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Arrested Russian Woman Said to Have Ties to Spies

A Russian woman arrested in Washington over the weekend on charges of working as an illegal foreign agent in the United States “appears” to have ties to Russia’s intelligence services, prosecutors revealed in court documents on Wednesday.

Maria Butina, who founded a gun rights organization and worked as an aide to a top Russian government official, is accused of infiltrating influential American political organizations such as the National Rifle Association for the purpose of advancing Russian interests in the United States.

Indictment

She was indicted by a grand jury on Tuesday on one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, and one count of working as a foreign agent in connection with the covert influence operation.

Prosecutors allege that Butina carried out the scheme at the direction of an unnamed senior Russian government official. The official is not named in court documents, but his description matches that of Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of the Russian central bank and a former senator in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party.

In a court filing calling for Butina’s pre-trial detention, prosecutors disclosed Butina’s alleged ties to Russian intelligence. The FBI’s searches of her electronic devices revealed that Butina was “in contact with officials believed to be Russian intelligence operatives,” prosecutors said.

Butina maintained a contact list of individuals identified as employees of the Russian intelligence agency FSB, according to court papers. Another document seized by the FBI “contained a hand-written note, entitled “Maria’s ‘Russian Patriots In-Waiting’ Organization,” and asking ‘How to respond to FSB offer of employment?’” according to the filings.

“Based on this and other evidence, the FBI believes that the defendant was likely in contact with the FSB throughout her stay in the United States,” prosecutors wrote.

Preparing to flee

Butina’s arrest came as the FBI feared she was preparing to leave the country. Her apartment lease was set to expire on July 31, and there were boxes packed in her apartment, according to the latest court filings.

 

“Because Butina has been exposed as an illegal agent of Russia, there is the grave risk that she will appeal to those within that government with whom she conspired to aid her escape from the United States,” prosecutors wrote.

Butina visited the United States several times in 2014 and 2015 before obtaining an F-1 student visa in August 2016 to enroll as a student at American University in Washington. A university official confirmed that she’s been enrolled at the American University School of International Service since fall 2016.

Russia’s foreign ministry, calling the allegations against Butina “groundless,” said her detention was carried out to minimize the impact of the recent summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Robert Driscoll, an attorney for Butina, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement on Monday, Driscoll denied the allegations against his client.

Right to Bear Arms

Butina and Torshin founded the Right to Bear Arms, a gun advocacy organization modeled on the NRA, in 2012.

Torshin became a lifetime member of the NRA, and the duo regularly attended the gun lobby’s annual meetings in the U.S. in recent years, according to their social media accounts.

U.S. prosecutors allege that Butina sought to cultivate close ties with the NRA as a conduit to the Republican Party during the 2016 presidential election. The goal was to sway what the Russians saw as the Republican Party’s “negative and aggressive” policy toward Russia, according to an email from Butina that was intercepted by the FBI and cited in the indictment.

The offense carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

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UK Extremist Convicted of Plotting to Kill Prime Minister

An extremist loyal to the Islamic State group has been found guilty of plotting to kill the British prime minister.

Naa’imur Zakariyah Rahman was convicted Wednesday of planning to bomb the entry gates to the prime minister’s residence and office at 10 Downing Street, kill the guards there and then attack Theresa May with a knife or gun.

The 20-year-old, who is originally from the Birmingham area of England, was arrested in November after collecting a backpack he believed was stuffed with explosives.

He thought he was getting it from Islamic State adherents, but had been talking to undercover police.

Prosecutors said Rahman planned to be killed during the attack.

A jury convicted him at the Old Bailey courthouse in London. He has not been sentenced yet.

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Elon Musk Apologizes for Comments About Cave Rescue Diver

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has apologized for calling a British diver involved in the Thailand cave rescue a pedophile, saying he spoke in anger but was wrong to do so.

There was no immediate public reaction from diver Vern Unsworth to Musk’s latest tweets.

Musk’s initial tweet calling Unsworth a “pedo” was a response to a TV interview Unsworth gave. In it, he said Musk and SpaceX engineers orchestrated a “PR stunt” by sending a small submarine to help divers rescue the 12 Thai soccer players and their coach from a flooded cave. Unsworth said the submarine, which wasn’t used, wouldn’t have worked anyway.

“My words were spoken in anger after Mr. Unsworth said several untruths …” Musk tweeted.

“Nonetheless, his actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologize to Mr. Unsworth and to the companies I represent as leader. The fault is mine and mine alone.”

Musk’s Sunday tweet, later deleted, had sent investors away from Tesla stock, which fell nearly 3 percent Monday but recovered 4.1 percent Tuesday. Unsworth told CNN earlier this week that he was considering legal action. He did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

In his latest tweets, Musk said the mini-sub was “built as an act of kindness & according to specifications from the dive team leader.”

Musk has 22.3 million followers and his active social media presence has sometimes worked well for Tesla. The company has said in its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it doesn’t need to advertise because it gets so much free media attention.

But straying away from defending his companies into personal insult brought Musk some unfavorable attention at a time when Tesla, worth more than $52 billion, is deep in debt and struggling for profitability. 

In northern Thailand on Wednesday, the 12 Thai soccer players and their coach answered questions from journalists, their first meeting with the media since their rescues last week. Doctors said all are healthy.

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Trump’s Top Economic Adviser Accuses China’s President of Delaying Trade Deal

U.S. President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser accused Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday of stalling efforts to resolve a growing trade dispute with the U.S.

White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said he believed lower-level Chinese officials want to end tariffs the world two largest economic powers have imposed on each other, but that Xi has refused to amend China’s technology transfer and other trade policies.

“So far as we know, President Xi, at the moment, does not want to make a deal,” Kudlow said in an interview on CNBC. “I think Xi is holding the game up,” Kudlow said, and added, “The ball is in his court.”

Kudlow said China could end U.S. tariffs “this afternoon” if it took measures that include cutting tariff and non-tariff barriers to imports. The U.S. has also called on Beijing to end the “theft” of intellectual property and allow full foreign ownership of companies operating in China.

Kudlow also said he expects European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to make a trade offer when he meets with Trump at the White House next week.

Trump has demanded that the EU cut its 10 percent tariffs in auto imports at a time when his administration is conducting a national security study that could result in a 25 percent U.S. tariff on imported vehicles.

A 25 percent tariff would have a significant financial impact on European and Japanese automakers, and while Juncker has said he would make an trade offer to Trump next week, he did not offer details.

Earlier this month, Trump imposed 25 percent tariffs on Chinese goods valued at $34 billion, with another $16 billion set to take effect in the near future. Trump has also announced 10 percent tariffs on an additional $200 billion of Chinese products that could be imposed as early as next month.

Beijing retaliated to the first tariffs by placing duties on the same dollar amount of American imports, and has vowed to counter any further U.S. actions.

Trump imposed the tariffs after an Office of the U.S. Trade Representative investigation concluded China was violating intellectual property rules and forcing U.S. companies operating in China to hand over technology secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market.

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ООН закликає Україну вжити «негайних заходів» для захисту ромів – заява експертів

«Ми однозначно засуджуємо ці огидні акти залякування та насильства щодо представників ромської меншини в Україні»

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В Україні проведуть пробний перепис населення – уряд

В Україні проведуть пробний перепис населення – рішення ухвалили на засіданні Кабінету міністрів 18 липня.

Як повідомляє урядовий портал, проходитиме пробний перепис в Оболонському районі Києва і в Бородянському районі Київської області у грудні 2019 року.

В уряді переконані, що відповідні «проби» дозволять підготувати механізми для проведення планованого на 2020 рік Всеукраїнського перепису.

Читайте також: В Україні можливе обезлюднення окремих територій – демограф

Під час пробного перепису експерти, зокрема, планують протестувати використання планшетів і ноутбуків, щоб прискорити внесення статистичної інформації.

Востаннє перепис населення проводився у 2001 році. За даними Державної служби статистики, станом на 1 січня 2018 року чисельність постійного населення України становила 42 мільйони 216 тисяч.

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Українець із російського «Квартету И» не поїде в окупований Крим

Учасники театру «Квартет И» не збираються приїжджати з гастролями в анексований Крим через потенційні проблеми із в’їздом на вільну територію України, повідомив один із засновників проекту, український актор і сценарист Ростислав Хаїт в інтерв’ю радіо «Говорит Москва».

Артист нагадав, що минулого літа з цим зіткнулася учасниця театру Нонна Гришаєва. Хаїт зазначив, що є громадянином України і не готовий втратити можливість приїжджати до своїх родичів в Одесу.

«Наскільки я знаю, Нонні офіційно не заборонили в’їзд в Україну, але при цьому подзвонили і сказали: «Не приїжджай, буде погано». Нонна – людина, яка активно підтримує нинішню владу в Росії. І якщо вона була в Криму, то відповідно до українського законодавства, якщо вона в’їхала туди не через територію України, то вона порушила закон», – сказав актор.

При цьому Хаїт додав, що поки «Квартету І» не пропонували виступити на території півострова.

«Нам з Криму не дзвонили ні разу, а якби подзвонили, ми б не поїхали саме з цієї причини. За всієї поваги до жителів Криму, вони ні в чому не винні, але ми про себе теж думаємо. У мене мама, тато і старший брат в Одесі, що ж, я не буду їздити туди?» – додав Хаїт.

Російська актриса Нонна Гришаєва перебуває в базі українського сайту «Миротворець». У липні 2018 року спікер Держприкордонслужби України Олег Слободян повідомляв, що в разі прибуття Гришаєвої до українського кордону прикордонна служба готова ухвалювати рішення про її допуск «згідно з чинним законодавством».

Масовому глядачу російський «Квартет И» відомий насамперед за своїми екранізованими виставами «День радио», «День выборов», «О чем говорят мужчины».

Іноземні артисти і інші діячі культури порушують українське законодавство, приїжджаючи з гастролями в анексований Крим через закриті Україною пункти пропуску.

Щодо майже 130 іноземців з числа діячів культури і мистецтва, які незаконно відвідували Крим, прийнято рішення про заборону в’їзду в Україну.

Після анексії Криму Росією на початку 2014 року між материковою Україною і півостровом проліг формально адміністративний, але фактично справжній кордон.

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Boeing Gets $3.9B Contract for New Air Force One Jets

Boeing has received a $3.9 billion contract to build two 747-8 aircraft for use as Air Force One by the U.S. president, due to be delivered by December 2024 and painted red, white and blue, officials said on Tuesday.

The Pentagon announced the decision on Tuesday, saying Seattle-based Boeing’s previously awarded contract for development work had been expanded to include design, modification and fielding of two mission-ready presidential 747-8 aircraft.

The contract followed the outlines of the informal deal reached between Boeing and the White House in February. That agreement came after President Donald Trump objected to the $4 billion price tag of a previous Air Force One deal, complaining in a Twitter post that “costs are out of control” and adding “Cancel order!”

The White House said in February the new deal would save taxpayers more than $1.4 billion, but those savings could not be independently confirmed.

Air Force budget documents released in February for fiscal year 2019 disclosed a $3.9 billion cost for the two-aircraft program. The same 2018 budget document, not adjusted for inflation, showed the price at $3.6 billion.

The Boeing 747-8s are designed to be an airborne White House able to fly in worst-case security scenarios, such as nuclear war, and are modified with military avionics, advanced communications and a self-defense system.

A congressional official briefed on Tuesday about the deal indicated it was little changed from the informal agreement reached in February, calling for two 747-8 aircraft to be built for $3.9 billion and delivered by December 2024.

Trump told CBS in an interview that aired on Tuesday that the new model Air Force One would be updated on the inside and have a different exterior color scheme from the current white and two shades of blue dating back to President John F. Kennedy’s administration.

“Red, white and blue,” Trump said. “Air Force One is going to be incredible. It’s going to be the top of the line, the top in the world. And it’s going to be red, white and blue, which I think is appropriate.”

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Fashion Firms Upend Design Routine to Focus on Speed, Trends

Prototypes? Passe. Fashion company Betabrand saw that knitwear was a hot style in sneakers and wanted to quickly jump on the trend for dressier shoes. It put a poll up on its website asking shoppers what style they liked, and based on that had a shoe for sale online in just one week.

 

What web shoppers saw was a 3-D rendering — no actual shoe existed yet. Creating a traditional prototype, tweaking the design and making a sample would have taken six to nine months, and the company might have missed out on the interest in knit.

 

“The web attention span is short,” said Betabrand CEO Chris Lindland. “So if you can develop and create in a short time, you can be a real product-development machine.”

Shoppers looking at the shoe online could examine the peekaboo detail or check out how the sole was put together, as they would from photos of a real product. They don’t get the actual shoes instantaneously — they have to wait a few months. But the use of digital technology in designing and selling means hot trends are still getting to people far faster than under the old system.

 

“Retailers and brands who are embracing this are going to be winners of the future,” said David Bassuk, managing director of consulting group AlixPartners. “This is flipping the business model on its head.”

 

It’s a big cultural change for clothing makers. For decades, the process meant designers sketched ideas on paper, a design got approved, and the sketches went to a factory that created prototypes. Designers and product developers made tweaks and sent prototypes back and forth. Once a final version was approved, it was sent to the factory to be copied for mass production. Getting something from design to a store could take at least a year.

Now, some companies have designers sketching on high-resolution tablets with software that can email 3-D renderings of garments with specifications straight to factories, as better technology makes the images look real and the pressure to get shoppers new products swiftly intensifies. The goal is to reduce to six months or less the time it takes to get to store shelves.

 

Even chains like H&M, which once set the standard for speed by flying in frequent small batches, are realizing that’s not fast enough. H&M, which has seen sales slow, is starting to digitize certain areas of its manufacturing process.

 

For clothing makers and retailers, the shift means design decisions can happen closer to when the fashions actually hit the shelves or website. That means less guessing so stores aren’t stuck with piles of unsold clothes that need to be discounted.

 

The 3-D technology is used in just 2 percent of the overall supply networks, estimates Spencer Fung, group CEO of Li & Fung, which consults with more than 8,000 retailers including Betabrand and 15,000 suppliers globally. But he believes that will change as retailers begin prioritizing speed and realize that cutting down on design time and prototypes saves money.

 

“You can actually essentially create an entire collection before you even cut one garment,” said Whitney Cathcart, CEO of the Cathcart Technologies consulting firm. “So it reduces waste, it reduces lead times, it allows decision making in real time, so the entire process becomes more efficient.”

 

Fung imagines a scenario where a social media post with a celebrity in a red dress gets 500,000 “likes.” An alert goes to a retailer that this item is trending. Within hours, a digital sample of a similar dress is on its website. A factory can start to produce the dress in days.

 

“Consumers see it and they want it now,” says Michael Londrigan of fashion college LIM in New York. “How do you bring it to market so you don’t miss those dollars?”

 

Nicki Rector of the Sonoma Valley area in California bought a pair of Betabrand’s Western-style boots last summer based on the 3-D rendering.

 

“It looked real,” said Rector, who examined the images of the heel and the insoles. She didn’t worry about buying off a digital image, reasoning that if you’re buying online you can’t really know how something’s going to fit until you put it on your feet. She said knowing it was designed from customer input also helped make the wait OK.

 

Betabrand has sold 40,000 pairs of shoes priced from $128 to $168 over the past year, all from digital renderings, and plans to add 15 to 20 such projects this year.

At a Levi Strauss & Co. research and development facility in San Francisco, designers use programs that offer the look of a finished garment and let them make changes like adding pockets quickly, rather than requiring a new prototype. When they’re set, they can send a file to the factory for mass production. Using digital samples can shorten the design time to one week or less from an eight-week timeframe, Levi’s says.

 

Few companies are yet selling directly to shoppers off digital renderings like Betabrand, and are instead showing them to store buyers or to factories rather than using traditional samples.

 

Xcel Brands uses them for its own brand of women’s tops and for the company’s Judith Ripka jewelry line. The company, which also makes clothes for Isaac Mizrahi and Halston, will start using them for other brands within the year. CEO Robert D’Loren hopes to start putting 3-D samples on its website next year.

 

Tommy Hilfiger has an interactive touchscreen table where buyers can view every item in the collection and create custom orders. And Deckers Brands, the maker of Ugg boots, is using digital renderings of the classic boot in 10 colors, eliminating the need for 10 prototypes for store buyers. That helps reduce cost and increases speed.

 

Using digital designs also mean the exact specifications for different Levi’s design finishes can be uploaded to a machine that uses lasers to scrape away at jeans. No need to teach employees how to execute a designer’s vision, in a minute and a half the lasers have given the jeans the exact weathered look that took workers wielding pumice stones twenty minutes to half an hour.

 

“Thirty years ago, jeans were only available in three shades — rinse, stonewash and bleach,” said Bart Sights, head of the Levi’s Eureka lab. “Our company now designs 1,000 finishes per season.” Such a long lead time “pushes production and creation too far away.” Levi’s latest technology alleviates this issue, he said.

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Trade Pain: US Small Companies Hit by Import, Export Tariffs

Time and effort have gone down the drain for Steve Gould, who is scrambling to find new customers for his gin, whiskey and other spirits since the United States has taken a tough stance on trade issues.

Before the European Union retaliated against new U.S. tariffs with taxes of its own, Gould expected revenue from the EU at his Golden Moon Distillery in Colorado to reach $250,000 or $350,000 this year. Now he’s concerned that European exports will total just $25,000. Golden Moon already saw an effect when then-candidate Donald Trump made trade an issue during the 2016 campaign. Gould lost one of his Mexican importers and an investor, as overseas demand for small-distiller spirits was growing.

“We’ve lost years of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars in building relationships with offshore markets,” says Gould, who’s hoping to find new customers in countries like Japan. 

President Donald Trump’s aggressive trade policies are taking a toll on small U.S. manufacturers. The president has imposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports from most of the world, including Europe, Mexico and Canada, driving up costs for companies that rely on those metals. And he has slapped 25 percent taxes on $34 billion in Chinese imports in a separate trade dispute, targeting mostly machinery and industrial components so far. Trump’s tariffs have drawn retaliation from around the world. China is taxing American soybeans, among other things; the European Union has hit Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Kentucky bourbon; Canada has imposed tariffs on a range of products — from U.S. steel to dishwasher detergent.

More businesses could be feeling the pain as the trade disputes escalate — the administration on Tuesday threatened to impose 10 percent tariffs on thousands of Chinese products including fish, apples and burglar alarms. And China responded with a tariff threat of its own, although it didn’t say what U.S. exports would be targeted.

Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to tariffs because they lack the financial resources larger companies have to absorb higher costs. Large companies can move production overseas — as Harley-Davidson recently announced it would do to escape 25 percent retaliatory tariffs in Europe. But “if you’re a small firm, it’s much harder to do that; you don’t have an international network of production locations,” says Lee Branstetter, professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College.

Shifting manufacturing away from items that use components that are being taxed is also harder since small businesses tend to make fewer products, he says. And if tariffs make it too expensive to export to their current markets, small companies may not be able to afford the effort of finding new ones.

Small-business owners have been growing more confident over the past year as the economy has been strong, and they’ve been hiring at a steady if not robust pace. But those hurt by tariffs are can lose their optimism and appetite for growth within a few months.

“They have narrow profit margins and it’s a tax,” says Kent Jones, an economics professor at Babson College. “That lowers their profit margins and increases the possibility of layoffs and even bankruptcies.”

Yacht company

Bertram Yachts is one company finding it trickier to maneuver. The U.S. has put a 25 percent tariff on hundreds of boat parts imported from China, where most marine components are made. And European countries have imposed a 25 percent tariff on U.S.-made boats. Last year, Bertram exported about a third of its boats, with half going to Europe.

“We have been squeezed on both sides,” says Peter Truslow, CEO of the Tampa, Florida-based boat maker.

Truslow doesn’t know how the tariffs will affect the company’s sales and profits, but dealers he’s spoken to in Europe have already gotten cancellations on boats that run into the millions of dollars. Bertram plans to try to build up its strong U.S. business and seek more customers in countries that aren’t involved in trade disputes with the U.S., including Japan and Australia.

Still, the company’s growth and job creation stand to slow. “It’s probably going to be more about a reduction in hiring than it is about layoffs,” Truslow says.

The ripples are being felt across the industry, says Tom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association trade group. He estimates there are about 1,000 manufacturers, almost all small or mid-size businesses, and says some parts can only be bought from China.

Metal fabrication

Matt Barton’s metal fabrication company, which makes custom replacement parts for farm equipment, outdoor signs and people who race hot rods, is paying its suppliers up to 20 percent more for metals than it did a year ago.

Prices had soared as much as 40 percent months ago amid expectations of U.S. tariffs on aluminum and steel. They have since steadied, but are expected to remain high for three to six months. Barton’s Pittsboro, Indiana-based company, The Hero Lab, is absorbing part of the increases. Some racing customers are still delaying orders.

“What they budgeted to cost $1,000 now is now $1,200 or $1,500,” Barton says. “They’re pushing their orders back four to six weeks, waiting for a few more paychecks to come in.”

Cheese maker

Jeff Schwager’s cheese company, Sartori, is selling products to Mexico at break-even prices because of that nation’s retaliatory 25 percent tariff. Twelve percent of the Plymouth, Wisconsin-based company’s revenue comes from exports, which is the fastest-growing segment of the business.

Sartori and its Mexican importer are each absorbing half the costs of the tariff. Schwager, the CEO, doesn’t see leaving the Mexican market as an option.

“If you lose space on the grocery store shelf, or you’re taken out of recipes in restaurants, that takes years to get back,” he says. He hopes the trade dispute can be resolved and tariffs rolled back.

Flatware maker

But some small manufacturers believe they can benefit from a trade dispute. Greg Owens, president of flatware maker Sherrill Manufacturing, says if his competitors in China are hit by U.S. tariffs, he could see revenue increase.

“They would have to raise the retail price, which would allow us to raise our prices,” says Owens, whose company is located in Sherrill, New York. In turn, Owens says, that would allow “long overdue” raises for workers and upgrades to capital equipment.