Impact of Houston’s economy is felt well beyond its area

 The Houston that was battered by Hurricane Harvey is an economic powerhouse whose influence reaches far beyond its region, leading many to worry about when its economy be able to stand up again.

Houston produces the plastic used in everything from sports cars to baby bottles and is part of a low-lying coastal region that supplies nearly a third of U.S. oil-refining capacity. As the fourth-largest U.S. city, with 2.3 million people, it is also headquarters for 20 Fortune 500 companies. “There’s nothing being sold, nothing being manufactured and nothing being shipped in a city with a $500 billion economy,” says Patrick Jankowski, an economist with the Greater Houston Partnership, which promotes regional economic development. “Nothing is happening in Houston except rescues and people watching people get rescued.” “Greater Houston is a major engine of the U.S. economy,” IHS Markit says. Its port is the second-busiest in the United States. Its two airports handle 26 million passengers a year. And its world-class cancer center processes 13,000 cases a week, many of them booked by patients flying in from abroad. If it were an independent country, Houston would boast the world’s 23rd-biggest economy, just below Sweden and just above Poland. Forecasters aren’t yet sure exactly how high the economic damage will go, how far it will spread or how long it will last. The more than 50 inches of rain that flooded Houston left much of the city underwater and its manufacturing base all but immobilized. Macroeconomic Advisers, a forecasting firm, calculates that economic damage from Hurricane Harvey could shave between 0.3 and 1.2 percentage points off the nation’s economic growth in the July-September quarter. Before the storm, the economy had been expected to grow at an annual rate of about 3 percent from July through September.

Largest US refinery Motiva may be shut up to two weeks: Report

A refinery operates during Hurricane Harvey near Seadrift, Texas, August 26, 2017.
Rick Wilking / Reuters A refinery operates during Hurricane Harvey near Seadrift, Texas, August 26, 2017.
Motiva Enterprises’ Port Arthur, Texas refinery, the nation’s largest, may be shut as long as two weeks for assessment of the plant and repair of any damage, sources familiar with plant operations said on Thursday. The 603,000 barrel per day (bpd) Port Arthur Refinery was shut on Wednesday due to flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey. In a statement to CNBC, Motiva said it “cannot provide a timeline for restart at this time.” The oil company says it will begin assessing the refinery “as soon as the local area flooding has receded,” although Motive is uncertain about how long it will take for floodwaters to diminish.

Wells Fargo uncovers up to 1.4 million more fake accounts

Wells Fargo has uncovered up to 1.4 million more fake accounts after digging deeper into the bank’s broken sales culture.

The findings show that Wells Fargo’s problems are worse than the bank previously admitted to when the scandal began almost a year ago. Wells Fargo(WFC) now says it has found a total of up to 3.5 million potentially fake bank and credit card accounts, up from its earlier tally of approximately 2.1 million. The additional fake accounts were discovered by a previously-announced analysis that went back to January 2009 and that reviewed the original May 2011 to mid-2015 period. About 190,000 accounts were slapped with unnecessary fees for these accounts, Wells Fargo said. That’s up from 130,000 previously. Wells Fargo also discovered a new problem: thousands of customers were also enrolled in online bill pay without their authorization. The review found 528,000 potentially unauthorized online bill pay enrollments. Wells Fargo blamed unrealistic sales goals placed on employees for encouraging the unauthorized bill pay and bank account openings. “We apologize to everyone who was harmed by unacceptable sales practices that occurred in our retail bank,” Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan said in a statement. Wells Fargo is trying to make things right by scrapping its sales goals, installing new management and paying out millions in refunds. Wells Fargo said it will now pay a total of $6.1 million to refund customers for unauthorized bank and credit card accounts, up from $3.3 million previously. The bank also promised to pay $910,000 to refund customers for the 528,000 potentially improper online bill pay enrollments. Additionally, Wells Fargo has agreed to a $142 million national class action settlement to cover fake accounts that were opened back to 2002. That settlement received preliminary approval from a federal judge in July.

 

Source: Lobbyist in Trump Tower meeting spoke to grand jury

WASHINGTON (AP) — A grand jury used by Special Counsel Robert Mueller has heard secret testimony from a Russian-American lobbyist who attended a June 2016 meeting with President Donald Trump’s eldest son, The Associated Press has learned. A person familiar with the matter confirmed to the AP that Rinat Akhmetshin had appeared before Mueller’s grand jury in recent weeks. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the secret proceedings. The revelation is the clearest indication yet that Mueller and his team of investigators view the meeting, which came weeks after Trump had secured the Republican presidential nomination, as a relevant inquiry point in their broader probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The meeting included Donald Trump Jr.; the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Emails released by Trump Jr. show he took the meeting expecting that he would be receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of what was described to him as a Russian government effort to aid the Trump campaign. The confirmation of Akhmetshin’s grand jury testimony comes after he spoke at length about his involvement in the Trump Tower meeting in an interview with the AP last month. Akhmetshin, a former Soviet military officer who served in a counterintelligence unit, is also a well-known Washington lobbyist. He has been representing Russian interests trying to undermine the story of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison and is the namesake of a U.S. sanctions law.

In addition to Akhmetshin, other attendees at the meeting included Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, music publicist Rob Goldstone — who helped arrange the gathering — and a translator. Ike Kaveladze, who also goes by the name Irakly Kaveladze, also attended the meeting. Kaveladze works for a Russian developer who once partnered with Trump to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow.

An email exchange posted to Twitter by Trump Jr. showed him conversing with Goldstone, who wanted him to meet with someone he described as a “Russian government attorney,” who supposedly had dirt on Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

2 explosions rock flooded Houston-area chemical plant

CROSBY, Texas (AP) — A Houston-area chemical plant that lost power after Harvey engulfed the area in extensive floods was rocked by two explosions early Thursday, the plant’s operator said. Arkema Inc. said in a statement on its website that the Harris County Emergency Operations Center reported two explosions and black smoke coming from the plant at about 2 a.m. Authorities have not released information on how dangerous the explosions were or whether they sparked a fire at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas. An AP photographer at a roadblock about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the scene could see no sign of a blaze at the chemical plant as the sun rose Thursday morning. The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office said there had been “a series of chemical reactions” at the plant and advised people to stay away from the area. A plant spokeswoman said late Wednesday that the flooded facility had lost power and backup generators due to the flooding, leaving it without refrigeration for chemicals that become volatile as the temperature rises. The plant is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Houston. “The fire will happen. It will resemble a gasoline fire. It will be explosive and intense in nature,” spokeswoman Janet Smith told The Associated Press late Wednesday.

 

Stations may run out of gas this Labor Day weekend

Trump’s Wall Street-friendly tax plan faces roadblocks on Main Street

President Donald Trump participates in a tax reform kickoff event at the Loren Cook Company in Springfield, MO, on August 30, 2017.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images President Donald Trump participates in a tax reform kickoff event at the Loren Cook Company in Springfield, MO, on August 30, 2017. President Donald Trump today offered Americans an appealing description of the tax reform he wants – but none of the details.

 

There are good reasons for that.

As president, he hasn’t yet come up with a detailed tax reform plan. As a 2016 candidate, he did. But those details don’t match today’s description, and they represent the opposite of what Trump’s core supporters, as well as most Americans, say they want. In remarks in Springfield, Mo., the president called for tax reform in the name of “loyal, hard-working Americans and their families,” “middle-class families,’ “the forgotten people,” and U.S. companies struggling under tax burdens much higher than those in other countries. The result, he said, would be “a big, fat, beautiful paycheck” and restored pride for American workers – at the expense of “deep-pocketed special interests” and wealthy people like himself. The tax reform plan candidate Trump proposed indeed would increase take-home pay for workers in the center of the income scale. Depending on assumptions about economic growth and final legislative language, the conservative Tax Foundation estimated that the middle 20% of earners would see after-tax income rise by anywhere from 1.3% to 9%.But that plan, which would have cut the top personal rate and eliminated both the alternative minimum and estate taxes, gave the wealthy much greater benefits. The Tax Foundation said the top 1% of earners – such as Trump – would gain anywhere from 10.2% to 19.9%. The reason Trump skipped over those details, while suggesting his plan would accomplish something very different, is that Americans tell pollsters they want something very different. In a Gallup poll from April, six in 10 Americans overall said upper-income earners pay too little in taxes. They’ve said the same thing in Gallup surveys going back a quarter-century as income inequality has widened in the U.S. economy.

Continue reading “Trump’s Wall Street-friendly tax plan faces roadblocks on Main Street”

Economist who nailed the cost of Katrina thinks the final bill for Harvey could be larger

Getty Images A Coast Guard rescue boat carries US Army 82nd Airborne Division soldiers as it searches a flooded street in New Orleanss two weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit

Just two weeks after Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans in 2005, economist Cary Leahey of Decision Economics Inc. sat down and wrote a report to his clients estimating that total damages would total $125 billion, making the storm the nation’s largest natural disaster ever. A dozen years later, Leahey’s estimate stands the test of time. In fact, the official government estimate of the cost of the storm is $125 billion in nominal terms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA. Leahey now thinks that the damage from Hurricane Harvey could be “mind boggling” and rival or even exceed Katrina. Estimates he has seen from some major Wall Street banks are too timid, he said. “No analyst is willing to suggest that the impact on GDP growth will be worse than 0.5% to 0.75 percentage point reduction to GDP growth,” that was the ultimate impact of Katrina, Leahey said. But he said he is leaning towards thinking the drop in GDP could well be 1% or larger. There could be a potential one million workers dropped from payrolls in the September employment report, Leahey said. That would be four times the government’s unofficial estimate of the 230,000 lost jobs from Katrina. “The area affected by Harvey is four-to-five times larger in GDP and employment size than the coastal Louisiana area hit by Katrina,” he said. The Houston area represents 3.5% of GDP and 2.4% of employment, while New Orleans represented only 0.7% of GDP and employment.

Donald Trump Snubs Gary Cohn in Tax Policy Speech; Praises Daughter Ivanka

The president thanked “many distinguished guests” in his administration, including Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon. He also introduced and thanked several members of Congress, as well as the executives from the Loren Cook Company in Missouri where he delivered his speech. “Anybody I forgot?” Trump asked, before continuing with his speech. Despite traveling with the president to the event, Cohn, the former COO of Goldman Sachs, was not mentioned at any point in the speech, despite his efforts in the White House to promote tax reform. Trump also welcomed praised and thanked his daughter Ivanka Trump, who was in the audience. “Before I start, Ivanka Trump, I see my beautiful daughter’s in the audience. Stand up, honey,” Trump said as the audience cheered. “She’s working very hard. I’m very proud of Ivanka.” Trump’s daughter wants tax code reform to help make it easier for working mothers to pay for childcare. “It’s very, very important to everybody in this room, but so important to my daughter,” Trump said. “It’s one of her real big beliefs.” After the speech, White House aides defended Cohn to reporters who noticed the slight.

Trump Drops Deficit and Debt from Tax Cut Principles

President Trump on Wednesday outlined a framework for his administration’s plans to reform taxes in the U.S.One notable omission: concern over the effect of tax cuts on federal budget deficits and federal debt levels.

Trump’s speech emphasized overarching themes rather than details about tax cuts and other changes to the U.S. tax system. He announced four principles would guide his administration’s efforts on taxes: a tax code that is simple and easy to understand, a globally competitive rate on business taxes, tax relief for middle class families, and a tax break for corporate profits repatriated from abroad. This was a departure from the principles of tax reform announced during the 2016 campaign. During the campaign, Trump said his tax plan would be designed to meet “four simple goals.” Those were: tax relief for middle class Americans, simplify the tax code, grow the American economy with changes to corporate code, and not add to the debt or deficit of the federal government. What appears to have happened is that Trump dropped debt and deficit neutrality as a goal for tax reform, breaking the corporate goal into two different principles: lowering business tax rates and repatriating dollars. During the campaign, those were treated as a single goal. Deficit neutrality is a major concern inside of Washington, D.C. Many of the rules around legislation make it easier to pass laws if they don’t grow the deficit over the next decade. Ironically, this may mean that the government winds up taxing American workers more, even when incomes are stagnant, in order to avoid borrowing more, even when borrowing costs are at historic lows. Its not clear if the changes in the goals or principles underlying tax reform reflect a change of policy. That is, its not clear if the proposed tax plan will be built to not result in higher deficits or if the president was signaling that tax reform is too important to allow deficit neutrality to stand as an obstacle.

Russia, in one of biggest bail-outs in its history, rescues Otkritie bank

A branch of Otkritie Bank, one of Russia's biggest private lenders, in central Moscow.
Andrei Makhonin | Contributor A branch of Otkritie Bank, one of Russia’s biggest private lenders, in central Moscow.

Russia’s central bank launched one of the biggest banking bail-outs in its history on Tuesday, saying it would rescue troubled private lender Otkritie which has suffered a sustained run on its deposits amid worries about its loan portfolio. The central bank said it planned to tap its own funds in order to become a major investor in Otkritie, the country’s seventh-biggest bank by assets according to Interfax data. The bail-out is likely to stoke anxiety about the wider state of the Russian banking sector, fuelling speculation that other big banks may have similar problems. It also raises questions about the central bank’s supervisory performance. Otkritie is the country’s largest private lender by assets, according to second-quarter data from Interfax, and some of its shareholders are connected to major state entities, a fact that prompted some analysts to believe it was too big and influential to be allowed to fail. The central bank did not say how much it was spending on the bail-out, but said it planned to take a minimum 75 percent stake after evaluating Otkritie’s financial position. Until now, the biggest banking bail-out in Russia was a 395-billion-rouble ($6.7 billion) rescue of Bank of Moscow in 2011, Russia’s fifth-biggest lender by assets at the time.
Otkritie bank, part of the wider Otkritie group, grew rapidly in recent years, snapping up banks such as Nomos, non-pension funds and insurers, and even the diamond business of Russian oil producer Lukoil. Otkritie’s $500 million bond, which matures in April 2019, was up 34 cents, according to Tradeweb data, while the November 2019 issue jumped 11 cents. Nick Bit: this is one of the continuing signs of trouble in the Russia economy. one day very soon the RUSS will bloom like a rose!

India rupee: Illegal cash crackdown failed – bank report

Indians returned almost all of the high-currency notes banned in last year’s shock government crackdown on illegal cash, the central bank says. It said 15.28tn rupees ($242bn) – or 99% – of the money had made its way back into the banking system. Ministers had hoped the move would make it difficult for hoarders of undeclared wealth to exchange it for legal tender. The news that it did not will raise questions about the policy, which brought chaotic scenes across India. Banks ran out of cash after the ban on 500 ($7) and 1,000 rupee notes, which accounted for about 85% of the money in circulation. At others, police were called in to manage long queues of anxious customers hoping to change their savings. Many low-income Indians, traders and ordinary savers who rely on the cash economy were badly hit. Has demonetisation been a success or a failure? As per the RBI data, it’s safe to say that demonetisation has been a failure of epic proportions.

The RBI report says that illegal notes worth 15.28tn rupees ($242bn) had been deposited in banks up to 30 June. This basically means that almost 99% of the “demonetised” money was deposited into banks and wasn’t really destroyed. As far as the Modi government is concerned they are unlikely to admit it was a big mistake and will continue to put a positive spin on it, as they have since last November. Things will not change on that front. Now the data finally provides the answer, on page 195 of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) annual report. Agriculture, the rural economy and property – which rely largely on cash transactions – were sectors hit by the ban. Nick Bit: Told you so. No government ever has been able to control a black market. From Guns, to Drugs, to prostitution. They cannot confiscate the currency. If they had that kind of control their would be no trillion Dollar a year global drug trade. Nice Try but no cookie

Chemical Plant will EXPLODE

Texas chemical plant poised to explode amid Harvey flood

DALLAS (AP) — A flooded chemical plant in a small town outside of Houston was poised to explode, a spokeswoman for the French company that owns the plant said late Wednesday, though the timing and the extent of the danger weren’t immediately clear. The Arkema Inc. plant in Crosby, Texas, about 25 miles (40.23 kilometers) northeast of Houston, lost power and its backup generators amid Harvey’s days-long deluge, leaving it without refrigeration for chemicals that become volatile as the temperature rises. “The fire will happen. It will resemble a gasoline fire. It will be explosive and intense in nature,” spokeswoman Janet Smith told The There was “no way to prevent” the explosion , chief executive Rich Rowe said earlier Wednesday. Arkema manufactures organic peroxides, a family of compounds used for making everything from pharmaceuticals to construction materials. “As the temperature rises, the natural state of these materials will decompose. A white smoke will result, and that will catch fire,” Smith said. “So the fire is imminent. The question is when.” Arkema’s plant is required to develop and submit a risk management plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, because it has large amounts of sulfur dioxide, a toxic chemical, and methylpropene, a flammable gas. The plans are supposed to detail the effects of a potential release, evaluate worst-case scenarios and explain a company’s response. In its most recently available submission from 2014, Arkema said potentially 1.1 million residents could be impacted over a distance of 23 miles in a worse case, according to information compiled by a nonprofit group and posted on a website hosted by the Houston Chronicle.

 

 

Amazon is actually the weakest of the big U.S. retailers, Moody’s says

Amazon.com Inc., far from dominating the retail sector, is actually the weakest of the big U.S. players based on operating results, Moody’s Investors Service said Wednesday. The e-commerce giant is the subject of a number of myths regarding its size and clout that mask the reality of its position compared with rivals like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. WMT, -0.29% and Costco Wholesale Corp. COST, +0.57% , according to Charlie O’Shea, Moody’s vice president and lead retail analyst. Amazon’s stock AMZN, +0.25% has outperformed rivals, but it’s mostly based on the company’s growth story, and particularly the success of its cloud business, Amazon Web Services, O’Shea wrote in a new report. “That potential is overshadowing the superior real-time operating performance of Amazon’s key retail competitors,” O’Shea wrote. “The emphasis on stock performance is, in our view, forcing brick-and-mortar competitors toward managing more irrationally for short-term performance just when they’re confronting secular change.” The perception that Amazon is poised to take over the grocery business via its acquisition of Whole Foods, which closed this week, is another myth, said O’Shea. “Online sales still account for only about 10% of overall U.S. retail sales, with a much lower percentage in the grocery segment, leaving the big brick-and-mortar retailers, led by Walmart, still really formidable competitors in the industry,” he wrote.

Estimates for the Amazon Prime membership base are also wildly inflated, O’Shea said, with some pundits betting the figure is as high as 85 million. Amazon itself has never provided a number, other than to say it is in the tens of millions.  Moody’s calculations, which are based on demographic information, suggest Prime membership is closer to 50 million, which compares with Costco’s total membership of 86.7 million as of the end of its fiscal year in August 2016, and its paid membership of 47.6 million. Amazon is also far from controlling U.S. food sales, which come to about $800 billion a year. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. WMT, -0.29% alone sells more than $200 billion in food, or over 25% of the total, according to O’Shea. Kroger Co. KR, +1.79% sells about $130 billion in food, while Safeway parent Albertson’s sells food worth about $60 billion annually and Costco sells about $50 billion. “We believe it’s a big stretch to say Amazon will dominate the U.S. food retail business in the next two years,” O’Shea said. “Even with Whole Foods in its basket, its food sales still amount to less than $20 billion annually.”

Warren Buffett: This doesn’t feel like a 3% GDP economy

  • “I would guess we’re in a 2 percent growth economy now,” the billionaire investor says.
  • The 3 percent threshold is what President Donald Trump and his administration want to achieve for gross domestic product growth.
  • GDP increased at a better-than-expected 3.0 percent annual rate in the second quarter.

 

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett told CNBC on Wednesday that U.S. economic growth does not feel like 3 percent.

The 3 percent threshold is what President Donald Trump and his administration want to achieve for gross domestic product growth.

The government reported on Wednesday that GDP increased at a better-than-expected 3.0 percent annual rate in the second quarter. The upward revision from the 2.6 percent pace reported last month reflected robust consumer spending as well as strong business investment. Economists had expected a 2.7 percent advance.

 “I would guess we’re in a 2 percent growth economy now,” Buffett said in interviews on “Squawk Alley” and “Squawk on the Street.”

Growth last quarter, according to the Commerce Department, was the strongest since the first quarter of 2015. It followed a 1.2 percent pace in the first quarter of 2017. Nick Bit: don’t be fooled they cooked the books by dicking around with the inventory and retail sales numbers…….

If Harvey’s uninsured losses top $150 billion that would hurt the economy, Warren Buffett says

If uninsured losses from Hurricane Harvey top $150 billion it would hurt the economy, Warren Buffett says.

  • Buffett adds the government flood program will be a lot further in the hole once Hurricane Harvey is over.
Buffett: We have about 500,000 cars insured in flood area
Buffett: We have about 500,000 cars insured in Harvey’s flood area 14 Hours Ago | 03:49

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said Wednesday that if uninsured losses from Hurricane Harvey top $150 billion it would hurt the economy. “I don’t think it would be a full percentage point for a year or anything like that. But it has a real effect. It destroys wealth. If there’s $150 billion, or something, of uninsured losses that’s real wealth,” the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” The billionaire investor spoke as Harvey bore down on eastern Texas and Louisiana on Wednesday, bringing the catastrophic downpours that paralyzed the nation’s fourth largest city. Buffett added the government flood program will be a lot further in the hole once Hurricane Harvey is over. “It’s sort of unbelievable,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we had 50,000 losses and most of them will be in total losses.” Buffett, who turned 87 on Wednesday, was in New York City for a private lunch with the winner of an annual auction to benefit Glide, a San Francisco-based homeless charity. The winner, who wishes to remain anonymous, paid $2,679,001.

Flood insurance: Harvey tests a broken system

The flooding in the Houston area caused by Hurricane Harvey is just the latest problem for the already troubled National Flood Insurance Program.

The federally-funded program, which is part of FEMA, is the only protection against flooding that most homeowners and businesses can hope to get, since private policies typically only cover the wind damage that’s associated with hurricanes, but not flood damage. But after a series of major storms caused floods in the last 12 years, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the program is roughly $25 billion in debt. It has less than $2 billion in cash on hand, with only $6 billion more left in borrowing capacity as it prepares for the claims that will be filed due to Harvey.

Most homes in the affected area don’t have flood insurance, but about 400,000 homes in the counties affected by Harvey do have policies. The average claim in the last 12 years has been for about $50,000, which means this storm could quickly deplete the fund’s remaining resources. Until 2005 the premiums collected under the program pretty much covered the cost of claims paid. But record payments of $17.8 billion in 2005 put in a hole it has yet to emerge from.

 

 

Iran rejects US call for UN nuclear watchdog to inspect more sites

His comments  were a response to demands by US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley for the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect military as well as nonmilitary sites in Iran, to check the country’s compliance with a deal that curbs Iran’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. “It is regulations that determine our relations with the IAEA, not US pressure. I don’t think that the IAEA does anything under US pressure but if, hypothetically, this happens, we will not accept anything by force,” Rouhani said, according to a transcript of the interview published on his official presidential website.
Rouhani won a second term as president in May.

The Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was an international agreement hammered out over 20 arduous months of negotiations. China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, the US, the EU and Iran reached a deal in July 2015 and it was implemented in January 2016.
The IAEA has regular access to nuclear sites inside Iran and verifies that it is implementing its side of the deal; in exchange, the US, United Nations and European Union lifted nuclear-related sanctions. Every 90 days, the US President must certify that Iran is keeping up its end of the deal. Iran remains under multiple sanctions for terrorism-related activities.
Iran: US sanctions designed to derail nuclear deal

Iran: US sanctions designed to derail nuclear deal
President Donald Trump campaigned against the nuclear deal and continues to criticize it but, because Iran is complying, he has certified it twice on the advice of his national security staff. The next deadline to certify the deal is due in October.
distinction between military and nonmilitary sites.

Mueller teams up with New York attorney general in Manafort probe

The cooperation is the latest sign that the investigation into Trump’s former campaign chairman is intensifying.

Robert Mueller. | AP
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has been looking into Paul Manafort’s lobbying work and financial transactions, including real estate deals in New York. | Jeff Chiu/AP
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on its investigation into Paul Manafort and his financial transactions, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The cooperation is the latest indication that the federal probe into President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is intensifying. It also could potentially provide Mueller with additional leverage to get Manafort to cooperate in the larger investigation into Trump’s campaign, as Trump does not have pardon power over state crimes. The two teams have shared evidence and talked frequently in recent weeks about a potential case, these people said. One of the people familiar with progress on the case said both Mueller’s and Schneiderman’s teams have collected evidence on financial crimes, including potential money laundering. People close to Manafort say the team has pressured him by approaching family members and former business partners. A number of other firms and people who have worked with him have received subpoenas. State and federal prosecutors believe the prospect of a presidential pardon could affect whether Manafort decides to cooperate with investigators in the federal Trump investigation, said one of the people familiar with the matter. Mueller’s team has been looking into Manafort’s lobbying work and financial transactions, including real estate deals in New York. Schneiderman has a contentious history with Trump. The president has mocked him relentlessly on social media and TV, denouncing him as a “hack” and “lightweight.” The attorney general won a $25 million settlement last November after a lengthy investigation into fraudulent practices at Trump University. The president said he settled just to have the matter behind him, though his previous mantra was to never settle cases. The New York prosecutor’s office also is looking into some of Trump’s business transactions and could potentially share those records with Mueller’s team, one of these people said. Those inquiries are in the preliminary stage.

The nation’s largest oil refinery shuts down as Hurricane Harvey floods Texas

There’s little evidence that corporate tax cuts create jobs

Workers package mobile device cases for shipment at the OtterBox distribution center in Frederick, Colorado.
Matthew Staver | Bloomberg | Getty Images Workers package mobile device cases for shipment at the OtterBox distribution center in Frederick, Colorado.

When President Donald Trump traveled to Springfield, Missouri, today to stump for tax reform, he’ll rely on a well-worn argument that giving businesses a tax break will create more jobs.

But while the argument sounds compelling, there’s little evidence to back it up. And a new analysis from the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning Washington think tank, throws more cold water on the idea.

Supporters of cutting corporate taxes argue that those savings would free up more capital for investment, allowing companies to expand operations and hire more workers.

That was the argument then-candidate Trump offered last year when he proposed “reducing taxes tremendously” for both small and big businesses.

“That’s going to be a job creator like we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan,” Trump said in the first presidential debate in September 2016. “It’s going to be a beautiful thing to watch. Companies will come. They will build. They will expand. New companies will start. And I look very, very much forward to doing it.”

But the evidence for that outcome is slim, according to the Institute for Policy Studies analysis.
To test the claim that corporate tax cuts create jobs, the group looked at the payroll changes at 92 publicly held U.S. corporations that posted profits every year from 2008 through 2015 and paid less than 20 percent of these earnings in federal income tax.

the target of supporters of corporate tax cuts. Companies pay less by claiming a wide variety of deductions and exemptions, similar to those available to individual taxpayers.

The researchers relied on companies’ public accounting statements to calculate the amount of taxes paid and on company and news reports to assess changes in payrolls.

What they found was that more than half of these lightly taxed companies actually shed jobs during the period when the overall economy boosted payrolls by 6 percent. Of the 92 companies studied, the median change in payrolls was minus 1 percent.

Where did the tax savings go? Many of the companies on the list used the free cash to buy back stock, helping to boost the price of their company’s shares. The top 10 job cutters each spent $45 billion in stock buybacks over the 2008-2015 period, a pace six times that of the S&P 500 corporate average, according to the researchers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s less than the top 35 percent tax rate that is t

US crude falls 1%, settling at nearly 6-week low of $45.96, as Harvey keeps refineries offline

Oil

Oil prices fell and gasoline futures surged on Wednesday to another two-year high, as flooding and damage from Tropical Storm Harvey shut nearly a quarter of U.S. refinery capacity, curbing demand for crude while raising the risk of fuel shortages. Refineries with output of 4.2 million barrels per day (bpd) were offline on Tuesday, representing nearly 23 percent of U.S. production, according to Reuters estimates and company reports. Restarting plants even under the best conditions can take a week or more. “It will be a while before operations can return to normal and the U.S. refining industry is bracing itself for an extended shutdown,” Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM said. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude ended Wednesday’s session down 48 cents, or 1 percent, at $45.96. Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for crude trading, were down $1, or 1.9 percent, at $51 a barrel by 2:20 p.m. ET (1820 GMT). The spread between Brent and U.S. crude hit its widest in more than two years, and was lately at $5.39 a barrel. “Certainly the spread widening out between WTI/Brent is Harvey-driven. You’ve pretty much sapped a major chunk of Gulf Coast refining demand,” said Anthony Scott, managing director of analytics at BTU Analytics in Denver. Gains intensified for refined products after sources on Wednesday said Total’s Port Arthur, Texas, refinery had been shut by a power outage resulting from the storm. Gasoline margins jumped, as the gasoline crack spread jumped 12.5 percent to $23.45 a barrel, highest on a seasonal basis since 2012. “Crude is always easier to replace than products,” said Olivier Jakob, analyst at Petromatrix. “If the refineries stay shut for more than a week or 10 days, it’s going to be very problematic.”

AP Exclusive: Flood insurance policies plunge in Houston

WASHINGTON (AP) — Houston’s population is growing quickly, but when Harvey hit last weekend there were far fewer homes and other properties in the area with flood insurance than just five years ago, according to an Associated Press investigation.

The sharp, 9 percent drop in coverage means many residents fleeing Harvey’s floodwaters have no financial backup to fix up their homes and will have to draw on savings or go into debt — or perhaps be forced to sell.

Houston’s Harris County has 25,000 fewer flood-insured properties than it did in 2012, according to the AP’s review of Federal Emergency Management Agency data. In percentage terms, the drop was even more dramatic in certain sections of the county: In Pasadena, just southeast of Houston, policies were down nearly 20 percent. Baytown, east of Houston, saw a 22 percent drop.

Harris County communities with the largest number of policyholders. Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency Graphic: Maureen Linke, Associated Press

A former head of the federal flood insurance program called the drops “unbelievable,” and criticized FEMA, the agency overseeing the program.

“When you start to see policies drop like this, FEMA should have done something about this,” said Robert Hunter, who ran the program in the late ’70s. He estimates that fewer than two of 10 homeowners with flood damage have flood insurance.

Continue reading “AP Exclusive: Flood insurance policies plunge in Houston”

People in Japan have virtually no time at all to react to a North Korean missile launch

The Japanese government says Tuesday’s North Korean missile was launched at 05:58 Japan time, before flying over Japanese territory and landing in the sea east of Hokkaido at 06:12. The government issued a text alert to citizens at 06:02, warning them that a missile had been launched and advising them to evacuate to a “sturdy building or basement”. The missile was only over Japanese territory (land as opposed to sea) for a few minutes – between about 06:05 and 06:07 according to the national broadcaster, NHK. In other words, if the missile had actually been aimed at a Japanese target there could have been as little as three minutes between the first warning and a potential impact. Not enough time for the majority of people to get to safety. So defensive measures become extremely important. Then there are a number of short-range Patriot anti-missile batteries (PAC-3) deployed in Japan. They are designed to shoot down missiles as they descend towards their target. And while the Patriot system can provide effective defence for specific locations, it is less effective if it needs to defend a wide area. Japan could invest in a land-based Aegis system which would provide extra security. Or it could consider an extra layer of defence such as the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system, which has been deployed in Guam and supplied by the US to South Korea. The THAAD system is not really battle-tested, however.

 

NKorea leader urges more missile launches targeting Pacific

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for more weapons launches targeting the Pacific Ocean to advance his country’s ability to contain Guam, state media said Wednesday, a day after Pyongyang for the first time flew a ballistic missile designed to carry a nuclear payload over Japan. Tuesday’s aggressive missile launch — likely the longest ever from North Korea — over a close U.S. ally sends a clear message of defiance as Washington and Seoul conduct annual military drills. The Korean Central News Agency said the launch was a “muscle-flexing” countermeasure to the Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint exercises that conclude Thursday. Pyongyang views the drills as invasion rehearsals and often conducts weapons tests and escalates its rhetoric when they are held. Kim expressed “great satisfaction” over the launch that he called a “meaningful prelude” to containing Guam and said North Korea would continue to watch the U.S. demeanor before it decides future actions, KCNA said. The U.S. territory is home to key U.S. military bases that North Korea finds threatening.

Kim also said it’s “necessary to positively push forward the work for putting the strategic force on a modern basis by conducting more ballistic rocket launching drills with the Pacific as a target in the future.” The launch seemed designed to show that North Korea can back up a threat to target Guam, if it chooses to do so, while also establishing a potentially dangerous precedent that could see future missiles flying over Japan.  The launch is also another rebuke to Trump, who suggested last week that his tough approach to North Korea, which included threats to unleash “fire and fury,” meant Kim “is starting to respect us.”

Trump fumes at staff over Phoenix rally crowd size

(CNN)President Donald Trump was fuming as he sat in his Phoenix hotel watching news coverage ahead of his rally. The venue for his first rally in nearly three weeks looked empty. That’s when George Gigicos, Trump’s longtime advance man, got a call from Keith Schiller, the director of Oval Office operations who is almost always at Trump’s side, asking Gigicos why the crowds were scarce. Gigicos explained that while TV correspondents were live early from the venue, the rally wouldn’t start for several more hours and crowds had just begun to trickle in. Soon after, Gigicos heard from Trump himself. The President was irate, warning his former director of White House advance who had since returned to his private contracting business, that the venue better be full by the time he arrived, two sources familiar with the discussions told CNN as they described the scene and the President’s reaction.

Trump makes Texas visit as rains continue
Trump would regularly call Gigicos before rallies to ensure the rally would deliver the crowd size he had come to expect. And if it didn’t meet those expectations, Gigicos would get upbraided by Trump, sources familiar with the Trump campaign said. During a January 2016 rally, Trump angrily complained about the faulty microphone at his podium, complaining about the “son of a bitch” who installed it. And then, Trump added: “Do you hear that George? Don’t pay him. Don’t pay him,” Trump said. “And you gotta be tough with your people because they’ll pay, they don’t care. They’ll pay.”

Mexico dusts-off ‘Plan B’ as Trump revs up threats to kill NAFTA

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico sees a serious risk the United States will withdraw from NAFTA and is preparing a plan for that eventuality, Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Tuesday, calling talks to renegotiate the deal a “roller coaster.” U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened three times in the past week to abandon the North American Free Trade Agreement, revisiting his view that the United States would probably have to start the process of exiting the accord to reach a fair deal for his country. Trump has vowed to get a better deal for American workers, and the lively rhetoric on both sides precedes a second round of talks starting on Friday in Mexico City to renegotiate the 1994 accord binding the United States, Mexico and Canada. “This is not going to be easy,” Guajardo said at a meeting with senators in Mexico City. “The start of the talks is like a roller coaster.” The need for a back-up plan in case Trump shreds the deal underpinning a trillion dollars in annual trade in North America has been a long-standing position of Guajardo, who travels to Washington on Tuesday with foreign minister Luis Videgaray to meet senior White House and trade officials.“We are also analyzing a scenario with no NAFTA,” Guajardo said.  In an interview published earlier on Tuesday in Mexican business daily El Economista, Guajardo said “there is a risk, and it’s high” that the Trump administration abandons NAFTA. Responding to Guajardo’s comments, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would continue to work “seriously” to improve NAFTA.

Houston drainage grid ‘so obsolete it’s just unbelievable’

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston has 2,500 miles of bayous and channels, more than 300 storm-water retention basins and a pair of reservoirs. It’s all designed to drain the port city during intense downpours.

But experts call the Depression-era system obsolete – and no match for booming development in one of America’s fastest-growing cities.

While scientists say nothing could have contained Harvey’s record-breaking soaking, Houston’s geography works against its drainage system.

The coastal plain is too flat to move water away quickly. The soil doesn’t hold water well. And, most of all, experts say, Houston should have built more reservoirs where it put subdivisions instead.

Rice University environmental engineering professor Phil Bedient says all that combines to make Houston America’s most flood-prone city.

Tropical storm Harvey has set a new record for rain in the continental US

 

Tropical Storm Harvey has set a record for rainfall in the continental US, according to the National Weather Service. The storm has poured 51.88 inches of rain into Cedar Bayou, Texas. The previous record for rainfall in the continental US was 48 inches, also in Texas, during cyclone Amelia in 1978. However, the all-time record of 52 inches happened near Hawaii in 1950 — and it’s still possible for the storm to exceed the all-time record. Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on Friday, but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm. Hurricane classification is based on wind speed; while hurricane-force winds can cause damage, most of Harvey’s destruction has been from all the rain it’s dumped on Texas. The flooding is expected to continue until at least Wednesday. The storm is so strong that it can be seen from space and so much rain has fallen that the NWS has had to update the color charts on its graphics to map it correctly. Meteorologists have called the storm “unprecedented,” with winds hitting 130 miles per hour as they approached the state. The flooding is still very serious, and the death toll has risen to 13 people, according to local Texas officials.

Trump Jr. to testify in Senate, Manafort lawyer subpoenaed: CNN

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has agreed to testify privately to the Senate Judiciary Committee as it looks into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, CNN reported on Tuesday, weeks after he was invited to testify in public at a hearing in July. Spokesmen and spokeswomen for the committee’s leaders did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report. CNN also reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had issued subpoenas to Melissa Laurenza, an attorney with the Akin Gump law firm, who formerly represented Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and to Jason Maloni, a Manafort spokesman. CNN said Maloni and a spokesman for Mueller declined comment and that Laurenza referred questions to a spokesman who did not immediately comment. Russia has loomed large over the first six months of the Trump presidency. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia worked to tilt last year’s presidential election in Trump’s favor. Mueller, who was appointed special counsel in May, is leading the investigation, which also examines potential collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia. Several congressional committees are also looking into the matter. Moscow denies any meddling. Trump denies any collusion by his campaign, while regularly denouncing the investigations as political witch hunts.

A half-million flooded cars and trucks could be scrapped after Harvey

Floods in Houston, Texas. A car drives in flood water in Houston, Texas on Friday, April 17, 2015.

Harvey will ruin an estimated 500,000 vehicles

They seem to be in almost every picture or video of flooded neighborhoods in and around Houston. There are scores of cars and trucks with water up to their windows and in some cases over the hood and roof. In fact, the flooding is so extensive, Cox Automotive estimates a half-million vehicles may wind up in the scrap yard. “This is worse than Hurricane Sandy,” said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Cox Automotive. “Sandy was bad, but the flooding with Hurricane Harvey could impact far more vehicles.” insurers will be busy handling claims and cutting checks so flood victims can buy another car or truck. Auto dealers are expecting a surge in business once Houston gets back on its feet.

Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty ImagesHouses and vehicles at the Highland Glen subdivision stand in floodwaters due to Hurricane Harvey in Spring, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.

Those shopping for a used car may be surprised at the prices they see. Used-car values are already close to a record high, and Mannheim Auto Auctions says prices could climb even higher over the next couple of weeks due to the tighter supply. Meanwhile, not all of the flooded vehicles will wind up in the salvage yard. Many will be cleaned up and resold, often without the new buyer realizing they are buying a salvaged car or truck.

Finland says no fighter deal with Boeing after Trump’s comments

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 28, 2017.Carlos Barria

HELSINKI (Reuters) – President Sauli Niinisto on Tuesday denied that Finland was buying new fighter jets from American planemaker Boeing (BA.N), following remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump. Finland is looking to replace its ageing fleet of 62 F/A-18 Hornet jets with multirole fighter aircraft in a procurement estimated at 7-10 billion euros by 2025. “One of the things that is happening is you’re purchasing large amounts of our great F-18 aircraft from Boeing and it’s one of the great planes, the great fighter jets,” Trump said on Monday at a news conference with his Finnish counterpart in the White House. Niinisto, who was standing next to Trump, looked surprised but did not follow up on the comment. He later denied the deal with Boeing on his Twitter account and on Tuesday in Washington. “It seems that on the sale side, past decisions and hopes about future decisions have mixed … The purchase is just starting, and that is very clear here,” Niinisto told Finnish reporters. Helsinki is expected to request that European and U.S. planemakers provide quotations for new jets in 2018, with a final decision made in the early 2020s. A government working group has listed possible candidates as Saab’s (SAABb.ST) Jas Gripen, Dassault Aviation’s (AVMD.PA) Rafale, Boeing’s Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s (LMT.N) F-35 and the Eurofighter, made by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.

2 dams and levee overflow, adding to Houston floodwater

HOUSTON (AP) — A pair of 70-year-old reservoir dams that protect downtown Houston and a levee in a suburban subdivision began overflowing Tuesday, adding to the rising floodwaters from Harvey that have crippled the area after five consecutive days of rain. Brazoria County authorities posted a message on Twitter warning that the levee at Columbia Lakes south of Houston had been breached and telling people to “GET OUT NOW!!!” Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta said residents were warned that the levee would be overtopped at some point, and a mandatory evacuation order was given Sunday. Engineers began releasing water from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs Monday to ease the strain on the dams. But the releases were not enough to relieve the pressure after one of the heaviest downpours in U.S. history, Army Corps of Engineers officials said. Both reservoirs are at record highs.

Sources: Fort Bend County; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The release of the water means that more homes and streets will flood, and some homes will be inundated for up to a month, said Jeff Lindner of the Harris County Flood Control District. The disaster is unfolding on an epic scale, with the nation’s fourth-largest city mostly paralyzed by the storm that parked itself over the Gulf Coast. With nearly 2 more feet (61 centimeters) of rain expected on top of the 30-plus inches (76 centimeters) in some places, authorities worried the worst might be yet to come. Harvey kept drenching Houston and the surrounding area. Rain fell Tuesday at about half an inch (1 centimeter) per hour over Harris County — home to Houston — and up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) per hour to the east.

Goldman Sachs: $30 billion in Harvey destruction and refinery disruptions will hurt GDP

Nick Bit: Goldman never is any good at counting losses. We are looking at 100 Billion with less the 10 billion covered by insurance
A woman uses a coat hanger to try and retrieve an item from a destroyed house after Hurricane Harvey struck Fulton, Texas, August 26, 2017.
Rick Wilking | Reuters A woman uses a coat hanger to try and retrieve an item from a destroyed house after Hurricane Harvey struck Fulton, Texas, August 26, 2017.

Goldman Sachs sees “property damages in the range of $30 billion” from Harvey in Texas, and a reduction in overall U.S. economic growth due to storm-related energy disruptions. “We estimate that disruptions in the energy sector could directly reduce Q3 GDP growth by as much as 0.2pp [percentage points],” Goldman said. The Goldman commodities team estimates Harvey and its lingering effects in the Houston and Galveston, Texas, areas have shut down more than 16 percent of the nation’s oil refining capacity. Goldman remains uncertain whether damages and energy disruptions, in addition to other negatives associated with powerful storms such as a “temporary slowdown in retail sales, construction spending, and industrial production, as well as a pickup in jobless claims” would impact economic growth in the second half of 2017. On Monday, JPMorgan pegged eventual insured losses from Harvey in the $10 billion to $20 billion range. NICK BIT: Hear me well. The loses are over 100 billion and rising and insurance will cover less then 10 billion. The vast majority of the damages are not covered by ANY insurance at all. The vast majority of homes are a total loss. Thank you sheet rock, partial board and insulation that acts like a sponge. This is about to begin the demise of Well Fargo. the piece of shit bank. That is the largest consumer bank in the world and the largest writers of mortgages. They did not require flood insurance when it was available….. See more on this in todays August 29 Radio Free Wall Street WEB CAST

Two Houston water reservoirs overflowing, nearby residents encouraged to leave

Houston reservoirs that have contained heavy rains from Tropical Storm Harvey are starting to overflow, forcing authorities to release more water into the city’s swollen drainage system to alleviate pressure on two dams, Harris County officials said on Tuesday., County officials are monitoring six neighborhoods around the reservoirs and encouraged residents in those areas to evacuate before the water levels rise.  The releases will add to flooding in areas close to Buffalo Bayou, which flows through the center of Houston, said Jeff Linder of Harris County’s flood control district. The downtown are has not flooded yet. The controlled releases to ease pressure on the dams have so far not added a significant amount of water to already overflowing Houston rivers, Linder said. But continued rain has complicating efforts to distribute flood waters in a controlled way.

“This is something we’ve never seen before,” he said. “We have uncertainty in how the water is going to react,” when releases from the reservoirs hit overflowing drainage.

The Latest: 2 reservoirs overflow, despite water release

Two Houston reservoirs are overflowing, despite a controlled water release that aimed to prevent flooding downtown. The Addicks and Barker reservoirs are both at record high levels due to days of heavy rain. Army Corps of Engineers officials have been releasing water from both, but the amount of water entering exceeds the amount being released, sending floodwaters over spillways. Jeff Lindner, with the Harris County Flood Control District, said Tuesday that he’s certain that more homes and streets will flood as a result. Lindner says the county is trying to determine where the water will go, specifically from the north end of the Addicks reservoir. He says some homes will be inundated “for up to a month.” The flood gauge at the Barker reservoir is overwhelmed and disabled and officials are worried the Addicks gauge also will fail.

Houston authorities continued to battle overwhelming flooding on Monday only comparable to scenes straight out of a Hollywood film. Officials said police had rescued at least 1,000 people in the last eight hours, bringing that to total of 3,052. (Aug. provide replacement driver’s licenses or identification cards at no cost. More than three days after the storm ravaged the Texas coastline as a Category 4 hurricane, authorities worry that the tropical storm now parked over the Gulf Coast will return and deliver a knockout blow to a Houston region already ravaged by devastating downpours generating an amount of rain normally seen only once in more than 1,000 years. Some fear that may be more than the nation’s fourth-largest city could bear.

Despite new U.S. sanctions, Russian oil traders say it’s business as usual

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian oil companies will quickly find ways to work around tighter restrictions imposed this month by the United States on the foreign finance they can use, multiple Russian oil industry sources told Reuters. The new restrictions cut the period that U.S.-based entities can provide finance to Russian energy firms from 90 to 60 days and are part of a fresh package of U.S. sanctions that U.S. President Donald Trump approved on Aug. 2. Initiated by Congress, the sanctions were in part designed to punish Moscow further for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and to sanction it for what U.S. intelligence agencies say was its meddling in the U.S. presidential election, something Russia denies. In particular, the measures were designed to hurt Russia’s energy sector, its biggest source of revenue. But though the new steps are an inconvenience that could cause Russian oil companies to incur extra costs, the sources, who work for Russian oil firms and Russian and foreign oil trading houses, said that they were only incrementally worse than sanctions that have been in place since 2014. Oil companies had learned to adapt then and would do so again now, they said. None of the oil trade sources said they knew of any transactions having been disrupted as a result of the new measures “Business as usual,” said one Russian oil trader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, when asked to describe how the industry was coping with the new curbs.

 

NO INSURANCE>>>>>BANKS ABOUT TO REPOSES WORTHLESS ABANDONED HOMES

NEW YORK (AP) — Homeowners suffering flood damage from Harvey are more likely to be on the hook for losses than victims of prior storms – a potentially crushing blow to personal finances and neighborhoods along the Gulf Coast. Insurance experts say only a small fraction of homeowners in Harvey’s path of destruction have flood insurance. That means families with flooded basements, soaked furniture and water-damaged walls will have to dig deep into their pockets or take on more debt to fix up their homes. Some may be forced to sell, if they can, and leave their communities. “All these people taken out in boats, they have a second problem: They have no insurance,” said Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America.  Hunter expects flood damage alone from the storm to cost at least $35 billion, about what Katrina cost. But in that 2005 hurricane about half of flooded homes were covered by flood insurance.

With Harvey, only two of 10 homeowners have coverage, Hunter estimates.

Homeowners insurance typically covers just damage from winds, not floods. For that, you need separate coverage from the federally run National Flood Insurance Program. The insurance must be bought by homeowners with federally-backed mortgages living in the most vulnerable areas, called Special Flood Hazard Zones.

Much of the Houston area falls outside those most vulnerable zones and many homeowners who aren’t forced to have coverage have decided to do without. Now they are stuck because much of the damage in the nation’s fourth largest city won’t be covered by their homeowners insurance.

“There’s going to be a huge uninsured economic loss here,” said Pete Mills, a senior vice president at the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Wells Fargo, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, said Monday that it was suspending all negative reporting to credit bureaus, collection calls and foreclosure procedures against customers in the impacted communities at least through the end of September. NICK BIT: this scum bag bank will be driven out of business by this. FOR A FACT THEY WAVED FLOOD INSURANCE ON ALL THESE LOANS! The flooded home are worthless. I have been their in that city done that and i have the T shirt to prove it !

Two Bankers Are Selling Trump’s Tax Plan. Is Congress Buying?

Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury secretary.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury secretary.

WASHINGTON — Gary D. Cohn and Steven Mnuchin have spent months behind closed doors with Republican congressional leaders sketching the contours of an elaborate and politically difficult tax overhaul that is President Trump’s top priority. Mr. Trump hopes to jump-start the process on Wednesday, traveling to Springfield, Mo., for a speech calling for large tax reductions and a long-anticipated revamping of the code. But he has largely left it to Mr. Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, and Mr. Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, both new to government, to devise and execute a winning legislative strategy. And their involvement has some conservatives for whom tax cuts are a signal issue deeply concerned. “They are facing big frustration among policy makers, the business community and investors that there’s been months of inaction, and the perception out there among investors is they don’t think this is going to get this done this year,” said Stephen Moore, a Heritage Foundation economist who advised Mr. Trump during the campaign. Already, their ambitions have drifted from the president’s original mark: A 15 percent corporate tax rate proposed in April is now likely to move to the 20 to 25 percent range, say two people familiar with the officials’ recent thinking. And a proposed 35 percent ceiling on the highest personal income tax rate could be shelved altogether, leaving the current 39.6 percent cap intact. For Mr. Cohn and Mr. Mnuchin, quiet competitors since their days as new partners at Goldman Sachs more than two decades ago, the task is a consequential test of whether real-world experience in finance has equipped them to carry out a delicate political negotiation, and whether two Jewish New Yorkers who have been lavish supporters of Democrats can succeed in Mr. Trump’s Washington. Behind the scenes, there have been differences of style and substance.

Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury secretary, speaks as Gary Cohn, director of the U.S. National Economic Council, left, listens during the White House press briefing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 26, 2017.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury secretary, speaks as Gary Cohn, director of the U.S. National Economic Council, left, listens during the White House press briefing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 26, 2017.

Mr. Cohn — who wears monogrammed shirts, gold cuff links and a Rolex watch next to a brown leather bracelet with a “peace” tag and a black beaded one with silver skulls — has brought a brash style and a take-no-prisoners approach to the tax issue. He is facile with data and has a keen understanding of the economy, according to people who have attended meetings with him, and he moved quickly to hire several experienced and well-connected aides — including Jeremy Katz, his deputy, and Shahira Knight, a former tax-writing congressional aide — who have been drivers in the private talks with Congress.

Continue reading “Two Bankers Are Selling Trump’s Tax Plan. Is Congress Buying?”

Euro rises to 18-month high against dollar

The euro has hit $1.20 for the first time since January 2015 as the prospect of a US interest rate rise recedes. The economic damage caused by Hurricane Harvey has led analysts to assume the US central bank will not want to risk curbing economic growth. A rise in interest rates tends to draw investors to a currency, taking advantage of the higher returns. Meanwhile, the euro has itself been gaining against a range of currencies as the eurozone’s economy improves. Against the dollar, it has risen by almost 15% so far this year. The euro has strengthened in recent months, as markets predicted the European Central Bank could start to cut back the money-printing programme it has been running to repair the ravages of the eurozone crisis and credit crunch of the late 2000s. The pound is at its weakest for almost a year. It buys 1.07 euros in the wholesale currency markets, making a euro worth a much as 92.8p.

U.K. stocks knocked sharply lower after North Korea launches missile over Japan

 “This outrageous action … is an unprecedented, grave and serious threat,” says Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

U.K. stocks dropped sharply Tuesday, joining a selloff in European markets after North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan, reigniting tensions that sent investors seeking assets seen as less risky. The FTSE 100 index UKX, -1.35%  fell 1.2% to 7,311.68, moving their lowest since Aug. 11, FactSet data showed. No sector moved higher. Trading in the U.K. was closed Monday for the August Bank Holiday.  The moves came after Pyongyang launched a missile early Tuesday that passed over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and landed in the Pacific Ocean. It was the first missile fired over the main lands of Japan since 2009. “This has understandably seen an overnight preference for safe havens such as gold, the Swiss franc, Japanese yen and bonds, at the expense of equities,” said Accendo Markets head of research Mike van Dulken, adding that the missile launch undermines attempts by the U.S. to negotiate with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.

Economic data: U.K. house prices fell 0.1% on the month in August, following a modest increase the previous month, according to Nationwide figures released Tuesday.

Harvey set to pummel flooded Houston once again

 The U.S. Coast Guard is getting upwards of 1,000 calls an hour
Getty Images People are rescued from a flooded Houston neighborhood after it was inundated with rain water, remnants of Hurricane Harvey, Monday.

HOUSTON—Tropical Storm Harvey continued to pummel Texas, paralyzing greater Houston and testing it on every front as the region braces to take on more water in the coming days. Desperate rescue efforts were still underway late Monday, even as the city strained to perform basic functions. Mayor Sylvester Turner said Houston Police had rescued more than 3,000 people during the storm, including 1,000 on Monday alone, while the city’s fire department said it had received more than 2,300 calls for service since midnight.

 “The reality is the water is continuing to rise.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner

Houston’s two major airports, its biggest public school systems, its port and nearly all of its major employers were closed as its freeways and major roads remained nearly unnavigable due to high waters. Nearly all substantial commerce and nonemergency government had ground to a halt. Harvey was on track to make landfall again east of Houston late Tuesday or Wednesday. Though it wasn’t expected to regain much strength, it was poised to deliver as much as 20 more inches of rain before passing—making the total, 50 inches, the equivalent of a normal year’s worth of rain for Houston in one week.

Domino’s and Ford will test self-driving pizza delivery cars

 

Ford and Domino’s Pizza are teaming up to test self-driving pizza delivery cars in Michigan, as part of an effort to better understand how customers respond to and interact with autonomous vehicles. In the coming weeks, randomly selected Domino’s customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan will have the option to accept pizza deliveries from a Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle. But the car won’t be driving itself. Each car will be driven by a Ford safety engineer Each car will be driven by a Ford safety engineer, with other researchers onboard, who will zero in on the last 50 feet of the customer experience. Sherif Marakby, Vice President of Ford Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification, described the project as ethnographic research in an interview with The Verge. “We don’t want to wait until we get everything done on the tech and remove the driver. We’re trying to start doing the research. We still are working on the technology, because it’s not ready to be put on public streets,” he said. “It’s simulating that the vehicle is in autonomous mode.” Those who participate in the test can track their order through a Domino’s app and will receive a unique code that matches the last four digits of their phone number to be used to unlock the so-called Heatwave Compartment — a container that keeps pizzas warm in the back of the car. Information will be communicated through screens and speakers on the exterior of the cars.

photo: Ford Motor Company

“We’re interested to learn what people think about this type of delivery,” Russell Weiner, president of Domino’s USA, said in a statement. “The majority of our questions are about the last 50 feet of the delivery experience.”

N. Korean supplied COMPLETE FOOTAGE: North Korea fires missile over Japan

North Korea fired a ballistic missile that passed over Japan early Tuesday, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had strong words about its gravity. Abe said the missile was an unprecedented, serious and grave threat to Japan. The Japanese prime minister also said he would ask the United Nations to up the pressure on Pyongyang.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Yoshikazu Tsuno | Pool | Reuters Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

A South Korean military official told NBC News that the missile was fired around 5:57 a.m. local time on Tuesday. The official said that the missile flew for about 2,700 kilometers (1,678 miles), reaching a maximum altitude of 550 kilometers (342 miles). U.S. Pacific Command projected that the missile splashed down at 6:29 a.m. local time. Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that the North Korean missile broke into three pieces and fell into the sea. Here’s Abe’s full comment when asked what actions his government planned to take, according to NBC News:

The ballistic missile launched by North Korea flew over our nation and landed in the Pacific Ocean. We, as the government, were completely aware of the movement of the missile since immediately after its launch and in order to protect the public we had a well prepared system in place.

This reckless act of firing a missile over our nation is an unprecedented, serious and significant threat, one that seriously diminishes the peace and safety of the region, and as a result we have lodged a firm protest against North Korea.

We have also requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. By working together with the international community, we will seek to further strengthen pressure against North Korea.

Under the firm Japan-U.S. Alliance, so that we can deal with any circumstance, while maintaining a sense of tension, we will do our utmost to ensure the public’s safety.

Trump Organization attorney admits pursuing Moscow tower deal during campaign

Michael Cohen says Trump didn’t know he sought help from Putin official

AFP/Getty Images Attorney Michael Cohen arrives at Trump Tower in December 2016.

Michael Cohen, an attorney for the Trump Organization, discussed a prospective real-estate deal in Moscow with Donald Trump on three occasions during the presidential campaign, Cohen said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. In 2015, Cohen said, he informed the then-candidate that he was working on a licensing deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow. He subsequently asked for and received Trump’s signature on a nonbinding letter of intent for the project in October 2015. And in January 2016, he said, he informed the then-candidate that he had killed the proposal. Cohen Cohen’s communication with the president about the Moscow project may come under scrutiny because of a January 2016 email Cohen sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top press official to ask for “assistance” in arranging the deal. Cohen said he didn’t inform Trump that he had sent the email to the press official, Dmitry Peskov. He didn’t respond when asked why he hadn’t done so. In the email to Peskov, Cohen said communication between the Trump Organization and a Russia-based company that was the prospective developer of the tower had “stalled” and said, “As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals.”

Rush Limbaugh on Trump White House: ‘How Is Gary Cohn Still There?’

Monday on his nationally syndicated radio show, conservative talker Rush Limbaugh reacted to the week before’s shake-ups within the Trump White House, including the departure of Sebastian Gorka. Limbaugh raised questions about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump advisor and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn and their loyalties to President Donald Trump. That led Limbaugh to ask why Cohn was still working at the White House given what he had reportedly said about Trump. “[T]illerson and Gary Cohn – I’m asking why are they still working in the White House with what they’ve been saying?” Limbaugh said. “Particularly Cohn – Tillerson, an open interpretation. But how is Gary Cohn still there? He threw the president under the bus. They got rid of Sebastian Gorka. And they’re destroying Gorka with an absolute libelous, slanderous attack that the guy is a Nazi and so forth. None of it’s true.” “I know, many people have never heard of Sebastian Gorka until Trump became president,” he continued. “He was on the national security team, supposedly H.R. McMaster didn’t like him. I don’t know. He was good on TV, and Trump liked him on TV. But he’s gone, and in his resignation letter, he really takes it to Trump. He says, ‘Look pal, everybody that was part of your Make America Great Again agenda is gone. Do you realize this? The only people that are left are the Democrats in the swamp in your administration.’”

Gasoline Prices Soar While Oil Prices Sink Thanks to Harvey

Gasoline futures are soaring on Monday even while crude oil prices have declined.

Tropical storm Harvey has pushed oil and gasoline prices in the opposite direction because refinery closures are expected to dampen demand. Ten refineries in Texas are reportedly shutdown, taking out about 15 percent of U.S. refining capacity. The U.S. Gulf Coast is home to about half of the nation’s refining capacity. Exxon Mobil on Saturday shuttered its Baytown refinery, the nation’s second-largest, when flood waters overwhelmed the area. Its Beaumont refinery is operating at reduced capacity. No one knows how long the Texas refineries will remained closed. Depending on the extent of the flood damage, some refineries could be closed for weeks or perhaps months. Gasoline prices are expected to rise as the lack of refinery capacity squeezes supply. Fortunately, the peak summer driving season in the U.S. is coming to a close, so demand for gasoline should fall as well. The national average price per gallon was $2.37 up 3.7 cents from a week earlier. Some Gulf Oil rigs have also been shut down. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said Sunday that nearly 379,000 barrels a day worth of crude oil production has been halted. That amounts to around 21.6 percent of Gulf Oil production capacity.

 

Grocery stocks fall again as Amazon cuts prices at Whole Foods

  • Amazon is cutting prices of many Whole Foods products as part of the e-commerce giant’s acquisition of the high-end food retailer.
  • Sprouts Farmers Market is leading declines of food retailers’ stocks.
  • Sprouts also has several locations in Houston, where Tropical Storm Harvey is causing historic flooding.
An employee stocks cherries at Sprouts Farmers Market on in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.

Shares of Sprouts Farmers Market and other grocery stocks fell again Monday as Amazon.com rolled out price cuts at Whole Foods stores. Sprouts fell nearly 7 percent, Supervalu lost almost 3 percent and Kroger and Target traded nearly 1 percent lower. Wal-Mart fell about half a percent and Costco traded slightly lower, as of late-morning Monday. The six stocks have erased nearly $12 billion from their combined market capitalization since Wednesday’s close, the day before Amazon announced it would complete its deal to buy Whole Foods Market on Monday and cut prices on many products, including bananas, organic avocados and organic Fuji apples. On Monday, the price of an organic avocado at a Whole Foods location on New York’s Upper East Side was $1.99, down from $2.99, CNBC found. The price of organic Fuji apples fell to $1.99 a pound from $3.49 a pound at that store.

China has been gobbling up U.S. government paper

China’s previous buying spree came as Beijing attempted to cap the rise of the yuan

China is once again America’s top creditor, and Treasury investors are paying attention.U.S. government data on foreign holdings of Treasuries for June, released on Aug. 15, showed that the value of China’s holdings rose by $44.3 billion. That allowed China to eclipse Japan as the top holder of Treasuries, pushing its total to some $1.147 trillion China could now be making a small reallocation toward Treasuries as it shifts “toward a more traditional reserve portfolio at the margin,” says Brad Setser, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. That would entail holding more of the types of assets found in a traditional reserve portfolio, as Beijing “recognizes it needs more than an investment portfolio—it needs a liquidity portfolio.” China’s Treasury transactions have been driven to a large extent by foreign-exchange considerations, he says. Beijing had to sell Treasuries to keep the yuan from depreciating too much. Slok says the dollar’s recent weakness allowed China to return to the market as a buyer of Treasuries, signaling to speculators “that this can be a two-way street. It’s not only one-way where we’re selling Treasuries” to protect the yuan.

North Korean missile flies over Japan, escalating tensions and prompting an angry response from Tokyo

North Korea launched a ballistic missile Tuesday morning that flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, the most brazen provocation of Kim Jong Un’s five-year-long rule and one that will reignite tensions between Pyongyang and the outside world. The launch poses a further challenge, in particular, to President Trump, who has made North Korea a favorite rhetorical target. This missile appears to have been a Hwasong-12, an intermediate range ballistic missile technically capable of flying 3,000 miles, easily putting the U.S. territory of Guam within reach. However, the missile flew east, over Hokkaido and into the Pacific Ocean, rather than on a southward path towards Guam.Still, the latest launches, coming after North Korea last month launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles theoretically capable of reaching the mainland United States, underscore both Kim’s defiance of the international community and his determination to press ahead with his missile program. The White House did not immediately respond to the latest provocation.

Oil markets roiled as Hurricane Harvey hits US petroleum industry

Getty Images

Oil markets were roiled on Monday after Tropical Storm Harvey wreaked havoc along the U.S. Gulf Coast over the weekend, crippling Houston and its port, and knocking out numerous refineries as well as some crude production. U.S. gasoline prices hit two-year highs as massive floods caused by the storm forced refineries in the area to close. In turn, U.S. crude futures fell as the refinery shutdowns could reduce demand for American crude. Harvey is the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years, killing at least two people, causing large-scale flooding, and forcing the closure of Houston port as well as several refineries. Texas is home to 5.6 million barrels per day (bpd) of refining capacity, and Louisiana has 3.3 million bpd. Over 2 million bpd of refining capacity was estimated to be offline as a result of the storm. Spot prices for U.S. gasoline futures surged 7 percent to a peak of $1.7799 per gallon, the highest level since late July 2015, before easing to $1.7352 by 0948 GMT.U.S. traders were seeking oil product cargoes from North Asia, several refining and shipping sources told Reuters, with transatlantic exports of motor fuel out of Europe expected to surge.  “If (U.S.) refineries shut down for more than a week, Asia will need to run at a higher level, because there’s no spare capacity in Europe.” About 22 percent, or 379,000 bpd, of Gulf production was idled due to the storm as of Sunday afternoon, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said. There may also be around 300,000 bpd of onshore U.S. production shut in, trading sources said. These opposing price movements pushed the WTI discount versus Brent to as much as $5.06 per barrel, the widest in two years.

Trump set to roll back limits on military gear for police

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is preparing to lift restrictions on surplus military equipment that can be passed on to local law enforcement agencies in spite of past concerns that armored vehicles and other gear were escalating confrontations with protesters. Documents obtained by The Associated Press indicate Trump was preparing to sign an executive order undoing an Obama administration directive that restricted police agencies’ access to grenade launchers, bullet-proof vests, riot shields, firearms, ammunition and other surplus military equipment. Trump’s order would fully restore the program under which “assets that would otherwise be scrapped can be repurposed to help state, local, and tribal law enforcement better protect public safety and reduce crime,” according to the documents. The changes would be another way in which Trump and Sessions are enacting a law-and-order agenda that views federal support of local police as a way to drive down violent crime. National police organizations have long been pushing Trump to hold to his promise to once again make the equipment available to local and state police departments, many of which see it as needed to ensure officers aren’t put in danger when responding to active shooter calls and terrorist attacks. An armored vehicle played a key role in the police response to the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. Trump vowed to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire that helped him win an endorsement from the organization of rank-and-file officers. He reiterated his promise during a gathering of police officers in July, saying the equipment still on the streets is being put to good use.

Members of Trump’s cybersecurity council resign in protest

Council members cite Trump’s response to Charlottesville and ‘insufficient attention’ to infrastructure in resignation letter

Members of Trump’s cybersecurity council resign in protest

Several members of a White House cybersecurity council resigned last week in protest over President Donald Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville and the decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, among other issues. In a resignation letter obtained by NextGov, eight members of the 28-person National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) said that the president’s “actions have threatened the security of the homeland I took an oath to protect.” The letter states that the Trump administration is not “adequately attentive to the pressing national security matters within the NIAC’s purview,” and that Trump has paid “insufficient attention” to the growing threats that the US faces to its cybersecurity. A “disregard for the security of American communities.” The letter also points to Trump’s failure to condemn neo-Nazis and white nationalists following this month’s violence in Charlottesville, as well as his decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, which the signees cite as evidence of the president’s “disregard for the security of American communities.” “The moral infrastructure of our Nation is the foundation on which our physical infrastructure is built,” the letter reads. “The Administration’s actions undermine that foundation.” Established in 2001 under an executive order from President George W. Bush, the NIAC advises the president on critical infrastructure security. Last week’s resignations came ahead of a new NIAC report that called for the US to strengthen its cyber defense systems, adding that the current state of US infrastructure is a in a “pre-9/11 moment.” (Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta used similar language to describe the state of US cybersecurity infrastructure in 2012.) Two White House business councils were disbanded earlier this month after several executives raised concerns over Trump’s response to the Charlottesville violence.

U.S. goods trade deficit widens in July; retail inventories fall

More than half of Houston’s flood-prone properties aren’t in areas that require insurance: CoreLogic

In Houston alone, nearly 300,000 properties are at an ‘extreme’ or ‘very high’ risk of flooding

Getty Images Houston residents stand outside their home after rain from Hurricane Harvey floods the area.

More than half of properties in Houston considered to be at a pronounced risk of flooding are not in an area required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to carry flood insurance, according to an analysis out Monday. The report, from real estate data provider CoreLogic, shows 52% of residential and commercial properties in Houston—and 44% in the broader South Texas area slammed by Hurricane Harvey—are at “high” or “moderate” risk, but sit outside what’s called a Special Flood Hazard Area. Properties within that area must have flood insurance if the property has a federally insured mortgage.

Metro area Total properties High/moderate risk properties outside Special Flood Hazard Area
Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos 701,325 127,073
Bay City 23,459 13,278
Beaumont-Port Arthur 194,610 106,186
College Station-Bryan 91,106 19,935
Corpus Christi 34,330 12,099
Houston-Sugarland-Baytown 2,340,343 1,210,185
Victoria 42,419 14,815

The analysis (above) does not include potential damage from a storm surge or from flash flooding. At the start of hurricane season, CoreLogic flagged the possibility of $1.5 trillion in damages this year from storm surge.

South Korean President Moon reportedly tells military to toughen up

South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged defense officials to step up military reform in case the North “crosses the line,” local media reported Monday.

Moon told officials to “strongly push” for the military to “meet the requirements of modern warfare so that it can quickly switch to an offensive posture in case North Korea stages a provocation,” according to South Korean news agency Yonhap. North did send a letter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Friday expressing anger at joint military drills between South Korea and the U.S. earlier last week. “The danger of nuclear war is created by the U.S.” and its “evil intention,” the letter said, also accusing the UNSC of being “reduced into a marionette” of the U.S. should it ignore the North’s request for emergency discussions. “The U.S. shall be held totally accountable for the catastrophic consequences to follow,” the letter threatened.

Moon began his presidency by positing Seoul as open for negotiations with Pyongyang, to little avail from North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s administration. Robert Kelly, associate professor at Pusan National University, explained to CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia that the “prestige of negotiating directly with a superpower is something North Koreans really, really want.” But, “There’s no way the U.S. is going to give that to North Korea without some really significant concession,” he added. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in an interview with Fox News over the weekend that the U.S. would uphold “peaceful pressure” on North Korea, while also working with regional superpower China to “bring the regime in Pyongyang to the negotiating table.”

Eight Members of National Infrastructure Advisory Council Resign over Trump’s Charlottesville Response

Eight members of the White House’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) have resigned over President Donald Trump’s response to the recent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, also citing his “insufficient attention” given to cyber security issues.

In a resignation letter obtained by NextGov, the council members accuse Trump of having “threatened the security of the homeland” and giving “insufficient attention to the growing threats to the cybersecurity of the critical systems upon which all Americans depend, including those impacting the systems supporting our democratic election process.” The letter goes on to complain about Trump’s response to clashes in Charlottesville this month between white supremacists and domestic terrorist group Antifa. “When asked about the horrific violence in Charlottesville, you failed to denounce the intolerance and violence of hate groups, instead offering false equivalences and attacking the motives of the CEOs who had resigned from their advisory roles in protest,” the letter read. Following the violence, which left one person dead, Trump held a press conference where he condemned violence “on all sides,” while “condemning in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence,” “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said. The letter also cited Trump’s decision to pull America out of the Paris climate agreement and his ignoring of the “pressing threat of climate change” as reasons for their departure. Three of the departing members were also holdovers from the Obama administration. The string of resignations came before the NIAC’s quarterly meetings this past week, which went ahead as scheduled.

FEMA expects more than 450,000 Harvey disaster victims to file for assistance

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said the government expects more than 450,000 victims of Hurricane Harvey to file for disaster assistance.

In a press conference early Monday, Long also said the agency anticipates more than 30,000 people will be placed in storm shelters temporarily.

The FEMA administrator said the agency is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to restore power and critical infrastructure to the Southern Texas region.

Long said FEMA is working with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to bolster security forces in the region.

Long said that volunteers can find information on how to help at NVOAD.org.

Houston convention center gives refuge to Harvey’s survivors

The American Red Cross was expanding the shelter by the hour as more people arrived, including dozens of volunteers and local residents who saw reports on the news or social media and brought bags of donations. Inside a cavernous hall humming with the sound of hundreds of conversations, volunteers served food, handed out towels and set up tables with donated clothes for a long line of evacuees. Some people huddled around a projection screen showing television coverage of the storm. Others collected bowls of pasta with parmesan cheese and cups of black coffee. A long line of people carrying blankets and pillows waited to enter a separate space in the convention center serving as the dormitory. Volunteers had set out around 1,300 cots and were quickly assembling more in anticipation of other evacuees arriving through the night. They have enough space and cots to house 5,000 people. Police officers and medics stood ready, though there were no reports of arrests or major incidents Sunday. “We feel that we have the resources and the knowledge not to have this be anything but safe for families, children and others who need support and safety,” said U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, who visited the shelter Sunday.

Continue reading “Houston convention center gives refuge to Harvey’s survivors”

In response to Trump tweet, Mexico reiterates it won’t pay for the wall

Washington (CNN)The Mexican government on Sunday again stressed its position that it will not pay for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall. Trump tweeted Sunday morning: “With Mexico being one of the highest crime Nations in the world, we must have THE WALL. Mexico will pay for it through reimbursement/other.” With Mexico being one of the highest crime Nations in the world, we must have THE WALL. Mexico will pay for it through reimbursement/other.

In response, the country’s foreign ministry released a statement saying Mexico would not pay for a wall or other physical barrier at the border “under any circumstances.”
“This determination is not part of a Mexican negotiating strategy, but a principle of national sovereignty and dignity,” the statement said.
For Trump's wall, Mexico is out! Government shutdown is in!
For Trump’s wall, Mexico is out! Government shutdown is in!

Continue reading “In response to Trump tweet, Mexico reiterates it won’t pay for the wall”

Catastrophic Floods Hit Houston, ‘Harvey’ Begins March Back to Gulf

HOUSTON, Texas — Texans are facing what may become the worst flooding event in the state’s history as Tropical Storm Harvey continues to dump record levels of rainfall on the central and upper Gulf Coast region. Houston emergency management officials have run out of boats and other rescue equipment used to respond to people trapped in their flooded homes. Houston 911 officials are adding additional staff to handle the overwhelming number of calls being received.

Weak pound pushes UK household spending growth to slowest since 2014

British household spending grew at its weakest pace since late 2014 in the three months to June as the effect of a weaker pound since last year’s Brexit vote weighed on Britons’ spending power, official statistics showed on Thursday. Year-on-year spending growth dropped to 2.0 percent from 2.6 percent after expanding just 0.1 percent in the second quarter, the Office for National Statistics said.

Shoppers queue to pay for their shopping in the Tesco Extra superstore on April 20, 2009 in New Malden, Surrey, England.

Overall growth in gross domestic product was unrevised from an earlier estimate at 0.3 percent on a quarterly basis and 1.7 percent annually, the ONS added – representing the weakest start to any year since 2012. “GDP growth has slowed markedly in the first half of the year,” ONS statistician Darren Morgan said. “Household spending grew weakly, with the lower-value pound hitting household budgets,” he added. Sterling has fallen by around 15 percent on a trade-weighted since June 2016’s vote to leave the European Union, pushing consumer price inflation to its highest in nearly four years in May, and added to its losses after the latest data. Thursday’s figures also showed that year-on-year business investment growth slowed to zero from 0.7 percent in the first quarter, while net trade dragged down the annual growth rate by 0.5 percent. Britain’s economy grew 1.8 percent last year, one of the fastest rates among the world’s seven largest advanced economies, capped by growth of 0.7 percent in the last three months of the year. But that growth relied heavily on robust consumer spending, which this year has come under increased pressure from rising inflation as stores push up prices in response to sterling’s sharp fall after the Brexit vote.

Tillerson: Trump ‘speaks for himself’

(CNN)Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that President Donald Trump “speaks for himself” when asked whether the President’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, raised questions about Trump’s values.

Tillerson said on “Fox News Sunday” that the United States was committed to freedom and “equal treatment of people the world over” when posed the question by anchor Chris Wallace. “I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values,” Tillerson said. “And the President’s values?” Wallace asked. “The President speaks for himself,” Tillerson said. Last week, a United Nations committee issued a warning to the United States about racism and hate crimes, saying US leaders had not sufficiently condemned white supremacy. Trump was widely criticized for his response to the racially motivated violence in Charlottesville, in which he said “both sides” — white supremacists and those protesting them — were responsible for the clashes that left one woman dead and dozens injured. Wallace mentioned the UN criticism in his question to Tillerson about Trump’s comments.
“Are you separating yourself from that, sir?” Wallace continued, referring to Trump’s statements and how that might affect others’ perceptions of US values.
“I made my own comments as to our values as well in a speech at the State Department last week,” Tillerson replied. “Racism is evil — it is antithetical to America’s values, it is antithetical to the American idea,” Tillerson said. In the past, Tillerson has come under fire for saying, as he did in May, that US foreign policy should sometimes separate values such as freedom, human dignity and “the way people are treated” from policies it pursues around the world.

Houston could receive record 50 inches of rain, NWS says

A ranch house is surrounded by floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey near Port Lavaca, Texas, August 26, 2017
Rick Wilking / Reuters A ranch house is surrounded by floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey near Port Lavaca, Texas, August 26, 2017

The National Weather Service now says some parts of Houston and just west of the city may receive a Texas record of 50 inches (1270 millimeters) of rain as Tropical Storm Harvey stalls over Texas. NWS meteorologist Patrick Burke says rainfall totals will end up around 40 inches (1016 millimeters) or more for Houston on average, but some isolated spots will hit or exceed 50 inches. Burkes says, “We’re in kind of unprecedented territory with this storm.” Local rainfall amounts of 50 inches would exceed any previous Texas rainfall record. The NWS says in a statement that “the breadth and intensity of this rainfall is beyond anything experienced before and is resulting in catastrophic flooding.” So far rainfall totals since Thursday evening have reached about 25 inches (635 millimeters) in south Houston. In Dayton, located 38 miles (61kilometers) northeast of Houston, rainfall has already reached 27 inches (685 millimeters).

Hurricane Harvey chased thousands of people to rooftops

 HOUSTON (AP) — Rising floodwaters from the remnants of Hurricane Harvey chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground Sunday in Houston, overwhelming rescuers who fielded countless desperate calls for help. A fleet of helicopters, airboats and high-water vehicles confronted flooding so widespread that authorities had trouble pinpointing the worst areas. Rescuers got too many calls to respond to each one and had to prioritize life-and-death situations.  The turbid water rose high enough to begin filling second floors — a highly unusual sight for a city built on nearly flat terrain. Authorities urged people to get on top of their homes to avoid becoming trapped in attics and to wave sheets or towels to draw attention to their location. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez used Twitter to field calls for assistance. Among those seeking help was a woman who posted: “I have 2 children with me and the water is swallowing us up.”

The mayor defended his decision not to ask residents to evacuate before the heavy rain from Harvey swamped roads and neighborhoods across the nation’s fourth-largest city. He said there was no way to know which neighborhoods would be most vulnerable. “If you think the situation right now is bad and you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare,” he said, citing the risks of sending the city’s 2.3 million inhabitants onto the highways at the same time. Rainfall of more than 4 inches per hour resulted in water levels higher than in any recent floods and higher than during Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001, said Jeff Linder of flood control district in Harris County, which includes Houston. The latest forecasts showed that 15 to 25 more inches (38 to 63 centimeters) was possible over the next several days, with some places getting as much as 50 inches (127 centimeters) total, the National Hurricane Center announced.  By midday, South Houston had received nearly 25 inches (63 centimeters) and the suburbs of Santa Fe and Dayton got 27 inches (69 centimeters).

Harvey’s threat to Texas oil: The latest

See the wrath of Hurricane Harvey

Tropical Storm Harvey battered southeastern Texas this weekend, forcing key oil and gas facilities on the U.S. Gulf Coast to shutter.

About a quarter of the oil produced in the Gulf of Mexico was shut down as of Saturday, according to the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. That amounts to nearly 430,000 barrels of oil per day. The bureau also estimated that about 26% of natural gas production in the Gulf has been shut in. Federal officials are expected to have an update around 2 p.m. ET Sunday. Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane late Friday, but was downgraded to a tropical storm by mid-Saturday. But it continued to dump huge amounts of rain on Houston and cause dangerous flooding that could get worse. The area is home to nearly one-third of the nation’s capacity to turn oil into gas, diesel and other products. Federal officials said Saturday that workers from 112 oil and gas production platforms had been evacuated. All told, 737 platforms in the Gulf are staffed with workers. Harvey forced about 900,000 barrels per day of the state’s refining capacity to shut down, mostly around Corpus Christi, according to S&P Global Platts. Exxon Mobil( on Sunday said it was in the process of shutting down its Baytown campus, one of the largest refining complexes in the U.S. The refinery can produce up to 584,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Houston flooded by tropical storm Harvey as five reported dead

Reuters A stranded motorist escapes floodwaters on Interstate 225 after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf coast with rain causing mass flooding, in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 27, 2017.

HOUSTON—Tropical storm Harvey flooded the nation’s fourth-largest city overnight, turning roads into rivers, inundating homes and forcing authorities to rescue hundreds of stranded people. Five fatalities have been reported in the Houston area, according to the National Weather Service, after bands of the storm repeatedly lashed the flood-prone city, spawning numerous tornadoes and pouring as much as 24 inches of rain in 24 hours onto areas that had already been soaked the previous day. Authorities warned that more fatalities were likely. Police and emergency officials responded to more than 1,000 rescue calls through the night, evacuating an apartment complex and neighborhoods across the city. By Sunday morning, officials warned that 911 services were at capacity and urged people to take whatever steps they could to find safety. The U.S. Coast Guard said its Houston sector had received more than 300 requests for urban search and rescue and was asking for additional HH-60 Jayhawk Helicopters from New Orleans and Air National Guard support to assist its current five MH-65 Dolphin Helicopters conducting

Trump threatens to scrap NAFTA in Sunday morning tweet

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto walks with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump after a meeting on Aug. 31, 2016, in Mexico City.

U.S. President Donald Trump renewed his threat to scrap NAFTA and ripped on trading partners Canada and Mexico in a tweet early on Sunday, days before the three countries were scheduled to hold a second round of negotiations on rewriting the 23-year-old agreement. “We are in the NAFTA (worst trade deal ever made) renegotiation process with Mexico & Canada. Both being very difficult, may have to terminate?” he wrote. Trump, a Republican, promised during his campaign to overhaul or eliminate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he cast as killing jobs and exacerbating the U.S. deficit, and to adopt a more protectionist stance for trade generally. The first five-day round of talks between the three countries concluded last Sunday, with all sides committing to follow an accelerated process in revamping the agreement, which was originally signed by former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat whose wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ran against Trump in the 2016 election. Going into the five-day round of negotiations starting Sept. 1 in Mexico, Trump has kept the heat turned up. Both Mexico and Canada have dismissed his musing in a Tuesday speech that “we’ll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point” as a negotiating tactic.

Report: Welfare Reform in Kansas Caused Individuals to Reenter Labor Force Earning Higher Incomes

Welfare reform implemented in Kansas caused individuals to reenter the labor force while earning higher incomes, according to a report from the Foundation for Government Accountability. Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback took office in 2011 and began to implement welfare reform after the previous governor, Kathleen Sebelius, had relaxed requirements for those on welfare to work or search for employment. From 2000 to 2011, the number of able-bodied adults on cash welfare was increasing by 42 percent in Kansas, while nationally the number on welfare had dropped by a third. Brownback first began reforming welfare by strengthening sanctions for those who received cash assistance by implementing a three-month ban on those who refused to meet work requirements. If an individual failed to meet the requirement for a second or third time, the ban was prolonged for six months to a year. “Since these reforms took effect, compliance with work requirements has climbed from historic lows,” the report states. “The percentage of able-bodied adults on the program who are employed has also risen. Meanwhile, the opposite trends were occurring both nationally and in the region with fewer able-bodied adults on welfare working.” The study found that those who left welfare saw their earnings increase by 104 percent in one year, which is $20 million more than they had while on welfare. In four years, these individuals saw their incomes increase by 247 percent. Individuals who left welfare are also better off because they found employment in more than 600 different industries and found long-term, high-paying jobs. “The results of this study speak for themselves: Working Kansans are earning more and are better off than they were when they were dependent on government benefits,” he said. “As policymakers consider the best path forward for helping millions of Americans regain their independence, the Kansas experience cannot be ignored.”

As Mexico’s drug cartels fracture, violence and travel warnings soar

 NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico — The internal fracturing of Mexico’s drug cartels has led to soaring violence here and across the country in the past year, prompting the U.S. State Department to issue travel warnings to 23 of 31 Mexican states, including four bordering Texas and two popular tourist destinations.The warnings, including Tuesday’s upgraded advisory for Quintana Roo and Baja California Sur, highlight the deteriorating security across Mexico under President Enrique Peña Nieto. He came into office five years ago vowing to change the country’s bloody narrative.

"It's a crisis of governance, violence and corruption, and Mexico has yet to find the key to solving this problem," says Eric Olson, an expert on Latin American security.(<p>Woodrow Wilson Center</p>)
“It’s a crisis of governance, violence and corruption, and Mexico has yet to find the key to solving this problem,” says Eric Olson, an expert on Latin American security.

“Clearly the successes of recent years are being undone,” said Eric Olson, a Latin American security expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center. “Mexico has struggled and largely failed to re-establish control in states where organized crime has its deepest roots and where local and state governments are essentially part of the criminal enterprise. It’s a crisis of governance, violence and corruption, and Mexico has yet to find the key to solving this problem.” More than 12,500 people were killed in the first six months of this year, an increase of about 30 percent over the same period in 2016. That puts Mexico on pace for what could be the deadliest year in its post-revolution history. States such as Chihuahua and Tamaulipas have consistently made the State Department’s list, but surprisingly, so have popular beach regions including Cabo San Lucas in Baja California Sur and Cancun in Quintana Roo.

Cancun, the top destination in Mexico for American tourists, particularly Texans, is listed in the latest U.S. State Department travel warning.(Alfredo Corchado/The Dallas Morning News)
Cancun, the top destination in Mexico for American tourists, particularly Texans, is listed in the latest U.S. State Department travel warning.

The warning Tuesday could be devastating to Mexico’s $20 billion-a-year tourism industry, which represents about 7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Quintana Roo alone accounts for an estimated one-third of all American tourists, many of them from North Texas. “U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery in various Mexican states,” the travel advisory states.

 

In Trump’s White House, it’s everyone for himself

CNN)Sebastian Gorka — among the most loyal of Trump’s staff to his Make America Great Again agenda — is out. At this point, it’s astonishing that anyone is still working at the White House. In a few more months, the President may even have to do his own cooking. Donald Trump has lost, among others, his chief strategist, his chief of staff and three directors of communications. Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, has chosen to publicly air his grievances towards Trump’s Charlottesville comments, in which the President equated neo-Nazi marchers with those who protested them — and yet stay in his job rather than resign. It’s an extraordinary test of the President’s patience and authority. So what is going on?

Cohn: The White House can and must do better
Cohn: The White House can and must do better
Cohn’s gambit is an insight into how the Trump White House works. As Politico implies, Trump governs with a kind of creative anarchy: He apparently likes to taunt people, play them off each other and keep them guessing. Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered his resignation over the Russia affair and Trump criticized him openly, yet he ultimately kept his job. Steve Bannon gave every impression of being certain he was not going anywhere — only to resign or be pushed out, depending on whom you believe. This makes Cohn’s tactic of signaling discontent without walking away more logical. Some say he’s just hanging on to get the job of chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Maybe. But let’s imagine, because it’s not hard, that this intelligent, Jewish member of the White House is genuinely angry at the President’s response to the Charlottesville march, that he realizes how complex it can be to resign, doesn’t want to abandon ship anyway because he honestly believes he can help right it, and so chooses to make his point — but stay.
Trump defends Charlottesville statement (full remarks)
Trump defends Charlottesville statement
“I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people,” Cohn told the Financial Times. If so, it’s an honorable decision. But it still leaves his position fundamentally untenable.
Trump has chosen to take a stand on the culture war.

Paul Ryan Throws in with Leftists to Attack President Trump’s Pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio

“The speaker does not agree with the decision,” Ryan spokesman Doug Andres told the Wall Street Journal. “Law-enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon.” Ryan’s move to throw in against the president’s decision comes along with several Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi among them, leveling similar criticisms. “Joe Arpaio ignored the courts of law in order to systematically target Latinos in AZ,” Schumer said in a statement, per Politico. “The definition of racism and bigotry.”

Pelosi bashed the president on Twitter.

This comes after Ryan similarly threw in with leftists to criticize President Trump’s response to Charlottesville, running to leftist media outlet CNN to say in a town hall that the president “messed up” during his press conference at Trump Tower in New York City earlier this month when he bashed the media and violent leftists as well as neo-Nazis and the KKK. Ryan’s decision to continue undermining the president in key moments of his presidency matches his behavior during the campaign. Ryan is not someone who has ever been supportive of the president. He actually, as Breitbart News reported earlier this year, encouraged fellow Republicans to abandon the president’s campaign against failed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton in October of last year in the home stretch.

‘Fix the Economy, Build the Wall, Defeat ISIS’: Dr. Sebastian Gorka Teases Future Venture to ‘Maintain MAGA’

Speaking to host Matthew Boyle, Gorka explained his exit from the White House, echoing the disappointments relayed in his resignation letter, released in part to the public on Friday. “The President of the United States ran a campaign on a very simple platform,” he explained. “It was like Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan said we are going to rebuild the economy, we’re going to defeat the Soviet Union, and we’re going to make Americans proud to be Americans again.” “Fix the economy, build the wall, and defeat ISIS: that’s what MAGA is,” he asserted. Abstaining from delving into what he described as “palace intrigue stuff,” Gorka explained that the reason behind his departure from the White House was concern for the fact that “Unfortunately …  the forces of MAGA … I think have been systematically undermined, many of them fired.” President Trump’s speech announcing further intervention in Afghanistan without providing a clearly defined victory or estimated timeline to exit the battle theater especially alarmed Gorka. “That speech was written by people for the president in direct contravention of everything that we voted for November 8,” he asserted. “It is not clear why we are in Afghanistan, it doesn’t explain why were are going to continue potentially spending American lives and American money in that nation. Most importantly, it did not mention once the phrase ‘radical Islam’ or ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’”“We can be far more effective for the president on the outside and it is a very exciting thing for me and my family supporting the MAGA message as private citizens,” Gorka added.

Continue reading “‘Fix the Economy, Build the Wall, Defeat ISIS’: Dr. Sebastian Gorka Teases Future Venture to ‘Maintain MAGA’”

Harvey: Fears grow over severe flooding risk

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has warned that severe flooding is his main worry as the rains from Tropical Storm Harvey continue to lash the state.

Mr Abbott said the cities of Houston and Corpus Christi had already received as much as 20in (50cm) of rain.

He said another 40in of rain could be due before the storm subsides midweek.

Rescue efforts are being hampered by strong winds and thousands are without power. Two deaths have been confirmed, in the Rockport area and Houston.

  • In Aransas County, where Rockport is the chief town, a person died in a house fire on Friday night
  • A woman died in Houston as she drove through flooded streets on Saturday

Houston, the fourth biggest city in the US, could see 2in-3in (5cm-7.5cm) of a rain an hour on Saturday night, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

About 4,500 inmates from prisons south of Houston are being evacuated to other prisons in east Texas because the Brazos River nearby is rising significantly, officials say.

With Arpaio pardon, Trump shows he wants to be the imperial president

(CNN)President Donald Trump loves the imperial presidency. His explosive pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio was meant to send a signal to the base about immigration policy but also to demonstrate that he is willing to flex his presidential muscle however he sees fit. He will pardon people, he will use executive powers — like the transgender ban in the military — and he will make decisions about foreign policy on his own. The man who inhabits the Oval Office is a person who sees no restraints on his power and who does not believe any other branch of government can get in his way. This is why he has spent the last few weeks going after the Republican Congress.

Mitch McConnell should have seen this coming

Mitch McConnell should have seen this coming
He has lashed out against Republicans who have been critical of him, like Senator Jeff Flake and Senator Dean Heller, while in Phoenix he announced that he was ready to go to the mat and send the nation into default if Republicans in Congress don’t give him the money that he needs to build a wall.
On Thursday, he unleashed another tweetstorm attacking the GOP. According to the Washington Post, the administration sees this as a winning strategy. If Republicans do poorly in the 2018 midterms, he can blame them. “The Trump brand and the Republican brand are two different things,” explained Roger Stone. Senator McConnell, who according to the New York Times, privately doubts if Trump can salvage his presidency after this disastrous summer, seems to be preparing for battle. Nick Bit: The reason Trump is taking such a dangerous tack is really pretty simple if you look at the Trump presidency as a criminal organization. Like every criminal conspiracy the king pin has got to keep his people quiet when under Federal investigation. The technique most criminal cartels use is the threat of death. And between Putin and Trump over 10 people involved in the Clinton wiki Leaks are dead. But Trump has another tool. My fellow criminals they can’t touch you because I have the power to pardon you. And i will look at Sheriff Joe! John Gotti would have never been convicted if he had such power. Think about it!

Trump Signs Executive Order Slapping Venezuela With Financial Sanctions

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro / Getty

President Donald Trump on Friday signed an executive order to impose new financial sanctions on the Venezuelan government, which his administration considers a “dictatorship.” The new sanctions stop short of a full oil embargo but nevertheless constitute a tough measure that will put further pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the Washington Postreports. The White House issued a statement targeting Maduro’s creation of a “constituent assembly” to replace the National Assembly and rewrite the Venezuelan constitution. “The Maduro dictatorship continues to deprive the Venezuelan people of food and medicine, imprison the democratically-elected opposition, and violently suppress freedom of speech,” the statement said. “The regime’s decision to create an illegitimate Constituent Assembly—and most recently to have that body usurp the powers of the democratically-elected National Assembly—represents a fundamental break in Venezuela’s legitimate constitutional order.” “We will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles,” the White House said. It outlined a prohibition on dealings with new stocks and bonds issued by the Venezuelan government or its state-owned oil company and Citgo parent, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSO). “This has been a catastrophe for the country,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in Friday’s White House press briefing. Mnuchin called Venezuela’s situation “unacceptable” and said that the Trump administration is interested in restoring democracy in the country, not regime change per se.

Continue reading “Trump Signs Executive Order Slapping Venezuela With Financial Sanctions”

The Latest: McCain critical of president’s pardon of Arpai

PHOENIX (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump pardoning former Phoenix metro sheriff Joe Arpaio (all times local): U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona is voicing his displeasure at President Donald Trump’s pardon of the former Phoenix metro area sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of a misdemeanor contempt-of-court charge for defying a judge’s orders that he stop conducting immigration patrols.Arapio was facing the prospect of jail time at his sentencing in October. McCain says in a statement that “no one is above the law” and “sworn law officers should always seek to be beyond reproach in their commitment to fairly enforcing the laws they swore to uphold.” By pardoning Arpaio, McCain says it undermines Trump’s claim for the respect of rule of law. He also says Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.

Trump Attacks Corker for Saying the President Hasn’t Been Able to Demonstrate ‘Competence’

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker / Getty Images

President Donald Trump called out Republican Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) on Twitter on Friday after Corker criticized him during a Rotary Club meeting last week in Chattanooga, Tenn. Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told local reporters and Rotary Club attendees last Thursday that there needs to be some “radical changes” in the White House for Trump to succeed, News Channel 9 reported. “I think our president needs to take stock of the role that he plays in our nation and move beyond himself, move way beyond himself and move to a place where daily he’s waking up thinking what is best for our nation,” Corker said. “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,” Corker said. “Our nation needs for him to be successful, it doesn’t matter whether you’re Republican or Democrat we need for our president, the world needs our president to be successful.” Trump tweeted Friday that it was a “strange statement by Bob Corker considering that he is constantly asking me whether or not he should run again in ’18.”

“Tennessee not happy!” the president added.

Trump’s message was the latest in a string of Twitter attacks against Republican lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.).

Trump says criticism of him by Republican Senator Corker ‘strange’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump took Republican Senator Bob Corker to task on Twitter on Friday, apparently responding to the Foreign Relations Committee chair’s comment that Trump did not understand the nation’s character and had not demonstrated competence. “Strange statement by Bob Corker considering that he is constantly asking me whether or not he should run again in ’18. Tennessee not happy!” Trump wrote of the Tennessee senator. Responding to Trump’s comments about violence at a neo-Nazi and white supremacist protest earlier this month, Corker recently said, “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

Trump is what Republicans ‘are not,’ says ex-senator | Cohn says Congress needs to flesh out tax relief ‘skeleton’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, drafted a letter of resignation over the administration’s weak response to recent clashes between neo-Nazis and anti-racism protesters, but decided to stay on the job, the New York Times reported on Friday. Cohn spoke publicly about the controversy for the first time in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, saying the administration needed to clearly reject hate groups. He said there was no equivalence between white supremacists or neo-Nazis and those who protest inequality. “I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities,” the former Goldman Sachs president told the newspaper. Cohn’s criticism came nearly two weeks after white supremacist and neo-Nazi activists clashed with anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, over a plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general in the U.S. Civil War. A man thought to have neo-Nazi sympathies drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman and injuring more than a dozen others. Following the clashes, Trump said there had been violence on “both sides,” remarks that spurred condemnation by both Republican and Democratic politicians. Cohn went so far as to draft a resignation letter, the New York Times reported, citing two people familiar with the document. “As a Jewish American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job,” he said, referring to chants by neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. “I feel deep empathy for all who have been targeted by these hate groups. We must all unite together against them.”

Mueller Seeks Grand Jury Testimony from PR Execs Who Worked With Manafort

WASHINGTON — Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued grand jury subpoenas in recent days seeking testimony from public relations executives who worked on an international campaign organized by Paul Manafort, people directly familiar with the matter told NBC News. This is the first public indication that Mueller’s investigation is beginning to compel witness testimony before the grand jury — a significant milestone in an inquiry that is examining the conduct of President Donald Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, among others.

 

Image: Paul Manafort, senior advisor to Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, exits following a meeting of Donald Trump's national finance team in New York
Paul Manafort after a meeting of Donald Trump’s national finance team at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York on June 9, 2016. Brendan McDermid / Reuters file

It is also further indication that Manafort, Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, could be in serious legal jeopardy. According to one executive whose firm received a subpoena, Mueller’s team is closely examining the lobbying campaign, which ran between 2012 and 2014. Some of the firms involved in the campaign received subpoenas for documents weeks ago, the executive said, and now the Mueller team is seeking testimony. “We think they are trying to figure out, was this a legitimate project?” the executive said. “From our perspective it was — we did a lot of work. We took it seriously.”

Related: Manafort, Flynn Are Key Figures in Mueller’s Russia Probe

FBI raids Manafort home: What’s next in Russia probe?

Manafort, whose Alexandria, Virginia, apartment was raided by FBI agents last month, has emerged as a key figure in the Mueller probe. The inquiry into the lobbying campaign appears to be part of a larger investigation into his work for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, his offshore banking transactions, his tax compliance and his real estate dealings, people familiar with the probe have told NBC News. Manafort also was present at a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lobbyist and a Russian lawyer, along with Donald Trump Jr. and Kushner. NBC News has previously reported that Kushner is under scrutiny by investigators, and that Mueller is examining whether President Trump obstructed justice. The executive said six firms participated in the public relations effort that Manafort coordinated, paid for by a Brussels-based non-profit called the European Center for a Modern Ukraine. The stated goal was to build support for Ukraine’s entry into the European Union.

Continue reading “Mueller Seeks Grand Jury Testimony from PR Execs Who Worked With Manafort”

Special Counsel Examines Possible Role Flynn Played in Seeking Clinton Emails From Hackers

Mueller probe of potential link between Trump campaign and Russia follows trail of GOP operative’s correspondence

Former national security adviser Mike Flynn is seen in February at the White House.
Former national security adviser Mike Flynn is seen in February at the White House. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Shutterstock
WASHINGTON—Special counsel Robert Mueller is examining what role, if any, former national security adviser Mike Flynn may have played in a private effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers, according to people familiar with the matter. The effort to seek out hackers who were believed to have stolen Mrs. Clinton’s emails, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, was led by a longtime Republican activist, Peter W. Smith who diesd under mysterious circumstance.
In correspondence and conversations with his colleagues,the late  Mr. Smith portrayed Mr. Flynn as an ally in those efforts and implied that other senior Trump campaign officials were coordinating with him, which they have denied. He also named Mr. Flynn’s consulting firm and his son in the correspondence and conversations right beofre his murder.
The special counsel is investigating potential coordination between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia in the 2016 election. Mr. Smith believed that some 33,000 emails that Mrs. Clinton said were personal and had been deleted had been obtained by hackers. Last year, in the final months of the presidential campaign, he made contact with what he said were five groups of hackers, two of which he believed were comprised of Russians, who claimed to have obtained the emails.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, left a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 21, 2017.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, left a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 21, 2017. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press
 

“We knew the people who had these were probably around the Russian government,”

The late  Mr. Smith told the Journal in an interview in May. Mr. Smith suspected the emails could reveal embarrassing details about Mrs. Clinton’s involvement in the response to the Benghazi terrorist attacks, as well as her work with the Clinton Foundation, and wanted to release them publicly to harm Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy.

Investigators working for Mr. Mueller have been conducting interviews and collecting information as they seek to determine whether Mr. Flynn was involved in Mr. Smith’s effort, and if his son, Michael G. Flynn, and the consulting firm Flynn Intel Group had a role, the people said. At the time Mr. Smith was trying to find the emails, Mr. Flynn was a senior adviser to the Trump campaign and had been on a short list of potential vice presidential candidates. In a typed unsigned note found near Mr. Smith’s body, he apologized and said that “no foul play whatsoever” had occurred with his death, according to local authorities. Something very suspicious and unusual  in a suicide. People who new Mr. Smith said he would never kill himself. Nick Bit: Watch as the Trump death toll rises

Gary Cohn speaks out: Trump ‘must do better’ in condemning neo-Nazis and white supremacists after Charlottesville

Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, has criticized the White House’s response to Charlottesville, Virginia, in his first public remarks about the deadly violence earlier this month. “This administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities,” Cohn told the Financial Times. Cohn said he felt compelled “to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks.” Cohn, who is Jewish, was reportedly “disgusted” and “appalled” with Trump’s response to white nationalists’ role in the violence in Charlottesville. The president blamed “both sides” for the violence, which left one counterprotester dead. “Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK,” Cohn told the FT. After Trump’s remarks, Cohn said, he felt “enormous pressure” both to resign and to stay in the administration. But he told the FT he was “reluctant” to leave based on a “commitment” to

Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, who also is Jewish, also faced pressure to resign following the president’s remarks.

Nearly 400 of Mnuchin’s Yale University classmates signed a letter strongly urging him to resign. Mnuchin, however, put out a statement actively defending his boss. “While I find it hard to believe I should have to defend myself on this, or the president, I feel compelled to let you know that the president in no way, shape or form, believes that neo-Nazi and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful ways,” Mnuchin wrote.

Both Cohn and Mnuchin worked at Goldman Sachs, and they are now charged with leading the Trump administration’s efforts to overhaul the tax system. Cohn is also believed to be Trump’s preferred pick to lead the Federal Reserve after Janet Yellen’s term expires in February.

Elon Musk’s Neuralink Gets $27 Million to Build Brain Computers

  • San Francisco-based company hiring engineers and scientists
  • Brain-machine interface hopes to connect humans with computers

Neuralink Corp., the startup co-founded by billionaire Elon Musk, has taken steps to sell as much as $100 million in stock to fund the development of technology that connects human brains with computers. The San Francisco-based company has already gotten $27 million in funding, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Musk said via Twitter on Friday that Neuralink isn’t seeking outside investors.  In June, Musk said Neuralink is a priority after much more demanding commitments to his automotive and rocket companies. “Boring Co. is maybe 2 percent of my time; Neuralink is 3 percent to 5 percent of my time; OpenAI is going to be a couple of percent; and then 90-plus percent is divided between SpaceX and Tesla,” said Musk at the electric-car maker’s annual shareholder meeting. Few details are known about Neuralink. The company’s sparse website says it’s “developing ultra-high bandwith brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers.” It’s also recruiting engineers and scientists to join the effort. “No neuroscience experience is required: talent and drive matter far more,” the company says on the site. “We expect most of our team to come from other areas and industries.”

Mnuchin viewed the solar eclipse atop $200 billion of Fort Knox gold – you paid for the trip

Mnuchin’s Kentucky visit with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was already under fire for actions of wife Louise Linton

Reuters U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin

 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin flew to Kentucky with his wife and viewed the solar eclipse atop $200 billion of gold at the Fort Knox U.S. Bullion Depository Kentucky, it was revealed Thursday. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington was seeking records for the trip after Mnuchin’s wife, Scottish actress Louise Linton, posted an Instagram glamour shot of herself disembarking a military jet Monday.

“Great #daytrip to #Kentucky!” Linton wrote in the caption, adding the designer names of her clothing, scarf, and sunglasses.

The photo sparked controversy when Linton went on a snobby rant against a commenter who criticized the post for what she saw as a leisure trip on the taxpayers’ dime. Mnuchin had been in Kentucky to visit Fort Knox with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The GOP senator posted an image of himself on Facebook holding eclipse glasses while standing next to Mnuchin in front of the gold depository.

“We viewed the #solareclipse from the rooftop today,” McConnell’s caption said.

Nick Bit: It sounds like some occult ritual. Watching a eclipse on the worlds biggest pile of pure gold. I guess they could not find any virgins to sacrifice like in the god ole days. By the way now that he got caught  a Treasury representative, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Mnuchin “is reimbursing the government for Mrs. Linton’s travel, as is long-standing policy regarding civilians on military aircraft.” The representative declined to say who approved the use of a government plane. A McConnell aide said the senator was not on the plane. I want to know if pagan ceremonies are port of the head of treasury portfolio. i know he needs a miracle!

 

More seniors are taking loans against their homes — and it’s costing them

Virginia Rayford, 92, hoped a reverse mortgage would help her stay in her house. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post) As she was getting on in years and her resources dwindled, Virginia Rayford took out a special kind of mortgage in 2008 that she hoped would help her stay in her three-bedroom Washington rowhouse for the rest of her life. Rayford, 92, took advantage of a federally insured loan called a reverse mortgage that allows cash-strapped seniors to borrow against the equity in their houses that has built up over decades. But the risks of the financial arrangement are stark — and today the frail widow finds herself facing foreclosure.
The loan servicer, Nationstar Mortgage, says Rayford owes $6,004 in unpaid taxes and insurance. If she cannot come up with it, she stands to lose her home in Washington’s Petworth neighborhood.“I’ve cried a million nights wondering about where I am going to be,’’ Rayford said.

Across the nation, an increasing number of seniors are facing foreclosure after taking out reverse mortgages, either because they fell behind on property charges or failed to meet other requirements of the complex mortgage loans, according to federal data and interviews with consumer and housing specialists.

NICK BIT: Talking about asking to get screwed. You want money from your home then SELL IT!   i don’t care how many commercials you see from sold out movie stars this shit don’t work. The fine print n the contact will kill you. In fact sell ALL real estate and rent. Unless its you survival center.. PAID FOR!

Continue reading “More seniors are taking loans against their homes — and it’s costing them”

LA’s response to homeless encampments ‘isn’t working,’ councilman says

Residents and business owners have taken to social media, and in some cases, submitted petitions and organized protests to demand that city leaders enforce existing city policies that are aimed at removing illegally erected encampments, and hauling away large vehicles that are improperly parked on city streets. (AP File Photo/Richard Vogel)
Residents and business owners have taken to social media, and in some cases, submitted petitions and organized protests to demand that city leaders enforce existing city policies that are aimed at removing illegally erected encampments, and hauling away large vehicles that are improperly parked on city streets. (AP File Photo/Richard Vogel)
Saying he wants to treat the issue of homelessness as a crisis, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander on Wednesday responded with four motions that will take a “comprehensive look at current rules and methods” for addressing homelessness in L.A.  (File photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News-SCNG)
Saying he wants to treat the issue of homelessness as a crisis, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander on Wednesday responded with four motions that will take a “comprehensive look at current rules and methods” for addressing homelessness in L.A. (File photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News-SCNG)

Amid rising homelessness and mounting outcry from residents and business owners, a Los Angeles city councilman said Wednesday he wants to take a hard look at the way the city responds to the increasing presence of encampments and recreational vehicles. “What we have isn’t working,” Councilman Mitchell Englander said. In recent months, the issue of homelessness has become inescapable, with residents encountering more homelessness in their neighborhoods, according to the councilman, who represents the northwest San Fernando Valley. Nick Bit: Tell me about a real estate boom. tell me about full employment. Tell me about a growing economy. An I’ll tell you about politician spin and BULLSIT!! Open your eyes Americans are becoming poorer and poorer with each passing day. And it ain’t to accident!

 

Report: Gorka Resigns from Trump White House

Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to President Donald Trump / YouTube

 

Deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka offered his resignation on Friday, expressing dissatisfaction with the current direction of the Trump administration. In a letter obtained by The Federalist, Gorka wrote “forces that do not support the [Make America Great Again] promise  are – for now – ascendant within the White House,” and as a result, he could best serve President Donald Trump outside the White House:

“Regrettably, outside of yourself, the individuals who most embodied and represented the policies that will ‘Make America Great Again,’ have been internally countered, systematically removed, or undermined in recent months. This was made patently obvious as I read the text of your speech on Afghanistan this week…

“The fact that those who drafted and approved the speech removed any mention of Radical Islam or radical Islamic terrorism proves that a crucial element of your presidential campaign has been lost…

“Just as worrying, when discussing our future actions in the region, the speech listed operational objectives without ever defining the strategic victory conditions we are fighting for. This omission should seriously disturb any national security professional, and any American who is unsatisfied with the last 16 years of disastrous policy decisions which have led to thousands of Americans killed and trillions of taxpayer dollars spent in ways that have not brought security or victory.”

Before joining the White House, Gorka was a contributor to Breitbart News. He made numerous, sometimes combative, appearances on behalf of the administration on cable news. It marks the fourth Friday since July that’s seen the departure of a major Trump administration official; chief strategist Steve Bannon was fired Aug. 18, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus left July 28, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned July 21.

Yellen to Trump: don’t expect a flip-flop on financial reforms

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. (Reuters) – Janet Yellen delivered a message to President Donald Trump on Friday, making it clear that if he re-nominates her as Federal Reserve chair she will not turn her back on the raft of U.S. financial reforms that Republicans want to roll back. Her speech to the world’s top central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, comes at a time when the chaos at the White House may make it more likely that she would be appointed to serve another four years to head the U.S. central bank. Yellen, whose term ends in February, warned that “for some” memories of the 2007-2009 financial crisis may be fading, and she said that only “modest” adjustments could be made to regulations meant to protect the economy from runs on banks and other financial panics. President Trump and congressional Republicans say many of the Obama-era rules go too far in choking off credit and burdening firms with unnecessary compliance. “Yellen’s passionate defense of the post-crisis tightening of financial regulation isn’t going to go down particularly well at the White House,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, in Toronto. Yet with Trump’s regulatory, tax and infrastructure policy plans so far delayed, and the White House struggling to fill several key posts, Yellen, a Democrat, may represent the President’s best shot at ensuring stability at an institution critical to running the economy smoothly. While Trump may disagree with Yellen’s big-government stance on regulatory policy, he is more aligned with her track record of keeping rates low to get Americans back to work. In addition, she said she was open to some of the key changes that the administration, and its nominee as Fed vice chair for regulation, Randal Quarles, want to pursue.

The truth about Trump’s tax cuts

(CNN)Give the Republicans their due: They are persistent. Since Ronald Reagan became president in January 1981, the Republican Party has focused relentlessly on tax cuts. And Donald Trump is no exception — he told the crowd at his Phoenix rally Tuesday, “We’re giving you the biggest tax cut in the history of our country.”The truth is: Republican tax cuts go largely to the rich, and the new Republican proposals this fall will be typical in this regard.

When asked how to pay for such tax cuts, the Republican answer is unswerving. First, the tax cuts will pay for themselves through higher growth. Second, if they don’t, then cut social spending. And third, if neither growth nor spending cuts save the day, higher budget deficits will be acceptable.
Such claims have been proved wrong time and again: Tax cuts don’t pay for themselves; the public justifiably resists cuts in social services; and the high deficits that result weaken the country and put a burden on the young, who will eventually service the public debt. Both Reagan’s tax cuts in 1981 and George W. Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 failed to pay for themselves and led to many long years of fiscal austerity to get large budget deficits under control.

The wrong time

The Republicans are at it again, pushing for another round of personal and corporate tax cuts at a hugely inopportune time. Once again, the Republicans in Congress claim that tax cuts will raise growth, boost wages, help the poor, unleash productivity and ultimately pay for themselves. Yet this time around the starting point for tax cuts is far worse than in 1981 or 2001.
First, there is no “business cycle” or “stimulus” argument for another round of tax cuts since the unemployment rate is already cyclically low, at around 4.3%.
Second, the current budget trajectory is already one of large and growing deficits, projected by the Congressional Budget Office to average around 4% of gross domestic product during the coming decade. There are simply no more federal revenues to lose.
Paul Ryan is walking a political tightrope on Trump
Paul Ryan is walking a political tightrope on Trump
Third, the rich are already doing very well and don’t need any extra fiscal advantages, while the poor and working class are struggling and depend more than ever on the health care, social services and public investments financed by federal revenues. When candidate Trump’s tax-cut plans were scrutinized, the super-rich were found to be the huge beneficiaries.

Continue reading “The truth about Trump’s tax cuts”

Report: Trump Likely to End Obama’s DACA Program for Children of Illegal Immigrants

Barack Obama’s controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allowed children who came to the U.S. illegally to stay, but the program might come to an end as soon as the Trump administration considers its choices. President Donald Trump is likely to end the program or let it expire in over the course of two years, according to government officials who spoke to NBC News. They said it is unclear which option he will choose but that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has long opposed DACA, and Thursday he discussed the program with White House officials. DACA allows those who were brought to the U.S. at the age of 16 or younger by 2007, or overstayed their visas in the same timeframe, to have deferred status to live in the U.S. rather than return to their home country. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the program “continues to be under review,” even though Trump made a campaign promise to revoke it. Opponents of DACA have said the program is overly broad and constitutes a legally dubious rewriting of existing law.

Trump pardons former Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump has pardoned controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio of his conviction for criminal contempt, the White House said Friday night. Arpaio, who was a sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona, was found guilty of criminal contempt last month for disregarding a court order in a racial profiling case. Arpaio’s sentencing had been scheduled for October 5. “Not only did (Arpaio) abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” wrote US District Judge Susan Bolton in the July 31 order. Trump indicated he would pardon Arpaio at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday: “I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy.” “I’ll make a prediction,” Trump said, adding, “I think he’s going to be just fine.” However, civil rights groups have pushed back against the possibility of Arpaio’s pardon. After Trump’s comments at the Phoenix rally, the ACLU tweeted: “President Trump should not pardon Joe Arpaio. #PhoenixRally #noarpaiopardon,” accompanied with a graphic that reads, “No, President Trump. Arpaio was not ‘just doing his job.’ He was violating the Constitution and discriminating against Latinos.”

Arpaio, who has called himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” was an early Trump supporter, but his stance on illegal immigration was what had earned him national recognition.

Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather Fight Unsafe for Notorious, Doctors Say

Floyd Mayweather Jr., izquierda, y Conor McGregor posan para fotógrafos durante una conferencia de prensa el miércoles, 23 de agosto del 2017, en Las Vegas. (AP Foto/John Locher)

As the anticipation builds for Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Saturday, the Association of Ringside Physicians believes McGregor is putting himself in serious physical danger by even stepping into the ring with the undefeated boxing superstar. Per Joe DePaolo of the New York Times, the president of the ARP, Larry Lovelace, was stunned to see the McGregor-Mayweather fight was even sanctioned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.  “We were very surprised this bout was even sanctioned and was going to be permitted to carry on,” Lovelace said. “The thing I really fear, truly fear, is that somebody’s going to get really hurt in this upcoming fight.”

George Soros Floods Local DA Races With $1.7M in Philadelphia

Liberal billionaire George Soros gave nearly $1.7 million to a political action committee run by his longtime treasurer to aid a Democrat who is running for the district attorney position in Philadelphia, Pa., the latest in a series of such expenditures. Soros cut a $1,450,000 check on April 28 to the Philadelphia Justice & Public Safety PAC, a super political action committee established on May 5 that lists its address at the D.C. office of the Perkins Coie law firm. The PAC’s purpose is to back progressive attorney Larry Krasner, the Democratic nominee for district attorney in Philadelphia. Soros made a second donation to the Philadelphia Justice & Public Safety PAC on May 23 for $214,000, bringing the total amount that he has pushed into the Philadelphia district attorney race to nearly $1.7 million dollars. This is the first time a super PAC has supported a candidate for district attorney in the city. “He [Soros] blows into town—he dumps millions of dollars into this. There are volunteers—I don’t know whether he pays them or where they come from—who come in and try to get people to the polls and pass out literature, and then they leave town. It’s really disturbing—we have one of the finest public defenders offices in the country, we don’t need two.” Soros has flooded district attorney races in a number of states with funds. The deep-pocketed liberal donor has pushed millions into district attorney races in Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico. Soros single-handedly funded a super PAC in Ohio last year that supported Democratic prosecutors in the state. The committee refunded Soros the remaining money after the election and then shut down.

N. Korea fires three ballistic missiles into East Sea

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea fired three ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast on Monday, the South Korean and U.S. militaries said, as the leaders of the Group of 20 major economies held a summit in China, the North’s main diplomatic ally. The missiles were fired from a region south of the capital Pyongyang just after noon (10.00 p.m. ET) and flew about 1,000 km (600 miles), hitting Japan’s air defense identification zone, South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. “We are still analyzing details but this is a grave threat to our nation’s security, and we express deep concern,” the Japan Defence Ministry said in a statement. The launches drew immediate condemnation from the United States, which described them as “reckless,” and diplomats said the U.N. Security Council will discuss them behind closed doors on Tuesday at Washington’s and Tokyo’s requests. The missile launches were the latest in a series by the isolated North this year in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, supported by China, that ban all ballistic missile-related activities by the North. Pyongyang rejects the ban as infringing its sovereign right to pursue a space program and self defense.

South Korean court sentences Samsung heir to 5 years prison
 SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean court sentenced the billionaire chief of Samsung to five years in prison for bribery and other crimes in a stunning downfall for the heir to South Korea’s biggest family fortune and a global consumer electronics empire. The Seoul Central District Court said Friday that Lee Jae-yong, 49, was guilty of offering bribes to Park Geun-hye when she was South Korea’s president, and to Park’s close friend, to get government support for efforts to cement his control over the Samsung empire. The revelations that led to Lee’s arrest in February fed public outrage which contributed to Park’s removal as president. Lee was accused of offering $38 million in bribes to four entities controlled by Choi Soon-sil, a long-time friend of Park, in exchange for government help with a merger that strengthened Lee’s control over Samsung after his father suffered a heart attack in 2014. The closely-watched verdict is the latest convulsion in a political scandal that prompted millions of South Koreans to protest last fall, culminating in the ouster and arrest of Park as well as the arrests of Choi and Lee. Park, who was embroiled in a tumultuous series of scandals, was removed from office in March. She and Choi are both currently on trial.

 

Samsung secretively provided a huge amount of money to Choi’s Germany-based company that paid for the training and the exorbitantly priced foreign horses worth 3.6 billion won ($3.2 million) were part of the bribes, the verdict said.  The verdict also dealt a blow to Samsung’s publicly stated position that recent business dealings or restructuring efforts have nothing to do with the succession of corporate leadership to Lee from his father. Instead, Samsung has insisted that a merger of two Samsung companies at the center of the scandal was about creating business benefits. Judges rejected Samsung’s argument.

Texas prepares as Harvey strengthens to Category 2 storm

HOUSTON (AP) — Harvey continued to intensify as it steered for the Texas coast, with the forecasters saying early Friday that it had strengthened to a Category 2 storm. The hurricane with the potential for up to 3 feet of rain, 125 mph winds and 12-foot storm surges could be the fiercest such storm to hit the United States in almost a dozen years. Forecasters labeled Harvey a “life-threatening storm” that posed a “grave risk” as millions of people braced for a prolonged battering that could swamp dozens of counties more than 100 miles inland.Landfall was predicted for late Friday or early Saturday between Port O’Connor and Matagorda Bay, a 30-mile (48-kilometer) stretch of coastline about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of Corpus Christi. And once it comes ashore, the storm is expected to stall, dumping copious amounts of rain for days in areas like flood-prone Houston, the nation’s fourth most-populous city, and San Antonio. Harvey would be the first significant hurricane to hit Texas since Ike in September 2008 brought winds of 110 mph (177 kph) to the Galveston and Houston areas and inflicted $22 billion in damage. It would be the first big storm along the middle Texas coast since Hurricane Claudette in 2003 caused $180 million in damage. Houston is one of the nation’s most flood-prone cities.

‘Self-driving’ lorries to be tested on UK roads

Small convoys of partially driverless lorries will be tried out on major British roads by the end of next year, the government has announced. A contract has been awarded to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to carry out the tests of vehicle “platoons”. Up to three lorries will travel in formation, with acceleration and braking controlled by the lead vehicle. The TRL will begin trials of the technology on test tracks, but these trials are expected to move to major roads by the end of 2018. The lead vehicle in the platoons will be controlled by a human driver and humans will also control the steering in lorries to the rear – though acceleration and braking will be mirrored. A Department of Transport spokesman told the BBC that the experiments are now expected to go ahead as the contract had been awarded. The TRL has announced its partners for the project. Transport Minister Paul Maynard said platooning could lead to cheaper fuel bills, lower emissions and less congestion. “But first we must make sure the technology is safe and works well on our roads, and that’s why we are investing in these trials,” he said.

A third of luxe real estate deals involve ‘suspicious activity’

Condo buildings line the beach in Sunny Isle, Florida.
Getty Images Condo buildings line the beach in Sunny Isle, Florida.

The Treasury Department said that 30 percent of high-end real-estate deals that were subject under a new watchdog program involved “suspicious activity” and potential money-laundering.
Treasury this week expanded and extended a program targeting luxury real estate deals in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and other big markets to prevent the use of real estate for money-laundering by overseas buyers. The program was designed to prevent buyers from using shell company’s or LLC’s to hide the identities of the real buyers. Many expected the program to be killed under the Trump administration, given President Donald Trump’s ties to the real estate business. Yet the program was extended in February and is now being expanded to close loopholes. It also added the city and county of Honolulu. The way the program works is that title insurance companies are required to determine the true owners of LLC’s or shell companies doing all-cash deals to buy real estate above a certain price in New York City, Miami, Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, San Diego, San Francisco, San Diego and the Bay Area, as well as Bexar county in Texas. Treasury then determines whether those beneficial owners are on its lists of suspicious activity — or people who have been flagged for potential money laundering, corruption or other financial crimes. The rules cover properties purchased for more than $3 million in Manhattan, properties over $1 million in the southern Florida locations and $2 million in the California locations and Hawaii. “Through this advisory and other outreach to the private sector, FinCEN, industry, and law enforcement will be better positioned to protect the real estate markets from serving as a vehicle to launder illicit proceeds,” said FinCEN Acting Director Jamal El-Hindi.

White House still won’t rule out Mexico paying for border wall, even after Trump shutdown threat

A view of the US-Mexican border fence at Playas de Tijuana on January 27, 2017 in Tijuana, Mexico.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images News | Getty Images A view of the US-Mexican border fence at Playas de Tijuan

The White House still won’t rule out Mexico paying for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, even as the president threatens to shut down the government over federal funding for the project. On Tuesday, Trump said, “If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.” Democrats are insisting that funding for the controversial barrier is not included in a bill to keep the government running past the Sept. 30 deadline. During a briefing Thursday, reporters repeatedly pushed press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about why Trump would threaten a shutdown after he promised as a candidate that Mexico would fund the wall. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has insisted that Mexico will not pay for the project, and Trump himself appeared resigned to that during a private call with his counterpart. Asked multiple questions about the pledge to make Mexico pay, Sanders first responded that Trump would make sure the wall gets completed and that he would fight for the funding. “The president’s committed to making sure this gets done,” she said, without addressing how the United States’ southern neighbor would fit in. Pressed again about the project, she said, “I certainly don’t think any efforts have been abandoned” to force Mexico to pay for the barrier. Later, when a reporter noted that Trump has stopped saying Mexico would fund the wall, Sanders responded: “He hasn’t said they’re not, either.” There is currently no indication that funding for the wall would come from anywhere other than the U.S. government. As a candidate, the president pledged to build a physical barrier along the entire U.S.-Mexico border as part of his push to crack down on illegal immigration. Lawmakers whose districts sit along the border, including Republicans, have questioned the effectiveness of a physical wall.

Amazon price cuts sink rivals’ shares

Investors dumped food and grocery stocks on Thursday after Amazon said it would complete its takeover of Whole Foods on Monday and immediately embark on price cuts.The news drove losses at retailers including Walmart, Target and Costco and helped push US markets lower. Amazon’s news reignited fears for the supermarket industry. In addition to lower prices, the e-commerce giant said it plans to sell Whole Foods brand products on its website, integrate its systems to offer Prime members discounts and provide Amazon pick-up spots at Whole Foods stores, among other changes. Roger Davidson, a former Whole Foods executive now with consultancy firm Oakton Advisory Group, said Amazon “will lower prices on consequential items to drive traffic and sales, but not do a whole store price reduction, which could really damage gross margin and potentially wipe out operating margin. “It does not look like they will go kamikaze on pricing.” Prices at Whole Foods can be an average of 15% to 20% higher than those charged by some rivals. Amazon’s move send Walmart down 2%, with Target slipping almost 4% and Costo down 5%. Food companies also took a hit: Campbell Soup fell 3% and Kellogg dropped 2.9%. Amazon fell 0.6% to $952.45 and the stock has dipped just over 8% in the past month, but has risen 27% since the start of the year. Meanwhile, shares of Signet Jewelers, which owns diamond brands such as Kay’s, were a rare gem, rising more than 16%, after the firm announced a plan to buy an online retailer for $328m. The company also reported that sales in the three months to July reached almost $1.4bn, up 1.9% year-on-year.

Trump lashes out at former intelligence chief Clapper after he questions president’s ‘fitness’

  • President Donald Trump hits former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in a tweet.
  • Clapper questioned Trump’s “fitness” for office following Tuesday’s rally in Arizona.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Getty Images Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

President Donald Trump on Thursday lashed out at former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who questioned the president’s “fitness” for office this week. “James Clapper, who famously got caught lying to Congress, is now an authority on Donald Trump. Will he show you his beautiful letter to me?” Trump tweeted on Thursday morning. Trump referred to 2013 testimony in which Clapper denied that U.S. intelligence officials “wittingly” collected data on Americans. Some lawmakers have said he misled them about data collection. The president also suggests that the ex-intelligence director wrote him a “beautiful letter,” but did not say more about when it might’ve been written or what it says. After Trump’s Phoenix rally Tuesday night in which the president berated media outlets, criticized Republican senators and threatened a government shutdown, Clapper questioned Trump’s ability to serve in the office. “I really question his ability to be — his fitness to be — in this office, and I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it,” Clapper told CNN on Wednesday. The president has a history of using Twitter to lash out on public figures who criticize him.

See the warning and interview below that so royally pissd off Donald Trump

Trump just tweeted about the debt ceiling … and retweeted a guy who quite likes racial jokes

‘The best part of the eclipse is that it didn’t last that long’

Getty “Best eclipse ever!”

“We are not defined by the color of our skin, the figure on our paycheck or the party of our politics,” President Donald Trump said at a rally in Reno, Nev., on Wednesday. “We are defined by our shared humanity — by our citizenship in this magnificent nation, and by the love that fills our hearts.” Measured. Presidential. Scripted. Then he woke up on Thursday and apparently thought it’d be a good idea to retweet this timely jab at his White House predecessor:

“Best eclipse ever”? To Trump supporters, maybe. His “snowflake” detractors, however, would be quick to point out the “best part of the eclipse is that it didn’t last that long,” and “yes, you definitely plunged the world into darkness.” What about the guy who posted the eclipse meme in the first place? Well, before he was honored with a presidential retweet, he “liked” this tweet:

As for the stuff he should be focused on, Trump also tweeted that raising the U.S. debt ceiling is “now a mess,” since House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t tie an increase to a veterans’ bill, as he said he had suggested. Just another day in Trump Twitter.

Fed’s Kaplan says a market correction wouldn’t necessarily be ‘troubling’

 Central bankers unsure about how market will react to balance sheet tapering

Bloomberg Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan

A sharp drop in asset prices would not necessarily be troubling to the economic outlook, said Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan on Thursday. “A correction in the market, by itself, would not necessarily concern me,” Kaplan said in an interview on CNBC. Instead, the Dallas Fed president said he was paying more attention to a buildup of excess debt in the economy and, so far, liabilities are not out of hand. Talk of a market correction has picked up as the Fed prepares to start to shrink its massive balance sheet. Fed watchers expect the Fed to announce the plan to shrink the balance sheet at its next meeting on Sept. 19-20. In earlier interview that aired on Thursday, Kansas City Fed President Esther George said asset prices may decline once the Fed starts to taper its balance sheet and that the U.S. central bank would have to “wait and see. The Dallas Fed president signaled that another rate hike at the end of the year was not a given. He said the central bank could afford to be “patient” and see if inflation pressures pick up. He said Fed policy may not be as easy as many people think. The longer-run neutral level for short-term interest rates is somewhere in the 2% range rather than the 3% range, he said.

Exclusive: Small UK companies complain after HSBC accounts frozen

An avocado importer, an e-cigarette seller and a toilet-cleaning gun maker are among British companies that have had accounts closed or frozen by HSBC in the last two months, unintended casualties of a crackdown by the bank on illicit money flows. Dozens of companies have been affected, with some unable to pay staff and suppliers, and others suffering financial losses they fear could force them to close. Those affected are in the small business sector which the government has said it wants to encourage and hopes will thrive after Britain leaves the European Union. HSBC told Reuters there may have been “an issue with how we’ve been communicating” and that it would put right “any case where we have done something wrong”. It unfroze the accounts of at least three companies whose cases were brought to the bank’s attention by Reuters.

“Inhibiting an account is always a last resort, so to get to that stage we will have done everything we can to contact the customer and get the information we need,” said Amanda Murphy, head of commercial banking for HSBC UK. Fourteen companies told Reuters in interviews they had lost access to their accounts after answering questions from HSBC as part of a review of customers. The bank is trying to tighten checks on clients following a $1.9 billion fine in 2012 for allowing itself to be used to launder drug money from Mexico. More than 30 companies have lodged complaints with HSBC about their accounts being closed or frozen, according to sources with knowledge of the complaints and social media postings by the affected companies. Anti-money laundering regulations prevent banks from informing customers why their accounts are being closed or suspended where such activity is suspected. In some cases, HSBC may be powerless to tell customers why they are suffering.

Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck

No matter how much you earn, getting by is still a struggle for most people these days. Seventy-eight percent of full-time workers said they live paycheck to paycheck, up from 75 percent last year, according to a recent report from CareerBuilder. Overall, 71 percent of all U.S. workers said they’re now in debt, up from 68 percent a year ago, CareerBuilder said. While 46 percent said their debt is manageable, 56 percent said they were in over their heads. About 56 percent also save $100 or less each month, according to CareerBuilder. The job-hunting site polled over 2,000 hiring and human resource managers and more than 3,000 full-time employees between May and June. Most financial experts recommend stashing at least a six-month cushion in an emergency fund to cover anything from a dental bill to a car repair — and more if you are the sole breadwinner in your family or in business for yourself. While household income has grown over the past decade, it has failed to keep up with the increased cost-of-living over the same period. Even those making over six figures said they struggle to make ends meet, the report said. Nearly 1 in 10 of those making $100,000 or more said they usually or always live paycheck to paycheck, and 59 percent of those in that salary range said they were in the red.

Tim Ryan: ‘We Can’t Just Be the Party of Redistribution of Wealth’

Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) said Thursday that the Democratic Party is headed in the right direction after its November loss, but can no longer only be the “party of redistribution of wealth.” MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host Willie Geist asked Ryan if he felt the Democratic Party learned its lesson from the 2016 presidential election loss after seeing blue states go red. Ryan said he believes Democrats are “taking steps in the right direction,” and what they need to do is focus on the American job market and economy right now. “We have to say, look, we’re the party to be able to handle the economy in the 21st century,” Ryan said. “We have the convergence of so many different elements happening right now—globalization, automation, artificial intelligence, all of these different other opportunities within the economy right now.” Ryan said, however, that neither political party has tapped into that potential for economic growth. He hopes his party can make that move going forward. “What I want the Democratic Party to be is to be a party that can set an agenda to try to deal with those issues that will drive up wages, help people to be able to afford college and health care and all the rest,” Ryan said. Ryan also said he does not believe government should be hostile to business, and it can create a balancing act where it increases the progressive tax code while also simplifying the tax code and lowering the corporate tax rate. Ryan said the ultimate goal is to create new wealth in this new economic environment. “We can’t just be the party of redistribution of wealth,” Ryan said. “We’ve got to be the party of creation of wealth.”

Trump says raising debt ceiling ‘a mess’ after Ryan, McConnell didn’t tie it to veterans’ bill

President Donald Trump said Thursday that raising the U.S. debt ceiling is “now a mess” since House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not tie an increase to a veterans’ bill, as he asked. “Now we have a big deal with [Democrats] holding them up,” Trump said on Twitter. On Monday, McConnell said there is “zero chance” the debt ceiling won’t be raised. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the Treasury can keep paying bills through September.

Strengthening tropical storm Harvey heads for Texas, prompting hurricane warning

 Harvey expected to make landfall on Friday, keeping oil industry on edge A tropical storm, Harvey, was heading toward the Texas Gulf Coast Thursday morning, threatening to make landfall on Friday and shut down a third of U.S. oil refineries.The National Hurricane Center said Thursday morning the storm is likely to strengthen as it makes its way through the Gulf of Mexico and likely to become a hurricane by Friday. If Harvey gets upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, it will be the first to hit the state since Hurricane Ike in 2008. “A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area. A warning is typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the center said.
National Hurricane Center

The tropical storm was also expected to drop as much as 25 inches of rain in some areas on the Texas coast. “Rainfall from Harvey may cause life-threatening flooding,” the NHC said. The energy industry was closely watching the potential hurricane as nearly half of the U.S. oil refining capacity is located on the Gulf Coast from Alabama to Texas. Refineries on the coastline in Harvey’s path — from Corpus Christi in Texas to Lake Charles in Louisiana — account for about a third of total U.S.

Tesla leading unusual August rush to issue junk bonds before Fed ends the party

Companies are rushing to issue — and investors are eager to buy — the riskiest kinds of debt before the Federal Reserve begins tightening monetary policy. “Issuance this month in the high-yield market has been higher than it normally is,” said Jonathan Duensing, director of investment-grade credit and senior portfolio manager at Amundi Pioneer. “Corporate management teams are trying to get ahead of what they may perceive as a period of higher debt costs in September and October,” he said. U.S. high-yield issuance of $17.65 billion in the first 18 days of August is up $7.34 billion from July and $865 million more than all of August 2016, according to Informa Global Markets.

Among this month’s high-yield issuance, Tesla on Aug. 11 raised $300 million more than expected with a $1.8 billion junk bond offering at a 5.3 percent yield. “High-yield issuers have enjoyed the benefit of not only an economy that is improving, but from some of the lowest yields in history to issue debt, and have been taking advantage of the demand for a number of years,” said Kevin Giddis, head of fixed income capital markets and executive vice president at Raymond James. High yield and other risky investments appear to already be falling out of favor with investors amid the rising North Korea nuclear threat and political chaos. Last week, investors withdrew $2.3 billion from high-yield bond funds, the most in nearly six months as high-yield spreads jumped from 364 basis points to 400 basis points, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in an Aug. 17 report.

Tesla bond price

Source: TRACE

“The recent concern is that if the economy turns, so will high-yield debt yields and liquidity,” Giddis said. “There is a ‘tipping’ point for high-yield debt, and it may not be now, but investors need to be very selective in this environment, because a lot of these companies are ‘high yield’ for a reason, and should not be trading at yields this low. The risk is not knowing or being able to see the difference.”

U.S. retailers hit as immigration worries weigh on Hispanic spending

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Many U.S. Hispanics are venturing out only to buy essential goods and are cutting back on discretionary spending, worried about possible harassment by immigration or law enforcement officials since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, according to community groups, research firms and retailers. This change in consumer behavior by the country’s second-fastest-growing ethnic group has recently been cited as a cause for worry by already-struggling consumer companies, from big-box retailers to auto parts makers. O’Reilly Automotive (ORLY.O) Chief Executive Gregory Henslee told analysts earlier this month that many of the company’s stores with weak second-quarter sales were in Hispanic-dominant areas of the United States. “It’s not just something that we’ve seen. It’s something that most retailers have seen,” Henslee said. In late July, Target Corp (TGT.N) Chief Executive Brian Cornell at a conference referenced a report by retail consultants NPD Group that cited a decline in discretionary spending by Hispanics. “They are staying home. They are going out less often, particularly around border towns in the United States,” Cornell said at a conference in Aspen, Colo. “They’re afraid local law enforcement or immigration officials are going to harass or embarrass them,” he said in an interview. None of the reports specified any changes to first-half online spending by Hispanics, which make up about 18 percent of the U.S. population, according to research firm Nielsen Holdings Plc.

Oil prices ease, with caution still in place even as U.S. stockpiles decline

Oil prices eased on Thursday, stuck within the tight range traded for the past month, as investors remained cautious as to whether the glut in oil supplies was finally disappearing. Brent crude LCOV7, -0.44%  , the global oil benchmark, fell 14 cents, or 0.3%, to $52.43 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures exchange, within the $4 range traded since late July. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate futures CLV7, -0.52%   were trading down 21 cents, 0.4%, at $48.20 a barrel. U.S. stocks continued to draw for the eighth consecutive week, with data from the Energy Information Administration published Wednesday showing a fall of 3.3 million barrels in the week ended Aug 18. S&P Global Platts said that although the global surplus was slowly being worked through, as shown by the U.S. stock draws, “traders already appear to be looking ahead to next month, when crude stocks typically build as refinery demand fades when units are taken offline for the fall maintenance period.” Investors monitored hurricane Harvey, which is heading toward the coast of Texas, with the main concern being the risk of flooding. It could be the first hurricane to hit Texas since the U.S. Gulf became a major exporter of refined products and crude, said Oliver Jakob, head of Swiss consultancy Petromatrix. “A hurricane causing damage to the refinery infrastructure of Texas would have today a much greater international impact than in previous tropical weather events,” he said.

Sears to shutter another 28 locations, as same-store sales tumble 11.5%

People walk by a Sears store in a nearly-empty Westfield Meriden shopping mall in Meriden, Connecticut.
Getty Images People walk by a Sears store in a nearly-empty Westfield Meriden shopping mall in Meriden, Connecticut.

Sears reported a double-digit decline in comparable sales for the second quarter, citing a “retail environment [that] remained challenging, with continued softness in store traffic and elevated price competition.” The department store chain also announced on Thursday that it will be closing an additional 28 Kmart stores this year. This is in addition to the 180 Sears and Kmart stores that have already been shuttered this year, and the 150 stores that are slated to be closed by the end of the third quarter. In an attempt to return to profitability, Sears has been trimming its real estate portfolio, cutting costs and seeking additional liquidity. Net loss attributable to Sears narrowed to $251 million, or $2.34 per share, in the second quarter, from $395 million, or $3.70 per share, one year ago. Excluding one-time charges, the retailer lost $1.16 a share. Total sales fell to $4.37 billion, from $5.66 billion, primarily due to store closures, Sears said. Same-store sales — a metric closely watched by the Street for retail stocks — fell 11.5 percent overall for the second quarter. This included a decline of 9.4 percent for Kmart stores, and a decline of 13.2 percent at Sears stores, the company said. Sears’ deteriorating financial conditions forced the retailer earlier this year to disclose in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that there was “substantial doubt” about its ability to “continue as a going concern.” Just last month, Sears said it would begin selling Kenmore-branded and Alexa-enabled appliances on Amazon.

Many addicts seeking opioid recovery find relapse and fraud

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The Reflections treatment center looked like just the place for Michelle Holley’s youngest daughter to kick heroin. Instead, as with dozens of other Florida substance abuse treatment facilities, the owner was more interested in defrauding insurance companies by keeping addicts hooked, her family says. “It looked fine. They were saying all the right things to me. I could not help my child so I trusted them to help my child,” Holley said. Instead, the center refused to give 19-year-old Jaime Holley her prescription medicine when she left, forcing her to use illegal drugs to avoid acute withdrawal symptoms, her mother said. She died of a heroin overdose last November. “Right to my face they lied to me, and I believed them.” Rather than working to get people well, a growing number of unscrupulous industry players are focusing on getting addicts to relapse so that insurance dollars keep rolling in, according to law enforcement officials, treatment experts and addicts in recovery. “It’s terrible right now. I don’t know of any business that wants to kill its customers, but this one does,” said Timothy Schnellenberger, who has worked for years in running addiction recovery centers in Florida. “It really breaks my heart. Kids are dying left and right.” As drug addiction destroys families across America, “there’s a need for a positive, vibrant recovery network to help people get off of opioids,” said State Attorney Dave Aronberg, chief prosecutor in Palm Beach County. “You can’t just arrest your way out of this problem.” Chatman’s patients were given drugs to trigger a positive drug test so they could be considered in “relapse” when their insurance coverage was about to expire. Court documents say he induced some female patients into prostitution for free rent at his sober home, and confiscated car keys, cellphones and prescription medications. more money to be made.

Report highlights growing health disparities in Appalachia

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The 25 million people who live among the Appalachian mountains have struggled to keep up with health gains of the rest of the nation, falling behind in most major public health indicators, according to a study released Thursday. The report shows the 13-state region lags the rest of the country in 33 out of 41 population health indicators, including seven of the leading 10 causes of death in the United States. Deaths by poisoning, which include drug overdoses, were 37 percent higher than the rest of the country – a testament to the opioid addiction crisis that has gripped the area for years. “I think it’s a wakeup call,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which issued the study along with the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We are dealing with real challenges in Appalachian Kentucky and the health of the entire state, both economically and physically.” The report showed the health of the regions’ residents has improved over the years, but it has not kept up with gains elsewhere in the country. The result is a widening disparity that leaders worry is affecting the region’s economic potential as it struggles to recover from the decline of the once dominant coal industry. While the area has some of the worst health problems, it has the least amount of doctors and other medical staff when compared to what’s available in the rest of the country. The region’s suicide rate is 17 percent higher than the national population and depression among Medicare beneficiaries is 16.7 more frequent than any other part of the country.

Ambassador to Sudan is fourth Russian diplomat to die since January

Sudanese police have ruled out the possibility of an assassination attempt, Russia 24 reported.
Sudanese police have ruled out the possibility of an assassination attempt, Russia 24 reported.

(CNN)Russian Ambassador to Sudan Migayas Shirinskiy died Wednesday in the capital Khartoum, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Shirinskiy, born in 1954, was appointed to the post in 2013. The diplomat died while swimming in the pool of his residence, according to state broadcaster Russia 24. Shirinskiy manifested symptoms of an acute heart attack, embassy staff told the state broadcaster. Embassy spokesman Sergei Konyashin said the staff called an ambulance but doctors were not able to save the ambassador.

Nine months, nine prominent Russians dead
Nine months, nine prominent Russians dead
 The Sudanese police have ruled out the possibility of an assassination attempt, Russia 24 reported, quoting local law enforcement agencies.
Shirinskiy graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) and held diplomatic positions at Russia’s embassies in Yemen, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Though there is no evidence to suggest anything suspicious about Shirinskiy’s death, he is the latest in a long line of Russian emissaries to die in the past year.
8 mysterious Russian deaths since US election

 8 mysterious Russian deaths since US election 02:16 Since the start of 2017, four Russian diplomats have died. Nine have died since late 2016. In February, Vitaly Churkin, 64, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations died of an apparent heart attack, according to the Russian mission at the UN. Less than a month earlier, the Russian ambassador to India, 67-year-old Alexander Kadakin, died after a short illness. A spokeswoman for the embassy added there was nothing “special or extraordinary” about his death.
Two weeks before that, on January 9, a senior diplomat at the Russian embassy in Greece was found dead on the floor of his apartment. A Greek police report said he had died of natural causes.

Conflict between Trump and Congress escalates as difficult agenda looms

The conflict between President Trump and Congress escalated a day after he threatened to shut down the federal government over funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall as well as targeted opponents in Congress, aggravating tensions as a difficult legislative agenda looms. Trump is now at odds not only with Democrats, who cemented their objections to funding the wall Wednesday, but also with Republicans, who must reconcile his brash rhetoric with the governing realities of Congress. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) played down the prospect of a shutdown, telling reporters Wednesday that even if the wall debate remains unresolved, Congress probably would pass a stopgap extension of funding to prevent a lapse when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. Other lawmakers chided the president for the attacks he fired off during a campaign-style rally in Phoenix on Tuesday evening — including indirect references to Arizona’s two Republican senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain. “It’s entirely counterproductive for the president to be picking fights with Republican senators who he will need for important agenda items that they both agree on,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.). “Does he think that Democratic senators will be more cooperative than John McCain and Jeff Flake and Susan Collins? It doesn’t seem to make any sense.”

Brazil opens vast Amazon reserve to mining

The mining and energy ministry says protected forest areas and indigenous reserves will not be affected. “The objective of the measure is to attract new investments, generating wealth for the country and employment and income for society, always based on the precepts of sustainability,” the ministry said in a statement. According to the WWF report, the main area of interest for copper and gold exploration is in one of the protected areas, the Biological Reserve of Maicuru. There is also said to be gold in the Para State forest, which lies within the area. The WWF says there is potential for conflict too in two indigenous reserves that are home to various ethnic communities living in relative isolation. WWF’s report said than a “gold rush in the region could create irreversible damage to these cultures”. “If the government insisted on opening up these areas for mining without discussing environmental safeguards it will have to deal with an international outcry.”

Paul Ryan on Border Wall Funding: ‘I Don’t Think a Government Shutdown Is Necessary’

Wednesday after touring an Intel facility in Oregon, when asked about President Donald Trump saying last night he is open to shutting down the government over funding for the border wall, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said he does not think a government shutdown will be “necessary.” Ryan said, “I don’t think a government shutdown is necessary, and I don’t think most people want to see a government shutdown, ourselves included.” He added, “The House already has passed funding including building physical barriers like a wall in the places that are necessary.”

Amazon-Whole Foods merger gets green light from U.S. government

The U.S. government won’t try to stop Amazon’s $13.7 billion takeover of Whole Foods, a deal that has massive implications for both e-commerce and how we shop for food.

The Federal Trade Commission announced Wednesday that it’s looked into whether the merger would hurt competition and has decided to drop its investigation. “We have decided not to pursue this matter further,” the FTC said in a statement. No other government agencies need to give their okay. “As far as antitrust approval, it’s done,” said James Cooper, an economics professor at George Mason University and former FTC official. Earlier Wednesday, Whole Foods (WFM) shareholders voted to approve the takeover, which has sailed along since it was announced in June. Amazon said on Wednesday the deal is on track to be completed. Its initial announcement said it expects the deal to close in the second half of 2017. Meanwhile, many traditional brick-and-mortar  Few doubt Amazon’s loud entry into the grocery space will change the game. The company already has its own delivery serviced called AmazonFresh and has been experimenting with a “click and collect” system in which customers buy their groceries online and then pick them up in person. But some things will stay the same — at least for now. Amazon has said Whole Foods stores will continue to operate under the same name as a separate unit of the company, and that Whole Foods CEO John Mackey will keep leading the brand from its headquarters in Austin, Texas.

Exclusive: Top Trump aide’s email draws new scrutiny in Russia inquiry

Washington (CNN)Congressional investigators have unearthed an email from a top Trump aide that referenced a previously unreported effort to arrange a meeting last year between Trump campaign officials and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to sources with direct knowledge of the matter. The aide, Rick Dearborn, who is now President Donald Trump’s deputy chief of staff, sent a brief email to campaign officials last year relaying information about an individual who was seeking to connect top Trump officials with Putin, the sources said. The person was only identified in the email as being from “WV,” which one source said was a reference to West Virginia. It’s unclear who the individual is, what he or she was seeking, or whether Dearborn even acted on the request. One source said that the individual was believed to have had political connections in West Virginia, but details about the request and who initiated it remain vague.The many unearthed interactions between Trump-world and Russia, documented The same source said Dearborn in the email appeared skeptical of the requested meeting. Sources said the email occurred in June 2016 around the time of the recently revealed Trump Tower meeting where Russians with Kremlin ties met with the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner as well as then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. While many details around the Dearborn email are unclear, its existence suggests the Russians may have been looking for another entry point into the Trump campaign to see if there were any willing partners as part of their effort to discredit — and ultimately defeat — Hillary Clinton.

Uber second-quarter bookings increase, loss narrows

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] on Wednesday reported a 16 percent increase in quarterly bookings and a smaller loss than the previous period as the ride-services company showed signs of inching toward profitability. The shrinking losses reflect Uber’s efforts to rein in massive spending on subsidies for both drivers and customers even as it battles rivals in tough markets like South Asia. The San Francisco-based company said it lost $645 million in the second quarter, 9 percent less than the $708 million loss in the first quarter and 35 percent less than the $991 million loss in the fourth quarter of last year. For all of 2016, Uber lost about $3 billion. As a private company, Uber is not required to publicly report its financial results, but earlier this year it began offering a glimpse of its performance by disclosing certain numbers. The continued growth in ridership suggests Uber’s core business has so far weathered a string of scandals. But the scale of its losses are unprecedented in Silicon Valley and executives have declined to offer a timetable for profitability. Some investors have eyed Uber’s $68 billion valuation with skepticism, and four mutual fund investors disclosed this week that they had marked down the value of their Uber shares by as much as 15 percent. Uber said its gross ride bookings for the second quarter reached $8.7 billion, up from $7.5 billion in the first quarter. The number of global trips on its service increased 150 percent over the previous year, with growth strongest in developing markets.

 

Key China diplomat defends Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan in call to US Secretary of State

The United States must value Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan and respect its security concerns, China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a phone call, according to Chinese state media.

US troops patrol village in Afghanistan's Logar Province.
Getty Images US troops patrol village in Afghanistan’s Logar Province.
 China’s Foreign Ministry defended its ally Pakistan earlier this week after President Donald Trump said the United States could no longer be silent about militants using safe havens on Pakistani soil. On Monday, Trump committed the United States to an open-ended conflict in Afghanistan, signalling he would send more troops to America’s longest war and vowing “a fight to win.” He insisted that others – the Afghan government, Pakistan, India and NATO allies – step up their own commitment to resolving the 16-year conflict, but he saved his sharpest words for Pakistan. Yang, who outranks China’s foreign minister, told Tillerson on Wednesday that China was willing to coordinate with the United States on Afghanistan and make joint efforts to realize peace and stability there and in the region, according to a Chinese statement issued late that night. “We must value Pakistan’s important role on the Afghanistan issue, and respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and reasonable security concerns,” Yang told Tillerson. Pakistan has been battling home-grown Islamists for years.

Kelly seeks to restore White House order ahead of key fights

WASHINGTON (AP) — In his first month on the job, White House chief of staff John Kelly has made significant progress toward imposing discipline on a chaotic operation, even as it’s clear he still struggles to have the same effect on the president himself. The White House is a less contentious place and decision-making is becoming more orderly under Kelly’s thumb, according to more than a dozen people interviewed by The Associated Press, including White House officials, outside advisers and others who work regularly with the administration. They say a group of more experienced advisers — including a trio of generals — is increasingly holding sway. And they describe a process in which Kelly has successfully limited dissenting voices, restricted access to the president and “stacked the deck” on major decisions to guide him toward an outcome. This new Afghanistan war strategy announced this week was a chief example of the process.  Kelly’s biggest challenge: piloting Trump though a hectic fall filled with high-stakes deadlines for funding the government, raising the debt ceiling and making progress on tax reform. It remains unclear whether Kelly’s new grip on the decision-making process will be a check on Trump’s impulses on domestic priorities that were central in his candidacy. While Kelly has made clear that he sees his role as managing White House staff and not the president, he also helped persuade Trump to part ways with adviser Steve Bannon. The populist firebrand often goaded Trump toward some of his more nationalist policies and sharp-elbowed rhetoric and was often blamed for White House infighting. Trump is increasingly relying on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, an active-duty lieutenant general, on matters extending beyond foreign policy. Nick Bit: It is obvious the Generals are in charge. And they promote their bossiness interests… WAR!

 

Experts Say Trump’s Afghanistan Strategy Will Require Nation-Building 1

WASHINGTON – President Trump has promised the U.S. would not be “nation-building” in Afghanistan, but some experts who have long studied Afghanistan said that is what his strategy would entail in a panel on Tuesday.

In his announcement of the new strategy on Monday for Afghanistan, Trump said “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.” He also said the U.S. would “continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military.” Experts say that without “nation-building” – insofar as it means things like helping Afghanistan pull off democratic elections – there will be no Afghan government or Afghan military to support. Andrew Wilder, vice president of Asia programs at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), pointed to the upcoming Afghan presidential elections in 2019. The last election in 2014 required heavy U.S. involvement. “In 2019 we scheduled to have the next round of presidential elections in Afghanistan. If those aren’t held, we have a big crisis on our hands,” Wilder said. Without a successful election, there could be a “return to anarchy,” he said. “So that’s where we actually do need to take things like nation building — if by that you mean the fundamentals of democracy which are what are helping hold Afghanistan together now.” Belquis Ahmadi, a senior program officer as USIP, said it is now “up to the Afghans to address the needs of its people.” “We’ve put a lot of effort into actually helping support the Afghan state and so the idea that we’re not there to build democracies and things like that I find a little bit worrying because, actually, that’s kind of what we’ve done,” Wilder said.

Police discover suicide belt with live explosives at house of imam

Spanish police have found a live suicide vest in the remains of the house used as a makeshift ‘bomb factory’ by the Islamist extremist cell that carried out last week’s terror attack. The belt with viable explosives was found at a house in Alcanar, south of Barcelona, where the imam named as the ‘mastermind’ behind the attacks died in an explosion last Wednesday prior to the attacks.  Six of the attackers involved in the twin attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils which claimed 15 lives and saw 120 people injured, were all wearing fake suicide belts when they were shot dead by police were wearing fake suicide belts.

Master of evil: The suicide belt was found at a house in Alcanar, south of Barcelona, where imam Abdelbaki Es Satty &nbsp;died in an explosion last Wednesday
Master of evil: The suicide belt was found at a house in Alcanar, south of Barcelona, where imam Abdelbaki Es Satty died in an explosion last Wednesday

Officers carried out new raids overnight to root out a possible support network for the men, after a suspect admitted the jihadists were targeting monuments in Barcelona in an even bigger attack.  The scale of the assaults being prepared by the jihadist suspects emerged during a preliminary court hearing Tuesday, when Mohamed Houli Chemlal, 21, told the judge the group was planning ‘an attack on an even greater scale, targeting monuments’ using bombs. At least 500 litres of acetone, large quantities of nails and detonators as well as gas canisters were been found at a house in the town of Alcanar, court documents said. They are ingredients of TATP – the explosive of choice of the Islamic State group, which has claimed its ‘soldiers’ carried out the attacks. Chemlal was injured in the Alcanar explosion that killed an imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty, who is thought to have radicalised him and other young suspects.

Why Americans should steer clear of Mexico

The U.S. government has warned tourists to exercise caution in visiting Oaxaca and other towns and regions of Mexico.

If you’re planning on heading south of the border any time soon, travel experts suggest you change your plans.

The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory for many parts of Mexico due to increasing rates of violent crime in the country, including kidnapping, homicide, robbery and carjacking. Under the new warning, U.S. government personnel are advised to defer “nonessential travel” to states affected, including Tamaulipas, Sinaloa, parts of Sonora, Jalisco, Morelos, Guerrero and Michoacan. No advisory is in effect for Mexico City Puebla, or Queretaro. For the full list of affected states and zones, check the State Department website. The Mexico Tourism Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment. “While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens,” the advisory reads. “Shooting incidents, in which innocent bystanders have been injured or killed, have occurred.” Consumer travel consultant and writer Christopher Elliott said this travel warning is “unusual” in that it includes such a wide range of areas across the country. “Normally, the kinds of activities described in the warning take place outside the touristy areas,” he said. “But that seems to be changing. I would seriously rethink your upcoming travel plans to Mexico, based on this warning.”

North Korea Vows ‘Absolute Force’ Against ‘Mad Guy Trump’ Day After Tillerson Lauds ‘Restraint’

The editorials follow remarks by both President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, suggesting optimism at the approach North Korea is taking to the bilateral relationship. In a column titled “U.S. Should Not Misjudge Retaliatory Will of DPRK,” writers for the regime publication argue that Trump “has not yet come to his senses” and agreed to allow North Korea to develop nuclear weapons, despite the near constant threats of unleashing these weapons on the U.S. mainland. “Recently, he spouted again a load of rubbish that he would tackle the issue through not a good method, asserting military has been loaded and is ready to fire,” the article laments. “Nightmare of a nuclear disaster is haunting the U.S. distressed with uneasiness and horror that mad guy Trump’s unrestrained war-inciting tongue-lashing might turn the U.S. mainland into huge heaps of ashes.” “Only absolute force can contain the reckless military maneuvers of the Yankees,” the piece warns. A separate article warns South Korea to end its alliance with the United States or face a “barrage of fire.” “I’m pleased to see that the regime in Pyongyang has certainly demonstrated some level of restraint,” Tillerson told reporters on Tuesday. “We hope that this is the beginning of the signal we’ve been looking for … perhaps we’re seeing our pathway to sometime in the near future of having some dialogue. We need to see more on their part. But I want to acknowledge the steps they’ve taken so far.” North Korea has announced the creation of a ballistic missile named the Pukguksong-3, which it may soon test, once again violating international sanctions. According to the report, Kim allegedly “instructed” his scientists to “produce more solid-fuel rocket engines and rocket warhead tips by further expanding engine production process and the production capacity of rocket warhead tips and engine jets by carbon and carbon compound material.”

 

State Dept. Warns of Cartel Violence near Mexican Beach Resorts

The U.S. State Department is warning tourists about cartel violence spreading to the once calm beach resorts of Mexico. Famed cities like Cancun, Los Cabos, Cozumel, and others are now being fought over by gunmen.

In its most recent revision to the Mexico travel warning, State warns U.S. citizens about the risks of traveling to certain parts due to the ongoing cartel violence. The travel alert upgrades the warning for the two states of Quintana Roo (Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Tulum) and Baja California Sur (Los Cabos and La Paz). State Department officials further warn that U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes in Mexico including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery. The latest warning replaces a December 2016 alert. According to State Department officials, U.S. citizens should be aware that based on Mexican Government statistics, Quintana Roo and Baja California have experienced an increase in homicide rates compared to 2016. While most homicides appeared to be targeted cartel murders; gun battles have taken place in areas frequented by U.S. tourists. Those resort areas saw various shootings where innocents bystanders were hit and killed. In January, dozens were injured at a nightclub in Playa Del Carmen, not far from Cancun when a team of gunmen opened fire. Five victims died that night. In the days after, shooters carried out various attacks on police buildings, Breitbart Texas reported. In August, a team of cartel gunmen murdered three people at the entrance to a popular beach in Los Cabos, a municipality on the Pacific Coast.   For years, both popular tourist regions were effectively immune from the drug violence that has overtaken other parts of Mexico. The uptick is attributed to the fight over the lucrative drug markets of Cancun and Playa de Carmen by Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion, Los Zetas, the Gulf Cartel, independent groups loyal to the Sinaloa Cartel

U.S. stock fund withdrawals largest of 2017: ICI

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Investors battered U.S.-based stock funds with the largest withdrawals this year as wild trading disrupted the market’s summertime calm, Investment Company Institute (ICI) data showed on Wednesday. Nearly $9.2 billion flowed out of equity mutual funds and exchange-traded funds during the week through Aug. 16, with a 37th week of inflows for international shares only slightly offsetting $11.3 billion of withdrawals for domestic stocks, according to the trade group. U.S. stocks remained on pace to deliver their ninth straight year of positive returns. Yet two pullbacks of more than 1 percent in S&P 500 index .SPX this month jolted markets following geopolitical tensions between the United States and North Korea as well as questions surrounding U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration bringing its economic agenda to fruition. Equity mutual fund outflows of $9.9 billion compared with $1.4 billion of stock ETF withdrawals, according to ICI. “Investors have favored international equity and bond fund strategies as alternatives,” said Todd Rosenbluth, director of ETF and mutual fund research at CFRA. Investors turned to perceived safe-haven funds, with taxable bond funds attracting $3.8 billion in their 37th straight week of inflows, ICI said. Funds that invest in commodities like gold pulled in $881 million, their best week since June.

The list of charities canceling events at Mar-a-Lago keeps growing

More than a dozen charities have pulled their events from President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in a continued backlash to how Trump responded to the fatal violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last week. Trump initially cast blame for the violence at a white supremacist rally on “many sides,” before he walked back his statement and condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis. But he subsequently doubled down on his first remarks, saying there were “very fine people on both sides.” Trump’s comments were so controversial that CEOs began to abandon his business councils, causing Trump to disband them, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle rushed to denounce his comments and issue their own rebukes of racism and other types of discrimination. Now the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold reports that since Trump’s controversial comments last week, a total of 16 charities have canceled events that were planned at Mar-a-Lago.

US ratchets up pressure to break Russia’s stranglehold over Europe’s energy market

LNG carrier ship sits docked at a terminal in Sabine Pass, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. The first tanker that will ship liquefied natural gas from Cheniere Energy Inc.'s Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana has arrived, signaling the imminent start of exports as a result of the U.S. shale boom.
LNG carrier ship sits docked at a terminal in Sabine Pass, Texas, U.S
The first tanker that will ship liquefied natural gas from Cheniere Energy Inc.’s Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana has arrived, signaling the imminent start of exports as a result of the U.S. shale boom.

U.S. attempts to export natural gas to Europe appears likely to increase the pressure on the region’s dominant player at a time when Washington has vowed to break down Russia’s stranglehold over the market. Lithuania became the first former Soviet state to receive a shipment of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the U.S. on Monday. The deal is aimed to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russia’s gas supplies. In July, Poland became the first Eastern European country to receive a shipment of U.S. LNG. Speaking in Warsaw at the time, President Donald Trump said he hoped for stronger ties between the two countries on energy. Following a meeting with the U.S. premier, Polish President Andrzej Duda said he expected to sign a long-term transatlantic deal for LNG supplies, before adding that any such agreement would reduce Warsaw’s reliance on Russian “blackmailing”. “Some central and east European countries especially Poland and Lithuania might prefer to import U.S. LNG and pay a higher price because they made reduction of dependence on Russian gas one of their main political priorities as they see it as a security issue,” Katja Yafimava, a London-based analyst at the Oxford Energy Institute, told CNBC via email. Rising shipments of U.S. natural gas have been made possible by the shale revolution in the country. And the world’s largest economic and military power is now seeking to peel away business from Russian gas companies, such as state-backed energy giant Gazprom.

Drowning in debt, Connecticut faces budget crunch

HARTFORD (Reuters) – Connecticut, home to hedge fund billionaires alongside cities mired in poverty, is racing against the clock to pass a budget or face further spending cuts to education and municipal aid across the state. Nearly two months without a budget, Connecticut is getting crushed by a burdensome debt load that has squeezed spending and amplified legislative discord. State lawmakers must agree on a biennial budget soon or else Governor Dannel Malloy’s executive order to slash state aid to municipalities and eliminate school funding for some districts will go into effect in October. The state faces a $3.5 billion deficit over the next two years. Among the wealthiest in the United States, Connecticut has been strained by already high taxes, outmigration, falling revenues and $50 billion of unfunded pension liabilities. Some $23 billion of outstanding municipal debt has also constrained spending. Bondholders must be paid ahead of most other expenses like non-essential services and payments to vendors. The $2.85 billion of principal and interest the state paid on its bonds in fiscal 2017 was the highest in six years, according to preliminary unaudited information from State Treasurer Denise Nappier’s office that has not yet been published. Further, the state’s budget crunch is threatening its cities including the state capital of Hartford, which is considering bankruptcy due, in part, to its dependence on state aid.

World’s largest advertising firm is facing a rough year — and it’s blaming the shortcomings of the Trump regime

WPP CEO: It’s been a tough first half
WPP CEO Martin Sorrell: ‘It’s been a tough first half’

WPP appears on track for a difficult two years after the world’s largest advertising group cut its full-year net sales outlook on Wednesday. The company blamed weak trading in the United States and “bumpy” growth in Russia, Brazil and China for a marked deterioration in the second-quarter. In the earnings report, the group cut its full-year target to between 0 and 1 percent growth, from a previous forecast of 2 percent. It also reported that first-half like-for-like net sales were down 0.5 percent, below a consensus of 0.7 percent growth. CEO Martin Sorrell said that 2018 is “unlikely to be much different.”Speaking to CNBC on Wednesday morning, Sorrell added: “It’s been a tough first-half … The weakest for us was the U.S. which I think was pretty much the case across the industry.”  The group recorded net sales growth of 3.1 percent in 2016 though the target for 2017 was revised down to 2 percent in order to reflect “tepid” economic growth and weaker net new business trends. Its shares slumped more than 11 percent in morning deals.  WPP had previously rattled investors in March when the company also announced it had cut its sales forecast for 2017. It cited an ultra-competitive environment in which rivals were having to scrap for every dollar of ad spend.

Trump is Dirty and he is going down!

The former FBI director leading the probe into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia is taking a page from the playbook federal prosecutors have used for decades in criminal investigations, from white-collar fraud to mob racketeering: Follow the money. Start small and work up. See who will “flip” and testify against higher-ups by pursuing charges such as tax evasion, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Robert Mueller

Special counsel Robert Mueller — himself a veteran prosecutor — has assembled a team of 16 lawyers experienced in complex criminal cases for his investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s presidential campaign. They even staged a dramatic early morning raid in late July on the home of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort — a classic shock-and-awe tactic reminiscent of raids the FBI used against four hedge funds in an insider-trading probe in 2010 and earlier against mobsters like John Gotti, head of the Gambino crime family in New York. Mueller was given a broad mandate in May by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate not only Russia’s interference and potential collusion with Trump’s presidential campaign but also “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Now, the expanding investigation risks a showdown with Trump, who has warned that looking into his family’s real estate deals would cross a red line.”Mueller is no dummy,” said William Mateja, a former federal prosecutor who investigated white-collar crime and served at the Justice Department when Mueller was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “You use crimes like money laundering and tax evasion to get cooperation. The investigation is examining Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial New York hotel development with Russian associates and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008. What’s not known publicly yet is whether any of those under investigation are cooperating to help Mueller build a case, Hosko said. Nick Bit: I am telling for a FACT Trump is dirty and if they want to bring him down they can. And Trump damn well know it. The most corrupt president we have ever had. Love Trump Hate Trump stop bullshitting yourself he IS going down!

CNN’s Don Lemon on Trump’s AZ Speech: We Just Witnessed a ‘Total Eclipse of the Facts, ‘Unhinged’ Trump ‘Lied’

Tuesday night after President Donald Trump’s speech in Phoenix, CNN host Don Lemon declared the president’s presentation “a total eclipse of the facts.” Lemon said, “Well, what do you say to that? I’m just going to speak from the heart here. What we witnessed is a total eclipse of the facts. Someone who came out on stage and lied directly to the American people and left things out that he said in an attempt to rewrite history, especially when it comes to Charlottesville. He’s unhinged, it’s embarrassing, and I don’t mean for us, the media because he went after us, but for the country. This is who we elected president of the United States. A man who is so petty that he has to go after people he deems to be his enemy, like an imaginary friend of a six-year-old.” He continued, “His speech was without thought, without reason, devoid of facts, devoid of wisdom. There was no gravitas. There was no sanity there. He was like a child blaming a sibling on something else. He did it. I didn’t do it. He certainly opened up the race wound from Charlottesville. A man clearly wounded by rational people abandoning him in droves, meaning the business people and the people in Washington now questioning his fitness for office and whether he is stable. A man backed into a corner, it seems, by circumstances beyond his control and his understanding. That’s the truth. If you watch that speech as an American, you had to be thinking, what in the world is going on? This is the person we elected as president of the United States? This petty, this small, a person who is supposed to pull the country together? Certainly, didn’t happen there.” Nick Bit: Their is a rising anti Trump movement. it wold be wise not to avoid. The last time i saw a President this unpopular its was Ole Tricky Dick Nixon.

Trump vows to ‘close government’ to build Mexico wall

Donald Trump has threatened to shut down the government in order to secure funding to build his controversial wall along the border with Mexico, in a remarkable Arizona speech on Tuesday night. Afterwards, his critics openly questioned whether he is ‘fit’ to be President. During a divisive 80-minute speech, he defended his response to the Charlottesville white supremacist violence and took aim at the media, blaming them for giving far right groups “a platform”.  The president’s efforts to build a barrier along America’s southern border have stalled in Congress, where many lawmakers question whether his main campaign promise is really necessary. The House has passed a spending bill with funding for the costly project, but it faces an uncertain future in the Senate. But with a budget battle looming, Mr Trump said he would be willing to do what it takes to secure the necessary funding. In a remarkable address to a rally crowd in Phoenix in the border state of Arizona, the US president said he had a message for “obstructionist” Democrats.

 

The American people voted for immigration control. We’re going to get that wall.”

Trump blames media for condemnation of comments on Virginia

PHOENIX (AP) — President Donald Trump is blaming the media for the widespread condemnation of his response to a Charlottesville, Virginia, protest organized by white supremacists that led to the killing of a counter-protester. Trump opened his political rally in Phoenix with a call for unity, saying, “What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America and tonight, this entire arena stands united in forceful condemnation of the thugs that perpetrated hatred and violence.” But he quickly trained his ire on the media, shouting that he “openly called for healing unity and love” in the immediate aftermath of Charlottesville and claiming the media had misrepresented him. He read from his three responses to the violence — getting more animated with each one. Democrats and fellow Republicans had denounced Trump for placing blame for the Charlottesville violence on “both sides.” Trump spoke after Vice President Mike mp often resurrects his free-wheeling 2016 campaign style, pinging insults at perceived enemies such as the media and meandering from topic to topic without a clear theme. Although Trump’s high-profile warm-up acts suggested the president’s speech would be about unity, the president was more intent on settling scores.

McConnell, Trump Relationship ‘Disintegrated,’ Have Not Spoken In Weeks After ‘Shouting Match’ Phone Call

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, thinks so little of President Donald Trump as their relationship has “disintegrated” that he wonders whether Trump’s presidency can survive after a series of setbacks in recent months, per a new report from the New York Times.

The relationship between President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and Mr. McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises. What was once an uneasy governing alliance has curdled into a feud of mutual resentment and sometimes outright hostility, complicated by the position of Mr. McConnell’s wife, Elaine L. Chao, in Mr. Trump’s cabinet, according to more than a dozen people briefed on their imperiled partnership. Angry phone calls and private badmouthing have devolved into open conflict, with the president threatening to oppose Republican senators who cross him, and Mr. McConnell mobilizing to their defense. The report, filled with explosive details, spells trouble for the two GOP heavyweights walking into a month of serious major political maelstroms with the debt ceiling, spending bill, tax reform, and a retry at healthcare looming–among other fights. Still, the back-and-forth has been dramatic,” Burns and Martin wrote, pointing to how Trump ripped McConnell via Twitter multiple times in a “series of tweets” and “then berated him in a phone call that quickly devolved into a profane shouting match.” Burns and Martin wrote:

During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation. Mr. McConnell has fumed over Mr. Trump’s regular threats against fellow Republicans and criticism of Senate rules, and questioned Mr. Trump’s understanding of the presidency in a public speech. Mr. McConnell has made sharper comments in private, describing Mr. Trump as entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing.

Interior Dept. halts study into Appalachian mining technique’s likely health hazards

(CNN)The Trump administration has halted a study of the health effects of a common mining technique in Appalachia, which is believed to deposit waste containing toxic minerals in ground waters. A letter from the Interior Department directed the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to “cease all work” on a study of the potential health risks of mountaintop removal mining for people living near surface coal mine sites in central Appalachia. The Interior Department acknowledged in a statement that it had “put on hold” $1 million in funding for the two-year project as part of a review of its grants, which is focused on “responsibly using taxpayer dollars.” “The Trump Administration is dedicated to responsibly using taxpayer dollars and that includes the billions of dollars in grants that are doled out every year by the Department of the Interior,” the statement said. Political reaction was swift to the Trump administration’s decision to suspend the study of “the potential relationship between increased health risks and living in proximity to sites that have been or are being mined or reclaimed for surface coal deposits,” which began last year and was expected to take two years to complete.

The battle over science in the Trump administration

 top removal mining has been shown to cause lung cancer, heart disease, and other medical problems,” Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the ranking democrat on the House Committee of Natural Resources, said in a statement.
“Clearly this administration and the Republican Party are trying to stop the National Academy of Sciences from uncovering exactly how harmful this practice is,” Grijalva said.

Two October surprises could boost oil prices above $50

  • Oil prices will remain stuck around $50 a barrel unless the market gets an “October surprise,” one analyst says.
  • Venezuela’s state oil giant is barreling toward a debt default as soon as October.
  • President Donald Trump could snap sanctions back on Iran’s oil industry.      
    Oil workers conduct a drill in a petroleum well in Lagunillas at the east coast of Lake Maracaibo near Maracaibo City in Venezuela.
    This is a time of year when refiners dial it back
    Oil prices will remain stuck in a range near $50 a barrel unless one of two global hotspots delivers an October surprise to the market, jolting the cost of crude higher, according to Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets. The first potential shock Croft and her team at RBC are monitoring is a debt default by Venezuelan oil giant Petroleos de Venezuela SA. Oil production from the state-owned PDVSA has steadily slipped as the country grapples with a financial crisis after the collapse in crude prices in 2014 and years of economic mismanagement.

    “They have $3.5 billion in national oil company debt coming due in October-November. If they default, that could be significant for Venezuela’s production outlook,” Croft told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” on Tuesday. Lower crude production from Venezuela would tend to support the oil market, which has been oversupplied for years. The second surprise would come if the United States abandons an international deal that lifted sanctions on Iran. President Donald Trump could refuse to certify that Iran is complying with an accord that puts limits on its nuclear program. That could lead to the renewal of sanctions, which could impact Iran’s oil production. John Kilduff, founding partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital, said these geopolitical concerns may be somewhat overstated. He noted that the five other nations that negotiated the Iran nuclear deal would probably break with the U.S. and refuse to snap sanctions back on Iran. He also noted that Venezuela is indebted to Russia and China. Russian oil giant Rosneft has amassed a large stake in PDVSA’s U.S.-based refiner Citgo by bankrolling Venezuela. China has long lent Venezuela money in exchange for oil. “The math simply does not work on PDVSA staying solvent” without help from Russia and China, she said. “So we think this default is a clear and present danger.” Nick Bit: Any rally above $60 a barrel would be a GREAT selling opportunity

Paul Ryan is walking a political tightrope on Trump

CNN)House Speaker Paul Ryan used his televised town hall meeting Monday to gingerly walk across the tightrope congressional Republican leaders will face this fall: how to put distance between themselves and President Donald Trump without alienating the White House.

The goal of this Republican political unity, Ryan also made clear, is passage of a federal budget full of tax cuts for the wealthy and deep reductions in social service programs. Ryan went out of his way to praise Trump’s latest attempt to undo the damage caused by his statements suggesting “both sides” of the recent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville were at fault for the resulting violence. “I do believe that (Trump) messed up in his comments on Tuesday, when it sounded like a moral equivocation, or at the very least moral ambiguity, when we need extreme moral clarity,” Ryan said of the President.
Ryan: Censure 'would be so counterproductive'
Ryan: Censure ‘would be so counterproductive’
But when asked if he would take steps to hold the President accountable by supporting a resolution for censure, Ryan firmly refused. “I will not support that. I think that would be — that would be so counterproductive,” he said. “If we descend this issue into some partisan hack-fest, into some bickering against each other, and demean it down to some political food fight, what good does that do to unify this country?” Pressed on whether he’d go as far as his former running mate, Mitt Romney, in demanding an apology from Trump, Ryan again refused. “It is very, very important that we not make this a partisan food fight,” he said. “It is very important that we unify in condemning this kind of violence, in condemning this kind of hatred. And to make this us against them, Republicans against Democrats, pro-Trump, anti-Trump, that is a big mistake for our country, and that will demean the value of this important issue.” Ryan’s take-home message is that people can disagree with Trump’s comments and actions individually, but he won’t use the power of his office to voice a collective objection. That delicate balance — criticize the President, but only up to a point — reflects the reality that Ryan will need White House cooperation to pass the deep, permanent tax cuts that have long been his core political objective.

Only one county in US remains without an Obamacare insurer for 2018

  • There has been a steady decrease in the number of counties at risk of having no Obamacare plans next year.
  • There had been 82 counties containing 92,000 Obamacare customers that were at risk of having no individual health plans offered in 2018.
  • Currently, there are fewer than 350 people who buy such plans in the only county still at risk of not having an insurer in 2018.

And there was just one.

The entire United States, with the exception of a single small county in Ohio, is now on track to have at least one insurer offering Obamacare health coverage next year. That’s a big change from earlier this summer when at different times a total of 82 counties lacked commitments from insurers who sell individual health plans for 2018. And the continued decline in “bare counties” provides more ammunition for Obamacare advocates arguing against Trump administration claims that the health-care program is failing and needs to be replaced immediately. The latest potential bare area to get coverage offered for next year was Menominee County in Wisconsin, where just 47 people buy Obamacare plans on the federal marketplace HealthCare.gov. Elizabeth Hizmi, a spokeswoman for Wisconsin’s insurance commissioner, would not identify the insurer that in recent days agreed to sell plans in Menominee, saying “at this time, service areas are not public.”

 

Paulding County has only 334 people currently covered by an individual health plan sold on HealthCare.gov. Froment has several weeks left to line up an insurer to cover the county.

Hopcraft, when asked what provisions Froment was considering for Paulding’s existing Obamacare customers if an insurer does not step in, said, “You know what, we’re not there yet.”

“The director said in a recent interview that she was just hopeful,” Hopcraft said.

Funds buy record amounts of longer-dated Treasuries at auctions

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Investment funds purchased record amounts of longer-dated U.S. government debt during the quarterly refunding conducted in early August, according to Treasury Department data available going back to 2000. Investment managers bought $12.444 billion at a $29 billion 10-year note auction, compared with the $9.961 billion they purchased the previous month, the Treasury data released on Tuesday showed. They bought $9.241 billion of the $15 billion in 30-year bonds offered earlier this month, which was far more than the $7.068 billion they bought in July. Foreign investors, another major group of holders of U.S. government debt, bought $1.783 billion of the latest 10-year supply, the least amount they bought at an auction since June 2009 and well below the $3.405 billion they purchased the previous month, according to the Treasury’s auction allotment data. Foreign investors bought $1.147 billion of 30-year bonds versus $0.723 billion the previous month. The Treasury also sold some of $30 billion of 10-year notes earlier this month to banks, pension funds and Wall Street bond dealers. At other auctions held the same week as the 10-year auction, large investment managers bought $11.349 billion of 3-year notes, compared with the $8.502 billion they purchased the previous month. Overseas investors bought $6.108 billion of the latest 3-year supply, compared with $6.070 billion they purchased the previous month. The Treasury offered $31 billion in 3-year notes and $20 billion in 30-year bonds.

Changing mortgage deduction would discourage homeownership: Toll Brothers CEO

Making changes to the popular mortgage interest rate deduction would be “very bad policy,” Toll Brothers CEO Doug Yearley told CNBC on Tuesday. Industry sources told CNBC reducing the deduction is on the negotiating table as Republicans work to hammer out a tax reform package. “It would discourage homeownership,” Yearley said in an interview with “Closing Bell.” “This country has prided itself on encouraging homeownership, and mortgage interest deduction has been around for decades. It’s worked very well.” The measure enables homeowners to deduct the interest paid on their home loans from their income taxes. It is currently capped at loans up to $1 million for married couples filing jointly. The cap is $500,000 for those filing separately. While no one thinks the deduction will go away, there has been talk in Washington, D.C., about modifying it for “at least” the last 10 years, Yearley noted. “I don’t think it’s going to gain traction,” he said. In May, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC that President Donald Trump’s tax-reform plan would not eliminate the mortgage interest deduction. And on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said those who are worried about the deduction “can breathe easy.”

Wells Fargo CEO tells employees to brace for more negative headlines

Tim Sloan, Chief Executive Officer of Wells Fargo & Company, February 8, 2017.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters Tim Sloan, Chief Executive Officer of Wells Fargo & Company, February 8, 2017.

Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan said Tuesday that forthcoming results from the bank’s review of its consumer sales scandal could cause more negative attention.”The results of our reviews will generate news headlines, but even as we face this renewed coverage, the best thing we can do is stay focused on fixing problems, making things right for customers, and building a better, stronger Wells Fargo,” Sloan said in a company-wide message that was shared in a press release. Sloan also said that “within a few weeks” the bank will announce the completion of an expanded review by a third party of the fake consumer accounts workers had opened. They were pressured by aggressive sales goals, a practice Wells Fargo has since ended. In an Aug. 4 quarterly 10-Q filing required by the SEC for public firms, Wells Fargo said it expanded the review period to 2009 through 2016 and that could reveal a “significant increase” in unauthorized accounts. “This analysis examined account usage patterns and is constructed to err on the side of the customer in determining which accounts are included as potentially unauthorized,” Sloan said Tuesday. Sloan took over Wells Fargo last fall after it was discovered the bank’s workers had opened about 2 million consumer deposit and credit card accounts without customers’ authorization since 2011. Wells Fargo paid $185 million in penalties. This year, the bank also reached a preliminary class-action settlement of $142 million over concerns about retail sales practices and unauthorized accounts from 2002.

White House infrastructure advisory council have resigned

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some members of a White House infrastructure advisory council have resigned, the White House said on Tuesday, days after President Donald Trump’s response to violence at a rally by white nationalists in Virginia prompted business leaders and cultural figures to quit other panels in protest. Trump last week disbanded two business advisory councils after several chief executives resigned in protest over his remarks blaming the violence on anti-racism activists as well as white nationalists. In a statement on Tuesday, the White House did not give a reason for the resignations from the National Infrastructure Advisory Council and said the panel met on Tuesday with the majority of its members. It did not specify how many members quit. “We can confirm that a number of members of the NIAC who had been appointed under the previous administration have submitted their resignation,” the statement said. Trump, commenting on the Aug. 12 rally organized by neo-Nazis and other white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a woman was killed when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters, said last week that there were “very fine people” on both sides. Trump dissolved the American Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum on Aug. 16. Sixteen members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities also resigned on Friday in protest.

At least 800,000 struggling families face crisis after sub-prime loan firm Provident Financial goes into meltdown Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4814606/800-000-families-face-crisis-sub-prime-loan-firm-tanks

Hundreds of thousands of struggling families have been left in limbo by a mounting crisis at doorstep lender Provident Financial. Shares in the business crashed by 66 per cent yesterday after bosses admitted that a software bug has made it impossible to collect debts from customers. It is believed to be the biggest ever one-day stock price fall for a firm in the blue chip FTSE 100 index, wiping £1.7billion off its value. The company’s chief executive, Peter Crook, resigned in disgrace. The firm was also forced to announce its door-to-door loan division would lose up to £120million this year, and it will be axing its dividend.  In a shock update to the stock market, Provident revealed it was being investigated over a potential mis-selling scandal which could ultimately cost up to £140million. Analysts have been closely watching the 137-year-old company, which targets customers with poor credit history, because any problems with repayments are likely to be an early warning sign that Britain’s debt bubble is about to burst. Most of its 2.5million customers are among the most vulnerable in society.