Ex-Trump aide Manafort charged with US tax fraud over Ukraine work

Donald Trump’s former presidential campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has been charged with conspiring to defraud the US in his dealings with Ukraine.

The 12 charges brought against Mr Manafort and one of his business associates, Rick Gates, include conspiracy to launder money.

They stem from an inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the US election.

It has emerged that another adviser to Mr Trump admitted this month to lying about his links to Russia.

George Papadopolous pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents about his dealings with an unnamed overseas academic who allegedly informed him that the Russians possessed “dirt” on Mr Trump’s presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The charges against Mr Manafort and Mr Gates do not relate to Mr Trump’s campaign but to the alleged concealment of payments from the pair’s Ukrainian business dealings up to 2016.

An investigation headed by special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into any links between Russia and the Trump campaign. Both sides deny any collusion.

Responding to news of the charges, Mr Trump tweeted to point out that they did not concern his campaign and asked why “the focus” was not on alleged wrongdoing involving Mrs Clinton instead.

What does this mean for Trump?

Rick Gates (second from left) and Paul Manafort (second from right) on stage with the Trumps, 21 July 2016

For years Paul Manafort operated on the fringes of power, a once-influential Washington player who worked with some less-than-savoury international characters because his services were no longer in high demand domestically, the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher writes from Washington.

Then, like many other politicos in Donald Trump’s orbit, he was thrust into the spotlight because more established hands wanted nothing to do with the upstart’s presidential campaign.

Mr Manafort got his big break but it may end up breaking him. That resulting spotlight has drawn attention to Mr Manafort’s past dealings and raised questions about his actions while in at the top of the Trump campaign.

The good news for Mr Trump is these charges stem from Mr Manafort’s past business dealings, not his campaign efforts. He is being accused of working for years for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians and laundering millions in subsequent payments.

It certainly makes Mr Trump’s decision to cut Mr Manafort loose last August after details emerged of his Ukrainian ties seem a wise one.

The good news has its limits, however. Mr Manafort will be under growing pressure to co-operate with the Mueller investigation. If he offers up useful information about his time during the campaign, this could be just the first domino to fall.

What are the charges against Manafort and Gates?

The indictment looks at their links to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine between 2006 and 2015.

It says they acted as “unregistered agents” of Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych and his party, both in opposition and government.

Mr Yanukovych was deposed as president in 2014 amid mass unrest over his pro-Russian policies.

Mr Manafort is accused of having laundered more than $18m (£14m) through offshore bank accounts, using it to buy property, goods and services in transactions concealed from the US authorities.

He is said to have “used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle” in America.

Altogether, at least $75m in payments from Ukraine flowed through the accounts, the indictment says.

Mr Manafort and his lawyer arrived at an FBI office in Washington on Monday.

Mr Gates is accused of having transferred more than $3m from the offshore accounts to other accounts he controlled. He has been ordered to surrender to authorities, according to US media reports.

No immediate comment from lawyers for Mr Manafort and Mr Gates was reported after the charges were revealed.

What were Manafort’s links to Trump?

Mr Manafort, 68, has worked on several Republican presidential campaigns, beginning with Gerald Ford’s in 1976.

He resigned as chairman of the Trump campaign in August 2016 after being accused over his dealings with pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. He denies any wrongdoing.

US intelligence agencies believe the Russian government sought to help Mr Trump win the election.

How does the Papadopolous case affect Trump?

The justice department statement on Mr Trump’s former foreign policy adviser has the potential to damage the US leader because it relates directly to his election campaign.

When Mr Papadopolous was interviewed by the FBI this January, he told them that his interactions with the foreign professor, who is said to have “substantial connections to Russian government officials”, had taken place before he joined the Trump campaign in March 2016.

But according to the US justice department, his meetings with the professor actually took place after he became an adviser to Mr Trump. The professor only took interest in him because of his new status within the Trump campaign, it is alleged.

Mr Papadopolous admitted having sought to arrange a meeting “between the Campaign and Russian government officials”.

The alleged Russian “dirt” on Mrs Clinton took the form of “thousands of emails”. No further details were given.

Why did Trump bring up Clinton?

On Friday, Mr Trump accused Mrs Clinton of links with Moscow.

Republican lawmakers have alleged that a uranium deal with a Russian company in 2010, when Mrs Clinton was secretary of state, was sealed in exchange for donations to her husband’s charity.

A Congressional investigation has been opened into the case. Democrats say it is an attempt to divert attention from the alleged ties between Russia and Mr Trump.

Catalan independence: Spain’s top prosecutor calls for rebellion charges

Policeman leaning against wall, carrying gun

Spain’s chief prosecutor has called for charges including rebellion – which carries a maximum 30 year jail term – to be brought against Catalan leaders.

José Manuel Maza said they should also face sedition charges following the region’s declaration of independence.

It comes as Spain acts to take direct control of Catalonia, replacing senior officials.

Meanwhile, former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is reported to be in the Belgian capital, Brussels.

Mr Puigdemont is with other dismissed Catalan ministers and will meet Flemish politicians, Spanish media report. Belgium’s state broadcaster also reported that he would meet lawyers in Brussels, and a journalist tweeted (in Catalan) that the former president was in a “safe and secret” location.

Spanish authorities sacked Mr Puigdemont as regional leader on Friday, and suspended Catalan autonomy.

José Manuel Maza, Spain's chief prosecutor, called for Catalan leaders to be charged for sedition and rebellion over the region's declaration of independence, 30 October 2017

Speaking at a press conference earlier, Mr Maza, the Spanish attorney-general, called for Catalonia’s leaders to be charged with misuse of funds over the independence referendum they held in October, after it had been declared illegal by the constitutional court.

Under the Spanish legal system, Mr Maza’s requests will be considered by a judge.

What happened on Monday?

There appeared to be no major disruption in Catalan government offices on Monday morning, despite some officials defying instructions from Madrid not to turn up for work.

Any ministers who arrived at their offices were given hours to leave under threat of “action” by Catalonia’s regional police force, Mossos.

Madrid’s temporary move to impose direct control by invoking Article 155 of the constitution – a first for Spain – will see as many as 150 of the region’s top officials replaced.

  • Puigdemont: The man who wants to break up Spain

Mr Puigdemont and his vice-president Oriol Junqueras reject the central’s government’s moves, arguing that they can only be removed from office by the citizens of Catalonia.

What’s next for Catalan autonomy?

Madrid has called for fresh regional elections on 21 December.

A spokeswoman for Mr Puigdemont’s PDeCAT party said it would field candidates “with conviction”. The ex-president could run in new elections if he has not been jailed by then, according to Spain’s Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis.

On Monday, Mr Dastis said he hoped the forthcoming elections would help to “restore legal governance and rule of law in Catalonia”.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido has written to all police officers in Catalonia asking for their loyalty as a “new era” begins in the region

What is the local press saying?

  • The centre-left and unionist Madrid-based El País says that Sunday’s huge pro-union protest in Barcelona “has shown in this difficult moment that Catalan society is much more plural than what the pro-independence block strives to show”
  • The pro-union Barcelona-based El Periódico says the protest was the “start of the election campaign”. It adds that “the new regional elections should serve to move Catalonia out of its current impasse”
  • The pro-independence Catalan language Ara suggests in an editorial that it would be an “error” for the pro-independence parties not to contest the 21 December elections
  • The moderate Barcelona-based La Vanguardia focuses on the importance of “reconstruction” and how to overcome the divisions in Catalan society. “All sides will inevitably discover that there is no political problem that cannot be resolved by dialogue” it says

How did we get here?

Spain has been gripped by a constitutional crisis since a referendum, organised by Mr Puigdemont’s separatist government, was held earlier this month in defiance of a ruling by the constitutional court which had declared it illegal.

The Catalan government said that of the 43% of potential voters who took part, 90% were in favour of independence.

On Friday the regional parliament declared independence.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy then announced the dissolution of the regional parliament and the removal of Mr Puigdemont as Catalan leader.

Mr Puigdemont has urged “democratic opposition” to direct rule from Madrid.

Before this, the region had one of the greatest levels of self-government in Spain.

It has its own parliament, police force and public broadcaster, as well as a government and president.

Catalans had a range of powers in many policy areas from culture and environment to communications, transportation, commerce and public safety.

Ethiopia blocks nationwide access to the internet to stop students from cheating in exams

student-ethiopia

Ethiopia has blocked access to the internet nationwide to stop students from cheating in exams, its government has claimed.

Mohammed Seid at the Office for Government Communications Affairs told Reuters that the “shutdown is aimed at preventing a repeat of leaks that occurred last year.”

“We are being proactive,” he said. “We want our students to concentrate and be free of the psychological pressure and distractions that this brings.”

Mr Seid is reported to have said that only social media website had been blocked temporarily, but independent sources have reported “widespread disruption” to mobile networks and fixed line internet services.

The government appears to have taken preventative measures to avoid a repeat of last year’s leak in which the papers for the country’s 12th grade national exams were made public.

In 12th grade, Ethiopians take exams to enter university and to study on vocational courses.

Mr Seid did not disclose when the internet block would be lifted, but affirmed that it would last throughout the exam season.

He said that the only social media sites were affected by the block and that other services such as online banking and airline bookings remained intact.

Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, has experienced social media bans before at the height of the 2015 and 2016 protests.

Amnesty International criticised these bans claiming that the country was “intent on stifling expression and free exchange of information.”

Iconic AOL Instant Messenger to be killed off in December

AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), the iconic messaging program, will shut down this year.

Similar to MSN Messenger, AIM was popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and is remembered fondly by web users of a certain age.

Though news of the 20-year-old program’s impending demise is hardly surprising, the announcement has been greeted with outpourings of nostalgia and pangs of sadness.

“If you were a 90’s kid, chances are there was a point in time when AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) was a huge part of your life,” wrote Michael Albers, the vice president of communications products at Oath, in a blog post.

“You likely remember the CD, your first screenname, your carefully curated away messages, and how you organized your buddy lists. Right now you might be reminiscing about how you had to compete for time on the home computer in order to chat with friends outside of school.

“You might also remember how characters throughout pop culture from ‘You’ve Got Mail’ to ‘Sex and the City’ used AIM to help navigate their relationships. In the late 1990’s, the world had never seen anything like it. And it captivated all of us.

“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed.”

AOL Instant Messenger was created in 1997, and will be discontinued on 15 December 2017.

It managed to outlast MSN Messenger, its old instant messaging rival, which was shelved in 2014.

Afghans to get free access to Wikipedia on their phones

afghan-robotics-team.jpg

People in Afghanistan are set for greater access to the internet and free information, thanks to a new partnership between a local telecommunications company and the Wikimedia Foundation.

Roshan Communications and the internet giant announced on Monday that all of the company’s customers would be able to access the Wikipedia website through their phones – without being charged for data usage – for the next 12 months.

The initiative, called Wikipedia Zero, is due to launch later this month. It will be a fully functional version of the website, meaning users will have access to all content, search and editing functions.

The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organisation that runs Wikipedia and funds dozens of other open-source and other free knowledge projects.

“At Roshan, we are proud to have been leading the efforts to increase access to information,” Altaf Ladak, deputy CEO of Roshan, said in a statement.

“The partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation expands the frontier of access to information and knowledge, especially for Afghanistan’s youth who make up almost two-thirds of the population.”

Afghanistan only gained access to the internet for the first time in 2002, after the fall of the Taliban. Under the extremist group, it was deemed immoral.

Mobile data services began in 2012, which the government hoped would prove an important cultural and economic turning point for the country – though by the end of 2016, it was estimated only 12 per cent of the 26-million-strong population had access to the internet.

Social media use through mobile has rocketed in the last year, however, increasing by 43 per cent – meaning nine per cent of the population in total were active users. 

The UN declared in 2011 that access to the internet is a human right. In many developing countries, social media companies offer pared-back low data or free-to-access versions of their apps and websites.

“Wikipedia’s mission is to imagine a world in which every single person can freely share in the sum of all knowledge … Millions of people in Afghanistan will now have access to Wikipedia and its sister projects without incurring mobile data charges, said Ravishankar Ayyakkannu, Regional Manager for Strategic Partnerships in Asia and Eastern Europe of the Wikimedia Foundation.

“This will also empower them to participate in adding content to these projects,” he added.

Government outlines plans to ‘regulate the internet’

The government has unveiled sweeping plans to “regulate the internet”.

Ministers will restrict what people can say in moves they claim will stop the web being used to tackle bullying and abuse. But activists have repeatedly criticised the proposals, arguing that they represent a kind of censorship.

The idea of regulating the internet was first promised in the Conservative manifesto earlier this year, and immediately led to criticism. They have since been watered down – because laws would take too long in the current hung parliament – and have been published in a formal proposal.

Now the government hopes to introduce new rules including a tax paid by social media companies that will then be used to improve the internet. Social media companies will also be asked to commit to a “code of conduct”, but won’t be forced to under law because pushing through legislation would be too long and difficult for the beleaguered Conservative government.

But it also made references to “regulating the internet” – suggesting that further restrictions on online content could be on their way.

Asked whether that could mean the same sort of restrictions and charges that apply to other utility companies, ministers said that internet companies could move towards that sort of model.

“That’s what we’re looking at – to make sure that we do regulate the internet in appropriate way, so that we allow the freedoms the internet gives you,” said culture secretary Karen Bradley in an interview after the plans were released.

The government also said that it would regulate under-age access to pornography. It has claimed it is fixing that problem repeatedly – but hasn’t said exactly how it will, leading to worries that it could launch a nation-wide porn authentication scheme or similar plan.

Mrs Bradley said: “The internet has been an amazing force for good but it has caused undeniable suffering and can be an especially harmful place for children and vulnerable people.

“Behaviour that is unacceptable in real life is unacceptable on a computer screen.

“We need an approach to the internet that protects everyone without restricting growth and innovation in the digital economy.

“Our ideas are ambitious – and rightly so. Collaboratively, government, industry, parents and communities can keep citizens safe online, but only by working together.”

The proposals outlined in the Internet Safety Green Paper also include an annual internet safety transparency report to keep tabs on online abuse.

Support would be given to digital start-ups to make sure they build safety features into new apps.

The government also confirmed plans announced earlier this year to make relationship lessons, which will include online safety, compulsory in schools.

After the election, Theresa May suggested that she would still launch wide-ranging plans to regulate the internet, despite not having won a majority. But during an interview on the Today programme, Mrs Bradley appeared to suggest that the government thinks that it would be unable to pass such legislation through parliament.

‘Wolf of Wall Street’ warns raising money through ICOs is the ‘biggest scam ever’

Jordan Belfort, the infamous penny-stock broker formerly known as the “Wolf of Wall Street,” has urged investors to dismiss the current craze of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), calling them the “biggest scam ever.”

In an interview with The Financial Times published Sunday, Belfort warned promoters of ICOs were “perpetuating a massive scam of the highest order on everyone.”

ICOs have become a primary means of fundraising for projects built on blockchain technology. Companies create and issue digital tokens that can be used to pay for goods and services on their platform or stashed away as an investment. But investors don’t typically get equity stakes in a company like they do with an initial public offering (IPO). The projects or firms put out white papers describing the platform, software or product they’re trying to build, and then people buy those tokens using widely-accepted cryptocurrencies (like bitcoin and ethereum) or fiat currencies like the U.S. dollar.

All of that is done without any regulatory oversight, and both regulators and members of the financial industry have expressed concern about the potential for money laundering and fraudulent activities.

In September, China’s central bank banned ICO funding amid concerns that the exercise may involve financial scams while British regulators have said investors should be prepared for the value of their tokens to drop to zero.

‘ICO funding far worse than anything I was ever doing’

A scene from "The Wolf of Wall Street" starring Leonardo DiCaprio

Source: Thewolfofwallstreet.com
A scene from “The Wolf of Wall Street” starring Leonardo DiCaprio

Belfort, who spent 22 months in jail after pleading guilty to securities fraud and money laundering, said while most investors probably did not have bad intentions with ICOs, it would only take a small proportion of people trying to scam the others for it to become a “disaster”.

“It is the biggest scam ever, such a huge gigantic scam that’s going to blow up in so many people’s faces. It’s far worse than anything I was ever doing,” Belfort told the Financial Times.

Digital currencies are pseudonymous, decentralized and encrypted, making it harder to track each of the transactions made, and the individuals behind them. Theoretically, anyone with an internet connection and a digital wallet can be part of a coin sale event. That, many worry, leaves plenty of room for people to launder money or engage in other fraudulent behaviors — especially in countries where corruption is rampant.

However, start-up companies argue ICO funding is a legitimate method of raising money and it is representative of a broad grassroots movement to unsettle big banks and venture funds. A frequent refrain from bitcoin enthusiasts and cryptocurrency stakeholders is that the blockchain system is actually problematic for would-be launderers.

That is, every transaction of a blockchain-based token is permanently recorded on a publicly view-able digital ledger. Although the parties associated with each exchange are hidden behind pseudonymous IDs, it is possible for investigators to track down who has done what if their activities go through a cooperating exchange.

Stock picker who predicted $5,000 bitcoin says it’s on track to top Apple’s market cap

 digital asset was trading at about $5,700 on Tuesday.

A Bitcoin conference in New York.

Getty Images
A Bitcoin conference in New York.

On Monday, Saudi billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said the cryptocurrency with no controlling body was an “Enron in the making.”

Previously, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink called the cryptocurrency “an index of money laundering,” while JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimonpredicted if “you’re stupid enough to buy it, you’ll pay the price for it one day.”

Moas said that the three prominent critics of bitcoin were “heavily invested” in publicly-traded U.S. banks that are currently being threatened by the cryptocurrency. “I don’t expect those people to come out and recommend … to buy bitcoin. Because that hurts their business,” he said.

He said he expects the price of bitcoin to jump to $50,000, possibly within a decade and the market value could cross a trillion dollars.

“You have a supply-demand equation here that is mindboggling to me,” Moas said. Bitcoin has a limited supply of 21 million tokens, which is expected to be reached only in the next century.

But Bitcoin’s growing popularity and acceptance among users to carry out financial transactions could mean a wider adoption in the future — and greater demand for the cryptocurrency. According to Moas, in a few years, there could be about “200 million people around the world trying to get their hands on a few million bitcoin.” That, he said, would drive the price to $50,000 per token.

Other cryptocurrency proponents have also said in the past they expect bitcoin to hit a market value of at least $1 trillion by 2025. Regulation may help lend more credibility to the cryptocurrency among investors.

Moas added that out of the 1,000 or so cryptocurrencies that are currently in existence, he is focusing only on the top 20 names that account for more than 90 percent of the total market value. A majority of the rest are “pump-and-dump scam operations,” he said.

China has launched another crackdown on the internet — but it’s different this time

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a message for the world during his opening speech at the 19th Communist Party Congress: Chinasupports an open economy, and it will further liberalize its markets to foreign investors.

But while the leadership talks of financial liberalization, some facets of life inside the world’s second-largest economy are becoming a lot less free.

That’s especially true for digital communication inside China. Regulators have moved aggressively to curtail what the country’s more than 750 million internet users can or cannot do online. While Beijing has shut out access to Google and Facebook in the past, new restrictions introduced this year have been some of the strictest ever, according to experts.

This year, authorities have cracked down on China’s top video-streaming websites, doubled down on their crackdown of virtual private networks (VPNs), removed foreign TV shows from online platforms, required users to register to online forums with their real names and introduced laws that hold chat group admins accountable for what is said in their spaces.

New rules also require online news websites to be overseen by government-approved editorial staff and for workers to have reporting credentials from the central government.

Those limitations are likely here to stay, and may even grow, tech experts and china watchers told CNBC.

Circumvention intervention

Internet users in China have long relied on circumvention tools to access hundreds of websites that have been blocked by the country’s censorship apparatus.

Zahra, a student who has been living in the mainland for six years, had relied on VPNs to get past China’s infamous “Great Firewall” and connect to the outside world. It also allows users privacy by hiding browsing activities from internet service providers.

The 23-year-old medical student, who asked to be identified by only her first name, told CNBC that VPNs allowed her to access YouTube and numerous reference websites that were relevant to her coursework.

“It’s like being shut off from the world.”-Zahra, a medical student in China, who relies on VPN for her studies.

While Beijing allowed users some wiggle room in the past, commentators said pressure had been mounting on authorities to rein in China’s growing online space. Unlike the heavily regulated offline media in the country, the internet had allowed anyone to disseminate information and express critical opinions with little chance of punishment.

“The increasing pressure to gain control over online media is longstanding, reflecting Xi’s goal to treat online media in the same way as traditional media,” Paul Triolo, practice head for geo-technology at consultancy Eurasia Group, told CNBC.

As a result, authorities this year have aggressively targeted VPNs as part of what they characterized as an effort to clean up China’s domestic internet.

Though quite a few VPN services are still functioning on the mainland, a source told CNBC in July that some of the remaining companies could end up collaborating with the authorities and hand over user data when requested.

Zahra told CNBC that it has become harder in recent months to rely on VPNs to access banned websites from the mainland. Many of the services, she said, were either not working or the connections through them were very slow.

“It’s like being shut off from the world,” she said.

China’s new cybersecurity law leaves companies with uncertainty  9:49 PM ET Thu, 1 June 2017 | 02:19

It’s not just VPNs, either. Authorities have also stepped up restrictions in other areas to control the online narrative surrounding the country’s national and political identity.

The moves from the Chinese government keep “surprising me (in not a good way) in terms of what else they can regulate, control and censor,” Lokman Tsui, an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told CNBC in an email. “Let’s also not forget that they push propaganda and misinformation actively.”

He even predicted that Beijing officials could begin “taking a more active role outside their borders. There have been signs of that: lobbying at the UN level, the kidnapping of the booksellers, the great cannon, etc.”

Reports have previously detailed the “Great Cannon” — a term coined by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab for a Chinese tool that can flood a website with traffic to overwhelm its servers and, as a result, force it offline.

For now, Tsui explained the current restrictions to control the domestic internet are on multiple levels that “push the Great Firewall even higher.”

On a technical level, he said, China is increasing disruptions to messaging services like WhatsApp or circumvention tools like VPN. Existing regulation such as real-name registration are being enforced more strictly and new laws are holding more platform stakeholders liable for online content, he said.

“Controls on new media are much stricter now than we have seen at any point since the dawn of the internet,” David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project and a fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, told CNBC.

Since regulators have “effectively neutralized” the dissemination of any unwanted information in traditional media, “the real heart of controls is shifting to cyberspace,” he added.

Regulations vs. ‘special measures’

Beijing has often made headlines for restricting the flow of information online, but this time is fundamentally different, experts said.

Historically, authorities have tightened controls over the domestic internet in the lead up to the once-every-five-years Communist Party Congress. Even though the event drew to a close on Tuesday, regulators are unlikely to now roll back many of the tighter regulations, analysts said.

There are two kinds of restrictions used by the authorities.

First are the publicly announced moves introduced by regulatory bodies, explained Rogier Creemers, a researcher at Leiden University in the Netherlands. So-called special measures are the other kind of restriction. They are aimed at creating a stable online environment during a major event like the Party Congress, Creemers explained.

Companies themselves may seek to clamp down on their users ahead of such important national occasions, said Charlie Smith, the co-founder of China censorship monitor GreatFire.org, who operates under a pseudonym. Such private sector measures include preventing certain videos from being shown or not letting users alter their profile pictures.

“These are moves being made to make sure that your users do not do anything stupid during the Congress,” Smith said. “These restrictions will be lifted as soon as the meeting is over.”

But Smith said the crackdown on circumvention tools like VPNs were likely to stay and the “current state of difficulty” that the Chinese encounter when trying to access the free internet is going to be the “new normal.”

Creemers concurred, telling CNBC that broader regulations were “likely here to stay.”

Eurasia Group’s Triolo added that Xi’s vision of cyber-sovereignty means that “China should be able to control and monitor all internet traffic that traverses China’s internet infrastructure.”

On top of all the external controls, Beijing is also considering taking a stake in some of China’s largest internet companies, according to the Wall Street Journal. Planting a flag in those firms would likely give the Chinese government a more absolute role in corporate decision-making.

Beijing’s 2017 crackdown

Jan. 22 – China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology says it will clean up the domestic internet by March 31, 2018.

May 2 – The Cyberspace Administration of China introduces new restrictions that require online news platforms to be managed by party-sanctioned editorial staff.

Jun. 1 – China’s new cybersecurity law goes into effect, which requires foreign businesses in the country to store crucial data on local servers. The move draws criticism due to vaguely defined terminology and worries over potential surveillance.

Jun. 22 – Beijing shuts down online video services of three Chinese media sites: Weibo, ACFUN and iFeng.com. Previously, authorities shuttered 60 popular celebrity gossip social media accounts for not being in line with “core socialist values,” according to Reuters.

Jun. 29 – The Ministry of Culture shuts down 12 live-streaming mobile apps and hands out administrative punishments to another 20.

Jul. 10 – Beijing orders China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicomto bar the use of VPNs by Feb. 1, 2018, according to a report.

Jul. 18 – Reports say users experience difficulties sending and receiving photos on Facebook-owned WhatsApp messenger without a VPN.

Jul. 31 – iPhone-maker Apple pulls several VPN services from the local version of the App Store — the move is slammed by multiple VPN service providers online.

Sept. 4 – China bans streaming of dramatic video content that does not have government permits.

Sept. 7 – China issues new rules that require internet chat service providers to verify the identities of users and keep a log of group chats for no less than six months, according to Reuters. Those rules also require those who manage chat groups to monitor the online activity of their fellow forum members. The regulations also said that chat group service providers had to establish a credit scoring system.

Sept. 25 – Regulators fine tech giants Baidu, Weibo and Tencent for failing to deal with pornography, violence and other banned content on their social-media platforms.

Oct. 1 – New rules require internet users to register their real names when using online forums. Authorities have attempted to push “real-name” registration before — users of social media platform Weibo and online portal Sohu have been asked register their identities in the past — but those initiatives were not as strictly implemented.

There’s a company reporting after the bell that’s beat the Street every quarter for 8 years straight

Earnings season can be hard for traders as they try to game who will beat or miss Wall Street estimates.

But one company is making it look easy.

Business communications company LogMeIn has reported earnings per share higher than the consensus Wall Street estimate every quarter for the last 8 years, according to research firm Bespoke Investment Group. That’s 32 quarters in a row.

And yet this incredible track record of surprises does not seem to be yet priced in.

The shares averaged a nearly 6 percent pop, on average, the day after its earnings report for the last eight years, according to Bespoke.

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LogMeIn $LOGM has beaten EPS estimates 32 quarters in a row. Hasn’t missed a quarter in 8 years! Reports this Thursday after the close.

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The business, known for its service of providing remote access to computers, is expected to report third-quarter EPS of $1.10, according to Estimize. Regular traders and investors polled by Estimize believe the company will surprise once again, with earnings per share of $1.12.

To be sure, LogMeIn’s impressive track record of beating the Street for more than half of the company’s 14-year existence may raise the eyebrows of some skeptics.

One would think Wall Street would take a hint and raise their EPS by a penny or two after the company beats estimates for 32 quarters straight.

But going by the stock’s reaction, the market is still willing to reward this “surprise.”