“Venezuela poll: EU condemns violence as turnout figure disputed”
Venezuelan electoral authorities and opponents of Nicolás Maduro’s ruling socialists have clashed over turnout figures in Sunday’s vote for an assembly to write a new constitution and give the party greater powers.
The national electoral council said more than 8 million people had voted on one of the deadliest days since massive protests started in early April in Venezuela, but the figure was immediately disputed by the opposition, which said fewer than half that number had taken part. Many voters decided against taking part in an election the opposition said would turn the country into a full-fledged dictatorship.
The European Union has condemned “the excessive and disproportionate use of force by security forces” and said it had serious doubts whether the election could be recognized. The US vowed to take “strong and swift actions” against Venezuelan officials, including the 545 participants in the constitutional assembly, many of them low-ranking party members. The US did not say whether it would sanction Venezuelan oil imports, a measure with the potential to destabilize Maduro’s government and deepen the country’s humanitarian crisis. The opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, said as many as 14 had died in protests on Sunday as voting was under way and the prosecutor’s office confirmed at least six people had been killed by gunfire, including a national guardsman. Seven police officers were also wounded in an explosion in the opposition stronghold neighborhood of Altamira.
“Kabul attack: Gun battle and suicide bombing in Afghan capital”
Afghan security forces battled gunmen following a suicide attack outside the Iraqi embassy in the capital, Kabul. A bomber blew himself up at the embassy’s gate, then three other attackers entered the compound, the Afghan interior ministry said.
Two Afghan embassy employees were killed, and three people, including a police officer, were injured, a spokesperson told the BBC. So-called Islamic State (IS) said it carried out the attack.
After a gunfight lasting several hours, Afghan authorities said the attack was over and all the assailants had been killed. The embassy is located in the central Shar-e-Naw neighbourhood. Kabul has seen many deadly assaults this year blamed on either IS or the Taliban. Correspondents say this is the first attack on the city’s Iraqi embassy. It comes two weeks after the embassy held a news conference to celebrate the defeat of IS in the Iraqi city of Mosul.
“Russia bans VPNs to stop users from looking at censored sites”
Russia is cracking down on software that allows users to view internet sites banned by the government. President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill that prohibits services, including virtual private networks (VPNs), that enable users to skirt government censorship efforts.
The law will take effect on November 1.
VPNs use encryption to disguise the source of internet traffic, allowing users to view websites that are banned in their home countries. Many popular VPN services cost around $10 a month.
Russian internet regulator Roskomnadzor maintains a blacklist of thousands of websites. Leonid Levin, chairman of a parliamentary committee on information policy and communications, said the law signed by Putin does not «introduce any new restrictions and especially no censorship.»
Russia is not the only country to crack down on VPNs. China said in January it would begin to restrict VPNs, and this month reportedly told the country’s three big telecom companies to block individuals’ access to them by early next year.
“Dallas Fed Activity Improves but Respondent Warns «Prospects for better are Dimming»”
After peaking in February, Dallas Fed’s Manufacturing Outlook has slid almost constantly until July which just saw it bounce modestly from 15.0 to 16.8 (still below May’s levels).
The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, rose 11 points to 22.8, indicating output grew at a faster pace than in June. Other measures of current manufacturing activity also indicated a pickup in growth. The new orders and the growth rate of orders indexes rose several points each, coming in at 16.1 and 12.2, respectively. The capacity utilization index moved up to 18.1 and the shipments index increased three points to 11.6. Perceptions of broader business conditions improved again in July, with a sharp pickup in outlooks. The general business activity index edged up to 16.8, marking a 10th consecutive positive reading. The company outlook index jumped 15 points to 25.9, reaching its highest level since 2010. Labor market measures indicated slightly stronger employment gains and longer workweeks this month. The employment index has been positive all year and edged up to 11.2, its highest reading since the end of 2015. Twenty-one percent of firms noted net hiring, compared with 9 percent noting net layoffs. The hours worked index ticked up to 9.8. Prices and wages continued to rise in July. The raw materials prices index held steady at 15.5, while the finished goods prices index moved up slightly to 5.6. The wages and benefits index remained somewhat elevated at 20.6.
Expectations regarding future business conditions continued to reflect optimism. The indexes of future general business activity and future company outlook held steady at 31.6 and 34.8, respectively. Other indexes of future manufacturing activity showed mixed movements but remained solidly in positive territory.
New York Times
“HSBC to Buy Back Up to $2 Billion in Shares”
HSBC said on Monday it would buy back up to an additional $2 billion in shares as it reported better-than-expected earnings in the second quarter. The bank reported a profit of $3.9 billion in the second quarter, compared with $2.5 billion in the second quarter of 2016. It said profit before taxes was $6 billion when adjusted to remove the impact of changes in currency and significant items. That was ahead of analysts’ expectations. The positive earnings report comes as Douglas Flint prepares to step down as HSBC’s chairman in October.
During the quarter, the bank took a provision of $865 million related to ongoing inquiries and litigation into potential manipulation of foreign currency markets.
HSBC said it was working with regulators in the United States and the United States Department of Justice to try to resolve investigations into HSBC’s foreign exchange conduct.