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President Obama Sanctions North Korean Agents over Sony Hack

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north korean agentIn a press release on the US Treasury website this morning, President Obama signed an executive order that sanctions North Korea in response to the Sony Hack. The action is in response to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s numerous provocations. However, the statement specifically mentions the recent cyber-attack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment, threats against movie theaters and moviegoers.

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The order will further isolate North Korea. Specifically the proto-law identifies three entities and ten individuals. The authorized sanctions deny the agents’ access to the US financial system. These persons or entities are reportedly identified as officials in collusion with the Government of North Korea and the Workers’ Party of Korea – spies or agents of the state.

US Treasury Sanctions North Korea: Economic Hit List

The three entities identified in today’s Executive Order have been outed for being controlled by the government of North Korea. Nothing in the release states these organizations were created specifically by North Korea to access the US financial system. The president identifies them as being controlled by the Government of North Korea. The sanctions North Korea receives focus on inhibiting the tyranny from expanding its power in theaters of defense, military arms sales, and cyber security.

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Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB): RGB is North Korea’s primary intelligence organization and is involved, inter alia, in a range of activities to include conventional arms trade proscribed by numerous United Nations Security Council Resolutions. RGB was previously listed in the annex to E.O. 13551 on August 30, 2010. RGB is responsible for collecting strategic, operational, and tactical intelligence for the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces. Many of North Korea’s major cyber operations run through RGB.

Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID): KOMID is North Korea’s primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons. KOMID, a North Korean state-owned entity, was previously listed in the annex to E.O. 13382 on July 1, 2005 for its role in North Korea’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It was also sanctioned by the United Nations in April 2009. KOMID has offices in multiple countries around the world and facilitates weapons sales for the North Korean government.

Korea Tangun Trading Corporation is subordinate to the Second Academy of Natural Sciences and is primarily responsible for the procurement of commodities and technologies to support North Korea’s defense research and development programs, including materials that are controlled under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) or the Australia Group. Tangun Trading Corporation was designated by the Department of State pursuant to E.O. 13382 in September 2009 and was designated by the United Nations in 2009. The identifier information for this designated entity is also being updated to include several aliases it uses to operate internationally. The new aliases for Korea Tangun Trading Corporation include Ryung Seng Trading Corporation, Ryungseng Trading Corporation, and Ryungsong Trading Corporation.

Also Read: When Lizards Attack: Security Experts Say Lizard Squad Likely Involved in Sony Hack

From Human Rights Violations to Sony Hack

As of October, 2014, the US has sanctions against Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Sudan. In the past, the sanctions North Korea received were for things like Human Rights violations. In that regard the US is not alone. Most first-world countries have sanctioned North Korea at one point or another.

Additionally, the following ten individuals from around the world have been denied access to the US banking system under today’s Executive Order. The sanctions aim to disrupt North Korean agents around the globe.

Kil Jong Hun and Kim Kwang Yon are officials of the North Korean government and represent the southern African interests of KOMID. Kil Jong Hun is KOMID’s Representative in Namibia and an official of the North Korean government.

Jang Song Chol is a KOMID representative in Russia and an official of the North Korean government. He is working with individuals in Sudan who are procuring materials from him.

Yu Kwang Ho is an official of the North Korean government.

Kim Yong Chol is a KOMID Representative in Iran and an official of the North Korean Government.

Jang Yong Son is a KOMID Representative in Iran and an official of the North Korean government.

Kim Kyu is the KOMID External Affairs Officer and an official of the North Korean government.

Ryu Jin and Kang Ryong are KOMID officials operating in Syria and are officials of the North Korean government.

Kim Kwang Chun is a Korea Tangun Trading Corporation representative in Shenyang, China and an official of the North Korean government

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House Pushes Forward With Trump Tax Plan Amid Dissent

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The U.S. House of Representatives is pushing hard to move President Trump’s tax proposal through the legislative process, even as growing dissent rattles confidence in the landmark bill.

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Congressional Analysis

An analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation concluded Tuesday that tax cuts for lower- and middle-income Americans would fade over the next decade at a faster rate than those for high earners. The analysis found that four out of every five tax filers earning between $50,000 and $75,000 would receive tax relief from the bill in 2019. However, by 2027, that figure would drop to 60%.

Meanwhile, those earning more than $1 million would also see their tax savings fade, albeit at a slower rate than the smaller income brackets. In 2019, about three-quarters of those earning $1 million-plus will get tax relief, a figure that drops to two-thirds in 2027.

The conclusion could spark another round of debate as the Trump administration seeks to push forward on tax reform this year. The tax plan has faced attack from both sides of the political divide, with high-tax state Republicans criticizing individual deductions for state and local taxes.

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The reform bill, which promises to reduce the number of tax brackets, cut the corporate tax rate and implement a one-time repatriation fee, has been described as the most ambitious since the Reagan administration. Through Reagan’s tax reform, the U.S. economy managed to grow by an average of 3.4% annually until the beginning of the Obama administration. And that includes three recessions between the two presidents.

To his credit, President Jimmy Carer before him implemented the biggest regulatory overhaul in postwar history.

Mid-Terms Loom

Republicans have good reason to raise questions about Trump’s tax reform, especially those in high-tax states such as California. Already faced with a difficult re-election next year, California’s GOP Representative Darrell Issa said he wouldn’t endorse changes that “may make it the tremendous burden felt by California taxpayers even worse.”

Republican Ed Gillespie of Virginia was defeated in state elections on Tuesday, a clear sign that the GOP-controlled Congress is under attack. South Carolina is seen as an important barometer of the Democrats’ chances of winning in crucial swing states ahead of next year’s midterms.

Democrat Ralph Northam will be the next governor of Virgina, various news outlets reported late Tuesday.

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Libertarian Speaks: Ron Paul Says U.S. Government Should Not Intervene in Cryptocurrency

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The U.S. government has no place intervening in cryptocurrency, according to former U.S. presidential candidate Ron Paul.

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In an interview with Kitco on Oct. 27, Paul said the government should “stay out” of bitcoin if people want to use it. The former Congressman acknowledged that he didn’t know much about cryptocurrency, but that he was “amazed” by the market’s growth.

“I take some very strong political positions on competing currencies,” Paul said, when asked if he was a believer of cryptocurrency. “And if you can come up with a competing currency, and there is no fraud, I think it should be.”

Although a lot has been said about bitcoin’s black market roots, Paul says government involvement shouldn’t be a given. That message has been lost on several nations, which have grown uneasy about the growth and widespread adoption of cryptocurrency. Major economies like  China, South Korea and Russia have already stepped in to halt the expansion of crypto-assets.  However, most policymakers appear to be open to regulating cryptocurrency insofar as its criminal elements can be controlled.

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Libertarians like Ron Paul are very weary of government involvement in all aspects of life. It should therefore come as no surprise that bitcoin and its altcoin competitors have received strong buy-in from the libertarian, free market community. While the United States has a strong libertarian presence across key segments of its society, this has largely failed to translate into meaningful political reform.

Bitcoin’s market capitalization climbed back above $100 billion over the weekend, with the sum of all coins valued at around $179 billion. Cryptocurrency is by far the fastest growing asset class of 2017, dwarfing stocks, crude oil and other traditional financial assets.

“I am amazed,” Paul said, ” at all the capitalization on these cryptocurrencies. It’s a huge amount of money.”

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Draft of U.S. Tax Bill Coming Within Days, According to GOP Lawmaker

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It won’t be long now before congressional Republicans table their first draft bill to reform the U.S. tax code, according to House conservative Mark Meadows. GOP lawmakers are under the gun to meet President Trump’s ambitious goal of delivering a major tax overhaul by the end of 2017.

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Draft Bill Coming in Less Than Ten Days

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows says the House Ways and Means Committee has promised to release a preliminary tax bill about seven days after this Thursday’s vote on a budget resolution. Based on that timeline, the tax bill should be published on or before Nov. 3, according to Bloomberg.

Last week, Republicans stuck together to pass a 2018 budget plan that many say is the preamble to tax reform. The budget resolution was approved by a 51-49 vote. Rand Paul of Kentucky was the lone GOP member to vote against the measure.

Before giving the final approval, lawmakers must go through another voting process that will begin Thursday and run into Friday morning.

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The new plan, which was first unveiled by the White House this past spring, is pursuing drastic changes to the tax regime. This includes reducing the number of tax brackets, slashing the corporate tax rate and instilling a one-time repatriation tax to encourage multinationals to bring offshore profits back home.

Challenges Remain

President Trump and fellow Republicans face numerous challenges implementing the most ambitious tax reform of a generation. This includes balancing promises of major overhaul against a self-imposed $1.5 trillion limit on the size of those cuts over the decade.

Analysts say that President Trump has considerable leeway to influence the proposal, but that the ultimate penning of the bill is a legislative process. This means it will be Congress, not the president, that will put the final details together.

Tax overhaul was a cornerstone of Trump’s election campaign. Combined with deregulation of key industries and massive infrastructure spending, tax breaks are expected to boost economic growth and make the U.S. more resilient to cyclical downturns.

That’s exactly what happened under the Reagan tax cut more than three decades ago. Although often maligned today, the Reagan tax plan laid the foundation for 25 years of strong, noninflationary growth. The U.S. economy grew an average of 3.4% annually between Reagan and Obama despite three recessions. To be sure, President Carter also helped lay the foundation by leading the biggest deregulatory effort in the postwar era.

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