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Feb 6, 2020

Climate & Environment: Bumblebees are vanishing, and scientists blame climate change

Chris Mooney



Bumblebee populations in North America and Europe have plummeted a a result of extreme temperatures, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.
The number of areas populated by bumblebees has fallen 46 percent in North America and 17 percent in Europe, and the new research found that regions with sharp bee declines also experienced strong variations in climate — and especially higher temperatures and worse heat waves.
It’s yet another major piece of bad news for bee populations. Declining colonies of commercial honeybees have been blamed on a strange phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder but also probably spring from a bevy of other causes. Now, the new research suggests that bumblebees in the wild are suffering, too.
“Where temperatures are getting more extreme, bees tend to be disappearing more often,” said Peter Soroye, a researcher at the University of Ottawa and one of the study’s authors.
The loss of bumblebee populations is alarming because they play a central role in pollinating many plants, including key crops such as tomatoes and cranberries.
“Unlike honeybees in North America, which have been brought over from Europe and kept in these colonies, bumblebees are native and evolved with these plants," Soroye said. "So when it comes to these natural landscapes, bumblebees are pretty irreplaceable.”
The study, which Soroye conducted with colleagues from the University of Ottawa and University College London, compared the observed locations for 66 species of bumblebees between 1901 and 1974 with places where they could be found between 2000 and 2014.
They found that nearly half of all regions in North America where bumblebees had been recorded in the earlier period no longer registered bees in the later period.
It’s unclear whether the bees might recover. Franklin’s bumblebee is a species once found in a narrow region where California and Oregon meet. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed an endangered-species listing for the bee but noted that the listing may not actually happen because it’s unclear whether there are any bees left to protect.
“Based on the lack of observations of Franklin’s over the last 13 years it is possible that the species is extinct," the agency wrote.
The study combined observations (or lack thereof) of bumblebees, such as Franklin’s, with a map of changing temperatures and precipitation extremes over the same periods. And it found a strong link between the regions where bumblebees had declined or disappeared and those experiencing worsening heat waves or other types of weather extremes.
“Basically it was measuring how these extremes have pushed species beyond what they had to tolerate before,” Soroye said.
But in a comment on the new study, bee expert Sydney Cameron of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said there is a lot more work to do. Cameron argued that the data is “Western-centric” since it’s only focused on North American and Europe, and that beyond the large-scale correlations shown in the study between temperature and species declines, researchers need more-detailed studies of precisely what’s happening to bumblebees.
“I have no doubt that climate change is a likely factor in biodiversity decline in general, but this needs to be tested with experiments in both field and lab,” Cameron said.
Unlike many other insects, bumblebees are especially sensitive to temperature. Their large, hair-covered bodies give them an ability to internally heat up by flapping their wings at different speeds. But that also makes them vulnerable in hot weather.
“Relative to most other bees, bumblebees are exquisitely adapted to cold climate and live throughout the world in places that are seasonally cold,” said May Berenbaum, an expert on insects who is also a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “They’re effectively sewn into their winter underwear, as it were, so it’s a challenge for them to adjust behaviorally or physiologically to warming temperatures.”
“They can overheat pretty quickly,” added Soroye. “They are really big insects. They evolved in these more temperate regions. So when it gets really hot and they don’t have anywhere to shelter themselves, it can be pretty serious.”
In one 2013 scientific report, two Belgian researchers even proposed a concept called “bumblebee scarcity syndrome” to describe events in which after a heat wave struck, they could no longer find many — or any — bees where they had previously been abundant.
“This syndrome became so common during the last years that it considerably disturbs (or prevents) many field bumblebee experimentations,” they wrote.
This isn’t the first case in which insect declines have been pinned on worsening heat and therefore climate change.
In one striking 2018 study, researchers found massive declines in insect abundance in Puerto Rico’s Luquillo rainforest between the 1970s and the present, during which the average maximum temperature increased by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Such a change — not in the average temperature overall but in the average high temperatures seen each day — means more pronounced heat extremes.
Granted, for bumblebees, it is not as though climate warming is the only danger. Landscape changes due to farming or other types of human disruption are also a threat, and the study took this into account. Pesticides are another problem, including a group known as neonicotinoids, which can have troubling effects on bee populations.
“What I suspect is that you wind up with this really terrible one-two punch,” Soroye said. “Climate change is making bees want to move to new places, and then you have things like pesticides and human land uses that are stopping them from moving.”
Read More:

News | Press Release: ABN AMRO Clearing Chicago Charged With Improper Handling of ADRs

4-5 minutes - Source: SEC



Washington D.C., Feb. 6, 2020 —
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that ABN AMRO Clearing Chicago LLC will pay more than $586,000 to settle charges of improper handling of “pre-released” American Depositary Receipts (ADRs).
ADRs are U.S. securities that represent foreign shares of a foreign company and require a corresponding number of foreign shares to be held in custody at a depositary bank. The practice of “pre-release” allows ADRs to be issued without the deposit of foreign shares, provided the broker receiving them has an agreement with a depositary bank and the receiving broker or its customer owns a number of foreign shares that corresponds to the number of shares the ADRs represent.
The SEC’s order finds that ABN AMRO improperly borrowed pre-released ADRs from other brokers when it should have known that those brokers did not own the foreign shares needed to support those ADRs. The order against ABN AMRO also finds that it failed reasonably to supervise its securities lending desk personnel concerning the borrowing of pre-released ADRs from these brokers.
Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, ABN AMRO agreed to return more than $326,000 of ill-gotten gains and pay a $179,353 penalty plus $80,970 in prejudgment interest.
This is the SEC’s 15th enforcement action against a bank or broker arising from its investigation into abusive ADR pre-release practices.  In addition, the SEC charged four individuals for their roles in the improper handling of pre-released ADRs.  Monetary remedies ordered across all of these cases exceed $432 million.  (List of cases)
The SEC’s investigations revealed that misconduct by numerous industry participants had the effect of introducing “phantom” ADRs into the marketplace. At times of high demand for ADRs, or when supply from traditional lending sources was limited, a number of brokers sought pre-released ADRs from intermediary brokers, who obtained them from depositary banks.  Many of the brokers seeking the ADRs could not represent that they owned the underlying foreign shares to support a pre-release, and so they used intermediaries, which, in turn, obtained pre-released ADRs under false pretenses, including by providing false certifications. The depositary banks that issued the pre-released ADRs and the brokers who took custody of them should have known that under the circumstances, it was highly unlikely that anyone in the chain of transactions actually owned the requisite underlying foreign shares. The pre-released ADRs that were not backed by ordinary shares were often inappropriately used for trading strategies such as dividend arbitrage or short selling, which could not have otherwise occurred.
“I would like to thank the dedicated staff in the Division of Enforcement for shining a light on, and bringing strong actions against, the abuse of the ADR pre-release process,” said SEC Chairman Jay Clayton. “The pre-release process was designed to accommodate international settlement complexities.  It clearly prohibited the uncovered creation of new ADRs.  The blatant misconduct identified in these 15 actions had real effects on market pricing.  The work of our Enforcement Division should have lasting benefits for retail investors who use ADRs as a way to invest in foreign companies.”
“The practices uncovered in these actions presented significant risks to the integrity of the ADR market,” said Stephanie Avakian, Co-Director of the Division of Enforcement.  “U.S. investors who purchase ADRs are entitled to the same protections as investors in any other securities available in U.S. markets.”
The SEC’s investigation has been conducted by Andrew Dean, Elzbieta Wraga, Joseph P. Ceglio, Philip Fortino, Richard Hong and Adam Grace of the New York Regional Office with the assistance of Scott Walster in the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis and has been supervised by Sanjay Wadhwa, Senior Associate Director in the New York office. The Division of Enforcement appreciates substantial contributions made by the broker-dealer inspection programs in its Chicago and New York regional offices.

Market Insider | Biggest Moves Premarket: Stocks making the biggest moves in the premarket: Twitter, Cigna, Dunkin' Brands, Tapestry & molre

Peter Schacknow



Twitter (TWTR) – Twitter earned an adjusted 25 cents per share for the fourth quarter, 4 cents a share below estimates. Revenue came in above forecasts, however, and monetizable active daily users jumped 21% from a year ago to a record.
Cigna (CI) – The insurance company reported quarterly profit of $4.31 per share, 11 cents a share above estimates. Revenue also exceeded analysts’ projections, helped by growth in its pharmacy benefits unit as well as expense controls.
Dunkin’ Brands (DNKN) – The company’s fourth-quarter earnings came in at 73 cents per share, 3 cents a share above estimates. Revenue was below forecasts, however, as is its full-year adjusted earnings forecast of $3.16 to $3.21 per share. The restaurant operator also announced a 7% dividend increase to 40.25 cents per share.
Estee Lauder (EL) – The cosmetics company beat estimates by 21 cents a share, with quarterly earnings of 2.11 per share. Revenue also beat Wall Street forecasts. Estee Lauder said it will see a negative impact from the coronavirus, most especially in tourist destination markets and localities most impacted by the outbreak.
Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) – The drugmaker earned $1.22 per share for the fourth quarter. Revenue came in well above consensus, helped by the acquisition of Celgene. The deal closed in November.
Tapestry (TPR) – The fashion accessories company earned an adjusted $1.10 per share for its fiscal second quarter, 11 cents a share above estimates. Revenue also came in above forecasts. Tapestry warned of a potential sales and earnings impact from the coronavirus outbreak. Separately, Tapestry named new leaders for its Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman brands.
Becton Dickinson (BDX) – The maker of medical products beat estimates on the top and bottom lines, but the stock is under pressure on lower-than-expected earnings guidance. The forecast reflects an anticipated loss of sales for its Alaris infusion system, which was the subject of a recall last July on concerns that the system might deliver medication faster than expected or unintentionally. Becton Dickinson is continuing to work with the Food and Drug Administration to address concerns and said it stands behind the safety of the system.
Cardinal Health (CAH) – The drug distributor beat consensus by 30 cents a share, with adjusted quarterly earnings of $1.52 per share. Revenue also came in above estimates and Cardinal Health raised its full-year earnings forecast amid strength across its pharmaceutical segment.
Yum Brands (YUM) – The parent of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut missed estimates by 13 cents a share, with quarterly earnings of $1.00 per share. Revenue came in above forecasts. Same-store sales growth was slightly short of consensus, hurt by the performance of Pizza Hut.
Yum China (YUMC) – Yum China reported quarterly earnings of 25 cents per share, 6 cents a share above estimates. The restaurant operator’s revenue matched forecasts, however the company warned of a significant hit to sales due to the coronavirus outbreak.
GrubHub (GRUB) – GrubHub lost 5 cents per share for its latest quarter, a penny a share more than analysts had been expecting. The food delivery service’s revenue came in above estimates. GrubHub is spending more to recruit new customers, a strategy it said is paying off.
Peloton (PTON) – Peloton reported a quarterly loss of 20 cents per share, smaller than the consensus estimate of a 36 cents a share loss. The exercise bike maker’s revenue also beat forecasts, but the company gave a smaller-than-expected current-quarter sales outlook.
Qualcomm (QCOM) – Qualcomm beat estimates by 14 cents a share, with quarterly profit of 99 cents per share, with the chipmaker’s revenue also above analyst forecasts. Qualcomm did say that the coronavirus outbreak could impact manufacturing and sales for the entire mobile phone industry. Qualcomm is the world’s biggest supplier of chips that connect devices to wireless data networks.
Fox Corp. (FOXA) – Fox reported a quarterly profit of 10 cents per share, compared to a consensus estimate of a 2 cents per share loss. The media company’s revenue also came in above forecasts, thanks in large part to a surge in ad sales.
Toyota Motor (TM) – Toyota raised its annual profit forecast by 4.2%, helped by better-than-expected vehicle sales and favorable currency rates. The automaker warned, however, it had not yet factored in any potential impact from the coronavirus outbreak.
Casper Sleep (CSPR) – Casper priced its initial public offering at $12 per share, at the bottom end of the already-slashed range of $12 to $13 per share. The mattress retailer’s shares will begin trading today on the New York Stock Exchange.
PPD (PPD) – PPD priced its initial public offering at $27 per share, at the top of the expected range of $24-$27 per share. The drug research firm’s offering is the biggest of 2020 so far, and its shares will begin trading today on the Nasdaq.

Analysis | The Cybersecurity 202: Here’s why NSA rushed to expose a dangerous computer bug

By Ellen Nakashima 




A sign outside the National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
THE KEY
The National Security Agency is known for keeping secrets. But a bug it recently discovered in Microsoft's operating system was so potentially catastrophic that it fast-tracked a lengthy decision-making process to alert the company and the public as quickly as possible.
The quick disclosure marks a big pivot for the agency, which has historically been eager to hold onto hackable computer bugs that it can use to spy on U.S. adversaries — at least temporarily — before sharing them with companies and has been loath to advertise its role in uncovering them.
It also underscores the havoc the Microsoft flaw could have caused if it was discovered and exploited by U.S. adversaries in Russia, Iran or elsewhere who could have compromised millions of computers for surveillance or sabotage.
“Internally the decision was clear” to disclose, said a government official, who like others interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. “It was a no-brainer.”
Officials across the government typically convene when they discover dangerous computer bugs to weigh whether it’s better to disclose or hold onto them — an exercise known as the “vulnerabilities equities process” or VEP. The meetings are chaired by the White House's senior director for cybersecurity policy, Grant Schneider.
Yet NSA officials in this case worried that if malicious hackers detected the bug, it could be turned into a weapon to use against Americans and others and wreak havoc before Microsoft had a chance to patch it. The longer they held it, the greater the danger it would be discovered by others. “That's not in anybody's interest,” the official said.
Agency officials notified Schneider of the urgent nature of the case, noting that the VEP charter has a specific exemption allowing an agency to expedite a decision to disclose a flaw in such circumstances without having to convene an interagency meeting. “Since the default position was to release there was no need to go through the whole interagency process and risk something going wrong,” the official said.
The White House agreed the immediate disclosure was the right thing to do.
Before alerting Microsoft, however, the agency conducted its own robust internal discussion in which some argued to keep news of the flaw secret so that NSA hackers could exploit it to gain intelligence overseas. All the agency's senior leaders, however, insisted the bug was too critical to withhold — even temporarily.
The NSA even took the rare step of publicly acknowledging its role in finding the bug and announcing its decision to disclose it — a move that won plaudits for the agency, which has struggled to present a positive face since former agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 a broad surveillance program that scooped up Americans’ phone metadata logs.
NSA Cybersecurity Directorate Head Anne Neuberger last month gave two reasons for why the agency did it. “First, we recognized that our partnership is really built on trust,” she said, and “a part of building trust is sharing data.” Second, she said, “we knew we wanted to lean forward and raise awareness” so that Microsoft could devise a patch. NSA wanted to “ensure that we could be very transparent about that.”
The government has long said that it discloses the vast majority — more than 90 percent — of the vulnerabilities it uncovers. In recent years, that has amounted to more than 100 bugs per year, according to people familiar with the process. That tally includes a lot of bugs that simply aren’t useful for NSA hackers, though.
And NSA only shares some of the useful bugs with industry after agency hackers have already used them to spy on adversaries.
In the 1990s and through at least 2014, when the interagency VEP was formalized, the NSA had its own internal process to weigh whether to withhold or disclose. During those years, the agency “mostly gave away vulnerabilities — but never claimed public credit,” said Richard “Dickie” George, who as a former technical director of the NSA's information assurance directorate once ran the process. “We gave one company 1,500 of these things — they weren’t significant enough to go through the [agency’s vetting] process,” he said.
Yet another former NSA veteran with decades of experience had a different account of that time. “In my time, the bias would have been toward” withholding bugs, the former official said. “I just felt the weight of offense would normally win the day.”
Often, the NSA did not want to publicize its discovery of software flaws because it did not want to tip off adversaries to what software systems it was scrutinizing, George said. Also, “a lot of companies didn’t want the public to know they’re getting information from the NSA,” he said.
Neuberger is “trying to rebuild the reputation of NSA’s role in defense of the nation,’’ said George, who is now senior adviser for cybersecurity at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. ​
“I think [the disclosure of the Microsoft bug] marks a deliberate shift,” said Tony Sager, a former NSA information assurance executive now with the Center for Internet Security. “It won’t happen every time. But this is not just for show. They’re trying to signal that cybersecurity is really important, and we have to find a way to protect the nation.”
Michael Daniel, President Barack Obama’s cybersecurity coordinator from 2012 to 2017, also applauded the move.
“If one of the major proponents” which has a vested interest in retaining the bug for its own use — usually the NSA, CIA or FBI — “is saying, ‘Dear Lord, we have to get this thing out now, then institutionally there’s no one that’s going to argue against that,” said Daniel, who now leads the Cyber Threat Alliance.
But whether the decision marks a long-term shift in how the agency does business is unclear. “Time will tell,” one U.S. official said.
You are reading The Cybersecurity 202, our must-read newsletter on cybersecurity policy news.
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PINGED, PATCHED, PWNED


The Iowa Democratic Party's caucus reporting app. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)
PINGED: New research shows that the buggy app that imploded during the Iowa caucuses was also at serious risk of a cyberattack, Jack Gillum and Jessica Huseman at Pro Publica report. There's no evidence the app was actually hacked, but the newly reported weaknesses add to the growing concerns about mobile technology in the voting process sparked by the app's disastrous performance on Monday.
Hackers could have used vulnerabilities in the IowaReporterApp to intercept or even change passwords, vote totals, and other sensitive information, officials at the security firm Veracode found in a review requested by ProPublica. Other researchers they cited described the vulnerabilities as “shocking.”
“With all the attention that’s supposed to be going into election security, it’s shocking that code with this problem made it into production,” said J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer science professor and election security expert. “It's total amateur hour.”
Researchers contacted by Motherboard also raised concerns about the application's security. “The app was clearly done by someone following a tutorial,” Android developer Kasra Rahjerdi told Motherboard. “It’s similar to projects I do with my mentees who are learning how to code.”
Iowa retains paper backups of all caucus results, so it's highly likely any change hackers made would have been caught in an audit. But if tainted information was reported on caucus night "it still would have cast doubt on the whole process in peoples’ minds,” Halderman says.
Gerard Niemira, Shadow’s CEO, defended the app in a statement to ProPublica. “Our app underwent multiple, rigorous tests by a third party, but we learned today that a researcher found a vulnerability in our app,” he said. “As with all software, sometimes vulnerabilities are discovered after they are released.”
The Democratic National Committee has been distancing itself from Shadow since the caucus night debacle. Yesterday, Democrats' Senate campaign wing announced it would cut ties with the company, the Daily Beast reported.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
PATCHED: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is urging election officials in his home state to reconsider using the mobile voting app Voatz to collect votes from military members and other Oregonians living abroad, citing concerns that the technology is vulnerable to hackers.
Two Oregon counties used Voatz last year for overseas voters and more are considering using it in 2020, according to Wyden's office. That’s despite widespread concerns about mobile and online voting. A number of cities and counties have also launched mobile voting pilots in the past two years.
“Russia’s 2016 campaign to meddle in our elections demonstrated the urgency of states doing everything in their power to secure Americans’ votes from hacking,” Wyden wrote to Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno in a letter shared exclusively with The Cybersecurity 202. “Continuing to permit the use of internet voting — against the advice of cybersecurity experts — is simply asking for trouble.”
Wyden asked to work with Oregon officials on safer alternatives for overseas voters including possibly sponsoring legislation to deliver more federal money to the problem.
He previously urged intelligence agencies to audit Voatz. The company says it has voluntarily agreed to an audit by the Department of Homeland Security but DHS and Voatz have not yet answered questions about the status of the audit.

The Iranian flag. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)
PWNED: An Iran-linked hacking group impersonated journalists in an effort to break into the email accounts of researchers critical of Iran, Raphael Satter and Christopher Bing at Reuters report.
The emails could be the work of the same group Microsoft alleged was behind an attempted hack of a presidential campaign -- which Reuters identified as the Trump campaign -- in the fall, three independent cybersecurity firms confirmed.
Cybersecurity firm ClearSky, which first spotted the hacking campaign, declined to give the specific number of people targeted, but Reuters identified multiple victims. In one instance, a hacker posed as Wall Street Journal reporter Farnaz Fassihi and asked a researcher to enter his Google password to access interview questions. Hackers also impersonated other journalists including a CNN national security analyst and a video journalist for Deutsche Welle. Victims, who are all critics of the Iranian regime, said they were immediately suspicious of the emails.
Homeland Security and FBI representatives declined to comment. Iran denies operating or supporting any hacking operations.

PUBLIC KEY

— Outgoing NSA general counsel Glenn S. Gerstell will join the Center for Strategic and International Studies as a nonresident senior adviser with the International Security Program, the think tank said.
— More cybersecurity news from the public sector:

A key lawmaker questioned whether the Justice Department’s position is at odds with the Defense Department’s.
Nextgov

The social network is facing criticism for how encryption can allow child exploitation to flourish undetected on its services.
The New York Times

An aggressive campaign by American authorities to root out Chinese espionage ope...
Reuters

There are many interesting details about the FBI investigation into Joshua Schulte revealed by the details of how FBI obtained the Vault 7 files they submitted into evidence yesterday.
Empty Wheel

PRIVATE KEY

— Cybersecurity news from the private sector:

Five vulnerabilities in Cisco Discovery Protocol make it possible for a hacker to take over desk phones, routers, and more.
Wired

Philips has issued a patch for the worst part of the vuln.
The Verge

In an interview with CBS This Morning, Clearview AI's founder says it's his right to collect photos for the facial recognition app.
CNET

Yet another Electron implementation of a “secure” app turns out not to be.
Ars Technica

THE NEW WILD WEST

— Cybersecurity news from abroad:

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The University of Maastricht on Wednesday disclosed that it had paid hackers a ransom of 30 bitcoin — at the time worth 200,000 euros ($220,000) — to unblock its computer systems, including email and computers, after an attack that unfolded on Dec. 24.
Reuters

Government told to halt use of AI to detect fraud in decision hailed by privacy campaigners 

Asia Markets: China to halve retaliatory tariffs on hundreds of US goods worth about $75 billion

Weizhen Tan, Evelyn Cheng




GP: CHINA-US-EU-TRADE-INVESTMENT 191003 EU
A container ship at the port in Qingdao, in China’s eastern Shandong province.
STR | AFP | Getty Images

China on Thursday announced that it will halve tariffs on hundreds of U.S. goods worth about $75 billion.
Retaliatory tariffs on some U.S. goods will be cut from 10% to 5%, and from 5% to 2.5% on others, according to a statement from China’s Ministry of Finance. The adjustments will take effect from 1:01 p.m on Feb. 14, it said, without specifying which time zone it was referring to.
The cuts apply to about $75 billion worth of imports from the U.S. that was slapped with tariffs on Sept. 1, 2019, according to a separate statement on the ministry’s website.
After the cut, duties on U.S. crude will be reduced to 2.5%, from 5%, and the tariff on soybeans will be trimmed by 2.5%.
The statement on the Ministry of Finance website said the move was made in order to “advance the healthy and stable development of China-U.S. trade.” A separate article on the website noted the cut in tariffs was timed in conjunction with a U.S. decision in January to halve tariffs on Feb. 14 for $120 billion of Chinese goods — from 15% to 7.5%.
China said that the next adjustment will depend on how Sino-U.S. trade ties evolve, adding it hopes to work with Washington to completely eliminate all tariff increases.
China and the U.S. have imposed punitive tariffs on billions of dollars worth of each other’s goods in their trade battle which started more than a year ago. However, both countries reached a so-called phase one trade agreement in January, which helped avert further escalation to the trade war.

‘Olive branch’

Markets rallied after the news. Mainland Chinese stocks surged by as high as more than 2%, as did Hong Kong markets. Japan shares rose nearly 3%.
The Chinese yuan strengthened, with offshore last strengthening to 6.9652, and the onshore yuan last at 6.9648.
One analyst says this development could be a sign that China is ready to move on beyond the so-called phase-one trade agreement.
I think that would be good ... if we can get these tariff barriers lowered, and get a normalization of relations that also includes some negotiation about those other sticking points.
Kingsley Jones
chief investment officer at Jevons Global
“Who knows the exact motivations, I mean that’s quite plausible, that they’re under (economic) pressure. But I think the development is very welcome because you know, that language suggests that there is a bit of an olive branch here. And a bit of a desire to move forward beyond the phase one and possibly take on phase two,” said Kingsley Jones, chief investment officer at Jevons Global.
“I think that would be good ... if we can get these tariff barriers lowered, and get a normalization of relations that also includes some negotiation about those other sticking points, you know the IP and so on. Then I think that’s very positive,” he said.
Separately, Beijing on Saturday said it would suspend retaliatory tariffs on products from the United States that can be used to combat the coronavirus outbreak in China.
Under the phase-one agreement, the Trump administration scrapped tariffs initially set to take effect last December. It also agreed to cut duties on $120 billion in products to 7.5%.
Still, the White House has said it will leave tariffs on another $250 billion in Chinese products in place for now. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said a second phase of the agreement that the U.S. hopes to strike could include more tariff relief.

— CNBC’s Abigail Ng and Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.

US Politics: Bernie Sanders raises a staggering $25 million in January to fuel Super Tuesday push

Jacob Pramuk




RT: Bernie Sanders in Iowa 200202
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters and volunteers at a campaign field office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, February 2, 2020.
Mike Segar | Reuters
Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign raked in a whopping $25 million in January alone and will use the haul to bankroll ads and staff across the critical Super Tuesday slate, it announced Thursday.
The Vermont senator raised more in January than in any other month so far in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, his campaign said. It added that it received 1.3 million donations from roughly 650,000 people.
The flood of cash came just before the start of 2020 primary nominating contests. Iowa held its first-in-the-nation caucuses Monday, while New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina will follow with primary events later this month.
The delegate-rich Super Tuesday contests will take place on March 3. The Sanders campaign will put $5.5 million into television and digital ads in 10 states that hold primaries that day: California, Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah.
The ads will expand on a previously announced $2.5 million buy in California and Texas — the two biggest Super Tuesday prizes.
The campaign also said it would “immediately increase” staffing in the March 3 primary states.
Sanders has consistently led the 2020 Democratic pack in fundraising. His campaign took in more than $34 million in the fourth quarter, the most in the primary field. None of his Democratic competitors topped $25 million raised in the last three months of 2019. Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is worth nearly $60 billion, is self-funding his campaign for the Democratic nomination. His campaign spent more than $180 million over a little more than a month in the fourth quarter after he joined the raise near the end of November.
The Sanders campaign entered 2020 with more than $18 million in the bank, more than any other Democratic campaign. President Donald Trump, whom Sanders hopes to challenge in November, started the year with more than $100 million on hand.
Sanders has been vying for the lead in this week’s Iowa caucuses with former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, according to delayed data from the Iowa Democratic Party. The Vermont senator leads averages of polls of the New Hampshire primary, which is scheduled for Tuesday.
Sanders has an advantage in an average of polls in California and but trails in limited polling of Texas.

Tech: Tesla temporarily closes China stores amid coronavirus fears

Lora Kolodny, Evelyn Cheng




GP: Tesla Model 3 unveiled
The China-built Tesla Model 3 is unveiled at a Tesla store on November 22, 2019 in Shanghai, China.
Zhang Hengwei | China News Service | Visual China Group | Getty Images
Tesla has temporarily closed its stores in mainland China as of Sunday, Feb. 2, according to an online post from a company sales employee on that date.
The move comes as more than half of China has shut down in an effort to control the spread of a new coronavirus that has killed more than 500 people in the country. Citing public health concerns, Apple said over the weekend it has closed stores in the mainland, through Feb. 9. Many other foreign brands operating in China have also temporarily suspended or limited their local business operations.
The electric automaker’s China communications office did not respond to a CNBC request for comment during business hours on Thursday Beijing time.
According to a CNBC translation of the original Chinese text, the Tesla employee wrote in a post on messaging and social media app WeChat that:
“From today on, Tesla stores are all closed throughout China. But I will answer questions online, around the clock. Online orders are still welcome. We suggest all of you stay home, and take good care of your health.
It was not immediately clear whether the closures applied to Hong Kong.
Tesla shares dropped more than 17% on Wednesday after a Tesla VP in China, Tao Lin, announced in a Weibo post that cars initially scheduled for delivery to customers there in early February would be delayed due to the spread of the coronavirus.
In an effort to keep the virus under control, Shanghai has ordered local businesses not to resume work before Feb. 10, which means Tesla’s local factory is also temporarily shut down.
Tesla has 24 stores in mainland China, according to the company’s website. The automaker does not break out sales by country, but demand is strong enough that Tesla opened a dedicated factory in Shanghai last year.
The plant had only begun to deliver Model 3 cars made at its new Shanghai factory to Chinese customers in early January. The “Made in China” Model 3s debuted amid a cooling auto market, even for so-called “new energy vehicles,” in China.
Established automakers like Daimler — with its Mercedes EQC SUV — and Chinese start-ups Xpeng Motors and WM Motor, are also battling it out for their share of the country’s electric vehicle market. But Tesla’s brand and Autopilot technology are seen giving Elon Musk’s company an edge.
Closing stores is just one more indication of how the virus could affect Tesla’s operations this year.
When Tesla reported better-than-expected results for the fourth quarter in an earnings call on Jan. 29, the numbers and news of progress on manufacturing in China helped drive Tesla shares sharply higher.
By Wednesday, after news that the coronavirus was affecting major automakers including Hyundai and Tesla, more intensely than first expected, some analysts began to downgrade their ratings on Tesla from buy to hold or sell.
In a note reiterating a sell rating for Tesla, CFRA Research’s Garrett Nelson said Wednesday: “We view the China situation as critical in terms of TSLA’s ability to post a GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) profit for Q1 and Q2 and clear the last remaining hurdle needed for the stock’s addition to the S&P 500 (four consecutive quarters of GAAP profit).

US Politics: In historic vote, Trump acquitted of impeachment charges

By Seung Min Kim 




Democrats fell far short of the two-thirds majority required to remove Trump from office, as senators voted 52 to 48 to acquit him on the abuse-of-power allegation and 53 to 47 to clear him of obstruction.
The outcome represented a political triumph for the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who successfully held together nearly the entire GOP caucus in blocking witnesses or additional evidence from the proceedings. Just one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, voted to convict the president of abuse of power.
Shortly after the twin acquittal votes, Trump tweeted that he will deliver a statement Thursday on “our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!” He also tweeted a clip featuring a mock magazine cover with signs showing him staying in office far beyond the two terms permitted under the Constitution. And Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, proclaimed that he had been “totally vindicated.”
“Throughout this wholly corrupt process, President Trump successfully advanced the interests of the United States and remained focused on the issues that matter to Americans,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said. “He spent his time achieving real victories for the people of this country, and the Democrats — once again — have nothing to show for their fraudulent schemes.”
The third impeachment trial of a president in U.S. history concluded one of the most bitter episodes in recent memory in Washington — marked by partisan fighting over what constitutes a fair trial, furious debates over the propriety of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and outsized pressure on a small core of Republican senators who held considerable sway in whether the trial would subpoena key witnesses from the Trump administration who had defied calls to appear before the House during its investigation.
But the vote by Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, robbed the president of the unified GOP opposition against impeachment that he had enjoyed and repeatedly boasted of since the inquiry began in September. Romney is the first senator in history to vote to remove a president of his or her own party.
Romney called Trump’s demand to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter a “flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values.” In a July 25 phone call with Zelensky that he has repeatedly described as “perfect,” Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate not only the Bidens but a discredited theory that it was Ukraine rather than Russia that attempted to interfere in the 2016 election.
“There’s no question in my mind that were their names not Biden, the president would never have done what he did,” Romney said in an eight-minute speech delivered in a Senate chamber that was nearly void of his colleagues. Later, he added: “Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.”
Romney was the sole senator who not only defected from his own party but split his vote, choosing to acquit Trump of obstructing Congress.
Democrats accused Republicans of emboldening an unchecked president who sought foreign influence in U.S. campaigns for his personal benefit. Republicans portrayed Democrats as a party still embittered by its loss in the 2016 presidential elections that has now decided to weaponize the constitutional impeachment process.
“This sham process is the low point in the Senate for me,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), once a Trump foe who has transformed into one of the president’s closest allies. “If you think you’ve done the country a good service by legitimizing this impeachment process, what you have done is unleashed the partisan forces of hell.”
The question of whether Trump should stay in office now moves from the Senate chamber to the campaign trail. Just one day prior, Trump stayed away from any mention of impeachment in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, although he is almost certain to tout his acquittal at rallies and in other venues, such as Thursday’s planned statement, as he campaigns for a second term.
The issue is also likely to surface in competitive Senate races, mostly as Democrats target GOP senators for aligning themselves with Trump and his conduct. But in a victory lap news conference after the votes, McConnell said the Democrats’ decision to proceed with impeachment was a “colossal political mistake.”
The majority leader noted that Trump is enjoying some of his strongest approval ratings now and added that “as a poll watcher who’s looking at polls in certain Senate races, every one of our people in tough races . . . is in better shape today than they were before the impeachment trial started.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) insisted that Democrats were not motivated by politics and said “Democrats walked out of the Senate chamber with their heads held high.”
Ripples from impeachment also may continue in the House, with Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and one of the impeachment managers, saying Wednesday that Democrats will probably subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton in the near future.
“When you have a lawless president, you have to bring that to the fore, you have to spotlight that,” Nadler told reporters. Bolton has said he would appear before the Senate if subpoenaed but has been silent on whether he would appear before the House.
Despite weeks of protests from Democrats, the Senate last week voted not to hear from additional witnesses, including Bolton, during the trial. An unpublished manuscript from the ex-White House official’s forthcoming book has alleged that Trump directly tied the withholding of nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine to the political investigations the president had demanded.
The tone inside the chamber during the historic vote was solemn, as each senator took turns standing up at his or her desk and proclaiming “guilty” or “not guilty” to each article of impeachment. The public galleries were the most crowded they have been throughout the trial, as the backbenches on the chamber floor, reserved for members of the House who wanted to attend the trial, filled in with congressmen from both parties.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead prosecutor for House managers, sat in the first chair of their table, turned at a three-quarters position so he could swivel his head around the chamber with every senator’s name called out, glancing around the room. When each of the two roll calls ended, he pivoted around to stare at the clerks and parliamentarians as they double checked the votes.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. read the results after each vote, proclaiming Trump not guilty of both charges. Shortly after, McConnell thanked Roberts for presiding over the proceedings with a “clear head, steady hand and the forbearance that this rare occasion demands.”
Trump was impeached by the House on Dec. 18, as nearly all Democrats there proclaimed that he had abused his powers and then obstructed Congress’s attempts to investigate him. At the heart the case against Trump presented by the impeachment managers was the allegation that he withheld military aid and a coveted White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. The younger Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was vice president.
Throughout the acrimonious Senate trial, the only real point of suspense — aside from where a handful of senators would land on the conviction vote — was whether a majority of senators in the narrowly divided chamber would decide to call more witnesses, particularly after the Bolton revelations.
Democrats cited polling that showed the public broadly favored summoning witnesses to Trump’s impeachment trial, and argued it was only fair to hear from Trump administration officials whom the White House had summarily blocked from testifying before the House, some even under a subpoena. But most Senate Republicans, many of whom took no public issue with the president’s conduct, said it was not their responsibility to secure witnesses and documents, particularly when House Democrats didn’t exhaust their options to obtain them, such as going to court.
Unlike in the House, in which a handful of Democratic lawmakers split from their party to oppose either article of impeachment, Senate Democrats stayed united in their stance that Trump deserved to be removed from office for his conduct.
Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.), who faces the toughest reelection bid for an incumbent Democrat this fall, chose to convict on both impeachment articles, saying he was “deeply troubled” by the White House legal team’s case arguing for “virtually unchecked presidential power.” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), a freshman senator who has bucked her party on occasion, also voted guilty on both.
So did Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), one of the few Democratic lawmakers who has a relationship with Trump and was seen as perhaps the White House’s best chance at a bipartisan acquittal. Manchin, who in recent days began floating a censure resolution that gained little traction in either party, announced his decision shortly before senators gathered to vote at 4 p.m., and inside the chamber, Sinema approached him and the two whispered to one another and hugged.
“Despite the false claim that a president can do no wrong, the president is not entitled to act with blatant disregard for an equal branch of government or use the superpower status of the United States to condition our support of democracy and our allies on any political favor,” Manchin said.
As for the lone party defector, the GOP backlash against Romney began to mount immediately, with the president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., calling on Senate Republicans to expel him from the conference. Romney’s own colleagues were gentler in their disagreement, with Republican leaders saying they did not try to persuade him one way or another on the conviction vote.
“He’s made it very clear from the beginning, even on the witness vote, that he was going to go his own way,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). “This is one of those historical votes where everybody has to do what they think is the right thing.”
The impeachment trial also became entwined with the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign, forcing the four senators still in the race — Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Michael F. Bennet (Colo.) — off the trail just weeks before the first nominating contests began Monday in Iowa.
At a campaign stop Wednesday morning in Derry, N.H., before he zipped back down to Washington, Sanders called Trump a “pathological liar” who “probably doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies.”
Paul Kane, Mike DeBonis, Felicia Sonmez, Colby Itkowitz and John Wagner in Washington and Sean Sullivan in Derry, N.H., contributed to this report.

US Politics: Trump Impeachment Win Clears Path for Emboldened President

By Justin Sink



Donald Trump, center, arrives to deliver a State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 4.
Donald Trump, center, arrives to deliver a State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 4.
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Donald Trump’s acquittal by the Senate delivered an expected yet exhilarating victory to the White House, freeing a president who has for years operated under the threat of impeachment and longed for vindication.
The vote by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday provided Trump another last-hour escape from a mortal threat to his presidency, even though the outcome was tarnished when Mitt Romney became the first senator ever to vote to remove a president from his own party.
File: U.S. President Donald Trump's Third Year In The Oval Office
Mitt Romney and Donald Trump on Nov. 22.
Photographer: Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/Bloomberg
The Romney decision, along with the unified Democratic front, soured an acquittal that otherwise appeared perfectly timed for the president, clearing the decks just as campaign season enters its full fury. But the bipartisan vote to convict -- a day after his State of the Union address, where he claimed credit for engineering a “great American comeback” -- laid bare the deep rancor gripping the Capitol.
The 2020 contest is now an unambiguous referendum, pitting Trump -- and a Republican Party inextricably wed to him -- against Democrats, who have depicted him as an extreme threat to the republic. Both sides leave the impeachment process carrying considerable political risk.
Following the Senate vote, Trump tweeted that he would make a public statement Thursday at noon from the White House on “our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!” He later posted a video in which a narrator describes Romney as “slick, slippery, stealthy,” accuses him of “posing as a Republican” and taunts him for his 2012 election loss to President Barack Obama.

Public Rebuke

The GOP majority’s rejection of witness testimony in the trial gave Democrats a cudgel to argue Republicans covered up the president’s behavior. Polling showed that three-quarters of Americans favored calling additional witnesses, such as former National Security Advisor John Bolton.
A poll published Wednesday by Reuters and Ipsos found that 60% of Americans believe Trump should have been either removed from office or censured for his scheme to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Just 31% said his articles of impeachment should be dismissed.
The proceedings reinforced perceptions of Trump as a self-interested and venal leader willing to put his own political interests above the nation’s. Despite acquitting him, a clear majority of the Senate publicly rebuked Trump’s conduct as inappropriate, including at least six Republicans besides Romney -- Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Trump Impeachment Trial Ends In Acquittal On Both Charges
A television broadcasts the U.S. Senate’s vote on the impeachment trial of Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 5.
Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg
The votes of Romney, a senator from Utah, and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, whom the White House had tried to persuade to join its side, underscored the political risk that the saga would alienate moderate voters in swing states.
“Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience,” Romney said Wednesday on the Senate floor.
Still, the president enters the election year with the wind at his back from a string of policy victories -- including new trade deals with China, Mexico, and Canada that have goosed the economy.

Trump Unencumbered

If past is precedent, Trump’s post-impeachment victory lap could see a president who has previously demonstrated little restraint act fully unencumbered.
The day after former Special Counsel Robert Mueller appeared at congressional hearings in July -- testimony that fell short of accusing the president of a crime -- Trump placed the controversial call to Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the heart of his impeachment.
By his own unique standards, Trump has practiced restraint as the impeachment trial unfolded. He’s scaled back his freewheeling news conferences with reporters, taking only one question on the South Lawn as he departed the White House for travel in the past month.
He withdrew his early demands that the Senate call the Bidens to testify, and -- on the advice of his lawyers -- avoided directly identifying the alleged whistle-blower responsible for launching the impeachment probe.
But the acquittal -- which the White House on Wednesday called “full vindication and exoneration” -- could encourage Trump to return to the more controversial behavior the president believes helped propel him to the White House.

Haunting Questions

The vote also fanned questions that seemed to haunt Democrats throughout the impeachment process: Was an effort with little chance of success worth the political risk of alienating swing voters and firing up the president’s base? Did the decision to rush the House effort -- rather than fully litigate White House attempts to block senior officials from testifying –- ultimately doom the case? And what will it take to beat Trump, who has time and again escaped consequences for behavior that would likely end the careers of other politicians?
Leaders in the party argued impeaching Trump was important regardless of the political consequences -- an action demanded by the Constitution that would be validated by history.
If nothing else, they said, the ordeal would remind voters of the chaotic and self-serving approach the president brings to his job. And, Democrats say, the episode has put swing-state senators like Toomey and Colorado’s Cory Gardner -- both of whom opposed calling additional witnesses -- in a death pact with the president.
Trump Impeachment Trial Ends In Acquittal On Both Charges
Chuck Schumer arrives to speak during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 5.
Photographer: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Bloomberg

Three quarters of Americans said they supported the Senate calling witnesses, while a majority -- 53% -- said they believed Trump wasn’t telling the truth about Ukraine, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released this week.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Republicans’ refusal to call additional witnesses was “deeply disturbing on something of such importance to the future of our democracy.”
Still, public opinion polls show Trump with some of the highest approval ratings of his presidency. A survey from Gallup released this week pegged Trump’s approval at 49%, his highest to date. His opponents say the president’s popularity should be far higher given the strength of the economy.
Trump’s consolidation of support was reminiscent of other polarizing moments of his presidency, like Mueller’s determination there was no evidence Trump himself colluded with Russia, or the Senate vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh despite allegations of sexual misconduct.
Schumer’s takeaway: Trump “will conclude he can do it again, and Congress will do nothing about it.”
— With assistance by Steven T. Dennis

US Markets | Futures Indicator: US futures point to 4th straight day of gains on Wall Street

Elliot Smith



U.S. stock index futures rose on Thursday morning with economic data and corporate earnings taking the reins as fears over the coronavirus outbreak eased slightly.
At around 2:20 a.m. ET, Dow futures were up 156 points and indicated an implied positive open of more than 165 points, while futures on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq were also higher.
Wall Street looks for a fourth straight day of gains after the Dow jumped 480 points on Wednesday and the S&P 500 closed at another record high, erasing the losses from the sharp sell-off on the initial coronavirus scare.
The death toll in China rose to 563 as of Wednesday night, with a total of 28,018 cases confirmed as drugmakers race to find a vaccine.
Markets will also be lifted by the announcement from China’s Ministry of Finance that Beijing is set to halve tariffs on hundreds of U.S. imports worth around $75 billion.
Tariffs on some U.S. goods will be cut from 10% to 5%, and from 5% to 2.5% on others, which will take effect on Feb. 14.
Traders will also be attuned to corporate earnings, with Bristol-Myers Squibb and Estee Lauder among those reporting before the bell, while numbers from T-Mobile and Uber are due after the close of trade.
In corporate news, Tesla shares tumbled 17% on Wednesday, derailing a historic rally after a senior executive said the coronavirus outbreak would delay deliveries of its Model 3 cars, with analysts wary of the stock’s soaring value.
On the data front, jobless claims for last week are due at 8:30 a.m. ET alongside fourth-quarter preliminary productivity figures and unit labor costs.
Rises in January private payrolls and services sector activity offered a further boost to investor risk appetite on Wednesday.