32 million people would lose coverage if Obamacare was repealed

Republican senators are skittish enough that their health care bill would leave 22 million people more without health insurance by 2026, compared to Obamacare. They likely won’t be too keen on President Trump’s suggestion to just repeal Obamacare immediately and replace it later if they can’t get enough support to pass their bill. That move would probably leave 18 million more people without coverage in the first year after its enactment and 32 million more by 2026, according to a Congressional Budget Office report that looked at an earlier GOP bill to repeal Obamacare. It would also cause premiums on individual market policies to increase by up to 25% the first year and to nearly double by 2026. All this would happen mainly because the individual mandate — which requires nearly all Americans to get coverage or pay a penalty — would be repealed. But some insurers would also likely pull out of the market, the CBO said. The remaining carriers would likely raise rates dramatically because the remaining enrollees would tend to be older and sicker. Continue reading “32 million people would lose coverage if Obamacare was repealed”

Trump: US patience with the North Korean regime ‘is over’

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump, speaking alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in, declared Friday US patience with the North Korean regime “is over.” “The era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed,” Trump said in a statement from the Rose Garden. “And, frankly, that patience is over.” The remarks were the latest sign that Trump is growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress in curbing North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which top US officials have eyed with increasing concern in recent months. The South Korean President’s visit to the White House came after Trump approved a series of measures designed to ratchet up pressure on North Korea — while also sending signals to China about the US’ shrinking patience.US, China share concerns over North Korea. The Treasury Department on Thursday imposed new sanctions on a Chinese bank and several Chinese nationals while the State Department approved a $1 billion arms deal with Taiwan. Both moves appeared aimed at unsettling China, which the US has repeatedly urged to pressure North Korea into changing its behavior, with little success. Trump on Friday warned that the US is facing “the threat of the reckless and brutal regime in North Korea” that “has no regard for the safety and security of its people or its neighbors” and vowed the US would continue to act to defend US interests and allies in the region.

First on CNN: House panel to interview former Trump adviser in Russia probe

(CNN)The House intelligence committee, moving rapidly to interview a series of major witnesses in July, plans to bring forward another former Trump adviser to question as its investigation into Russia meddling reaches a new phase. Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign communications adviser, has agreed to come before the committee next month, his lawyer told CNN on Friday. Caputo, who once worked in Moscow and has connections to Russia, has strongly denied he was involved in any collusion with Russian officials. Dennis Vacco, Caputo’s attorney, said the former Trump adviser will appear before the House committee and that he has provided records in response to the panel’s request for information. “We have agreed to appear voluntarily, without subpoeana, before the committee in closed session on Friday, July 14,” Vacco, a former New York attorney general, told CNN.

Longtime Trump attorney hires lawyer in Russia probe

 Longtime Trump attorney hires lawyer in Russia probe
Caputo is a long-time ally of Trump adviser Roger Stone, who also plans to voluntarily be interviewed by the House panel about communications Stone acknowledged having with WikiLeaks and the Russian hacking operation that went under the name Guciffer 2.0. Stone, who will talk to the committee on July 24, has denied any wrongdoing, and has called for his testimony to be held in a public setting.
Stone has since denied speaking with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange directly or colluding with the Russians. But the leaders of the investigation — Reps. Mike Conaway, R-Texas and Adam Schiff, D-California — have denied that request, with Schiff saying that all “percipient witnesses” will be interviewed in a classified setting. A Conaway spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment, and a Schiff spokesman declined to comment on Caputo’s appearance before the panel.

Big U.S. banks pack results into one day, overwhelming analysts

For the fourth straight quarter, several of the biggest U.S. banks are reporting earnings on the same day, setting up a situation that overwhelms analysts covering the industry. In a report on Friday, Barclays analyst Jason Goldberg noted that 10 of the 19 largest banks by market value are reporting results on just two days next month, on July 14 and 21st. “Seems excessive,” he wrote. Big bank earnings days can be a hectic and frazzled experience for analysts, who must interpret thick documents packed with financial arcana, juggle multiple conference calls with management teams, investor relations departments and clients, and meet hard deadlines to distribute a final take on whether stocks remain a buy, hold or sell. They arrive at work before 7 a.m. to prepare for the news and often stay late into the evening working on their reports and financial models. On July 14, analysts expect to pore through more than 200 pages of press releases, slide decks and financial supplements released by JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc, Wells Fargo & Co, PNC Financial Services Group and First Republic Bank before the market opens. “It can be maddening and frenetic, particularly when all these firms are reporting in the morning before the bell,” said Tyler Ventura, a research analyst with investment management firm Diamond Hill. “We’re going back and forth and saying, ‘What did he say on this call versus that call?'” Until recently, it was rare to see more than two of the six biggest lenders report results on the same day. According to a Reuters analysis, that only happened twice in the 22 quarters leading up to the middle of 2016. It is not clear what changed. Nick Bit: i have been analyzing banks earnings reports for over 30 years. The truth is by design its  impossible to understand what is really going on. I can tell you they are hiding massive derivative positions. Their Balance sheets are made impossible to analyze. This will come all come out in the wash. The next mega bank wipe out is on the near horizon.


Just one-third of U.S. homes have recovered to pre-recession levels

Most American homes are worth less now than they were before the recession, according to a report out Wednesday. Fresh data from real-estate website Trulia show that just 34.2% of homes have returned to the peak levels registered before the onset of the recession in 2008. What’s more, Trulia estimates it could take until 2025 for a true national recovery in home prices. “We are absolutely not out of the woods as far as home-value recovery is concerned,” Trulia’s chief economist, Ralph McLaughlin, told MarketWatch. “The housing-market crash was pretty monumental. The scarring of the housing market has not gone away and will be visible for the indefinite future.” Trulia’s data are derived from actual home sales, and they are compared to the earlier peak price for the property. In contrast, the better-known Case-Shiller index is based on repeat-sales data for the same property to deduce how much prices are rising or falling. That data are then aggregated into a metro-level index and compared with earlier periods. McLaughlin likened home-price trackers to the stock market: Saying that Case-Shiller is up or down is a little like saying the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.29% or the S&P 500 SPX, +0.15% is up or down — whereas considering Trulia’s data on individual properties is more like looking at single stocks. As he put it, “Aggregate measures really mask a lot of idiosyncrasies that are going on in the market.” Nick Bit: Not only are their home values NOT going to recover to 2007 levels. They are about to drop again to new lower lows.

Killing Obamacare without a replacement doesn’t appeal to McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks during a media briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.Joshua Roberts | Reuters Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks during a media briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Senate Republican leaders know that chances of passing their health bill are slim, that they depend on preserving some Obamacare tax hikes, and that they probably require flipping the vote of vulnerable Nevada Sen. Dean Heller. Those assessments, from a GOP strategist familiar with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s thinking, show how narrow a path awaits Senate Republicans when they return July 10 after a holiday week off. McConnell hasn’t given up, the strategist said, but is unlikely to allow debate to extend past July 21. “The odds for them getting 51 votes might be at best one in five,” the strategist said, even allowing for McConnell’s tactical skills. “There are limits to what he can do. He is not turning water into wine.” The leadership can afford to lose just two of the GOP caucus’ 52 members, which would then allow Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking 51st vote in favor. Calculations begin with the assumption that Rand Paul, the leader’s Kentucky colleague, is virtually certain to vote no. The libertarian-minded Paul, echoing Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse and President Donald Trump, suggested Friday that lawmakers first pass a simple repeal of Obamacare, then, after that, legislation to replace it. Senate leaders reject that option out of hand. “For better or worse, that ship has sailed,” the strategist familiar with McConnell’s thinking said. A repeal-first strategy was considered and rejected by GOP leaders and Trump himself early this year. Among other things, returning to it now would probably preclude action on tax reform until 2019.

All-clear for big banks raises fears of a return to risk

It took a decade — and $200 billion in fines — but the big banks are back. The Federal Reserve’s passing grade for all 34 of the institutions it checks annually for financial soundness — the first all-clear since the Fed tests began in 2011 — is a watershed moment. While some of the consequences will be felt sooner than others, they will be far-reaching. The immediate winners include investors as well as bank executives, who could see their already ample pay packages expand further. Looking out further, many big institutions might have more flexibility to lend, a major factor in promoting the long-term growth of businesses. And at least in theory, the more capital the banks now hold and less stringent oversight of the financial sector by Washington could give the economy a shot in the arm after years of caution. On the other hand, critics fear the easing of regulatory pressure and a more laissez-faire-oriented White House could set the stage for a return to the bad old days of enormous leverage and freewheeling deals until the music inevitably stops.
“This isn’t the time to put the brakes on regulation,” said Mark T. Williams, a banking expert at Boston University and a former bank examiner for the Federal Reserve. He noted that with the 10 largest American banks holding 80 percent of all banking assets, “this concentrated financial power residing at the top banks should be carefully monitored.” “Without regulators and cops in the corner, you will have incentives for banks to take excessive risks,” Mr. Williams added. It was exactly 10 years ago this month, as the housing bubble collapsed, that the first cracks in what would nearly bring down the country’s economic edifice appeared. Within 18 months, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers were gone, and once invincible names like Citigroup and Bank of America teetered on the edge, necessitating a federal bailout. Nick Bit: They made the same mistake in 2007 that bought us the last banking wiepout. They just got done rigging the stress test so ALL the banks could pass. In a economic slowdown they are letting the banks reduce their capital. This will go down in history as the greatest mistake any central bank ever made. And we have Steve Munchin of Treasury, Janet Yellon of the Federal Reserve and Goldman Sacks to blame. Did i mention to you that over the past month Yellon and Munchin have had almost daily meetings. These issue are far far above President Trumps experiences. He has been hoodwinked.

Trump reportedly ‘hell-bent’ on imposing steel tariff despite objections from most advisors

President Donald Trump’s White House is “hell-bent” on imposing tariffs on steel and other imports, Axios reported Friday The plan — which was pushed by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and was supported by National Trade Council Peter Navarro, and policy adviser Stephen Miller — would potentially impose tariffs in the 20 percent range, according to the report. During a “tense” meeting Monday, the president made it clear he favors tariffs, yet the plan was met with heavy opposition by most officials in the room, with one telling Axios about 22 were against it and only three in favor, including Trump. The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. Shares of U.S. Steel rose on the report, trading about 1.7 percent higher in the premarket. Nucor was also higher by about 1 percent. The stocks have been rising this week on expectations the administration was leaning toward a tariff.

Trump urges GOP to repeal Obama law now, replace later

President Donald Trump urged divided congressional Republicans on Friday to break their logjam over dismantling President Barack Obama’s health care law by “immediately” repealing it and replacing it later, a formula that GOP leaders dismissed months ago as politically unwise. Trump’s early morning tweet embraced a viewpoint shared by only a handful of conservatives eager to take quick action on one of the party’s foremost priorities — repealing Obamacare, something Republicans have long promised to do. But his suggestion threatened to sharpen divisions between conservatives and moderates, who are leery of stripping coverage from millions of constituents without something to substitute for it. “If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” Trump wrote. House and Senate leaders long ago abandoned initial thoughts of first erasing Obama’s law, and then replacing it.click here to read more about this Soap Opera

Consumer attitudes soured in June as U.S. consumer sentiment slid to a seven-month low

U.S. consumer sentiment fell to 95.1 in June, sinking 2.1 percent from May and hitting the lowest level since November 2016. Economists expected the measure of consumer attitudes to fall further to 94.5, according to a survey from Thomson Reuters. Consumer sentiment remained relatively stagnant in May at 97.1, a 0.1 point increase from April. A Thomson Reuters survey of economists expected the index to grow to 97.5 in May. While uncertainty in the economy remains high, Curtin said, it “has thus far been offset by the resurgent strength in the personal financial situation of consumers.” The monthly survey by the University of Michigan measures 500 consumers’ attitudes toward topics such as personal finances, inflation, unemployment, government policies and interest rates.

BP’s gasoline buying lifts European benchmark to record volumes

 An unprecedented gasoline buying spree by BP in June lifted trading volumes on Europe’s benchmark Argus index to the highest on record, the price reporting agency said on Friday. Trading volumes of Argus Eurobob oxy gasoline barges totaled 449,000 tonnes in June, beating the previous record in March 2016 of 446,000 tonnes, Argus said. BP bought 313,000 tonnes of the volume in June, the oil company’s largest purchase in a single month.

It was unclear why London-based BP, one of the world’s biggest oil traders, bought such a large volume. Some traders attributed the move to delayed completion of maintenance at its 90,000 barrels per day Lingen refinery in northwest Germany. A number of refineries in Germany and Switzerland went down for maintenance in recent weeks, leading to the tightening of inland fuel supplies.

Berkshire to become BofA’s top shareholder after share swap

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc will swap its preferred shares in Bank of America Corp into common shares worth about $17 billion, making it the biggest shareholder. Berkshire said on Friday it would exercise its warrants for 700 million common shares of Bank of America following a dividend increase by the lender to 12 cents per share. Bank of America’s shares were up 1.1 percent in premarket trading on Friday. The second-largest U.S. bank boosted its annual dividend on Wednesday to 48 cents per share from 30 cents, beginning in the third quarter, after its plan to return capital was approved by the Federal Reserve under its annual “stress test” program. Buffett had bought $5 billion of Bank of America preferred stock with a 6 percent dividend, or $300 million annually, in August 2011, when investors worried about the bank’s capital needs.



Ukraine power company says hit by second cyber attack Thursday

Women walk outside the headquarters of Ukrainian state power distributor Ukrenergo in Kiev, Ukraine June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Ukrainian state power distributor Ukrenergo was hit by another cyber attack on Thursday which used a computer virus different from one that hit Ukraine on Tuesday, said Ukrenergo’s acting head said. The second attack did not affect Ukraine’s power network, Vsevolod Kovalchuk told a news briefing on Friday. “The virus was slightly different, of a different nature, similar to WannaCry,” he said. “The effect from it was insignificant, as some computers remained offline.” A computer virus spread from Ukraine across the world earlier this week, paralyzing thousands of machines, shutting down ports, factories and offices as it spread to an estimated 60 countries. Nick Bit: This is the Russian test bed for the coming attack on the US grid. Generators are cheep.  Everyone should have one or two of them. Shit they even sell them at the Walmart store.


Only $60 Oil Can Save the Aramco IPO

The OPEC deal is in crisis. All oil price gains derived from the 1.2 million-barrel cut’s initial announcement and implementation have been wiped out, and No. 1 OPEC producer Saudi Arabia’s attempt to draw down American inventories has fallen flat, due in part to insubordination from the No. 2 producer, Iraq, along with upticks in production from Nigeria, Libya, and U.S. shale. Though Riyadh agreed to continue the deal three months longer than analysts expected (the new deal ends in March 2018, as opposed to December 2017 as many expected), the bloc leader did not heed recommendations to deepen the cuts, keeping production at 32.5 million bpd. In April and May, Saudi Arabia cut exports despite the fact that the OPEC deal does not limit export volumes. But new  says that June numbers could reveal a reversal in that downward trend, as KSA appears ready to ship more oil. The royal family – especially newly crowned heir to the throne Mohammed bin Salman – oil prices near $60 for Saudi Aramco’s 2018 IPO to generate the income it needs. Riyadh’s financial planners are behind in preparing Aramco and world markets for what is expected to be the largest IPO in history. The team was supposed to reach a decision on a foreign bourse for the listing by the end of Ramadan, but Eid-ul-Fitr passed days ago, and the victor has yet to be named—just murmurs that Bin Salman is at odds with top planners who prefer London over New York.And while the Saudis may not be deliberately procrastinating on the listing, holding out for higher oil prices, the current low oil prices certainly aren’t rushing things along. Continue reading “Only $60 Oil Can Save the Aramco IPO”

RadioShack creditors’ lawsuit says Sprint killed 6,000 jobs

Sprint Corp used confidential information from its alliance with RadioShack Corp to open competing mobile phone stores, dooming the comeback by the electronics retailer and destroying jobs, according to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday by RadioShack creditors. RadioShack emerged from bankruptcy in 2015 with a deal to co-brand about 1,400 stores with Sprint, which was meant to help the telecoms provider better compete with larger rivals AT&T Corp and Verizon Communications Inc. However, by early 2017 RadioShack, owned by General Wireless, had returned to bankruptcy and is liquidating. The lawsuit filed in Delaware Superior Court by RadioShack’s official committee of unsecured creditors says that Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint breached its contract with RadioShack, and is seeking $500 million in damages. Sprint allegedly ignored its obligations to provide inventory and staff to RadioShack stores because of its own financial troubles. Sprint spokesman David Tovar said the company was disappointed by the creditors’ committee action and Sprint expected to defend the matter vigorously. The lawsuit alleges that in 2016, Sprint used confidential information obtained from RadioShack to open 200 competing stores near RadioShack’s best locations, sinking any comeback for the electronics chain. “Sprint’s action destroyed nearly 6,000 RadioShack jobs,” said the lawsuit. The allegations stand in sharp contrast to promises made less than seven months ago by the chief executive officer of SoftBank, Sprint’s Japanese parent company, that he would create U.S. jobs.


John Bolton: Instability from Venezuela Could Spread Throughout the Region

Marlow to the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, where Bolton said democracy has “failed over a sustained period of time, and particularly in the last 15 years since the coup that brought Hugo Chavez to power.” “He’s now died, his former foreign minister Maduro is now president,” he noted. “It’s an authoritarian system. Largely the military is in control because the economy has tanked. The oil industry hasn’t had serious capital investment or improvement for a long time, so it’s decreasing revenue.” “I’m very worried about Venezuela,” Bolton professed. “I’m worried that the instability there will spread as it has to Colombia before, and it’s a source of real potential problems for the United States.” “Unfortunately, the opposition itself is disorganized and ineffective,” he continued. “Under Obama, they just thought the Maduro regime was the cat’s meow. They didn’t do anything. I’m not sure that the new administration is focused adequately on Latin America. It cannot be in America’s interest to have this turn into a failed state, and become potentially even a haven for terrorists internationally.” “I think there are a lot of Venezuelans who sincerely just want a representative government, would like to get out of this trap they’ve been in for the last 15 years,” Bolton replied. “But there are forces within the military, it’s a very confused situation down there, that may be even more radical. Castro regime advisers are all over Venezuela, and many think Maduro is essentially following the policies that they’re recommending, because Cuba under Raul Castro needs cheap Venezuelan oil to keep that regime afloat.”

U.S. stocks end sharply lower as tech shares sell off again

U.S. stocks fell sharply on Thursday, with both the Dow and the S&P 500 suffering their biggest one-day decline since May as the technology sector resumed its downward trend, overshadowing positive news in the financial sector. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.78% ended down 156 points, or 0.7%, to 21,247. The S&P 500 SPX, -0.86% lost 20 points to close at 2,419, a decline of 0.8%. The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -1.44% sank 1.7%, or 100 points, to 5,663.75. Thursday marked the third straight session where the Nasdaq moved 1% in either direction, volatility that is almost entirely due to the tech sector XLK, -1.79% to which the Nasdaq is heavily weighted, and which ended 1.8% lower on Thursday. Among the biggest tech decliners of the day, Apple Inc. AAPL, -1.47% fell 1.5% while Facebook Inc. FB, -1.44% was off 1.4% and Microsoft Corp. MSFT, -1.88% shed 1.9%. On the upside, financial shares XLF, +0.69% rose 0.7% after the 34 biggest U.S. banks passed the Federal Reserve’s stress test and received a green light for plans to return capital to shareholders. Citigroup Inc. C, +2.76% gained 2.8%.

Trump plan would expand oil drilling in Arctic and Atlantic

(AP) — The Trump administration is taking steps to expand oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans as President Donald Trump continues to push for U.S. “energy dominance” in the global market. The Interior Department said Thursday it is rewriting a five-year drilling plan established by the Obama administration, with an eye toward opening areas in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans that now are off-limits to drilling. U.S. oil production has boomed in recent years, and exports of oil and natural gas are surging, primarily because of improved drilling techniques such as fracking that have opened up production in previously out-of-reach areas. Trump says more steps are needed to “unleash” domestic reserves and remove government regulations that could prevent the U.S. from achieving global dominance in energy. Nick Bit: in between Trumps silly ass twitting he is getting a few good things done.

Grenfell Tower survivors barred from update meeting over ‘disruption’ risk

London (CNN)Survivors of London’s Grenfell Tower fire are among those banned from a local authority meeting Thursday about the disaster because of “security and public safety concerns.” The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which has been criticized for its handling of the tragedy’s aftermath, published an agenda stating that the council cabinet meeting would meet “entirely in private … in the light of the risk of disruption.” Council members are due to hear an oral update on the fire during the session. At least 80 people died at Grenfell Tower as a massive fire engulfed the 24-story apartment block in the early hours of June 14, though UK police have warned that a final death toll may not emerge until “the end of the year.” British Prime Minister Theresa May has apologized for what she called “a failure of the state — local and national — to help people when they needed it most,” adding that “the support on the ground…was not good enough.”

Pelosi: ‘Something Is Wrong’ With Trump, Mika Tweet Is ‘Blatantly Sexist

Nick Bite:  Poor Donald the press is attacking him BOO hoo. This is a big time waster. BUT to me its not how a president should act.

Thursday at her weekly press briefing, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said President Donald Trump’s tweets about MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski were “sad” and “blatantly sexist.” President Trump tweeted:

I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017

Pelosi said, “That really saddens me because it is so beneath the dignity of the president of the United States to engage in such behavior. I just don’t know why the Republicans — they can tolerate almost anything.” She continued, “It’s really sad though — a president of the United States — something is wrong there.” When asked if the tweet was sexist, Pelosi added, “I think it’s a blatantly sexist. I don’t even know that there’s any question about it.”


Fed’s Bullard says needs strong data to go it alone among global central banks

  • The U.S. Federal Reserve can go it alone on monetary policy among global central banks but strong data is needed for that to continue, according to James Bullard.

James Bullard, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

James Bullard, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
The U.S. Federal Reserve can go it alone on monetary policy among global central banks but strong data is needed for that to continue, St. Louis Federal Reserve chief James Bullard said on Thursday. “The U.S. is kind of trying to go it alone… which we can do and we certainly have done historically,” Bullard told an event in London. “But if you want to go it alone in this environment you have to really have data that’s coming in strong behind you and justifying what you want to do.”

Congress must raise debt ceiling by mid-October: CBO

Steven Mnuchin

Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images: Mnuchin


Congress will need to raise the nation’s debt limit and avoid defaulting on loan payments by “early to mid-October,” the Congressional Budget Office said in a report on Thursday. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has encouraged Congress to raise the limit before the legislative body leaves for their August recess. But it remains unclear if a bipartisan agreement has been struck to allow the limit to be raised, as both chambers continue to be weighed down by health care and tax reform and trying to find an agreement to fund the government after the September 30 deadline.

U.S. bank stocks surge as Fed unlocks ‘treasure chest of capital returns’

The biggest U.S. banks added more than US$40 billion in market value after the Federal Reserve’s annual stress tests opened the way to surprisingly big increases in dividends and share buybacks
PMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup and Bank of America unveiled plans to boost payouts more than analysts had projected.

The biggest U.S. banks added more than US$40 billion in market value after the Federal Reserve’s annual stress tests opened the way to surprisingly big increases in dividends and share buybacks.

Wells Fargo & Co. jumped 4.1 per cent while Citigroup surged as much as 3.8 per cent in New York trading Thursday. Regions Financial Corp. and KeyCorp also climbed as the KBW Bank Index rose the most since April.
“The results came in well ahead of both our estimates and consensus estimates as the Fed allowed for a large step-up” in payouts to shareholders, Scott Valentin, an analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading, said in a note titled “Fed Unlocks Treasure Chest of Capital Return.”

WARNING WARNING WARNING! we have been here before. Lofty payouts made banks hot stocks until the financial crisis exposed many of them as too thinly capitalized. The companies unveiled plans Wednesday showing how they’re trying to generate investor interest — even as many still struggle to meet profitability targets and a few languish below book value.
Nick bit: It will be far far far worse this time. Thank GOD we have the FAZ!

Banks Unleash Surprisingly Big Payouts After Fed’s rigged Stress Tests

Capital returns by gig banks

The banks which have announced their plans include the following:

JPMorgan intends to boost its quarterly common stock dividend to 56 cents a share, from 50 cents a share at present. It also announced a share buyback programme of up to $19.4bn between June 1 2017 and June 30 2018.

Citigroup plans to boost its quarterly dividend to 32 cents a share and launch a share repurchase program of up to $15.6bn. Combined, the capital actions total $18.9bn over the next year.

Wells Fargo said it plans to lift its quarterly dividend by a penny to 39 cents a share and will launch a $11.5bn share buyback program.

Morgan Stanley announced a $5bn share buyback and said it would boost its quarterly dividend to 25 cents a share, from 20 cents at present.

Bank of America’s board authorised a $12bn share repurchase plan and plans to lift its dividend by 60 per cent to 12 cents a share.

Goldman Sachs merely stated that the Fed had not objected to its capital plan with CEO Lloyd Blankfein stating: “We are well positioned to continue to return capital to our shareholders while expanding our client franchise”.

Capital One, which conditionally passed the stress test and must resubmit its plans, said it would maintain its current dividend of 40 cents a share, and expects to buy back up to $1.85bn of its stock.

Nick Bit: For the first time ever ALL banks passed the stress test. what a miracle! In fact the latest test showed they have excess capital which they can disperse. Mostly to Insiders! How did this magic happen? Simple they changed the test. The Fed dropped “qualitative” part of the bank stress test. For the first time banks were were exempt from the tougher qualitative portion of the exam, where watchdogs evaluate operational risk. These banks will only have to meet certain capital thresholds to “pass” and won’t be judged on their ability to foresee risk when drafting plans to offer share buybacks and dividend payments. This is why they ALL passed the test, and are dispersing their capital.
WANING WARNING WARNING: the last time they did this was in 2007 right before the last bank wipeout.

Stress tests clear big US banks for $100bn payout

Regulators have given US banks the go-ahead to pay out almost all their earnings to shareholders this year in a signal of their confidence in the health of the financial system. The Federal Reserve has given the green light to a record level of post-crisis distributions, including an estimated total of almost $100bn from the six largest banks. All 34 institutions passed the second part of its annual stress test, although the Fed did call out weaknesses in capital planning at Capital One, one of the country’s biggest consumer lenders, which it wants addressed. The big six US banks — Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — are set to return to shareholders between $95bn and $97bn over the next four quarters, according to RBC Capital Markets analyst Gerard Cassidy. That is about 50 per cent more than they were able to hand out after last year’s exam.

Fed officials argued banks had built up substantial capital cushions to withstand a meltdown of the kind that rocked global financial markets in 2008. It was the first time since the Fed began conducting the tests seven years ago, in the wake of the financial crisis, that officials waved through the capital distribution plans for all the banks tested. The clean sweep became significantly easier for the industry to achieve this year, however. The Fed dropped the “qualitative” part of the test — in recent years the toughest part of the exercise — for smaller US lenders and several foreign groups, totalling 21 of the 34 banks. Individual banks on Wednesday evening began to disclose their proposed payouts for the year ahead (see below). Senior Fed officials said the 34 banks were in aggregate projected to pay out close to 100 per cent of net earnings over the next four quarters. That is up sharply from 65 per cent in last year’s stress tests.

U.S. first-quarter GDP growth revised up to a very anemic 1.4 percent

The U.S. economy slowed less sharply in the first quarter than initially estimated due to unexpectedly higher consumer spending and a bigger jump in exports. Gross domestic product increased at a 1.4 percent annual rate instead of the 1.2 percent pace reported last month, the Commerce Department said in its final assessment on Thursday. It was still the slowest growth rate since the second quarter of last year. Economists polled by Reuters had expected GDP growth to remain unchanged at a 1.2 percent rate. First-quarter economic growth was boosted by an upward revision to consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. Consumer spending rose at a 1.1 percent rate instead of the previously reported 0.6 percent pace. It was still the slowest pace since the second quarter of 2013. Despite the upward revision, the Trump administration’s stated target of swiftly boosting U.S. growth to 3 percent remains a challenge. A sustained average of 3 percent growth has not been seen since the 1990s. Since 2000, the U.S. economy has grown at an average 2 percent rate. The U.S. economy expanded 1.6 percent in 2016, the lowest rate in five years. President Donald Trump’s economic program of tax cuts, regulatory rollbacks and infrastructure spending has yet to get off the ground five months into his presidency. Initial signs that economic growth re-accelerated sharply in the second quarter have also faltered with recent disappointing data on retail sales, manufacturing production and inflation. Housing data has also been mixed. The Atlanta Federal Reserve currently forecasts annualized GDP growth of 2.9 percent in the second quarter. Exports in the first quarter were revised to show a gain of 7.0 percent from the previously reported 5.8 percent. Nick Bit: we are entering a recession forget Trumps 3% growth rate. its not going to happen

House Russia probe reportedly zeroes in on Keith Schiller | Tillerson ‘blows up’ at White House

President Trump’s longtime bodyguard is going under the microscope.

ABC News reports that the House Intelligence Committee wants to interview Keith Schiller, who’s now a White House aide, as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the last election. It’s the latest indication that the investigations are touching Trump’s inner circle, the report says.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “blew up” at a senior White House staff member after seeing his proposed nominees stalled and his judgment questioned, Politico reports. Tillerson “unloaded” on Johnny DeStefano, the head of the presidential personnel office, in full view of Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, and Jared Kushner.

Republicans may need to remove a plan to repeal a tax on high-income Americans, Bloomberg News reports, to get a health-care bill through. The 3.8% tax on investment income is currently slated to go in both House and Senate versions of Obamacare overhaul legislation. But some Republican senators, including Susan Collins, Mike Rounds and Bob Corker, have expressed displeasure with the provision.

Gasp — Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is threatening to get Democrats involved in the health-reform effort, according to the New York Times. The Times says the Republican bill would have to fail on its own before Democrats would be pulled in to work on a new, bipartisan plan.

The entire Trump agenda is at risk, according to an article in the New Yorker. However health care is resolved, the rest of the Trump agenda consist of a series of “fiendishly difficult political issues” that divide Republicans, the magazine observes..

Trump tweets shocking assault on Brzezinski, Scarborough

Even by President Trump’s standards, these tweets were shocking.
On Thursday morning, while MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” was on the air, Trump posted a pair of hateful tweets about co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. MSNBC responded with this statement: “It’s a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job.” The president’s deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, defended the tweets by saying Trump was responding to the “outrageous attacks that take place” on “Morning Joe” and other shows. Trump refuses to be “bullied,” Sanders said on Fox News. “This is a president who fights fire with fire.” Trump’s tweets in the 8 a.m. hour on Thursday said that “Morning Joe” is “poorly rated” (it’s not) and that the hosts “speak badly of me” (that’s true). He called both hosts disparaging names.

I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017

Trump claimed that Scarborough and Brzezinski courted him for an interview at Mar-a-Lago around the New Year’s Eve holiday.

“She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!” the president wrote.
Continue reading “Trump tweets shocking assault on Brzezinski, Scarborough”

Goldman explains how it really blew it on its bullish oil call this year

Goldman Sachs on Thursday issued a mea culpa of sorts, releasing a research note explaining how it misread the crude oil market, after the bank significantly lowered its price forecast. In light of the recent downturn in oil prices, the investment bank was forced to revise its forecast for U.S. crude to average $55 per barrel over the next three months, bringing it down to $47.50 a barrel. At the root of the problem, Goldman said it failed to appreciate two things: how quickly U.S. shale oil production would ramp up as crude prices rose and how swiftly investors would pile into the trade. OPEC’s decision to cut output last winter boosted oil prices, which suddenly made it affordable for many U.S. shale drillers to start up new production. Tapping oil from shale rock is expensive, but drillers can start pumping from these resources very quickly once they get a green light in the form of higher crude prices.

Walmart escalates war of words with Amazon through the trucking firms they share

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is escalating its war of words with Amazon by sending veiled messages to the trucking companies that haul its merchandise from its distribution centers and stores, telling them if they do business with the Web giant it may not want to work with them, according to an industry expert. “I know that Walmart has expressed its views to truckload carriers,” transportation consultant Satish Jindel told The Post. “Walmart would prefer to do business with carriers that are not doing business with Amazon AMZN, -1.54% ” and are not “conflicted,” because it’s concerned about their ability to handle high volumes of deliveries during peak times, Jindel says. Walmart began having these conversations with carriers over the past 30 days or so, according to Jindel, who talked directly with those carriers and who also spoke at a logistics conference this week about the issue. “These developments, if true, are likely to have significant implications for U.S. transportation companies as Amazon and Walmart remain two of the largest users of truckload capacity,” Mehrotra wrote. The two retailers are going head-to-head for consumers’ business in every area of retail, and Amazon’s announcement this month on acquiring Whole Foods Market WFM, -0.26% was among the sharpest blows to Walmart, which counts on groceries for half of its revenue. The trucking squeeze comes on the heels of reports that Walmart has asked technology companies with which it works to stop using Amazon Web Services for the retailer’s cloud-computing services — or face losing Walmart’s business.

Here’s how many Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck

The Great Recession technically ended in 2009, but even eight years later many Americans are still coping with the aftershocks. Virtually half, or 49 percent, of all Americans are still living paycheck-to-paycheck. That’s according to a new survey conducted for GOBankingRates. Forty-one percent of men and 56 percent of women say that they are in that kind of precarious financial position. Meanwhile, a total of 61 percent — 52 percent of men and 69 percent of women — report that they don’t have enough in an emergency fund to cover six months’ worth of expenses. Financial expert Suze Orman, meanwhile, thinks that even six months’ worth of expenses isn’t sufficient, since it’s not enough to cushion you if you lose your job and can’t find another one for a year or you must cope with a medical emergency. Given how expensive everything from housing to health care is these days, she says it’s advisable to have at least eight-to-12 months’ worth of living expenses in reserve. As she puts it, “You need to know that you are going to be secure.” By that standard, a significant majority of Americans, particularly women, are in need of an intervention. Men are doing somewhat better, overall: More of them report having multiple streams of income (42 percent, as compared to only 30 percent of women) and an investment strategy that takes into account the possibility of another recession (39 percent, compared to only 26 percent of women).

Pier 1 Imports’ stock tumbles as retailer’s sales come in short of expectations

Pier 1 Imports’ stock tumbles as retailer’s sales come in short of expectations Pier 1 reported an adjusted loss of 4 cents per share for its first quarter, beating analysts’ estimate by a penny, according to Thomson Reuters. Sales for the period came in at $409.5 million, falling short of a Thomson Reuters forecast for $421 million in revenue. Pier 1’s same-store sales declined 0.2 percent from one year ago. A pedestrian walks past a Pier 1 Imports store in New York. Pier 1 Imports saw its stock tumble more than 10 percent Thursday morning after the retailer reported a smaller-than-expected loss but revenue that fell short of expectations. Like many other retailers, Pier 1 has been struggling to adapt as more shoppers opt to ring up purchases online in place of shopping at brick-and-mortar locations. Some other companies in the home-furnishing space include TJX — which owns the HomeGoods brand — Bed Bath & Beyond and Williams-Sonoma.
“Whilst we’ve shown operational improvement for several consecutive quarters, there is still much to be done to build the business to its full potential,” Pier 1 CEO Alasdair James said in a statement. “Looking ahead, we will be focused on uncovering additional opportunities to leverage these assets to broaden our customer reach, enhance our competitiveness and drive growth.”
Sales for the period came in at $409.5 million, falling short of a Thomson Reuters forecast for $421 million in revenue.

BP takes $750 million hit for Angola exploration write-off

BP (BP.L) will book a $750 million charge for unsuccessful exploration campaigns in Angola, the company said on Thursday, a write-off that will weigh on its second-quarter results. The British oil and gas company said it has decided to relinquish its 50 percent interest in Block 24/11 off the coast of southern Angola and that Katambi, a gas discovery made in the block in 2014, had been deemed uncommercial. “The write-off is fairly chunky, even by BP’s standards, for one asset,” said Jack Allardyce, oil and gas analyst at Cenkos Securities. The charge will not impact cash flow and will not attract tax relief, BP said. A number of companies including France’s Total (TOTF.PA), Norway’s Statoil (STL.OL) and Maersk Oil have explored for oil and gas off Africa’s western coast in recent years but have made few commercial discoveries. “The fact that (BP) are having a write-off in Angola’s Kwanza basin is not that surprising. Industry has not experienced significant success overall in the basin,” Jefferies analyst Jason Gammel said. BP has made four fossil fuel discoveries in 2017 in Trinidad, Egypt and off Senegal, all of which were gas and which the company said were part of a strategic shift to less polluting fossil fuel. “We are making disciplined choices throughout our business, including in exploration, and pursuing only opportunities that will deliver clear value for our shareholders,” Bernard Looney, head of BP’s upstream operations, said in a statement.

German regulator suspends law on storing phone and Internet data

A German regulator has suspended the launch of a law obliging German telecom companies to keep telephone and Internet data for up to 10 weeks to help fight crime, citing a court ruling. The data retention law, which had been due to come into effect on Saturday, requires companies to keep data on the timing and duration of telephone calls, as well as online traffic through IP addresses. Location data from mobile phones is to be stored for four weeks. A German administrative court ruled last week that storing location and connection data, without a justifiable reason such as suspicion of crime, ran contrary to European Union law. Regulator Bundesnetzagentur said on Wednesday it would not force telecoms to store such data until legal proceedings surrounding the law had been concluded, and would not fine them for failure to store the data for the time being. In 2014, the European Union’s highest court overthrew a rule that required telecoms companies to store the communications data of EU citizens for up to two years on the grounds it infringed human rights. In 2010, Germany’s Constitutional Court blocked a law requiring storage of all data for six months. Privacy is a particularly sensitive issue in Germany because of the surveillance by the Gestapo in the Nazi era and by communist East Germany’s Stasi secret police.

Migrant crisis: Italy threatens to shut ports

Italy has threatened to stop vessels of other countries from disembarking migrants at its ports. It comes as Italy’s representative to the EU, Maurizio Massari, warned in a letter to the bloc the situation had become “unsustainable”. Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has accused other European nations of “looking the other way”. An estimated 10,000 people are believed to have attempted the journey from North Africa in the past four days.
More than 73,000 migrants have landed in Italy this year, an increase of 14% on the same period last year. Some 2,000 have died or are missing feared drowned, the UN’s refugee agency says, the vast majority attempting the crossing from Libya. Libya is a gateway to Europe for migrants from across sub-Saharan Africa and also from the Arabian peninsula, Egypt, Syria and Bangladesh. Many are fleeing war, poverty or persecution.

Aboard the Mediterranean’s migrant rescue boats
Pope Francis: Europe migrant centres are ‘concentration camps’

The Italian coastguard takes the lead in co-ordinating rescue operations, but many of the vessels run by non-profit groups sail under the flags of other nations – including EU countries like Germany and Malta. An Italian government source told Reuters: “The idea of blocking humanitarian ships flying foreign flags from returning to Italian ports has been discussed. “Italy has reached saturation point.”

The rich get a $250,00 tax cut under the GOP’s health-reform bill

The Senate health-care bill would give the wealthy the biggest tax break in over a decade, according to an analysis. The Better Care Reconciliation Act would reduce tax revenue by $700 billion, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center. Fully 45 percent of those tax cuts will go to the top 1 percent of earners, and 67 percent of the benefits to the top 20 percent. Of course, the rich pay most of the taxes. So any tax cuts at the federal level would naturally benefit the wealthy. And many argue the bill doesn’t cut taxes, it merely removes tax hikes from the Affordable Care Act. Yet the nature of the health-care bill, which is similar to the House bill, loads a disproportionate share of gains to the wealthy — on both a dollar and percentage basis. The legislation would repeal the tax hikes imposed by the ACA. That includes killing the 3.8 percent net investment income tax (paid on dividends, interest and capital gains) and the 0.9 percent Medicare payroll tax surcharge. Both are aimed at people with incomes of $200,000 or more. Overall, the Senate bill would cut annual household taxes by an average of $670 a year. But the differences among income groups is vast. The bottom 20 percent of earners would get a tax cut of about $180, or 1 percent of their after-tax income. Middle-class earners (who make between $55,000 and $93,000) would see a tax cut of $280 or about 0.4 percent. The top 1 percent of earners, who under the Tax Policy Center definition, make $875,000 or more, would get an average tax cut of $45,000, or 2 percent of their income. The richest earners, or the top 0.1 percent, or those who make $5 million or more a year, would get an average tax cut of $250,000 — representing a tax cut of 2.5 percent. Billionaires could see even bigger gains. Warren Buffett said that some of his friends would be saving $10 million or more if the bill passes. “You could entitle this, you know, Relief for the Rich Act or something,” he told PBS.

Forget fake news, investors should realize the markets are fake, says asset manager

The global rally in financial markets is unsustainable because it only seems to respond to changes in the real economy when it fits a certain narrative, according to the CIO of investment firm Fasanara Capital. “I call it fake markets… you know, these days they talk about fake news (but) these are fake markets in a way right?” Francesco Filia, CIO of Fasanara Capital, told CNBC on Wednesday. Filia argued financial markets had become “complacent” and “insensitive” to fundamental changes in the economy. He suggested while markets appeared to surge higher on so-called good data, a mirrored response lower on negative sentiment had not been evident. “I think this kind of market environment is both unstable and unsustainable… at some point, something is going to happen that is going to all of a sudden wake up markets as to this overvaluation,” Filia said. ‘If something cannot continue, it will stop’

MSNBC’s Hunt: Republicans on Capitol Hill Use Words I Could Not Say on TV to Describe Trump in Private

Wednesday on MSNBC, political correspondent Kasie Hunt said Republicans on Capitol Hill were getting frustrated with President Donald Trump because he is not helping them with “their big priorities.” Hunt said, “Well, I think, look, the Republicans on Capitol Hill all the way along have had a lot of trouble grappling with President Trump. They didn’t think he was ever going to be president of the United States. A lot of them have a lot of—there are a lot of words that I could not say on television that Republicans will use when they describe Donald Trump in private conversations.” “But they are trying to figure it out,” she continued. “What they have been holding out on was this idea that they control government, top to bottom, and this is somebody that will sign their big priorities. Now they have had a lot of trouble getting anything through, so I think that is a dynamic that may change over time.”

Officials struggle to convince Trump that Russia remains a threat

Washington (CNN)As President Donald Trump lashes out at former President Barack Obama for failing to take a harder line against Russia for election meddling, Trump’s own advisers are struggling to convince him that Russia still poses a threat, according to multiple senior administration officials.
“I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election, and he did nothing about it,” Trump told Fox News in an interview that aired Sunday. “To me — in other words — the question is, if he had the information, why didn’t he do something about it? He should have done something about it.” But the Trump administration has taken no public steps to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 election. Multiple senior administration officials said there are few signs the President is devoting his time or attention to the ongoing election-related cyber threat from Russia.
“I’ve seen no evidence of it,” one senior administration official said when asked whether Trump was convening any meetings on Russian meddling in the election. The official said there is no paper trail — schedules, readouts or briefing documents — to indicate Trump has dedicated time to the issue.
Top intelligence officials have raised alarm about Russia’s cyberattacks, calling them a “major threat” to the US election system. In public hearings on Capitol Hill and classified briefings behind closed doors, intelligence officials have drawn the same conclusions: Russia launched an unprecedented attack on America’s electoral process during the 2016 presidential campaign and — barring a full-throated response from the US — the Russians are almost certain to do so again. It’s a warning some fear the White House isn’t taking seriously.

CNN reporter silenced

CNN’s senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, took to Twitter on Wednesday to complain that the White House would not take his question. Acosta, who has vocally opposed the White House’s press briefings not being on camera, said that he tried asking White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about fundraisers President Donald Trump is hosting for Republicans at Trump-owned properties. Acosta said in a tweet that he had asked Sanders at the briefing, “Isn’t holding a fundraiser at the Trump hotel rather swamp-like?” The reporter then tweeted that he never got a response. Acosta finished off his series of tweets by saying video coverage of the briefing was “outlawed.”

My q to SHS which she refused to take: “isn’t holding a fundraiser at the Trump hotel rather swamp-like?” (So I’m sharing with you…enjoy!)

— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) June 28, 2017

I attempted to ask this question as SHS left briefing room. WH near-total refusal to take briefing q’s from CNN is becoming common practice. https://t.co/mZMk97hT73

— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) June 28, 2017

Sadly, you won’t be able to watch this moment on-camera as video coverage of today’s briefing was outlawed by WH.. er I mean.. the USA. https://t.co/jylDF8MNpY

— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) June 28, 2017

Fed gives big U.S. banks a green light for buyback, dividend plans

The Federal Reserve has approved plans from the 34 largest U.S. banks to use extra capital for stock buybacks, dividends and other purposes beyond being a cushion against catastrophe. On Wednesday, the Fed said those lenders, including household names like JPMorgan Chase & Co and Bank of America Corp, had passed the second, tougher part of its annual stress test. The results showed that many have not only built up adequate capital buffers, but improved risk management procedures as well. Altogether, banks that went through the tests will be able to pay out 100 percent of their projected net income over the next four quarters, compared with 65 percent after last year’s results, a senior Fed official said. It would be the first time since the 2008 financial crisis that banks return at least as much money to shareholders as they produce in annual profit. The verdict marks a significant victory for the banking industry, which has worked for years to regain its stature. The green light could also serve as a watershed moment for Wall Street, which is eager to get a lighter regulatory touch from policymakers in Washington. After the Fed’s announcement, banks began to release details on how they plan to use their extra capital. Apart from Capital One, bank stocks rose in after-hours trading. Citigroup Inc won a particularly notable victory, gaining permission to return nearly $19 billion to shareholders, or about 125 percent of projected earnings over the next four quarters – a big bump from last year, and more than analysts had expected.

Former Trump campaign chairman registers as a foreign agent

Washington (CNN)Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort filed documents with the Justice Department showing his consulting firm was paid more than $17 million between 2012 and 2014 for work on behalf of a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. The filing completed Manafort’s registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA, one of several legal issues that have been the focus of scrutiny by the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors, according to US officials briefed on the investigation. The registration doesn’t end the years-long US probe of Manafort and his firm which, because of Manafort’s role as Trump campaign chairman last year, have become part of the broader investigation now led by special counsel Robert Mueller looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
US investigators continue to scrutinize Manafort’s tax and business records to determine whether any criminal violations occurred, according to the officials briefed on the investigation. The documents filed Tuesday largely center on work done for Ukraine’s Party of Regions by Manafort and his firm DMP International, which occurred long before Manafort joined the Trump campaign. Richard Gates, listed as an employee of the firm, also completed his registration as a foreign agent with the documents filed Tuesday. Gates worked as a deputy to Manafort on the Trump campaign. A June 15 memo from the Trump transition team’s general counsel directed transition staffers and volunteers to preserve records related to Gates and Manafort, among other campaign associates. An attorney for Gates did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. The filings record $3.9 million in expenses related to the firm’s work for the Party of Regions, which included costs for travel, living expenses and payments to various contractors during the 2012-2014 period.

Schiff: If Trump doesn’t act on Russia, could be dereliction of duty

(CNN)The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee said that if President Donald Trump doesn’t act on the threat Russia poses, he could be derelict in his duty to protect the United States. Earlier Wednesday, former US ambassador to NATO and George W. Bush administration official Nicholas Burns had accused Trump of “dereliction of the basic duty to defend the country” for what he said was Trump’s apparent disinterest in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. CNN’s Jake Tapper read the statement to Schiff, then said: “That seems rather strong. What do you think?” “I would completely agree with that,” the California Democrat said on “The Lead” Wednesday. “The national security needs of the country have to come first, they certainly have to come as a higher priority than whatever effect this would have on how he views the legitimacy or the size of his election victory.” The US is “very poorly prepared” if the Russians interfere in the upcoming midterm elections, he added.
“If this President won’t acknowledge what happened in his own election, what hope do we have that he will speak out when they do this again?” Schiff asked.Schiff said the most important thing the US can do to protect itself is to have a “well-informed public,” and to “develop a consensus that we didn’t have during the last presidential campaign: That we will reject foreign interference, no matter who it helps or hurts.” Many Republicans and some Democrats have also criticized Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, for not responding more strongly to Russia’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 election. Continue reading “Schiff: If Trump doesn’t act on Russia, could be dereliction of duty”

Inmarsat’s European short-haul wifi spacecraft launches

A new Europe-wide wifi service for aeroplanes came a step closer on Wednesday night with the launch of a key satellite from French Guiana. Airline passengers will soon be able to connect to the internet either through this spacecraft or a complementary system of cell towers on the ground. The company behind the so-called European Aviation Network is Inmarsat, the UK’s biggest satellite operator It is building the system in tandem with Deutsche Telekom of Germany. The pair hope to start services at the back end of the year, with Lufthansa and the AIG Group (Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling) being the first airlines to equip their planes with the necessary equipment. This would include an antenna on the top of aircraft to connect upwards to space, and another terminal in the belly of the plane to link down to what initially will be 300 4G-LTE towers concentrated along Europe’s main short-haul routes. Passengers in the cabin wanting to surf the web or watch a video would simply join a hotspot as they would if they were in a cafe or a hotel.

Trump holds $10m fundraiser at his hotel

US President Donald Trump has hosted an event at his hotel in Washington, to raise cash for his 2020 re-election campaign.
Protesters greeted the president with cries of “Shame!”as he arrived at the $35,000 (£27,000) per person bash.
Many were unhappy with the Republican healthcare plan, holding placards that said “Healthcare, not tax cuts”. Holding the fundraising event at Trump International Hotel has increased concerns about conflicts of interest. Richard Painter, who served as the chief ethics lawyer in the White House for former President George W Bush, said it was unacceptable for the president to be potentially benefiting financially from this kind of event. He should have picked another hotel, he said. But Kathleen Clark, a law professor who specialises in government ethics at Washington University in St. Louis, told USA Today it did not break any laws. It is not clear if the hotel is being paid to host the event. Republican National Committee officials were expecting to raise about $10m, with about 300 places available. Not all the money raised will go towards the Trump 2020 campaign – some will go to other Republican Party causes.
It is unusual for a president to raise cash for re-election so early in his first term, only five months since the former property developer took office. “Of course he is running for re-election,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday. Reporters were barred from attending the event.

CNN Anchor: Trump Putting Journalists In Danger; “Declaration Of War On Media” Has “Emboldened” War Zones

CNN’s Clarissa Ward, a foreign correspondent, served as guest co-host on Wednesday’s broadcast of CNN’s News Day. Ward fretted that “people” in war zones have been “emboldened” by President Trump’s “declaration of war on the media.” Ward, expressing concern for members of the media in dangerous areas of the world, said to guest Chris Cillizza, ‘I can only imagine what a person like you is dealing with. At what point does this become reckless or irresponsible?’ It should be noted Chris Cillizza is a Washington-based political correspondent and commentator. Nick Bit: We have always had “fake” news. Its the currency of politics and for that matter life. Nothing to get excited about. Your whole life is about not being deceived. And sorting through news that is often times exaggerated, slated and a out and out fraud its the process. The better you become at figuring it out the better you do in life.

Trump promises ‘big surprise’ on health care

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump struck a cautiously optimistic tone Wednesday, the day after Senate Republican leaders scuttled plans for a vote on health care reform this week in the face of stiff resistance from within the party’s own ranks. “We’re going to have a big surprise,” Trump said during a brief photo opportunity with reporters as he welcomed the World Series-winning Chicago Cubs at the White House. “We’re going to have a great, great surprise.” Trump declined to say what the surprise would be, but his comments stood in contrast to the state of play on health care reform on Wednesday, with nine Republican senators publicly expressing their opposition to the Senate bill Trump is pushing and a pair of polls showing rock-bottom public support for the bill. Hours before promising a “surprise,” Trump acknowledged that shuttling the health care legislation through the Senate is “very tough,” but said he believed he and Republicans would “get it over the line.”
“We have given ourselves a little bit more time to make it perfect,” he said in brief remarks in the White House’s Roosevelt Room where he was hosting a roundtable on energy.

With U.S. healthcare bill in disarray, Republicans demand revamp

Senate Republican leaders faced calls from critics within the party on Wednesday for major changes, rather than mere tinkering, to a major healthcare bill if they are to salvage their effort to repeal major parts of the Obamacare law. In a big setback to the seven-year Republican quest to undo Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday abandoned plans to get the bill passed this week. McConnell, with his reputation as a master strategist on the line, put off a vote until after next week’s Independence Day recess, when it became apparent he would not muster the 50 votes needed for passage. Acknowledging demands from fellow Republicans for more input into retooling the legislation, McConnell said on the Senate floor, “Senators will have more opportunities to offer their thoughts as we work toward an agreement.” With Democrats unified against it and Republicans controlling the Senate by a slim 52-48 margin, McConnell can afford to lose only two Republican senators to secure passage, with Vice President Mike Pence able to cast a tie-breaking vote. But at least nine Republican senators – including moderates, hard-line conservatives and others – have expressed opposition to the bill in its current form. Continue reading “With U.S. healthcare bill in disarray, Republicans demand revamp”

Pro-Trump groups take no prisoners in rush to help an embattled president

Flush with cash, political groups outside the White House are aggressively coming to President Donald Trump’s aid as he battles low public approval numbers, questions about his election campaign’s ties to Russia and a stalled legislative agenda. Through television attack ads and online campaigns normally seen only during the tumult of an election, the groups are helping Trump to strike back against his perceived enemies and boost his agenda, adding to the firepower of his Twitter account and the bully pulpit of the White House.
On Tuesday, one of the groups, America First Policies, launched an attack ad against a senator from Trump’s own Republican Party who had balked at a Senate plan to overhaul healthcare that would leave millions more Americans uninsured. The attack angered Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who is struggling to rustle up the votes for the plan. Continue reading “Pro-Trump groups take no prisoners in rush to help an embattled president”

FedEx’s Dutch operations have been ‘significantly affected’ by the Petya virus

The global Petya virus has “significantly affected” the worldwide operations of TNT Express, a subsidiary of FedEx that’s based in the Netherlands. Both the domestic and international shipping services remain operational, but they are experiencing delays, the companies say. FedEx halted trading of its shares shortly after the announcement, but all other FedEx-owned companies are so far unaffected. “We cannot measure the financial impact of this service disruption at this time, but it could be material,” FedEx writes in a statement about the service disruption. The company adds that “remediation steps and contingency plans are being implemented as quickly as possible,” including using FedEx’s own Express service to help with the backlog. TNT Express was acquired by FedEx in 2016. It ships 1 million packages a day to 200 countries. The Petya virus began spreading across Europe early yesterday morning, and it’s affected a wide range of businesses and services. Computer systems at Ukraine’s central bank, municipal metro, and the Boryspil Airport in Kiev were all damaged. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant had to switch to manual radiation monitoring. Danish shipping giant Maersk was also hit. Originally thought to be a ransomware, similar to last month’s WannaCry attack, a new analysis shows that Petya may have been modified for more destructive purposes — meaning that affected businesses might not even have the option to pay the hackers for a way out of trouble.

Trump Interrupts Call in Oval Office to Tell Reporter She Has a ‘Nice Smile’

President Trump was at his desk in the Oval Office and on the phone with the new prime minister of Ireland on Tuesday when a journalist for an Irish news organization caught his eye.
“Well, we have a lot of your Irish press watching us,” Mr. Trump said to the prime minister, Leo Varadkar, as several reporters looked on. Then, interrupting his conversation with Mr. Varadkar, Mr. Trump pointed at the journalist, Caitriona Perry, and gestured for her to come to him. “And where are you from?” he said. “Go ahead. Come here, come here. Where are you from? We have all of this beautiful Irish press.” After she introduced herself, Mr. Trump told Mr. Varadkar, “She has a nice smile on her face so I bet she treats you well.” The exchange, which was captured on video and widely shared on social media, drew criticism about how Mr. Trump treats women and the message it sent about the attitude toward women as professionals in their fields. Elisa Lees Muñoz, executive director of the International Women’s Media Foundation, said on Wednesday that she had heard about the episode in passing. After a transcript of the exchange was read to her over the phone, she said: “Oh, Lord. I wish I could say this is a surprise.” She said such occurrences were not limited to Mr. Trump, adding that female journalists are frequently called out for their appearance, their hair and the way they dress. Comments like the president’s detract from a woman’s value as a professional, she said.

Former Trump campaign chairman registers as foreign agent

President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for political consulting work he did for a Ukrainian political party, acknowledging that he coached party members on how to interact with U.S. government officials. Manafort says in a Justice Department filing Tuesday that his firm, DMP International, received more than $17 million from the Party of Regions, the former pro-Russian ruling party in Ukraine, for consulting work from 2012 through 2014. Manafort is the second member of the Trump campaign to register as a foreign agent. In March, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn registered with the Justice Department for work his consulting firm performed for a Turkish businessman that he said could have aided the Turkish government. Both registrations came after the work had been completed. Manafort helmed Trump’s campaign for about five months until August and resigned from the campaign immediately after The Associated Press reported on his firm’s covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling political party. He is one of several people linked to the Trump campaign who are under scrutiny by a special counsel and congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and potential coordination with Trump associates.
Manafort has denied any coordination with Russia and has said his work in Ukraine was not related to the campaign. The Washington Post first reported Manafort’s registration and posted a copy of his filing online Tuesday. The filing does not bear the date and time stamps showing that it has been formally received by the Justice Department’s FARA unit. But Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni confirmed to several news outlets that Manafort had gone through with the registration.

Slack in European economy looks worse than we thought, says ECB vice president

The difference between current and potential levels of output in the euro area economy could be greater than the European Central Bank (ECB) originally thought, its vice president, Vitor Constancio, warned on Tuesday.

“What we see, what we observe is that domestic factors of inflation starting with wage and cost developments and then also price decisions are not responding the way we would expect in view of our more common estimates of this slack. So we have to ask ourselves – are these measures of the slack of the economy correct?,” explained Constancio, speaking to CNBC from the ECB Forum on central banking in Sintra. The board had therefore begun to ask themselves whether other variables should instead be considered to establish a more accurate view of the current economic situation. “The unemployment rate now is 9.3 (percent) according to the normal international standard of measuring employment …. But if we adopt, as in the U.S., a broader concept of unemployment (which in the U.S. they call U6) then unemployment in the euro area is at 18 percent whereas it is at 9 (percent) in the case of the U.S. which would imply that the slack is then bigger than we could judge some time ago,” he noted. “That being the case it justifies fully what the president (Mario Draghi) said at the end of his speech (on Tuesday) that we need persistence. If we want to bring inflation to our target of below but close to 2 (percent) then we have to persist in the type of monetary policy that we been adopting,” he added.

Trump reportedly seemed ‘confused’ that GOP health-care bill would be cast as a tax break for the rich

President Donald Trump may not have as great a grasp on health-care policy as he claims. The president “seemed especially confused” during a meeting with senators Tuesday when a senator “complained that opponents of the bill would cast it as a massive tax break for the wealthy,” The New York Times reported. Trump then said he would address tax reform later, according to the Times, which cited an aide who had a readout of the exchange.

Trump appeared to dispute the report in a pair of tweets Wednesday morning, alleging that the “failing” Times “writes false story after false story about me.”

Trump: The failing @ nytimeswrites false story after false story about me. They don’t even call to verify the facts of a story. A Fake News Joke!

He added that he knows health care “well” and wants “victory” for the United States.

Trump: Some of the Fake News Media likes to say that I am not totally engaged in healthcare. Wrong, I know the subject well & want victory for U.S.

Trump ran on a campaign of repealing and replacing Obamacare, promising on the campaign trail to immediately do so if he won the presidency. He has repeatedly applied pressure on the House and Senate to pass an Obamacare replacement plan, though he has reportedly had less influence on senators than he did on House members.

Americans just weighed in on the Senate GOP health-care bill—it’s not good

The Senate’s Obamacare replacement bill is faring no better with the public than the highly criticized plan that passed the House earlier this year. Only 17 percent of Americans approve of the Senate GOP’s Better Care Reconciliation Act, versus 55 percent who disapprove, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Tuesday. Some 24 percent of respondents said they had not heard enough about it to have an opinion. A separate USA Today/Suffolk University poll found only 12 percent of Americans support the Senate plan. Senate Republicans on Tuesday delayed their plan to vote on the bill this week amid mounting opposition from the party’s moderate and conservative wings. Moderate senators have raised concerns about the possible growth in uninsured Americans and the plan’s rollback of Medicaid expansion. Conservatives have said the bill does not go far enough to repeal Obamacare. The poll was taken from June 21 to 25, even before the release of a Congressional Budget Office report that estimated the bill would lead to 22 million more uninsured Americans by 2026. Just 8 percent of Democrats approved of the proposal, while 78 percent disapproved. Some 35 percent of Republicans approved of the bill, compared with 21 percent who disapproved. Independents disapproved of the plan by a margin of 68 percent to 13 percent.

New computer virus spreads from Ukraine to disrupt world business

A cyber attack wreaked havoc around the globe on Wednesday, crippling thousands of computers, disrupting operations at ports from Mumbai to Los Angeles and halting production at a chocolate factory in Australia. The virus is believed to have first taken hold on Tuesday in Ukraine where it silently infected computers after users downloaded a popular tax accounting package or visited a local news site, national police and international cyber experts said. The malicious code locked machines and demanded victims post a ransom worth $300 in bitcoins or lose their data entirely, similar to the extortion tactic used in the global WannaCry ransomware attack in May. More than 30 victims paid up but security experts are questioning whether extortion was the goal, given the relatively small sum demanded, or whether the hackers were driven by destructive motives rather than financial gain. Hackers asked victims to notify them by email when ransoms had been paid but German email provider Posteo quickly shut down the address, a German government cyber security official said. Ukraine, the epicentre of the cyber strike, has repeatedly accused Russia of orchestrating attacks on its computer systems and critical power infrastructure since its powerful neighbor annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

Revived U.S. travel ban sows confusion, anger in Middle East

A U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing partial implementation of President Donald Trump’s travel ban has stirred anger and confusion in parts of the Middle East, with would-be visitors worried about their travel plans and their futures. The blanket 90-day ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – and a 120-day ban on all refugees was completely blocked by lower courts after Trump issued it on March 6, saying it was needed to prevent terrorism attacks. On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled the bans could proceed, though only for foreigners with no “bona fide relationship” with an American entity or person, and it did not specify what that meant. The ruling left some in the Middle East wondering if they would be able to enter the United States.”It’s a big disappointment for me,” said a 52-year-old Sudanese man in the capital Khartoum, who believed he would now be rejected for a visa to visit relatives in the United States.


European stocks finish at 2-month lows as central banks jolt currencies

European stocks on Wednesday closed a topsy-turvy session at a two-month low, with the euro pulled lower intraday while the pound leapt as investors reassessed policy stances at both the European Central Bank and the Bank of England. The Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP, -0.04% closed down less than 1 point at 385.82, but that still represented the lowest close since April 21. Financial, consumer services and oil and gas shares finished higher, but health care, tech and utilities fell.

ECB rethink: The euro looked on course to hit $1.14 for the first time since June 2016, but was yanked to an intraday low of $1.1292 following reports that ECB officials said the markets had misjudged comments made a day earlier by ECB President Mario Draghi.

President Trump’s Defense Budget Falls Short of Rebuilding Military, Report Says

President Donald Trump’s defense budget is insufficient to begin substantially rebuilding the military as pledged on the 2016 campaign trail and merely represents a “more muscular status quo,” according to a new report from the American Enterprise Institute. Mackenzie Eaglen, senior defense-budget analyst at AEI, said the White House’s requested $603 billion base budget repairs the detrimental effects of Obama-era spending cuts and budget uncertainty, but lacks the investment needed for modernization efforts to begin in 2018. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R., Texas) on Monday proposed a nearly $37 billion increase to the administration’s baseline budget request in an effort to hire more troops and invest in modernization efforts. The move mirrors Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain’s call for a $640 billion base Pentagon budget. Continue reading “President Trump’s Defense Budget Falls Short of Rebuilding Military, Report Says”

Trump Continues to Blast ‘Fake News’ Media, Says New York Times Writes ‘False Story After False Story’

President Donald Trump continued to rail against the press from his Twitter account on Wednesday, blasting the New York Times for writing “false story after false story” and also criticizing the media’s health care coverage. Trump said the New York Times doesn’t “call to verify the facts of a story” and was a “Fake News Joke.” He added that press outlets were falsely stating he was not “totally engaged” on health care reform and that he actually knows the subject “well.”

The failing @nytimes writes false story after false story about me. They don’t even call to verify the facts of a story. A Fake News Joke!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2017

Some of the Fake News Media likes to say that I am not totally engaged in healthcare. Wrong, I know the subject well & want victory for U.S.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2017
Continue reading “Trump Continues to Blast ‘Fake News’ Media, Says New York Times Writes ‘False Story After False Story’”

Trump Org told to remove phony Time magazine issues

Framed portrait of President Donald Trump on the cover of a TIME Magazine and other magazine covers framed and hanging from a wall at the Trump National Doral Miami Golf Shop, in Doral, Florida June 24, 2017.

Time magazine has asked the Trump Organization to remove a number of issues featuring President Donald Trump from its golf clubs after they were proven to be fakes. At least four of President Trump’s clubs were found to have displayed framed copies of a Time magazine dated March 1, 2009 and featuring Donald Trump as its cover star. However, the Washington Post has revealed that there was no issue released on that date. Indeed, the then-business tycoon failed to appear on the cover of any 2009 issue of the magazine. The official edition for that week was instead released on March 2, 2009 and paid homage to Kate Winslet and her Oscar success in “The Reader”. “I can confirm that this is not a real TIME cover,” a TIME spokesperson told CNBC via email. Time magazine has since requested the Trump Organization to remove all fake copies from display. The magazine is said to have been on display in prominent positions at the Trump empire’s golf resorts in Doral, Florida and Trump National Golf Club near Washington DC, as well as Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach and Doonbeg in Western Ireland. The Trump Organization failed to respond when contacted by CNBC but the confirmation from Time magazine serves a blow to a man whose presidential campaign was forged largely on his attack of the mainstream media’s so-called “fake news”.

Mortgage applications drop 6% as wealthy buyers ‘step back’

Mortgage rates have been sitting at a six-month low for the past month, barely moving, but mortgage demand is still shrinking. Total application volume fell 6.2 percent last week, compared to the previous week. The Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted application index is now down 17 percent compared to the same week one year ago. There is considerable homebuyer demand, but the supply crisis is clearly trickling down to the mortgage market. Applications for a home purchase loan fell 4 percent for the week, although they are 8 percent higher than a year ago. One stark change is in the size of the average purchase loan application. “We’re seeing indications that entry level buyers continue to come into the market as jumbo borrowers looking at bigger homes step back,” said Mike Fratantoni, chief economist for the MBA. “Last week, the average loan size for home purchase dropped to its lowest level since January.” This may also be an indication that more move-up buyers have reached their limit on high prices. Affordability is weakening as prices continue to soar well beyond income growth. As entry-level demand climbs, there are far fewer starter-level homes for sale.
Continue reading “Mortgage applications drop 6% as wealthy buyers ‘step back’”

Japan, EU press ahead on free trade pact to counter U.S. protectionism

Japanese and European Union negotiators meeting in Tokyo aim to reach a free trade deal that would stand against a protectionist tide threatening the global economy, and make the United States think twice over pursuing inward-looking policies. Japan and the EU have been negotiating since 2013, but talks have intensified since last week, with almost daily meetings to overcome key hurdles, including tariffs on Japanese automobiles and car parts and European wine, cheese, pasta and other foods. A Japan-EU deal could leave U.S. firms at a disadvantage, especially after President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, earlier this year. “There is an atmosphere among negotiators that Japan and the EU need to stop protectionism that is prevailing in the world,” said a source familiar with the issue who declined to be identified because talks are ongoing. “The momentum is building for Japan and the EU to take leadership in promoting and executing free trade.” In a sign of optimism, EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom said on Monday she could sign a provisional deal with Japan as early as next week. An agreement between the EU and Japan would “send a strong message to the United States that free trade is important and that you shouldn’t be too inward looking,” said another source, who declined to be named while negotiations were underway. Trump favors bilateral trade deals over multilateral accords and his decision to walk away the TPP, left the other 11 members of the Pacific Rim trading bloc, including Japan, in limbo. Continue reading “Japan, EU press ahead on free trade pact to counter U.S. protectionism”

Nasdaq futures fall as tech selloff continues

Nasdaq futures were lower for a second straight day on Wednesday as the selloff in tech stocks continued, while the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were little changed.
Investors are gauging the impact of a global ransomware attack that disrupted computers at banks and large companies. The tech index has been under pressure in the last few weeks as investors, concerned with the sector’s lofty valuations, shift to defensive sectors. Shares of big tech names such as Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft were all down in premarket trading. A delay in the Republican healthcare bill also weighed after a planned vote on a bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act was put off to after the Senate’s July 4 recess. The healthcare legislation, which has encountered resistance from several Republicans, is the first plank of President Donald Trump’s domestic policy agenda, with investors eager for him to move onto his other plans, including tax cuts, infrastructure spending and deregulation. Trump’s promises of a pro-growth agenda is partly behind the S&P’s 13 percent rise since the Nov. 8 election. Investors are gearing up for second-quarter corporate earnings season after a strong first quarter, with the S&P 500 trading at nearly 18 times forward earnings estimates, well above its long-term average of 15 times. U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Tuesday the central bank would continue raising rates gradually and that “by standard metrics, some asset valuations look high but there’s no certainty about that.” Fed officials have signaled that they would look through a slowdown in inflation and continue on their current path for hikes.

Facebook hits 2 billion-user mark, doubling in size since 2012

Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Tuesday that 2 billion people are regularly using its flagship service, marching past another milestone in its growth from a college curiosity in the United States to the world’s largest social media network. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg disclosed the number to his followers in a Facebook post. “It’s an honor to be on this journey with you,” he wrote. The user base is bigger than the population of any single country, and of six of the seven continents. It represents more than a quarter of the world’s 7.5 billion people. Facebook defines a monthly active user as a registered Facebook user who logged in and visited Facebook through its website or a mobile device, or used its Messenger app, in the past 30 days. It does not include people who use the Instagram or WhatsApp networks but not Facebook. The social network’s user population dwarfs that of similar companies. Twitter Inc reported in April monthly active users of 328 million, while Snap Inc’s Snapchat had 166 million daily users at the end of the first quarter. WeChat, a unit of Tencent Holdings Ltd and a widely used service in China, said in May that it had 938 million monthly active users in the first quarter. Facebook had 1.94 billion people using its service monthly as of March 31, an increase of 17 percent from a year earlier. It reached 1 billion in October 2012. The company, which Zuckerberg started in 2004 in his college dorm room, uses its huge size advantage to lure advertisers, offering them highly targeted marketing capabilities based on its data about users.

Technology companies fall sharply, leading US indexes lower

Technology stocks led a broad slide in U.S. stocks Tuesday after a day of mostly choppy trading. Phone and utilities companies were among the big decliners after a sell-off in bonds sent yields sharply higher. Banks bucked the broader market decline amid heightened expectations of rising interest rates. Oil prices rose for the fourth straight day. Late-afternoon developments in Washington helped put investors in a selling mood. Republican leaders in the Senate decided to delay a vote on a health care overhaul bill until after the July 4 recess.
“The delay of the health care vote added to a little bit of the uneasiness going into the quarter end here,” said Sean Lynch, co-head of global equity strategy at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “It’s just worries that some of this political noise can complicate the chance of possible tax reform, health care reform and other policy measures that could boost the economy.”
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 19.69 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,419.38. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 98.89 points, or 0.5 percent, to 21,310.66. The Nasdaq composite lost 100.53 points, or 1.6 percent, to 6,146.62. The Russell 2000 of small-company stocks gave up 13.10 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,403.54.

Ransomware Cyberattack Goes Global

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Billionaire Warren Buffett says ‘the real problem’ with the US economy is people like him

Warren Buffett says people like him are the problem with the U.S. economy. With a net worth of more than $75 billion, Buffett is currently the second richest man alive, according to Forbes. As the CEO of investing house Berkshire Hathaway, he is hallowed as the Oracle of Omaha. But for all his personal success, Buffett says the issue really is the 1 percent. “The real problem, in my view, is — this has been — the prosperity has been unbelievable for the extremely rich people,” says Buffett on PBS Newshour. “If you go to 1982, when Forbes put on their first 400 list, those people had [a total of] $93 billion. They now have $2.4 trillion, [a multiple of] 25 for one,” he says. “This has been a prosperity that’s been disproportionately rewarding to the people on top.” “The real problem, in my view, is … the prosperity has been unbelievable for the extremely rich people.” -Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. Many individuals are stuck. “The economy is doing well, but all Americans aren’t doing well,” says Buffett. Part of the reason some are struggling, says the octogenarian investor, is that the automation and digitization of the U.S. labor force is happening faster than employees can be retrained.
Warren. any individuals are stuck. “The economy is doing well, but all Americans aren’t doing well,” says Buffett. 8 billionaires own same wealth as half the world’s poorest
“We always see shifts in employment. If you think about it, if you go back to 1800, it took 80 percent of the labor force to produce enough food for the country. Now it takes less than 3 percent. Well, the truth is that market systems move people around,” says Buffett. “There’s always a mismatch. I mean, you know, as the economy evolves, it reallocates resources.”
As employees fall out of the labor force because their skills are no longer utilized, Buffett says it ought to be the responsibility of society to take care of them as they are retrained to re-enter the workforce. Nick Bit: The truth is the mass population is stuck in the analog age Jobs market. We are in the digit age and that means people with common skills are no longer needed or wanted. The transition from one age to a new one is ALWAYS met with a depression. The modern industrial revolution we are leaving bought on the 1930’s great depression. The new revolution the digitization of labor where people in mass are replaced by computer algorithms and robots will see the displaced masses never recovering their lost prosperity. Retrained my ass it is not happening and will NOT happen. Don’t let them bullshit you. Prepare for a depression the like of which you cannot really comprehend. Get rich or get very very poor… you decide.

Forgotten Americans on H-1B: ‘This Is Complete Treason’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – While Americans who have lost their jobs to outsourcing are willing to speak up, they remain fearfully hushed about the issue, making sure their names and former employers are not released. Every year, more than 100,000 foreign workers are brought to the U.S. on the H-1B visa and are allowed to stay for up to six years. That number has ballooned to potentially hundreds of thousands each year, as universities and non-profits are exempt from the cap. With more entering the U.S. through the visa, Americans are often replaced and forced to train their foreign replacements. As Breitbart Texas spoke to a number of workers in front of the White House, a reoccurring factor was that Americans would only speak anonymously. “I have to remain anonymous,” one told Breitbart Texas. “It’s in my severance package.” He had to move from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. just to find a job after he had been outsourced by Infosys, India’s top consulting firm. “This is also a national security threat because foreigners are dominating an entire American industry, the worker said. “If the Indian worker can’t do their job, it’s your fault for training them wrong.” One woman, a legal immigrant who was reluctant to speak to Breitbart Texas, said she was outsourced and laid-off three times, saying her husband’s job was also outsourced. The woman said she lives in an upper-class neighborhood, but has eight to 10 foreign nationals on H-1B visas living across from her in a small apartment.

Google hit with record fine by EU, told to change its ways

BRUSSELS (AP) — After a seven-year legal battle, European authorities came down hard on Google on Tuesday for taking advantage of its dominance in online searches to direct customers to its own businesses, fining the tech giant a record 2.42 billion euros ($2.72 billion) and raising the prospect of more. A years-long analysis of Google’s online search results showed that the company lists links to its own online shopping services above those of rivals, European regulators said. On average, Google lists search results to its biggest rivals in online shopping only on page 4 — and smaller rivals even lower. That’s a huge advantage for Google when 90 percent of use-clicks are on page one. The ruling that Google is taking advantage of its market dominance in online searches paves the way for a broader crackdown by the EU, which is investigating several other Google businesses, like its online images and travel businesses. “What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told reporters. To avoid more pain in Europe, Google will have to change the way it does business in the region. It has 90 days to stop favoring its own links to online shopping or face more fines of up to 5 percent of the average daily worldwide revenue of parent company Alphabet. Google says it is considering an appeal and maintains it’s just trying to package its search results in a way that makes it easier for consumers to find what they want. “We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case,” said Kent Walker, senior vice president at Google, in a statement. When it comes to online shopping, a big problem is that consumers don’t spend enough time doing different searches and instead they focus on Google searches to find the best price, experts say. And there are plenty of search tools — from Camelcamelcamel.com, which tracks Amazon prices over time, to eBates, a shopping portal that offers coupons and cash back from 2,000 online retailers. “Google has become a short cut to buying, not a short cut to saving money,” said Benjamin Glaser, features editor of DealNews, a comparison shopping site. He also says that Google searches only look for the lowest prices for that moment and also doesn’t incorporate shipping discounts and coupons as other deal sites like DealNews and eBates do. Continue reading “Google hit with record fine by EU, told to change its ways”

Oil prices fall as sources say API data show an unexpected rise in U.S. crude supply

The American Petroleum Institute reported Tuesday a climb of 851,000 barrels in U.S. crude supplies for the week ended June 23, according to sources. The market was generally expecting a decline in weekly crude inventories as Tropical Storm Cindy disrupted production in the Gulf of Mexico last week. The API data also showed a rise of 1.4 million barrels in gasoline supplies, while inventories of distillates were up 678,000 barrels, sources said. Supply data from the Energy Information Administration will be released Wednesday morning. Analysts polled by S&P Global Platts expect the EIA to report a decline of 3.25 million barrels in crude inventories.

Mitch McConnell is forced to delay vote on Senate GOP health-care bill as several members oppose plan

Senate Republicans will delay a vote on their Obamacare replacement bill until after July 4, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, as the party faces opposition from enough GOP members to block the measure. The move marks a setback for the Kentucky Republican, who had hoped to win support to approve the bill this week before senators leave for the holiday recess. “We’re going to continue the discussions within our conference on the differences that we have that we’re continuing to try to litigate. Consequently, we will not be on the bill this week, but we’re still working toward getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place,” McConnell said, adding that he is still “optimistic” about passing Obamacare replacement legislation. As of Tuesday afternoon, five Republican senators — enough to block a procedural motion to move forward with the bill — said they would oppose the motion barring changes to the plan. A Congressional Budget Office score on Monday estimated that the proposal would lead to 22 million more uninsured Americans by 2026, only complicating matters for moderate GOP senators on the fence.

IMF cuts U.S. growth outlook, cites uncertainty around Trump policies

The IMF cut its forecast for U.S. economic growth for this year to 2.1% from a previous estimate of 2.3%. Its leaders cited highly uncertain policies on tax reform and an agenda that hurts middle class Americans as well as long term challenges such as an aging labor force. IMF officials welcomed many of Trump’s broad principles: Simplify taxes, rebuild roads and bridges, and lower government spending. But “it became evident that many details about these plans are still undecided,” IMF officials noted in their review, known as an article IV consultation published on Tuesday. A Treasury spokesperson said “we appreciate the IMF’s support of the administration’s broad policy objectives” as it aims to create policies to boost U.S. and global economic growth. In January, the IMF raised its growth projection for the U.S., assuming that Trump and a Republican controlled Congress would get tax reform and other economic reforms under way. That’s in doubt now. President Trump is promising to get U.S. economic growth up to 3% a year during his first term. But the IMF, citing its evaluation of Trump’s budget, says the 3% goal is “an extremely optimistic growth assumption.”

Moreover, IMF leaders say it would be challenging to boost growth to 3% with the U.S. job market already at full employment, along with a large share of baby boomers retiring and slow gains in productivity. Many economists, including those at the Federal Reserve, expect growth of around 2% for the next few years.

Tax cuts for rich will get GOP health-care bill killed, ex-Obama advisor Goolsbee says

Senate Republicans delayed the vote on their health-care bill on Tuesday, but economist Austan Goolsbee told CNBC he believes the measure is doomed. The vote on the Obamacare replacement bill has been pushed back to after July 4 due to opposition from enough GOP members to block the legislation. Goolsbee told “Power Lunch” the real issue is the tax cuts included in the measure. According to a new analysis by the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution’s Tax Policy Center, about 45 percent of the benefits from those cuts will go to households making $875,000 or more. “That’s going to kill this bill,” said Goolsbee, who served on Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors. “It’s a massive tax cut for millionaires. It’s high-income people’s capital gains tax rates going down.” While Republicans will have to try to change the narrative in order to sell the bill, “the only problem is those are the facts of the bill,” he pointed out. “The worst thing that can happen to Republicans is that people actually just read this. If they read it, the opposition is going to be even bigger than the massive opposition that’s already there.”


Global oil exports spell trouble for crude prices

After a brief drop in Saudi oil exports in April and May, June crude loadings appear to be back on the rise, according to tanker tracking firm ClipperData. That could spell trouble for the oil market, which is eager to see OPEC production cuts translate into fewer barrels being sent to fill up storage tanks overseas. Throughout the first six months of the output cut deal, exports have remained fairly robust.In April, top exporter Saudi Arabia finally saw  a sharp drop in the amount of oil it loaded on to tankers compared with October, the reference level for OPEC’s output cut deal. The good news is that decline showed up in lower U.S. crude imports from the kingdom this month. But the bad news is just one month after OPEC agreed to extend its output deal through March, ClipperData reports the Saudis and other OPEC members are loading up tankers once again. “We’re seeing a fairly widespread rebound in the June numbers,” said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData. “That’s been the trend of OPEC loadings all year: move to compliance and move out of it from an export perspective.” June loadings are also on the rise in the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Angola, according to ClipperData. Recent production increases in Nigeria and Libya, two OPEC members exempt from cutting output, are also starting to show up in loadings, the data show.

Cyberattack hits the world’s biggest shipping company

Shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk, which handles one out of seven containers shipped globally, said a cyberattack had caused outages at its computer systems across the world on Tuesday. The attack came as computer servers across Europe and in India were hit by a major ransomware attack. “We can confirm that Maersk IT systems are down across multiple sites and business units due to a cyberattack,” Maersk said on Twitter. The breakdown affected all business units at Maersk, including container shipping, port and tug boat operations, oil and gas production, drilling services, and oil tankers, the company said. The IT breakdown could extend across the company’s global operations, a spokeswoman said, but could not say how Maersk’s operations were impacted. With a fleet of more than 600 container vessels, Maersk is the world’s biggest shipping company with a market share of around 16 percent. The company handles around 25 percent of all containers shipped on the key Asia-Europe route.

Senate health care bill gives $250,000 gift to the mega-rich

The nation’s wealthiest Americans would get a hefty tax cut from the Senate health care bill. Those in the top 0.1%, earning $5 million or more, would receive an average tax cut of nearly $250,000 in 2026, according to a new analysis by the Tax Policy Center. Those in the top 1%, who earn $875,000 and up, would see an average tax savings of $45,500 a year.Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare have been widely criticized as shifting money from the poor to the rich. The House and Senate bills would repeal the taxes Obamacare levied on the wealthy, while making drastic cuts to Medicaid and reducing federal assistance that helps low- and moderate-income Americans afford coverage. Some 22 million fewer Americans would have health insurance under the Senate legislation, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis released Monday. That includes 15 million fewer people covered under Medicaid, the nation’s safety net program for the poor. The GOP would also repeal taxes that Obamacare levied on insurers, drug makers and others. All told, this would reduce federal revenue by $700 billion over the next decade. Nearly 45% of that benefit would go to the top 1%, the Tax Policy Center found. Since 2013, single taxpayers with incomes above $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000 annually have had to pay an additional 0.9% Medicare payroll tax on the amount they earn above these thresholds. These taxpayers may also be hit with a tax surcharge of 3.8% on investment income above those thresholds. 

CBO: Republican health care bill raises premiums for older, poor Americans by as much as 850%

The American Health Care Act would make a low-income 64-year-old in the individual market pay more than half his income for health insurance. Republicans’ American Health Care Act would be devastating to older Americans who rely on the individual insurance market, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

But the CBO’s analysis includes a big caveat: Premiums would differ greatly based on age and income. In general, the older and poorer you are, the higher your premiums would be under the American Health Care Act compared with current law. The CBO offers an example of a single individual with an annual income of $26,500.  If that person is 64 years old, he would be hurt by the Republican bill. Under Obamacare, he would pay $1,700 in premiums for insurance. But under the Republican bill, he would pay $16,100 (about 60 percent of his annual income) l more than half his annual income.  That amounts to as much as an 850 percent increase in premiums from Obamacare to the Republican bill. A 64-year-old who’s making $68,200  under Obamacare, he’s expected to pay $15,300 in premiums for insurance, because his income would be too high to receive the law’s tax credits. Under the Republican bill, the tax credit, which is now based on age instead of income, begins phasing out at $75,000. So his premium  increases to $16,100 in a state that doesn’t get a waiver.

General Motors cuts outlook for industry-wide vehicle sales

General Motors Co. expects industry vehicle sales to fall short of its original forecast for the year, the latest sign of a slowdown in the U.S. auto market after a record run. GM GM now expects U.S. light-vehicle sales in the “low” 17-million range, down from an earlier expectation that this year’s tally would roughly match the 17.55-million record from last year, finance chief Chuck Stevens told analysts during a conference call Monday. Stevens also said U.S. pricing has become “very, very competitive” amid slowing sales during the first several months of the year. But he said incentives have moderated recently, a sign that car makers aren’t willing to cut into profitability to maintain market share as demand cools. “It appears the industry is becoming a bit more rational,” Stevens said. Industry sales in each month so far this year have fallen from a year earlier. In a note to investors Monday, Barclays analyst Brian Johnson said he expects the seasonally adjusted sales rate to ease to 16.5 million in June. That would mark the fourth straight month that the pace of sales fell below 17 million, the slowest stretch since mid-2014.

Euro leaps after Draghi speaks, pulling European stocks toward 2-week low

European stocks dropped Tuesday, feeling the weight of a rising euro, as profit warnings and merger concerns pulled regional equities toward their lowest level in nearly two weeks.The Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP, -0.69% fell 0.6% to 386.65, on track for its lowest close since June 15, FactSet data showed. Only the basic materials and oil and gas sectors moved higher. Decliners were led by telecom and technology stocks. The pan-European index lost as much as 0.9% as the euro EURUSD, +0.8943% jumped above $1.1250, its highest level in nearly two weeks. The shared currency gained after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said in a speech in Portugal that “a considerable degree” of stimulus is needed in the eurozone, a step back from the stimulus levels signaled in earlier speeches. “Mr. Draghi continues to argue that his policies are behind the overall improvement in eurozone economies, but it was his shift of emphasis from ‘very substantial’ to ‘considerable’ where stimulus was concerned that really got everyone talking,” wrote Chris Beauchamp, IG’s chief market analyst. A stronger euro can hurt shares of European exporters as it can make their products more expensive for clients overseas to purchase. In Frankfurt, the export-heavy DAX 30 DAX, -0.66% was down 0.6% at 12,699.19.
Carney, Yellen to speak: Central bankers are in focus Tuesday, with Bank of England Governor Mark Carney set to speak about the bank’s Financial Stability Report at 6 a.m. Eastern Time. In London, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen will speak at 1 p.m. Eastern time. In London, the FTSE 100 UKX, -0.21% declined 0.3% to 7,424.97. France’s CAC 40 index PX1, -0.75% slumped 0.6% to 5,262.72. Germany’s DAX 30 DAX, -0.66% gave up 0.7% to 12,685.33.

GOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural vote By Alexander Bolton – 06/27/17 06:00 AM EDT

Time is ticking away on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s hopes of passing ObamaCare repeal legislation before the July 4 recess. A CBO score that found the legislation would leave 22 million more people without insurance in the next decade has raised the stakes on a procedural vote that could come as soon as Tuesday. At least four Republicans say they may vote against their party on the motion to proceed, underscoring the opposition to McConnell’s bill. The defectors include centrist Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), who panned the bill on Twitter Monday evening; fellow moderate Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.); and two conservatives, Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).McConnell can only afford two defections. A loss on the procedural vote would certainly end work on the measure this week, and it could be a brutal blow to getting the legislation through the Senate on a later timeframe.
Despite the uphill climb, McConnell’s lieutenants on Monday.
If GOP leaders can wrangle the votes, it will happen Tuesday. If they can’t get it Tuesday, they will try for Wednesday. And if that doesn’t work, it may get pushed to beyond the July 4 recess, which would give opponents time to pressure GOP senators over the holiday break.

Trump says US on brink of become net exporter of energy

With U.S. exports of oil and natural gas surging, President Donald Trump says the U.S. is on the brink of becoming a net exporter of oil, gas and other resources.The White House is launching its “energy week” with a series of events focused on jobs and boosting U.S. global influence. The events follow similar policy-themed weeks on infrastructure and jobs. The previous weeks were largely overshadowed by ongoing probes into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, as well as scrutiny over Trump’s firing of James Comey as FBI director. Drawing fresh attention now is the Republican bid to scuttle President Barack Obama’s health care law despite a rebellion within Senate GOP ranks.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Monday the Trump administration is confident officials can “pave the path toward U.S. energy dominance” by exporting oil, gas and coal to markets around the world, and promoting nuclear energy and even renewables such as wind and solar power. “For years, Washington stood in the way of our energy dominance. That changes now,” Perry told reporters at the White House. “We are now looking to help, not hinder, energy producers and job creators.” The focus on energy began at a meeting between Trump and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with U.S. natural gas exports part of the discussion. Trump is expected to talk energy Wednesday with governors and tribal leaders, and he will deliver a speech Thursday at the Energy Department. Continue reading “Trump says US on brink of become net exporter of energy”

Amazon Robots Poised to Revamp How Whole Foods Runs Warehouses

A major question about the acquisition is what Amazon’s technology will mean for those Whole Foods’ workers. Will it make their jobs obsolete? In negotiations, Amazon spent a lot of time analyzing Whole Foods’ distribution technology, pointing to a possible way in which the company sees the most immediate opportunities to reduce costs, said a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the issue was private. Amazon, through a spokesman, declined to comment, as did Whole Foods. Experts say the most immediate changes would likely be in warehouses that customers never see. That suggests the jobs that could be affected the earliest would be in the warehouses, where products from suppliers await transport to store shelves, said Gary Hawkins, CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail and Technology, a Los Angeles nonprofit that helps retailers and brands innovate. As Amazon looks to automate distribution, cashiers will be safe– for now. “The easiest place for Amazon to bring its expertise to bear is in the warehouses, because that’s where Amazon really excels,” Hawkins said. “If they can reduce costs, they can show that on the store shelves and move Whole Foods away from the Whole Paycheck image.” Amazon sees automation as a key strategic advantage in its overall grocery strategy, according to company documents reviewed by Bloomberg before the Whole Foods acquisition was announced. Continue reading “Amazon Robots Poised to Revamp How Whole Foods Runs Warehouses”

Volvo taps Nvidia’s hardware to put self-driving cars on the road by 2021

Volvo has announced a new initiative to put its own self-driving cars on the road by 2021. The Swedish carmaker is teaming up with Autoliv (a Swedish-American firm that makes automotive safety systems) to develop the necessary software, while a partnership with chipmaker Nvidia will supply the computing power. Volvo’s cars will be powered by Nvidia’s Drive PX ‘supercomputer’ — a custom hardware array designed specially for self-driving cars. The Drive PX2 can process data from 12 video streams at once, as well as juggling input from lidar, radar, and ultrasonic sensors. Put all this together and you have the necessary data to keep your self-driving car on the straight and narrow. If you’ve got algorithms that can tell stop signs from sidewalks. Nvidia and Volvo have previously used the PX platform for an autonomous car pilot scheme called “Drive Me,” announced earlier this year. But while Drive Me was purely experimental, this new initiative aims to deliver self-driving cars that can actually be sold to consumers. The self-driving software produced by Autoliv and Volvo (the two are partnering under the name of a new company, Zenuity) will also be available to sell to other carmakers, creating another revenue stream for Volvo if its own cars don’t do so well.

Trump son-in-law Kushner hires prominent trial lawyer: NYT

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, has hired a prominent trial lawyer to help represent him in inquiries linked to Russia, the New York Times reported on Monday citing another member of his legal team. Kushner took on Abbe D. Lowell, the newspaper said, joining other senior administration figures including U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Vice President Mike Pence and Trump himself in hiring private attorneys. The White House has come under increased scrutiny since Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller and a number of congressional committees launched investigations into whether there were ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 election campaign team. Trump and his key aides have repeatedly denied any collusion with Moscow. Mueller is examining Kushner’s meetings with the Russian ambassador and a Russian banker as part of a broad enquiry, the New York Times said. But there are no signs that Kushner is the target of an investigation and Kushner has promised to cooperate, the newspaper added. The 36-year-old Kushner, a real estate developer with no previous government experience, had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, seven current and former U.S. officials told Reuters in May.

White House spokesman Spicer draws heat off camera

White House spokesman Sean Spicer drew the ire of some reporters on Monday for banning cameras from daily press briefings as part of what Spicer called an effort to vary the routine. “Why are the cameras off, Sean? Why did you turn them off?” shouted CNN correspondent Jim Acosta. Other reporters chimed in. “You are a taxpayer-funded spokesman for the United States government – can you at least give us an explanation for why the cameras are off?” Acosta asked. Spicer answered questions for audio only about President Donald Trump’s health care overhaul bill, a Supreme Court ruling on Trump’s travel ban, and Trump’s tweets about investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Still cameras were allowed in but TV cameras were not, a practice Spicer started a few weeks ago. On Friday, CNN sent a courtroom sketch artist to capture the scene and make a point. White House briefings have been open to live television broadcasts since the presidency of Bill Clinton in the 1990s when then-press secretary Mike McCurry decided to make them available to general viewership. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks to the press in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House. Nick Bit: This is a outrage. Do you really want a man like Trump controlling the free press. I’ll take fake news any day. As verses government controlled news.

Bank branches will be ‘as common as a Blockbuster’ store, ex-Barclays CEO Antony Jenkins says

Bank branches will be “as common as a Blockbuster video store in a few years’ time”, former Barclays CEO Antony Jenkins told CNBC on Monday, adding that his prediction about mass closures of physical banks is happening faster than he thought. Jenkins, who now runs a fintech (financial technology) firm called 10X, warned banks of the impact of not keeping up with technological innovation. The ex-Barclays boss, who left the bank in July 2015, said artificial intelligence (AI) will have a profound impact on banking that could mean branches become obsolete. In 2015, Jenkins predicted that banks could close half of their branches and workforce in 10 years. But this trend is happening faster than the fintech expert initially thought. “I mean the trend is moving even faster than I predicted in the U.K., now we’re seeing 15 percent of branch traffic falling per annum. That’s a huge effect,” Jenkins told CNBC in a TV interview at the Money 20/20 conference in Copenhagen. “It’s going to mean that bank branches are as common as a Blockbuster video store in a few years’ time.” Blockbuster stores are non-existent in the U.K. after the video rental company failed to see the streaming trend pioneered by the likes of Netflix. This trend was seen earlier this year when both Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland announced branch closures. Jenkins told CNBC in the same interview that banks are now facing a potential “Kodak moment” where banks become irrelevant because they don’t keep up with new technology. “Banks can avoid that, but they have to act now, and what they really need to do is think about innovation, but also transformation, doing something radically different,” Jenkins said.

In disaster’s wake, BP doubles down on deepwater despite surging shale

Seven years after its Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, BP is betting tens of billions of dollars on the prospect that it can slash the costs of offshore drilling by half or more – just as shale oil producers have done onshore. The firm says it can do that while it continues to pay an estimated $61 billion in total costs and damages from the worst spill in history – and without compromising safety. BP’s Gulf platforms are key to a global strategy calling for up to $17 billion in annual investments through 2021 to increase production by about 5 percent each year, Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley recently told investors. “Our strategy is to take this investment that we spent so much money building, and keep it full” to the platform’s capacity, Richard Morrison, BP’s regional president for the Gulf of Mexico, told Reuters during the first tour of a BP Gulf drilling platform since the disaster. “We’re also exploring for larger pools of oil.” BP’s deepwater double-down is all the more striking for the contrast to its chief competitors, who have cooled on offshore investments in light of the lower costs and quicker returns of onshore shale plays. While BP has some onshore U.S. developments, the firm is notably absent from the industry’s rush into shale oil fields of the West Texas Permian Basin. BP says its next Gulf development – the $9 billion Mad Dog phase two – would be profitable even at $40 a barrel. As recently as 2013, BP reported that it could not start new deepwater Gulf projects at prices lower than $100 a barrel. Nick Bit: Why do i know that oil companies especially the big ones that make up the FAZ will crash and burn? Because they keep doing these billion dollar offshore project that MIGHT be profitable at $50 oil. I know oil is headed for $10 and fracking will be competitive long after big oil and energy companies wipes out.

GM lowers outlook for US 2017 new vehicle sales

General Motors now expects U.S. new vehicle sales in 2017 will be in the “low 17 million” unit range, reflecting a widespread expectation that the industry is headed for a moderate downturn, a top executive said on Monday. “The market is definitely slowing its something we are going to monitor month to month,” Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens told analysts on a conference call. “Pricing is more challenging.” U.S. new vehicle sales hit a record of 17.55 million units in 2016 after a boom that began in 2010. A glut of nearly-new used vehicles is expected to undermine sales this year. Major automakers have reported sales declines for the past three months. GM had previously announced it expected 2017 new vehicle sales in the “mid-17 million” unit range. Stevens told analysts that sales could fall by 200,000 to 300,000 units this year but that the automaker had “somewhat insulated” itself from a downturn by reducing fleet sales, which lower vehicles’ residual values. “We are going to remain disciplined from a go-to market perspective,” Stevens said.He reiterated the company’s target to bring U.S. inventories of its vehicles down to 70 days’ supply by December from 110 days in June. GM also expects a higher-than-expected charge for its sale of Opel to Peugeot SA (PSA) to reach $5.5 billion versus its previous estimate of $4.5 billion due to additional costs associated with the deal. The company plans to issue $3 billion in short-term debt to cover pension liabilities that PSA will assume in order to finalize the transaction quickly, GM’s CFO said.

White House: Syria could be preparing another chemical weapons attack

(CNN)The White House said that there are “potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack” by the Syrian regime and warned the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, of a “heavy price” if one is carried out.
“The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children,” according to a White House statement released Monday night.

The statement said, “The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack. As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”
After an April 4 airstrike on a rebel-held town in Idlib province, horrifying images and videos emerged showing Syria’s civilians — including children — struggling to breathe, foam coming from their mouths as they appeared to die of asphyxiation. Continue reading “White House: Syria could be preparing another chemical weapons attack”

House committee eyes $18.5 billion increase to Trump defense budget

U.S. lawmakers said on Monday they wanted another $18.5 billion added to President Donald Trump’s proposed defense budget of $603 billion to hire more troops and buy more aircraft and ships in fiscal 2018. Republican House of Representatives Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry released a proposed defense policy bill intended to address military readiness and the Department of Defense’s unfunded requirements list, which is hovering at $33 billion, House staff told reporters on Monday. The $621.5 billion proposed base spending plan for the Pentagon and defense related expenses at the U.S. Department of Energy was more than 13 percent higher than the 2018 defense spending budget cap of $549 billion which would need to be raised by Congress for the legislation to be enacted. The proposal also included $75 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) to pay for ongoing wars. This funding would not count against the budget caps. The House proposal would put total defense-related spending at $696 billion for fiscal 2018. Trump’s budget proposal included $65 billion for OCO funding, and total spending of $668 billion. If enacted, the House proposal would mean the Pentagon could commit to buying 17 more F-35 jets from Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Co for a total of 87 in 2018. It would increase the Army by 10,000, to 486,000 active service troops. The proposal would allow the Pentagon to buy a total of 22 Boeing Co F-18s, up from 14 in Trump’s budget proposal.

Trump causes ‘major’ shift in global view of US: Pew

Donald Trump’s presidency has had a “major impact on how the world sees the United States”, a large new study says. The survey, by the Pew Research Center, interviewed more than 40,000 people in 37 countries this year. It concluded that the US president and his policies “are broadly unpopular around the globe”. The survey shows only two of the 37 countries have a better opinion of Mr Trump than they had of his predecessor Barack Obama: Israel and Russia. But the report indicates many feel their country’s relationship with the US will not change over the coming years. The key findings from the survey, carried out between 16 February and 8 May, include: People have less faith in Trump than Obama People were surveyed at the end of Barack Obama’s eight-year presidency, and after the start of Mr Trump’s term – they were asked if they had faith that the president would do the right thing for world affairs. This is how some US allies (and Russia) responded: Mr Trump wasted little time in making his mark on world affairs – making clear he expected Nato countries to pay their fair share and encouraging Gulf countries to isolate Qatar in recent weeks. His presidency has shaken up old allies to the extent that German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, after she met Mr Trump, that she felt Europe could no longer “completely depend” on its old ally. In fact, it is among the traditional US allies that the confidence has dropped the most, according to the survey – while 86% of Germans had faith in Mr Obama, for example, only 11% do so in Mr Trump. Click here to read on their are lots of grat charts

Oil up for fourth day on short-covering, supply glut caps gains

Crude oil futures rose for a fourth consecutive session on Tuesday as investors covered short positions, though worries over a festering supply glut kept a lid on prices. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were up 12 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $43.50 per barrel by 0323 GMT. Brent crude futures LCOc1 gained 14 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $45.97 per barrel. The market is up slightly so far this week after dropping for the past five weeks. “The market has fallen a lot as the news has been bad pretty consistently for the oil market,” said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. “It has moved a long way in response to that news. Maybe we are getting to a point that there is upside risk to any good news?” Continue reading “Oil up for fourth day on short-covering, supply glut caps gains”

White House Warns Syria: You Will Pay If You Use Chemical Weapons Again

The White House warned Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad that if he uses chemical weapons again, he will face another response from President Donald Trump. “As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” a statement from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said. “If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.” Spicer announced that the United States identified “potential preparations” for another attack using chemical weapons, predicting that it would attack civilians, including children.“The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack,” the statement read. The statement was released Monday night. In April, the president approved an attack in Syria of 59 Tomahawk missiles after intelligence showed that Assad had launched chemical weapons against civilians. “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” Trump said afterwards, justifying his use of force against Syria. The president added that “beautiful babies” had been killed in the “barbaric attack.” “No child of God should ever suffer such horror,” he added. The U.S. military increased attacks in Syria in recent weeks, shooting down Iranian-built drones and a Syrian Air Force Su-22. Tensions with Russia have also increased, after they warned that “any aircraft” operating west of the River Euphrates would be treated as “targets.”

22 million fewer Americans insured under Senate GOP bill

The Senate Republican health care bill would leave 22 million fewer Americans with health insurance by 2026 than under Obamacare, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Monday.

The highly anticipated score answers key questions about the impact of the Senate’s controversial legislation made public last Thursday. The analysis also offers clarity to wavering Senate Republicans on whether to vote for the bill later this week. The CBO also found the bill would reduce deficits by $321 billion over the next decade. The House passed its version of an Obamacare repeal bill in May. That legislation would leave 23 million fewer Americans with health insurance by 2026 than under the Affordable Care Act, CBO said earlier.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is insisting on a vote this week before lawmakers leave town for the July 4th recess. There are 52 Republican senators, and he needs 50 “yes” votes to move the bill through the Senate. At least five Republicans have so far publicly stated that they cannot support the legislation in its current form. The largest savings in the Senate bill would come from reducing federal spending on Medicaid, which would decline by 26% by 2026, compared to current law. Like the House plan, the Senate’s version would end enhanced funding for Medicaid expansion, though at a slower pace, while overhauling the entire Medicaid program. Federal spending on Medicaid would be reduced by $772 billion over the next 10 years, compared to current law. Some 15 million fewer Americans would be covered by Medicaid in 2026 — a deeper cut than under the House bill. Click here to read more about this puke

Great recession fears as bankers warn next global crash could arrive ‘with a vengeance’

A new financial crisis is brewing in the emerging economies and it could hit “with a vengeance”, an influential group of central bankers has warned. Emerging markets such as China are showing the same signs that their economies are overheating as the US and the UK demonstrated before the financial crisis of 2007-08, according to the annual report of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Claudio Borio, the head of the BIS monetary and economic department, said a new recession could come “with a vengeance” and “the end may come to resemble more closely a financial boom gone wrong”. The BIS, which is sometimes known as the central bank for central banks and counts Bank of England Governor Mark Carney among its members, warned of trouble ahead for the world economy. It predicted that central banks would be forced to raise interest rates after years of record lows in order to combat inflation which will “smother” growth. The group also warned about the threat poised by rising debt in countries like China and the rise in protectionism such as in the US under Donald Trump, City AM reported. Chinese corporate debt has almost doubled since 2007, now reaching 166 per cent of GDP, while household debt rose to 44 per cent of GDP last year. In May, Moody’s cut China’s credit rating for the first time since 1989 from A1 to Aa3 which could potentially raise the cost of borrowing for the Chinese government. The BIS’s credit-to-GDP gap indicator also showed debt, which is seen as an “early warning indicator” for a country’s banking system, is rising far faster than growth in other Asian economies such as Thailand and Hong Kong.

The market’s beloved economic growth story is running into trouble

The misses continue to pile up. On Monday morning, the durable goods number showed that U.S. factory orders fell by 1.1 percent in May, for the second straight month-on-month decline. This soft number joins a plethora of data that have missed expectations over the past few weeks, and even months. We’ve highlighted the Citi economic surprise index in the past, and it continues to merit attention as it falls lower and lower. What this index is telling us, very simply, is that the economy is not as strong as Wall Street had thought. It’s no surprise, then, that we’ve also seen second-quarter GDP estimates from both the New York Fed and the Atlanta Fed continue to decline. In fact, over the course of the month, the New York Fed Staff Nowcast estimate for Q2 growth has fallen below 2 percent. As the faster-growth-will-cause-greater-inflation narrative has taken hits, commodities have felt the pain. Declining oil prices has been the talk of trading desks, but more generally, industrial commodity prices have suffered a substantial drop this year that has accelerated in the past month. As we can see, there are a lot of reasons to worry that the strength of the economy is waning – and from an investment perspective, that interest rates should therefore stay low.

Italy bank rescue divides Europe

Italy’s multi-billion-euro closure of two lenders drew sharp criticism on Monday for hurting a project devised to underpin confidence in the euro zone during the financial crash. As lawmakers digested details of the rescue, which involves the state rather than investors bearing most of the cost, many criticized Rome for breaking with the spirit of a framework known as banking union — and the European Commission in Brussels for allowing it do so. Under a deal sealed over the weekend, Italy will pay more than 5 billion euros to Intesa Sanpaolo , its top retail bank, to take the best assets of two failed Veneto banks, with up to 12 billion euros of guarantees to shield Intesa from losses. That broke a principle agreed by European leaders and enshrined in European Union law that investors, rather than the state, should shoulder the cost of bank failures. “It was all for nothing,” said Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian Green party member of the European Parliament who spent months negotiating and writing the law introduced last year. “This is a bad day for Europe. It’s another hit to European integration,” he said, describing it as a “major blow” to the euro currency itself and damaging for the image of the European Central Bank, which supervises Europe’s biggest lenders. Sven Giegold, an EU parliamentarian who also helped write the law, demanded a parliamentary enquiry into the flouting of the rules, attacking the Commission, the EU’s executive. It had the final say in approving the scheme. Continue reading “Italy bank rescue divides Europe”

Controversial Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak is leaving the US

CNN)The Russian Ambassador to the US at the center of a political firestorm over his encounters with associates of President Donald Trump is leaving his post and returning to Moscow. The Russian Foreign Ministry says Sergey Kislyak’s departure after nine years in the job is part of a regular rotation “all planned in advance”. The 66-year-old came under the spotlight when his communications with Trump’s short-lived National Security Adviser Michael Flynn led to Flynn being fired for failing to be entirely up front about them. Meetings between Kislyak and then-Senator Jeff Sessions — now Trump’s Attorney General — during the 2016 campaign have caused further heat for the Trump administration, despite Sessions’ claims that the meetings were part of his Senate duties and had nothing to do with the campaign.

Kislyak's role became increasingly controversial after Trump arrived in the White House.

Congressional committees and Department of Justice special counsel Robert Mueller continue investigations into Russia’s efforts to influence the US election and the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian officials. This includes allegations of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia in an effort to defeat rival candidate Hillary Clinton.
Trump, his campaign and Russian officials have denied any collusion took place between them.

Beaten-down crude oil is tracking for a huge losing streak

Crude oil just logged a huge losing streak

Crude oil just logged a huge losing streak   Friday, 23 Jun 2017 | 5:41 PM ET | 03:24


Crude oil may see further pain ahead after logging a five-week losing streak and tracking for its worst first-half percentage fall since the late 1990s, according to a Reuters estimate. The price of oil has fallen as concerns over a global supply glut have yet to subside, and OPEC-led production cuts have had relatively little impact. Phil Streible, RJO Futures senior market strategist, expects the sell-off to continue in the short term. “That oil inventory total that we have is 26 percent above the five-year average. So, quite a bit of oil out there; I would also expect gasoline stocks to rise” in the coming sessions, Streible said Friday on CNBC’s “Trading Nation.” “The drawdown we’ll expect is just right around 1 million barrels for crude oil, so data coming out of course is going to be quite bearish for oil going forward,” he said. His target is closer to the $40 area, roughly 7 percent lower from oil’s settle on Friday. U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate was slightly up Monday, trading at $43.14 a barrel. Strategist Max Wolff said Friday that oil has reached a bottom even though inventory levels remain high. This is due in part, he said, to growing unrest in some oil-rich regions. “We don’t think we’re going to go below the low 40s. We think we’ll probably catch a bid a few weeks out from there. So in the longer term perspective, we do think we’re pretty much near the bottom,” the 55 Institutional strategist said.

Avis and Alphabet will team up on self-driving cars — and Avis shares are soaring

A Waymo self-driving car.

Source: FCA A Waymo self-driving car.


Alphabet and Avis, Budget will work together on self-driving cars, the companies announced on Monday. Alphabet’s self-driving car company, Waymo, will rely on Avis to service and store its fleet of Chrysler self-driving vans, the companies said in a statement. Most of the 600 vehicles will be deployed, in part to support a pilot in Phoenix, Arizona. Shares of Avis bounced more than 18 percent immediately after the news, and were up more than 12.5 percent mid-morning. Avis competitor Hertz also saw shares spike more than 7 percent. The tie-up comes as Waymo and Uber fight in court over self-driving car technology. Uber’s ride-hailing service is also a rival of Avis, especially among business travelers, studies show.

New study of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage says it costs jobs

SEATTLE (AP) — A new study of Seattle’s $15-an-hour minimum wage law says it costs jobs, contrary to another new study released last week. The Seattle Times reports a University of Washington team found the law boosted pay in low-wage jobs since 2014 but that it also caused a 9 percent reduction in hours worked. For an average low-wage Seattle worker, that’s a loss of about $125 per month. The study says there would be about 5,000 more low-wage jobs in the city without the law. Seattle was one of the first U.S. cities to adopt a $15 minimum wage law. It is raising the minimum to $15 by 2021. A review last week by University of California at Berkeley economists found the law raised pay without hurting jobs in the restaurant industry.

Senate Republicans to issue revised healthcare bill: Senate aide

U.S. Senate Republicans are expected to issue a revised version of their healthcare bill on Monday to address some of the concerns raised since it was unveiled last week, a Senate aide familiar with the plan said. The aide did not detail the revisions. The bill has been criticized by some Republicans who say it does not go far enough in repealing former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, and others who say it would cut Medicaid too deeply.


Supreme Court allows parts of travel ban to go into effect

Washington (CNN)The Supreme Court Monday allowed parts of President Donald Trump’s travel ban to go into effect and will hear oral arguments in the case this fall. The court is allowing the ban to go into effect for foreign nationals who lack any “bonafide relationship with any person or entity in the United States.” The court left the travel ban on hold as applied to non-citizens with relationships with persons or entities in the United States, which includes most of the plaintiffs in both cases. Examples of formal relationships include students accepted to US universities and an employee who has accepted a job with a company in the US, the court said.

Health care will likely be point of contention in 2018 midterm elections

This week’s expected Senate vote on the GOP health-care bill will showcase a sharp partisan divide on the issue in states where Democrats are poised to play defense in next year’s midterm elections. All Senate Democrats are expected this week to oppose Republican legislation that would dismantle and replace much of the Affordable Care Act. Many of their potential challengers in next year’s elections are House Republicans, who supported a similar bill when it passed their chamber in May. Such a stark split, while the norm across much of the country, is unusual in the most competitive states held by Democratic senators. The 10 Senate Democrats up for re-election next year in states won by President Donald Trump comprise much of the shrinking pool of centrist Democrats who are willing to cross the aisle on high-profile votes. The group includes Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

Supreme court will rule on wedding cakes

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider whether the Constitution’s religion clauses allow a bakery to deny service to gay couples. The Supreme Court found in 2015 that the Constitution provides same-sex couples the same right to marry that opposite-sex partners enjoy. But the decision didn’t say they are entitled to wedding cakes or flower arrangements. That sparked several disputes involving bakers and florists who have invoked their religious opposition to gay marriage to refuse service to same-sex couples. Federal law doesn’t explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, but Colorado, along with some 20 other states, provides at least some civil rights protection to gays and lesbians. In 2012, Jack Phillips, who runs the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., refused to make a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins. The couple complained to the state civil rights agency, which found Mr. Phillips’s religious beliefs didn’t exempt him from the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act, which requires businesses to serve customers without regard to race, color, disability, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, creed or marital status. A state appeals court upheld the agency.

U.S. auto sales seen down 2 percent in June: JD Power and LMC

U.S. auto sales in June likely fell 2 percent from a year earlier despite large discounts for consumers, presenting a fresh sign that automakers are heading into a downturn, industry consultants J.D. Power and LMC Automotive said on Monday. LMC also cut its full-year 2017 forecast for new vehicle sales for the third consecutive month, to 17.1 million units from its previous forecast of 17.2 million. June U.S. new vehicle sales will be about 1.48 million units, a drop of 2 percent from 1.51 million units a year earlier, the consultancies said. The forecast was based on the first 15 selling days of the month. Automakers will release June U.S. sales results on July 3. The seasonally adjusted annualized rate for the month will be 16.5 million vehicles, down nearly 2 percent from 16.8 million units in the same month in 2016. Retail sales to consumers, which do not include multiple fleet sales to rental agencies, businesses and government, were set to decline more than 1.3 percent in June.
Continue reading “U.S. auto sales seen down 2 percent in June: JD Power and LMC”

US durable goods orders fall 1.1% in May vs 0.6% drop expected

New orders for key U.S.-made capital goods unexpectedly fell in May and shipments also declined, suggesting a loss of momentum in the manufacturing sector halfway through the second quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Monday that non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, dropped 0.2 percent, the largest decline since December. Shipments of core capital goods fell 0.2 percent last month after rising 0.1 percent in April. Core capital goods shipments are used to calculate equipment spending in the government’s gross domestic product measurement. U.S. Treasury yields fell after the publication of the data and U.S. stock index futures slightly pared gains. The U.S. dollar was trading lower against a basket of currencies. The report added to growing worries that an acceleration in economic growth in the second quarter may not be as fast as expected. Recent data on retail sales, manufacturing production and inflation have signaled softness and housing data has been mixed.

US warship stayed on deadly collision course despite warning: Container ship captain

A U.S. warship struck by a container vessel in Japanese waters failed to respond to warning signals or take evasive action before a collision that killed seven of its crew, according to a report of the incident by the Philippine cargo ship’s captain.
Multiple U.S. and Japanese investigations are under way into how the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the much larger ACX Crystal container ship collided in clear weather south of Tokyo Bay in the early hours of June 17. In the first detailed account from one of those directly involved, the cargo ship’s captain said the ACX Crystal had signaled with flashing lights after the Fitzgerald “suddenly” steamed on to a course to cross its path. The container ship steered hard to starboard (right) to avoid the warship, but hit the Fitzgerald 10 minutes later at 1:30 a.m., according to a copy of Captain Ronald Advincula’s report to Japanese ship owner Dainichi Investment Corporation that was seen by Reuters. The U.S. Navy declined to comment and Reuters was not able to independently verify the account. Nick Bit: I can tell you for a fact the Container ship had the right of way. It called sleeping on the bridge…. A common problem! Clcik here to read on. The chart of the ships courses confirms the Container ship Captain’s story

Berlusconi Stages Comeback in Italy’s Mayoral Elections

The second and final round of municipal elections in Italy on Sunday showed a resurgence in support for 80-year-old former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and its center-right allies. Berlusconi-backed candidates won runoffs in mayoral races across the country including Genoa and Verona, while an independent candidate was ahead in Parma, marking a significant setback for Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s ruling Democratic Party, or PD, which is led by his predecessor Matteo Renzi. “It was a solid performance by the center-right bloc, which shows that Berlusconi is still a significant political force,” said Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of Teneo Intelligence in London. “If the center-right parties can unite under a single leader they would be a force to be reckoned with at the general elections.” The mayoral vote tested the political mood in a country where economic recovery is still weak, unemployment is high and anti-European and anti-immigrant sentiment is growing, fueled by waves of migrants from North Africa. Voter disaffection with Gentiloni’s government wasn’t helped by the country’s latest banking crisis, which puts taxpayer money at risk. On Sunday, as Italians headed to voting booths, the government was forced to pass an emergency decree committing as much as 17 billion euros ($19 billion) to clean up two failed banks in the northern Veneto region, the nation’s biggest rescue on record.

Trump eager for big meeting with Putin; some advisers wary

President Donald Trump is eager to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin with full diplomatic bells and whistles when the two are in Germany for a multinational summit next month. But the idea is exposing deep divisions within the administration on the best way to approach Moscow in the midst of an ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. elections. Many administration officials believe the U.S. needs to maintain its distance from Russia at such a sensitive time — and interact only with great caution. But Trump and some others within his administration have been pressing for a full bilateral meeting. He’s calling for media access and all the typical protocol associated with such sessions, even as officials within the State Department and National Security Council urge more restraint, according to a current and a former administration official. Some advisers have recommended that the president instead do either a quick, informal “pull-aside” on the sidelines of the summit, or that the U.S. and Russian delegations hold “strategic stability talks,” which typically don’t involve the presidents. The officials spoke anonymously to discuss private policy discussions. The contrasting views underscore differing views within the administration on overall Russia policy, and Trump’s eagerness to develop a working relationship with Russia despite the ongoing investigations. Asked about the AP report that Trump is eager for a full bilateral meeting, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow on Monday that “the protocol side of it is secondary.” The two leaders will be attending the same event in the same place at the same time, Peskov said, so “in any case there will be a chance to meet.” Peskov added, however, that no progress in hammering out the details of the meeting has been made yet.Click here to continue reading

Facebook in talks to produce original TV-quality shows: WSJ

Facebook is in talks with Hollywood studios about producing scripted, TV-quality shows, with an aim of launching original programming by late summer, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. The social networking giant has indicated that it was willing to commit to production budgets as high as $3 million per episode, in meetings with Hollywood talent agencies, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Facebook is hoping to target audiences from ages 13 to 34, with a focus on the 17 to 30 range. The company has already lined up “Strangers”, a relationship drama, and a game show, “Last State Standing”, the report said. Facebook could not be immediately reached for comment. The company is expected to release episodes in a traditional manner, instead of dropping an entire season in one go like Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc, WSJ reported. The company is also willing to share its viewership data with Hollywood, the report said.

Intesa sees closure of 600 branches, exit of 3,900 staff in Veneto banks deal

Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI) said on Monday its planned acquisition of the good assets of Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca could lead to the closure of around 600 branches and the departure, on a voluntary basis, of around 3,900 staff. Italy began winding up the two failed regional banks on Sunday in a deal that could cost the state up to 17 billion euros ($19 billion) and will leave the lenders’ good assets in the hands of Intesa, the nation’s biggest retail bank. Rome spent the weekend drafting an emergency decree to liquidate the two banks, which collapsed after years of mismanagement and poor lending. The decree will have to be voted into law by parliament within 60 days. The government will pay 5.2 billion euros ($5.82 billion) to Intesa, and give it guarantees of up 12 billion euros, so that it will take over the remains of the banks. Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy’s best-capitalized large bank, said last week it was open to purchasing the rump of the good assets for one euro on condition that Italy’s government passed a decree agreeing to shoulder the cost of winding down the two banks. Intesa said on Monday the contract it had signed for the acquisition would become void should the decree not be converted into law or be amended in a way that would make the deal more expensive for the lender

Clogged oil arteries slow U.S. shale rush to record output

Pipeline construction often lags production booms by years – if proposed lines are built at all – because of opposition from environmentalists and landowners, topographic obstacles, and permitting and construction challenges. That forces drillers to limit output or ship oil domestically, usually by rail – which is more costly and arguably less safe. The crimped production, in turn, costs the economy jobs, keeps prices higher for consumers and stymies the nation’s long-held geopolitical goal of reducing dependence on foreign oil. Obstacles to pipeline construction are coming into sharp focus as resurgent shale firms, after a two-year downturn, are now on pace to take domestic crude oil output to a record in 2018, surpassing 10 million barrels per day (bpd), according to the U.S. Energy Department. That would top the previous peak in the early 1970s and challenge Russia and Saudi Arabia for the title of top global producer. To transport all that oil from central shale regions such as Texas and North Dakota to the East Coast, the U.S. relies largely on pipelines built decades ago. The industry has retooled many old oil arteries, and the resulting patchwork often offers a convoluted route. “It’s a hodge-podge way of doing it,” said Tricia Curtis, oil analyst at Petronerds, a consultancy based in Denver. U.S. Interior Minister Ryan Zinke wants the nation to become the dominant global energy player, and is considering opening more federal lands – such as national parks and Native American reservations – to fossil fuel development. He also aims to lift restrictions on offshore drilling. Continue reading “Clogged oil arteries slow U.S. shale rush to record output”

White House says Trump tweet meets Comey tapes records request

The White House said in a letter on Friday that a tweet by President Donald Trump on Thursday was the formal answer to a request by the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee for information about records of conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey. The letter to Republican Representative Mike Conaway, who is leading the panel’s investigation into Russian interference to the 2016 election, and Representative Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat, said: “In response to the committee’s inquiry, we refer you to President Trump’s June 22, 2017, statement regarding this matter.” The House panel said on June 9 it had written to Don McGahn, the White House counsel, asking about the existence of any recordings or memos covering Comey’s conversations with Trump and asked that copies of the materials be provided to the panel by June 23. Trump wrote on Twitter on Thursday, a day before the deadline, that he did not know if there were recordings of his conversations with Comey, but he did not make or have any such recordings. Conaway told reporters Friday morning that Trump’s tweet was not a sufficient response. Schiff said in a statement on Thursday that Trump’s Twitter comment stopped short of denying the White House had tapes or recordings and said the White House must respond in writing.

Trump doesn’t want ‘a poor person’ running the economy, but research suggests he should rethink that

President Donald Trump rode a wave of populist anger to the White House, but, in practice, he trusts the rich to work in the nation’s economic interest. Research suggests he may want to reconsider that position. During a campaign-style rally Wednesday in Iowa where Trump focused chiefly on his proposed border wall, Trump told the crowd how he’d responded to a question recently about his appointment of exclusively wealthy people to oversee the U.S. economy. He praised billionaires Wilbur Ross, his commerce secretary, and his chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs GS, -1.17% executive, for giving up lucrative positions to work in government. “These are great, brilliant business minds,” Trump said, later adding, “I love all people, rich or poor. But, in those particular positions, I just don’t want a poor person.” Though Trump is far from the first president to appoint relatively wealthy people to top executive-branch economic posts — both parties have been criticized for their reliance on a “revolving door” between government and Wall Street — he appears to have taken a preference for being surrounded by rich people to a new level. His cabinet, which includes billionaire Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and multimillionaire Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, is the richest in modern history. Nick Bit: you don’t want to be ruled by kings, billionaires or pompous pricks from prep schools. Self made men and women are the fabric of great societies. Continue reading “Trump doesn’t want ‘a poor person’ running the economy, but research suggests he should rethink that”

Oil climbs on weaker dollar, but rise in U.S. drilling drags

Oil prices rose early on Monday on a weaker dollar, but increased U.S. drilling activity stoked worries that a global supply glut would persist despite efforts by some producers to curb output.

Brent crude futures were up 24 cents, or 0.53 percent, at $45.78 per barrel at 0047 GMT (8.47 p.m. ET).

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 21 cents, or 0.49 percent, at $43.22 per barrel. The U.S. dollar index stayed low on Monday against a basket of currencies amid fading expectations for the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates again later this year. A weaker dollar also makes oil cheaper for countries using other currencies. “Commodities stabilized after a turbulent week where most sectors suffered large falls,” ANZ bank said in a note. “A slightly weaker U.S. dollar also helped improve investor appetite.” Although oil prices have bounced back from 10-month lows, they are still down about 13 percent since late May, when the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and some other producers agreed to extend a deal to reduce output by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) until the end of next March. But crude supplies in the United States, which is not part of the OPEC-led deal, have been dampening the impact of curbs. U.S. energy firms added 11 oil rigs in the week to June 23, bringing the total count up to 758, the most since April 2014, according to data from energy services firm Baker Hughes Inc. Amid the rise in U.S. drilling activity, money managers cut net long U.S. crude futures and options holdings to their smallest long position since November.

Kellyanne Conway: Those on Medicaid who will lose health insurance can always get jobs

On Sunday, while discussing the Senate’s proposal to replace and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”), White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told ABC’s “This Week” that the people on Medicaid who will lose coverage under the Republican plan could find jobs that provide health insurance. When the ACA expanded Medicaid coverage, Conway said, that “opened it up” to healthy people who could, theoretically, work. “Obamacare took Medicaid, which was designed to help the poor, the needy, the sick, disabled, also children and pregnant women, it took it and went way above the poverty line to many able-bodied Americans,” she said, and they “should probably find other — at least see if there are other options for them.” Conway went on: “If they are able-bodied and they want to work, then they’ll have employer-sponsored benefits like you and I do.” As Jonathan Cohn points out in the Huffington Post, however, Conway’s reasoning is faulty: “the majority of able-bodied adults on Medicaid already have jobs. The problem is that they work as parking lot attendants and child care workers, manicurists and dishwashers ― in other words, low-paying jobs that typically don’t offer insurance. Take away their Medicaid and they won’t be covered.”
Research from the Kaiser Family Foundation bears that out: “Among Medicaid adults (including parents and childless adults — the group targeted by the Medicaid expansion) nearly 8 in 10 live in working families, and a majority are working themselves.” Fifty-nine percent of them work either part- or full-time. Their jobs, however, do not offer health insurance.

Lloyds chiefs ‘covered up Wolves of Wall Street fraud for ten years’: Police chief claims he has seen evidence showing bosses knew about the fraud as early as 2008

Lynden Scourfield (right), another ex-HBOS banker and four associates including David Mills (center) and Michael Bancroft (right) were jailed for a total of 47 years in February for fraudulent trading, corruption and money laundering

A fraud that wrecked dozens of businesses was covered up by bosses at Lloyds and HBOS for nearly a decade, a police commissioner has claimed. A gang of criminal bankers at the Reading branch of HBOS, led by Lynden Scourfield, used a loan scam to deliberately destroy firms they were employed to save.
Dubbed ‘Britain’s Wolves of Wall Street’, they plundered the businesses to enjoy a lifestyle of luxury goods, holidays on a superyacht and sex parties with prostitutes. Scourfield, another ex-HBOS banker and four associates including David Mills and Michael Bancroft were jailed for a total of 47 years in February for fraudulent trading, corruption and money laundering. Lloyds, which bought HBOS during the 2008 financial crisis, has always insisted it knew little about the fraud until an investigation by Thames Valley Police. But the force’s commissioner Anthony Stansfeld says he has evidence showing bosses knew about it as early as 2008. He believes senior bankers let families’ livelihoods go to the wall rather than call in police for fear of adverse publicity. Thames Valley Police is understood to looking into other allegations in relation to the HBOS case.

Support for health-care bill still lacking as GOP senators express wariness

Several Republican senators on Sunday expressed reluctance to support their party’s latest health-care bill, adding to the uncertainty about whether some form of the legislation would be able to pass the chamber soon. All but one had previously indicated they were uncomfortable with the draft legislation to overhaul the nation’s health-care system, including repealing key parts of the Affordable Care Act passed during the Obama administration. Some others have expressed misgivings about the bill without ruling out the possibility of supporting it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) is hoping for a vote later this week. His party holds 52 votes in the 100-member Senate, and because all Democrats are expected to oppose the health-care bill, he can lose no more than two GOP votes to pass it. Sen. Luther Strange (R., Ala.) said Sunday he is “not there yet” in supporting the current plan. “It’s not perfect,” he said on Fox News. But, he added, “I’m very strongly optimistic that were going to get there.”

Conservative Koch network criticizes U.S. Senate healthcare bill

Officials with the conservative U.S. political network overseen by the Koch brothers say they are unhappy with the healthcare bill that may be voted on by the Senate this week and will lobby for changes to it. At a weekend event with conservative donors, top aides to Charles Koch, the billionaire energy magnate, said the Senate bill does not go far enough to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, also known as Obamacare. “We have been disappointed that movement has not been more dramatic toward a full repeal,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, a grassroots advocacy group backed by Charles Koch and his brother, David. The Senate’s 142-page proposal, worked out in secret by a group led by Senate Majority Leader McConnell, aims to deliver on a central campaign promise of President Donald Trump to repeal Obamacare, which has provided coverage to 20 million Americans since its passage in 2010. Republicans view the law, formally called the Affordable Care Act, as a costly government intrusion and say individual insurance markets created by it are collapsing. Phillips and other aides to the Koch network told Reuters they want to see the Senate bill do more to roll back Obamacare’s expansion of the Medicaid program for poor and disabled Americans. They also contend the bill does not do enough to reform the U.S. healthcare system and cut costs. The aides said lobbying efforts to reshape the bill are continuing ahead of a planned vote.

Lowe’s, Wells Fargo Outsourcing Americans’ Jobs to Cheap Foreign Workers

Despite an American electorate fed up with the outsourcing of American jobs, corporations and tech firms are continuing to send once high-paying work overseas. In a recent report by the Charlotte Observer, a staffing executive with TalentBridge admitted that the outsourcing of American jobs continues because companies profit from hiring foreign workers who are paid slave wages. “You can hire a programmer in Charlotte for $60,000 to 80,000 a year, or you go to India and get the same quality of service for $60 a month,” Brady Teague told the Charlotte Observer. “Where are you going to put the person?” That sentiment is echoed by nonstop offshoring of American jobs, despite President Trump’s victory last year on a national populist message that slammed outsourcing and foreign guest worker programs, like the H-1B visa and L-1 visa. The most recent cases involve Lowe’s and Wells Fargo, who are firing their American employees and replacing them with cheaper, foreign workers. Roughly 125 tech jobs at Lowe’s are being shipped off to Bangalore, India. This came just months after Lowe’s outsourced 96 corporate IT jobs to India. At Wells Fargo, CFO John Shrewsberry announced that jobs at the company would eventually be outsourced to foreign countries. Wells Fargo, though, has yet to specify how many Americans would be laid-off because of the move. Likewise, as Breitbart Texas reported, U.S. fashion design house Ralph Lauren recently laid off hundreds of American workers and shipped their jobs to India. Three of those workers said in a petition to the Department of Labor that their jobs were stripped from them due to free trade policies and outsourcing by the company. “Roles and assignments have been slowly but increasingly transferred to India,” the fired Americans said.

Trump’s Border Wall Construction Already Behind Schedule

The Trump administration’s self-imposed deadline to start building prototypes for the border wall has passed—and so far, no contracts have been awarded.According to documents obtained by the San Diego Union Tribune:

Homeland Security had planned to begin construction on four to eight 30-foot tall prototypes Thursday near Otay Mesa. The location was still a dusty field this week, and Customs and Border Protection, responding to a Freedom of Information Act request from the San Diego Union-Tribune, said no contracts have been awarded.

Border Protection spokesman Rick Pauza confirmed Friday that bids are still being reviewed but that prototype designs “will be selected for construction in Summer 2017. The border wall was the signature promise of Trump’s campaign and the most visible initiative of his presidency, yet has been allowed to fall behind schedule. Just this past week, Breitbart News reported that “President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday about the high death toll in Mexico because of the drug cartels operating in that country, vowing to ‘build the wall.’” Despite delays, the president has continued to offer new ideas, such as a solar panel skin to cut down on costs and produce more green energy. (Not that California needs anymore solar energy — its energy grid is unable to process the solar power online now, and frequently has to “dump” energy, paying neighboring states like Arizona to take it.) According to The Hill, “Trump reaffirmed his pledge to build the wall during a campaign rally in Iowa this week, also floating the idea of a ‘solar wall’ that would ‘pay for itself.’ He hopes to complete construction by the end of his first term.”

Air bag maker Takata files for bankruptcy in Japan, US

UNDATED (AP) — Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., overwhelmed by lawsuits and recall costs related to its production of faulty air bag inflators. The company announced the expected action Monday morning Tokyo time. Takata confirmed that most of its assets will be bought by rival Key Safety Systems, based in suburban Detroit. Takata was done in by defective inflators that can explode with too much force when they fill up an air bag, spewing out shrapnel. They’re responsible for at least 16 deaths and 180 injuries and touched off the largest automotive recall in U.S. history.

RBS to cut 443 jobs in UK, move many of them to India

British lender Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) is planning to cut 443 jobs dealing with business loans and many of them will move to India, the bank said. The Edinburgh-based bank said the cuts were part of a restructuring aimed at becoming a smaller bank.”We realize this will be difficult news for staff and we will do everything we can to support those affected,” the bank said in a statement. “All roles which require customer contact will remain in the UK.”RBS, which is more than 70 percent state-owned, is in the midst of a major restructuring aimed at returning the bank to profit after almost a decade of straight years of losses.The bank was rescued with a 46 billion pound ($58.48 billion) state bailout during the 2007-09 financial crisis.

Italy giving 5.2B euros in resources to keep 2 banks open

ROME (AP) — The Italian government on Sunday made 5.2 billion euros ($5.8 billion) of resources immediately available to keep operative two banks that the European Central Bank has deemed “failing or about to fail,” sending them into insolvency procedures. Premier Paolo Gentiloni defended the swift action by the government as vital for ensuring Italy’s slow economic recovery isn’t derailed by a “disorderly” failure of Veneto Banca and Banca Popolare di Vicenza. The two banks are based in the northeast Veneto region, one of Italy’s most economically productive. They serve many of the small and medium-sized businesses that are the backbone of the nation’s economy. Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan assured Italians that on Monday “there will be normal operations at the teller windows” when the two banks reopen their doors after the weekend. The European Central Bank on Friday night pulled the plug on the two troubled banks, which have struggled with high levels of outstanding loans.
Continue reading “Italy giving 5.2B euros in resources to keep 2 banks open”

Trump to Call for U.S. ‘Dominance’ in Global Energy Production

Donald Trump will tout surging U.S. exports of oil and natural gas during a week of events aimed at highlighting the country’s growing energy dominance. The president also plans to emphasize that after decades of relying on foreign energy supplies, the U.S. is on the brink of becoming a net exporter of oil, gas, coal and other energy resources. As with previous White House policy-themed weeks, such as a recent one focusing on infrastructure, the framing is designed to draw attention to Trump’s domestic priorities and away from more politically treacherous matters such as multiple investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election. With “Energy Week,” Trump is returning to familiar territory — and to the coal, oil, and gas industries on which he’s already lavished attention. Trump’s first major policy speech on the campaign trail, delivered in the oil drilling hotbed of North Dakota in 2016, focused on his plans for unleashing domestic energy production. The issue has also been a major focus during Trump’s first five months in office, as he set in motion the reversal of an array of Obama-era policies that discourage both the production and consumption of fossil fuels. Plans for the week were described by senior White House officials speaking on condition of anonymity because the details hadn’t yet been formally announced.

OPEC Looks Totally Bewildered by the Oil Market

It may be too soon to write OPEC’s obituary, but the oil producer club appears in urgent need of late-life care. It shows little understanding of where it is, how it got there or where it’s going. While it still manages to collect new members here and there, its core group looks more fragile than at any point in nearly 30 years. The historic output agreements, put together so painstakingly last year, are failing. Nearly 12 months of shuttle diplomacy culminated in two deals that would see 22 countries cut production by nearly 1.8 million barrels a day. Implementation has been better than for any previous output cut, with compliance put at 106 percent in May. A resounding success? Hardly. We’re now in the final month of those deals and oil prices are lower than when they were agreed. Not only have producers sacrificed volume, but they earn less for each barrel they do produce. Nick Bit: you and I are certainly not bewildered. Its the Fracking revolution. Incrdible BIG oil and OPEC still don’t get it. America will be the worlds largest oil producer. And the worlds largest oil exporter… All at $10 a barrel. Wont that be fun

Senator Rand Paul says would consider partial repeal of Obamacare

U.S. Republican Senator Rand Paul said on Sunday that he remains open to supporting the Senate healthcare bill but only under certain circumstances. “If we get to impasse, if we go to a bill that is more repeal and less big government programs, yes I’ll consider partial repeal,” Paul said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.” However, he added that the current bill as proposed “is not anywhere close to repeal.”

Schumer: ’50-50 Chance’ Republicans Pass Senate Health Care Bill

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said Sunday there was a “50-50” chance that Senate Republicans will pass their health care overhaul. As of Sunday, five Republicans, including Sen. Dean Heller (R., Nev.), have said they cannot vote for the legislation as currently written. Heller said it would take away insurance from Nevadans because of cuts to Medicaid. Other conservative senators have said, however, that it does not do enough to repeal Obamacare. Democrats would only need three Republicans to oppose its final form to defeat the legislation, but Schumer appeared to say those Republicans currently in opposition could come around. Schumer said Democrats would be willing to sit down with Republicans and make Obamacare “better” but maintained they would not support a repeal. “Are they going to pass this bill?” ABC host George Stephanopoulos asked. “I think it’s 50-50,” Schumer said. “We [Democrats] are doing everything we can to fight this bill, because it’s so devastating for the middle class. I think they have, at best, a 50-50 chance of passing this bill. To get three senators to vote no, you can say yes, you can say no. It’s probably 50-50.” Schumer said the bill “kills the middle class.” Other Democrats have also used charged language to criticize the legislation. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said it was paid for with “blood money,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said it would kill Americans, and Hillary Clinton said passing it would make Republicans the “death party.”

Republican Senator Collins: I have very serious concerns on healthcare bill

Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collins of Maine said on Sunday that she has extreme reservations about the Senate healthcare bill. “I have very serious concerns about the bill,” Collins said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s hard for me to see the bill passing this week,” she added. Nick Bit: This is a huge economic issue. Health care is 1/6th of the US economic.

Drag Queens to Visit Primary Schools in Bid to End ‘Intolerance’

A new scheme will see drag queens visiting primary schools and libraries in a bid to “challenge intolerance and homophobia at a young age”. Based on an American project, Drag Queen Story Time’s organisers hope to start the scheme at this year’s Bristol Pride before rolling it out across the city. Founder Tom Canham told the Bristol Post he has already managed to recruit 30 drag queens who are eager to take part in the project, which will see men dressed as women reading aloud “feminist fairytales and gender fluid novels for young children”. He said: “For me the project is about drag queens providing fun and inclusive reading for children about issues around misogyny, homophobia, racism, LGBTQ and gender fluidity in a way which they can understand. “Racism, homophobia, misogyny and the like are all learnt behaviours – we aren’t born with any form of hatred, you get taught it over time. And if projects like these can go some small way to helping prevent or curtail that, then it can only be a good thing.” Canham said that whilst most people have responded positively to the project, it has received backlash from a minority of critics who have accused him of being a paedophile and encouraging children to think they are homosexual.The 25-year-old call centre worker asserted that such comments are the “kind of negativity we are trying to change” with the project. `Nick Bit: Now you know why i home schooled my kids till high school

The Hill–Bannon: Trump’s Strategy Is ‘Let the Warfighters Fight the War’

In contrast to the prior administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, according to the president’s Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon, Donald Trump prefers to leave tactical military decisions up to the military. Max Greenwood writes at The Hill: White House chief strategist Steve Bannon cast President Trump’s defense policy as one that puts military power into the hands of the “warfighters.” “The President believes the best thing to do is to let the warfighters fight the war,” Bannon told CNN. But the chief strategist also said that Trump has ultimately held onto his ability to oversee “anything important on the warfighting side,” according to CNN, adding that he has remained deeply involved in developing military strategy. “He hasn’t given up any of the strategic decisions,” Bannon said. Trump has increasingly empowered the Pentagon and military leaders to make tactical military decisions, breaking from the precedent of White House oversight carried out by both Republican and Democratic administrations in the past, CNN reported.

Koch brothers’ political network critical of Senate healthcare bill

Colorado Springs (CNN)As growing opposition imperiled passage of the Senate version of the healthcare bill, leaders of the conservative Koch network voiced sharp criticism of the legislation at their donor retreat here — stating that the bill needed dramatic changes before they would support it. The Koch network announced Saturday that they plan between $300 and $400 million on their political and policy objectives during the 2018 political cycle as Democrats wage an intense battle to win control of the House. The network has made the repeal of Obamacare a central focus of their political and policy work. They believe that neither the House, nor the Senate version achieve that goal. “This Senate bill needs to get better. It has to get better,” said Tim Phillips, a top lieutenant in the network who recently met with White House officials to outline their proposed changes to the health care system. The proposed changes to Medicaid, Phillips said, were unacceptable, because they just amount to tinkering around the edges rather than reforming the program. The Senate bill would dramatically scale back federal support of Medicaid and phase out the money that the government has provided to expand eligibility for Medicaid in the states.

Third time’s a charm! Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his Scottish actress fiancee are married by Mike Pence in front of Trump, Melania and Ivanka in lavish, star-studded DC ceremony

Third time might be a charm for US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who wed his Scottish actress fiancee Louise Linton in front of President Trump and the First Lady at a lavish, star-studded ceremony in Washington, DC on Saturday. It’s the third marriage for ex-banker Mnuchin, 54, who is reportedly worth upwards of $300 million, and the second marriage for Linton, 36, an Edinburgh-born actress who has appeared in several Hollywood films. She was married to Hollywood lawyer Ronald Richards. They divorced in 2009. The pair exchanged vows on Saturday evening at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on the National Mall. The 300-person guest list included President Trump, First Lady Melania and Vice President Mike Pence. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner also attended the lavish ceremony. The Vice President officiated the couple’s wedding

Overturned oil tanker explodes in Pakistan, killing 129

BAHAWALPUR, Pakistan (AP) — An overturned oil tanker burst into flames in Pakistan on Sunday, killing 129 people who had rushed to the scene of the highway accident to gather leaking fuel, an official said.

Some 140 people were wounded, including 40 in critical condition, said Mohammad Baqar, an official with local rescue services, adding that the toll was expected to rise. Local news channels showed black smoke billowing skyward and horrific images of scores of burned bodies, as well as rescue officials speeding the injured to hospital and army helicopters ferrying the wounded. The disaster came on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. While Saudi Arabia and most other Muslim countries celebrated the holiday Sunday, Pakistanis will celebrate on Monday. The tanker was driving from the southern port city of Karachi to Lahore, the Punjab provincial capital, when the driver lost control and crashed on the national highway outside Bahawalpur. A loudspeaker atop a local mosque alerted villagers to the leaking fuel, and scores raced to the site with jerry cans, said Rana Mohammad Salim, deputy commissioner of Bahawalpur. Highway police moved quickly to redirect traffic but couldn’t stop the scores of villagers who raced to collect the fuel, spokesman Imran Shah told a local TV channel.

Investigation of Trumps obstruction of justice

We now know for sure that the Russians sought to interfere in the US elections and help get trump elected. Trump has long denied this facet. No more! The invetigation is getting very very close to home. Can collusion between Russia and Trump segregates be proved remains to be seen. Either way this investigation is a dark cloud over the Trump administration. It remains to be seen if it can proven that Trump attempts to impede and stop the investigation is criminal. As is often the case its not the crime but the cover up that brings big men down.

UK finds 34 high-rise apartment buildings with unsafe siding

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s fire-safety crisis expanded substantially Saturday as authorities said 34 high-rise apartment blocks across the country had cladding that failed fire safety tests. London officials scrambled to evacuate four public housing towers after experts found them “not safe for people to sleep in overnight.” Hundreds of residents hastily packed their bags and sought emergency shelter, with many angry and confused about the chaotic situation. Some refused to leave their high-rise apartments. Scores of evacuees slept on inflatable beds in a gym while officials sought better accommodations for them. Continue reading “UK finds 34 high-rise apartment buildings with unsafe siding”

Trump accuses Obama of inaction over Russia meddling claim

President Donald Trump has accused his predecessor Barack Obama of inaction over alleged Russian interference in the US election in 2016. Mr Trump said Mr Obama had learned well before the 8 November poll about the accusations and “did nothing”. His comments followed an article in the Washington Post which said that Mr Obama learned last August of President Vladimir Putin’s “direct involvement”. The alleged meddling is the subject of high-level investigations in the US. President Putin has repeatedly denied any Russian interference into the presidential election. The Washington Post article says Mr Obama was told early last August by sources deep within the Russian government that Mr Putin was directly involved in a cyber campaign to disrupt the election, injure Hillary Clinton and aid a Trump victory.

Russia: The ‘cloud’ over the White House
How Trump’s Russia trouble unfolded

The Post said Mr Obama secretly debated dozens of options to punish Russia but in the end settled on what it called symbolic measures – the expulsion of 35 diplomats and closure of two Russian compounds. They came in late December, well after the election. The Post reported that Mr Obama was concerned he might himself be seen as trying to manipulate the election. The paper quoted a former administration official as saying: “From national security people there was a sense of immediate introspection, of, ‘Wow, did we mishandle this’.

WATCH – Israel Releases Video of Retaliatory Airstrikes Targeting Syrian Military

TEL AVIV – The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Saturday night released video footage showing the Israel Air Force earlier today carrying out three retaliatory strikes targeting Syrian Army positions inside Syria from which ten mortars were reportedly fired into the Jewish state earlier in the day. The black and white IDF video shows one strike targeting a heavy machine gun and two strikes against two separate Syrian military tanks taking their positions.

Watch the video here:

US risks being dragged into regional war with Iran in Syria

When the US and allies first launched airstrikes against ISIS in 2014, the Obama administration made clear that the US would not get dragged into the quagmire that is the wider Syrian civil war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives since 2011.
However, there are serious concerns being expressed in the Pentagon that the US could be dragged into a wider regional conflict, not just with Syria but Iran. Officials are privately worried that Iran’s ongoing efforts to build an area of control stretching from Tehran to Beirut will eventually expand the US war by posing a security threat to US troops operating in southern Syria near the border with Iraq and Jordan.
In the last few weeks US forces have had to respond to Iranian backed Shia militias challenging US outposts and a garrison at At Tanf. The US military has recently expanded its presence in the area establishing several small outposts called “operating areas.” These small bases are an addition to the main garrison at At Tanf where US troops are training local tribes to fight ISIS. The US has also shot down a Syrian jet as well two Iranian made drones in recent weeks. This is all adding to a growing sense of concern that the war against ISIS in southern Syria might inevitably escalate to see the US fighting the Syrian regime as well as Iranian-backed forces.Click here to read more

First on CNN: House defense bill boosts spending on fighter jets, ships

Washington (CNN)The House’s defense authorization bill includes a major $21 billion boost to buy more weapons for the Pentagon, allocating major funding upgrades to F-35 and F/A-18 fighter jets and Navy shipbuilding programs.
But the bill is slightly smaller than House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry would have liked, as his draft version of the National Defense Authorization Act appears to comply with an emerging House budget deal. The House Budget Committee is currently considering proposing a budget with a $621 billion topline for defense, which is more than the $603 billion President Donald Trump proposed, but less than the $640 billion Thornberry was seeking. The draft defense authorization bill also is set at $621 billion in base budget funding, according to a copy obtained by CNN, along with $75 billion in war funding, for a total of $696 billion. Thornberry had told reporters Thursday he was planning to move forward with a $705 billion defense authorization bill, made up of a $640 billion base budget and $65 billion in war funding. But the Texas Republican added that it could change if a compromise was reached, and Thornberry agreed to move forward with the budget committee numbers, according to three sources familiar with the legislation.Click here to be taken to orginal story

EXCLUSIVE – Arab Intel Source: Obama Ignored Warnings About Qatar’s Ties to Terrorism

TEL AVIV — President Barack Obama ignored repeated warnings from Sunni Arab countries about Qatar’s ties to jihadist organizations in Syria and elsewhere, an Arab intelligence source told Breitbart Jerusalem. According to the source, a number of Arab countries, including Jordan and Egypt, raised the issue of suspect connections between Qatar and the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al Qaeda, and other jihadist organizations many times, “but President Obama chose to ignore the warnings of the Arab countries.” He continued: “The Obama administration was prisoner to the perception that the Muslim Brotherhood was a significant component in American interests and Qatar is the political and regional patron of the Muslim Brotherhood, so the administration refused to confront the facts presented to it, especially with the media and economic support provided by Qatar and various Qatari funds to groups like the Nusra Front and others.” The source said that prior to the crisis in Syria, Arab and Western intelligence sources presented Obama with information regarding relations between Qatar and the Taliban, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and even Hezbollah, “but the Obama administration preferred to bury its head in the sand and not do anything.” “The emergence of terrorist organizations in Syria is in part a result of the lack of American action. The international efforts to confront these organizations today could have been much simpler if the administration hadn’t turned a blind eye to the tremendous support the jihadists and terrorist organizations received from Qatar.” The source added, “The fact that Qatari intelligence mediates between terrorist organizations, particularly al-Qaeda, and other countries to secure the release of foreign journalists or religious hostages, as happened with the 19 monks who were abducted, should send the message that the Qataris are playing a very dangerous double game.”

Israel strikes Syrian military near Golan Heights

(CNN)Israel launched strikes on Syrian military positions Saturday, close to the two countries’ disputed border in the Golan Heights, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
The action was a response to what the IDF said were more than 10 projectiles fired into Israel from inside Syria. The IDF described the projectile fire as “errant,” blaming it on internal fighting. Israeli aircraft targeted three positions from which the projectiles were fired, the IDF said. The strikes included hits on two tanks belonging to the Syrian regime.

Earlier today, in response to over 10 projectiles fired at Israel, an IAF aircraft targeted 3 positions belonging to the Syrian regime pic.twitter.com/JWOVVXG1dc
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) June 24, 2017

Syrian state-run news agency SANA reported several people were killed in the Israeli strikes. SANA said fighting in the area is between the Syrian regime and the al Nusra Front, a militant Syrian rebel group. No one is reported to have been wounded as a result of the projectile fire.