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News Briefs: Federal Reserve rebuts media; China using drugs to weaken US; Brexit stalled; Now Mueller team is accused

Here’s today’s news briefs.

Federal Reserve rebuts negative media narrative

Contrary to the media’s ultra negative reporting on the economy, the Federal Reserve today released its “beige book,” and said the vast majority of U.S. businesses remain optimistic despite concerns over tariffs and trade. Fed officials are gearing up to reduce interest rates in two weeks, most likely by a quarter-percentage point. Friday’s jobs report and readings on retail sales and inflation next week could shape their outlook. The Commerce Department reported yesterday that the U.S. trade gap narrowed in July, a goal of the Trump administration.

China waging war with illegal drugs in US as a weapon

Behind the deadly opioid epidemic ravaging communities across the United States lies a carefully planned strategy by a hostile foreign power that experts describe as a “form of chemical warfare.”

It involves the production and trafficking of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that caused the deaths of more than 32,000 Americans in 2018 alone, and fentanyl-related substances. China is the “largest source” of illicit fentanyl in the United States, a report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission states. The southern border is the second largest point of entry for illegal drugs flowing from China.

UK Prime Minister’s plans stalled

British lawmakers frustrated Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s effort to take Britain out of the European Union at the end of October and thwarted his push for a quick election. The moves significantly reduce the chances that the U.K. will leave the bloc abruptly on Oct. 31 without a deal meant to minimize economic disruption. But they also augur further political and economic uncertainty. The original vote of the people several years ago gave a hard deadline of withdrawal which legislators who were opposed have ignored.

Lawmakers voted in favor of requiring the government to seek an extension to the Brexit deadline if it can’t agree on divorce terms with the EU by Oct. 19 that meet Parliament’s approval. The House of Commons also rejected Mr. Johnson’s push for an Oct. 15 snap election, though the U.K. is likely still on course for another election later in the year.

Youtube punished over kids’ privacy

YouTube agreed to provide new protections for children on its platform and pay a $170 million fine. The Federal Trade Commission and the New York state attorney general announced the penalty following an investigation in response to complaints that the video platform illegally collected data on children to sell ads. YouTube neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing as part of the settlement. No executives at YouTube or its parent, Alphabet’s Google, were penalized.

Critics are calling the fine unusually small considering the size of the company–ranked as one of the largest in the world. The settlement sharpened government debate over how to rein in tech giants. The FTC’s Republican leadership noted the fine exceeded previous penalties in similar cases. But minority Democrats said the FTC should have sought a bigger fine and more action from YouTube.

Flynn turns tables on Mueller team

Attorneys for former national security adviser Michael Flynn have launched a major legal challenge in his perjury case, seeking a contempt citation against the Mueller prosecutors for hiding exculpatory evidence.

Flynn’s attorneys allege he was targeted for selective prosecution based on illegal surveillance and claim that the office of the special counsel extorted the guilty plea from Flynn. It is not the first time that the evidence of wrongdoing, and illegal activity by the Mueller prosecution team has been uncovered.

Sidney Powell, Flynn’s attorney, filed the paperwork for the motions two months after taking over as the defense counsel on the case, replacing the team that Flynn fired in June. Powell, a vociferous critic of government prosecutors, confirmed that she ultimately seeks for the case to be dismissed and for Flynn to be exonerated.