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Citibank closing hundreds of credit accounts, unannounced

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A business decision by Citibank has some experts scratching their heads. An unknown number of credit card accounts, co-branded with oil companies like Shell and Exxon-Mobil, have been closed by the creditor.

After filling up her gas tank, Shannon Burdette was confused when she was told her card had been rejected. AP reports that she called the customer service line on the back of the card, but was told her account was closed because of something that appeared on her credit report. The only negative statement on her report was the notice of closure by the creditor’s request.

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Citibank’s reason for taking action against customers is unknown. The bank’s spokesman declined to give an explanation for the massive closure, according to American Banking News. A statement issued by the bank pointed out that they “continuously evaluate their products.” Estimates for the number of account closures are in the hundreds.

A card being closed has the potential to damage a person’s credit rating. If a customer had a high credit limit on their closed account and a high balance in another line of credit, the “utilization ratio” drives the customer’s credit rating down, according to John Ulzheimer, president of educational services for Credit.com.

No law, including the recent Credit CARD Act, prohibits banks from closing credit accounts, even if no warning is given.

Citibank mailed out the closure letters only two days before the accounts were closed. Accounts affected include Mastercards co-branded with Shell, Exxon-Mobil, Citgo, and Phillips Conoco-66.

Citibank posted $8 billion in losses for its third quarter report last week. Like most banks, Citi expects defaults on credit cards to rise in the next few months. Before the announcement of account closures, analysts noted that the bank has “sharply reduced its outstanding credit to customers,” according to AP.

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Melania Trump statue torched near her Slovenian hometown: report

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On Wednesday, The Daily Beast reported that a wooden statue of First Lady Melania Trump carved from a tree outside her hometown in Slovenia last year has been burned to the ground.

"The artist who had commissioned the sculpture, Brad Downey, had the statue removed on July 5," reported Madeline Charbonneau. "Downey, who is American but works out of Berlin, had hoped his statue of the first lady would create dialogue about American politics, given that Melania Trump is an immigrant married to a president who seeks to stem immigration. Though the investigation is still pending, Downey said he hopes to interview the perpetrators for an upcoming exhibition."

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FBI investigating Chinese businessman who bankrolled media company linked to Steve Bannon

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A Wall Street Journal expose revealed that a Chinese businessman is under investigation by the FBI after he used funds to bankroll a media company with ties to a former aide to President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon.

"Federal Bureau of Investigation national security agents in recent months have asked people who know both men for information on Mr. Guo’s activities, including the source of funds of a media company linked to him that hired Mr. Bannon in 2018 as a consultant, the people said," according to the Journal. "As recently as last week, the FBI met with one person familiar with the companies tied to Mr. Guo, the people said. The probe has been underway for more than six months, and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn have been involved.

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Mike Pompeo asks Egypt to stop harassing US citizens

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday welcomed Egypt's release of a US citizen but urged the ally to stop harassment of others.

Mohamed Amashah, 24, was freed Monday, nearly 16 months after he was arrested in Cairo's Tahrir Square for holding up a sign seeking the release of prisoners, according to human rights campaigners.

A dual US-Egyptian citizen who lives in New Jersey, he had gone on a hunger strike this year to protest his conditions.

"We thank Egypt for securing his release and his repatriation," Pompeo told a news conference.

"But at the same time, we urge Egyptian officials to stop unwarranted harassment of US citizens and their families who remain there," he said.

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