Technology & Innovation

Iran, North Korea and Crypto
Fintech Beat, Ep. 36

Looking toward the North Korean side of the Joint Security Area within the DMZ from Panmunjom, South Korea. (Photo By Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

Fintech Beat gives an inside view from former intelligence officials on how sanctions and political gyrations between the Trump administration and Iran and North Korea can impact financial technology, and how these regimes can use cryptocurrencies in nefarious ways.

Top Trump aide stops short of echoing boss’ claim that economy is ‘best it’s ever been’
But Lawrence Kudlow touts wage growth and low unemployment rate

Larry Kudlow, director of President Donald Trump’s National Economic Council, says the economy under Trump will “rank up there” with previous strong economies. (Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser on Friday stopped short of endorsing the president’s repeated claim that the U.S. economy is at its strongest point in the country’s history.

“In history? I think it’ll rank up there, yes,” Lawrence Kudlow told CQ Roll Call on Friday. But he notably did not say the U.S. economy is the strongest it’s ever been as his boss heads into what pollsters and strategists in both parties say could be a photo-finish election.

Trump signs ‘phase one’ China pact, first of two trade milestones this week
Senate to take up NAFTA replacement before impeachment trial begins

President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a “Keep America Great” campaign rally in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Amid the impeachment proceedings on Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed the first of two significant milestones on trade — an agreement with China that amounts to a ceasefire in his war with the Asian giant.

Trump is expected to get a second win on the issue later this week, with the Senate expected to approve a revised trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. Aides say Trump plans to trumpet both as part of his reelection sales pitch that he is a good steward of the economy.

More votes to terminate Trump's border emergency in the works
Lawmakers can vote again starting Feb. 15, 2020 to terminate the emergency declaration

A section of the border wall stretches through the Rio Grande Valley sector of the Texas border on Aug. 20, 2019. (Photo by Jinitzail Hernández/CQ Roll Call)

Top Senate Democrats, led by Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, said Wednesday that they intended to force another vote on termination of the national emergency that President Donald Trump has used to boost border wall spending.

"Bipartisan majorities in Congress have repeatedly rejected diverting money from critical military construction projects to build a single additional mile of border wall. Robbing the Defense Department of these much-needed funds in order to boost his own ego and for a wall he promised Mexico would pay to build is an insult to the sacrifices made by our service members," Schumer said in a joint statement with Appropriations ranking member Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Armed Services ranking member Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico.

Pentagon to talk Space Force plans, uniforms with Trump
Officials expected to brief president on plans for starting up newly authorized military service branch

The Air Force chief of staff sits in the foreground as members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Defense Department brass are expected Wednesday afternoon to brief President Donald Trump on their plans for standing up a new military branch called the Space Force, and a Pentagon official said they may even present several logo options for the new armed service.

The White House meeting is expected to include Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond, who is on his second day of the job as the first-ever chief of space operations, the top officer in the sixth U.S. military service.

Crypto enthusiasts say new products lend bitcoin credibility
Futures considered crucial to gain buy-in from financial industry

The big development at the end of 2019 was the first trading of what’s known as physically settled bitcoin futures, following approval from state and federal regulators. Those bitcoin futures trade through regulated exchanges and clearinghouses. (Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images photo illustration)

The cryptocurrency industry is hailing the emergence of complex bitcoin investment products as a needed step to attract new investors while lending credibility to the digital asset and building a pathway to regulatory clarity.

The big development at the end of 2019 was the first trading of what’s known as physically settled bitcoin futures, following approval from state and federal regulators. And while the launch of these investment products hasn’t convinced everyone that they will lead to buy-in from a skeptical financial industry, those leading the charge say it’s a crucial step.

Cyberattackers lurking longer inside computers, report finds
In 2019, criminals remained undetected for average of 95 days before discovery, 10 more days than in 2018

To avoid detection, sophisticated nation-state attackers tend to operate quickly after breaking into a victim’s computer. But criminals may move slowly, hoping to cause bigger disruptions and collect larger ransoms, CrowdStrike said in a 2019 report. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Online attackers are becoming so good at hiding themselves that they can remain undetected in victims’ computers for months before being found, potentially giving these criminals more time to inflict greater damage than if they were detected earlier, according to cybersecurity research firm CrowdStrike.

Cyberattackers remained undetected for an average of 95 days before discovery last year, compared with an average of 85 days in 2018, CrowdStrike said in a report made public Monday.

Can - and should - an algorithm be ethical when it comes to financial technology?
Fintech Beat, Ep. 35

Can an algorithm be ethical? (iStock, Getty Images)

Algorithms have evolved into to powerful engines of financial technology. But they don’t always live up to the hype, as algorithmic models fail to take account of basic societal concerns like fairness, privacy and bias. Fintech Beat sits down with Michael Kearns to find out what can be done to make algorithms “ethical.”

‘Eliminated’ Soleimani and ‘booming’ economy: Takeaways from Trump’s first 2020 rally
President alleges ‘Crazy Bernie’ condemned U.S. military strike on Soleimani

President Donald Trump speaks during a reelection rally at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio, on Thursday night. (Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

ANALYSIS — “Hello, Toledo,” President Donald Trump told an arena full of supporters Thursday night as he made clear he believes the Buckeye State is now solidly GOP territory.

“We love Toledo, you remember, I was here a lot,” Trump said at the top of another raucous campaign rally. “You remember 2016 — what a year that was, right?”

Appeals court lifts block of funding for border wall

A section of the border wall stretches through the Rio Grande Valley sector of the Texas border on Aug. 20, 2019. (Jinitzail Hernández/CQ Roll Call)

A U.S. appeals court has issued a stay on a lower court ruling that had blocked the Trump administration from reallocating $3.6 billion in federal military funds to construct a wall along the nation’s border with Mexico.

In a 2-1 decision late Wednesday, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals placed a temporarily halt on a Dec. 10 ruling by a federal judge in El Paso, Texas, that barred the transfer.

Trump suggests Iran downed Ukrainian airliner, potentially by accident
U.S. officials haven't publicly stated what caused the crash yet

President Donald Trump arrives at the White House after a rally in Michigan on Dec. 19, 2019. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested Iran shot down a Ukrainian airliner earlier this week — possibly by mistake.

“Well, I have my suspicions,” he told reporters following an energy event in the White House. “It’s a tragic thing. … Somebody could have made a mistake on the other side. … It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood.

Fintech Beat sits down with the former chief of the Federal Reserve’s open banking unit
Fintech Beat, Ep. 34

The Federal Reserve building. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Open banking’s benefits involve using customer consent to develop new financial products to revolutionize financial services. But critics claim open banking can at times bypass customer consent by using digital avatars and other online tools to infiltrate and collect customer data. Fintech Beat sits down with the former chief of the Federal Reserve’s open banking unit to get answers.

Customs and Border Protection denies targeting Iranian Americans at border
But Rep. Jayapal, others skeptical after hearing stories about hours-long detentions

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., cast doubt over CBP statements related to Iranian-Americans who said they were held at the U.S.-Canada border. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Customs and Border Protection has denied targeting American citizens and permanent residents of Iranian descent for additional scrutiny at U.S. ports of entry, but a Washington lawmaker who heard multiple accounts of such detentions happening in her district expressed skepticism of the claims.

“It appears that that was a result of some sort of directive,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said at a press conference Monday at her Seattle office. “The discrimination that we seem to be once against veering towards has a deep-rooted history.”

Iranian Quds commander’s assassination to follow Trump back to Washington
Democrats, allies calling for deescalation of tension with Iran while other tensions await at White House

Iranians burn an American flag during a demonstration in Tehran on Friday following the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a U.S. strike on his convoy at Baghdad International Airport. (Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)

ANALYSIS — There are two things White House and Trump campaign officials have not wanted to discuss when it comes to President Donald Trump’s reelection chances: An economic recession and a military conflict. Suddenly, the latter is possible.

The president’s top aides have acknowledged an economic slowdown would undermine the president’s top claim that he’s earned a second term. That’s because he leads almost every public event — no matter the topic — by touting the low unemployment and record-high stock market levels.

Long wait for China tariff exemptions pays off for some
About a third of requests for exemptions from tariffs were granted in first two tranches of tariffs

President Donald Trump and Apple CEO Tim Cook, to Trump’s right, tour the Flextronics computer manufacturing facility where Apple’s Mac Pros are assembled in Austin, Texas, in November. Apple has fared better than most companies in winning exemptions on tariffs on Chinese imports. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images file photo)

The limited scope of the phase one trade deal with China means that the bulk of U.S. tariffs will remain in place for the foreseeable future, leaving U.S. companies hurt by the duties no other choice but to get in line for an exemption if they want to limit the damage.

The record so far shows that it might be worth a shot: on average, importers have a one in three chance of meeting the standard set by the U.S. Trade Representative and getting an exemption or exclusion, according to an analysis by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.