Poll: Trump ends first year with lowest approval of any modern president

Poll: Trump ends first year with lowest approval of any modern president
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The survey pegged Trump’s approval rating at 39 percent, lower than his three immediate predecessors at the same point in their presidencies. Fifty-seven percent of respondents disapprove of the job Trump is doing in office. That gives Trump the lowest first-year approval rating out of any modern president in the history of the NBC/WSJ poll. By comparison, President Obama ended his first year in office with 50 percent approval, President George W. Bush ended his with 82 percent and President Clinton came in at 60 percent, according to the NBC/WSJ poll. The poll is based on interviews with 900 U.S. adults and was conducted from Jan. 13-17. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. The survey was conducted after reports surfaced last week that Trump asked in a meeting with lawmakers why the U.S. should admit immigrants from “shithole countries,” like Haiti, instead of other countries, like Norway. The numbers in the NBC/WSJ poll are similar to those in the latest Harvard CAPS/Harris poll which found that 42 percent of voters approve of the job Trump is doing while 58 percent disapprove. Trump’s approval rating has long lagged. According to RealClearPolitics’ presidential approval average, Trump came in at 39.5 percent as of Friday.

House votes to avert federal shutdown, Senate chances dim

On the edge of a government shutdown, a divided House voted late Thursday to keep the government open past a Friday deadline — setting up an eleventh-hour standoff in the Senate, where Democrats have vowed to kill the measure.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The partisan roadblock in the GOP-controlled Senate left just a day and little hope for negotiators searching for a way to avoid shuttering federal offices and keeping thousands of employees home from work. A closure, coming on the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, would be only the fourth such episode in roughly two decades and pose perils for both in parties in an election year. Still, Senate Democrats appeared ready to take the risk of shouldering the blame. Emboldened by a liberal base clamoring to challenge Trump, they’ve demanded concessions on immigration, chiefly protection for thousands of young immigrants facing deportation, and largely unified behind the effort. Leaders said Thursday they would have the votes to block the House-passed measure that would have funded the government for another four weeks.

Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that he’s confident that the GOP-controlled House will pass a stopgap government-wide funding bill, even as growing opposition from Senate Democrats made prospects in that chamber increasingly dicey. Republican leaders said the plan would give the White House and lawmakers more time to work through the disputes on immigration and spending that they’ve tangled over for months. Those talks were roiled last week by Trump’s comments questioning the need for immigration for “shithole countries” in Africa. With trust at a low ebb, Democrats said they weren’t willing to give Republicans that time to negotiate, arguing they could be back in the same standoff a month from now and push for a shorter extension that could keep the pressure on. Schumer asked how can senators negotiate when the president, who has to sign the legislation, “is like a sphinx on this issue, or says one thing one day and one thing the next?” Most Senate Democrats and some Republicans were expected to vote against the House plan, probably Friday.

Wells Fargo Glitch Leaves Customers With Empty Bank Accounts

Many Wells Fargo customers got a terrifying shock after finding their checking accounts drained due to a series of errors by the embattled bank. The Jan. 17 glitch reportedly emptied several customers’ accounts after processing their online bill payments twice and doubling transaction fees. According to CBS News, the banking error also triggered overdraft fees on many checking accounts as customers around the country were mistakenly informed they had a zero balance. The bank’s phone lines were reportedly jammed through the night as angry customers demanded answers for the embarrassing mistake. Wells Fargo later put out a brief statement on Twitter explaining the situation.

The social media outrage was immediate as customers replied to the statement, many who were left without a way to pay for any goods.

Wells Fargo gave an update on the situation on Jan. 18 as the issue is apparently still unresolved. “We are aware of the online Bill Pay situation which was caused by an internal processing error. We are currently working to correct it, and there is no action required for impacted customers at this time. Any fees or charges that may have been incurred as a result of this error will be taken care of. We apologize for any inconvenience,” Wells Fargo’s Steve Carlson said, via KCCI. The glitch is the latest black eye for the company, which was involved in a massive scandal in 2016 after it was discovered Wells Fargo employees opened millions of fake accounts to meet sales goals. Several high-level executives at the banking giant have lost their jobs since the scandal broke. Nick Note: Looks to me they are just practicing their latest scam to steal even more money from their customers

India Tests Ballistic Missile, Posing New Threat to China

  The rocket has a strike range of more than 3,000 miles and a payload of 1.5 tons, which is enough to transport a fusion-boosted fission weapon, a type of nuclear device. Credit Pallava Bagla/Corbis, via Getty Images NEW DELHI — India tested a long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear weapons on Thursday, paving the way for membership to a small list of countries with access to intercontinental missiles and putting most of China in its reach. The ballistic missile, called Agni 5, was launched from Abdul Kalam Island, off Odisha State in eastern India on Thursday morning, traveling for around 19 minutes and 3,000 miles. In a statement, the Indian Ministry of Defense said that all objectives of the mission had been “successfully met.” The firing of the Agni-5 comes months after the official end of a standoff between China and India over a remote sliver of land in the Himalayas, a squabble that lasted for more than two months and that was one of the worst border disputes between the countries in 30 years. The launch also comes during a tense period in India’s troubled relationship with Pakistan, its nuclear-armed neighbor. Nitin A. Gokhale, an independent national security analyst in New Delhi, said India did not previously have a missile capable of hitting “high-value targets” in China. But Thursday’s successful launch of the Agni 5 has changed the calculus, he said, putting most of China, including major eastern coastal cities such as Shanghai, in reach. “If there are hostilities, and if there are contingencies, then India has something which can deter China or at least make China think twice,” he said. The Agni 5 — Agni means fire in Hindi — is about 55 feet long and was developed in India. It is the most advanced missile in the Agni series, with a strike range of more than 3,000 miles and a payload of 1.5 tons, which is enough to transport a fusion-boosted fission weapon, a type of nuclear device. Coming after four previous tests, Thursday’s firing of the Agni 5 took India closer to incorporating the missile into its Strategic Forces Command, which oversees the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile.Once that induction process is complete, India will join an elite group of countries with access to intercontinental ballistic missiles, a list that includes China, Russia and the United States, experts say.

Trump personally ordered restrictions for Bannon’s testimony, report says

President Donald Trump personally ordered Steve Bannon not to answer certain questions during his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee this week, Foreign Policy reported Thursday.
President Donald Trump and Senior Counselor to the President Stephen Bannon last January.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images President Donald Trump and Senior Counselor to the President Stephen Bannon last January.
The article said deputy White House counsel Uttam Dhillon presented legal rationale that the Trump administration might be able to limit the testimony of Bannon and others under executive privilege claims. That reasoning formed the basis of Trump’s decision to restrict Bannon’s testimony, sources with firsthand knowledge told Foreign Policy. The White House has acknowledged speaking with Bannon’s lawyer, Bill Burck, over the phone during his 10-plus-hour testimony to the House investigation on Tuesday, but maintained that it was “following standard procedure.” Burck told the committee that Bannon would not be answering any questions beyond those relating to the presidential campaign. However, Bannon mentioned that he discussed with fellow White House staffers the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that included Donald Trump Jr., former Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort, Trump son-in-law and top aide Jared Kushner and alleged Russian operatives. Committee members then aggressively pushed Bannon to answer more questions about his time inside the White House, according to accounts of the hearing.

Trump: Vision of border wall ‘has never changed or evolved’

President Trump said that his vision of a border wall with Mexico has “never changed or evolved,” pushing back on his own chief of staff’s comments during a closed-door meeting with lawmakers. “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it,” Trump wrote in an early-morning tweet. The tweet came after lawmakers who met with White House chief of staff John Kelly told The Washington Post and other news outlets that the top aide said some of Trump’s campaign promises on immigration, including the wall, are “uninformed.” The Post reported that Kelly told lawmakers some parts of the border do not need a wall and there will be no physical barrier “that Mexico will pay for.” Trump tweeted that “parts will be, of necessity, see through” and wrote that the wall “was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water.” He added that it “will be paid for, directly or indirectly, or through longer term reimbursement, by Mexico, which has a ridiculous $71 billion dollar trade surplus with the U.S.”

The exchange marks a rare public break between Trump and Kelly, whom the president tapped as chief of staff last summer to bring stability to a White House that had been wracked by chaos.

Kelly’s claim that Trump’s views on immigration have evolved came as Congress struggles to broker a deal on shielding hundreds of thousands of immigrations from deportation. Those immigrants, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, benefitted from the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Trump scrapped last year. The program winds down on March 5. Trump and Republican lawmakers have said they would support protections for DACA recipients if they are tied to strict border security measures, including wall funding, and sweeping reforms to the nation’s legal immigration system. Democrats have balked at some of those demands. Kelly echoed his comments during an interview with Fox News, hours after he reportedly first made them during the meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “He’s very definitely changed his attitudes toward the DACA issue and even the wall once we briefed him,” Kelly said, referring to Trump Kelly said he told the Hispanic lawmakers that Trump has “evolved in the way he’s looked at things” and that all politicians “say things during the course of campaigns that may or may not be fully informed.”

U.S. Treasury official calls cryptocurrencies an ‘evolving threat’

Illicit finance risk from virtual currencies is a ‘high focus,’ Mandelker says
Bloomberg Sigal Mandelker, Treasury under secretary of terrorism and financial crimes, says U.S. is “ahead of the game” in regulating cryptocurrencies.

A senior U.S. Treasury official on Wednesday called cryptocurrencies an “evolving threat” that is a “high focus” for the U.S. government.“We’re concerned about the use of cryptocurrencies for illicit purposes all over the world,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes, in testimony to the Senate Banking Committee. “It is an area we are tracking very carefully,” she said. Mandelker said the U.S. has adequate regulations in place to oversee domestic cryptocurrency but was concerned that so few other countries have similar regulations in place. Last week, Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin warned against bitcoin becoming the next “Swiss Bank account.” Nick Bit: Your damn straight they should be worried! they are going to lose their little steal the masses wealth franchise!

Cryptocurrencies will replace ‘some or all’ paper money, investor James Altucher says

Bitcoin expert: More regulations will help legitimize digital currencies
Bitcoin expert: More regulations will help legitimize digital currencies

Bitcoin is on track to become a “valid,” “real” investment vehicle to hold in a portfolio — not a game for day-traders, according to advocate James Altucher. “Bitcoin is not a penny stock — it’s not something you buy one day and sell the next day for little gains,” Altucher told CNBC’s “Squawk Alley” on Wednesday. “You have to be a long-term believer that cryptocurrencies solve huge problems that paper currencies have.” Cryptocurrencies will replace some or all paper currencies in the long run,” he said. “Institutions aren’t yet in bitcoin, but they will be … we are in inning 0 of this asset class.” Altucher’s comments came as bitcoin has plunged, with its price sinking to as low as under $10,000 Wednesday, roughly 50 percent off its highs. Bitcoin bulls have praised it as a decentralized option for payments that are not tied to a nation’s government. But that doesn’t mean that it should be immune to regulation, Altucher said, since “98 percent of cryptocurrencies are scams or frauds.” “More regulation will happen, and that’s a good thing,” Altucher said. “I don’t think regulation will create downward pressure if it allows the 300 million people in the U.S. who don’t own bitcoin to say, ‘Oh, I need exposure to this asset class.'”

Tech investor Jillian Manus of Structure Capital told CNBC on Tuesday that some cryptocurrency trends, such as initial coin offerings, could be “very dangerous,” like “the Wild West without a sheriff.” But she, like Altucher, praised more innovative uses of the underlying technologies.

Altucher said he owns bitcoin and plans to continue buying tokens of the decentralized digital payment platform. While the price of bitcoin listed in Coinbase was down about 13 percent on Wednesday, he noted the dip could be a buying opportunity. Not everyone is so optimistic. Wells Fargo Securities’ Christopher Harvey told CNBC this week that the cryptocurrency market was “froth”-y, and a sell-off was not a matter of if, but when. But Altucher speculated that as regulation clears up the ambiguity in bitcoin, more investors will feel comfortable buying it. “This is a global phenomenon,” Altucher said.

Visa CEO: We won’t process transactions in bitcoin, because it’s not a payment system

Al Kelly
Visa CEO Alfred Kelly weighs in on tax cuts, bitcoin and global transactions… He even looks like a idiot, talks like a idiot.. must be a idiot

Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, is not really money and Visa won’t touch it, the credit card giant’s CEO told CNBC.”I don’t view it as payment system player,” Alfred Kelly said in an interview recorded on Tuesday at the National Retail Federation conference in New York City.

Despite the emergence of bitcoin as digital money that can be used in a limited fashion to buy things, Kelly said, “We at Visa won’t process transactions that are cryptocurrency-based. We will only process fiat currency-based transactions.”

Fiat currencies, such as the U.S. dollar, are issued by governments as legal money. But, as Investopedia describes it, they are not backed by any physical commodity. Bitcoin, as CoinDesk explains, is not issued by anyone. It’s “mined” or “discovered” by powerful computers around the world competing with each other to solve certain algorithms. The miners then write those transactions to the online blockchain ledger, where all activity is recorded and shared with everyone. In the current environment, bitcoin acceptance as payment is rather limited, but as prices have soared, it’s become widely traded as a store of value like gold. Earlier Wednesday, on Bank of America’s post-earnings conference call with analysts, Chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan responded to a question about cryptocurrencies after the financial giant banned its advisors from buying bitcoin-related investments for their clients. “We basically told people they could buy at other accounts, not at Merrill Lynch,” Moynihan said. Nick Note: these corporate asshole are stupid idiots. Let me tell you a story:

In 1975, a 24-year-old engineer named Steven Sasson invented digital photography while working at Eastman Kodak by creating the world’s first digital camera. Kodak thought it was worthless and fired the engineer. Below is a picture of the worlds first digital camera


Sasson showed the new technology to a number of Kodak executives, but they couldn’t see the potential of what digital photography could become. This was their reaction, as told by Sasson to the New York Times:

They were convinced that no one would ever want to look at their pictures on a television set. Print had been with us for over 100 years, no one was complaining about prints, they were very inexpensive, and so “

At the time, Kodak was the dominant brand in the US photo industry, and Kodak didn’t want to cannibalize its film businesses. Kodak eventually in desperation did make the switch to digital… a mere 18 years later. It was to little to late. Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012. The same thing will happen to Visa, Master Card, American express, Discover and Western Union.

Apple didn’t say it was hiring 20,000 new workers, nor bringing back its overseas cash

At Apple, ‘creating’ jobs isn’t the same as hiring, and paying repatriation taxes doesn’t mean the money is coming home
Getty Images

Apple Inc. announced a series of plans Wednesday that were celebrated as promises to hire thousands of workers and bring home billions of dollars in cash. Well, not necessarily. Apple AAPL  said in its release that the company planned to “create over 20,000 new jobs through hiring at existing campuses and opening a new one.” The key word there is “create,” which Apple really likes to use when discussing jobs: The company even has a portion of its website dedicated to “job creation” that claims it is “responsible for 2 million jobs” in the United States, most of which are jobs “attributable to the App Store ecosystem.” Apple currently employs 84,000 people in the U.S., it said Wednesday, while an October filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission said that it has a total of 132,000 full-time employees worldwide, suggesting that about a third of its employees work abroad

A quarter of the 2 million jobs Apple claims responsibility for are positions through Apple’s U.S.-based suppliers. “From the people who manufacture components for our products to the people who distribute and deliver them, Apple directly or indirectly supports hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs,” Apple says on the page.

Apple’s job-creation site lists construction, manufacturing and retail as several areas where the company both has its own employees and also has “created” jobs through suppliers. Apple promised a new campus Wednesday, and building a facility can be a big job that takes years and a lot of workers, as was the case for the company’s recently opened Apple Park headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. However, the company seemed to tell Axios that its promise of a new campus would not be nearly as involved as the Apple Park project.

Apple did not respond to MarketWatch’s request for clarity on its job-creation claims.

Many also took Apple’s promise to pay $38 billion in repatriation taxes as a promise that Apple would bring home more than a quarter-trillion dollars it currently has overseas. However, Apple does not have to bring home that money, and much of it is tied up in long-term investments that would make it unlikely. The company has to pay taxes on overseas earnings whether it brings the money back to the United States or not, so paying the tax does not mean the money is coming home.

This Stock Market is a Stampede off a cliff

Stock market optimism among professional investors just keeps on surging, and is now at the highest levels since before the crash of 1987. Bullishness, or the belief that the market is heading higher, is now at 66.7 percent in the latest Investors Intelligence survey, a widely followed gauge of sentiment among investment newsletter authors.

That’s the highest level since early April 1986 — a potential warning sign that the rush into equities is getting overdone. After all, a year after the bulls had reached this level came the infamous Black Monday crash that sent the Dow Jones industrials down nearly 22 percent in a single day.

“Sentiment readings have roughly followed their 1986/87 pattern. Then the bulls peaked with initial market highs early that year and they returned to above 60% levels months later after more index records,” John Gray, editor of the Investors Intelligence weekly report, said in the latest issue Wednesday.

“In 1987 stocks crashed a few months after that. A repeat of that scenario suggests potential danger, especially as the market moves become parabolic,” he added. “Those recently holding cash appear to be chasing a rallying market, adding fuel to the fire.”

“The lessons of the last crash are being ignored. We are witnessing all the safety equipment being ripped out of the stock market by those in power,” Kuhn wrote.

Nervous Republicans fear they’ll pay if government shuts down

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is confident that Democrats will take the blame if the government shuts down this weekend or Congress fails to find a fix to prevent DACA recipients from being deported. But Republicans on Capitol Hill aren’t so sure. Many of them fear that voters will fault the GOP after looking at Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, his past flirtation with letting federal funding expire and the fact that Republicans are in control of the White House, the Senate and the House. “then there are shutdowns, our side usually takes the hit,” said Republican Rep. Charlie Dent, who is retiring from the competitive Allentown, Penn.,-based district he’s represented for nearly a dozen years. “It will be difficult for us to deflect the blame — whether we deserve it or not,” he added. And with Democrats showing unexpected strength in recent elections — the latest a victory Tuesday in a Wisconsin state Senate district that Trump carried easily in 2016 — Republicans know they don’t have much margin for error heading into this year’s midterm elections. On Tuesday, Trump laid out his argument that Democrats “don’t really want” to extend protections to DACA recipients and that they would be to blame for a shutdown.

But it was the Justice Department that announced in September that DACA would be canceled in March, creating a six-month window for Congress to write legislation protecting immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or allow them to face deportation. In essence, Trump hung a sword over lawmakers and lit the cord holding it in place. Negotiations between a bipartisan Senate group and the White House broke down last week in an acrimonious meeting at which Trump reportedly expressed his preference for immigrants from Norway over those who hail from Haiti and African nations. Trump has responded that the media accounts are inaccurate and on Tuesday the president said he wanted immigrants to come to America from everywhere.

Pimco doubts U.S. will enact infrastructure spending, welfare reform in 2018

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Investment firm Pimco thinks it is unlikely that Washington will enact welfare reform or a major spending plan to improve bridges, roads and other infrastructure in 2018, Libby Cantrill, Pimco’s head of public policy, said on Tuesday. “While infrastructure was a key theme during the 2016 campaign and has strong support among Democrats on Capitol Hill, as of now, we do not see significant traction being made in 2018,” Cantrill wrote in a blog post. “We are similarly skeptical we will see anything meaningful passed on welfare reform,” she added.

Bank of America profit slumps 48% on $2.9 billion tax charge

BAC.N

(Reuters) – Bank of America Corp’s fourth-quarter profit nearly halved as it booked a $2.9 billion charge stemming from the new federal tax law.. Other large U.S banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup Inc, have also reported charges in their fourth-quarter results because the new law requires them to reassess their deferred tax assets and pay tax on profits kept abroad. Excluding the tax charge, Bank of America earned $5.3 billion, or 47 cents per share.  According to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, excluding the tax charge and another item, the company earned 48 cents per share compared with the average estimate of 44 cents.Total revenue, net of interest expense, rose about 2 percent to $20.44 billion as gains in interest income helped offset the tax charge and decrease in fixed-income trading revenue.

Trading revenue was weak for U.S. banks in the fourth quarter compared with a year earlier when investors actively changed positions around the U.S. presidential elections. At Bank of America, adjusted trading revenue fell 9 percent from this quarter last year.

The bank’s net interest income rose 11.4 percent to $11.46 billion as rising interest rates helped it charge more on its loan. Bank of America’s large stock of deposits and rate-sensitive mortgage securities make the lender particularly responsive to a rise in interest rates. The bank’s non-interest expenses fell 1 percent to $13.27 billion. The lender’s net income, which includes the tax charge, fell to $2.37 billion, or 20 cents per share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31 from $4.54 billion, or 39 cents per share, in the year earlier period.

Bitcoin jolted by regulation worries, falls 7 percent

TOKYO/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Bitcoin extended its sharp tumble of the past 24 hours, skidding more than seven percent on Wednesday in a rapid downturn in fortunes as investors were spooked by fears regulators might clamp down on an asset whose value has skyrocketed in the past year The price of the world’s biggest and best known cryptocurrency fell to as low as $10,567 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange, not far from its six-week nadir of $10,162 touched the previous day. The session’s high was $11,794.07. It led the fall in cryptocurrencies, although others such as Ethereum and Ripple, have also slid sharply this week after reports South Korea and China could ban trading, sparking worries of a wider regulatory crackdown.“Cryptocurrencies could be capped in the current quarter ahead of G20 meeting in March, where policymakers could discuss tighter regulations,” said Shuhei Fujise, chief analyst at Alt Design. Tuesday’s decline followed reports that South Korea’s finance minister had said banning trading in cryptocurrencies was still an option and that the government plans a set of measures to clamp down on the “irrational” cryptocurrency investment craze.Separately, a senior Chinese central banker said authorities should ban centralised trading of virtual currencies as well as individuals.

 

‘Trump is a revolution, unfortunately, and I’m concerned’: Nobel Prize-winner Robert Shiller

Robert Shiller
Adam Jeffery | CNBC Robert Shille

President Donald Trump is synonymous with a “revolution” taking place in U.S. politics and society, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller, but not in a good way. Speaking to CNBC ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) where Trump will be a key attraction, Shiller, a renowned economist and academic who is also attending the Forum, said he was concerned about the changes in society and politics heralded by the president. “Trump is a revolution unfortunately, (and one) who’s reaffirming nationalism and he’s showing that Americans are no better than anyone else,” Shiller told CNBC ahead of the Forum. “It’s troublesome to me. I’m concerned.”
“So far we’ve gotten through a year of him and we’re optimistic that Congress will switch to a democratic majority in another year so he might be defanged,” the Yale University economics professor added.
Shiller said Trump’s reception by the Davos audience was going to be interesting to see. “He’s coming to Davos this year and he’s going to try out his rhetoric on the least sympathetic audience I can imagine. He likes sympathetic audiences so I don’t know how he’s going to manage this one.” While Davos does attract criticism, with some calling it a “talking shop” for the well-off that fails to bring about concrete change, Shiller was supportive of the event. He said the 2018 theme – “creative a shared future in a fractured world” – reflected the problems facing the world, namely what he saw as “the problems of the international growth of populism and nationalism, racism and religionism that is quite striking right now.” “Those fractures are re-assertions of traditional fractures and so it’s like we’re back to history again. We were in a period of enlightenment following the horrors of World War II and now the people who remembered that are disappearing so we’re going to go back and make the same mistakes,” he said.  Having won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2013 for his work on asset prices and inefficient markets, Shiller is attending a Nobel Prize-winner dinner at Davos in 2018. The Forum is also hosting a session based on his 2017 work on “Narrative Economics” and the effects that narratives and stories can have on the global economy

Steve Bannon plans to cooperate with special counsel

The subpoena compels Bannon to testify before a grand jury, skipping the voluntary interview with Mueller’s team that many in Trump’s orbit have elected to take. But Mueller may still leave open the option for an interview in lieu of grand jury testimony. Bannon is likely to accept such an option if it is made available, according to a source close to Bannon. Three people familiar with the special counsel’s investigation suggested Mueller moved to subpoena Bannon, rather than ask him to voluntarily appear for questioning, in order to thwart any potential attempt by the White House to pressure Bannon into refusing to cooperate. Bannon is expected to be more forthcoming with Mueller’s team. “He’ll answer any questions” Mueller wants, one source close to Bannon told NBC News.

Former Trump aide Bannon refuses to comply with House subpoena

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon declined on Tuesday to comply with a subpoena ordering him to answer questions from a U.S. House intelligence panel about his time at the White House as part of its investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election.

After Bannon initially refused to answer questions about the matter, Devin Nunes, the committee’s Republican party chairman, authorized a subpoena during the meeting to press Bannon to respond.

Even then, Bannon refused to answer questions after his lawyer had conferred with the White House and was told again to refuse to answer questions about the transition period immediately after Trump was elected, or Bannon’s time in the administration, according to Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee.

Separately, the New York Times reported that Bannon had been subpoenaed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify before a grand jury in a probe of alleged ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, on Tuesday.

It was the first time Mueller is known to have used a subpoena against a member of Trump’s inner circle, the Times said. It cited a person with direct knowledge of the matter. Bannon, a champion of Trump’s “America First” agenda, was among the Republican’s closest aides during the 2016 election campaign, the presidential transition and his first months in office. But the pair had a bitter public falling out over comments Bannon made to author Michael Wolff for his recent book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” In the book, Bannon is quoted as describing a June 2016 meeting between Trump associates, including the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a Russian lawyer, as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Bannon spent hours on Tuesday meeting behind closed doors with members of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee. He was the latest high-profile figure to appear before the panel as part of its investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election. Bannon refused to speak not only about his time at the White House, but also any conversations he had with President Trump after he had left the administration “that might be for the purpose of the President seeking his advice on anything,” Schiff said. “We expect to have Mr. Bannon back in, we hope very soon, with a different position by the White House,” Schiff said. Asked if the White House had told Bannon not to answer certain questions, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: “As with all congressional activities touching upon the White House, Congress must consult with the White House prior to obtaining confidential material.”

“We’ve been cooperating fully with these ongoing investigations and encourage the committees to work with us to find an appropriate accommodation in order to ensure Congress obtains information necessary to its legitimate interests,” she said. Nick Bit: Not anymore!!!!!!

Asset Class of Vintage Cars Drops More than during 2008/2009

The asset class of beautiful machines is suffering. These assets range from a rare 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta, which sold for $38.1 million with impeccable timing in August 2014 before the peak, to American muscle cars that can be acquired for a few thousand bucks.According to the Hagerty Market Index, prices of vintage automobiles that sold at private sales and at auctions fell 3% from a month ago, are down 7% for the year, and are down 17% from the all-time high in August 2015. This 17% drop from the peak is worse than the 16% drop from peak-to-bottom during the Financial Crisis. The index in the January report, at 154.33, has now two declining years in a row under its belt. The index provider, Hagerty, specializes in insuring vintage automobiles. Its Hagerty Market Index, unlike stock market indices, is adjusted for inflation via the Consumer Price Index. So these are “real” changes in price levels. The chart below from Hagerty’s January report shows how the index surged 84% on an inflation-adjusted basis from August 2009 to its peak in August 2015, how it surged 54% on an inflation-adjusted basis above its prior peak, and how it has since given up one-third of those gains. The 16% drop during the Financial Crisis was triggered by financial panic. But there is no Financial Crisis today, and no financial panic. Instead, financial conditions in the markets are ultra-easy, and something else entirely is causing these price drops (dates added):

During the Financial-Crisis, the index peaked in April 2008 at 121.0 then plunged 16% in a little over a year to bottom out in August 2009 at 101.39. By then, the liquidity from the Fed’s zero-interest-rate policy and QE was washing across the world, and all asset prices began to soar, and the owners of those beautiful machines received a powerful boost from the Fed’s intention to create the “wealth effect,” as Bernanke himself called it. But this time it’s different. This time, there is no Financial Crisis and therefore no QE in sight. The drop has now been going on for over two years, in an all-too-orderly manner. The peak occurred just before the Fed embarked on its rate-hike cycle in December 2015. And now the Fed is getting more serious about tightening, and the QE Unwind is already underway. Nick Bit: their is no financial crises YET… Soon come. Out on your fire suit and crash helmet. The biggest stock market crash and depression is our life time is on the way

Fox News held story before election on Trump relationship with adult-film star: report

Fox News did not publish a story the network had on the alleged sexual relationship between President Donald Trump and porn actress Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the name Stormy Daniels, during the 2016 presidential election.

Fox News did not publish a story the network had on an alleged sexual relationship between President Trump and adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford during the 2016 presidential election, according to a new report. CNN reports that Fox News reporter Diana Falzone wrote a story a month before voters went to the polls in 2016 on the alleged relationship between Trump and Clifford, whose stage name is “Stormy Daniels.” People familiar with the story told CNN that Falzone had seen emails about a settlement between Trump and Clifford and had a statement from Clifford’s manager affirming that Clifford did engage in a sexual relationship with Trump. But CNN reports that Fox News ultimately did not publish the story, with one person familiar with the story telling the network that Falzone “had the story and Fox killed it.” Noah Kotch, Fox News’s digital editor-in-chief and vice president, told CNN in a statement that the network was “unable to verify all of the facts and publish a story.” “Like many other outlets, we were working to report the story of Stephanie Clifford’s account in October 2016 about then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump and a possible payment by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen,” Kotch told CNN. “In doing our due diligence, we were unable to verify all of the facts and publish a story.” CNN’s report follows a Wall Street Journal report that Michael Cohen, an attorney for the Trump Organization in 2006 and now Trump’s personal lawyer, arranged for Clifford to receive $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement one month before the 2016 presidential election. Clifford had previously told sources interviewed by the newspaper that she had a consensual sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, a year after he and Melania Trump were married. Cohen told the Journal in a statement that Trump “once again vehemently denies” the encounter, but did not comment on the alleged $130,000 payment. “This is now the second time that you are raising outlandish allegations against my client,” Cohen told the newspaper. “You have attempted to perpetuate this false narrative for over a year; a narrative that has been consistently denied by all parties since at least 2011.”  Cohen also sent the paper a statement signed by “Stormy Daniels” denying the sexual encounter with Trump and saying that the rumors are “completely false.” Clifford sent the same statement denying a sexual relationship with Trump to CNN this week. The White House declined to comment to the Journal about the alleged payment, but said that the allegations of the interaction between Trump and Clifford were “old, recycled reports, which were published and strongly denied prior to the election.”

GE shares dive after ‘deeply disappointing’ $6.2 billion insurance portfolio charge

 

General Electric Chief Executive Officer John Flannery presents the company's new strategy and financial targets to investors at a meeting in New York, November 13, 2017.
General Electric to take $6.2 billion charge for legacy reinsurance business
 The bad news keeps piling up for General Electric shareholders as the company announces worse than expected insurance portfolio results. GE said on Tuesday after a review of its GE Capital insurance portfolio it will take a $6.2 billion after tax charge for the fourth quarter of 2017 and expects to contribute $15 billion over the next seven years to shore up the portfolio’s reserves. General Electric also said on a call with investors it will report 2017 earnings-per-share, ex-insurance charges, at the low end of its $1.05 to $1.10 guidance range versus the Wall Street consensus of $1.07. “At a time when we are moving forward as a company, a charge of this magnitude from a legacy insurance portfolio in run-off for more than a decade is deeply disappointing,” CEO John Flannery said in the release Tuesday.
 One Wall Street analyst is surprised at the size of the charge and reserve numbers. “After an analysis of the GE long term care exposure, we had thought an outsized charge was likely, but have to admit the $15B of additional capital ultimately being required was far in excess of our adverse case expectations, and is a negative read across for other insurers with sizeable long term care blocks in our view,” Evercore ISI analyst Thomas Gallagher wrote Tuesday.

General Electric shares significantly underperformed the market in the past year. The stock has declined 40 percent through Friday in the past 12-months versus the S&P 500’s 22.5 percent return. The company reduced its dividend and unveiled a restructuring plan during its November investor day. It was the company’s first investor day under CEO John Flannery, who replaced Jeff Immelt in August.

U.S. oil industry set to break record, upend global trade

 

And this new record, expected within days, likely won’t last long. The U.S. government forecasts that the nation’s production will climb to 11 million barrels a day by late 2019, a level that would rival Russia, the world’s top producer. The economic and political impacts of soaring U.S. output are breathtaking, cutting the nation’s oil imports by a fifth over a decade, providing high-paying jobs in rural communities and lowering consumer prices for domestic gasoline by 37 percent from a 2008 peak. Fears of dire energy shortages that gripped the country in the 1970s have been replaced by a presidential policy of global “energy dominance.”

3.2 million Americans lost health insurance in Donald Trump’s first year

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The number of Americans without health coverage, which declined for years after passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, shot up in President Donald Trump’s first year in office, according to data from a new national survey.At the end of 2017, 12.2 per cent of US adults lacked health insurance, up from 10.9 per cent at the end of 2016, as President Barack Obama was completing his final term. The increase of 1.3 percentage points, although modest, marks the first time since at least 2008 that the share of adults without insurance increased from the previous year, according to the report from Gallup, which conducts a widely followed survey asking Americans about their health coverage. The increase indicates that 3.2 million Americans lost health coverage in 2017, Gallup concluded. The decline in coverage was most pronounced among slices of the population on which the Obama administration and its allies had focused enrolment efforts: young adults, blacks, Latinos and households making less than $36,000 a year, Gallup found. The losses follow years of historic insurance gains driven by the health care law’s expansion of coverage, which started being fully implemented in 2014. It is unclear how much each of those actions contributed to the erosion in health coverage, but the Gallup survey indicates a decline in the percentage of adults who bought insurance on their own rather than got it from an employer or a government programme such as Medicare or Medicaid. That is the part of the insurance market that has been affected most by political turmoil surrounding the health law. “Further, media coverage of the policies to repeal and replace the health care law may have caused some consumers to question whether the government would enforce the penalty for not having insurance,” the Gallup report notes. And recent moves by the Trump administration to weaken insurance rules are expected to further destabilise insurance markets. “It seems likely that the uninsured rate will rise further in the years ahead,” the Gallup report notes. The survey was based on a random sample of 25,072 adults living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia who were interviewed between October 1 and December 31. The margin of error is plus or

Citigroup reports $18 billion loss on one-time tax items

(Reuters) – Citigroup Inc posted an $18-billion quarterly loss on Tuesday because of charges related to a new U.S. tax law, but its adjusted earnings beat Wall Street expectations and management signaled that the bank may soon lift financial performance targets.The law, signed by President Donald Trump last month, has made fourth-quarter earnings a messy ordeal for big banks. It forces them to take one-time hits on earnings held abroad and changes the treatment of deferred tax assets, both of which affect Citigroup in particular.  However, banks and other large U.S. corporations expect to benefit greatly from lower taxes and other provisions in the new law over the long term. Citigroup, the fourth-largest U.S. lender, stands to gain less than peers because it already earns about half of its profits in lower-tax countries abroad. Even so, it expects its tax rate to fall to about 25 percent this year from 30 percent in 2017. That could save the bank billions of dollars over the next few years. The changes will not only boost Citigroup’s profits, but allow the bank to generate higher returns and generate more capital, Chief Executive Michael Corbat said. The new law might also stimulate economic growth because it incentivizes companies to invest in their businesses and has led to wage hikes that could help consumers, he said. Citigroup’s institutional business, which includes investment banking and trading, fell 1 percent due to weakness in trading that has also affected Wall Street peers. Bond trading revenue fell 18 percent due to ongoing weakness in volatility, while equity markets revenue was down 23 percent because of $130 million worth of losses on a derivatives trade with one client.

Telegram To Establish Its Own Cryptocurrency Through $1.2 Bln ICO

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Private messaging app Telegram is planning a $1.2-billion Initial Coin Offering or ICO. The messaging app, with more than one hundred and seventy million monthly users, aims to find a prime place in the thriving cyrptocurrency arena. The company is reportedly planning to develop a blockchain to combat bitcoin and ethereum. Telegram mulls a private token sale in February and a public sale in March. The token sale is expected to raise around $600 million, which could beat the largest ever token sale of $257 million by Filecoin in September. Reports said, those qualified investors, who participate in pre-sale might get a discount of 68 percent in the public sale. According to a businessinsider report, Telegram’s ICO will be to support Telegram Open Network or TON blockchain platform which will host a new generation cryptocurrencies and decentralized applications. The investors participating in the ICO will receive TON tokens, known as Grams. The tokens might not be listed till 2019. Telegram is said to be planning to invest 80 percent of the funds to develop the TON ecosystem, bandwidth, co-location and user verification system, businessinsider said quoting a white paper. TON is projected to become an alternative for Visa or Mastercard and “can be regarded as a decentralised supercomputer and value transfer system.” Nick Bit: Another very very smart move..

GM to Take $7 Billion Write-Down as a Result of U.S. Tax Overhaul

General Motors Co. said 2017 pretax profit last year ended up at the high end of its previous forecast, but disclosed it will take a $7 billion non-cash write-down on deferred-tax assets stemming from the sweeping tax-overhaul bill passed last month. GM, which reports fourth-quarter results Feb. 6, said Tuesday that 2017 earnings per share should be “at the high end” of its previous $6.00-$6.50 forecast.

Mueller subpoenas Bannon To Appear Before a Grand Jury

Bannon was on Capitol Hill testifying before the House Intelligence Committee when the news broke that Mueller had issued the subpoena for the now-estranged associate of President Donald Trump to testify before a grand jury. Bannon’s testimony on the Hill Tuesday was his first appearance before any of the congressional committees investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election or potential coordination with Trump’s associates, and it comes just days after the White House broke with Bannon over comments attributed to him disparaging Trump and the Trump family. Nick Bit: Well Now the games begin. Bannon feels like Trump has destroyed him…… I smell payback!

Ex-Trump chief strategist Bannon to meet with House panel on Russia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon will meet behind closed doors on Tuesday with a U.S. House of Representatives committee that is probing whether Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.Former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon arrives for an interview by the House Intelligence Committee investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts  The interview with the House Intelligence Committee comes after Bannon’s public falling out with the president over comments Bannon made to author Michael Wolff for his new book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”In the book, Bannon is quoted as describing a June 2016 meeting between Trump associates, including the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a Russian lawyer, as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”  The meeting came after Donald Trump Jr. was told in an email that the Russian government had dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, to which he replied: “I love it.”Bannon, a champion of Trump’s “America First” agenda, was fired by the White House in August and returned to the right-wing news website Breitbart News. He continued to speak with Trump and tried to promote the president’s agenda. But Trump accused Bannon of having “lost his mind” when news of his comments to Wolff surfaced earlier this month. Six days later, Bannon stepped down from his post as executive chairman at Breitbart News.Bannon is the latest high-profile figure to testify before the House committee as part of its ongoing investigation into allegations that Russia interfered in the U.S. election. Russia has denied meddling in the election and Trump has denied there was any collusion between his campaign and Moscow. Nick: Bit: Bannon will throw Trump under the bus. And back it up 3 or 4 times to make sure.

The Fed official most concerned about possible asset bubbles presses the alarm button (again)

In MarketWatch interview, Boston Fed’s Rosengren says ebullient asset prices make a soft landing harder to achieve
Bloomberg Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren

Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren has been concerned about a potential asset bubble in commercial real estate since late 2015. And he says that the problem of asset prices has gotten worse, not better. “For a while, real estate looked like the only asset class that was showing signs of having substantial variation from what the average valuation had been, but I think we’re starting to see more asset markets have that characteristic,” he says. This makes life hard for the central bank. For instance, it makes it more difficult for the central bank to engineer a soft landing for the economy, Rosengren said. It also means the Fed cannot pause in its gradual pace of rate hikes and should even pick up the pace a bit this year. The U.S. central bank might have to raise rates four times in 2018, he said, more than the median forecast of Fed officials or the two hikes the market expects. MarketWatch spoke with Rosengren as he was preparing to give his first speech of the year on the economic outlook. In his remarks, he said low inflation has so far allowed the Fed to pursue very gradual rate hikes.

Continue reading “The Fed official most concerned about possible asset bubbles presses the alarm button (again)”

As bitcoin’s price plunges, skeptics say the cryptocurrency has no value. But here’s why they may be wrong

Bitcoin’s price has been on a wild ride since its inception. 2017 alone saw massive gains, starting the year at under $1,000 and, at its peak, breaking $19,000, according to industry site CoinDesk. As bitcoin’s popularity surges and its price rises and falls, more and more people are asking the same question: How does bitcoin, something that’s essentially invisible and intangible, have value? In economics, something has value if it checks the following two boxes: scarcity and utility. Scarcity just means that something has a finite supply. In the case of bitcoin, the cryptocurrency has a set cap of 21 million bitcoins.Many analysts note that this set cap makes bitcoin more desirable than other assets, even gold. That’s because unlike with gold, there’s no need to worry about a digital Gold Rush. A treasure trove of bitcoin won’t ever be “discovered,” causing the crypto’s price to crash with an influx in supply. “There are potentially millions of times more gold underground than actually has been extracted,” said Tom Lee, head of research at Fundstrat Global Advisors. Lee was chief equity strategist at J.P. Morgan before co-founding Fundstrat in 2014. Ben Yu, a blockchain expert living in San Francisco, says technological advances are also making gold easier to mine. “Today we mine gold at four times the rate that we did just 100 years ago,” Yu said.So if bitcoin has scarcity, what about its utility? Many believe the cryptocurrency’s utility lies in its potential to be a more efficient commodity than we already have. Proponents of bitcoin like it for a number of reasons. First, bitcoin is decentralized, meaning no government, bank or single person has control over it; it can’t be toppled by corruption at the top. It’s also trivially divisible, meaning you can buy a small item like a doughnut with it as easily as you can buy a house or even a mansion. And finally, the code it’s built on is open source, meaning that it’s available for anyone to look at, scrutinize and even modify. This means bitcoin is constantly evolving and improving. But as you break down either of those claims, it becomes clear that gold and paper money don’t have that much intrinsic value either. “If you ask a baby boomer, ‘Can you justify the value of anything that’s a digital business?’ they probably don’t accept that Facebook, Google, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, these are the largest companies in the S&P 500 and they’re primarily digital businesses built almost purely on digital trust,” said Lee. “Anyone who thinks digital gold isn’t a store value is overlooking the fact that most businesses today are built around digital trust, including the financial If it were to replace gold entirely, one bitcoin could be worth $357,000. That’s calculated by taking the total value of all the gold ever mined in the world, which is about $7.5 trillion, and dividing that number by 21 million — the total bitcoins that can ever exist.Lee told CNBC it’s more realistic to assume bitcoin will replace 5 percent of gold within five years, making a single coin worth $25,000. Nick Bit: BUY bitcoin right NOW! $11,400 before the year is out bitcoin will have hit $50,000. A stock market crash is near. And when it occurs bitcoin will soar!!

US stock market is a bubble, but it may not burst for awhile

Komal Sri-Kumar: ‘Irrational exuberance’ tends to last a long time

Komal Sri-Kumar: ‘Irrational exuberance’ tends to last a long time

Komal Sri-Kumar, whose economic consultancy advises multinational firms and sovereign wealth funds, believes a stock market reckoning is coming. “I think it is a bubble,” the founder of Sri-Kumar Global Strategies told CNBC on Tuesday before the Dow Jones industrial average broke through 26,000 and the S&P 500 eclipsed 2,800 on the open, continuing the bullish start to 2018 and last year’s powerful rally. “You can have this bubble get bigger,” Sri-Kumar acknowledged. “But the question is how big does it get? Irrationality can last a long time.” “The true downside [now] is for the equities to continue to rise and to have a much sharper fall at some point in time,” Sri-Kumar predicted. A decline of “5 percent, or even 10 percent, is nothing,” he said. “You have to talk in terms of a 15 percent to 20 percent decline. But the question is when does it happen? The answer is the later it happens the bigger the magnitude of the decline.” Billionaire investor Sam Zell also sees “irrational exuberance” in stocks. The founder and chairman of Equity Group Investments told CNBC later Tuesday the record market rally is based on emotions not fundamentals.

Billionaire Sam Zell sees ‘irrational exuberance’ in the stock market and holds mostly cash

  • The seemingly unstoppable stock market rally is based on emotions not fundamentals, Zell says.
  • “I think the current situation seems like irrational exuberance,” he argues.
  • Zell says he does see a path to increased economic growth due to tax reform and deregulation.
Billionaire Sam Zell: I think opportunity to reach 3-percent growth is real
Billionaire Sam Zell on markets: I think the current situation seems like irrational exuberance

The seemingly unstoppable rally that’s pushed the stock market to record high after record high is based on emotions not fundamentals, billionaire investor Sam Zell told CNBC on Tuesday.

“I think the current situation seems like irrational exuberance,” said the founder and chairman of the property specialist firm Equity Group Investments. Referring to “irrational exuberance,” he was echoing a warning that then-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan famously issued in 1996 about the market environment.

Zell said on “Squawk Box” that tech stocks and other highflyers, which have been largely responsible for the rally, belie the rather tepid returns from “average companies.” All assets, including stocks and property values, are too expensive, Zell said, adding he’s mostly in cash. On the real estate side, he said he’s been “selling stuff.” With a dearth of investment opportunities, he argued, the burden of holding cash is not as great as it would be otherwise.

Despite his rather pessimistic comments, Zell said he does see a path to increased economic growth due to the tax reform and deregulation policies of President Donald Trump.

“I think the opportunity for the country to grow at 3 percent is real,” but whether that happens remains to be seen, said Zell, who has described himself as socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Nick Bit: here me well their will soon be the biggest stock market crash ever….

 

 

Murders in Mexican resort of Tijuana top 1,700 in 2017 as rival drug gangs battle for control

After reaching a new high last year, the bloodshed in Tijuana has continued at an unrelenting pace in the first days of the new year as two powerful drug trafficking organisations battle for control of the city’s lucrative street drug sales. As murders soared to unprecedented levels across Mexico in 2017, Tijuana registered one of the steepest increases in the country. The tally for the year was a record 1,744 murders – almost double the record of 910 homicides set in 2016, according to figures from the Baja California Attorney General’s Office. The long-established Sinaloa cartel and a newer, aggressive group known as the cartel Nueva Generacion Jalisco, often abbreviated as CJNG, are fighting for supremacy in Tijuana. “The main issue right now with the power struggle is Sinaloa and the CJNG battling for street dealers, narcomenudeo,” said an official of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, speaking on condition of anonymity. “You have got to understand, the money that they make in Tijuana, that’s as much as crossing the border” with smuggled drugs. Though bullets have struck bystanders, the killings have been largely targeted and carried out in the city’s impoverished and working class neighbourhoods, authorities say. Close to 90 per cent of the victims are low-level operatives in the local drug trade, they said.

North Korea THREAT: Kim Jong-un could have as many 60 nuclear WARHEADS as WW3 fears brew

NORTH KOREA could have an atomic bomb capable of fitting on a missile, a nuclear scientist who has frequently visited the secretive state has warned
North Korea news Kim Jong-un Sig Hecker
Photos from 2016 show the rogue regime’s leader posing with what he claimed was a nuclear warhead small enough to be mounted on a missile.
North Korea could have an atomic bomb and between 30 and 60 small mobile nuclear warheads, Sig Hecker has warned.  Hecker, who was the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of America’s atomic bomb, warned that photos of Kim Jong-un posing with his nuclear arsenal could show an atomic bomb.  Speaking to CBS News’ 60 Minutes, he said: “What’s even more important than the 30 or 60, is how small can they make them.” North Korea leader Kim-Jong-un could have an atomic bomb, Hecker warned

This to me is one that I would call a spherical fission bomb, in other words, the atomic bomb

Sig Hecker

Asked what it looked like, Hecker said it resembled a fission bomb. He said: “This to me is one that I would call a spherical fission bomb, in other words, the atomic bomb.  “It looks like a simple bomb. However what I found most important about this is the size of it, it looks to be about 60 centimetres.  Hecker was was shown another photo of Kim’s weapons from September when North Korea unveiled a sleeker warhead design.

James Rubin: North Korea have ability to ‘hit any city in the US’

The regime said it was a much more powerful thermonuclear weapon. 

The nuclear expert said: “That shape is consistent with what we would call the two-stage thermonuclear weapon.  What that essentially means is sort of a modern hydrogen bomb.”
Asked whether it could be mounted to a missile, Hecler said: “They definitely want us to think so. In the background they actually show the warhead positioned in the nose cone of the missile which we interpreted to be an ICBM.” Kim Jong-un’s repeated tests of his atomic arsenal have caused tensions to heat up in Asia, bringing condemnation from numerous powers and fanned World War 3 fears.

Sweden predicted to become first country with own cryptocurrency

Sweden predicted to become first country with own cryptocurrency
A bitcoin ATM in Hong Kong. Photo: Kin Cheung/AP
Sweden could soon become the first country to launch its own cryptocurrency, an analyst at HSBC has predicted.

The Riksbank revealed in November 2016 that it was researching the possibility of launching its own digital currency in the form of an “e-krona”. Now, HSBC global economist James Pomeroy predicts Sweden will be the first country in the world to do so, and could launch within the next few years. One reason Sweden is particularly well positioned to be a leader in the field is that the card-friendly country is already more than comfortable with non-physical financial transactions. “Sweden is noticeably further ahead than the UK, mainland Europe and the US, which is a long way behind in this trend. Because of how technologically developed it is, you see a lot of new interesting things in economics quite a while before you see it elsewhere,” Pomeroy told The Local. “Sweden is really a standout in how cash usage is changing, with the use of cash for payments dwindling from about 40 percent in 2010 to about 15 percent in 2016. The Riksbank will publish more data on this this year and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it has fallen below 10.” The HSBC analyst thinks that it is no longer a question of whether Sweden will launch its own cryptocurrency or not, but rather, what specific form it will take.

Hedge funds intensify bearish dollar, U.S. bond bets: McGeever

Most of these bets are currently in the money. The dollar hit a three-year low on Monday, the 10-year Treasury yield last week rose to its highest since March, and the two-year yield is its highest since 2008.  But as U.S. currency and yields hit levels not seen in years, the size of bets needed to get them there is also growing. Many of these positions are getting stretched, in some cases close to record levels, casting doubt on how much more they can expand and therefore keep the current trends intact.  Data from the Chicago Futures Trading Commission show that hedge funds’ and speculative accounts’ short dollar position against a basket of major and emerging currencies virtually doubled in the week to Jan. 9, to $10.1 billion from $5.4 billion.That is the largest net short dollar position since the end of October last year.  The U.S. currency is on the slide, hitting a three-year low on a trade-weighted basis on Monday. It fell 10 percent last year, its worst year since 2003, but the New Year has brought no cheer – it’s down a further 1.8 percent in just two weeks.  Most of the FX market’s bearish view on the dollar is rooted in its bullish view on the euro. Net long euro positions leapt to a new record 144,691 contracts from 127,868, according to CFTC. That’s a $21.5 billion bet that the euro will strengthen. The latest CFTC data show hedge funds and speculators doubling down on short Treasuries positions, from short-dated two-year bonds out to longer-dated 10-year bonds.  Net short two-year Treasury futures positions rose to 267,622 contracts from just under 238,000 the week before. That’s the fourth largest short position since CFTC began compiling the data 20 years ago.

Ford is throwing $11 billion at its electric car problem

More than doubling its investment in EVs in bid to catch up with GM and other major automakers

Ford Motor Company said Sunday that it would more than double its investment in the production of electric vehicles, promising to spend $11 billion on the technology by 2022. The auto giant will roll out 16 fully electric cars within five years, the first of which would arrive in 2020. It was a dramatic escalation in Ford’s crosstown rivalry with General Motors, which has seen its stock prices rise thanks to its commitments to both electrification and autonomy. GM has said it plans to roll out at least 20 new electric cars by 2023, a goal that puts it in a position to bring battery-powered driving to the mainstream. Last week, it unveiled a concept autonomous car without steering wheel or pedals. Meanwhile, the Blue Oval has had a challenging 2017. It remains strongly profitable, but its sale are stagnant, its costs have increased faster than expected, and its margins have failed to meet targets. In May 2017, Mark Fields was replaced by Jim Hackett as CEO amid a larger management shuffle. Most of the big automakers have said in the past year that they plan on pivoting to all-electric lineups. Daimler AG, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, said it will produce electrified versions of all of its cars by 2022. Volvo announced it would phase out gas-only car production by 2019, while the Volkswagen Group is going to make everything electric in some shape or form by 2030. And China’s rising prominence in the auto market, in addition to that country’s restrictions on manufacturing fossil-fuel burning vehicles, is certainly putting pressure on the entire industry to go electric.Its certainly a significant increase in investment. In late 2015, Ford said it would spend $4.5 billion on its electrification program, which would translate into 13 electric cars on the road by 2020. Now, not only is the automaker doubling that promise, but it also said it would produce an all-electric sports car dubbed the “Mach 1.” Sunday’s announcement comes comes three months after Ford set up a group of employees, dubbed Team Edison, to study vehicle electrification. Basing these vehicles on nameplates that customers know, like Mustang, can help the company sell these vehicles, even as electric cars still only account for a fraction of annual sales, said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford.

Trump rips Wall Street Journal: I never said I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un

http://www.wsj.com/video/disputed-audio-from-donald-trump-interview-with-wsj/33003B4D-0DA4-4760-B913-0C2CDC903E74.html

“The Wall Street Journal stated falsely that I said to them ‘I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un’ (of N. Korea),” Trump tweeted.

“Obviously I didn’t say that. I said ‘I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un,’ a big difference. Fortunately we now record conversations with reporters…and they knew exactly what I said and meant. They just wanted a story. FAKE NEWS!”

His comments come after Trump reportedly said last week in an interview with the newspaper that he “probably” has a “very good relationship” with the North Korean leader. “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un,” Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.” When asked during the interview if he has spoken with Kim, Trump said he didn’t want to comment. “I’m not saying I have or haven’t,” Trump said. “I just don’t want to comment.”

The Wall Street Journal on Sunday pushed back against Trump’s claim, saying the publication “stands by what it reported.”

The Journal said it agreed with the White House before the interview that audiotape taken by administration officials and reporters would be used for “transcription purposes only.” “After the White House challenged the Journal’s transcription and accuracy of the quote in a story, The Journal decided to release the relevant portion of the audio. The White House then released its audio version of the contested segment,” the Journal said. “A transcript of the interview created by an independent transcription service for The Journal and posted online by the newspaper Thursday evening also said that Mr. Trump had said ‘I’ rather than ‘I’d.'” Trump last week told South Korea’s leader he was open to direct talks with North Korea on its nuclear program. “Sure. I always believe in talking,” he told reporters at Camp David. “If something can happen and something can come out of those talks, that would be a great thing for all of humanity.”  The president had previously dismissed the idea of direct talks with North Korea, tweeting in October that negotiations with the country were a waste of time.

Trump tweets DACA ‘probably dead’

(CNN)President Donald Trump again blamed Democrats on Sunday for the stall in talks over a potential immigration deal as the threat of a government shutdown looms this Friday.”DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our Military,” Trump tweeted Sunday morning. In a second tweet a few minutes later, he wrote: “I, as President, want people coming into our Country who are going to help us become strong and great again, people coming in through a system based on MERIT. No more Lotteries! #AMERICA FIRST.” Trump’s tweets came just hours after his administration resumed receiving renewal applications for “Dreamers” under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program following a federal court order blocking the administration from ending the program. The program has protected undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children from being deported. The administration announced the end of DACA in September, with recipients beginning to lose their status in early March. On Saturday morning, Trump tweeted, “I don’t believe the Democrats really want to see a deal on DACA. They are all talk and no action. This is the time but, day by day, they are blowing the one great opportunity they have. Too bad!” Trump’s remarks come after talks on a bipartisan immigration proposal froze after the President made disparaging comments in an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers in which he derided African nations as “shithole countries” and asked why more immigrants couldn’t come from Norway. Democrats have been demanding protections for DACA recipients in exchange for border security funding that could include money for Trump’s promised border wall. Trump has denied making the remarks, but Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who was at the White House meeting, said Friday that the President “said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly.” Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, who were also in the meeting and have been close allies to the President on the issue of immigration, said in a statement that they didn’t recall Trump making the derogatory comments, “but what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system, which does not protect American workers and our national interest.”

Lewandowski: Dems Will Push for Trump Impeachment if They Win House

Image: Lewandowski: Dems Will Push for Trump Impeachment if They Win House
Corey Lewandowski (Dre Angerer/Getty Images) By Sandy Fitzgerald | Sunday, 14 Jan 2018 09:01 AM

Democrats have some “good opportunities” in this year’s midterm elections to regain control over the House of Representatives, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said Sunday, and if that happens, Republicans and Trump will face a “real problem,” as one of the Democrats’ main goals will be to push for the president’s impeachment.”Their goal is to first and foremost stop the president’s agenda,” Lewandowski told radio talk show host John Catsimatidis in an interview on “The Cat’s Roundtable” on New York’s AM 970. “And, I think, their secondary goal is to file articles of impeachment against this president, which are completely unfounded.”Democrats are “exceptionally motivated” to run campaigns against Trump, said Lewandowski, who headed Trump’s campaign from 2015 until he was fired just before the 2016 Republican National Convention.  “If you look at the numbers, I think we’ve got 32 or 33 Republican members of Congress who have already announced they are not seeking reelection,” Lewandowski said. “The problem with that is the Democrats only have to take back 24 seats in the House in order to take over, and if that happens, we’ve got a real problem.” If that happens, they “may have some good opportunities in front of them in the 2018 cycle,” he added. There is already a push for Trump’s impeachment, led by Democratic Reps. Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Al Green of Texas, but party leaders are not on board yet with them, notes The Hill. However, 68 Democrats voted in December to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump.”Electing a president of the United States is the most important act American citizens take in setting the policies of their country. That should not be overturned except for the most egregious and demonstrable facts,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said after the vote. “Do we disagree with [Trump’s] policies? We do. But disagreeing with the policies is not enough to overturn an election — a free and fair election — of the American people.”

Doctors want President Trump’s head examined

 

(CNN)President Donald Trump is “in excellent health,” White House physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, said following his physical Friday. But it’s not clear whether any mental health tests were conducted, despite urging from mental health professionals. Jackson received an urgent letter from dozens of doctors and health professionals Thursday urging him to perform basic mental health tests on the President. While reviews of the past five presidents’ physical exams show only a brief mention of mental health and none of the records includes a readout of the mental health tests, this letter points out that mental evaluations are routine during physicals, particularly for patients who are 66 or older. Trump is 71. Medicare guidelines suggest patients in this age range should be evaluated for cognitive and neural health function. The White House has dismissed questions about Trump’s mental fitness, calling them “disgraceful and laughable.” They said, prior to the physical, that mental health testing was not something Trump would undergo. It will be up to President Trump what information he shares with the public. The letter was written to Jackson, who examined Trump.  “Without performing an evaluation of this kind, President Trump would be receiving care that is inadequate to the standard care regularly administered to millions of Americans covered by Medicare,” the letter argues. “Equally important, without this evaluation, the American people will not have a clear understanding about the health and well-being of the President, which is essential for Americans to know of any president.” While a true mental health evaluation can only happen in person, these experts have noted there is some “increasing concern” that the President may be struggling with some mental health challenges and they recommend the President’s doctor screen Trump for dementia. The letter does not explain how these concerns arose. Problems these experts say they have observed include rambling speech; episodes of slurred speech; failure to recognize old friends; frequent repetition of the same concepts; decreased fine motor coordination; difficulties reading, listening and comprehending; suspect judgment, planning, problem solving and impulse control; and markedly declining vocabulary in recent years, with overreliance on superlatives, according to the letter. The US Preventive Services Task Force advises doctors to look for early signs or symptoms of cognitive problems that include problems with memory or language changes. Among the medical professionals who wrote the letter, at least 15 made contributions to Democrats, and at least two have donated to Republicans, according to FEC records; however, not all have and many are well known experts in their field, from the United States, Canada and Germany. The letter concludes that a mental health evaluation is a must because “the health of the President relies on it — as do American lives and the safety of our nation.”

U.S. ambassador to Panama resigns, says cannot serve Trump

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Ambassador to Panama John Feeley, a career diplomat and former Marine Corps helicopter pilot, has resigned, saying he no longer felt able to serve President Donald Trump.Feeley’s departure had been communicated to State Department officials on Dec. 27 and was not a response to Trump’s alleged use of the word “shithole” to describe Haiti and African countries at a meeting on Thursday, U.S. officials said.  Feeley, one of the department’s Latin America specialists and among its senior most officers, made clear that he had come to a place where he no longer felt able to serve under Trump.“As a junior foreign service officer, I signed an oath to serve faithfully the president and his administration in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies,” Feeley said, according to an excerpt of a resignation letter read to Reuters on Friday.

“My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor bound to resign. That time has come.”

A State Department spokeswoman confirmed Feeley’s departure, saying that he “has informed the White House, the Department of State, and the Government of Panama of his decision to retire for personal reasons, as of March 9 of this year.”

The War On Cryptocurrency Just Intensified As Steve Mnuchin Enters The Fight

Steve might not be able to shoulder a rifle for very long, but his words constitute a preemptive, tactical strike on cryptocurrency. Here’s the details… we now have Steve Mnuchin, the man who’s name is printed on US Dollar,is  speaking out in what can only be described as an escalation in the War on Cryptocurrency.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he will work with the Group of 20 nations to prevent cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin from becoming the digital equivalent of an anonymous Swiss bank account.

Speaking to the Economic Club of Washington on Friday, he said wants to ensure “bad people cannot use these currencies to do bad things.”

Under U.S. law, “if you have a wallet to own bitcoins, that company has the same obligation as a bank to know” you as a customer, Mnuchin said. “We can track those activities. The rest of the world doesn’t have that, so one of the things we will be working very closely with the G-20 is making sure that this doesn’t become the Swiss bank account.”

So by all appearances, and straight from the horse’s mouth, it looks like the War on Cryptocurrency is intensifying. Mnuchin just hit the ground running, he’s locked-n-loaded, and he’s about to bring the fight to cryptocurrency, hot-n-heavy with guns ablazin’.

Panic in Hawaii as Civil Defense ACCIDENTALLY issues alert for ‘inbound ballistic missile threat’

Residents of Hawaii are furiously asking why it took officials a whole 37 minutes to correct a missile threat warning that was sent out on Saturday morning, sparking panic across the state 

Panic spread through the state of Hawaii on Saturday morning when residents received an alert on their phones warning of a ballistic missile threat that was accidentally sent out by Civil Defense.  Scores of confused residents tweeted screenshots of the warnings after receiving them shortly after 8am local time.  Hawaii falls within the range of the intercontinental ballistic missiles that North Korea have been testing in recent months as tensions between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un flare.  The initial alert was sent out at 8.08am, sparking hysteria across the state.  A correction was not issued for another 37 minutes despite government agencies confirming it was a false alarm to local media and on Twitter.   Residents of Hawaii are furiously asking why it took officials a whole 37 minutes to correct a missile threat warning that was sent out on Saturday morning, sparking panic across the state

This was the alert which was issued among residents at 8.08am, sparking hysteria and panic

China Reports Biggest-Ever Annual Trade Surplus With U.S.

Result could bolster Trump administration’s case for tougher penalties and other trade actions against Beijing
 

Containers at the Yangshan Deep Water Port in Shanghai in February. President Trump has promised sterner measures to curb the U.S.’s chronic trade imbalance with China.
Containers at the Yangshan Deep Water Port in Shanghai in February.
President Trump has promised sterner measures to curb the U.S.’s chronic trade imbalance with China.
 BEIJING—China  A global recovery led by the U.S. provided a shot in the arm for Chinese exporters last year, boosting China’s economy. Rising American demand, in particular, pushed up Chinese shipments, expanding China’s trade surplus in goods with the U.S. by 10% to $275.8 billion in 2017, according to Chinese customs data released Friday.

That figure, a record for the nearly five decades for which such data exist, marks the U.S.’s largest trade deficit with any trading partner.

By comparison, China’s overall foreign trade surplus contracted 17% as higher prices of oil, iron ore and other commodities raised the value of inbound shipments from countries like Russia, Australia and Saudi Arabia. The widening of the China-U.S. trade imbalance comes as U.S. and Chinese officials and business groups warn of sharper clashes over trade between the world’s largest economies. Made in ChinaChina’s long-expanding trade surplus with theU.S. hit its widest level in 2017.Sources: Wind Information; General Administrationof Customs “The risks of growing U.S.-China trade conflicts are high,” said Zhang Ming, a senior economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think-tank in Beijing. President Donald Trump has promised sterner measures to curb the U.S.’s chronic trade imbalance with China. In a turnabout in tactics, Trump administration officials have set aside the longstanding practice of eking out piecemeal concessions from Beijing on trade and market access. Instead, U.S. officials are preparing sanctions or other enforcement actions against China to try to challenge practices that the administration says favor Chinese companies and restrict U.S. ones. The Trump administration faces a series of decisions in the coming weeks and months on whether to enact penalties on imports of Chinese products such as steel, aluminum, washing machines and solar equipment. An investigation is proceeding on whether China is forcing American companies to turn over proprietary technologies and information in exchange for access to the Chinese market. Mr. Trump savaged China as a predatory trader during his campaign for the presidency, though he has toned down his rhetoric since.  Nick Bit: this is clearly a failure in Trump policy and promises. The Truth is he has done nothing. The Chinese see him as weak and a bullshit artists. In fact the Chinese have been reducing the value of the Yuan against the dollar making their goods coming into America even cheaper. I want you to recall Trump promised you the first thing he would do is declare China a currency manipulator… No declaration and we have a record low Yuan and a record breaking Chinese trade deficit.

Stock funds rake in $24 billion in the first week of 2018, sixth-biggest inflow ever

It worries me that no one seems to be worried about markets: Former Fed Governor   Investor money gushed into stock-based funds during the first full week of trading in 2018, another potential trigger sign of an overheated market. “The bull capitulation begins,” Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at Bank of America, said in his weekly fund flow roundup. The numbers were stunning for a week during which stocks added around 1 percent to the already eye-popping gains that began shortly before the November 2016 presidential election.

Stock funds raked in $24.4 billion for the week through Wednesday, a total that Hartnett called “blockbuster” and was spread across the equity spectrum. It was the sixth-biggest equity inflow total ever and the most in at least six months.

The total was diverse geographically — $6.4 billion to the US, with $3.2 billion to Japan, $2.2 billion to Europe and $4.3 billion to emerging markets, the largest inflows for that group in 73 weeks. There also was some dispersion between active and passive strategies. Exchange-traded funds, a mostly passive group that tracks market indexes like the S&P 500, have been attracting the bulk of investor cash during the nearly nine-year bull market run, while active funds have seen continuous outflows. However, active mutual funds garnered $2.1 billion of the weekly inflows to start the year. “Investors are unambiguously long and will likely stay so until rates go up and/or [earnings per share] goes down,” Hartnett said. “The fund flows figures are going to capture the start of the new year, with new 401(k) contributions a big part of it. That tapers off as the year gets older,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR. “If this was the first or second week of August or September, when seasonality slows down, I’d be be much more concerned.”

 

Walmart is reportedly planning to cut over 1,000 corporate jobs

A Walmart store is seen on January 16, 2016 in Chinatown, Los Angeles, one of seven Walmart stores in Southern California and 269 stores across the globe that will close down due to company restructuring.
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images A Walmart store is seen on January 16, 2016 in Chinatown, Los Angeles, one of seven Walmart stores in Southern California and 269 stores across the globe that will close down due to company restructuring

Walmart is planning to cut over 1,000 corporate jobs, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday citing sources. The layoffs, expected to be completed by Jan. 31, 2019, will focus largely on employees in its corporate headquarters, the report said. Walmart, the country’s largest private employer, has 1.5 million workers in the U.S. and 2.3 million around the world. The news comes a day after a whirlwind Thursday for Walmart, when it announced in the morning it would be boosting its starting wage, just hours before news began to trickle out it was closing certain Sam’s Clubs stores. The company confirmed the store closures by Thursday evening.

In all, more than 60 Sam’s Club stores are closing.

Meantime, Walmart is also shaking up its management workforce, according to a report by Bloomberg. The report said the retailer is planning to remove about 3,500 store co-managers and adding 1,700 assistant store managers. The latter is a slightly lower-paid role.

Walmart, like many retailers, is attempting to reorient itself to a new retail landscape in which store footprints are out of sync of shoppers. It is also battling e-commerce giant Amazon, whose advanced investment in technology helps it leapfrog traditional stores’ profit margins. Nick Bit: Translation for corporate bullshit speak! They got to damn many stores its the retail space bubble that IS crashing as we speak

It has sought to make its store more profitable by pouring money into shelf-scanning robots and cashier-replacing capabilities. Walmart expects to roll out its “Scan & Go” technology to 100 more locations.

More broadly, it has also looked to redefine itself as a digital company, even planning to drop the word “stores” from its name. These efforts have been propelled by its acquisition of Amazon-competitor Jet.com, through which it has been building a coterie of online brands. A Walmart spokesperson said, “As we’ve previously stated, we’ve been looking at our structure for some time as we explore ways to operate more effectively. We continue to do that but are not going to comment on rumors and speculation.” Nick Bit:  I wonder of the tens of thousands Walmart is going to fire how many will be eligible for the up to $1000 chump change bonus?

Mueller Makes Move Signaling He Might be Looking at Conspiracy Charges for Hacking

A recent hire for Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia probe could shed some light on where the investigation is going. Ryan K. Dickey reportedly joined the team in November, according to a statement from a Mueller spokesperson on Thursday. Dickey has served in the Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and was on the team that prosecuted and convicted Romanian hacker Marcel Lehel Lazar, aka Guccifer. With Dickey now part of Mueller’s office, that could indicate that the probe is looking at cyber-related activities.  University of Georgia law professor Page Pate said this may be a sign that Mueller is looking at possible conspiracy charges related to Russian hacking, should there be evidence that Donald Trump‘s campaign had knowledge of Russian cyber-attacks when they happened.

If Mueller’s team can detect evidence that connects Russian hacks to Trump’s campaign, that could be a breakthrough for the investigation. If the Trump campaign was involved in Russian hacking, there could be federal conspiracy charges for being a party to Russia’s illegal activity. There’s also the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which penalizes the theft of property using computers in order to carry out a “scheme to defraud.” If Dickey or anyone else in Mueller’s office uncovers evidence that the Trump campaign helped Russia carry out such acts, they could charge campaign members with violations. Alternatively, the Mueller’s office could also be looking into Russian-backed social media ads that contained charged political messages. Jared Kushner was known to have run a lot of the Trump campaign’s digital efforts. As attorney Bradley Moss said on the Law&Crime Network on Friday, if there is evidence that Kushner worked with Russia in using bots on social media to push pro-Trump messages, he could be in trouble, if he hid or lied about this when filling out his security clearance application.

Tax code gains gloss up big banks’ muted earnings results

 

President Trump’s giant tax overhaul is scrambling the end-of-year earnings at the biggest US banks, causing huge swings in profit for what would have otherwise been a muted quarter. JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the US, reported a big drop in profit on Friday for its third quarter, thanks largely to changes in the tax law and a major loan gone bust — but still expects last month’s tax overhaul to bring in beaucoup bucks.

The bank, helmed by CEO Jamie Dimon, brought in $4.23 billion in profits, or $1.07 a share, last quarter, a 37 percent drop from the year before. The results were sharply lower than the $1.69 expected by analysts.

Changes in the tax code, which cut the bank’s effective tax rate by 10 percentage points in the US to 21 percent, ended up costing the bank $2.4 billion. The charge, largely related to repatriating money, was expected. Marianne Lake, the bank’s CFO, called the hit the “transaction impact” of tax reform during a call with journalists on Friday morning. Aside from the tax hit, however, the bank’s earnings were about flat from last year. It appears that not every bank will see the same hit from the tax overhaul, though. Wells Fargo, which was mired in numerous consumer scandals last year, saw an increase in profit to $6.15 billion, or $1.16 a share, above the $1.07 a share expected by analysts. The tax bill ended up boosting the company’s profit, because Wells had expected a larger amount of tax liabilities in the future. The bill essentially cut those liabilities down. Nick Bit: If JP Morgan chase had been trading bitcoin they would have had all time record breaking profits

Ethereum hits a fresh record high and is up over 13,000% in a year

Ethereum and Bitcoin coins.
Getty Images Ethereum and Bitcoin coin

Ethereum hit another all-time high Wednesday with the cryptocurrency now up more than 60 percent in a week. The digital currency hit a record high of $1,417.38 before paring some of those gains, according to CoinDesk, a website that tracks the prices of the digital currency. Ethereum is up over 13,000 percent in the last year. Ethereum is the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization behind bitcoin, with a value of $131.5 billion, CoinDesk data shows. The digital coin is backed by a blockchain, much like bitcoin, but the technology is slightly different and aimed at a specific use case: smart contracts. Many see it as a cryptocurrency with a real world use because of large companies that are experimenting with the technology. A consortium called the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, which includes companies like Microsoft and JP Morgan, is looking to develop applications using the Ethereum blockchain. There also appears to be a sense of investors looking at alternative digital coins to make a profit. Ripple recently surged to a record high before plunging. Some of that money may have been funneled into ethereum. As of 8:00 a.m. London time on Wednesday, over 43 percent of purchases of ethereum had been made using bitcoin, according to CryptoCompare. Last year also saw just over $3.7 billion raised via initial coin offerings (ICO), a process where a company can raise money by issuing a new digital token. Investors do not get a stake in the company, but these tokens can be traded, or may be used on a service that the issuing firm offers. Many of these ICOs are built on the ethereum protocol, which has helped the cryptocurrency gain traction.  Some of the developers behind ethereum have also been speaking publicly about the cryptocurrency. Steven Nerayoff, one of its co-creators said the increasing number of projects built on the Ethereum blockchain could trigger a so-called “flippening” in 2018, leading the digital coin to overtake bitcoin. Flippening refers to investors putting money into alternative cryptocurrencies. Nerayoff told CNBC on Monday that the price of ethereum could “easily” double or triple by the end of the year.

But many have also sounded the alarm about the cyrptocurrency market. Another Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson told CNBC on Tuesday that the cryptocurrency market will see a “crash” and then consolidation.

Noted Wall Street bear Davis Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s former director of the Office of Management, also told CNBC that the cryptocurrency boom will end disastrously.  “It’s basically a class of really stupid speculators who have convinced themselves that trees grow to the sky,” he said in an interview earlier this month. Nick Bit: of course Bitcoin is a wild speculation and yes it will crash and rise many many times before its established technology…. As far as investors convincing themselves that tress grow to the sky he must be talking about stock market speculators… who have  convinced themselves they are NOT speculating in stocks. BOTH markets will crash. I am log bitcoin and short stocks!

G.M. Says Its Driverless Car Could Be in Fleets by Next Year

General Motors says its Cruise AV, with no driving wheel or pedals, could be ready for commercial ride services next year if it gets the necessary federal and state approvals. Credit G.M.

The advent of self-driving cars, the subject of so much fanfare over the last few years by automakers and technology companies, may be just around the corner — at least according to General Motors. On Friday, G.M. submitted a petition to the United States Department of Transportation seeking permission to begin operating fully autonomous cars — without steering wheels or pedals — in commercial ride-hailing and taxi services in 2019. What’s more, the company said the autonomous vehicle, called the Cruise AV, could be put into production on a standard assembly line once approval is granted by the federal and any authorities in states where they would operate. The Cruise AV is a version of the battery-powered Chevrolet Bolt. The Bolt and Cruise AV prototypes are produced at a factory in Orion Township, Mich., although a G.M. spokesman declined to confirm if mass production of the self-driving model would take place there. “There are a number of hurdles to clear before self-driving cars transition from laboratory experiments to real-world functionality,” said Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, an automotive data firm. “Two of those hurdles, mass production and government regulation, appear to be within General Motors’ grasp. If government approval is granted, and G.M. begins providing autonomous taxi service to end users in multiple markets, we’ll officially be living in a world of self-driving cars.”

A popular bitcoin stock announced a 91-for-1 split that could make it more accessible to the masses

Grayscale Investment’s Bitcoin Investment Trust, a stock that seeks to mirror the price of bitcoin, announced Friday a 91-for-1 stock split that would drastically reduce the price of shares, making them more accessible to retail investors. GBTC is up about 13% on the news, trading at $1,937 per share Friday morning. At current prices, the split would make the new price for a single share of the bitcoin trust just above $21 per share. The split won’t affect GBTC’s market value, which is about $3.19 billion on the OTC market, but it will make shares more accessible to retail investors who may be more likely to buy the stock at the new lower prices than the old higher ones. GBTC was the second most popular stock on millennial trading platform Stockpile last year. The app allows users to buy fractional shares of expensive companies. Through this stock split, the company may be able to capitalize on younger investors’ interest in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. A GBTC spokesperson declined to comment on the announcement. The company holds 0.0918 BTC for every share of the company, according to its website, and shares regularly move in-line with the price of bitcoin – both of which are down about 13% in the past week. Shareholders will receive their 90 new shares on January 26, which will leave the company with 174,410,600 shares outstanding. Shares of GBTC are up 1700% in the past year. Bitcoin is up 1659% in the same per. Nick Bit: as you know we have a standiging recommendation in GBTC…. Now the FUN starts!!

Under-the-radar store closures are leaving big gaps and putting more malls at risk

Shoppers walk through the Easton Town Center Mall in Columbus, Ohio.
Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images Shoppers walk through the Easton Town Center Mall in Columbus, Ohio

More stores could be closing across the U.S. than we ever read about, leaving malls with even bigger gaps to fill.

Out of the roughly 2,500 stores that closed in U.S. malls over the past year, excluding department stores, about 980 weren’t publicly announced, according to a new report from Green Street’s Advisory Group. That list includes names like Stride Rite, Hallmark, Claire’s and Men’s Wearhouse, the firm found.

More companies are choosing to silently shutter their doors by letting their leases terminate, thereby escaping any public mess, Jim Sullivan, president of Green Street’s Advisory Group, told CNBC.

“Many important national retailers are closing … where there hasn’t been fanfare, and it hasn’t been as obvious,” Sullivan said. “A lot of the focus has been on anchor-store closings, which is an important part, but some of these other signals are happening under the radar with the in-line tenants, which can be just as important but not as obvious.” These moves are likely to become a bigger trend in 2018, especially in the wake of real estate investment trust Simon Property Group winning a case brought against Starbucks. The coffee giant attempted to close a handful of its Teavana stores, but was blocked. The ruling was a win for real estate developers, but now retailers are prepared to be more subtle as they move out. Meanwhile, the pressure from these closures makes it easier for the retailers that are still opening new stores across the country, including H&M, Land’s End and Finish Line. These companies can be “very selective,” unlike how they operated in the past, and are rarely considering moving into anything but a “high-quality” property, Sullivan explained. Already, liquidation sales are in place for the 103 Sears and Kmart stores, and 11 Macy’s locations, that will close early this year. Other names like Gap, Children’s Place, Mattress Firm and Ascena Retail Group, the owner of Ann Taylor and Loft, are also expected to trim back their store counts in 2018.

The number of stores expected to close both in and out of malls across the U.S. this year totals 1,509, only 12 days into 2018, according to FGRT (formerly Fung Global Retail & Technology). That tally includes the 63 Sam’s Club locations that Walmart revealed on Thursday would close as soon as this week. Store closures aside, more bankruptcies are looming and many could hit early this year, according to Credit Suisse Group.  Nick Bit: As we have been warning we have 5 times the retail space we need in America and stores will be closing in mass. And REIT investors will be wiped out…..

Trump lawyer arranged hush money payment to porn star – report

Michael Cohen, personal attorney for U.S. President

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal attorney, arranged a $130,000 payment to a leading porn star in return for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, say that Cohen arranged the payment in October 2016 to Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels. Clifford was one of the most popular adult actresses in the country when she met Mr. Trump in 2006 at a golf championship in Nevada. She was 27 years old at the time, and Mr. Trump would have just turned 60. “These are old, recycled reports, which were published and strongly denied prior to the election,” a White House official said in response. Cohen didn’t comment on the alleged pay-off, although he did tell the paper that “President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Ms. Daniels.” “This is now the second time that you are raising outlandish allegations against my client,” Cohen added. “You have attempted to perpetuate this false narrative for over a year; a narrative that has been consistently denied by all parties since at least 2011.” Cohen also sent the paper a statement signed by “Stormy Daniels” denying that she has a “sexual and/or romantic affair” with Mr. Trump, who married his wife Melania in 2005. Clifford had been in talks to discuss Mr. Trump with ABC’s “Good Morning America” in the weeks leading up to the election when Cohen arranged the payment to her, according to the Journal. The payment, the Journal reports, was made through Clifford’s attorney, Keith Davidson. Davidson declined to comment on the story, citing “attorney-client privilege.” After the golf outing in Nevada in which he met Clifford, Mr. Trump was accused by adult-film actress Jessica Drake of kissing her against her will. Drake told the paper she did “not receive any money for coming forward” and was not subject to a non-disclosure agreement. The White House dismisses Drake’s claim as “totally false and ridiculous.” Clifford reportedly entertained the idea of challenging then-Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, in 2010. At the time, she said she was a Republican.

A popular bitcoin stock announced a 91-for-1 split that could make it more accessible to the masses

Grayscale Investment’s Bitcoin Investment Trust, a stock that seeks to mirror the price of bitcoin, announced Friday a 91-for-1 stock split that would drastically reduce the price of shares, making them more accessible to retail investors. GBTC is up about 13% on the news, trading at $1,937 per share Friday morning. At current prices, the split would make the new price for a single share of the bitcoin trust just above $21 per share. The split won’t affect GBTC’s market value, which is about $3.19 billion on the OTC market, but it will make shares more accessible to retail investors who may be more likely to buy the stock at the new lower prices than the old higher ones. GBTC was the second most popular stock on millennial trading platform Stockpile last year. The app allows users to buy fractional shares of expensive companies. Through this stock split, the company may be able to capitalize on younger investors’ interest in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. A GBTC spokesperson declined to comment on the announcement. The company holds 0.0918 BTC for every share of the company, according to its website, and shares regularly move in-line with the price of bitcoin – both of which are down about 13% in the past week. Shareholders will receive their 90 new shares on January 26, which will leave the company with 174,410,600 shares outstanding. Shares of GBTC are up 1700% in the past year. Bitcoin is up 1659% in the same period. Nick Bit: As you know we posted a buy on GTBC… If you bought job well done.  f you have not bought what the hell are you waiting for?

Jailed Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Saudi Arabia’s richest man, is running out of time to make a deal

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
Mary Catherine Wellons | CNBC Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

It’s been more than two months since Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was first arrested and detained in what the Saudi government still calls an “anti-corruption” sweep. Yet the first sign of things getting more serious came early this week when Alwaleed was moved out of his restricted quarters at the Riyadh Ritz Carlton Hotel and moved to Al Ha’ir prison, according to the London-based Arabic news site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. Al Ha’ir is not exactly the Bastille, but the decision to get Alwaleed to a more secluded and secure location is ominous. For more than two months, the prince had been held at the Riyadh Ritz along with what had originally been 200 of his fellow princes and top officials. That number has dwindled to just a few prisoners. Most of the former detainees have bought their freedom with payments and other forms of capitulation to the new Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. But bin Talal is holding out, reportedly balking at the $6 billion bin Salman is demanding from him and/or control of some of his investment companies. Prince bin Salman came to power last summer when King Salman made the extremely unusual move to change the order of succession and make bin Salman crown prince. Since then he has been beefing up Saudi Arabia’s military defenses against Iran, strengthening ties to the U.S. and even Israel in the process. In the fall, he further moved to purge the country of anti-Semitic and anti-American Islamic clerics. In November, bin Salman’s economic reforms morphed into this arrest of Alwaleed and those 200 other princes and officials who were at least potential rivals in the overall power grab. It’s not that many of the crown prince’s goals aren’t prudent or even admirable. But the matter of human rights is being pushed aside. So is due process. Another example of that happened this week with the Saudi government’s outright seizure of the Binladin Group construction giant. A Reuters report says the government has taken managerial control and may also erase up to $30 billion in debt it owes the company. This is happening as leading members of the Bin Laden family, yes the extended family of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, were detained as well. One of the most stunning aspects of bin Talal’s detention is how quiet his long list of influential friends have been about it. This week brought at least some mention of his plight with a statement from two former French presidents who expressed concern over Alwaleed’s status. . So now we have bin Alwaleed in an actual prison, with a government aggressively taking cash and assets, and still no significant outcry from his foreign friends. It may seem unrelated, but bin Salman has also been on an opulent buying spree. That includes record-breaking purchases of art, a yacht and a French chateau. It begs the question of whether some of this stems from his desire to be the most conspicuously wealthy leader in the country.  None of this very public behavior is drawing public rebuke from the crown prince’s friends in Trump administration and elsewhere. They are clearly okay with the ends justifying whatever means he’s using to modernize the country and strengthen its ability to oppose Iran. The fact that the lucrative Saudi Aramco IPO is coming soon could be another reason that Alwaleed’s supposed friends in the world of finance aren’t making a public stink. They want to curry favor with the Saudis now to gain access.

 

Trump Blames Embassy Move For Canceled London Trip

TheresaMay-Trump-011218-lt.jpg

President Donald Trump revealed in a post on Twitter late Thursday that he is canceling a trip to London to open the new U.S. embassy. Trump claimed the cancellation was due to a decision by former President Barack Obama to move the embassy, although the relocation was initiated under former President George W. Bush. “Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for ‘peanuts,’ only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!” Trump tweeted. The first steps toward the relocation of the U.S. embassy in London were taken in October of 2008, a month before Obama was elected. Then-Ambassador Robert Tuttle said the decision to move the embassy reflected the realization that the construction of a new facility was the best way to achieve the goal of a “modern, secure and environmentally sustainable embassy.” A past statement from the U.S. embassy also noted that the new facility was funded entirely by the proceeds of the sale of other U.S. government properties in London, not through appropriated funds.

Meanwhile, some British politicians such as London Mayor Sadiq Khan argued that Trump’s decision to cancel his visit actually reflected concerns about mass protects. 

“President Trump got the message from the many Londoners who love and admire America and Americans but find his policies and action the polar opposite of our city’s values,” Khan said in a statement. Khan called it a mistake for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to invite Trump and said he hopes the president also revisits the pursuit of his “divisive agenda.” Trump engaged in a public back-and-forth with May last November after he retweeted three anti-Muslim videos originally posted by the deputy leader of the far-right, ultranationalist group Britain First.

One former Fed governor is worried that no one is worried about the strong economy

Perhaps people should be more concerned about the strong economy — at least that’s what former Federal Reserve governor Randy Kroszner says. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm in markets, but the thing that worries me the most is that people don’t seem to be worried,” Kroszner told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” on Friday. As of now, the markets are rallying and the economy is robust with apparently no end in sight. But some economists think the economy is at or near full employment and worry about a possibility of overheating growth. Earlier on Friday, Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan told CNBC, “We’re going to overshoot full employment.” “The history of overshooting full employment in this country has not been a happy one,” leading to an “overheating” and the Fed playing catch up, Kaplan said. “What happens then is you tend to often have a recession.” Meanwhile, Kroszner also sees the low volatility in the markets as possibly troublesome. There should be at least average volatility “given all the geopolitical risks, given a lot of uncertainty with respect to policies,” said Kroszner, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago. But so-called synchronized global growth, which he said is rare, is contributing to the steady growth and confidence levels. Kroszner said the new Republican tax overhaul, which President Donald Trump signed into law last month, is a positive sign both short- and long-term. “We’ve had a very slow investment recovery,” he said. “If you have better investment incentives and investment-friendly regulatory environment, you’re likely to get more investment, which will lead to higher productivity, and that increases long-run growth.” “This is a very goofy time in the economy cycle to be trying to spur the economy with that type of stimulus with the [low] unemployment rate,” Luke Tilley, chief economist at Wilmington Trust, told CNBC on Friday. “Firms are having a hard time finding people. A tax plan that spurs the economy can be inflationary because you already don’t have a lot of slack in the economy.”

MoneyGram to test cryptocurrency Ripple

MoneyGram (MGI) plans to test a cryptocurrency — one whose price has shot up even more than that of bitcoin — as a way to send funds.  The money transfer company said Thursday it is teaming with Ripple in a pilot of the blockchain technology company’s XRP digital currency. The price of XRP, which also goes by the name Ripple, has soared more than 30,000 percent over the last 12 months, rising from fractions of a penny to $2.14, according to Coinmarketcap. The value of Bitcoin, which traded Thursday at $14,181.70, has risen 1,200 percent this year.

MoneyGram said that so-called blockchain technology, the software code on which Ripple and other digital currencies are built, can make it easier to move money across borders, including for MoneyGram.

“The inefficiencies of global payments don’t just affect banks, they also affect institutions like MoneyGram,” Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse said in a statement. “By using a digital asset like XRP that settles in three seconds or less, they can now move money as quickly as information.”MoneyGram shares rose more than 8 percent, to $13.15, after it announced the Ripple partnership.  Nick Bit: MoneyGram could be a big winner if it the first to adapt Crptocurrencies transfers… Somebody has got a brain their.

Schumer: Trump Tweet About Russia Probe Should Concern GOP

Image: Schumer: Trump Tweet About Russia Probe Should Concern GOP

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Republicans to reject President Donald Trump’s call for the GOP to “finally take control” of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. “You never thought you’d hear a president say something like this. Frankly, you never thought you’d hear such silence from the other side of the aisle when he does. Republican lawmakers ought to shout down that kind of appeal,” Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said Thursday, The Hill reported.Trump’s comment “should send shivers down our spines,” Schumer said, referring to a Wednesday tweet from the president:

Schumer said that he believed Republicans and some in the conservative media have tried to wage a “right-wing smear campaign” to discredit the Russia investigation, the Hill reported.”In my judgment, at least, for partisan reasons, Republicans in Congress and some in some parts of the media, the conservative parts of the media, have sought to undermine the Russia investigation in countless ways,” he said.The senator also was critical of Trump Tuesday, when he said that if the government is forced to shut down over funding a border wall, Trump would be blamed.

Citigroup warns New York and California homeowners could see tax bills go up about $3,000

We put a sell on KB Homes after tax bill. Here's why: Citi analyst
We put a sell on KB Homes after tax bill. Here’s why: Citi analyst

Homeowners in high-tax states on the coasts are going to feel the pinch from the new Republican law overhauling the personal code, according to a Citigroup real estate analyst.

“If you live in New York, Connecticut, or California, you’re going to get hurt,” said Will Randow on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”on Thursday.

On average per household, residents in those states could see their tax bills go up about $3,000, he calculated. The reason comes down to a change in the GOP tax law having do to with the so-called SALT provision. The new approach caps at $10,000 a combination of state and local and taxes including property taxes that filers can deduct from their federal returns. Previously, there was no limit. To help mitigate that change, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act almost doubles the standard income tax deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples.

But for many residents in high-tax states, that accommodation won’t be enough to keep their tax bills from increasing.

“People in the higher-income groups … can afford the incremental spend,” Randow said. “Maybe Christmas is lighter. But I don’t think they’re going to get hit.” For others, owning a home might not be the incentive that it used to be in those states, leading to more sellers and lower prices. The National Association of Realtors is forecasting home prices to be down 10 percent for California, Randow pointed out. First time homebuyers might also be hesitant due to higher prices, he added.

Walmart hikes minimum wage, announces layoffs on same day

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Walmart will raise entry-level wages for U.S. hourly employees to $11 an hour in February as it benefits from last month’s major overhaul of the U.S. tax code and competes for low wage workers in a tight labor market.But on the same day, the world’s largest retailer and private employer, officially called Wal-Mart Stores Inc, announced layoffs as it shuttered many of its Sam’s Club discount warehouse stores.  A senior company official who declined to be named said about 62 stores would be affected, about one tenth of the chain overall. About 50 stores will be shut permanently after a review of store profitability and up to 12 more stores will be shut and reopened as e-commerce warehouses, the person said Earlier on Thursday, Walmart announced the wage hike saying it would also offer a one-time cash bonus, based on length of service, of up to $1,000, and expand maternity and parental leave benefits.

The layoffs went unaddressed but the wage increase attracted praise from the White House.

“Walmart is the largest employer in the country and to see them make that kind of effort to over a million workers is a big deal… and I think further evidence that the tax reform and tax cut package are having the impact that we had hoped,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Thursday. Nick Bit: don’t be fooled. Big corporations are getting ready to pay out billions in bonuses to insiders. These publicity stunts are little more then tgrwoing workers a bone.

Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Thursday balked at an immigration deal that would include protections for people from Haiti and some nations in Africa, demanding to know at a White House meeting why he should accept immigrants from “shithole countries” rather than from places like Norway, according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation. Mr. Trump’s remarks, the latest example of his penchant for racially tinged remarks denigrating immigrants, left members of Congress from both parties attending the meeting in the Cabinet Room alarmed and mystified. He made them during a discussion of an emerging bipartisan deal to give legal status to immigrants illegally brought to the United States as children, those with knowledge of the conversation said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the meeting.

When Mr. Trump heard that Haitians were among those who would benefit from the proposed deal, he asked whether they could be left out of the plan, asking, “Why do we want people from Haiti here?”

The comments were reminiscent of ones the president made last year in an Oval Office meeting with cabinet officials and administration aides, during which he complained about admitting Haitians to the country, saying that they all had AIDS, as well as Nigerians, who he said would never go back to their “huts,” according to officials who heard the statements in person or were briefed on the remarks by people who had. The White House vehemently denied last month that Mr. Trump made those remarks. “This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation,” Ms. Love went on in an emotional statement that noted her heritage and that said her parents “never took a thing” from the government while achieving the American dream. “The president must apologize to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned.” “As an American, I am ashamed of the president,” said Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez, Democrat of Illinois. “His comments are disappointing, unbelievable, but not surprising.” He added, we can now “say with 100 percent confidence that the president is a racist who does not share the values enshrined in our Constitution or Declaration of Independence.” The reactions were extraordinary bipartisan rebukes to a sitting president, but they only fanned what has been a long-simmering debate over Mr. Trump’s views and talk on race. Nick Bit: of course Trump is a raciest. Is this some new revelation? I think not. His core group are white good ole boy factory workers. Brannon is a Know raciest……. and Jew hater! Their is no discussion Trumps own words prove he is a raciest. So Obama hated white people! get use to it

US unemployment claims rise to three-month high despite expectations that they would fall

US filings for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose to a three-month high last week despite expectations that they would drop, the It said initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 261,000 for the week ended January 6, putting it at the highest level since late September. Economists had forecast claims falling to 245,000 A large part of the country faced frigid temperatures and snow during the first week of 2018, likely making it hard for some people to report for work. Unadjusted claims for New York rose by 27,170 last week, more than half of the national total. Claims have risen since mid-December, though the data tend to be volatile during year-end holidays. However, last week marked the 149th straight week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with a strong labour market. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labour market was much smaller.

Last week, the four-week moving average of initial claims rose 9,000 to 250,750. That is considered a better measure of labour market trends, as it irons out week-to-week volatility. The continuing low level of claims suggests a strong labour market, but the pace of job growth is expected to slow this year. That’s because the labour market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at a 17-year low of 4.1 per cent. Non-farm payrolls increased by 148,000 jobs in December after surging by 252,000 jobs in November. At the same time, further increases in jobless claims could suggest that labour-market progress is hitting bumps.

U.S. natural-gas supplies mark record weekly drop

Getty Images A man stands on a waterfront deck near the frozen Hudson River on January 5, 2018 in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

U.S. natural-gas supplies logged a record weekly decline, lifting prices to their highest levels in at least a week. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Thursday domestic supplies of natural gas fell by 359 billion cubic feet for the week ended Jan. 5.

‘This week’s EIA 359 Bcf estimate is a biggie, in any measure.’

Richard Hastings, Seaport Global Securities

The weekly decline is “a biggie, in any measure,” said Richard Hastings, macro strategist at Seaport Global Securities. “It is a whopping 25% larger than the old record of 288 [billion cubic feet] from early January 2014 and almost 8% ahead of consensus estimates.” Analysts, on average, forecast a decrease of 337 billion, while the five-year average withdrawal for the week is 169 billion, according to S&P Global Platts. The size of the weekly supply withdrawal topped the previous record fall of 288 billion cubic feet in January of 2014, during the Polar Vortex, according to oil-and-gas analytics firm Drillinginfo. That is when some parts of the nation experienced their coldest temperatures in 20 years. Working gas in storage totaled 2.767 trillion cubic feet, down 415 billion from the same period a year ago, and 382 billion below the five year average of 3.149 billion cubic feet, the EIA data showed. The data suggest “the risk of an undersupplied gas market is really coming into focus—that new cold waves could really wipe out more inventory before we get to early March 2018,” said Hastings.

A settlement around this level would be the highest for a most-active contract since Jan. 2, based on FactSet data. If prices settle closer to the day’s high of $3.076, that would be the highest finish in about six weeks. Parts of the central and eastern U.S. saw record-low temperatures in late December through early January, according to The Weather Channel. Cold weather boosts demand for heating fuels such as natural gas.  “There is plenty of natural gas around (nationwide & worldwide),” Kerr said. “A sustained cold snap causes demand spikes and drawdowns of local supplies until they can be replenished with replacement supply transported in from other areas not affected by weather.” So “even prolonged cold snaps likely will not hold prices up for long,” he said.

Mueller adds veteran cyber prosecutor to special-counsel team

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on Capitol Hill in June. (Andrew Harnik/AP) By Matt Zapotosky
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has added a veteran cyber prosecutor to his team, filling what has long been a gap in expertise and potentially signaling a recent focus on computer crimes. Ryan K. Dickey was assigned to Mueller’s team in early November from the Justice Department’s computer crime and intellectual-property section, said a spokesman for the special counsel’s office. He joined 16 other lawyers who are highly respected by their peers but who have come under fire from Republicans wary of some of their political contributions to Democrats. Dickey’s addition is particularly notable because he is the first publicly known member of the team specializing solely in cyber issues. The others’ expertise is mainly in a variety of white-collar crimes, including fraud, money laundering and public corruption, though Mueller also has appellate specialists and one of the government’s foremost experts in criminal law. Zainab Ahmad and Brandon Van Grack have handled some cybercrime issues in the past, though they are recognized more for their work on terrorism and national security. With indications that special counsel Robert Mueller is seeking an interview with President Trump, here are some burning questions his team will want to ask. Mueller was appointed in May to investigate any possible links or coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 election, and any matters that might arise out of that work. He has charged or negotiated plea deals with four former Trump campaign or administration officials, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign manager Paul Manafort, though Manafort’s charges have nothing to do with his work for Trump. Flynn and another former campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, are now cooperating with the Mueller team. Mueller recently indicated to Trump’s legal team that his office is likely to seek an interview with the president, though Trump offered ambiguous comments Wednesday as to whether he would be willing to do that, denying he had colluded with Russia and saying, “It seems unlikely you’d even have an interview.” Mueller’s work has long had an important cybersecurity component — central to the probe is Russia’s hacking of Democrats’ emails in an effort to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system and help Trump win. The original FBI counterintelligence probe was launched in part because a Trump campaign adviser was said to have told an Australian diplomat that Russia had emails that could embarrass Democrats, and in July 2016, private Democratic messages thought to have been hacked by Russia began appearing online. Legal analysts have said that one charge Mueller might pursue would be a conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, if he can demonstrate that members of Trump’s team conspired in Russia’s hacking effort to influence the election. Nick Bit: Don’t let FOX news shit you. Trump has got a great big problem. I heard him request the Russians to “find” Hillary’s emails. Well “FIND” means “HACK”  and hacking is a cyber crime. And soliciting a felony is conspiracy and that is a crime. Don’t bow off Trumps problems to quickly.

Road to bitcoin ETF paved with red tape

A Bitcoin logo is seen on a cryptocurrency ATM in Santa Monica, California, U.S., January 4, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The going is getting tough for U.S. companies hoping to win the race to bring a bitcoin exchange-traded fund to market.Bitcoin’s 1,500 percent surge last year has stoked investor demand for any product with exposure to the red-hot asset. A host of companies are jostling to launch exchange-traded funds which would open up the cryptocurrency to a broad retail market. But regulators are asking tough questions, and five fund managers this week shelved plans to launch ETFs based on bitcoin futures, citing concerns from the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission. “We can expect the SEC to be increasingly watchful over any companies involved in bitcoin activity,” said Marc Butler, a director at compliance management firm Intelligize. “Investors should be warned. If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.” The SEC has pending applications for at least 14 different bitcoin ETFs or related products, regulatory filings show. A handful of funds have been knocked back. The SEC in March denied a request to list an ETF from investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, owners of the Gemini bitcoin exchange. The Winklevoss fund is seeking to invest in bitcoin directly. Other fund firms staked their hopes on recently launched U.S.-listed bitcoin futures contracts, which promised a more stable base for ETFs than the largely unregulated virtual currency spot market.But on Monday, Rafferty Asset Management LLC, which manages the Direxion brand and hopes to list leveraged funds that would double bitcoin’s daily price moves, disclosed that the SEC was concerned about the “liquidity and valuation” of bitcoin futures contracts. It said the regulator told it to withdraw its application until it could address those issues.  On Tuesday, ProShare Capital Management LLC, Van Eck Associates Corp and First Trust Advisors LP said in filings that SEC staff asked them to shelve plans for bitcoin ETFs. The race to launch bitcoin funds is still likely to charge forward, analysts said, as fund managers rush to address the SEC’s concerns and redesign their funds to placate the regulator. “This is being driven by retail demand,” said Axel Merk, founder and chief investment officer of Merk Investments, which launched a physically backed gold ETF in 2014. “If people are enthusiastic about bitcoin, then people are going to try to market a bitcoin ETF.” Still, some think that, head-spinning volatility of bitcoin aside, U.S. capital markets risk missing out on a burgeoning technology if they are too cautious. “If the SEC doesn’t start allowing products, the capital markets here in the United States will get left behind by those in Europe and Asia. That’s always a concern,” said Trace Schmeltz, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg in Chicago.

Trump lawyer files lawsuits against BuzzFeed, Fusion GPS over dossier

(CNN)Nearly one year to the day after the Russia dossier’s publication, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer hit both the research firm that produced it and the news organization that released it with lawsuits, saying its allegations about him are wrong. Michael Cohen, a personal lawyer for Trump who is named in the dossier, says BuzzFeed and several of its staffers defamed him when it published the 35-page document and an accompanying article last January. He also says that Fusion GPS and Glenn Simpson, its founder, similarly defamed him after it hired an ex-British spy to compile the document as part of its opposition research against the Trump campaign.  Ken Bensinger and editors Miriam Elder and Mark Schoofs are named as the defendants in the state-level suit. “Even though defendant BuzzFeed expressly acknowledged the unverified (and potentially unverifiable) nature of the dossier’s allegations, defendant BuzzFeed published the un-redacted dossier and the article anyway — without attempting to determine the veracity of these reports with plaintiff himself,” Cohen wrote in the lawsuit filed Tuesday night in New York state court. Fusion GPS “recklessly placed it beyond their control and allowed it to fall into the hands of media devoted to breaking news on the hottest subject of the day: the Trump candidacy,” the federal lawsuit against the firm said. With the filings, Cohen becomes the closest person to the President to take on the dossier’s explosive claims in court. Plus, the suits could put Cohen, who worked for the Trump Organization and now is a personal lawyer to Trump himself, in the position of proving that the dossier’s allegations are false. Cohen makes several assertions in his lawsuits, saying that the dossier’s claims about family ties to Russia and a trip he took overseas to meet with Russian officials are wrong. He then says that the allegations in the dossier and article have hurt him professionally. “Although no amount of money can ever remedy the damage that has been sustained by Mr. Cohen, we will be seeking maximum damages for the lies contained in the so-called dossier,” Cohen’s attorney, David Schwartz, said in a statement. “We believe in our courts and our system of justice and that when all the facts are in, justice will prevail and Mr. Cohen will be awarded damages against the defendants.”

Matt Mittenthal, a spokesman for BuzzFeed News, responded to the suit in a statement: “The dossier is, and continues to be, the subject of active investigations by Congress and intelligence agencies. It was presented to two successive presidents, and has been described in detail by news outlets around the world. Its interest to the public is obvious.”

Trump associate took Russia concerns to FBI

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Trump associate took Russia concerns to FBI, helping trigger investigation before ‘dossier’: Fusion GPS founder’s testimony

The closed-door testimony by Glenn Simpson apparently undermines concerns that his research firm’s unconfirmed ‘Steele dossier’ set the FBI’s Russia investigation in motion.

Mike Novogratz is planning a crypto version of Goldman Sachs

  • Famed hedge funder turned cryptocurrency enthusiast Mike Novogratz announced Tuesday that he is launching a cryptocurrency bank.
  • Bloomberg News reported Novogratz plans to take the entity public on a Canadian venture exchange.
  • In December, Novogratz tabled plans for a cryptocurrency-focused hedge fund.

Less than a month after tabling a plan to start a cryptocurrency hedge fund, famed trader Mike Novogratz announced he has a cryptocurrency bank in the works.

In a statement out Tuesday, Novogratz said he is looking to raise $200 million for Galaxy Digital LP, a “best-in-class, full service, institutional quality merchant banking business” for the crypto market. Novogratz also plans to list the company on TSX Venture Exchange, a Canada-based exchange for small cap companies.

A person familiar with the initiative told Bloomberg News that Novogratz “had been laying the groundwork for Galaxy for months.” The new bank will be born out of Canadian-based First Coin Capital, which Novogratz plans to buy and then merge with Bradmer Pharmaceuticals. Its main businesses will include trading, advisory services, asset management, and private equity-like investing. “Bradmer, to be renamed Galaxy Digital Holdings, will own an interest in the merchant bank and be listed on the TSX exchange,” Bloomberg’s Erik Schatzker reported. “The person familiar with his plans said Novogratz envisions Galaxy as the Goldman Sachs of crypto.” That person said Novogratz plans to put his massive $400 million crypto fortune into the bank. Novogratz has been an outspoken advocate for blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. The former Fortress trader pumped the brakes on a plan for a $500 million cryptocurrency hedge fund in December. “We didn’t like market conditions and we wanted to re-evaluate what we’re doing,” Novogratz said of his decision to table the fund on December 22. At the time bitcoin was trading slightly above $12,000, down a whopping $7,000 from its all-time high set on December 17.In a tweet about the plummeting bitcoin price, Novogratz said: “My hunch is we consolidate between 10-16k for a while. Extreme would be 8k.” The bitcoin bull market isn’t over, “just pausing,” he added. Nick Bit: i LIKE this deal! it has a CHANCE of being something big. I am preparing trades for you and explanation… its complicated… But we do complicated.

BuzzFeed: I’m Proud We Published the Trump-Russia Dossier

Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia investigation. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

Exactly one year ago BuzzFeed published what’s now known simply as “the dossier”: a set of reports put together by a former British intelligence officer named Christopher Steele during the 2016 presidential campaign. The 35-page dossier suggested that the Russian government had both compromised and colluded with President-elect Donald Trump. Our choice to publish the dossier was greeted by outrage from two sources. Journalistic traditionalists didn’t like the idea of sharing an unfiltered, unverified document with the public, whatever the caveats and context. NBC’s Chuck Todd told me on air, “You just published fake news.” Mr. Trump agreed. He described CNN’s reporting on the dossier as “fake news” and called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage.” But a year of government inquiries and blockbuster journalism has made clear that the dossier is unquestionably real news. That’s a fact that has been tacitly acknowledged even by those who opposed our decision to publish. It has helped journalists explain to their audience the investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election. And Mr. Trump and his allies have seized on the dossier in their efforts to discredit the special counsel leading the investigation, Robert Mueller. Without the dossier, Americans would have found it difficult to understand the actions of their elected representatives and government officials. Their posture toward Mr. Trump was, we now know even more comprehensively than we did in January 2017, shaped by Mr. Steele’s report. The Russia investigation, meanwhile, didn’t turn out to be some minor side story but instead the central challenge to Mr. Trump’s presidency. When we published the dossier, we knew a lot: We knew that it had been written by the former head of the Russia desk at Britain’s main foreign intelligence agency, a man whose job had made him a leading source on Russian espionage. We knew that key members of the Senate — Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat, and John McCain, the Arizona Republican — had acted on its contents. We had also learned that intelligence officials had briefed President Barack Obama and President-elect Trump on the dossier, and that the F.B.I. was already looking into it. We didn’t discount the arguments against publishing salacious allegations — which reporters do all the time in covering lawsuits, internal investigations or reports like Mr. Steele’s. And we understand why President Trump’s supporters remain furious at the airing of a disturbingly vivid unproven allegation about encounters with prostitutes. But we never bought the notion, made by the traditionalists, that a main threat to journalism is that journalists might be too transparent with their audience. Keeping the reporting process wrapped in mystery only helps those who oppose the free press. This is why The New York Times posts leaked audio recordings, and why news organizations routinely publish raw court documents underlying their articles. We strongly believed that publishing the disputed document whose existence we and others were reporting was in the public interest.

Continue reading “BuzzFeed: I’m Proud We Published the Trump-Russia Dossier”

Bitcoin could ‘easily double’ in 2018, says Fundstrat’s Tom Lee

Tom Lee: Buy bitcoin over stocks in 2018
Tom Lee: Buy bitcoin over stocks in 2018
 

One of Wall Street’s biggest bitcoin bulls says the cryptocurrency could “easily double” or even triple in 2018. In August 2017, Tom Lee, co-founder and head of research at Fundstrat Global Advisors, predicted bitcoin’s rally above $10,000 and declared that the digital currency would outperform equities through the end of the year. Sure enough, bitcoin rallied to a high near $19,800 in December, with its performance widely outpacing stocks. Since that high, however, the cryptocurrency has fallen 25 percent, trailing stocks, gold and oil, which are up a respective 3 percent, 5 percent and 10 percent during that period. Despite the drop, Lee is still pounding the table on the cryptocurrency. “Even on a risk-adjusted basis, I think bitcoin is going to easily outperform the S&P,” Lee said Tuesday on CNBC’s “Futures Now.” “On a long-term basis, [the easiest way to look at bitcoin is] as a replacement or a store of value,” he said. “So as millennials discover and generate income, they’re going to use it as a replacement for gold.” Investors have quipped that the bitcoin boom could be taking market share from gold. Over the last year as bitcoin surged about 1,535 percent, gold has been tethered around the $1,300 level.

“If [bitcoin] gets 5 percent of the gold market, that’s roughly $50,000,” he added. That’s a more than 200 percent move from where bitcoin is currently trading.

On a near-term basis, Lee expects bitcoin to reclaim its December high. “We think that by mid-2018, we’re going to be part of the way there, and that’s why we get [bitcoin to $20,000],” he said. “If [bitcoin] can actually rise close to [that $20,000 level] in the first half of this year, I think in the second half of 2018, we’ll see a move bigger than that,” Lee said. “So I think bitcoin is still something you should own [all year].” Despite its underperformance in the past month, bitcoin is still up 15 percent in the first few days of 2018.

Fusion GPS founder: Trump campaign source backed up claims in dossier

A founder of the opposition research firm that compiled the controversial dossier on President Trump told Senate investigators in August that the FBI had “other intelligence” backing up claims in the dossier and that law enforcement officials had already been investigating the president’s team before the dossier was completed. In more than 300 pages of testimony released unilaterally on Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson told investigators that the former spy who compiled the dossier told him that the FBI had an informant in the Trump campaign.  But a source close to Fusion GPS told The Hill on Tuesday that Simpson misspoke, mischaracterizing a tip that an Australian diplomat gave the bureau related to Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos.  “Essentially what [former MI6 agent Christopher Steele] told me was they had other intelligence about this matter from an internal Trump campaign source and that — that they — my understanding was that they believed Chris at this point — that they believed Chris’s information might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization,” Simpson said. According to Simpson, Steele met with a bureau agent in Rome in the fall of 2016, feeling obligated to turn over the results of his research — the second such meeting he had with the FBI. The first took place in first week of July, Simpson said. The bureau launched its investigation into the Trump campaign in late July, according to former FBI Director James Comey. Simpson would not reveal the source, saying that the person would potentially face physical harm if word got out. “People who get in the way of the Russians tend to get hurt,” Simpson said.  The New York Times reported earlier this month that the FBI’s attention was initially drawn to the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia not by the dossier, but by a representative of Australia’s government who had met with then-Trump campaign staffer Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos, who has since pleaded guilty to charges of making false statements to the FBI, told the diplomat that Russia had political dirt on Trump’s campaign rival, Hillary Clinton.  The Senate Judiciary Committee interviewed Simpson last August as part of its investigation into Russia’s election interference. As Capitol Hill Republicans have hammered on the FBI’s alleged use of Steele’s research in its investigation as evidence of bias, Democrats have pushed for the release of the transcript. Ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) published the transcript Tuesday without consulting chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who called the decision “confounding.”

Eastman Kodak unveils cryptocurrency, stock doubles

 The Kodak logo is shown on a booth during the 2017 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Shares of Eastman Kodak Co (more than doubled on Tuesday after the one-time leader in photography became the latest company to jump on the cryptocurrency bandwagon.The storied Rochester, New York-based company said in a statement it is launching a cryptocurrency called “KODAKCoin” for photographers, part of “KODAKOne,” an image rights management platform in a licensing partnership with WENN Digital. The platform uses blockchain technology, the backbone of bitcoin and other digital currencies that have surged in recent months and raised fears of a price bubble.The stock was last up 92 percent at $5.95 in midafternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, off an earlier high at $6.65.  The film pioneer founded over a century ago has struggled to transform itself into an imaging software and technology company. Kodak was a Dow Jones Industrials .DJI component until April 2004, and its stock has slumped 90 percent since it emerged from bankruptcy in 2013. Several other companies in recent weeks have been rewarded with sharp rises in share price after announcing their transformation into cryptocurrency businesses.

KODK.N

Riot Blockchain (RIOT.O) shares have tripled since October when the former biotechnology firm changed its name and said it was revising its business focus to bitcoins. Soft drinks maker Long Island Iced Tea has more than doubled since it said it was shifting its focus to blockchain technology and changing its name to Long Blockchain Corp. Also on Tuesday, Inpixon surged 9 cents or 40 percent to 31 cents per share after the data analytics company announced it would adopt blockchain technology. WENN Digital belongs to WENN Media, which provides photos to websites and media.

Fed’s Kashkari: Biggest banks need to double current capital levels

Neel Kashkari, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images Neel Kashkari, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

If Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari gets his way, the nation’s biggest banks will need to keep more cash on hand — a lot more. The central bank branch has been studying the issue of how to prevent situations like the one that led to the financial crisis in 2008, and Kashkari said it is nearly ready to release recommendations it has gleaned from multiple public symposiums.

“Basically we need to double the capital requirement of the biggest dozen banks in America,” he said during a question-and-answer session Tuesday.

Kashkari said the Minneapolis Fed is “about to release the final versions of our plan,” and he acknowledged that the position he has been taking about big banks has not been popular. “Some have expelled me,” he said of friends in the banking industry. “Some of my good friends are really angry that I came out and said the biggest banks are too big to fail.” Indeed, the former Pimco executive, Treasury official and Republican California gubernatorial candidate has been railing against the financial industry’s titans for years. He has charged that conditions exist that still could cause another crisis despite the myriad additional regulatory burdens put on banks in the past seven years. For instance, he has taken on Jamie Dimon after the J.P. Morgan Chase CEO said the problem of too big to fail had been solved. Kashkari said banks should have to follow capital rules similar to those imposed on ordinary borrowers who have to pay a 20 percent deposit when buying homes. “If we made banks put 20 percent down in terms of equity on their own portfolio, we would basically protect taxpayers against future bailouts. Right now they have about half the equity they need,” he said. “We can’t control everything, but if we can identify the risks, do the analysis, put forward sensible solutions, then other legislators and policymakers can take it forward.”

High levels of bullishness is viewed as a contrary indicator

Investors should be pessimistic about the rise in stock-market optimism

 

 

 

Courtesy Everett Collection

 

One of Warren Buffett’s favorite stock-market truisms is that investors should be “fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” Right now, the investing world looks much closer to the greedy side of the scale, which more and more analysts are citing as a reason for caution.

 

Over the past month, there has been a rash of indicators that both retail and institutional investors are getting giddy over the market, which has rallied to multiple records, seen little in the way of volatility, and is poised to go a historic amount of time without even a mild pullback.

.While market bulls have plenty of factors they can point to in order to justify their positive views on the market, skeptics say the good vibes are too positive, possibly setting up a market that can’t match expectations. “Amidst all the euphoria it is worth noting that, by some measures, market sentiment is becoming excessively optimistic,” said David Joy, chief market strategist at Ameriprise. “Contrarians take note.”  According to the AAII investor sentiment survey, 59.8% of polled investors are bullish on the market, meaning they expect prices will be higher in six months. That’s the highest level in about seven years, and those gains have come on fast, with optimism soaring 30.5 percentage points since mid-November. Retail investors, according to a recent Deutsche Bank analysis of consumer sentiment data, view the current environment as “the best time ever to invest in the market.” They’ve followed through on that view, with TD Ameritrade reporting that its retail clients ended 2017 with record levels of market exposure. In December, the AAII stock allocation index jumped to 72%, its highest level since 2000, according to Dana Lyons of J. Lyons Fund Management.

 

, Morgan Stanley wrote that cash balances for Charles Schwab clients reached their lowest level on record in the third quarter, opining that retail investors “can’t stay away” from stocks. Institutional investors, meanwhile, were “loading the boat on risk,” with “long/short net and gross leverage as high as we have ever seen it.”

 

Margin debt, which is viewed as a measure of speculation, has been at elevated levels for more than a year. According to the most recent data from NYSE, it hit $580.95 billion at the end of November, its fifth record in a row, and up 3.5% from October. Records aren’t rare—according Bespoke Investment Group, more than 23% of all monthly readings are records—but debt rose basically throughout 2017. The 11 highest readings on record all occurred in the 11 months of 2017 for which the NYSE has data.

 

These trends are occurring against a backdrop of economic strength. Corporate earnings are growing at their fastest pace since 2011, and they’re are expected to get another boost from the recently passed tax-reform bill out of Washington. At the same time, the labor market and other economic indicators are at multiyear highs while interest rates are low by historical standards. Furthermore, the expansion is global, with countries around the world growing and seeing their stock markets rise.

 

J.P. Morgan on Monday wrote that the fundamental backdrop for global equities was constructive, but “having said that, we note that there is some complacency appearing, the consensus is overwhelmingly bullish and the positioning is already long.”

 

The S&P 500 SPX,  rose nearly 20% in 2017 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA,  gained more than 25% and the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP,  added 28%.

 

Those gains have led to valuations that are seen as stretched by many metrics. The relative strength index, an indicator of technical momentum, is at its highest level since 1995, which indicates the S&P 500 is at its most overbought level in more than 20 years.

 

Over 2017, nearly 77% of those polled by the Investors Intelligence Sentiment Survey were bullish, the second-highest annual average percentage in the 54-year history of the survey, according to the Leuthold Group. Historically, market returns following such readings have been tepid, at best. The highest reading in the history of the survey occurred in 1976; over the subsequent year, the S&P fell 11.5%. “Years with average sentiment readings above 70% were usually followed by years with disappointing stock market returns, with an average S&P 500 loss of -0.2% in the nine prior instances,” wrote Doug Ramsey, the Leuthold Group’s chief investment officer. He added, “smattered among those years were a couple of double-digit gains (including a recent one), leaving market bulls at least a reed of hope.”

 

 

 

A year ago, investors were quite cynical and had yet to show many signs of optimism during this great bull market,” the investment bank wrote. We suggested they would finally enter the euphoria stage in 2017-18. With monthly [relative strength indexes] at the third highest reading in 90 years, institutional investors holding their highest gross leverage in 12 years, individual investors the most bullish in 10 years, it looks like we are there.”

 

Morgan Stanley added that “This can be a bullish signal in the intermediate term (3-6 months) but is generally a negative signal over the near term (1 month).”

Fusion co-founder: Dossier author feared Trump was being blackmailed

 Bank turns over disputed Fusion GPS records to Congress

Washington (CNN)Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the author of the opposition research dossier on then-candidate Donald Trump and Russia was acting on his own volition when he went to the FBI because he was concerned that a presidential candidate was being blackmailed, according to an initial CNN review of the 312-page document.

Simpson told the committee in closed-door testimony made public on Tuesday that no one had encouraged him and he did not seek anyone’s approval when ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier, went to the FBI in July 2016.
“Chris said he was very concerned about whether this represented a national security threat and said he wanted to — he said he thought we were obligated to tell someone in government, in our government about this information,” Simpson said. “He thought from his perspective there was an issue — a security issue about whether a presidential candidate was being blackmailed.”
Simpson also testified that Steele told him the FBI had similar intelligence from “an internal Trump campaign source” and that the FBI “believed Chris’ information might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization.” Simpson’s testimony was released Tuesday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who posted the transcript of the August 2017 Senate Judiciary Committee interview that took place behind closed doors. Feinstein issued the transcript of the 10-hour interview without the support of committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who had argued the committee needed to temporarily protect certain information while an investigation was ongoing.
The transcript is likely to provide Democrats a counterargument to the Republican charges that the dossier was a political document paid for by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
In a statement, California’s senior senator said she was releasing the transcript with the support of the committee’s Democrats.
“After speaking with majority and minority committee staff for 10 hours, Glenn Simpson requested the transcript of his interview be released publicly. The American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves,” said Feinstein. “The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice. The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.”
In a statement, Fusion GPS said it “commends Sen. Feinstein for her courage. The transcript of Glenn Simpson’s lengthy responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questioning speaks for itself.”
Simpson’s firm paid Steele to compile the opposition research dossier on Trump and Russia. Last week, Simpson and his fellow Fusion GPS co-founder Peter Fritsch wrote an op-ed in The New York Times saying that Simpson’s testimony “walked investigators through our yearlong effort to decipher Mr. Trump’s complex business past, of which the Steele dossier is but one chapter.” In the op-ed, they called for the transcripts of Simpson’s congressional testimony to be released. “It’s time to share what our company told investigators,” they wrote. Last week, Grassley and fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina issued a criminal referral to the Justice Department, urging an investigation into whether Steele lied to federal investigators over his contacts with the media. The referral was issued without consulting Feinstein, who called it “clearly another effort to deflect attention” from the Russia investigation.
 

Ripple falls, making Ethereum the second-biggest cryptocurrency once again

Bitcoin rises slightly early Tuesday, trading near $15,000
Getty Images The picture shows an Italian shop that is involved in the cryptocurrencies industry.

Prices for bitcoin and Ethereum moved higher early Tuesday, while Ripple coins were down, with the moves helping to putting Ripple back at No. 3 among the cryptocurrencies. The bitcoin spot price BTCUSD, -2.87% BTCUSD, -2.87% was up 1.3% to $15,162, according to CoinDesk data, recovering somewhat from Monday’s drop of nearly 6%. It remains far below its recent all-time high above $19,000, which was hit last month. Meanwhile, Ethereum was up 6% to $1,261, and Ripple was down 5% to $2.47, according to CoinMarketCap.com data. Ripple became the second-biggest crypto by market capitalization last month, but Ethereum is back at the No. 2 spot this week. Bitcoin remains No. 1 by a wide margin, with a market cap of $259 billion to Ethereum’s $122 billion and Ripple’s $96 billion. On Monday, most virtual currencies sold off, with analysts blaming developments tied to South Korea, where regulators have stepped up their scrutiny of the industry. CoinMarketCap.com delisted Korean exchanges from its aggregate exchange platform, and industry participants said that helped spark selling.

Bitcoin price WARNING: China trying to RESET and take control of entire blockchain network

BITCOIN has prompted a shock warning as an expert said China is attempting to “reset” the entire blockchain network which powers the popular cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin mining is said to be on its last legs in China as Beijing seeks to limit electricity supplies to bitcoin miners.

Jehan Chu, who invest in blockchain technologies, said 2018 will see bitcoin and cryptocurrency trading become a social phenomenon with “everyone talking about it”. Mr Chu told Bloomberg that despite being popular amongst traders, it doesn’t mean cryptocurrency has an “inherent value”.“Blockchain technology is about software that is being built,” he added. “Cryptocurrency trading is just what we see on the surface.”

bitcoin price news latest china cryptocurrencyGETTY•BLOOMBERG

Mr Chu did, however, warn the Chinese Government is seeking to put an end to bitcoin miners operating across its country. He added: “This is really kind of the final strike of the Chinese Government’s desire to reset the entire story of blockchain. “I think what they want to do is clear their decks – they’ve done it with exchanges, ICOs and now they’re doing it with mining. “I think ultimately they understand the value, potential and utility for society, economy and industry to build a new – I think that’s what they’re doing – this is merely Chinese Government taking control of what they believe a truly transformational technology.” China is not the only nation hoping to take advantage of the popularity of cryptocurrencies.  Venezuela has launched a brand-new cryptocurrency – nicknamed the “metro”  – which will be backed by the country’s deep oil reserves.

Seoul: North Korea to send delegation to Olympics in South

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea agreed Tuesday to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, Seoul officials said, as the bitter rivals sat for rare talks at the border to discuss how to cooperate in the Olympics and improve their long-strained ties. The Koreas’ first talks in two years were arranged after North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un recently made an abrupt push for improved ties with South Korea after a year of elevated tensions with the outside world over his expanding nuclear and missile programs. Critics say Kim may be trying to divide Seoul and Washington in a bid to weaken international pressure and sanctions on the North. During the talks, the North Korean delegation said it would send an Olympic delegation, which includes officials, athletes, cheerleaders, journalists and others, South Korea’s Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung told reporters, according to media footage from the border village of Panmunjom, the venue for the talks. The South Korean delegation, for its part, proposed North Korea send a big delegation and conduct a joint march during the Feb. 9-25 Game’s opening and closing ceremonies, Chun, one of the five South Korean negotiators, said. Senior officials from the rival Koreas said Tuesday they would try to achieve a breakthrough in their long-strained ties as they sat for rare talks at their border. They’re discussing how to cooperate in next month’s Winter Olympics in the South. (Jan. 9) He said South Korea also suggested resuming temporary reunions of families separated by war and offering military talks designed to reduce animosities in frontline areas. South Korea also stressed the need to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Chun said. North Korea responded by saying the two Koreas must try to promote peace and reconciliation through dialogue, he said. The two sides were to continue their negotiations later Tuesday at Panmunjom, the only place on the tense border where North and South Korean soldiers are just feet away from each other.

 

May’s attempt to reassert authority branded a shambles

 Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May poses with Brandon Lewis and James Cleverly and other members of their teams outside 10 Downing Street, London, January 8, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson 

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May’s leadership team shake-up, designed to restore her authority and address divisions over Brexit, was branded a shambles on Tuesday after one minister quit and media reported another had refused to move jobs. “Night of the blunt stiletto” was the headline of the Daily Telegraph as newspapers judged that May had failed to draw a line under her travails of 2017, when her position as premier was severely weakened after she called a snap election and lost her Conservative Party’s parliamentary majority.May had hoped to reset her agenda and strengthen her hand as Britain moves to the second phase of talks over leaving the European Union by shaking up her team of cabinet ministers on Monday.“It’s an opportunity to refresh the government and just to give added impetus to the prime minister’s reform agenda while continuing to deliver on Brexit,” her spokesman said.  However, her party had to delete a tweet naming the wrong person as its new chairman. Then, Education Secretary Justine Greening quit rather than take a job as pensions minister. Finally, media reported Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had simply refused to move roles. With no changes to the senior finance, Brexit, foreign and interior ministers, opponents said the reshuffle showed her weakness and inability to reassert her authority. “Greening quits in shambolic reshuffle”, the Times newspaper said while the Daily mail called it “reshuffle chaos”. Despite winning an important agreement last month from the EU to move Brexit talks forward from a first phase to a discussion of future trade, May has been criticised at home for her approach to healthcare, housing, transport and Britain’s overall Brexit plans. The Conservatives are also reported to be losing members at a time when the main opposition Labour Party, under leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn, is enjoying record levels of support, suggesting to some that it is on course to win a new election due in 2022. “I appreciate there is a job of work to do,” new Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis told BBC radio.

Donald Trump appears to FORGET national anthem hours after demanding respect for song

The US President was seen stood looking on in silence during parts of the song, sung before a college American football game between the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama.

As the stadium sung along with the words, Donald Trump appeared stumped one verse in, standing silently but occasionally finishing the second half of lines as he stood alongside members of the military. It comes after a long-running row over whether protests should be held during the national anthem, following a movement which has seen dozens of high-profile National Football League players kneel on one knee against police brutality against black men.  Donald Trump appeared to forget the words to the national anthem Yesterday, before attending the game, Mr Trump took to Twitter to double down on his campaign against peaceful protest during national anthems.  He tweeted: “We are fighting for our farmers, for our country, and for our GREAT AMERICAN FLAG. We want our flag respected – and we want our NATIONAL ANTHEM respected also!” And he also took aim at protesters demonstrating against police shootings against unarmed black men.  He said: “There’s plenty of space for people to express their views and to protest, but we love our flag and we love our anthem and we want to keep it that way.”

Another said: “That Trump spent months railing against black NFL players peacefully demonstrating during our national anthem, only for it to be shown that he doesn’t even know the words to our national anthem… that really just ties it all up neatly with bow, doesn’t it?” Donald Trump attempted to sing the US national anthem last night And a third said: “Super obvious Trump doesn’t know the words to our National Anthem.  “Disgraceful for any president, but particularly bad given his months of race-baiting rants against NFL players kneeling to demand justice.” Mr Trump was greeted by a mixture of boos and cheers during his appearance at the game, with one video posted on social media capturing what appears to be an Alabama football player shouting “f*** Trump” as he walked through the corridors to the field.

Retail investor exposure to stock market is at an all-time high

Stock allocations are at highest level since 2000
Courtesy Everett Collection

With U.S. stocks seeming to hit records by the day, perhaps its no surprise that investors are piling into risk assets in a nearly unprecedented way. In the latest measure of optimism, TD Ameritrade’s Investor Movement Index rose to 8.59 in December, its second straight monthly record. The index measures the behavior of TD Ameritrade clients, aggregating their positions and activity to measure how they are positioned. “Retail investors ended 2017 with exposure at all-time highs. Our clients were net buyers during December, resulting in one of the longest buying streaks in the history of the [index],” TD Ameritrade wrote in a press release.

Courtesy TD Ameritrade

The index score is high, relative to historic ranges, and it comes at a time when stocks have been hitting repeated records. The S&P 500 SPX, after a gain of nearly 20% in 2017, has closed at records in the first four trading sessions of 2018—the first time it has accomplished such a fear since 1964. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA,   and the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP  have also been hitting records on a regular basis. Margin debt, which is viewed as a measure of speculation, has been at elevated levels all year. According to the most recent data from NYSE, it hit $580.95 billion at the end of November, its fifth record in a row, and up 3.5% from October. Records aren’t rare—according to data from Bespoke Investment Group, more than 23% of all monthly readings are records—but debt has been creeping up basically all year. The 11 highest readings on record all occurred in the 11 completed months of 2017. Cash balances for Charles Schwab clients reached their lowest level on record in the third quarter, according to Morgan Stanley, which wrote that retail investors “can’t stay away” from stocks. In December, the AAII stock allocation index jumped to 72%, its highest level since 2000, according to Dana Lyons of J. Lyons Fund Management. Separately, bullish sentiment for U.S. stocks is currently at a seven-year high, while retail investors—according to a Deutsche Bank analysis of consumer sentiment data—view the current environment as “the best time ever to invest in the market.”

 

 Always the same – smart traders load up on stocks when they go on sale and retail will sell at any price. Then, after stocks run up 400%, they sell them back to retail. No wonder the rich keep getting richer. 
Nick Bit: hear me and her me well the suckers are ALL IN! time to flush the toilet and take their money down the ole wall street poop chute. We will make a killing ……. can’t wait!

Trump starting workday later to spend more time watching TV and tweeting: report

President Trump is starting his official workday later and spending more time in the mornings watching TV and tweeting, Axios reported Sunday.

Trump’s day now starts around 11 a.m., and he is holding far fewer meetings during his workday, Axios reported after viewing copies of Trump’s private schedule. The first part of Trump’s day is known as “Executive Time.” According to the schedule, it takes place in the Oval Office, but officials told Axios it actually takes place in Trump’s White House residence and consists of Trump watching TV and tweeting. Trump reportedly arrives in the Oval Office for his intelligence briefing at 11 a.m., his first meeting of the day. He returns to his residence by 6 p.m. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed back against the report, saying Trump’s “time in the morning is a mix of residence time and Oval Office time but he always has calls with staff, Hill members, cabinet members and foreign leaders during this time.”  “The President is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen and puts in long hours and long days nearly every day of the week all year long. It has been noted by reporters many times that they wish he would slow down because they sometimes have trouble keeping up with him,” she said in a statement to Axios. Trump’s schedule is significantly shorter than those of past presidents. Former President George W. Bush would arrive in the Oval Office by 6:45 a.m., and former President Obama would arrive between 9 and 10 a.m. after his morning workout, according to the report. The New York Times reported that Trump spends up to 8 hours a day watching television, which Trump has disputed. “I don’t get to watch much television. Primarily because of documents. I’m reading documents. A lot,” Trump told reporters last year. “I actually read much more — I read you people much more than I watch television.”

Bannon apologizes over ‘Fire and Fury,’ claims ‘unwavering’ support for Trump

Former Trump aide backpedals on comments, says he regrets delay in responding to book
Getty Images Steve Bannon, seen at the White House last February.

WASHINGTON — Former Trump senior strategist Stephen Bannon expressed regret Sunday for his role in a new book critical of the Trump administration as senior White House officials sharpened the administration’s attack on it. “My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda,” Bannon said in the statement. “I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.” The book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff, quotes Bannon as speculating whether Donald Trump Jr. may have introduced those who attended a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between a Russian lawyer linked to the Kremlin and top campaign aides to President Donald Trump. “The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero,” the book said. In his statement Sunday, which was first reported by Axios, Bannon expressed “regret” to the Trump family and praised Donald Trump Jr. as “both a patriot and a good man.”

Has Donald Trump got dementia? Shock claim as ‘child-like Trump struggles to read page’

THE author of an explosive new book on Donald Trump has made fresh claims about the US President’s mental health.
American journalist Michael Wolff said aides believe Trump could have dementia, attention defi cit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or learning difficulties. He said fears over the President’s “child-like” behaviour were widespread in the White House along with the belief that Mr Trump is unfit for office. The author claims Mr Trump struggles to read “one page or one paragraph” of the documents given to him and he can’t even follow a presentation. In his instant best-seller Fire And Fury, Mr Wolff claims the President barely reads, his comprehension of basic politics is limited and his attention span and focus are lacking.

Michael Wolff's Trump book has been explosiveREUTERS

Michael Wolff’s book about Donald Trump, Fire and Fury, has been explosive Michael Wolff thinks Trump could be mentally impaired

I’ve had to put up with the fake news from the fi rst day I announced that I would be running for President. Now I have to put up with a fake book, written by a totally discredited author.

Donald Trump

He says Mr Trump, 71, doesn’t even bother to listen to staff. The author depicted the White House as a “madhouse” and Mr Trump’s “symptoms have got worse” since he assumed office. The President fired back at the book’s claims, tweeting that he’s “like, really smart” and “a very stable genius”. Mr Trump also appeared to compare himself to Ronald Reagan despite the late Republican president’s family having claimed he developed Alzheimer’s – which went on to kill him – while still in office. Mr Trump wrote on Twitter: “I’ve had to put up with the fake news from the first day I announced that I would be running for President. Now I have to put up with a fake book, written by a totally discredited author. “Reagan had the same problem and handled it well. So will I!”  Fire and Fury could end Trump’s presidency, Michael Wolff claims

“He can’t even follow a Powerpoint [presentation]. They wonder where is that from. ADHD?

“Whether it’s lack of sleep, the compounded effects of age… or there’s actually some impairment – and that’s a possibility – everybody around him discusses that.” Yesterday, Mrs May confi rmed the President would be coming this year but gave no details while brushing aside the book’s claims. Asked whether she had concerns about Mr Trump’s mental state, Mrs May said: “No. When I deal with President Trump what I see is somebody… taking decisions in the best interests of the United States.” Earlier, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter: “I went from very successful businessman, to top TV star to President of the United States [on my first try]… not smart, but genius… and a very stable genius at that!” Nick Bit: i can tell your for a fact when they give Trump Presidential briefings they are not written.. Lots of pretty pictures and simple graphs. Draw your own conclusions.

Bitcoin gets a ‘ja’ from cash-loving Germans

“It’s a technology driven by anarchists … and now the banks are promoting the technology,” says Berlin-based think tank
Eriver Hijano for The Wall Street Journal People mingle at a blockchain meetup at Room 77 in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Photo: Eriver Hijano for The Wall Street Journal.

A motley crew of old-money investors, entrepreneurs, crypto-anarchists and anti-inflation hawks is rallying around bitcoin in a surprising place: cash-loving Germany. Driven by interest from these very different constituencies, Germany and especially its capital are turning into a development hub for virtual currencies and blockchains, the distributed ledger technology that underpins them. “It’s a technology driven by anarchists who wanted to get rid of banks, and now the banks are promoting the technology,” said Shermin Voshmgir, founder of BlockchainHub, a Berlin-based think tank that advocates for blockchain and the decentralized web. “Many of the main actors are based in Berlin,” she said. Germany’s Deutsche Bank AG DBK,   and Bertelsmann SE, among the biggest investment banks and media companies in the world, are both looking to integrate blockchain into their operations, according to company insiders. In Munich and Bonn, fintech startups and venture capitalists are jumping into the cryptocurrency field. In Berlin, a world-class blockchain coding community has been growing for years.

Wolff: 100% of the People Closest to Trump Think There’s ‘Something Fundamentally Wrong’ with Him That ‘Scares Them’

On Monday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” “Fire and Fury” author Michael Wolff stated that everyone closest to President Trump believes there is “something fundamentally wrong” with the president and they stay in the White House because they are “scared” of what the president’s capable of and believe they have a responsibility to the country to stay in. Wolff said, “Everybody in this White House, and I keep saying this, 100%, because it is 100% of the people closest to the president, to Donald Trump. believe that there is something wrong here, something fundamentally wrong, something that scares them. As a matter of fact, they went from — if there was — if there is any reason they stay in the White House now, it’s because they are scared. They believe they have a responsibility to the American people.”

10 Percent of Amazon’s Ohio Workforce on Food Stamps

Amazon warehouse

Getty Images

Amazon ranks high on a list charting Ohio’s employers with the most workers and their family members on food stamps, with a new report estimating more than 10 percent of its workforce in the state qualifies for the federal aid. The progressive policy group Policy Matters Ohio stated, as of August, Amazon had 1,430 workers and family members on food stamps, which helps low-income people purchase food. It ranks 19th on a list of 50 large employers in the state, according to the group. Since a typical beneficiary gets benefits for roughly two people, that means the online retail giant has about 700 workers on the program in Ohio, The Columbus Dispatch reports:

To be on the list, a company has to have a large number of workers in the state. In addition, that company has to have a significant number of workers who don’t make much money or maybe work part time.

Workers getting food stamps in essence becomes an additional taxpayer subsidy for the companies that pay low wages, said Zach Schiller, Policy Matters’ research director.

“We’ve appreciated having more employment, but maybe we should be focusing economic development dollars on good jobs. It’s pretty clear that a lot of these jobs are not good jobs,” he said. “That should raise a policy question for our public officials, and that’s why we think its worth pointing out.”

According to the report, in order to be eligible for food stamps, a family of three could make no more than $26,208 a year, or about $12.60 an hour for someone working 40 hours a week.

Amazon, which was founded by Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, did not reply to the newspaper’s request for comment, but the Ohio Development Services Agency released a statement praising Amazon for generating economic opportunity with its presence in Ohio that would not otherwise exist. “Amazon has created thousands of new jobs and generated millions of dollars in new payroll consistent with Ohio’s requirements for economic incentives,” the Ohio Development Services Agency said. “These jobs provide economic opportunity to Ohioans that may not have had it before.” Amazon has about 6,000 workers in the state, ranking 53rd on the list of the state’s largest employers. The company’s presence in Ohio will only increase, with Amazon planning to build two more distribution centers in the Buckeye State. Ohio has also put in a bid to be the home of Amazon’s second headquarters, which The Dispatch reports would generate 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment.

Big banks may be cautious, but others will chase crypto volatility, expert says

ICOs may still be a way to get exposure to block chain technology

ICOs may still be a way to get exposure to blockchain technology. Big banks might not be jumping on the bitcoin bandwagon just yet, but other institutional investors are likely to warm up to cryptocurrencies this year. “I think there is caution, but it depends on which sort of institutions you’re talking about,” Michael Casey, senior advisor at the Digital Currency Initiative at MIT Media Lab, told CNBC.

More aggressive institutional investors, such as hedge funds, are likely to find the the volatility associated with cryptocurrencies “inherently attractive,” Casey said on the sidelines of the UBS Greater China Conference in Shanghai. “That’s a different story than saying you’re going to get invested in a technology and everything else underlying it. There’s a play that people have on the volatility,” he added. Big banks, however, are likely to approach the space more cautiously, Casey indicated. Once a niche asset associated with the dark web, cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have become increasingly regarded as a mainstream play on the back of growing investor interest. Last year saw the launch of bitcoin futures by the CME and Cboe, some of the world’s most prominent exchanges, which lent greater legitimacy to the cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin rose more than 1,200 percent in 2017.

That increase has led to a corresponding uptick in regulatory concern globally as governments attempt to keep up. “There’s a necessary caution that regulators are taking on: Not wanting to kill the technology, but on the other hand, trying to protect the financial system, protect people from this,” Casey said. “What I worry about is that things get too out of hand, we come through a collapse and people sort of ignore the fact that something very real underneath this is being built,” he added, comparing the crypto craze with the dotcom bubble, which Casey said ultimately “fed and built the infrastructure for the big next wave of the internet.” Nick Bit: when Bitcoin wipes out is time to buy the shit out of it. In the mean time enjoy the swings!

German industrial orders fall unexpectedly in November

FILE PHOTO: Workers assemble an e-Golf electric car at the new production line of the Transparent Factory of German carmaker Volkswagen in Dresden, Germany March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) – German industrial orders fell in November for the first time since July, data showed on Monday, easing slightly after a strong run as Europe’s largest economy enjoys robust form.Factories registered a 0.4 percent drop in orders. November’s reading from the Federal Statistics Office confounded expectations in a Reuters poll for a 0.5 percent rise.  Contracts for ‘Made in Germany’ goods climbed by a revised 0.7 percent in October, an upward revision from a rise of 0.5 percent previously reported. ING economist Carsten Brzeski said ”the decrease comes after three consecutive increases and is rather of a technical nature than any sign of weakness. “With inventories low and capacity utilization at its highest level since 2008, there is little reason to get concerned,” he added. “The general trend for industrial production in Germany remains positive.” Germany is enjoying strong domestic demand helped by record-high employment, rising real wages and low borrowing costs while its exporters are benefiting from a global economic recovery. Last month, the Ifo economic institute said the German economy will expand by 2.6 percent in 2018, pointing to a broad upswing that is generating employment and buoyant tax revenues. On Friday, official data showed retail sales surged more than expected in November and were estimated to have risen sharply in 2017 overall, boosting hopes that private consumption helped growth in Germany last year.

African millennials can’t get enough of Bitcoin

Image caption Ms Akware is hoping to buy a car with the money she makes from Bitcoin

Bitcoin’s eye-watering price surge over the past year is proving too tempting to resist despite fears that cryptocurrencies are a bubble floating towards an inevtitable burst. One group for whom it holds particular appeal is African millenials, writes the BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga. Thirty year-old Peace Akware in Kampala is a convert to the crytocurrency craze. Like any self-respecting middle class millennial here her smartphone is always within reach and with it her digital wallet. “I check my Bitcoin every day and any chance I can get. Any minute, any hour, anytime, as often as I can,” she tells me from the small bungalow she rents on the outskirts of Kampala. Finding a job here is almost like a lottery for graduates so Ugandans often have so-called side hustles. Peace has sold clothes and even got into money lending. Both failed. But buying cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin appeals to her because it requires less of her time and there are no upfront costs. She’s bought more than a thousand dollars worth of bitcoin. So far the gamble is paying off and overall she’s seeing her digital value rise. “You know there’s potential for it growing even further. I would like to buy a car. I would like to buy land. I would like to build with it”. It’s not just those hoping to get rich quick who are getting in on the action. In parts of the continent – especially commercial hubs like Lagos, Nairobi and Johannesburg – a small but growing number of people are finding that cryptocurrencies offer a cheaper solution to an expensive problem – transferring funds across borders. The technology platform Bitpesa uses Bitcoin as a medium to transfer cash across borders. It’s like a remittance company. With traditional remittance companies like Western Union, when you transfer money initially it goes from your local currency into dollars then on the other side they receive dollars which are then converted into the local currency. You lose a lot of money in that conversion. What Bitpesa does is substitute the dollars with bitcoin. It’s cheaper, especially when there is a shortage of dollars in the country or restrictions on accessing dollars. It’s also quicker because you don’t have to go through long complicated bank approvals. In Nigeria, when the government placed controls on access to the US dollar during a financial crunch, Bitcoin made it much easier for businesses to transfer cash abroad, something that has increased interest in cryptocurrencies in the country. In places like Zimbabawe, where there has been political and economic instability, Bitcoin has become a place to store value, buy goods and services from abroad and crucially a vehicle for remittances from the diaspora

CIA’s Pompeo says Russia and others trying to undermine U.S. elections

FILE PHOTO: Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo testifies before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/File Photo
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to try to help President Donald Trump win, in part by hacking and releasing emails embarrassing to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and spreading social media propaganda. CIA Director Mike Pompeo told CBS that the Russian interference is longstanding, and continues. Asked on “Face the Nation” if Moscow is currently trying to undermine U.S. elections, Pompeo responded: “Yes sir, have been for decades.”

“Yes, I continue to be concerned, not only about the Russians, but about others’ efforts as well,” Pompeo said, without giving details. “We have many foes who want to undermine Western democracy.”

Moscow denies any meddling in the 2016 elections to help Republican Trump win. U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether any crimes were committed. Two Trump associates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and campaign aide George Papadopoulos have pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in the probe. Trump denies any campaign collusion with Russia. Trump has at times suggested that he accepts the U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia sought to interfere in the election but at other times has said he accepts Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials that Moscow meddled. Trump has frequently spoken of wanting to improve relations with Putin, even though Russia has frustrated U.S. policy in Syria and Ukraine and done little to help Washington in its standoff with North Korea. Pompeo told CBS that the CIA had an important function as a part of the national security team to keep U.S. elections secure and democratic. “We are working diligently to do that. So we’re going to work against the Russians or any others who threaten that very outcome,” he said. Trump said on Saturday that he planned an active year on the campaign trail on behalf of Republican candidates running in the mid-term elections, in which all of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate will be up for election. Republicans hold majorities in both.

Trump claims he’s ‘a very stable genius’

Deploying an over-the-top offense against those who doubt his mental acuity, President Trump lashed out at critics Saturday in a barrage of boastful tweets. “Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence,” he wrote at 7:19 a.m. “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” he continued. “Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames.” “I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star . . . to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius . . . and a very stable genius at that!” he finished at 7:30 a.m. The self-promoting tweets followed two others, one praising news the country’s African-American unemployment rate had fallen to its lowest rate on record, and another criticizing ABC reporter Brian Ross, who returned to the network after a month-long suspension for an error in a report on Trump’s now disgraced former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

“The African American unemployment rate fell to 6.8%, the lowest rate in 45 years. I am so happy about this News! And, in the Washington Post (of all places), headline states, ‘Trumps first year jobs numbers were very, very good.’” the President tweeted at 6:49 a.m. He then slammed Ross, who will now work as an investigative correspondent working on longterm projects. The reporter’s suspension ended this week. “Brian Ross, the reporter who made a fraudulent live newscast about me that drove the Stock Market down 350 points (billions of dollars), was suspended for a month but is now back at ABC NEWS in a lower capacity. He is no longer allowed to report on Trump. Should have been fired!” Trump tweeted at 6:57 a.m. Trump tweeted from Camp David just before the start of a second day of meetings with GOP leaders and Cabinet members to hash out the party’s 2018 agenda. Legislators and staffers had a Friday night sleepover at the rustic presidential retreat, screening “The Greatest Showman,” about P.T. Barnum, the Trumpian 19th-century flimflam man who began the Barnum & Bailey circus

Bannon Apologizes After Trump Legal Threat

On Sunday, former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon apologized after he was quoted in a book making legally problematic statements about President Donald Trump‘s son Donald Trump, Jr.  “Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man,” he said in a statement obtained by Axios. “He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.” In Michael Wolff‘s book Fire and Fury: In the Trump White House, Bannon is quoted as suggesting that Trump, Jr. definitely told his father’s office about the June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower. Senior Adviser to the President Jared Kushner and then campaign manager Paul Manafort also attended the meeting, which started after an intermediary promised dirt on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. “The chance that Don. Jr did not walk these Jumos up to his father’s office on the 26th floor is zero,” he is quoted as saying. He also reportedly said about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV. He reportedly also called the Trump Tower meeting “treasonous” and “unpatriotic. Not a good look, especially since the special counsel is investigating whether the Trump campaign helped Russia interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Bannon said that his statements were based on his experience in the Navy during the Soviet era. “My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate,” he said in Sunday’s statement. “He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.” He continued to insist that the collusion allegations were a “witch hunt” and that “I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr. has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.” Bannon’s statement follows a legal threat from the Trump team. The president retained an outside lawyer Charles Harder, who sent Bannon a letter threatening legal action. He claimed the former Chief Stategist broke a NDAs “by, among other things, communicating with author Michael Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company, disclosing Confidential Information to Mr. Wolff, and making disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements to Mr. Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company.” The president and his spokespeople continue to dispute the veracity of Wolff’s book, and they also burnt bridges with Bannon. Trump has taking to calling him “Sloppy Steve.” For his part, the former Chief Strategist is taking a lighter tone against his old boss. “President Trump was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus,” he wrote. “I am the only person to date to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism; and remain ready to stand in the breech for this president’s efforts to make America great again.”

Wolff: 25th Amendment discussed in West Wing

CNN’s Brian Stelter and Carl Bernstein discuss President Donald Trump’s fitness after “Fire and Fury” author Michael Wolff told NBC’s Chuck Todd people in the West Wing have brought up the 25th Amendment in conversation.

Michael Wolff, author of the disputed new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, said Sunday that even White House staff brought up the 25th Amendment when discussing President Donald Trump. You know, the part of the Constitution where the cabinet and Congress agree that POTUS should be removed for inability to do his job. “This is 25th Amendment kind of stuff,” Wolff said regarding Trump’s public response to his book. Host Chuck Todd pressed him on whether White House staff said that kind of thing to him. He said yes, “all the time.” “Actually, they would say, in the mid-period, ‘We’re not at a 25th Amendment level yet,’” later adding, “and this went on, ‘Okay, this is a little 25th Amendment.’ So 25th Amendment is a concept that is alive every day in the White House.” Section 4 of the 25th Amendment lets the Vice President and majority of the cabinet remove the president if they tell congressional leaders that POTUS “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It has never been invoked. The president can push back on this with his own written declaration, but if the VP and cabinet insist, then both houses of Congress must vote. The Vice President will continue to serve as Acting President if lawmakers take his side by a two-thirds majority. The 25th Amendment is a running theme among Trump’s most vocal critics, but his supporters won’t acknowledge the possibility, at least in on-the-record conversations. As far as Wolff’s book, the White House has engaged in regular attacks on its veracity after copies were made available to the press.

Ivanka Met With Russian Lawyer After Trump Jr. Meeting At Trump Tower

Ivanka Trump allegedly spoke to the Russian lawyer who conferred with Donald Trump Jr. immediately after a June 2016 Trump Tower discussion about possible dirt on Hillary Clinton. Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya and Russian lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin reportedly chatted with Ivanka Trump outside the Trump Tower lobby elevators after the infamous and much-scrutinized June 9, 2016 meeting, according to the Los Angeles Times. Ivanka’s possible “involvement”–whether in the meeting itself or, perhaps just generally–is now being explored by investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller. An unidentified source for the Times claims the conversation between the three–Ivanka, Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin–was brief and that pleasantries were exchanged as Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin made their way out of the elevators after leaving the 5th floor meeting with Trump Jr. Ivanka Trump has never been alleged to have attended the 30-minute meeting held immediately prior to her chat with Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin–and is not accused of doing so now. That same source–purportedly close to the Russiagate investigation–also noted, however, that the encounter was apparently on Mueller’s radar because of his interest in all details regarding connections or meetings between members of the Trump family and the two Russian nationals. According to the Times, “Mueller’s investigators want to know every contact the two visitors had with Trump’s family members and inner circle.” Details of the encounter between Ivanka Trump, Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin were not previously known to the public and were first reported on today.

Smaller nations are DYING because of EU open border policy

A LATVIAN official has warned the EU’s open borders policy means small countries in the bloc are shrinking at an alarming rate.

Open borders have been blamed for ghost towns

Open borders have been blamed for ghost towns. Since it joined the EU in 2000, Latvia’s population has fallen by an incredible 18.2 percent, from 2.38million down to just 1.95million. It has led television commentator Otto Ozols to warn the country could even “cease to be a nation” in 50 years time. Diplomat Atis Sjanits told Politico this week: “The reality is that we are losing people — fast.”

Officials say the country still has jobs for people who want to work there. But they cannot stop citizens from disappearing further west in search of better pay and prospects. But despite the warnings, Brussels has demanded the Schengen passport-free travel area should actually be extended. Romania and Bulgaria, who both joined the EU in 2007, already have free movement across the union. But the bloc’s move, announced last month, will see people in both nations able to travel across the EU without passport checks or border controls.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, claimed it was “high time” the two nations join the passport-free zone, arguing it would make the 27-nation superstate more secure. His comments came ahead of a European Council decision on the two states – along with Croatia who are expected to need to carry out more work before they are considered for accession by the EU. His comments come ahead of a European Council decision on the two states – along with Croatia who are expected to need to carry out more work before they are considered for accession by the EU.

Saudi CRACKDOWN: Officials detain 11 princes after protests at royal palace over austerity

ELEVEN Saudi princes have been thrown into jail after staging a palace sit-in to protest against having to pay their electricity and water bills.
The bizarre demonstration was staged at a royal residence in Riyadh and was sparked by the signing of a decree halting state payments to over their utilities bills. The princes were also demanding compensation for the 2016 state execution of a cousin who was convicted of murder. Saudi Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said the princes were warned their demands were unlawful but they refused to leave and public peace and order was disrupted.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
GETTY Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is spearheading and anti-corruption purge in Saudi Arabia

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ruffled feathers in Riyadh

The princes were arrested and are being held at al-Hayer prison south of Riyadh pending trial.  Sheikh al-Mojeb said: “No one is above the law in Saudi Arabia. Everyone is equal and is treated the same as others.” Two months ago, authorities arrested dozens of royals, businessmen and senior government officials as a part of a corruption crackdown.The princes were detained after staging a sit-in protest at a royal palace in Riyadh Those detained included the former head of the royal court Khaled al-Tuwaijri and Saudi media mogul Waleed al-Ibrahim. The investigation is being overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who was appointed head of a new anti-corruption committee hours before the arrests began November 4. The royal decree said the committee was needed “due to the propensity of some people for abuse, putting their personal interest above public interest, and stealing public funds” and will “trace and combat corruption at all levels”. Saudi officials said decades of corruption and embezzlement had cost the kingdom tens of billions of pounds.

Trump rejects author’s accusations, calls self ‘stable genius’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday rejected an author’s accusations that he is mentally unfit for office and said his track record showed he is a “stable genius.” U.S. President Donald Trump departs for Camp David from the White House in Washington, U.S., January 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  Michael Wolff, who was granted unusually wide access to the White House during much of Trump’s first year, has said in promoting his book, “Fire and Fury – Inside the Trump White House,” that Trump is unfit for the presidency. Trump, in a series of extraordinary morning posts on Twitter, said his Democratic critics and the U.S. news media were bringing up the “old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence” since they have not been able to bring him down in other ways. Reagan, a Republican who was the U.S. president from 1981-1989, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994 and died in 2004. “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” said Trump, a former reality TV star.“I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star … to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!”  Trump, 71, issued the tweets from the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, where he was meeting Republican congressional leaders and many Cabinet secretaries about their legislative agenda for the year. The tweets were another sign of Trump’s frustration at what he views as unfair treatment by the news media of his presidency amid a federal investigation into whether he or his campaign aides colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, in which he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.  Wolff told BBC Radio in an interview broadcast on Saturday that based on his interviews with the people around Trump that he believed the president was unfit for office. He told NBC News on Friday that White House staff treated Trump like a child. “The one description that everyone gave, everyone has in common — they all say he is like a child,“ Wolff said. ”And what they mean by that, he has a need for immediate gratification. It’s all about him. “This man does not read, does not listen. He’s like a pinball, just shooting off the sides.”

Arson investigation after fire at Alabama home of Roy Moore accuser

(CNN)Alabama authorities say arson is being investigated in a fire that destroyed the home of Tina Johnson, a woman who accused former US Senate candidate Roy Moore of grabbing her on the buttocks in 1991. No arrests have been made, and there appears to be no connection to the allegations against Moore, the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. “The ongoing investigation does not lead us to believe that the fire is in any way related to Roy Moore or allegations made against him,” the release said. Johnson told CNN she lost everything in the Wednesday fire at a Gadsden home where she lived for 10 years.

Tina Johnson's house caught fire Wednesday, authorities said.

Johnson said she and her mother visited Moore’s Gadsden law office in 1991 to discuss a custody dispute over the care of Johnson’s young son. Johnson said she was 28 at the time.
After the mother left the room, “He just grabbed me from behind, on my buttocks,” Johnson said. “It’s not just a squeeze.”
Johnson was among eight women who came forward to say Moore acted inappropriately with them, with four saying he pursued them while they were teenagers and he was an adult.
Moore has denied all the accusations.
The Republican ran for the US Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, now the US attorney general. Moore lost a runoff last month to Doug Jones, a Democrat.

Stocks surge despite weaker than expected job growth

US job growth in December came in weaker than expected — but investors cheered nonetheless, focusing on the unemployment rate holding at ­4.1 percent, a 17-year low. Nonfarm payrolls added 148,000 jobs last month – below the 190,000 expected by economists — yet strong enough to bring employment gains for 2017 to 2.1 million, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday.

 

 

“Even as much of the country shivers through the deep freeze, we can take some solace that the US economy continues to be more than just lukewarm following two straight quarters of 3 percent- plus growth,” said Mark Hamrick, Bankrate.com’s senior economic analyst. Stock markets reacted by soaring to new highs, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 220.74 points, to 25,295.87. The S&P 500 gained 19.16, to 2,743.15, and the Nasdaq rose 58.64, to 7,136.56.

Wage growth remained “muted but still positive,” referring to December’s 9-cent boost in average hourly earnings. The gain lifted the year’s wage increase to 65 cents, or 2.5 percent, and the average hourly wage to $26.63. The modest growth “will give the Fed leeway on rates for the first half of next year,” Foudy said of expectations for the central bank to raise interest rates three times next year. The BLS also revised downward by 9,000 the 472,000 jobs originally reported for October and November. Employment surged in those two months after back-to-back hurricanes in September stymied job formation. Merrill Lynch’s economics team noted that December’s job gains were not spread evenly by sector: the goods-producing side of the economy, which includes manufacturing and construction, continued to hire at a brisk pace, while ­the service-providing sectors, especially retail, indicated ­unexpected weakness.

U.S. trade deficit swells to largest since January 2012

Deficit expands 3.2% to $50.5 billion

Bloomberg News A freighter docked at the Port of Los Angeles.

The U.S. trade deficit widened 3.2% in November to $50.5 billion, the highest trade gap since January 2012. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a $50 billion gap. Imports rose 2.5% to $250.7 billion, the Commerce Department said Friday. Exports rose 2.3% to $200.2 billion. Year-to-date, the deficit is up 11.6% from the same period in 2016.

The trade gap with China widened to $35.4 billion in November, the highest since September 2015.

Adding to the gap, the November average price of imported oil rose to $50.10 a barrel, the highest since July 2015. The rise in imports was led by consumer goods, including cell phones. The gain in exports was led by capital goods, including civilian aircraft. A larger deficit will likely be a drag on fourth-quarter GDP growth.

President Trump has vowed to reduce deficits and bring jobs back home, but the U.S. is on track to post an even bigger gap for all of 2017 that could be the largest in five years.

Nick Note: This is a disaster. I seem to recall Trump told me that the first thing he was going to do was declare China a cur.ency manipulator which they are. trump told me he was going to stop the Trillion dollars of US wealth flowing to China. He DID not tell me he would increase the trade Deficit to China by record amount. Excuse me i am confused!

 

NYTimes: Mueller learned of Trump attempt to stop Sessions recusal

Washington (CNN)Special counsel Robert Mueller is aware of an unsuccessful attempt by President Donald Trump to lobby Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia probe, The New York Times reported Thursday. The Times, citing two people with knowledge of the episode, said Trump had ordered White House counsel Don McGahn last March to stop Sessions from recusing himself from oversight of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump’s reported attempt to have a political ally maintain control of an investigation into his associates would add to a list of possible examples of Trump seeking to influence the Justice Department — and opening himself up to potential obstruction of justice claims. Ty Cobb, a lawyer for the President, told CNN tonight he “respectfully declines to respond.” At the time, Sessions faced mounting calls for recusal given his support for the Trump campaign and the revelation of an omission during his confirmation hearing about contacts with Sergey Kislyak, who was the Russian ambassador to the US at the time. While widely reported on, the government did not confirm the existence of the investigation until then-FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee later in March 2017 that there was an ongoing investigation into potential coordination between Trump’s associates and Russia to influence the 2016 election. The Times also reported that, “Two days after Mr. Comey’s testimony, an aide to Mr. Sessions approached a Capitol Hill staff member asking whether the staffer had any derogatory information about the FBI director,” a claim that the Justice Department denied. “The attorney general wanted one negative article a day in the news media about Mr. Comey, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting,” the Times reported. But Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told CNN: “This did not happen and would not happen. Plain and simple.” New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, released a statement in the wake of the report, calling McGahn’s reported conduct “completely unacceptable” and saying McGahn should make himself available to the committee. “Congress needs to know exactly what efforts Mr. McGahn took to ‘lobby’ the Attorney General in this case, and what President Trump’s role was in those efforts,” Nadler said. Sessions announced he would recuse himself from all matters relating to the investigation in early March. Politicians, including Republicans, praised the decision at the time, but Trump has publicly rebuked his attorney general and said he wished Sessions had not recused. The Times reported Thursday that after McGahn was unsuccessful at getting Sessions not to recuse, Trump became angry and said he needed an attorney general to protect him. Sessions’ recusal left Justice Department oversight of the probe to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed former FBI director Mueller to be special counsel after Trump fired Comey in May 2017.

Trump-Bannon fallout could threaten Republicans in midterm elections, analysts say

Steve Bannon speaks before introducing Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore during a campaign event at Oak Hollow Farm on December 5, 2017 in Fairhope, Alabama.
Getty Images Steve Bannon speaks before introducing Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore during a campaign event at Oak Hollow Farm on December 5, 2017 in Fairhope, Alabama

Steve Bannon’s fiery comments about President Donald Trump in a soon-to-be-published White House expose could impact Republican performance in the 2018 midterm elections, according to analysts. Trump lashed out at Bannon on Wednesday, saying his former campaign strategist had “lost his mind,” in response to Bannon’s scathing criticism of his family published in Michael Wolff’s forthcoming book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” Part of Bannon’s broadside was the accusation that Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower was “treasonous”, among other claims. “Divisions with Bannon could result in the Republicans losing support in the midterms with Bannon promising to run hard-right independent candidates in as many districts as possible in the House elections,” Derek Halpenny, head global markets analyst at MUFG, said in an email note. “It could split some of Trump’s support.”

Polls already suggest that Democrats could feasibly win the 25 seats needed to regain control of the House of Representatives.

“Many of them (Republicans) are running scared at this point, a lot of them have decided not to actually stand for election,” Peter Trubowitz, director of the United States Center at the London School of Economics, told CNBC on Friday. “They sense that there’s a Democratic wave coming. And for Republicans, the move toward the center guarantees getting primaried by a Republican challenger, a Breitbart type or so forth.”Michael Wolff’s tell-all book won’t really change Trump’s agenda: Pro   7 Hours Ago | 03:59  In December, many congressional Republicans excoriated Breitbart Executive Chairman Bannon after his fielding of right-wing anti-establishment Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama — who beat Republican incumbent Luther Strange in the primaries — led to a victory for the Democratic contender Doug Jones. The spat between Trump and Bannon slashes an alliance that helped galvanize the president’s Republican base during his election. Bannon was a staunch Trump backer from the early days of the campaign, and is credited with pushing ethno-nationalism and populism onto the forefront of national politics.

Ex-ethics chief: White House counsel ‘is a cancer’

Washington (CNN)A former director of the US Office of Government Ethics on Friday called White House counsel Don McGahn “a cancer who has done much to undermine anticorruption mechanisms in this country” following an explosive report published in The New York Times.”He drove the federal election commission into a ditch to undermine our election laws. He did a direct assault on the ethics program and now we’re learning he attacked the Department of Justice,” Walter Shaub told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota.Shaub, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump who served as ethics director under the Obama administration and is now a CNN contributor, was responding to a report in the Times that said Trump ordered McGahn last March to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from oversight of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.NYTimes: Mueller learned of Trump attempt to stop Sessions recusal

Trump’s reported attempt to have a political ally maintain control of an investigation into his associates would add to a list of possible examples of Trump seeking to influence the Justice Department — and opening himself up to potential obstruction of justice claims.
Ty Cobb, a lawyer for the President, told CNN Thursday night he “respectfully declines to respond.” A message left with McGahn seeking comment Friday morning was not immediately returned.
“It is a crime for a federal employee to participate in a particular matter in which he has a financial interest,” Shaub said. “An investigation in a particular matter. A subject of an investigation is a financial interest in that investigation. And Jeff Sessions was a member of the Trump campaign who spoke with Russian officials in 2016 in one capacity or another, and did not reveal that in his congressional testimony under oath.”He continued: “So he was certainly a potential subject of any investigation into the Trump’s campaign with Russian officials and he knew that, which is why he did do the right thing and recuse.” Shaub also said McGahn is unqualified to be in his role at the White House. “I hope (special counsel Robert) Mueller is looking at this very seriously for obstruction of justice because it could be,” Shaub said. “(McGahn) is in over his head in the job and I question whether he’s got the character he needs to be able to do that … (he) should go back in time and undo what he did.”

Fusion GPS fighting order to turn over bank records

(CNN)Fusion GPS continues to fight against the release of its financial records and client names, even after a federal judge said Fusion’s bank would have to turn over records the political intelligence firm didn’t want to see disclosed. Fusion GPS and the House Intelligence Committee have tangled over a subpoena of Fusion’s bank records for months, even after three of the firm’s clients — the law firm Perkins Coie (which was connected to the Democratic National Committee), the law firm Baker & Hostetler (which worked for Russian company Prevezon) and the conservative-leaning Washington Free Beacon — were made public. The Perkins Coie and Free Beacon engagements ultimately produced the now-infamous Trump dossier during the presidential campaign last year. On Friday morning, Fusion GPS asked Judge Richard Leon to stay his ruling because the company says it plans to appeal. Leon had rejected the company’s argument that handing over the records would hurt its business and endanger its clients. “There is a significant risk of leaks from the investigation, and leaks have already resulted in retaliation against a senior Justice Department attorney whose wife, a Russia expert, has done work for Fusion in the past,” Fusion’s lawyers wrote in a court document filed Friday. The Justice Department attorney was Bruce Ohr, who was demoted amid the discovery of certain meetings with Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson and Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who assembled the dossier. In court in recent months, Fusion GPS and the House Intelligence Committee couldn’t agree on the subpoena of 70 records with Fusion GPS’s bank, TD Bank. Fusion GPS said the release of the records would violate the company’s First Amendment rights and hurt its business.

Gold futures just marked the longest winning streak on record

 

Shutterstock Gold futures prices are back at September highs.

Gold futures logged an 11th day of gains on Friday—the longest stretch of consecutive session gains on record. The precious metal started the day on shaky ground with some caution emerging among investors after the metal hit 10-straight sessions of gains on Thursday, which was its longest run in more than six years. The dollar, which usually moves inversely to gold, was initially higher, was pushed lower by the employment report, then bounced back. The jobs report Friday revealed that the U.S. added 148,000 workers in December, the slowest pace in three months, and it included a tepid wage-growth reading, which could gold some gold investors interpreted as possibly slowing interest-rate increases for the Federal Reserve in 2018. The unemployed rate, however, held at 4.1%. Separate data Friday showed the Institute for Supply Management’s nonmanufacturing index sank 1.5 points to 55.9% in December. A reading of 50 or better indicates improving activity. . Futures prices again logged their highest settlement since Sept. 15.

Prices have now climbed for 11 sessions in a row. That’s the longest such streak for a most-active futures contract based on data from FactSet going back to late 1984.

For the week, gold rose roughly 1% climb after three weeks of gains. The passage of the Republican tax bill have failed to give the dollar a lift, helping gold. A weaker dollar tends to provide a boost to dollar-pegged commodities, including gold, making them more attractive to users of weaker monetary units. Among other metals, palladium pulled back after hitting record levels Thursday. March palladium PAH8, -0.69%  eased $12.55, or 1.2%, to $1,082.20 an ounce, with prices scoring a 2% weekly rise. They settled a day earlier at $1,094.75—the highest for a most-active futures contract on records dating back to 1984, according to FactSet data. March copper HGH8, -0.97% fell 1% to $3.23 a pound, ending down 2.2% for the week, March silver SIH8, -0.02% rose 0.1% to $17.285 an ounce, up about 0.8% from a week ago, and April platinum PLJ8, +0.47%  rose 0.5% to $975.20 an ounce—for a weekly climb of about 4%. Nick Bit: Gold, silver, Platinum, copper and for tat matter oil are in a great manipulation. The Fund boys are busy messaging each other in a desperate attempt to get “something” going. This is a great big Bull trap that will end in new cycle lows across the board. Short the shit out of this. We are across the board.

Service-sector growth tumbles in December, ISM says

Bloomberg News/Landov

The Institute for Supply Management’s nonmanufacturing index sank 1.5 points to 55.9% in December.

What happened: ISM’s services gauge tracks activity in the economy that’s not related to manufacturing. It’s decelerated each month since October, when it touched a 12-year high. Any reading over 50% indicates improving conditions. As ISM put it, “the majority of respondents’ comments indicate that they finished the year on a positive note. They also indicate optimism for business conditions and the economic outlook going forward.” Still, the MarketWatch consensus forecast was for a small increase, to 57.6%.

In December, ISM’s new orders sub-index slid 4.4 points to 54.3, signalling slower activity lies ahead.

The jobs sub-index rose 1 point to 56.3. And the gauge of prices paid ticked up 0.1 point to 60.8, a reminder that many economists expect inflationary pressures for industry ahead.  The economy continues to grow, and has muscled through the energy crisis that caused a plunge in hiring, capital spending and inflation in 2015. But the expansion is getting old. “Ending the year with profits and business levels on track. 2018 is projected to be as productive with an optimistic outlook,” a survey respondent in the finance and insurance industry told ISM. One of the few downbeat comments came from a respondent representing the construction industry: “Lumber prices are increasing due to product [being] damaged in the recent wildfires. Duties on steel from Vietnam is expected to cause an increase in steel prices. Ongoing shortages in construction related [to] labor continue to be a problem.”

U.S. Job Growth Falls Well Short Of Estimates In December

NonFarmPayroll-010518-lt.jpg

After reporting a bigger than expected jump in employment in the previous month, the Labor Department released a report on Friday showing employment in the U.S. increased by much less than anticipated in the month of December.

The report said non-farm payroll employment climbed by 148,000 jobs in December after spiking by an upwardly revised 252,000 jobs in November. Economists had expected employment to increase by 190,000 jobs compared to the addition of 228,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month. While the jump in employment in November was upwardly revised, the increase in employment in October was downwardly revised to 211,000 jobs from 244,000 jobs, reflecting a net downward revision of 9,000 jobs over the two months. The report showed another notable increase in employment in the goods-producing sector, which rose by 55,000 jobs in December after climbing by 63,000 jobs in November.

However, growth in employment in the service-providing sector slowed to just 91,000 jobs in December from 176,000 jobs in November. The slowdown came as the retail industry cut 20,300 jobs, potentially reflecting the shift from brick and mortar stores to online. “As a comparison, couriers & messengers added only 2,100 jobs, so in net terms the structural shift is hardly positive for employment,” said Paul Ashworth, Chief U.S. Economist at Capital Economics.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said the unemployment rate came in at 4.1 percent in December, unchanged from the two previous months and in line with economist estimates.The unemployment rate remained at a seventeen-year low as the household survey measure of employment showed an increase of 104,000 people, while the labor force expanded by 64,000 people. The report also said average hourly employee earnings rose by $0.09 or 0.3 percent to $26.63 in December from $26.54 in November. The annual rate of growth in average hourly earnings accelerated to 2.5 percent in December from a revised 2.4 percent in the previous month.

Nick Bit: The REAL unemployment rate U6  INCREASED  to 8.1%  and the average work week was at a record low 34.5 hours. At one time it was 44  hours. Less hours worked Less money. workforce participation rate still at record lows

Saudi Arabia converts Aramco into joint-stock company ahead of historic IPO

 FILE PHOTO: A view shows Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq oil facility in eastern Saudi Arabia in this undated handout photo. Saudi Aramco/Handout/File Photo via REUTERS

DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has changed the status of its national oil giant Aramco to a joint-stock company as of Jan. 1, in a key step for an initial public offering (IPO) planned for later this year.The sale of up to 5 percent of Saudi Aramco, expected to go ahead in the second half of 2018, is a centerpiece of Vision 2030, an ambitious reform plan to reduce the dependence of the Saudi economy on oil. The plan is championed by Saudi crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.  The change, which was published in a cabinet decree in the kingdom’s official bulletin on Friday, is a requirement for local companies in Saudi Arabia ahead of listing, a senior Aramco source, who declined to be named, told Reuters.“As a customary step in the preparation process for a Saudi IPO, Saudi Aramco has converted to a joint stock company,” the source said.  “This establishes the framework to allow future investors to hold shares in the company alongside its shareholder, the government.” But it is an important step as it shows the IPO process, which could be the biggest in history raising up to $100 billion, is moving ahead despite market speculation it could be delayed or totally shelved.Prince Mohammad told Reuters in October it was still on track for 2018.

The government will have the right to appoint or change the company’s chairman, a position currently held by Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih. The government will remain the major shareholder of Aramco and retain the ultimate decision on output levels and production capacity, it said. “The state will remain the only responsible entity to make the final decisions regarding the maximum levels of hydrocarbons that can be produced at any time,” it said.

Investors have long debated whether Aramco could be valued anywhere close to $2 trillion, the figure announced by the crown prince, who wants to raise cash through the IPO to finance investment aimed at helping wean the world’s biggest oil exporting nation off its dependency on crude.

 

AP source: Trump had lawyer urge Sessions not to recuse self

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump directed his White House counsel to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions to not recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, according to a person familiar with the matter. The conversation between Don McGahn, the president’s White House counsel, and Sessions took place on the president’s orders and occurred just before the attorney general announced that he would step aside from the ongoing inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to a person with knowledge of the interaction. Two other people confirmed details of the conversation between McGahn and Sessions. All three people spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press to avoid publicly discussing an ongoing investigation. The episode is known to special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors and is likely of interest to them as they look into whether Trump’s actions as president, including the May firing of FBI Director James Comey, amount to improper efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation. Investigators recently concluded a round of interviews with current and former White House officials, including McGahn and former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. The New York Times first reported that Trump had McGahn lobby Sessions against a recusal. Reached Thursday evening, Trump personal attorney John Dowd said, “I know nothing about that,” and hung up. Jay Sekulow, another of the president’s personal lawyers, did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment. The White House also did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sessions announced on March 2 that he would recuse himself from the Russia probe. He said at the time that he should not oversee any investigation into a campaign for which he was an active and vocal supporter, though the recusal also followed the revelation that he had had two previously undisclosed interactions during the 2016 campaign with the Russian ambassador to the United States. At his Jan. 10 confirmation hearing, he had said he had no meetings with Russians. But soon before the announcement, with White House officials anticipating that Sessions might be poised to step aside, McGahn spoke to Sessions by phone and urged him against recusing himself from the investigation.

During the conversation, according to people familiar with the matter, McGahn argued to Sessions that there was no reason or basis at that time for him to recuse. One person said McGahn also told him that recusal would do nothing to resolve concerns over whether Sessions had given a misleading answer at his confirmation hearing. Sessions ultimately declined the urging, and McGahn ultimately accepted the conclusion of officials who believed that Sessions should recuse. Sessions’ recusal left Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge of the Russia investigation. But once Trump fired Comey two months later, Rosenstein appointed Mueller, the former FBI director, to run the investigation and to report to him. Four people, including Trump’s former campaign chairman and national security adviser, have been charged so far in the investigation. The Sessions recusal has been a sore spot for Trump for months, with the president publicly deriding the decision and lamenting his selection of the former Alabama senator as his attorney general. In a July interview with The Times, Trump said, “Well, Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.”

Investors should be ‘terrified’ about the ‘exponential’ risk associated with Dow 25,000

Wall Street’s eye-popping gains should be of great concern to global investors, an analyst told CNBC on Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke above 25,000 for the first time on Thursday, following the release of stronger-than-expected jobs data. It was the fastest 1,000-point move in the Dow’s history after the 30-stock index broke above 24,000 on November 30 — just 35 calendar days before reaching 25,000.

“We’re really terrified,” Paul Gambles, managing partner at MBMG Group, told CNBC.

When asked why he believed traders should avoid investing in stocks given the so-called “Goldilocks” global growth conditions, Gambles said: “In the first three versions of the Goldilocks story, Goldilocks actually died horribly and we think that could well happen again (to stocks).” Gambles said that collective global growth at the level seen through 2017 was the GDP (gross domestic product) equivalent to a “blow-off top.” He added similar levels of concerted worldwide growth were seen during previous financial crises and therefore the current risk to investors was “exponential”. On Thursday, the Dow increased 152 points to 25,075, while the broader S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq also hit milestones. President Donald Trump sought to take credit for the Dow’s record-breaking rise above 25,000 on Thursday. He told reporters: “I guess our new number is 30,000… There were those that said we wouldn’t break 25,000 by the end of the eighth year (of my administration), and we’re in the 11th month.”Trump has touted the market’s surge throughout his presidency, unlike his predecessors. Since his inauguration on January 20, Trump has tweeted about the stock market more than 50 times. On Thursday, he tweeted: “Dow just crashes through 25,000. Congrats! Big cuts in unnecessary regulations continuing.” Nick Bit: This will end in tears for te Bulls. We will make a killing as this market soon peeks and crashes. I want to be on the record here the market is coming unhinged as is Trump. They will both soon crater.

Trump moves to vastly expand offshore drilling off US coasts

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration moved Thursday to vastly expand offshore drilling from the Atlantic to the Arctic oceans with a plan that would open up federal waters off California for the first time in more than three decades. The new five-year drilling plan also could open new areas of oil and gas exploration in areas off the East Coast from Florida to Maine, where drilling has been blocked for decades. While some lawmakers in those states support offshore drilling, the plan drew immediate opposition from governors up and down the East Coast, including Republican Govs. Rick Scott of Florida and Larry Hogan of Maryland, who pressed President Donald Trump to withdraw their states from consideration.Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the plan, saying that responsible development of offshore energy resources would boost jobs and economic security while providing billions of dollars to fund conservation along U.S. coastlines. The Trump administration moved Thursday to vastly expand offshore drilling from the Atlantic to the Arctic oceans with a plan that would open up federal waters off California for the first time in more than three decades. (Jan. 4) The five-year plan would open 90 percent of the nation’s offshore reserves to development by private companies, Zinke said, with 47 leases proposed off the nation’s coastlines from 2019 to 2024. Nineteen sales would be off Alaska, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, nine in the Atlantic and seven in the Pacific, including six off California. Industry groups praised the announcement, which would be the most expansive offshore drilling proposal in decades. The proposal follows Trump’s executive order in April encouraging more drilling rights in federal waters, part of the administration’s strategy to help the U.S. achieve “energy dominance” in the global market. Nick Bit: their are vast oil reserves under both coasts. Enough to make America a energy  super power.

 

 

CFTC Futures regulator to review bitcoin futures risks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. derivatives regulator will hold two meetings to discuss the procedure and operational controls for listing and trading digital currency futures, it said on Thursday, amid rising concerns over the risks bitcoin poses to the financial system.The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said it would convene its technology and risk advisory committees this month to discuss its “self-certification” process for listing digital currency futures and how those products are risk-managed and policed.  The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASSA) have issued new warnings to investors over the risks of investing in bitcoin, cautioning regulators may not be able to protect them from fraudsters. CME Group Inc (CME.O) and CBOE Global Markets Inc (CBOE.O) launched bitcoin futures in December, sparking criticism from some industry participants who said the regulator should have consulted the market more widely before allowing the products.In December, the Futures Industry Association wrote to the CFTC expressing concern about the risks potentially posed by allowing futures in volatile virtual currencies to be traded alongside more traditional financial products.

The price of bitcoin soared to record highs of more than $19,000 in December, only to slump more than 28 percent – although it still ended the year up 1,300 percent.

The CFTC has been increasing its jurisdiction over the cryptocurrency market, which has no overriding federal regulator, but is restricted by its limited legal power to actively block exchanges from launching futures products. CFTC regulations allow designated exchanges to list products for trading without prior CFTC approval by filing a written self-certification with the regulator. Under the self-certification process, which is a quirk of the futures market, the exchanges file a submission to the CFTC confirming the product complies with the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC regulations – including a key provision that requires that the contract is not susceptible to manipulation.

CME.O

The CFTC has the power to block the contract but can only do so under exceptional circumstances. The pair of advisory committee meetings are aimed at giving stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the issue. “The responsible regulatory response to virtual currencies is consumer education, asserting CFTC authority, surveilling trading in derivative and spot markets, prosecuting fraud, abuse, manipulation and false solicitation and active coordination with fellow regulators,” CFTC Chair Christopher Giancarlo said in the statement, adding the CFTC was following this course of action. On Thursday, his counterpart at the SEC Jay Clayton along with Commissioners Kara Stein and Michael Piwowar, warned investors that many actors in the virtual currency market were violating state and federal laws. “The SEC and state securities regulators are pursuing violations, but we again caution you that, if you lose money, there is a substantial risk that our efforts will not result in a recovery of your investment,” they said in the statement. Nick Bit: Volatility is not in their power to regulate. Bottom line is the BIG boys don’t like bit coin since they can’t control it.

Oil marks 3-year high on U.S. supply drop, Iran conflict

Natural-gas prices sink as U.S. supplies fall less than expected

Reuters Protests in Iran have left more than 20 people dead

Oil futures finished higher Thursday as a hefty weekly drop in U.S. crude supplies and ongoing protests in Iran lifted prices to levels not seen since December 2014. February West Texas Intermediate crude CLG8, -0.82%  added 38 cents, or 0.6%, to settle at $62.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, with prices notching the highest futures settlement since December 2014. February Brent crude LCOH8, -0.82% the global oil benchmark, added 23 cents, or 0.3% to $68.07 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures exchange, also settling at the highest in about three years. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Thursday that domestic crude supplies fell by 7.4 million barrels for the week ended Dec. 29. That was larger than the forecast for a decline of 5.7 million barrels from analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts. The American Petroleum Institute on Wednesday had reported a drop of 5 million barrels.

The EIA report, which was released a day late due to the new year holiday, also said gasoline stockpiles climbed 4.8 million barrels for the week, while distillate stockpiles jumped up by 8.9 million barrels.

Meanwhile, riots in Iran, which have left more than 20 people dead, may lead to disruption to crude output from OPEC’s third-largest producer. “Iran continues to be a wild card if violence continues or increases look for an extension of price by at least $1,” Scott Gecas, chief market strategist at Long Leaf Trading Group, told MarketWatch. Antigovernment protests in Iran over the past week have been partly driven by economic grievances after the lifting of international sanctions two-years ago didn’t generate the expected windfall. For now, the oil market is “in overbought territory [as] speculators hold record net long positions. Any negative news will spark sharp liquidation at these levels,” Gecas said. “In the next few days, the cold weather should subside and [with] the North Sea pipeline getting back on line, we could see a sharp sell off in the coming days.” The recent cold weather contributed to a decline of 206 billion cubic feet in U.S. natural-gas supplies for the week ended Dec. 29, according to an EIA report Thursday. The decline was less than the 219 billion drop expected by analysts polled by S&P Global Platts, but much larger than the five-year average withdrawal of 99 billion. February natural gas NGG18, -2.78%  fell 4.3% to $2.88 per million British thermal units. February heating oil HOG8, -0.85%  fell 0.5% to $2.077 a gallon. February gasoline RBG8, -0.85%  added 0.5% to $1.807 a gallon. At the U.S. retail level, gas-price tracker GasBuddy said it expects prices to average $2.57 a gallon this year, up from $2.39 in 2017. Nick Bit: these markets are in joke overbought territory and will crash. Iran will not see even one barrel of oil  output cut. This is the oil market manipulators trying to create a false narrative.

 

Marijuana stocks tank on news Trump administration to rescind state protections from pot prosecutions

AG Jeff Sessions’ decision will impact states that have legalized marijuana

A strong rally in cannabis-related stocks this week that marked the start of sales of recreational marijuana in California came to a screeching halt Thursday after the U.S. Dept. of Justice threw a spanner in the works for the nascent weed industry. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime marijuana opponent, is said he is rescinding an Obama-era policy that gave protections to states that have legalized marijuana as long as they abide by a series of guidelines. The news sent cannabis stocks sharply lower, with Nevada-based Cannabis Sativa Inc. CBDS, -24.02%   sliding 25%. The company is involved in the research, development and licensing of marijuana products. Colorado-based cannabis farmer GrowGeneration Corp. GRWG, -21.18%   slid 21%.

Many of the listed cannabis companies in North America are based in Canada, which is gearing up to fully legalize marijuana later this year. Those stocks were caught up in the downdraft, with Toronto-based medical marijuana distributor Supreme Cannabis Co. Inc. SPRWF, -6.56%  down 13%, while Ontario-based rival Canopy Growth Corp. WEED, -9.97%  slid 12%.

 

Yale psychiatrist briefed members of Congress on Trump’s mental fitness

(CNN)A dozen lawmakers from the House and Senate received a briefing from Yale psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X. Lee on Capitol Hill in early December about President Donald Trump’s fitness to be president — and Lee has been asked to provide an additional briefing to some lawmakers, worried about the President’s mental state, later this month. “Lawmakers were saying they have been very concerned about this, the President’s dangerousness, the dangers that his mental instability poses on the nation,” Lee told CNN in a phone interview Thursday, “They know the concern is universal among Democrats, but it really depends on Republicans, they said. Some knew of Republicans that were concerned, maybe equally concerned, but whether they would act on those concerns was their worry.” The briefing was previously reported by Politico. Lee, confirming the December 5 and 6 meeting to CNN, said that the group was evenly mixed — with House and Senate lawmakers. And included at least one Republican — a senator, whom she would not name. Lee’s public comments are highly unusual given protocols from medical professional organizations — including the 37,000-member American Psychiatric Association — banning psychiatrists from diagnosing patients without a formal examination. Under recent guidance from the APA, it is “fine for a psychiatrist to share their expertise about psychiatric issues in general,” but “member psychiatrists should not give professional opinions about the mental state of someone they have not personally evaluated,” according to an APA blog post. When asked by CNN about Lee’s comments, the APA referred them to this guidance. CNN has reached out to Yale specifically for comment on Lee’s statements. Lee made it clear that she is not in a position to diagnose the President, or any public figure, from afar. But she said that it is incumbent on medical professionals to intervene in instances where there is a danger to an individual or the public. She argues that signs the President has exhibited have risen to that level of danger. The meeting between Lee and members of Congress was set up through a former US Attorney with ties to Capitol Hill who approached Lee at the request of a “number of lawmakers,” she said. Lee provided them a briefing based on her book on the subject. Dr. James Gilligan — another psychiatrist — an expert on studying and predicting violence, also made a presentation. “Mr. Trump is showing signs of impairment that the average person could not see,” Lee said. “He is becoming very unstable very quickly. There is a need for neuropsychiatric evaluation that would demonstrate his capacity to serve.”

Continue reading “Yale psychiatrist briefed members of Congress on Trump’s mental fitness”

There Is Absolutely No Way Trump Can Block Publication Of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury

President Donald Trump‘s legal team sent a cease-and-desist letter to Henry Holt and Co., the publisher of Michael Wolff‘s forthcoming Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House in order to block the book’s publication before it’s official release next week. According to Fox News, the letter was also sent to the publishing house’s president Steve Rubin and Wolff himself. Let’s be clear:

Blocking the release of Wolff’s book is something Trump simply cannot do. Attempting to preemptively halt the publication of an unreleased book is not only a comically offensive and empty attack on basic notions of journalistic freedom, it’s also plainly unconstitutional. This is an exceedingly easy call.

Constitutional precedent here is very clear and can easily be explored in Supreme Court jurisprudence on the concept of prior restraint. In the 1976 case Nebraska Press Assn. v. Stuart, Justice Warren Burger, writing for the unanimous court, observed, “[P]rior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.”

 

 

There’s simply no plausible way Trump can win here. In fact, by sending the cease-and-desist letter–penned by Harvey Weinstein‘s former attorney Charles Harder–Trump is just making sure more people ultimately hear about and read Wolff’s book.

And, in any event, Trump’s heavy-handed attempt to squash Fire and Fury before thousands of Amazon orders ship is little more than the lawyer-written whinging of a wounded, stupid man.

Sears is closing over 100 more stores

A man walks by a Sears store.
Sears to close an additional 103 Kmart and Sears stores

Sears Holdings, parent company of Sears and Kmart stores, told its employees Thursday that it will be closing more than 100 additional stores this year. That consists of 64 Kmart stores and 39 Sears stores, all of which are expected to shut between early March and April. “We will continue to close some unprofitable stores as we transform our business model so that our physical store footprint and our digital capabilities match the needs and preferences of our members,” the company said in a statement. Sears wouldn’t say how many of its employees would be impacted by the closings but did say the majority of the jobs are part-time positions, and eligible associates will receive severance. Liquidation sales will begin as early as Jan. 12 at the closing stores, Sears said. (See below for a complete list of the locations being shut.)

About this time last year, Seritage Growth Properties, the real estate investment trust that Sears CEO Eddie Lampert spun off from the retailer, said in an SEC filing that the department store chain had exercised its right to terminate the leases on 19 unprofitable stores. This marked the second time Sears chose to shutter a chunk of the stores it sold off to Seritage in 2015.

 

Meantime, the department store chain has been testing smaller store formats across the U.S., and in some cases moving to occupy a pint-sized portion of a bigger box, as mall operators redevelop their properties. With growing competition from online players and with more brands choosing to sell through their own platforms, department stores including Sears, Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s have been forced to rethink their strategies: what inventory they will carry and how they will get it to shoppers. Sears shares have tumbled more than 60 percent over the past 12 months. The stock was falling close to 4.5 percent Thursday afternoon.

Nightmare for EU brewing as anti-euro party begins plan to gain power in Italy

AN ITALIAN party that wants to leave the euro is in pre-election talks with Silvio Berlusconi about forming a coalition, which could cause a nightmare for European Union chiefs.

The men could form a coalitionGETTY

The men could form a coalition Matteo Salvini from the Lega Nord party has held a series of talks with the country’s four-time prime minister already this year in a bid to cement a centre-right partnership. Polls show if the two did combine their parties could get round 40 per cent of the vote, sweeping to power in the March elections. The pair have so far discussed key policies including reducing taxes, creating jobs and fighting illegal immigration.

But it is Lega Nord’s stance on the euro that is causing panic in Brussels.

Mr Salvini has claimed the currency is a failed experiment that is heading towards “catastrophe”.

Speaking late last year, Mr Salvini warned: “I believe that one single currency for 18 economies, each different in its own way, that just won’t work in the long term. “But statistics here is more important than anything else.  “Look, since the introduction of the common currency Italy’s debt has risen by €900billion. Matteo Salvini could seize power “Six Nobel Prize winners are unanimous in saying that this experiment has failed and we should not go any further down this road.  “Yes, we understand that there is no way to hold a referendum on the euro. “But we are determined to become part of the government and that is why we invited economists to figure out what we should do when the euro collapses, since we should not rule out this possibility, what to do to prevent a catastrophe.” And he warned the bloc needed to change or it would “cease to exist”, arguing Brussels should work on fewer issues instead of constantly meddling in member state’s affairs. The party is also committed to honouring last October’s referendum to grant greater autonomy for the wealthy Lombardy and Veneto regions, another source of potential conflict with the EU.

Silvio Berlusconi is on the comeback trail

Silvio Berlusconi is on the comeback trail

Both regions, which include Venice and Milan, overwhelmingly backed more powers being devolved from Rome. So far it is unclear what agreement the two parties will reach on those controversial issues. But Mr Berlusconi and Mr Salvini will hold another meeting in the next few days in a bid to make further progress. Speaking about the talks today, Mr Salvini declared there was still more work to be done. He said: “There are still no appointments set with the allies, today I will call Silvio Berlusconi and then we will see in the coming

Iran appears to have beaten down sudden protests

Pro-government demonstrators hold posters of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) and Iran’s founder of Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during a march in Iran’s holy city of Qom, south of Tehran, Jan. 3, 2018, as tens of thousands gathered across Iran in a massive show of strength for the Islamic rulers after days of deadly unrest.

 

 

TEHRAN, Iran — The strength of protests shaking Iran was unclear on Thursday after a week of unrest that killed at least 21 people, with fewer reports of demonstrations as government supporters again took to the streets in several cities and towns. It wasn’t immediately clear if the drop in reports of new demonstrations challenging Iran’s theocratic government meant the protests were subsiding or that the authorities’ blocking of social media apps had managed to stop protesters from offering new images of rallies. However, while CBS News sources in Iran said there were sporadic, small uprisings reported around the country, the deployment of thousands of security forces appeared to have largely restored order — by force and intimidation — in most places.Estimates put the number of people arrested during the past week of unrest at more than 1,000, but the government has confirmed only about half that amount of detentions.  One witness said some protesters were seen being driven away blindfolded on the backs of motorcycles, the preferred mode of transportation for the feared Basiji paramilitary force, linked to the elite Revolutionary Guard. Meanwhile, the Trump administration acknowledged the speed and breadth of the protests took both it and the Iranian government by surprise. The past week’s protests have been the largest in Iran since the disputed 2009 presidential election, which ended in bloodshed. While many Iranians denounce the violence that has accompanied some demonstrations, they echo the protesters’ frustration over the weak economy and official corruption.

Michael Wolff’s Book On Trump White House Is No.1 On Amazon

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A controversial forthcoming book on the Trump White House, which has already sent shock waves after blunt revelations from his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, has gone on top of Amazone’s best-sellers.Journalist Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” is scheduled to release next Tuesday. But, by 3 p.m. ET Wednesday, it was ranked No. 1 on the online trader’s best-selling books list. The Guardian and New York Magazine posted excerpts of the book in which Bannon is quoted as saying some remarkable comments about the Trump family and the Russia investigation. According to Brannon, Trump did not want to be the president, and was shocked and horrified by his election win. The First Lady Melania was reportedly in tears on election night – not of joy, but on knowing about the surprising electoral victory of her billionaire husband. With extraordinary access to the Trump White House, Michael Wolff tells the inside story of the most controversial US presidency of modern time.

In this explosive book, he provides an array of new details about the chaos in the Oval Office. Among the revelations are what President Trump’s staff really thinks of him; what inspired Trump to claim he was wire-tapped by President Obama; why FBI director James Comey was dismissed; and who is really directing the Trump administration’s strategy after Bannon was fired from the job.A second excerpt will come out on Thursday, and the controversial media columnist will be interviewed on NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, CNN reports. Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers issued a legal notice demanding that Bannon stop making disparaging comments about Trump and his family.

Spokesman for Trump’s legal team left because he worried Trump obstructed justice, Wolff book claims

Former Trump legal spokesman Mark Corallo (left) and President Donald Trump's personal attorney Marc Kasowitz arrive to the National Press Club in Washington to read a statement to members of the media, Thursday, June 8, 2017.
Former Trump legal spokesman Mark Corallo (left) and President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Marc Kasowitz arrive to the National Press Club in Washington to read a statement to members of the media, Thursday, June 8, 2017.

The former spokesman for President Donald Trump’s private legal team quit this summer because he believed a statement dictated by the president aboard Air Force One may have obstructed justice, an explosive new book claims. That claim is reported in “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by author Michael Wolff, which the White House says is full of “false and misleading” information. On Thursday, Trump’s personal attorney sent a cease and desist letter to Wolff and his publisher, Henry Holt & Co., and demanded an apology for the content of the book. The book is set to go on sale Tuesday, but excerpts have been made available to the public. NBC News has obtained a copy.  “Mark Corallo was instructed not to speak to the press, indeed not to even answer his phone,” Wolff writes. “Later that week, Corallo, seeing no good outcome — and privately confiding that he believed the meeting on Air Force One represented a likely obstruction of justice — quit.” The statement the president reportedly dictated concerned the purpose of a June 2016 meeting between Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., senior advisor Jared Kushner, then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer.  That initial explanation suggested the primary purpose of the meeting was to discuss Russian adoptions. That was later shown to be misleading, and Trump Jr. has said that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss potential dirt on political rival Hillary Clinton.
Advisors to the president told The Washington Post in July that the initial statement could raise questions about whether the president is attempting to hide something.

Trump attorney sends Bannon cease and desist letter over ‘disparaging’ comments

The letter comes after excerpts from a forthcoming book by journalist Michael Wolff were made public Wednesday, causing a stir

Lawyers on behalf of President Donald Trump sent a letter Wednesday night to former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon demanding he refrain from making disparaging comments against the president and his family.

The letter comes after excerpts from a forthcoming book by journalist Michael Wolff were made public Wednesday, causing a stir. Trump attorney Charles J. Harder of the firm Harder Mirell & Abrams LLP, said in a statement, “This law firm represents President Donald J. Trump and Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. On behalf of our clients, legal notice was issued today to Stephen K. Bannon, that his actions of communicating with author Michael Wolff regarding an upcoming book give rise to numerous legal claims including defamation by libel and slander, and breach of his written confidentiality and non-disparagement agreement with our clients. Legal action is imminent.” Nick Bit: I got one of those when i wrote the Impeached President… I begged them to file a suit… They never did. WHY? the last thing Trump wants is to have to testify under oath. This is a great BIGGGG bluff. The Publisher and Bannon  should tell Trump BITE ME. Can you imagine the televised Trump testimony. His lawyers would NEVER EVER let that happen. To me its official we voted a loser  joke guy as our president. Prepare yourself to make a fortune as the fool me once people figure out they elected a bullshitter and cheif who WILL be impeached,  READ THE BOOK!

White House bans use of personal devices from West Wing

The White House is instituting new policies on the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing in the wake of damaging reports of a chaotic Trump administration detailed in a new book.  White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released the following statement on the policy change:

The security and integrity of the technology systems at the White House is a top priority for the Trump administration and therefore starting next week the use of all personal devices for both guests and staff will no longer be allowed in the West Wing. Staff will be able to conduct business on their government-issued devices and continue working hard on behalf of the American people.

CBS News’ Mark Knoller reports that during the Obama administration, reporters were not allowed to bring personal devices into the Roosevelt Room.

The move comes after explosive excerpts from Michael Wolff’s forthcoming book were released detailing the chaos inside the Trump White House. 

Wolff reportedly gained access to the White House where he conducted numerous interviews with staffers on the inner-workings of the Trump campaign and West Wing operations.  Sanders told reporters Wednesday that there were about “a dozen” interactions between Wolff and White House officials, which she said took place at Bannon’s request. The White House swiftly slammed the book and those who cooperated with Wolff. Following the publication of the excerpts, Mr. Trump denounced Bannon’s role in the White House in a scathing statement , claiming he “spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well.”

Trump trying to stop publication of explosive book about his presidency

Trump trying to stop publication of explosive book about his presidency

President Trump is reportedly attempting to stop the publication of “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s explosive new book about his campaign and presidency. The Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig tweeted early Thursday morning that Trump’s attorneys have sent a cease-and-desist letter to Wolff and book publisher Henry Holt & Company, demanding that they do not publish the book, and issue an apology to the president.

The book, scheduled to publish next week, has sparked a major feud between Trump and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon. Several excerpts published Wednesday revealed interviews with Bannon where he made incendiary comments about Trump and his family.

In one excerpt, Bannon described the 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians as “treasonous,” and said there was “zero” chance that the president was not aware of the meeting.

Trump also sent a cease-and-desist letter to Bannon on Wednesday, saying that he violated a non-disclosure agreement by speaking with Wolff, and accusing him of making “disparaging” and “outright defamatory” statements. A statement from Trump attorney Charles Harder said that the president plans to take legal action against Bannon.

GOP strategist: Republicans will turn on Trump, impeach him if party is blown out in midterms

GOP strategist: Republicans will turn on Trump, impeach him if party is blown out in midterms
© Getty

A Republican strategist who formerly served as a top aide on Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) presidential campaign is arguing that Republicans will turn on President Trump and impeach him should they lose heavily in the 2018 midterms. “When does the Republican Party turn? When they get wiped out. That’s what happens. If they get wiped out in [2018], the Republicans will absolutely turn on Donald Trump,” Rick Tyler told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “And I think to the point where they will impeach him and they will get 67 percent of the vote in the Senate to impeach him, to do that. But it will require a wipeout.” While some Democrats have called for Trump to be impeached, a proposed House measure to do so was rejected last month, with a majority of Democrats dismissing the resolution. Democrats are heading into the 2018 midterms with the upper chamber in play after Sen. Doug Jones’ (D-Ala.) victory in the Alabama special election, which cut the GOP majority to a razor-thin 51-49.  Republicans, meanwhile, are facing an internal battle, as former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon has vowed to challenge the GOP establishment and put up primary challengers against incumbent Republican senators. Democrats would need to take 24 seats in the midterms to flip the House. Nick Bit: as we have been saying Trump will be impeached after the Republicans get their ass kicked in the midterm elections. And it will drive the economy into  a depression.. And if he survives the ecomy will still go into a depression.

Intel’s processors have a security bug and the fix could slow down PCs

A security flaw in Intel processors has led to a redesign of Linux and Windows kernels. Programmers have been busy for the past two months patching the Linux kernel’s virtual memory system to protect against a hardware bug in Intel CPUs that could let attackers exploit security weaknesses and access security keys, passwords, and files cached from a disk. The Register reports that software updates are required for both Windows and Linux systems, and performance of a machine will be affected. Reports suggest information around the specific bug has been kept confidential between software and hardware vendors, and patches for the Linux kernel include comments that have been redacted to prevent attackers discovering the precise weakness. The security bug could be present on Intel processors manufactured over the past 10 years, meaning many systems will require updates. Flaw is related to kernel memory access The exact bug is related to the way that regular apps and programs can discover the contents of protect kernel memory areas. Kernel’s in operating systems have complete control over the entire system, and connect applications to the processor, memory, and other hardware inside a computer. There appears to be a flaw in Intel’s processors that lets attackers bypass kernel access protections so that regular apps can read the contents of kernel memory. To protect against this, Linux programmers have been separating the kernel’s memory away from user processes in what’s being called “Kernel Page Table Isolation.” The problem with this isolation is that some programmers are reporting performance hits after systems are patched. The Register reports that the slowdowns could be between 5 and 30 percent depending on the exact Intel processor. While Linux patches have been rolling out over the past month, a Windows 10 patch is not yet available. Some are speculating that Microsoft will deliver this in an upcoming Patch Tuesday, as the company started separating the NT kernel memory with Windows 10 beta builds in November. We’ve reached out to Microsoft to learn when this security fix will be in place, and we’ll update you accordingly. It’s still unclear how these patches will affect regular Windows and Linux machines. One researcher speculates that virtual machines and cloud providers will be most affected by the security problem and resulting performance hits. Microsoft’s Azure cloud will experience maintenance next week, and Amazon Web Services has warned that a big security update is coming on Friday.

A TOP Austrian minister has accused the EU of meddling with “everything”

A TOP Austrian minister has accused the EU of meddling with “everything” in the country and urged the bloc to take a step back.
Gernot Blumel was appointed Federal Minister in the Federal Chancellery for Art, Culture, Constitution and Media in December after the nationalist People’s Party secured power.
His party has come out against deeper integration of the EU, to the despair of leading figures like Jean-Claude Juncker. And, although Mr Blumel admitted some EU action was needed, he claimed this week that Brussels was extending its tentacles too far into every walk of life. Mr Blumel said: “Migration, internal security, economic growth – these are the big issues that need more Europe.  “On the other hand it is not necessary for the EU to interfere with everything down to the last detail.” The comments will cause a further headache for Brussels which has viewed Austria’s Eurosceptic new leadership with dismay. There are concerns Austria will now be an intractable voice on EU asylum reform and efforts to increase the bloc’s budget. The country takes over the EU Council Presidency later this year with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz vowing reforms focusing on “less EU but more efficiency”.  Gernot Blumen says the EU meddles in “everything” Mr Kurz, 31, led the Austrian People’s Party to victory in the polls on an anti-immigration platform. And, governing with the far-right Freedom Party, he has argued that all migration into the EU ought to be stopped and the distribution of existing refugees re-regulated without quotas.  Austria had already tightened its asylum rules under the previous centrist government and some provincial governments have cut social services for refugees – laws that are currently under review by the constitutional court and the European Court of Justice.Now the conservative-far right coalition has promised to introduce these cuts nationwide.

Holder: Justice leaders should push back at Trump

Former Attorney Genneral Eric Holder says Justice Department leaders should “push back” against President Trump, who contends he has an “absolute right” to run the nation’s law and order agency.  Holder called Trump’s statement “dangerous” and “irresponsible,” adding that it “flies in the face” of American history. “It flies in the face of the way in which every American president, Republican and Democrat, has viewed the Justice Department,” Holder told several reporters in a Senate hallway shortly after he watched Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) get sworn in.  “It is dangerous, it is irresponsible, and it is something that I hope the people who are in the Justice Department now will push back on very, very strongly. Trump made the remark in an interview last week with The New York Times. “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,” Trump said. Holder, who served as President Obama’s first attorney general, is currently working on redistricting issues but didn’t rule out a run for office himself.  The House voted to hold him in contempt of Congress in June 2012 for not turning over documents related to a controversy in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed dealers to sell guns that they believed could eventually be tracked to Mexican drug cartels. He’s the only attorney general to ever be voted in contempt of Congress.Seventeen Democrats backed Republicans on the vote.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists editor: Trump N. Korea tweets are ‘existential threat to humanity’

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists editor: Trump N. Korea tweets are ‘existential threat to humanity’
© Getty Images
The editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said he believes there is “a danger” to President Trump‘s tweets on North Korea. “They increase the probability that North Korea will misinterpret normal military exercises as an attack and respond with force. This could result in a back-and-forth series of military actions that might — actually, really — lead to worldwide thermonuclear war and the end of the human experiment,” John Mecklin said, according to Poynter. “This is a real possibility. This is why President Trump’s tweets about North Korea are, in my opinion, an existential threat to humanity.” The Bulletin is known for its “Doomsday Clock.” It “informs the public about risks from nuclear weapons, climate change, & emerging technologies,” according to its Twitter account.

Trump on Tuesday tweeted that the nuclear launch button on his desk is “much bigger” and “more powerful” than that of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,’ ” Trump tweeted. “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” His comments came after Kim said in a New Year’s Day speech that he had a nuclear launch button at his desk and that the international community would have to accept North Korea’s status as a nuclear-armed nation as a “reality.” In a tweet earlier Tuesday, Trump said sanctions and other pressures were starting to “have a big impact on North Korea.” “Soldiers are dangerously fleeing to South Korea,” Trump tweeted. “Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time. Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not — we will see!”

Trump Says Bannon ‘Lost His Mind’ After Leaving White House

Steve Bannon’s Rise to the White House Comes to an End

President Donald Trump denounced his former top strategist, Steve Bannon, on Wednesday, saying that he “lost his mind” after leaving the White House last summer.

 “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said of Bannon in a statement the White House issued. “Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look.”

The statement represented an emphatic break from the person considered the architect of Trump’s presidential campaign. Bannon continued to enjoy access to the president after he left the White House, but that has ended, one person familiar with the matter said. In his 265-word statement, Trump went on to indict Bannon for some of his activities at the White House and afterward. He blamed him for the loss of a Republican Senate seat in Alabama in a special election last month and accused him of leaking to news reporters while he served as the White House chief strategist. “Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country,” Trump said. “Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.”Bannon backed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore over Trump’s preferred candidate, incumbent Senator Luther Strange, in a primary election for the Alabama seat. Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones in the special election after several women accused him of sexual misconduct while they were teenagers. “Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was,” Trump said. “It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.”

Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.

Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans.

Steve doesn’t represent my base—he’s only in it for himself.

Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.

We have many great Republican members of Congress and candidates who are very supportive of the Make America Great Again agenda. Like me, they love the United States of America and are helping to finally take our country back and build it up, rather than simply seeking to burn it all down.

 

Wolff reported that friends Trump phoned at night after leaving the Oval Office for the day would leak details of the conversations to reporters and that many of them consider him ignorant. Rupert Murdoch, co-chairman of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. and a close Trump confidante, called him an “idiot” — preceded by an expletive — after one such call, Wolff wrote.

Trump’s longtime friend Thomas Barrack called the president “not only crazy” but “stupid,” Wolff reported. Barrack denied making the comments on Wednesday.

Wolff portrays Trump’s top three advisers at the beginning of his presidency — Bannon, senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former chief of staff Reince Priebus — as consumed by infighting and frequently unable to coordinate strategy.

He wrote that a former deputy chief of staff who also left last year, Katie Walsh, was frustrated by the chaos of Trump’s White House and by the president himself, and quoted her saying that working for him was “like trying to figure out what a child wants.”

Other revelations may prove more damaging to the White House in the long-term. Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, allegedly justified a pre-election speaking engagement paid for by Russians by saying it would only present a conflict of interest “if we won.”

“This book is filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “Participating in a book that can only be described as trashy tabloid fiction exposes their sad desperate attempts at relevancy.”

 

Trump Tower meeting with Russians ‘treasonous’, Bannon says in explosive book

Steve Bannon exits an elevator in the lobby of Trump Tower on 11 November 2016 in New York City.
Steve Bannon exits an elevator in the lobby of Trump Tower on 11 November 2016 in New York City.
Other Trump campaign officials met with Russians there in June 2016                                                                                                                                          Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon has described the Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”, according to an explosive new book seen by the Guardian.

Bannon, speaking to author Michael Wolff, warned that the investigation into alleged collusion with the Kremlin will focus on money laundering and predicted: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.” Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, reportedly based on more than 200 interviews with the president, his inner circle and players in and around the administration, is one of the most eagerly awaited political books of the year. In it, Wolff lifts the lid on a White House lurching from crisis to crisis amid internecine warfare, with even some of Trump’s closest allies expressing contempt for him. Bannon, who was chief executive of the Trump campaign in its final three months, then White House chief strategist for seven months before returning to the rightwing Breitbart News, is a central figure in the nasty, cutthroat drama, quoted extensively, often in salty language.

He is particularly scathing about a June 2016 meeting involving Trump’s son Donald Jr, son-in-law Jared Kushner, then campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York. A trusted intermediary had promised documents that would “incriminate” rival Hillary Clinton but instead of alerting the FBI to a potential assault on American democracy by a foreign power, Trump Jr replied in an email: “I love it.” The meeting was revealed by the New York Times in July last year, prompting Trump Jr to say no consequential material was produced. Soon after, Wolff writes, Bannon remarked mockingly: “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers. “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.” Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people”. Any information, he said, could then be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication”. Bannon added: “You never see it, you never know it, because you don’t need to … But that’s the brain trust that they had.” Bannon also speculated that Trump Jr had involved his father in the meeting. “The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed last May, following Trump’s dismissal of FBI director James Comey, to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election. This has led to the indictments of four members of Trump’s inner circle, including Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges; Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. In recent weeks Bannon’s Breitbart News and other conservative outlets have accused Mueller’s team of bias against the president. Trump predicted in an interview with the New York Times last week that the special counsel was “going to be fair”, though he also said the investigation “makes the country look very bad”. The president and his allies deny any collusion with Russia and the Kremlin has denied interfering. Bannon has criticised Trump’s decision to fire Comey. In Wolff’s book, obtained by the Guardian ahead of publication from a bookseller in New England, he suggests White House hopes for a quick end to the Mueller investigation are gravely misplaced.

“You realise where this is going,” he is quoted as saying. “This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner … It’s as plain as a hair on your face.”

Last month it was reported that federal prosecutors had subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank, the German financial institution that has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kushner property empire. Bannon continues: “It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me.” Scorning apparent White House insouciance, Bannon reaches for a hurricane metaphor: “They’re sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five.”

He insists that he knows no Russians, will not be a witness, will not hire a lawyer and will not appear on national television answering questions. Fire and Fury will be published next week. Wolff is a prominent media critic and columnist who has written for the Guardian and is a biographer of Rupert Murdoch. He previously conducted interviews for the Hollywood Reporter with Trump in June 2016 and Bannon a few months later. He told the Guardian in November that to research the book, he showed up at the White House with no agenda but wanting to “find out what the insiders were really thinking and feeling”. He enjoyed extraordinary access to Trump and senior officials and advisers, he said, sometimes at critical moments of the fledgling presidency. The rancour between Bannon and “Javanka” – Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump – is a recurring theme of the book. Kushner and Ivanka are Jewish. Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, is quoted as saying: “It is a war between the Jews and the non-Jews.” Trump is not spared. Wolff writes that Thomas Barrack Jr, a billionaire who is one of the president’s oldest associates, allegedly told a friend: “He’s not only crazy, he’s stupid.” Barrack denied that to the New York Times.

Trump lawyers met with Mueller’s team in December: report

Trump lawyers met with Mueller's team in December: report
© UPI Photo

Lawyers for President Trump Donald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE met with members of special counsel Robert Mueller Robert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE‘s team shortly before Christmas, CNN reported on Tuesday.  The details of the meeting were not reported, but according to CNN, the president’s outside legal team was hoping to better understand the next steps in the probe and when it might come to an end.  Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly predicted that investigation would wrap up quickly, though media reports indicate that the probe could continue well into 2018.  Neither the White House nor the special counsel’s office immediately responded to The Hill’s requests for comment. Mueller and his team are looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as well as possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.  Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, pleaded guilty last month to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the month before Trump took office.

Trump Tweets His ˜Nuclear Button Is Much Bigger Than Kim Jong-un

President Trump during a cabinet meeting last month. On Tuesday, he tweeted that he commands a “much bigger” nuclear arsenal than North Korea does. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON President Trump again raised the prospect of nuclear war with North Korea, boasting in strikingly playground terms on Tuesday night that he commands a much bigger and more powerful arsenal of devastating weapons than the outlier government in Asia. North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ˜Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,  Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button work. Mr. Trump’s combative response to a statement made the day before by Mr. Kim raised the temperature in the brewing confrontation between the United States and North Korea even as American allies in South Korea were moving to open talks with Pyongyang. The contrast between Mr. Trump’s language and the peace overture by South Korea highlighted the growing rift between two longtime allies. The president’s tone also generated a mix of scorn and alarm among lawmakers, diplomats and national security experts who called it juvenile and frightening for a president handling a foreign policy challenge with world-wrecking consequences. The language was reminiscent of Mr. Trump’s boast during the 2016 presidential campaign that his hands, and by extension his genitals, were in fact big enough. Eliot A. Cohen, who was counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice under President George W. Bush, said the tweet demonstrated an immaturity that is dangerous in a commander in chief. Spoken like a petulant ten year old, Mr. Cohen wrote on Twitter. But one with nuclear weapons for real  at his disposal. How responsible people around him, or supporting him, can dismiss this or laugh it off is beyond me.

Peter Thiel Founder of PayPal Makes Monster Bet on Bitcoin

Few mainstream investors have bought large sums of bitcoin, scared off by concerns about cybersecurity and liquidity

Peter Thiel exits an elevator after a meeting at Trump Tower in New York.
Peter Thiel exits an elevator after a meeting at Trump Tower in New York. Photo: Eduardo Munoz/REUTERS

One of the biggest names in Silicon Valley is placing a moonshot bet on bitcoin. Founders Fund, the venture-capital firm co-founded by Peter Thiel, has amassed hundreds of millions of dollars of the volatile cryptocurrency, people familiar with the matter said. The bet has been spread across several of the firm’s most recent funds, the people said, including one that began investing in mid-2017 and made bitcoin one of its first investments. Founders and Mr. Thiel, 50 years old, are well-known for early investments in companies like Facebook Inc. that sometimes take years to come to fruition. The bitcoin bet is quickly showing promise. Founders bought around $15 million to $20 million in bitcoin, and it has told investors the firm’s haul is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars after the digital currency’s ripping rise in the past year. It isn’t clear if Founders has sold any of its holdings yet. The bet hasn’t been previously reported. Bitcoin vaulted last year from a fringe area of Wall Street interest to the most talked-about asset in the financial world. The currency, essentially a digital form of money with no government or central bank behind it, started 2017 trading around $1,000, then shot to near $20,000 as individual and institutional investors alike ramped up speculating on its rise. From its all-time high reached in mid-December, the price chopped almost in half over the rest of the month.Prices as of late Tuesday afternoon were up 10% to $14,783, after ending 2017 at about $14,000, according to research site CoinDesk. Bitcoin spiked after The Wall Street Journal reported Founders’ investment.   Founders began buying in for its investors before the recent volatility, the people familiar with the matter said. The billionaire Mr. Thiel is an outspoken libertarian who co-founded digital payments service PayPal Holdings Inc. and made headlines as a prominent booster of President Donald Trump. He serves on the president’s technology advisory council. As a venture capitalist, Mr. Thiel and Founders fund are among the most successful in Silicon Valley. Founders has more than $3 billion under management and has taken stakes in more-than 100 companies, including Facebook, Airbnb Inc., SpaceX and Lyft. More recent investments include the crypto-focused hedge funds Metastable Capital and Polychain Capital, which puts money into blockchain companies.  Mr. Thiel made the decision to buy up bitcoin together with Founders’ other investment partners, a person familiar with the matter said.

In an October onstage interview at an investment conference in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Thiel described cryptocurrencies as “charismatic.”“While I’m skeptical of most of them, I do think people are a little bit underestimating bitcoin, specifically, because it is like a reserve form of money,” Mr. Thiel said. “If bitcoin ends up being the cyber equivalent of gold, it has great potential.”

Founders representatives have sought to cast the investment as a high-risk, high-reward wager similar to its other venture bets, the people familiar with the matter said.

 

Orrin Hatch to Retire From Senate, Opening Path for Mitt Romney

Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the longest-serving Senate Republican, announced on Tuesday he will retire at the end of the year, rebuffing the pleas of President Trump to seek an eighth term and paving the way for Mitt Romney to run for the seat. Mr. Hatch made his decision public on Tuesday afternoon via a video announcement, according to two Republican officials briefed on the plans. “When the president visited Utah last month, he said I was a fighter. I’ve always been a fighter. I was an amateur boxer in my youth, and I brought that fighting spirit with me to Washington,” he said. “But every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me, that time is soon approaching.”

An Announcement from Senator Orrin Hatch Video by SenatorOrrinHatch

Mr. Hatch, 83, was under heavy pressure from Mr. Trump to seek re-election and block Mr. Romney, who has been harshly critical of the president. But Mr. Hatch, who emerged as one of the president’s most avid loyalists in the Senate, decided to retire after discussing the matter with his family over the holidays. The veteran senator was also facing harsh poll numbers in Utah, where 75 percent of voters indicated in a survey last fall that they did not want him to run again. Mr. Hatch’s decision comes just weeks after Mr. Trump signed a sweeping tax overhaul into law, a measure that the senator helped write as chairman of the Finance Committee. The bill represented something of a capstone to Mr. Hatch’s four decades in Congress and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, even deemed it as such last month in what was seen as a subtle effort to usher his colleague to the exits.

John Dean says Nixon ‘might have survived if there’d been a Fox News’

John Dean says Nixon 'might have survived if there'd been a Fox News'
© Getty Images

John Dean said he thinks former President Nixon might have survived “if there’d been a Fox News.” “There’s social media, there’s the internet, the news cycles are faster. I think Watergate would have occurred at a much more accelerated speed than the 928 days it took to go from the arrest at the Watergate to the conviction of Haldeman and Ehrlichman and Mitchell, et al.,” Dean — who served as Nixon’s White House counsel — said during an interview with Politico’s “Off Message” podcast. “There’s more likelihood he might have survived if there’d been a Fox News.” Dean also said during the interview that it was “wishful thinking” for allies of President Trump to think the investigation into Russia’s election interference will be over soon.  He also addressed obstruction of justice. “Everybody who got involved in the obstruction of justice at the Nixon White House didn’t have a clue what obstruction of justice was, including me. Later, after I read the statute and telling Haldeman and Ehrlichman, as well as Nixon in some tapes, it’s clear Nixon didn’t know anything about obstruction of justice,” he said. “Unfortunately, motive and intent in the law are different. What they thought [was that] because what they were doing was purely political, and trying to minimize the impact of this blundered break-in at the Watergate, they had no criminal intent,” Dean said. “Well, they intended to do the actions they did, which was stop the investigation. That’s what Trump did. His motive is irrelevant.” Special counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Trump has repeatedly dismissed the investigation and referred the probe as a “witch hunt.” He has also denied collusion. During an interview last month with The New York Times, Trump said he thinks Mueller “will be fair” to him in the investigation. “There’s been no collusion. But I think he’s going to be fair,” Trump told the newspaper at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Fla.  His comments came as many Republicans have tried to discredit Mueller and his investigative team.

Trump accuses DOJ of being part of ‘deep state’

By CATHERINE LUCEY and DARLENE SUPERVILL
 WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump accused the Justice Department Tuesday of being part of the “deep state” and urged prosecution against a top aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey.

He also claimed that U.S. sanctions on North Korea were having a “big impact” and that he was responsible for preventing commercial aviation deaths in 2017. Trump’s latest tweets pressed familiar arguments for the president, who is set to begin his first full year in office with the victory of tax legislation but the Russia investigation still hanging over his administration. “Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents,” Trump tweeted in an apparent reference to a report by the conservative Daily Caller. “Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others,” he added.As he remains shadowed by the special counsel’s  Russia investigation, Trump has seized on recent revelations of anti-Trump behavior by some FBI officials, including some who once worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, to claim bias against him. The president’s reference Tuesday to “Deep State Justice Dept” suggests that federal law enforcement is part of an entrenched bureaucracy that Trump and his supporters say didn’t want him to be elected and is actively working to undermine his presidency. Trump’s blast at the Justice Department came after he returned to the White House from a holiday getaway to face legislative challenges, midterm elections and global threats.

 

Bannon Reportedly Mulling 2020 POTUS Run, Called Trump ‘An 11-Year-Old Child’

A profile of Steve Bannon indicates that the Breitbart chief is getting increasingly frustrated with President Donald Trump, and might tap into his own presidential ambitions in the coming years. Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman wrote an extensive report stating that the former White House chief strategist has expressed concern to various aides about the longevity of Trump’s presidency. Even though Trump and Bannon are believed to be still in close contact with each other, the latter is unhappy with the direction of current administration and starting to think his own direct intervention is needed for national politics. In October, Bannon called an adviser and said he would consider running for president if Trump doesn’t run for re-election in 2020. Which Bannon has told people is a realistic possibility. In private conversations since leaving the White House, Bannon said Trump only has a 30 percent chance of serving out his term, whether he’s impeached or removed by the Cabinet invoking the 25th amendment. That prospect seemed to become more likely in early December when special counsel Robert Mueller secured a plea deal from former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Bannon has also remarked on the toll the office has taken on Trump, telling advisers his former boss has “lost a step.” “He’s like an 11-year-old child,” Bannon joked to a friend in November. When Bannon left his post several months ago, he offered some of his first White House critiques by saying that the administration he fought for in the 2016 election was “over.” Bannon has previously spoken about how he didn’t like being an underling. And judging by his latest comments, it would seem he’s prepared to test out his full power as a sociopolitical influence:

“It was always a job,” he said. “I realize in hindsight I was just a staffer, and I’m not a good staffer. I had influence, I had a lot of influence, but just influence.” He told me he now feels liberated. “I have power. I can actually drive things in a certain direction.”

Sherman reached out to White House staff for comment, not only was he told that Bannon has been calling to get his old job back, but one official said “the president’s best decision was firing James Comey. His second best decision was firing Steve Bannon, bar none.” A Bannon spokesperson contested this claim by saying “anyone around Steve since he left the White House can see he is very happy now out of the White House!”

This Gold Rally is Doomed

Gold futures—rising for their eighth session in a row—extended a climb above the closely watched $1,300 line on Tuesday, given a boost by technical trading levels and a weaker dollar. February gold GCG8, +0.42% the most active contract on Comex, rose $4.10, or 0.3%, to $1,313.30 an ounce. Its close Friday at $1,309.30 marked the futures market’s highest settlement level since late September, according to FactSet data. Gold futures recorded a roughly 2% rise for the fourth quarter, lifting their 2017 gain to about 14%. Spot gold prices posted their largest annual rise since 2010. “Gold received an additional boost when it exceeded the technically important 200-day moving average and, a short time later, the 100-day moving average. This allowed it to rise above the psychologically important $1,300 mark again — it is trading at a three-month high as the new year begins,” said Carsten Fritsch, commodities analyst with Commerzbank, in a note. “Speculative financial investors also played a part in the latest price surge. According to the CFTC’s statistics, they have expanded their net long positions by over 40% to 107,800 contracts since mid-December,”  Nick Bit: Let them have their little Ditti. this will end very badly for them and great for us. And yes we have a trade for that.

Hedge funds gamble OPEC will push oil market higher..in fact to high

LONDON (Reuters) – Hedge funds are the most bullish about oil prices in years, expecting further gains even as prices touch multi-year highs and ignoring the risk linked to such a large concentration of positions.

A record net long position has been accumulated by hedge funds and other money managers, amounting to 1,183 million barrels in the five biggest futures and options contracts covering crude, gasoline and heating oil.

Portfolio managers held a record 1,328 million barrels of long positions in Brent, WTI, U.S. gasoline and U.S. heating oil on Dec. 26, according to data published by regulators and exchanges. By contrast, hedge funds held only 145 million barrels of short positions, the lowest level for 10 months and among the lowest at any point since the start of 2013. Fund managers now hold more than nine long positions for every short position, the most bullish picture for at least five years.  There are record net long positions in Brent crude (561 million barrels), WTI (461 million barrels) and U.S. heating oil (82 million barrels). There are also large, if not quite record, net long positions in U.S. gasoline (79 million barrels) and European gasoil (131 million barrels).In many of these contracts hedge fund positioning appears extremely stretched, with the ratio of long to short positions at multi-year highs.

The concentration of so many bullish positions poses a significant downside risk to prices if and when portfolio managers decide to close them out and realize some of their paper profits.

For the time being, however, most fund managers are ignoring the liquidation risk and focusing on the prospect of further price increases first. History suggests OPEC is more likely to tighten the oil market too much and allow prices to overshoot on the upside than rather than relax production cuts too early and risk prices falling back. Such was the case after both the previous oil market slumps in 1997/98 and 2008/09, with prices overshooting the producer group’s initial targets. OPEC’s tightening bias probably explains why many hedge funds remain bullish despite benchmark Brent prices moving towards $70 a barrel. The main downside risk comes from a resurgence of U.S. shale oil production, with WTI prices now above $60 a barrel. If shale output starts to climb faster than expected OPEC could be forced to halt production cuts earlier than currently envisaged. The existence of so many hedge fund long positions could eventually magnify the downside risk posed by U.S. shale. Nick Bit: this is a perfect example of traders that have more money then brains. Your damn right i want to make a big bet that prices will come crashing right back down. A Big oil market crash s coming….. we have a trade for that!!

Harvard Law Prof: Obstruction Alone Won’t Be Enough to Remove Trump from Office

Tribe said he agreed with HuffPost Global Editorial Director Howard Fineman, who said on MSNBC that if Trump is to be removed from office, it would have to be due to evidence of illegal collusion with Russia. Tribe acknowledged that an obstruction case is “more obvious legally,” but “too technical” to get the required 67 Senate votes for removal from office. This is similar to what Fineman told MSNBC host Ari Melber Monday evening, when he discussed why evidence of collusion would be necessary. Fineman said, “I think Donald Trump thinks in his own mind that he did not collude,” saying that if president doesn’t think he did anything wrong, an obstruction case would be difficult. Fineman noted that Trump’s defense would likely be that when he fired James Comey, he had the power to do so, so it wasn’t illegal. ribe and Fineman agree that even if there is evidence that President Trump obstructed justice, it wouldn’t be enough to truly hurt him, given that the Senate would need 67 votes to convict and remove him after an impeachment trial in the House. In order to sway enough Republicans to vote against Trump, there would have to be evidence that he actively did something illegal with Russia. Merely trying to cover up something by his campaign staff wouldn’t be enough, if he himself wasn’t a part of it. Nick Bit: I believe Trump colluded with the enemy and went so far as to commit treason and endanger America’s freedom of the election process. What people fail to understand Russia is Americas greatest enemy. And Trump conspiring with the enemy to the extent of soliciting their illegal in interference our electoral process is treason. remember their is evidence the Russians attempted to and might have gotten into the election boxes in places where the election was very close. The Russians did not dream up or identify which districts to hack into on their own. This is a crime weather it was successful or not. And to all extent and purposes i believe it was successful. I believe that without Russia aiding and  abetting Trumps campaign he would not have gotten elected

North Korea: US naval blockade to squeeze Kim’s nuclear lifeline as war threat LOOMS

Donald Trump Fox News North Korea Kim Jong-un

NORTH KOREA could be set to face a naval blockade that would stop its supply of oil and machinery and destroy Kim Jong-un’s nuclear ambitions, war veteran Michael Waltz has said. Waltz on North Korea: Naval blockade must be considere. Kim Jong-un warned there is a “nuclear button” on his desk as he threatened the US during his New Year’s speech in Pyongyang. Donald Trump has pledged to “take care” of Kim Jong-un’s ruthless regime but has not yet succeeded.  Mr Waltz said President Trump must consider “every option” as the US prepares to fight back Kim Jong-un’s nuclear threats.  War veteran and author Michael Waltz told Fox News: “At the end of the day, I think I would like to see us try a blockade before we go to the final military option. Michael Waltz said President Trump must consider “every option” in the fight against North Korea

I still would like to see us absolutely focussed on China and choking everything off North Koreans

Michael Walt

“But we do risk also a slow escalation at sea and we could risk losing the benefit of surprise by a precision strike on the nuclear programme and on the leadership.”  A naval blockade on North Korea would stop the inflow of oil, machinery and raw materials that could benefit the rogue nation’s nuclear regime.  North Korea state media outlet KCNA responded to the claims and said: “Should the US and its followers try to enforce a naval blockade against our country, we will see it as an act of war and respond with merciless self-defensive counter-measures as we have warned repeatedly.”   Mr Waltz said the naval blockade must be part of an overall strategy to bring down North Korea. But he said China is the key to stopping its plans for a fully-fledged nuclear missiles programme.

Iran’s top leader blames protests on meddling by ‘enemies’

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s supreme leader on Tuesday blamed the protests roiling the country on “enemies of Iran” who he said were meddling in its internal affairs, as state television reported that overnight clashes between protesters and security forces killed another nine people. The demonstrations, the largest seen in Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election, have brought six days of unrest across the country and resulted in at least 21 deaths. The protests began Thursday in Mashhad over Iran’s weak economy and a jump in food prices. They have since expanded to several cities, with some protesters chanting against the government and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Hundreds of people have been arrested and a prominent judge on Tuesday warned that some could face the death penalty. In comments posted to his official website, Khamenei appeared to blame foreign nations for at least exacerbating the unrest gripping Iran.

“In the recent days’ incidents, enemies of Iran utilized various means — including money, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatuses — to create problems for the Islamic system,” he said, in his first public remarks since the demonstrations began.

Khamenei said he would elaborate further in the coming days. Iranian leaders often accuse the United States, Israel and Britain of seeking to overthrow the clerically overseen government. State TV reported that six people were killed during an attack on a police station in the town of Qahdarijan. It said the clashes were sparked by rioters who tried to steal guns from the police station. State TV also said an 11-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man were killed in the town of Khomeinishahr, while a member of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard was killed in the town of Najafabad. It says all three were shot by hunting rifles, which are common in the Iranian countryside. The towns are all in Iran’s central Isfahan province, some 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Tehran. President Hassan Rouhani has acknowledged the public’s anger over the flagging economy, which has benefited from his signature 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, but not in a way that has brought immediate gains for most Iranians.

 

Leaked Israeli Intelligence Report: Iran Protests No Threat to Regime

An Israeli intelligence report that was provided to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Cabinet, and which has leaked to the media, suggests that the Iranian regime was taken by surprise by the ongoing wave of protests, but is not in danger of collapse — at least, not yet.

Barak Ravid of Israel’s Channel 10, writing at Axios.com, notes: “Big picture: The Israeli Foreign Ministry report says the Iranian regime was surprised by the mass protest and is now trying to contain it through preventive arrests and crackdown on social media — while trying to avoid violent response against protesters.” Ravid said that the report indicates that “The Iran protests started over economic issues but very fast ‘took a political and violent turn which included harsh anti-regime criticism over government spending on Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.’” Iran has spent billions of dollars on its military adventurism and terrorism in the Middle East and around the world. That is the cause of deep resentment inside Iran itself, where the economy has not fully recovered from years of international sanctions on its nuclear program that were lifted by President Barack Obama and his Iran deal in 2015.   In addition, the Iranian economy suffers from heavy state intervention, including from the military, which in turn has led to corruption and mismanagement. If such clashes continue, and escalate, the regime could further lose legitimacy and confidence. At that point, anything is possible. Iran has accused Israel of fomenting the protests — an idea that Netanyahu called “laughable” in a video message released Monday.

Netanyahu continued: “I will not insult the Iranian people. They deserve better.” He predicted the regime’s eventual demise as its citizens pursued freedom.

Oil posts strongest year opening since 2014 as Iran unrest pushes up crude

 FILE PHOTO: A view shows the French oil giant Total refinery in Donges, France, November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe SINGAPORE

(Reuters) – Oil prices posted their strongest opening to a year since 2014 on Tuesday, with crude rising to mid-2015 highs amid large anti-government rallies in Iran and ongoing supply cuts led by OPEC and Russia.U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were at $60.63 a barrel at 0747 GMT, up 21 cents, or 0.4 percent, after hitting $60.74 earlier in the day, the highest since June 2015. Brent crude futures LCOc1, the international benchmark, were at $67.18 a barrel, up 31 cents, or 0.5 percent, after hitting a May 2015 high of $67.29 a barrel earlier in the day. It was the first time since January 2014 that the two crude oil benchmarks opened the year above $60 per barrel. “Growing unrest in Iran set the table for a bullish start to 2018,” the U.S.-based Schork Report said in a note to clients on Tuesday.Anti-government protesters demonstrated in Iran on Sunday in defiance of a warning by authorities of a crackdown, extending for a fourth day one of the most audacious challenges to the clerical leadership since pro-reform unrest in 2009.  Even without the unrest in Iran, which is a major oil exporter, market sentiment was bullish. “Falling inventories globally and strong economic growth offset the restart of the Forties pipeline and the resumption of production following a pipeline outage in Libya,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.

The 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) capacity Forties pipeline system in the North Sea returned to full operations on Dec. 30 after an unplanned shutdown.

Oil markets have been supported by a year of production cuts led by the Middle East-dominated Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia. The cuts started in January 2017 and are scheduled to cover all of 2018. U.S. commercial crude oil inventories have fallen by almost 20 percent from their historic highs last March, to 431.9 million barrels. Strong demand growth, especially from China, has also been supporting crude. Only rising U.S. production, which is on the verge of breaking through 10 million bpd, is somewhat hampering the outlook into 2018.

“We think U.S. tight oil production growth warrants close monitoring as it could spoil OPEC’s market-balancing efforts, pushing the market into surplus in 2018,” Barclays bank said on Tuesday.

U.S. oil production C-OUT-T-EIA, driven largely by onshore tight shale oil fields, has risen by almost 16 percent since mid-2016, to 9.75 million bpd at the end of last year. Consultancy Rystad Energy said “U.S. crude oil production capacity has reached 10 million barrels per day.” Nick Bit: Here comes Shale oil to save the day ….. AGAIN! Iran demonstrations has nothing to do with oil. And oil Slightly north of $60 a barrel is the clarion call to shale producers to ramp up. This is all about the Saudi’s selling the suckers a small piece of their HA HA HA HA HA HA  2 trillion dollar never been audited oil company minus the oil.