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News Wrap: Russian officials, hackers charged in Yahoo case

March 15, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
In our news wrap Wednesday, two Russian intelligence officers and two cyber hackers have been charged in a Yahoo data breach that compromised 500 million accounts. Also, the Federal Reserve announced that short-term interest rates are going up again, for the second time in three months. Chair Janet Yellen promised more rate increases to come this year.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Short-term interest rates are going up again in the United States for the second time in three months. The Federal Reserve announced another quarter-point increase today. Policy-makers suggested in a statement that economic growth is improving, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen said that makes it more likely there will be two additional rate hikes this year.

JANET YELLEN, Federal Reserve Chair: The simple message is the economy is doing well. We have confidence in the robustness of the economy and its resilience to shocks. It’s performed well over the last several years.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Fed is predicting growth at a rate of 2.1 percent this year and next. President Trump has talked of 4 percent growth.

We will have more on the potential economic effects of the rate hike later in the program.

In the day’s other news: Two Russian intelligence officers and two cyber-hackers now face U.S. criminal charges in a Yahoo data breach that compromised 500 million accounts. The acting assistant attorney general, Mary McCord, announced the action today. It’s the first to implicate Russian officials directly in cyber-crime.

MARY MCCORD, Acting Assistant Attorney General: We will not allow individuals, groups, nation states or a combination of them to compromise the privacy of our citizens, the economic interests of our companies, or the security of our country. There are no free passes for foreign state-sponsored criminal behavior.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the hackers is in custody in Canada. The others remain at large, and it’s not clear if they will ever see an American courtroom, since Russia has no extradition treaty with the United States.

In Syria, suicide bombers killed at least 31 people in twin attacks in Damascus, this as the country enters its sixth year of civil war. The state news agency says the first attacker blew himself up in the main judicial building as police started to search him. A second bomb went off inside a nearby restaurant.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the death toll from an assault on a military hospital rose to 50 today. The attack, a week ago, was claimed by the Islamic State group. Officials said a suicide bomber blew up his car, and gunmen disguised in lab coats stormed the hospital in Kabul. Investigators have detained 24 people, including medical staffers.

A disaster at a landfill outside Ethiopia’s capital has now claimed 113 lives. The death toll rose again today, as search-and-rescue efforts continued in mountains of garbage which collapsed on Saturday and buried makeshift huts at the site.

Voting has ended in the Netherlands, and exit polls show Dutch voters have rejected a bid for power by an anti-Islam party. Geert Wilders and his far-right followers did worse than expected against center-right Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who’d warned against electing Wilders.

MARK RUTTE, Prime Minister of the Netherlands: Having a political leader wants to take away the Koran from Muslims in the Netherlands, who wants to close our mosques, the wrong sort of populism is not addressing the real issues of the people, only making them bigger, instead of solving them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Wilders acknowledged that he’d lost, but he vowed that he’d be back.

Back in this country, the U.S. Senate confirmed former Indiana Senator Dan Coats as director of national intelligence. He will oversee 16 intelligence agencies, and could be a key player in probes of Russian meddling in last year’s election.

President Trump moved today to dial back federal rules on auto fuel economy. Just before President Obama left office, the EPA finalized a standard that automakers reach an average of 54 miles a gallon by 2025. That’s double the current standard. The industry strongly objected.

And today, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Mr. Trump said the EPA is going back to the drawing board.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The assault on American auto industry, believe me, is over. It’s over. Not going to have it anymore. If the standards threatened auto jobs, then commonsense changes could have and should have been made.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Environmentalists have argued the higher standard would promote use of hybrids and electric vehicles and cut carbon dioxide emissions.

The White House signaled again today that it’s open to changing the Republican replacement for Obamacare. A spokesman said the president is working with House Speaker Ryan and other leaders. There was also word that more than 12 million people signed up for coverage this year under Obamacare and enrolled on federal and state exchanges.

A portion of one of the president’s federal income tax returns has surfaced for the first time. The leaked document shows that for the 2005 tax year, Mr. Trump reported earnings of $153 million, and paid $36 million in taxes. He wrote off more than $100 million in business losses. The White House criticized the leak, but didn’t challenge the document’s authenticity.

In a tweet today, the president called it — quote — “fake news.”

Reports of sexual assault rose at two of the U.S. service academies this year. According to the Associated Press, they were up at the Naval Academy and the military academy at West Point. The Air Force Academy saw a sharp drop. The AP says a separate anonymous survey found sexual misconduct is actually rising at all three schools.

And on Wall Street, stocks took the latest interest rate hike in stride. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 112 points to close at 20950. The Nasdaq rose 43 points, and the S&P 500 added nearly 20.

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