean Sasson, the co-author of “Growing up bin Laden.”

President Trump was asked on Wednesday about the death, first reported by NBC News, but he declined to comment.

The location of Mr. bin Laden had been the subject of public speculation. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he and other members of Al Qaeda fled to Iran, where they were detained. He was eventually allowed to leave Iran, then reportedly moved with his family to the Pakistan border region. At one point, intelligence showed that he had traveled to Syria in the past several years, former officials have said.

The C.I.A. has devastated Al Qaeda, relentlessly targeting its operatives after Sept. 11. The agency killed another son, Saad bin Laden, in a drone strike in 2009 while he was operating in a remote area of Pakistan. Another son, Khalid, was killed in the 2011 Abbottabad raid.

The C.I.A. continues to hunt for Ayman al-Zawahri, who assumed the Qaeda leadership mantle after Osama bin Laden’s death. Former intelligence officials said the agency undertook a sophisticated effort in 2012 and 2013 to determine whether he was living in a village in Pakistan’s troubled North Waziristan region. Agency operatives had high confidence they had found Mr. al-Zawahri but were never able to identify his exact location within the village, one former official said.

Mr. bin Laden appears to have worked closely with Mr. al-Zawahri, especially in maintaining ties to the Taliban in Afghanistan and shaping the organization’s message.

“If in fact he is dead, this makes the ranks of Al Qaeda’s senior leadership that much thinner and the connection to Osama bin Laden even more attenuated,” said Nicholas J. Rasmussen, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

Even had he taken over for his father to lead Al Qaeda, Hamza bin Laden would have faced challenges as an untested leader. But his famous name would have been a boon to the terrorist organization.

“This hurts the Al Qaeda brand,” said Colin P. Clarke, a senior fellow at the Soufan Center, a research organization for global security issues. “Even though he was unproven and untested, that name still means a lot to young jihadis.”

Other key members of the organization remain alive, including Saif al-Adel and Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who are wanted by the F.B.I. in the bombings of two United States embassies in East Africa in 1998. They are thought to be in Iran.

Mr. bin Laden’s time in Iranian custody has been the subject of controversy, and the presence of Qaeda members in Iran prompted questions about what the Iranian government was doing with them. Iran is dominated by Shiite Muslims, whom the hard-line Sunnis of Al Qaeda see as heretics.

Hamza bin Laden was believed to have been operating near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The U.S. reportedly had a role in the operation, which occurred in the first two years of the Trump administration and before the State Department in February announced a $1 million reward for information on Hamza bin Laden’s whereabouts. [The New York Times]

6. Senate confirms Kelly Craft as U.N. ambassador

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The Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft as ambassador to the United Nations. The 56-to-34 confirmation vote largely fell along party lines and ends seven months of uncertainty about the role after former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley resigned.

Craft, a Republican donor, is married to a billionaire coal executive. She generated controversy shortly after starting her post in Ottawa by saying she believed “both sides” of the climate change debate, although she acknowledged in her confirmation hearing that climate change poses a serious global threat. Democrats opposed Craft’s confirmation, citing her limited experience.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said Craft didn’t have the “seriousness and professionalism” to represent the U.S. at the U.N.

Menendez on Wednesday released a report that said Craft spent the majority of her time as ambassador to Canada outside of the country.

Craft’s backers called her a tough negotiator on a trade deal with Canada and Mexico who had established decent working relationships with both Republicans and Democrats.

Craft will have the difficult job of defending Trump’s “America First” foreign policy and navigating his criticism of the United Nations while getting global diplomats to back U.S. policies.

Trump’s first U.N. ambassador, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, announced her resignation in October and left the position at the end of last year.

[Reuters]

7. Rosselló’s chosen successor faces opposition

Hasil gambar untuk Puerto Rico vote delay raises uncertainty over next governor

Protesters and some powerful lawmakers in Puerto Rico are vowing to reject Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s chosen successor, raising tensions ahead of Rosselló’s scheduled resignation on Friday. Rosselló called a special session of the island’s legislature Thursday to vote on his nomination of lawyer Pedro Pierluisi as secretary of state, which would put him next in line to succeed Rosselló.

But members of Rosselló’s New Progressive Party said Pierluisi’s role in the law firm advising the federally created financial oversight board directing Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy amounted to a disqualifying conflict of interest. Protesters said Pierluisi, who previously represented Puerto Rico in Congress, served the interests of the island’s political elite, not the people, when he helped establish the controversial board. [Reuters]

8. Trump administration plans to let patients import cheaper drugs

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced on Wednesday morning that the Trump administration will set up a system allowing Americans to legally access prescription drugs from Canada. The decision seeks to allow U.S. patients to access their prescriptions at a lower cost, while doing so with oversight from the Food and Drug Administration. States, drug wholesalers, and pharmacists would reportedly act as intermediaries for consumers.

“The landscape and the opportunities for safe linkage between drug supply chains has changed,” Azar said. “That is part of why, for the first time in HHS’s history, we are open to importation.” It’s not clear when consumers will see results, as Azar said the regulatory process could potentially take “weeks and months.” [The Associated Press]

9. Woodstock 50 officially canceled

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The organizers of Woodstock 50 announced Wednesday that they had canceled the troubled music festival, which was intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original Woodstock. The three-day anniversary festival was supposed to take place Aug. 16-18 at Watkins Glen International racetrack in Watkins Glen, New York, about 115 miles from the original site. A series of snags ruined the plans, from the loss of a sponsor to permit denials to the loss of the venue.

Jay-Z, Dead & Company, and John Fogerty pulled out last week after organizers said the festival would be held in Maryland instead of New York. A smaller, unrelated celebration is still planned at the original Woodstock site, with performances by Ringo Starr, Fogerty, and Santana. [The Associated Press]

10. Acclaimed Broadway director, producer Hal Prince dies at 91

Hal Prince, Harold Prince Harold Prince holds his Tony award at Broadway's Minskoff Theater in New York, . Prince won the best director in a musical for "Show Boat," the lavish production of the landmark Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II musicalTonys Hal Prince, New York, USA

Hal Prince, the Broadway director and producer who won a record number of Tony Awards during his legendary career, has died at the age of 91. Prince’s publicist on Wednesday confirmed his death in Reykjavik, Iceland after he suffered from a short illness. Known for producing or directing Broadway classics like West Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera, Fiddler on the Roof, and Sweeney Todd, Prince holds the record for most Tonys won by one individual, with 21. The Washington Postcalled Prince a “visionary who saw theatrical potential in the most unlikely subject matter and who helped shepherd to the forefront many unknown talents.” Prince is survived by his wife, two children, and three grandchildren. [Variety, The Washington Post]

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