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Pedestrians walk past the People’s Bank of China headquarters in Beijing, China, on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.

Giulia Marchi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

China’s central bank is nearly ready to issue its own sovereign digital currency, according to a senior official.

Mu Changchun, deputy director of the People’s Bank of China’s payments department, said the institution’s virtual currency was “almost ready” for release, according to Reuters. Mu’s comments were also reported by Bloomberg.

Researchers at the bank have been working on the currency for five years. The PBOC hasn’t been alone in exploring the possibility of issuing digital currency as an alternative to cash; Sweden’s Riksbank is another central bank looking into the idea.

According to reports, China’s central bank would launch its digital token through a two-tier system, under which both the PBOC and commercial banks are legitimate issuers. The PBOC said it wouldn’t rely on blockchain exclusively, and would instead maintain a more neutral stance on which technology it decides to use.

Blockchain, otherwise known as distributed ledger technology, is the framework that underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

“Personally, I’m still struggling to understand the advantage of this over the current system,” Mati Greenspan, senior market analyst at trading platform eToro, said in a note Monday. “Something tells me that this is a completely different animal from what we know as cryptocurrencies.”

The news comes as global central bankers take a skeptical view on Facebook’s plans to create a cryptocurrency alongside a consortium of major companies including Visa and Uber. Called Libra, the currency hasn’t gone unnoticed by the PBOC, which said last month that it should come under central bank oversight.

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Disney’s Bob Iger on Twitter: ‘The nastiness is extraordinary’

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Bob Iger, CEO, The Walt Disney Company

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Disney called off a deal to buy Twitter because the platform was just too problematic, CEO Bob Iger revealed in a New York Times interview. 

Disney considered buying the social media company, calling it a “compelling” way to reach consumers. However, the deal never went through and Disney instead purchased a majority stake in sports streaming site BAMTech.

In Iger’s new memoir, “The Ride of a Lifetime,” Iger explains why he decided against the deal to buy Twitter.

“The troubles were greater than I wanted to take on, greater than I thought it was responsible for us to take on,” he told the New York Times. “There were Disney brand issues, the whole impact of technology on society. The nastiness is extraordinary.”

“I like looking at my Twitter newsfeed because I want to follow 15, 20 different subjects. Then you turn and look at your notifications and you’re immediately saying, why am I doing this? Why do I endure this pain?” Iger said in the Times interview. 

Disney was looking at several ways to open up its distribution business and connect directly to customers. 

“Like a lot of these platforms, they have the ability to do a lot of good in our world. They also have an ability to do a lot of bad. I didn’t want to take that on,” he said.

Read the full New York Times interview with Iger

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Pompeo says US mission is to avoid war with Iran

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a briefing on September 10, 2019 at the White House in Washington, DC.

MANDEL NGAN | AFP | Getty Images

The United States aims to avoid war with Iran and the additional troops ordered to be deployed in the Gulf region are for “deterrence and defense,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.

Speaking to Fox News Sunday, Pompeo added that he was confident U.S. President Donald Trump would take action if such deterrence measures fail and that this was well understood by the Iranian leadership.

“Our mission set is to avoid war,” Pompeo said. “You saw what Secretary Esper announced on Friday, we are putting additional forces in the region for the purpose of deterrence and defense,” he said.

Pompeo said Washington was taking measures to deter Tehran, but he added that Trump would take necessary action if Tehran failed to change its behavior. “If that deterrence should continue to fail, I am also confident that President Trump would continue to take the actions that are necessary,” he said.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have further escalated after an attack last weekend on Saudi oil facilities that initially disrupted half of the oil production from the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter, and was blamed on Tehran by the United States and Saudi Arabia.

U.S. has slapped more sanctions on Iran, penalising the Iranian Central Bank while the Pentagon said it was sending U.S. troops to bolster Saudi Arabia’s air and missile defenses after the largest-ever attack on the kingdom’s oil facilities.

Iran denied involvement in the attack. Yemen’s Houthi movement, an Iran-aligned group fighting a Saudi-led alliance in Yemen’s civil war, has claimed responsibility.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking to CNN, said the attack on Saudi oil facilities was an attack on the world economic system. He said the United States expects that any country attached to the U.S. dollar system will abide by the sanctions on Iran.

Trump pulled the United States out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year and ramped up sanctions to strangle its oil exports, a mainstay of the Iranian economy.

The move dismantled part of former U.S. President Barack Obama’s legacy and upset U.S. allies who were party to the agreement, which was designed to restrict Tehran’s pathway to a nuclear bomb in exchange for sanctions relief.

In recent weeks, Trump had weighed the possibility of easing sanctions on Iran and suggested he could meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is due to attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week. Rouhani has said that Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons, would not talk to the United States until Washington lifted sanctions.

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Iran asks West to leave Persian Gulf as tensions heightened

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President of Iran Hassan Rouhani addresses the crowd during his visit in Semnan, Iran on December 4, 2018.

IRANIAN PRESIDENCY / HANDOUT | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Iran’s president called Sunday on Western powers to leave the security of the Persian Gulf to regional nations led by Tehran, criticizing a new U.S.-led coalition patrolling the region’s waterways as nationwide parades showcased the Islamic Republic’s military arsenal.

President Hassan Rouhani separately promised to unveil a regional peace plan at this week’s upcoming high-level meetings at the United Nations, which comes amid heightened Mideast tensions following a series of attacks, including a missile-and-drone assault on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.

The U.S. alleges Iran carried out the Sept. 14 attack on the world’s largest oil processor in the kingdom and an oil field, which caused oil prices to spike by the biggest percentage since the 1991 Gulf War. While Yemen’s Iranian-allied Houthi rebels claimed the assault, Saudi Arabia says it was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.”

For its part, Iran denies being responsible and has warned any retaliatory attack targeting it will result in an “all-out war.” That’s as it has begun enriching uranium beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from over a year earlier.

Rouhani spoke from a riser at the parade in Tehran, with uniformed officers from the country’s military and its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard beside him. The cleric later watched as goose-stepping soldiers carrying submachine guns and portable missile launchers drove past as part of “Holy Defense Week,” which marks the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980.

Rouhani said Iran was willing to “extend the hand of friendship and brotherhood” to Persian Gulf nations and was “even ready to forgive their past mistakes.”

“Those who want to link the region’s incidents to the Islamic Republic of Iran are lying like their past lies that have been revealed,” the president said. “If they are truthful and really seek security in the region, they must not send weapons, fighter jets, bombs and dangerous arms to the region.”

Rouhani added that the U.S. and Western nations should “distance” themselves from the region.

“Your presence has always been a calamity for this region and the farther you go from our region and our nations, the more security would come for our region,” he said.

He said Iran’s plan would focus on providing security in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman “with help from regional countries.” Iran has boosted its naval cooperation with China, India, Oman, Pakistan, and Russia in recent years.

The U.S. maintains defense agreements across the Persian Gulf with allied Arab nations and has tens of thousands of troops stationed in the region. Since 1980, it has viewed the region as crucial to its national security, given its energy exports. A fifth of all oil traded passes through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf. The U.S. plans to send additional troops to the region over the tensions.

The parades and maneuvers Sunday appeared aimed at projecting Iranian strength with naval vessels, submarines and armed speedboats swarmed across the Persian Gulf and troops showed off land-to-sea missiles capable of targeting the U.S. Navy. Commandos fast-roped down onto the deck of a ship, resembling Iran’s July seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker.

Iranian ship seizures, as well as oil tanker explosions that the U.S. blames on Iran, saw America create a new coalition to protect Mideast waters. So far, Australia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to join it.

Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani called the U.S-led coalition a “a new means for plundering the region,” according to Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency.

“We regard the emergence of such coalitions as the start of a new game to make the region insecure,” Larijani said, according to Tasnim.

Iran separately displayed its Khordad-3 surface-to-air missile that downed a U.S. military surveillance drone in the Strait of Hormuz in June.

Sunday also marked the one-year anniversary of an attack on a military parade in Ahvaz that killed 25 people. Both separatists and the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the assault, while Iran blamed Saudi Arabia and the UAE for allegedly supporting the attackers. Both nations denied the claim, though a propaganda video published by a semi-official news agency in Iran close to the Guard later circulated threatening them with missile attacks.

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