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A view of Yemen’s rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida on November 7, 2017.

ABDO HYDER | AFP | Getty Images

The first step in a long-delayed plan for a withdrawal of rebel forces from Yemen’s embattled Hodeida port has gone to plan, according to U.N. officials.

Day one of the process seen as vital to maintaining a tenuous cease-fire, during which Yemen’s Houthi forces have started withdrawing from three of Yemen’s Red Sea ports, went “in accordance with established plans,” the head of a UN monitoring mission said on Sunday.

The development marks the first concrete step since a fragile U.N. cease-fire agreement was brokered between the war-ravaged nation’s rival parties last December.

“All three ports were monitored simultaneously by United Nations teams as the military forces left the ports and the Coast Guard took over responsibility for security,” Lt. Gen. Michael Lollesgaard, head of the U.N.’s Redeployment Coordination Committee, said in a statement.

The withdrawal process is crucial in allowing desperately needed humanitarian aid through the strategic port of Hodeida, which serves about 70% of Yemen’s population.

Hodeida city has been under the control of the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who overran Yemen’s internationally-recognized government in early 2015. The city was the target of a major Saudi and Emirati assault in mid-2018, an escalation of which the cease-fire agreement aimed to prevent.

Many Yemeni government officials remain skeptical about the Houthis’ sincerity, accusing the rebels of staging a ploy, while the Houthis have claimed commitment to the Hodeida deal and urged all parties to abide by it. The agreement mandates a mutual withdrawal from the port by both rebel and government forces, though is vague on who will run it beyond that.

The UN’s Lollesgaard stressed that the rebel forces must fully carry out their withdrawal, which expects to be completed over three days. Fighting has continued in other parts of the country, in particular the southern province of Dhale.

The conflict in Yemen, which saw a Saudi Arabian-led coalition launch a prolonged bombing offensive against the country’s Houthi rebel movement, has created what the U.N. deems the worst humanitarian disaster in the world, marked by tens of thousands of deaths and millions more facing starvation. Rights groups have pointed to both sides as responsible for war crimes.

The U.S. currently supports the Saudi-led coalition through intelligence, training and, up until recently, air refueling support, though both houses of Congress have now voted to end support for the Saudis in Yemen. The U.N. points to the Saudi air campaign as responsible for the vast majority of Yemeni civilian deaths.

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Facebook hired people to transcribe voice calls made on Messenger

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaves the Elysee Palace after a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Aurelien Meunier | French Select | Getty Images

Facebook contractors were listening to and transcribing select voice conversations that were held using its Facebook Messenger chat platform, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. The company reportedly had the contractors transcribe chats in an effort to improve artificial intelligence.

Facebook shares dipped slightly after Bloomberg published its story, but shares were still up more than 1% for the day.

“Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC.

Other companies have or are doing the same thing to improve voice recognition in products such as Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.

Apple recently halted a program that allowed employees to listen to a small percentage of Siri voice requests, which are often otherwise handled directly on the device. Google stopped doing the same in Europe where, as in the U.S., Google Assistant queries are sent to the cloud for processing. Amazon does the same for Alexa, but recently rolled out tools that let users opt-out of having their questions analyzed by humans.

Facebook doesn’t have a public voice assistant like Alexa or Siri, however, which makes the report a bit more concerning. Its portal device uses Amazon Alexa, for example. The company has been working on one since 2018, however.

Read the full Bloomberg story here.

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Trump just blinked, giving China a possible edge in trade war: Chanos

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In backing off on China tariffs Tuesday, President Donald Trump showed just how much pain the U.S. could tolerate — and China may use that to its advantage, key voices on Wall Street say.

Markets rallied on the announcement by the U.S. Trade Representative office that certain items were being removed from the new tariff list, while duties on others would be delayed until mid-December.

The short-seller Jim Chanos, who tweets under the alter ego “Diogenes,” hinted that Chinese President Xi Jinping may take this as a sign that the U.S. may cave with enough pressure.

“So then tell me why Xi should not continue to wait out The World’s Greatest Negotiator, who keeps ‘dealing’ with himself?” tweeted Chanos, founder and managing Partner of Kynikos Associates.

Some investors took Tuesday’s announcement as a sign that despite the White House’s claim that China would bear the brunt of tariff impacts, the trade war was indeed hurting consumers. The products in the group exempt from tariffs include cellphones, some apparel, and video games — all of which are crucial to the U.S. consumer market, especially during the holiday shopping season. Trump announced on Aug. 1 that 10% tariffs would go into effect on Sept. 1 on the remaining $300 billion worth of Chinese imports that had not been slapped with U.S. duties.

Trump told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he postponed tariffs for the Christmas season “in case it had an impact on shopping” and the delay would “help a lot of people.”

China has not publicly backed off. It announced last week that it would not resume buying U.S. agricultural products, despite assurances otherwise by Xi to Trump at the June G-20 summit. It also has retaliated with its own tariffs on U.S. goods and set off more worries about the trade war on Friday by letting its currency weaken.

John Rutledge, chief investment officer of global principal investment house Safanad, said the trade war is causing pain on both sides. In China, Rutledge said Xi is feeling pressure to show strength in the trade war, while Washington is grappling with mounting political pressure and costs to consumers.

But that can change quickly, Rutledge said, depending on which of Trump’s trade advisors have his ear at the moment.

“There’s a battle of the bands among advisors — this may be just a tick up as the rational group prevailed,” Rutledge said, referring to White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whom he calls “market thinkers” in opposition to trade hawk and advisor Peter Navarro.

Still, Rutledge said its nearly impossible to predict the White House’s next move and investors should take this as “one day and one data point.”

“We shouldn’t extrapolate or draw a trend, since it might get revered,” Rutledge said.

The president’s top priorities — a strong stock market and a tough China trade deal — have been at odds. Uncertainty around the trade war has weighed on financial markets. Stocks saw their worst day of the year on Aug. 5 after China let its currency weaken below 7 yuan to the dollar and made its announcement about U.S. farm products.

“The White House is now delaying the tariffs and removing some items. Did some acronym called the SPX cause someone to blink?,” David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates, said in a tweet.

China’s Commerce Ministry said Vice Premier Liu He had a phone call with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lightizer and Mnuchin. Trade talks are set to continue in two weeks. According to Chinese news outlet CGTN, the call for the world’s two largest economies to meet again on trade came from Lighthizer, not China.

So far, the pain felt by the stock market has not been that exaggerated. At its low point for this sell-off, the S&P 500 was down only a little more than 6% from its high.

“These developments are modestly positive, especially compared to the recent torrent of negative news, but we caution against viewing the tariff delay as anything more than an attempt to partially shield the American consumer heading into the holiday season,” Isaac Boltansky of Compass Point Research wrote in a note to clients. “We continue to believe that a broad deal will not emerge prior to the 2020 election.”

Trump, himself, accused China last week of trying to wait out the 2020 election for a trade deal.

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Trump just blinked, giving China a possible edge in trade war: Chanos

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on

In backing off on China tariffs Tuesday, President Donald Trump showed just how much pain the U.S. could tolerate — and China may use that to its advantage, key voices on Wall Street say.

Markets rallied on the announcement by the U.S. Trade Representative office that certain items were being removed from the new tariff list, while duties on others would be delayed until mid-December.

The short-seller Jim Chanos, who tweets under the alter ego “Diogenes,” hinted that Chinese President Xi Jinping may take this as a sign that the U.S. may cave with enough pressure.

“So then tell me why Xi should not continue to wait out The World’s Greatest Negotiator, who keeps ‘dealing’ with himself?” tweeted Chanos, founder and managing Partner of Kynikos Associates.

Some investors took Tuesday’s announcement as a sign that despite the White House’s claim that China would bear the brunt of tariff impacts, the trade war was indeed hurting consumers. The products in the group exempt from tariffs include cellphones, some apparel, and video games — all of which are crucial to the U.S. consumer market, especially during the holiday shopping season. Trump announced on Aug. 1 that 10% tariffs would go into effect on Sept. 1 on the remaining $300 billion worth of Chinese imports that had not been slapped with U.S. duties.

Trump told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he postponed tariffs for the Christmas season “in case it had an impact on shopping” and the delay would “help a lot of people.”

China has not publicly backed off. It announced last week that it would not resume buying U.S. agricultural products, despite assurances otherwise by Xi to Trump at the June G-20 summit. It also has retaliated with its own tariffs on U.S. goods and set off more worries about the trade war on Friday by letting its currency weaken.

The president’s top priorities — a strong stock market and a tough China trade deal — have been at odds. Uncertainty around the trade war has weighed on financial markets. Stocks saw their worst day of the year on Aug. 5 after China let its currency weaken below 7 yuan to the dollar and made its announcement about U.S. farm products.

“The White House is now delaying the tariffs and removing some items. Did some acronym called the SPX cause someone to blink?,” David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates, said in a tweet.

China’s Commerce Ministry said Vice Premier Liu He had a phone call with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lightizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Trade talks are set to continue in two weeks.

According to Chinese news outlet CGTN, the call for the world’s two largest economies to meet again on trade came from Lighthizer, not China.

The pain felt by the stock market was not that great. At its low point for this sell-off, the S&P 500 was down only a little more than 6% from its high.

“These developments are modestly positive, especially compared to the recent torrent of negative news, but we caution against viewing the tariff delay as anything more than an attempt to partially shield the American consumer heading into the holiday season,” Isaac Boltansky of Compass Point Research wrote in a note to clients. “We continue to believe that a broad deal will not emerge prior to the 2020 election.”

Trump, himself, accused China last week of trying to wait out the 2020 election for a trade deal.

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