Archive for Azmi Haroun

Deputy US Treasury secretary says Taliban will not have access to Afghan central bank reserves, which are mostly in the US

US Treasury Building
  • The US Treasury is holding firm on its freeze of Afghan central bank reserves, according to Reuters.
  • Since August, the Taliban have tried to access close to $9.5 billion in assets located abroad.
  • Deputy US Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said that sanctions and humanitarian aid would continue.

Wally Adeyemo, the Deputy US Treasury Secretary, said on Tuesday that there is no situation where the Taliban would have access to Afghan central bank reserves, which are largely stored in the US, according to Reuters.

"We believe that it's essential that we maintain our sanctions against the Taliban but at the same time find ways for legitimate humanitarian assistance to get to the Afghan people. That's exactly what we're doing," Adeyemo told the Senate Banking Committee, according to the report.

Reuters reported that the Taliban had asked for the US to allow access to the central bank's $9 billion in assets outside of Afghanistan after the US froze the assets in August, as the Taliban took over the country and now are facing an imploding economic crisis.

The Taliban has been unable to get its hands on the Afghan central bank's almost $10 billion in reserves, Insider previously reported.

"Our goal is to make sure that we are implementing our sanctions regime against the Taliban and the Haqqani network, but at the same time allowing for the permissible flow of humanitarian assistance into the country," Adeyemo said.

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Biden says he supports DOJ prosecution for those who defy subpoenas and hopes Jan. 6 Committee ‘goes after them’

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden.
  • Biden told reporters that he supports the prosecution of Trump allies not complying with subpoenas.
  • Trump's legal team instructed former aides not to comply with subpoenas issued in September.
  • All members of the Jan. 6 Committee support prosecuting the non-compliant individuals.

President Joe Biden told reporters on Friday that he hopes the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the US Capitol goes after Trump allies who are not complying with subpoenas and that he supports the Justice Department prosecuting individuals who don't comply.

"I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable," Biden said after landing on Marine One, according to CBS News.

In early October, Trump's legal team instructed former aides subpoenaed by the committee, including Steve Bannon, not to comply with congressional subpoenas issued in September.

The committee had also requested documents from former Trump administration officials Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, and Kash Patel. Bannon's team has now sent two letters to the committee's chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, saying the former Trump adviser would not comply, and the other loyalists have followed suit.

On Wednesday, the White House counsel asked the National Archives to quickly turn over Trump-related documents to the committee, NBC News' White House correspondent reported.

"The President further instructs you to provide those pages 30 days after your notification to the former President, absent any intervening court order," the message said, according to NBC News.

Rep. Liz Cheney said on Tuesday that all members in the committee were prepared to bring criminal-contempt charges against anyone who ducks the subpoenas.

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Steve Bannon’s defense sent another letter to the January 6 Committee saying he and others will not cooperate

steven bannon
Steve Bannon at Trump Tower in New York.
  • Steve Bannon is doubling down on rejecting January 6 Committee subpoenas.
  • Attorney Robert J. Costello sent another letter on Wednesday saying that his client will not comply.
  • Trump's legal team instructed the president's former aides not to comply with the subpoenas.

Steve Bannon's defense team sent another letter to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the US Capitol, maintaining that he and other Trump allies will not produce documents for subpoenas due to the former president's alleged executive privileges, according to ABC News.

"Mr. Bannon's position is not in defiance of your Committee's subpoena; rather, Mr. Bannon noted that President Trump's counsel stated that they were invoking executive and other privileges and therefore directed us not to produce documents or give testimony that might reveal information President Trump's counsel seeks to legally protect," Bannon's attorney, Robert J. Costello, wrote.

It is the second letter from Bannon's team addressed to January 6 Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson saying that the former Trump adviser will not comply.

In early October, Trump's legal team instructed the president's former aides, including Bannon, not to comply with the congressional subpoenas issued in September.

At the time, the committee also requested documents from former Trump administration officials Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, and Kash Patel. The subpoenas asked Bannon and Patel to sit for depositions on October 14 and for Meadows and Scavino to sit the next day, and all have rejected those prospects.

At odds is whether Trump as a former president can invoke executive privilege to defy the subpoenas in this context. President Joe Biden, the current executive, has waived executive privilege and asked for the documents to be sent to the committee.

On Wednesday, according to NBC News, the White House's counsel asked the National Archives to quickly turn over Trump-related documents to the January 6 committee.

"The President further instructs you to provide those pages 30 days after your notification to the former President, absent any intervening court order," the message said, according to NBC News.

Rep. Liz Cheney said on Tuesday that the committee is prepared to bring criminal contempt charges to anyone who ducks the subpoenas.

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All 206 House Republicans voted against raising the US debt ceiling

kevin mccarthy
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) talks to reporters following a classified intelligence briefing.
  • All 206 House Republicans voted against raising the debt ceiling.
  • The vote was 219-206 in the House, punting the threat of default until December of this year.
  • The bill heads to Biden's desk and delays a showdown with GOP senators over the debt limit.

All House Republicans voted against a bill on Tuesday that allowed for a two-month debt limit hike to stave off a default on the US's debt.

The party-line vote was 219-206 in the House. House Republicans slammed it as a step that would unlock a wave of Democratic spending in the near future.

The debt limit deals with the US's ability to pay its bills and doesn't authorize any fresh spending by Congress.

The bill now heads to President Joe Biden's desk, and will delay a showdown with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell - who has said that Democrats need to raise the debt ceiling on their own through reconciliation - until December.

"This is our debt. This is America's debt," Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on the House floor. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called out McConnell ahead of the vote, saying that he was playing, "Russian roulette with the economy."

The US Treasury Department had warned that the US defaulting on its debt could have occurred within a week if Congress did not pass the stop-gap resolution, and sparked another recession as the economy climbed out of the pandemic.

The measure buys Congress staves off the risk of a default through early December. But a fresh political battle looms.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is drawing a line in the sand against any Republican aid to lift the debt limit. Eleven Senate Republicans paved the way for the two-month extension to clear the upper chamber last week.

"I will not be a party to any future effort to mitigate the consequences of Democratic mismanagement," McConnell wrote in a scathing letter to Biden on Friday. "Your lieutenants on Capitol Hill now have the time they claimed they lacked to address the debt ceiling."

McConnell argued Democrats must employ the arduous reconciliation procedure to approve a debt-limit hike unilaterally, the same demand he's made since July. The process allows some measures to be passed with only a simple majority, shielding it from the filibuster's 60-vote threshold in the Senate.

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Matthew McConaughey, who’s called himself a ‘folk singin’, philosopher, poet-statesman,’ says he’s not sure he wants to run for Texas governor because politics is ‘a bag of rats’

Matthew McConaughey participates in a Q&A after a special screening of his new film "The Gentlemen" at Hogg Memorial Auditorium at The University of Texas at Austin on January 21, 2020 in Austin, Texas.
Matthew McConaughey
  • Matthew McConaughey told The New York Times that he's unsure of a run for governor of Texas.
  • The Academy Award winner has in the past called himself, "folk singin', philosopher, poet-statesman."
  • He said the country is too polarized and that many have told him that "politics is a bag of rats."

Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey cooled the chances of him running for office in Texas in an interview with The New York Times on Thursday, partially because politics is "a bag of rats."

McConaughey, who has fashioned himself a "folk singin', philosopher, poet-statesman," sat down with The Times' Kara Swisher on her "Sway" podcast, and said he "wasn't interested in that" when asked about running for Texas governor in 2022.

"Is that a place to make real change or is it a place where right now it's a fixed game, you go in there, you just put on a bunch of band-aids, in fours year you walk out and they rip them off and you're gone?" McConaughey told Swisher. "I'm not interested in that."

In the interview, McConaughey, who has polled high in Texas, also touched on the pressure he's received from across the political spectrum to run for office.

"One side I'm arguing is 'McConaughey exactly, that's why you need to go get in there.' The other side is 'that's a bag of rats, man. Don't touch that with a ten-foot pole. You have another lane. You have another category to have influence and get done things you'd like to get done and help how you think you can help and even heal divides,'" McConaughey said, adding that politics was a "broken business."

Throughout the chat, Swisher brought up Beto' O Rourke's criticism of McConaughey's undefined political stances.

"Coming from Beto, I don't take that as shade. He called me a good man. I say he's a good man... he believes in what he's selling, and his heart is in the right place, and he's got the right compassion that a liberal-sided politician needs," McConaughey said.

McConaughey dug deeper in the interview about where he stands, expressing openness to third parties like The Forward Party, which was recently minted by Andrew Yang.

"People want a third party and we've got one and it doesn't have a name right now and it is the majority," McConaughey said. "I'm hesitant to throw labels... but there is a sleeping giant right now. I think it's necessary to be aggressively centric to possibly salvage democracy in America right now."

McConaughey was outright critical of SB 8, Texas' abortion ban, deeming it, "juvenile in its implementation," adding that the social and political landscape in Texas and the US is fragmented and toxic.

"I go to the individual," McConaughey said. "It's not going to happen by a policy. It's going to have to be a personal choice that more of us are going to have to make on our own and that collectively will build the army that's going to get us out of this not to just survive but thrive."

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The pandemic spurred a legion of young shredders. 16 million people have taken up the guitar, Fender says.

Fender Play
  • According to a new study conducted by Fender and YouGov, young people are flocking to the guitar.
  • The study estimates that 16 million people have taken up the guitar in the US over the pandemic.
  • Insider spoke with Fender CEO Andy Mooney about the influx of young, tech-savvy shredders.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

While many Americans scrambled to find new hobbies at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, close to 16 million people took up the guitar, according to a new study from Fender and YouGov reviewed by Insider.

Fender and YouGov conducted the "Fender's New Guitar Player Landscape Analysis" study, analyzing who new players were and how they took up the instrument.

Some of the major takeaways are that most new players are women, two-thirds of new players are between the ages of 13 and 34, more than half of them use TikTok, and 38% of the new players identify as Latinx.

Fender and YouGov surveyed 10,644 Guitar "beginners, aspirers and appreciators," between the ages of 13-64 in the US, between May and June 2021.

"The population of beginners is about 7% of the total population. But as many as 72 million people are playing guitar now," Andy Mooney, Fender's CEO told Insider.

Mooney told Insider that the new research built on a six-year study Fender had previously conducted, which showed that half of new players were women and that younger players were eager to pick up the guitar.

But, according to Mooney, 90% of the beginners identified before the pandemic were walking away from the instrument, a trend that started to change during the pandemic.

"What we really learned from the pandemic is that, now that people have more time to invest in themselves, is that learning music, guitar in particular, it's just a fundamentally good investment of their time and self-development, or relaxation, mental health," Mooney said. "It's not just, although for some players it is, it's not about having your foot on the monitor at the front of the stage with the wind machine blowing through your long hair."

Sixty-two percent of study respondents said that they chose to pick up the guitar during the pandemic, according to Fender. And the decision to make "Fender Play," the company's guitar learning app, free for 90 days paid off handsomely.

"During the pandemic, we said, 'Let's offer Fender Play free for 90 days,' just to give something, just to give parents a tool, kids a tool. We thought maybe we'd get 50,000, 60,000 people would take us up on that offer. We got 100,000 people in the first week. Ultimately we topped out at just shy of a million," Mooney said, adding that today, there are a quarter-million paying users on the app.

And during these last two years, Fender's sales have skyrocketed as well.

Mooney told Insider that 2020 was a record year in terms of sales, and September 2021 was the biggest sales and orders month in the company's history. And if it weren't for supply chain slowdowns, the numbers may have been even higher.

"We believe there could be a guitar in every home. We didn't think that six years ago, but we see no reason now why there couldn't be," Mooney said.

TikTok has also proved a goldmine in terms of encouraging young players to play the guitar.

"Music is inextricably woven through everything that happens on TikTok," Mooney said, and 58% of the new players, according to Fender's study, frequent TikTok. Two-thirds of new players consume TikTok guitar content weekly, through channels like GuitarTok, which has a billion interactions.

And one of the biggest pools of new players is young, Latinx women. At least 38% of the new players identified as Latinx, and many reportedly sought out the guitar for the purpose of creating or performing.

Mooney said that Fender has worked with famous artists like Gabriel Garzón-Montano, as well as TikTok music influencers, and recently the company distributed 10,000 instruments to the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Fender's report also highlights a heightened interest among young players wanting to learn Hip-Hop songs on the guitar, something the company is paying close attention to as it develops new learning apps.

"We want to inspire people to get the first guitar, we want to educate them about what to get so it's the right guitar for them at the right time," Mooney said. "Then we want to convert them from a beginner to a committed player, and really nurture that journey all the way along the line."

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US Marines deny soldier who spoke at a Trump rally’s claim that he was the one who lifted the Afghan baby over the wall in Kabul

Former President Donald Trump.
  • The Marines denied that an officer who spoke at a Trump rally was in a viral Afghanistan photo.
  • The photo showed a Marine lifting a baby over a barbed-wire fence during the scurried evacuation.
  • The DoD is also investigating Lance Cpl. Hunter Clark for speaking at a political rally.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The US Marines said on Friday that a soldier who spoke at a Trump rally, claiming he was "the guy that pulled the baby over the wall" in Kabul, was not the man seen holding the child in the widely circulated photo.

At a September 25, Trump rally in Perry, Georgia, Lance Cpl. Hunter Clark took the stage with former President Donald Trump and claimed he was the officer in an August 19 video who hoisted a baby girl over a barbed-wire fence as US forces were evacuating Afghans from the country.

A baby is grabbed by a US soldier and lifted over a razor wire fence.
A baby is handed over to the American army over the perimeter wall of the airport for it to be evacuated, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 19, 2021

"Hey, my name's Lance Cpl. Hunter Clark. I'm here from Warner Robins, Georgia. I am the guy that pulled the baby over the wall, and it's definitely probably one of the greatest things I've ever done in my entire life," he said at the rally.

At the rally, Trump introduced Clark and said he "helped evacuated children over the airport wall. You saw him. He did a great job," as the crowd chanted, "U-S-A."

Shortly after the incident, the Department of Defense announced an investigation into Clark, as reported by Task and Purpose, because the department restricts active duty members from speaking at political events.

A spokesperson for the Marines also denied that Clark was pictured in the photo.

"Regarding the viral photo that began circulating around August 20, 2021, the Marine identified in that particular image was not Lance Cpl. Clark," Capt. Kelton Cochran, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit spokesperson, told Insider.

Peggy Clark, Lance Cpl. Clark's mother, modified her son's claim to CNN and said that her son was, in fact, present for the moment and was handed the baby by the colleague pictured grabbing the baby.

Insider reached out to the Marines to ask whether Clark was one of the adjacent Marines.

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Ozy announces it is shutting down, following bombshell New York Times report

Ozy Media cofounder Carlos Watson
Ozy Media cofounder Carlos Watson

Ozy Media, the digital media company under fire after a bombshell New York Times report about its workplace culture and business practices, announced it was shutting down on Friday.

"At Ozy, we have been blessed with a remarkable team of dedicated staff," Ozy's board of directors wrote in a statement. "Many of them are world-class journalists and experienced professionals to whom we owe tremendous gratitude and who are wonderful colleagues. It is therefore with the heaviest of hearts that we must announce today that we are closing Ozy's doors."

Carlos Watson and Samir Rao founded Ozy in 2013 on the promise of building a new kind of media company aimed at millennials, and garnered $83 million in funding and backing from many high-profile investors and celebrities.

The unraveling started when the Times reported that Rao, Ozy's chief operating officer, was caught impersonating a YouTube executive during a fundraising call, along with raising questions about Ozy's audience metrics.

Meanwhile, Ozy alumni told Insider about the company's grueling work practices and raised doubts about the company's audience claims.

The fallout from the Times story came fast. The company was facing an FBI probe over the phone call incident. Advertisers and investors started demanding answers. Board chair and hedge fund billionaire Marc Lasry stepped down from the board.

And the world's biggest advertising company WPP just advised all its clients, which include Ford, Google, Facebook, IBM, Unilever, and Mondelez, to pause their ad buys on Ozy until further notice, said a person with direct knowledge.

The shutdown also leaves Ozy's many investors holding the bag. Its backers have included Marc Lasry, Laurene Powell Jobs, Ron Conway, and LionTree. Axel Springer, parent of Insider, also invested.

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Mitch McConnell blocks Democrats’ attempt to raise the debt ceiling on their own, pushing the country closer to a default

Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
  • Mitch McConnell blocked Senate Democrats' attempt to raise the debt ceiling on their own on Tuesday.
  • McConnell has remained adamant that raising the debt limit is something only Democrats must do.
  • The federal government is now on the verge of both defaulting on its debt and shutting down.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's request for a vote to suspend the debt limit, leaving the government closer to a debt default and shutdown.

"Democrats won't get bipartisan help paving a path to partisan recklessness," McConnell wrote on Twitter.

Since June, McConnell has been insistent that Democrats must raise the debt ceiling on their own, saying that Republicans should not play a role in funding the opposing party's $3.5 trillion social-spending bill. But even when Schumer attempted to do just that, requesting unanimous consent on Tuesday to suspend the debt limit - something Democrats could accomplish on their own - McConnell objected and said Democrats should use the reconciliation procedure to raise the limit instead.

This comes after McConnell, alongside all Senate Republicans, blocked a measure that would have averted a government shutdown and debt default on Monday; it had passed the House last week.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress on Monday that it has until October 18 to raise or suspend the debt limit, after which the government's money will run out and it will be forced to default on its debt. Earlier this month, she projected the money will run out sometime in October, but even now, with a specific date, Yellen urged lawmakers to not wait until the last minute given economic uncertainty from the pandemic.

Democrats now have more time to prevent a debt default, but they have been reluctant to address the issue through reconciliation because it would take too long to go back and amend, and debate on, the legislation. Schumer told reporters on Tuesday that going that route is a "non-starter."

"It's very, very risky," he added. "We're not pursuing that."

The consequences of failing to act promptly on prevent a debt default are dire. Yellen said last week that allowing a default would lead to "economic catastrophe," delaying Social Security payments and increasing unemployment, and White House expressed the same concerns, warning in a memo to state and local governments that a government default could lead to potential big cuts in measures like Medicaid and free school lunches.

On Tuesday, Yellen told Congress it would be a worst-case scenario for the dollar, which is the bedrock of the international financial system.

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House Select Committee investigating January 6 issued subpoenas to Trump confidants Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, and Kash Patel

trump bannon
  • Four key Trump confidantes were subpoenaed by the House Select Committee investigating January 6.
  • Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, and Kash Patel were asked to attend depositions in October.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

House Select Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson announced on Thursday that it was subpoenaing Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, and Kash Patel. The committee investigating the events of January 6, is seeking to get information from key players who spoke with former President Donald Trump prior to the insurrection on January 6.

In a press release, Thompson described the men as, "four individuals with close ties to the former President who were working in or had communications with the White House on or in the days leading up to the January 6th, insurrection."

At the time of the riots at the Capitol on January 6, Meadows was the White House Chief of Staff, Scavino was serving as White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications, Patel was a Defense Department official, and Bannon served as a longtime (now unofficial) Trump advisor.

The subpoenas also asked Patel and Bannon to appear at a deposition on October 14, and Meadows and Scavino to appear the following day.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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