Nation roundup for July 9
U.S. and China talk cybersecurity
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. and Chinese officials began formal discussions on cybersecurity Monday, kicking off four days of talks to build cooperation and broach issues that divide the two world powers.
Washington is increasingly concerned about the Chinese theft of American intellectual property, but has put been on the defensive by the revelations about U.S. surveillance by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
A bilateral working group on cyber issues that was announced in April held its first meeting Monday at the State Department, with both civilians and military taking part. The U.S. side was led by coordinator for cyber issues, Christopher Painter; China’s by senior Foreign Ministry official, Dai Bing.
It’s a prelude to annual, ministerial-level talks on security and the economy that start Wednesday, a month after a path-finding summit in California between President Barack Obama and new Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
White House sees shrinking deficit
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House said Monday that the federal budget deficit for the current fiscal year will shrink to $759 billion. That’s more than $200 billion less than the administration predicted just three months ago.
The new figures reflect additional revenues generated by the improving economy and take into account automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that the White House had hoped to avert.
The White House projected that economic growth would be slightly slower in the coming years than it forecast in April.
The report said the automatic spending cuts that kicked in during March will slow down economic growth this year from the 2.6 percent increase it forecast for the fourth quarter of this year to a 2.4 percent increase.
U.S. consumers’ borrowing on rise
WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans increased their borrowing in May at the fastest pace in a year. Borrowing in the category that includes credit cards reached its highest point since the fall of 2010.
Increased borrowing typically means that consumers are feeling more confident.
Americans stepped up their borrowing by $19.6 billion in May compared with April, the Federal Reserve said Monday in its monthly report on consumer credit.
That was the biggest jump since a $19.9 billion rise in May 2012.
Total borrowing reached a record $2.84 trillion.
The category that includes credit card use rose $6.6 billion, also the largest gain in a year. Credit card debt reached $847.1 billion, the most since September 2010. Credit card debt remains about 16 percent below its high of $1.02 trillion in July 2008 — just before the financial crisis erupted.
Borrowing for autos and student loans rose $13 billion in May. That was the sharpest increase since February.
Lauryn Hill starts prison sentence
DANBURY, Conn. (AP) — Grammy-winning singer Lauryn Hill began serving a three-month prison sentence in Connecticut on Monday for failing to pay about $1 million in taxes over the past decade.
Hill reported to federal prison in Danbury, said Ed Ross, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons. Inmates at the minimum security prison live in open dormitory-style living quarters and are expected to work jobs such as maintenance, food service or landscaping.
Hill, who started singing with the Fugees as a teenager in the 1990s before releasing her multiplatinum 1998 album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” pleaded guilty last year in New Jersey to failing to pay taxes on more than $1.8 million earned from 2005 to 2007. Her sentencing also took into account unpaid state and federal taxes in 2008 and 2009 that brought the total earnings to about $2.3 million.
Her attorney had sought probation, arguing that Hill’s charitable works, her family circumstances and the fact she paid back the taxes she owed should merit consideration.
During her sentencing in May in Newark, N.J., Hill described how she failed to pay taxes during a period when she’d dropped out of the music business to protect herself and her children, who now number six. She said the treatment she received while she was in the entertainment business led to her decision to leave it.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Moser acknowledged Hill’s creative talent and work on behalf of impoverished children but called Hill’s explanation for her actions “a parade of excuses centering around her feeling put upon” that don’t exempt her from her responsibilities.
After she is released from prison, she will be under parole supervision for a year, the first three months of which will be spent under home confinement.
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