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Panel Meets Facebook’s Sandberg, Says Russia Ads May Be Released

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Sheryl Sandberg
  • Panel Meets Facebook’s Sandberg, Says Russia Ads May Be Released

The House Intelligence Committee hopes to release campaign ads that Russians purchased on Facebook Inc. as soon as possible, leaders of the panel’s investigation of election-meddling said after meeting with company Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

“We’ve asked for Facebook’s help to help scrub any personally identifiable information, but it’s our hope that when they conclude, then we can release them publicly,” top Intelligence Committee Democrat Adam Schiff told reporters Wednesday.

Investigation leader Michael Conaway, a Texas Republican, said any release would likely come after a Nov. 1 hearing at which officials from Facebook, Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Twitter Inc. are expected to testify.

“We expect to have the three largest platforms there,” said Conaway.

Sandberg made the trip to give an update on Facebook’s investigation and explain how the social network was working to protect its users from future election interference, including investments in staff and security, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The Facebook executive told lawmakers that if Congress wishes to release the ads, they should first be scrubbed of personally identifying information, and she told them what private information to obscure, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the meetings were private.

“These were really productive meetings. We discussed the 3,000+ ads we provided to the US investigators to help them better understand Russian efforts to undermine our democracy,” Sandberg said in a Facebook post afterward. “We reiterated that Congress is best placed to decide if and when the ads should be made available to the American people.”

Stirring Tension

Sandberg also held separate meetings with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon, and with several House Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. Sandberg plans to meet Thursday with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss race-related ads on the network.

Advertisements run by a Russian organization on Facebook before and after the U.S. presidential election were meant to stir tension in the country, especially on divisive issues such as race, immigration and guns, congressional investigators have said.

Operatives traced to the Russian government created a Facebook group called United Muslims of America that published outlandish, false claims, including that Senator John McCain founded Islamic State, the Daily Beast reported.

The New York Times reported that another Facebook group linked to Moscow called Secure Borders took aim at immigrants with an ad that showed Trump wearing a Santa costume and saying: “We are going to say Merry Christmas again!” The ad targeted Americans opposed to political correctness and multiculturalism.

The lawmakers didn’t give details of their meetings with Sandberg, though Schiff said Facebook officials “certainly realize the intense interest in what the Russians did on their platform, the responsibility they have on their own to ferret this material out.” The company also wants help from the intelligence community in identifying foreign bad actors, he said.

“We’re going to want to get a complete sense of what the Russians are doing on their platform and others,” Schiff said. “Not just the advertising but all the downstream consequences of that advertising, all the things they were pushing out through non-advertising on these platforms.”

Walden said, “I think Facebook is very committed to doing the right thing” in trying to identify foreign agents using social networks to divide the country.

“They’ve been aggressive in trying — when they’ve learned who those people are — to go after them and shut down the sites. And they are pledging to do even more going forward,” Walden said. “People are figuring out how to use and manipulate a system that was built for good to bad ends.”

Facebook has turned over more than 3,000 ads purchased by Russian entities to congressional investigators. Twitter has said it provided a roundup of advertisements by RT, a TV network funded by the Russian government that was formerly known as Russia Today.

The companies must figure out how much responsibility to take and how much change to promise, without succumbing to costly regulation or setting a precedent that might be difficult to follow in other countries. Some lawmakers have said they want to ensure that people know who has paid for online political ads.

Facebook for years has sought exemptions from political-ad disclosure rules — but the company recently said it’s working on ways to show who pays for ads. It also indicated it might be open to some regulation regarding transparency.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade long experience in the global financial market.

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Investment

Barclays Tell High Net Worth Investors to Shun Africa and Other Emerging Economies

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Barclays Bank

Barclays to High Net Worth Clients, Stay Off Africa and Other Emerging Economies

Barclays, one of the world’s largest investment banks, has started advising high net worth clients to stay off Africa and other emerging economies.

According to Barclays, despite the recent recovery noticed in emerging-market stocks, investors are better off avoiding the risks that still abound in emerging nations. Barclays Plc, however, advised high net worth clients to focus on U.S equities despite the S&P’s breakneck rally.

The investment bank said emerging economies do not have enough fiscal buffers to spend their way out of the COVID-19 pandemic and will likely continue to struggle in the near-time compared to the US with 12 percent of gross domestic product fiscal-support.

It said the huge US stimulus may halt rebound in emerging-markets stocks as more money is expected to flow into the world’s largest economy and its European counterparts.

“Compared to the U.S., emerging-market economies appear more vulnerable,” said Haider, the London-based managing director and head of global growth markets. “Their central banks have less room to maneuver, their governments may not be able to provide unlimited support and equity markets, given their sector mix, can be more challenged by an economic slowdown.”

Barclays added that even after 33 percent rebound in stocks of emerging markets since the panic selloff subsided in March, stocks are still down by 9 percent from year-to-date while the US S&P 500 stocks are up by 45 percent. Presently, their stocks trading at a 36 percent discount to US stocks, up from 25 percent three months ago.

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Economy

Crude Oil Rises to $43.1 Per Barrel on Production Cuts Extension

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  • Crude Oil Hits $43.1 Per Barrel Following OPEC’s Production Cuts Extension

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil price is measured, rose by 1.25 percent on Monday during the Asian trading session following OPEC and allies’ agreement to extend crude oil cuts to the end of July.

OPEC and allies, known as OPEC plus, agreed to extend production cuts of 9.7 million barrels per day reached in April to July on Saturday.

In the virtual conference, delegates agreed that members, including Nigeria and Iraq presently struggling to attain a 100 percent compliance level must keep to the agreement or be forced to do so in subsequent months.

Nigeria, Iraq and others failed to keep to the cartel’s agreement in May after reports show that Nigeria only managed to attain a 19 percent compliance level during the month while Iraq struggled to attain just 38 percent in the same month.

Russia and Saudi Arabia, the two largest producers of the group, warned members to stick to the agreed quota if they want to rebalance the global oil market.

While the errant producers such as Iraq and Nigeria have vowed to reach 100% conformity and compensate for prior underperformance, we still think they will likely continue to have some commitment issues over the course of the summer,” said Helima Croft, head of global commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

The potential return of Libyan output could also cause considerable challenges for the OPEC leadership.

Earlier on Monday, Brent crude oil hits $43.1 per barrel, more than a month record-high, before pulling back slightly to $42.83 per barrel.

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Gold Dips by 2 Percent on Better Than Expected Job Report

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  • Gold Dips by 2 Percent on Better Than Expected Job Report

Gold prices declined by 2 percent on Friday following a better than expected US non-farm payroll report.

The report showed an increase of 2.5 million payroll numbers against a decline of 7.5 million predicted by many experts.

The surprise number boosted investors’ confidence in US recovery as many dumped their haven investment (gold) for the stock market.

“We had significantly stronger-than-expected U.S. payroll numbers – an increase of 2.5 million versus an expectation of a decline of 7.5 million – that 10-million swing has brought forward expectations of the economic recovery in the United States,” said Bart Melek, head of commodity strategies at TD Securities.

Spot gold immediately declined by 1.9 percent per ounce to $1,678.81 while the U.S. gold futures slid 2.6 percent to settle at $1,683.

Gold was also being pressured by stronger yields and a slightly firmer dollar, “meaning the opportunity cost to hold gold in the portfolio has gone up,” Melek added.

The surprise didn’t stop there, US Dow Jones was up 614 points despite the protest going on the US and US-China tension.

Also, NASDAQ rose by 29 points while the S&P index added 50 points increase.

Note: Investors generally increase their investments in gold and other haven assets during a crisis to avert risk exposure and do the opposite once they sense a better economy.

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