Iran Seeks Ways to Defend Against US Sanctions

Iran is studying ways to keep exporting oil and other measures to counter U.S. economic sanctions, state news agency IRNA reported Saturday. Since last month, when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal that lifted most sanctions in 2015, the rial currency has dropped up to 40 percent in value, prompting protests by bazaar traders usually loyal to the Islamist rulers. Speaking after three days of those protests, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the U.S. sanctions were aimed at turning Iranians against their government. Other protesters clashed with police late Saturday during a demonstration against shortages of drinking water. “They bring to bear economic pressure to separate the nation from the system … but six U.S. presidents before him [Trump] tried this and had to give up,” Khamenei said on his website Khamenei.ir. With the return of U.S. sanctions likely to make it increasingly difficult to access the global financial system, President Hassan Rouhani has met with the head of parliament and the judiciary to discuss countermeasures. “Various scenarios of threats to the Iranian economy by the U.S. government were examined and appropriate measures were taken to prepare for any probable U.S. sanctions, and to prevent their negative impact,” IRNA said. One such measure was seeking self-sufficiency in gasoline production, the report added. Looking for buyers The government and parliament have also set up a committee to study potential buyers of oil and ways of repatriating the income after U.S. sanctions take effect, Fereydoun Hassanvand, head of the parliament’s energy committee, was quoted as saying by IRNA. “Due to the possibility of U.S. sanctions against Iran, the committee will …

Trump Claims Saudi Arabia Will Boost Oil Production

President Donald Trump said Saturday that he had received assurances from King Salman of Saudi Arabia that the kingdom will increase oil production, “maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels” in response to turmoil in Iran and Venezuela. Saudi Arabia acknowledged the call took place, but mentioned no production targets. Trump wrote on Twitter that he had asked the king in a phone call to boost oil production “to make up the difference…Prices to (sic) high! He has agreed!” A little over an hour later, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on the call, but offered few details. “During the call, the two leaders stressed the need to make efforts to maintain the stability of oil markets and the growth of the global economy,” the statement said. It added that there also was an understanding that oil-producing countries would need “to compensate for any potential shortage of supplies.” It did not elaborate. Oil prices have edged higher as the Trump administration has pushed allies to end all purchases of oil from Iran following the U.S. pulling out of the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. Prices also have risen with ongoing unrest in Venezuela and fighting in Libya over control of that country’s oil infrastructure. Last week, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries cartel led by Saudi Arabia and non-cartel members agreed to pump 1 million barrels more crude oil per day, a move that should help contain the recent rise in global energy prices. However, summer months …

AP Fact Check: Were Tax Cuts an ‘Economic Miracle?’

Editor’s note: A look at the veracity of claims by political figures President Donald Trump has elevated his tax cuts to an act of biblical proportions, misleadingly claiming at a White House speech Friday that they triggered an “economic miracle.” Not quite. Also Friday, the president’s top economics aide, Larry Kudlow, appeared on the Fox Business Network to address one of the major problems with the tax cuts — that they’ll heap more than $1 trillion onto the national debt. Kudlow falsely countered that the budget deficit was falling because of growth generated by the tax cuts. The deficit is actually rising. A look at the statements and the fact: TRUMP: “Six months ago, we unleashed an economic miracle by signing the biggest tax cuts and reforms … the biggest tax cuts in American history.” THE FACTS: The president is exaggerating, if not being outright deceptive. Rather than achieving a miracle, his tax cuts have helped stoke additional growth in an economic expansion that was already approaching its 10th year. The additional growth is largely fueled by government borrowing, as the federal deficit rises because of the tax cut. The pace of growth is expected to taper off after next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the Federal Reserve and outside analysts. And while the $1.5 trillion worth of tax reductions over the next decade are substantial, they’re far from the largest in U.S. history as a share of the overall economy. The Trump tax cut ranks behind Ronald …

GM: US Import Tariffs Could Mean Fewer Jobs

General Motors Co warned on Friday that higher tariffs on imported vehicles under consideration by the Trump administration could cost jobs and lead to a “a smaller GM” while isolating U.S. businesses from the global market. The administration in May launched an investigation into whether imported vehicles pose a national security threat, and U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to impose a 20 percent vehicle import tariff. The largest U.S. automaker said in comments filed with the U.S. Commerce Department that overly broad tariffs could “lead to a smaller GM, a reduced presence at home and abroad for this iconic American company, and risk less — not more — U.S. jobs.” Higher tariffs could also hike vehicle prices and reduce sales, GM said. ​Less investment, fewer workers Its comments echoed those from two major U.S. auto trade groups Wednesday, when they warned that tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported vehicles would cost hundreds of thousands of auto jobs, dramatically raise prices on vehicles and threaten industry spending on self-driving cars. Even if automakers opted not to pass on higher costs “this could still lead to less investment, fewer jobs, and lower wages for our employees. The carry-on effect of less investment and a smaller workforce could delay breakthrough technologies,” GM said. GM operates 47 U.S. manufacturing facilities and employs about 110,000 people in the United States. It buys tens of billions of dollars worth of parts from U.S. suppliers every year, and has invested more than $22 …

Trump: Expect Another Tax Cut, ‘Probably in October’

U.S. President Donald Trump said he expects a second tax overhaul to be unveiled in October or a bit earlier, and he is considering cutting the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 21 percent. In an excerpt of a Fox Business Network interview to be broadcast Sunday, Trump said: “We’re doing a phase two. We’ll be doing it probably in October, maybe a little sooner than that.” “One of the things we’re thinking about is bringing the 21 percent down to 20, and for the most part the rest of it would go right to the middle class,” he said. In December, Trump signed the biggest overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years, slashing the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent and giving temporary tax relief to middle-class Americans. The sweeping bill passed the Republican-controlled Congress over the opposition of Democrats, who decried it as a giveaway to the wealthy that would add $1.5 trillion to the $20 trillion national debt. Republicans, hungry to revisit the tax issue ahead of a November midterm election showdown for control of Congress, are to unveil the outline of new tax legislation over the summer in the House of Representatives. But more tax cuts are unlikely to succeed in the closely divided Senate, where Democrats and conservative fiscal hawks could block such a measure. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office warned this week that more tax cuts would hasten the growth of an already rapidly rising federal debt. The …

Trump Celebrates Tax Cut Law at 6-Month Mark

U.S. President Donald Trump touted the Republican tax cut plan Friday, six months after he signed it into law, saying it was strengthening the U.S. economy and helping average Americans by increasing investment, jobs and wages. “It is my great honor to welcome you back to the White House to celebrate six months of new jobs, bigger paychecks and keeping more of your hard-earned money where it belongs: in your pocket or wherever else you want to spend it,” he said. A recent report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, however, projects a gloomy fiscal outlook in the U.S., which is experiencing rising debt under the Trump administration. The CBO report predicts the country’s debt burden will double in 30 years, exceeding even the U.S. debt load during World War II. The tax law, officially titled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, was the largest overhaul of the country’s complex tax laws in three decades. It cut the corporate tax rate, which was among the highest in the industrialized world, from 35 to 21 percent. It trimmed rates for millions of individual taxpayers as well, with the biggest cuts mostly benefiting the wealthiest earners, although some taxpayers saw bigger tax bills because of various changes in the tax regulations. The CBO report, which cautioned the high debt levels also increase chances of a fiscal crisis, projects the tax cuts could spur short-term economic growth, but it quickly would fall back to a long-term average of 1.9 percent. While most of …

Concerns Mount About US Commitment to Allies, Global Order

President Donald Trump is denying any immediate plan to withdraw the United States from the World Trade Organization (WTO). “We have been treated very badly by the WTO,” Trump said to reporters on Air Force One during a short Friday afternoon flight from Maryland to New Jersey. But asked if he intends to pull the United States from the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations, Trump replied, “Not at this point, but they have to treat us fairly.” The remarks come as Trump appears increasingly intent on confrontation, rather than cooperation, with the European Union, the Group of Seven (G-7) nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the WTO. He has repeatedly suggested the United States would be better off pursuing trade and strategic deals with nations one on one. “Rather than playing the U.S. president’s traditional role as leader of the free world, Trump looks like he is declaring war on the international rules-based order: undermining the G-7 and WTO, raising doubts about continued U.S. support for a strong NATO to counter Russia, and falsely declaring that the European Union was invented to take advantage of the United States,” Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and a former NATO deputy secretary general, tells VOA News. Trump, in less than two weeks, heads to Europe for the annual NATO summit before separate meetings in Britain with Prime Minister Theresa May and then, in neutral Finland, …

Study: HIV Drug Not Linked to Depression

A new study of a popular HIV drug could ease concerns about its link to depression. Researchers in Uganda found that efavirenz, once feared to lead to depression and suicide, did not cause the expected negative side effects in their patients. Efavirenz is an affordable, once-a-day pill used around the globe to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS. It’s “the treatment of choice” in most of the world, according to Africa Health Research Institute’s Mark Siedner, “especially [in] countries that depend on global aid to treat HIV.” But some fear that efavirenz may come with a cost. Some studies in the United States and Europe found the drug increased patients’ risk of depression or suicide, although other studies did not. The mixed results prompted many doctors in the United States to prescribe more expensive but potentially safer drugs. Siedner wanted to take another look at the risk of depression, this time in an African population. From 2005 until 2015, he and a team of Ugandan and U.S. doctors tracked 694 patients who took either efavirenz or another antiretroviral medication. They regularly asked the patients whether they experienced depression or suicidal thoughts. No difference Their analysis, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed there was no difference between the two treatments. Siedner told VOA, “In other words, efavirenz was not associated with a risk of depression. If anything, there seems to be a signal that potentially it was associated with a decreased risk. But it wasn’t a strong enough [signal] for us to say that.” The …