Top news stories for today – Dec 19, 2017
US accuses N Korea for global cyber attack
The Trump administration is officially accusing North Korea of launching a crippling cyberattack that affected hundreds of thousands of computers across the globe earlier this year. “The attack was widespread and cost billions,” homeland security advisor Tom Bossert wrote in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal Monday night.
Pyongyang has long been suspected of distributing a computer virus called WannaCry in May, which locked out users in at least 150 countries from access to files and other critical functions. Among the affected entities was US based shipping company FedEx, Spanish telecommunications firm Telefonica, and Britain’s National Health Service, which forced hospitals to cancel surgeries and divert ambulances to other facilities. The program demanded a ransom to unlock access to files stored on infected machines. The WannaCry attack was eventually stopped by a British hacker who discovered a “kill switch” in the code that disabled the virus. VOA
GOP set to roll final tax plan today
Republicans plan to pass their $1.5 trillion tax plan starting Tuesday, with the House expected to approve the bill and the Senate clearing it later in the day or on Wednesday. No Democrats are expected to vote in favor. The tax bill would be the first big legislative win for Republicans this year.
It slashes the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, lowers the top rate for the richest Americans, and gives more modest temporary tax cuts to everyone else. By 2027, however, taxes will go up for everyone earning up to $75,000. It is projected to add $1.46 trillion to the deficit over 10 years. In a new CNN poll, 55 percent of US adults oppose the tax bill, while 33 percent support it. The Associated Press, CNN
Working group for Rohingya return set up
Myanmar and Bangladesh have formed a joint working group to oversee the repatriation of Rohingya refugees, but their return is likely to be delayed. The two countries agreed to set up a 30-member working group during a four-hour meeting Tuesday in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.
Their repatriation was due to start around Jan. 21 under an agreement reached last month between the two countries, but a Bangladesh foreign ministry official who attended Tuesday’s meeting said it would be delayed by a couple of weeks or so. Human rights groups warn that the Rohingya may face continued violence if they are sent back. VOA
At least 3 killed in Seattle train crash
An Amtrak train derailed Monday morning in Washington state, causing “multiple injuries and fatalities,” said Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. At least three people died in the crash. The train was carrying 78 passengers and five crew members when it derailed roughly 40 miles south of Seattle just before 8 a.m. local time, causing a train car to dangle over Interstate 5.
Thirteen of the train’s 14 cars jumped the track, and on the freeway five cars and two semi-trucks were also involved in accidents because of the derailment. It was the inaugural run of a new, high-speed route connecting Seattle and Portland, and the National Transportation Safety Board said preliminary data shows the train was traveling 80 mph in a 30 mph zone. The Associated Press, NBC News, The Week
Trump unveils national security plan
President Trump unveiled a new national security strategy on Monday, presenting China and Russia as rivals seeking to “challenge American power, influence, and interests, [and] attempting to erode American security and prosperity.” Trump’s policy statement additionally reflects the America First themes of his campaign, reversing Obama-era warnings about climate change, and emphasizing the economic implications of US foreign policy.
In comments Monday, Trump called the strategy “principled realism” and explained: “To succeed we must integrate every dimension of our national strength and we must compete with every instrument of our national power.” The Washington Post, The Associated Press
Mueller team expects probe to continue well into 2018
When White House lawyers meet later this week with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, they are expected to ask how much more information they will need before deciding their probe is over as far as President Trump is concerned, several White House advisers told The Washington Post.
People with knowledge of the probe say it’s likely the investigation will continue well into 2018, especially as they gather new leads from witnesses who have pledged to cooperate: former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. Trump has told associates he’s not concerned about the probe, with one telling the Post he is “confident, even arrogant” about having done nothing wrong. The Washington Post
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