Graham Says 2018 Will Be a Year of ‘Extreme Danger’ — If Trump Admin ‘Blinks, God Help Us’

Sunday on CBS’s “Face The Nation,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said 2018 would be a year of “extreme danger” in the United States relations with North Korea and Iran. Graham said, “He’s told the North Koreans ‘I will deny you the capability to hit America with a nuclear-tip missile.’ If they test another bomb, they’re closer to having that capability. And as last resort ‘I will use more force to stop you.’ Now, Iranians are watching us in North Korea. North Korea is watching us in Iran. 2018 will be a year of opportunity and extreme danger. The president has drawn a line in North Korea, telling the regime ‘I’ll never let you hit America with a nuclear-tip missile. If I have to, I’ll use military force to stop you.’ Iranians are watching the way he engages with North Korea and vice versa.” He added, “We’ve got a chance here to deliver some fatal blows to some really bad actors in 2018. But if we blink, God help us all.”

Iran president Rouhani urges against violence in protests, says Trump ‘has no right to sympathize with Iranians’

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Lucas Jackson | Reuters Iranian President Hassan Rouhan

President Hassan Rouhani, giving his first public reaction to four days of anti-government protests, said on Sunday Iranians had the right to protest and criticize the authorities but their actions should not lead to violence or damage public property. “People are absolutely free to criticize the government and protest but their protests should be in such a way as to improve the situation in the country and their life,” Rouhani was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as telling the cabinet.  “Criticism is different from violence and damaging public properties.” Anti-government protesters demonstrated on Sunday in defiance of a warning by the authorities of a tough crackdown, extending for a fourth day one of the most audacious challenges to the clerical leadership since pro-reform unrest in 2009. Tens of thousands of people have protested across the country since Thursday against the Islamic Republic’s unelected clerical elite and Iranian foreign policy in the region. They have also chanted slogans in support of political prisoners. “Resolving the problems is not easy and would take time. The government and people should help each other to resolve the issues,” Rouhani said, according to IRNA. Rouhani also rebuffed U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments in support of the protests. “This man in America who is sympathizing today with our people has forgotten that he called the Iranian nation terrorists a few months ago. This man who is against the Iranian nation to his core has no right to sympathize with Iranians,” Rouhani said.

Iran cuts social media access as unrest turns deadly

Tehran (AFP) – Iran cut access to social media on Sunday in a bid to head off further protests after days of unrest that saw two people killed and dozens arrested. The interior minister warned protesters will “pay the price” as footage on social media showed thousands marching across the country overnight in the biggest test for the Islamic republic since mass demonstrations in 2009. The spate of demonstrations began in second city Mashhad on Thursday over high living costs, but quickly spread throughout the country and turned against the Islamic system as a whole, with slogans such as “Death to the dictator”. Lorestan province deputy governor Habibollah Khojastehpour told state television that two people were killed in clashes in the small western town of Dorud late on Saturday, but denied security forces were responsible. There were no signs of major protests during the day on Sunday, though officials appeared to be bracing for unrest after dark. In an apparent attempt to stave off more unrest, the authorities began blocking access to photo sharing and online messaging services on mobile phones, including Telegram, which the government accused of being used to foment violence, local media and Telegram’s CEO said. After an initial silence, state media has begun showing footage of unrest, focusing on young men violently targeting banks and vehicles, an attack on a town hall in Tehran, and images of a man burning the Iranian flag. “Those who damage public property, disrupt order and break the law must be responsible for their behaviour and pay the price,” Interior Minister Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli said on state television. “The spreading of violence, fear and terror will definitely be confronted,” he added.US President Donald Trump said the “big protests” showed people “were getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism”. “Looks like they will not take it any longer,” he wrote on Twitter, warning that Washington is “watching very closely for human rights violations!”British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said he was “watching events in Iran with concern”.

North Korea crisis: We do NOT have the luxury of time ex-US official warns amid WW3 fears

THE current situation with North Korea means “we don’t have the luxury of time anymore” a former US ambassador to the UN has warned as Kim Jong-un’s regime vows full steam ahead for its nuclear capabilities in 2018.

John Bolton, who served under George W Bush, said: “The issue is, is there a way to go after the facilities that we know about and destroy them.  “I think that is entirely doable. The problem is that any use of force against North Korea such as a targeted assassination of Kim Jong-un , the use of special operatives or cyber warfare could trigger a North Korean retaliation against South Korea. “That is what people are most worried about and legitimately so.” “You have to look at in a very cold and objective way because the threat to the America people of North Korea not only having this capability itself but selling it to others – selling it to Iran and terrorist groups.

Kim Jong-un and North Korea missile launchGETTY

The current situation with North Korea means ‘we don’t have the luxury of time anymore’ “We don’t have the luxury of time anymore and I think it’s that constraint that we need to keep in mind.” His comments come after North Korea revealed it will continue to enhance its nuclear capabilities in 2018 despite pressure from international sanctions to back down. 

An analyst and former American UN mission spokesman, Jonathan Wachtel also warned that Kim Jong-un will continue to build nuclear weapons in a bid to protect his dictatorship. Citing despots Muammar Qaddafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein as examples, Mr Wachtel added: “They didn’t have nuclear deterrents… both those dictators are dead.“Kim Jong-un knows that if war breaks out, he is probably one of the first casualties.  “So having a nuclear deterrent is something Kim Jong-un understands in his calculus, trying to survive.”  In November Donald Trump officially declared North Korea was back on the US’ watch list for state sponsored terrorism which includes Iran – designated in 1984, Sudan – added in 1993, and Syria – listed in 1979. The announcement came after a United Nations report revealed that North Korean weapons were discovered on Iranian ships on route to war-torn Somalia.  According to the report, the Iranian ship was smuggling machine guns from North Korea to arm militants in Somalia and Libya.

Rep. Ted Lieu: Mueller ‘Knows Far More Than People Think’

Image: Rep. Ted Lieu: Mueller 'Knows Far More Than People Think'
Rep. Ted Lieu (AP) By Wanda Carruthers

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., tweeted Saturday Special Counsel Robert Mueller “knows far more than people think” regarding his investigation into claims of Russian collusion in the 2016 U.S. presidential race. “Important story below. Keep in mind no one was really aware of George Papadopoulos until his guilty plea was revealed. That tells us Special Counsel Mueller knows far more than people think. And Papadopoulos is cooperating with Mueller. The White House should be scared,” Lieu tweeted Saturday.

 Important story below. Keep in mind no one was really aware of George Papadopoulos until his guilty plea was revealed. That tells us Special Counsel Mueller knows far more than people think. And Papadopoulos is cooperating with Mueller. The White House should be scared. https://t.co/q4pDlxpRES

— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) December 30, 2017

Lieu’s tweet comes after a New York Times story on Saturday claiming the Russia probe began following a drunken exchange in 2016 between George Papadopoulos, a campaign aide for President Donald Trump during his election campaign, and an Australian diplomat to Britain.

 

Papadopolous reportedly revealed to Alexander Downer, the Australian diplomat, that Russia had dirt on Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos indicated he had been told Russia had emails numbering in the thousands that could embarrass Clinton.

Two months later when Clinton’s emails began appearing online, Australian officials notified their counterparts in the U.S. about the statements Papadopolous had made. That revelation eventually led to an FBI investigation and, ultimately, the naming of Mueller to the special counsel probe.Papadopolous pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now reportedly cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.  Lieu is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which has interviewed various Trump campaign associates in connection with lawmakers’ inquiry into the Russia allegations.

Business chiefs warn Theresa May their patience over Brexit is ‘wearing thin’

Adam Marshall said firms want clarity and results from the Government but have been dismayed by 'division and disorganisation' across Westminster
British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) director general Adam Marshall

Theresa May has been warned that business chiefs’ patience over Brexit is ‘wearing thin’ and Westminster must get to grips with the challenge. British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) director general Adam Marshall said firms want clarity and results from the Government and suggested industry was dismayed by ‘division and disorganisation’ across Westminster.The BCC represents firms employing more than five million people across the country and Mr Marshall is the latest senior business figure to demand a clearer picture of what a Brexit deal will involve. Adam Marshall said firms want clarity and results from the Government but have been dismayed by ‘division and disorganisation’ across WestminsterPatient with Theresa May ‘is now wearing thin’ says the British Chambers of Commerce chief’Some very big decisions lie ahead,’ Mr Marshall told The Observer. ‘Getting the twin challenges of Brexit and the economic fundamentals right will require leadership, consistency and clarity – after a year in which business has been dismayed by what it sees as division and disorganisation across Westminster.’ He added: ‘Businesses have been very patient in waiting for clarity on Brexit in the 18 months since the referendum. ‘That patience is now wearing thin. Businesses want answers, they want clarity and they want results.’ The BCC, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Institute of Directors (IoD) and EEF, which represents manufacturers, have all called for the terms of a transition period after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 to be agreed as soon as possible, to give firms time to plan for the new relationship with Brussels. The longer the process drags on, the less value a transitional deal will have as firms will already have been forced to implement contingency plans which could see them shift work and jobs to one of the 27 other European Union members.

Blumenthal: Trump’s denial of Russia collusion ‘rotten at core’

Blumenthal: Trump's denial of Russia collusion 'rotten at core'

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) slammed President Trump on Saturday for his repeated denials of collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia. “Trump denial of Russian collusion rotten at core and doomed to unravel,” Blumenthal tweeted Saturday. “Expect more serious convictions and indictments early in 2018 as Special Counsel climbs ladder of criminal culpability – and more panicky, preemptive attacks from Republicans.”

Blumenthal’s remarks come on the heels of a new report detailing how the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election began.

The New York Times reported Saturday that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos prompted the investigation by drunkenly revealing knowledge of Russian opposition research on then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. In May 2016, Papadopoulos allegedly revealed to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer that Russian officials were shopping possible damaging information on Clinton, likely implying that Russian officials were offering the information to the Trump campaign, the Times reported. Papadopoulos apparently shared information provided to him by Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor with ties to Moscow officials, who told him that the Russians had “thousands of emails” obtained by hackers from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that had yet to be released. Australian officials informed their U.S. counterparts after leaked DNC emails began to surface online, according to the Times. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI for misrepresenting his communications with Mifsud and Olga Polonskaya, a woman who, along with Mifsud, attempted to broker a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump and other former campaign officials have denied Papadopoulos had a large role in the campaign. One former campaign aide, Michael Caputo, said Papadopoulos was a “coffee boy” who had “nothing to do with the campaign.”

Nick Bit: as Posted earlier Papadopoulos will not be the first coffee boy to bring down a King Pin…..

South Korea seizes another ship suspected of transferring oil to North Korea

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean authorities have seized a Panama-flagged vessel suspected of transferring oil products to North Korea in violation of international sanctions, a customs official said on Sunday. The KOTI was seized at Pyeongtaek-Dangjin port, the official told Reuters, without elaborating, due to the sensitivity of the issue. The port is on the west coast south of Incheon. The ship can carry 5,100 tonnes of oil and has a crew mostly from China and Myanmar, Yonhap News Agency reported, adding that South Korea’s intelligence and customs officials are conducting a joint probe into the vessel.The official did not say when authorities moved in, but the seizure was the second to be revealed within just a few days.  South Korea said on Friday that in late November it had seized the Hong Kong-flagged Lighthouse Winmore, which is suspected of transferring as much as 600 tons of oil to the North Korea-flagged Sam Jong 2. The U.N. Security Council last month unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea for a recent intercontinental ballistic missile test, seeking to limit its access to refined petroleum products and crude oil. The United States has also proposed that the United Nations Security Council blacklist 10 ships for transporting banned items from North Korea, according to documents seen by Reuters on Tuesday. The Lighthouse Winmore is one of the 10 ships proposed to be blacklisted. The KOTI does not seem to be included on the list. China on Friday denied reports it had been illicitly selling oil products to North Korea in defiance of U.N. sanctions, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he was unhappy that China had allowed oil to reach the isolated nation.

Donald Trump aide told Australian diplomat Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton during ‘night of heavy drinking’

George Papadopoulos spoke to high commissioner Alexander Downer at London bar in May 2016, catalysing FBI investigation, The New York Times reports

The FBI reportedly launched its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election after George Papadopoulos, then a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump, told an Australian diplomat that Moscow had damaging information about Hillary Clinton.According to a report published by The New York Times , Papadopoulos made the revelation to Alexander Downer, the Australian high commissioner to the UK, “during a night of heavy drinking” at the Kensington Wine Rooms in London in May 2016.  Papadopoulos reportedly told Downer that Russian officials possessed thousands of emails that could harm Clinton’s candidacy. Australia is part of the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance, with the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand. When WikiLeaks began publishing hacked emails from Democratic officials two months later, Australian officials passed the information to their US counterparts, The Times report stated. The FBI then began its investigation.

White House lawyer Ty Cobb declined to comment, saying in a statement that the administration was continuing to cooperate with the investigation now led by special counsel Robert Mueller “to help complete their inquiry expeditiously”.

 In October, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the nature of his communications with the Russians. He is said to have been cooperating since July with special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed in May to oversee the federal inquiry into links between Trump and Russia.

The White House has sought to portray Papadopoulos as a low-level staffer whose contacts with the Russians were made independently.

The Times report said court documents showed Papadopoulos repeatedly tried to coordinate a meeting between Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin and notified senior campaign officials of his efforts. The Times report comes as Republicans have escalated their attacks on the independence of Mueller’s investigation, zeroing in on the FBI’s use of a dossier regarding links between Trump and Russia compiled by a former British spy, Christopher Steele. Nick Bit: it will not be the first time the “coffee boy” bought down a King Pin

Bitcoin led the best-performing ETFs this year

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) offer investors instant diversification at low cost - tracking indexes, commodities, currencies or a basket of managed assets – with the ability to trade like stocks. Investors have been increasing their positions in these instruments, with assets in U.S.-listed ETFs and ETNs (Exchange-Traded Notes) totaling $1.2 trillion as of April 2012, a 6 percent increase compared to April 2011, according to the ETF Industry Association. According to the association, ETF net cas
The research director behind one of 2017’s top-performing exchange-traded funds is still betting on bitcoin and electric, self-driving cars.
 

Thanks to an early investment in the Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC), Ark Web x.0 ETF (ARKW) and the Ark Innovation ETF (ARKK) are the two best-performing ETFs this year, according to a report last week from ETF.com. At the time, the ETFs were up 95 percent or more for the year. They remained about 85 percent higher on Friday. Ark’s director of research Brett Winton said the company isn’t cashing out on bitcoin yet. “We hold bitcoin in the portfolio not because we think we’re more nimble than other people, but because we think we have a better long-term understanding,” Winton said in a phone interview with CNBC last week.”We see a young asset class like crypto assets as having lots of volatility and lots of potential upside.”

Alexander Demianchuk | TASS | Getty Images

As investors increasingly turn to passive investment vehicles such as ETFs, this year the funds saw record-breaking inflows of $476 billion and assets under management climb to $3.4 trillion. Even traditional money managers have rushed to launch their own exchange-traded funds. But the hot money has flowed into niche funds offering exposure to bitcoin, electric cars, robotics and artificial intelligence. Global X’s Robotics & Artificial Intelligence ETF (BOTZ) saw its assets under management surge from $4 million to $1.5 billion in the last 12 months, the company said. BOTZ is among the top 20 ETFs this year, up 57 percent, according to the ETF.com. Ark Web x.0 became the first ETF to invest in bitcoin via the Bitcoin Investment Trust in September 2015. The trust’s underlying asset bitcoin has blown away the performance of traditional investments with gains of 1,400 percent this year.

GBTC itself holds about a tenth of bitcoin per share and is up more than 1,900 percent this year. But the bitcoin trust is riskier than most funds since it trades over-the-counter, rather than in a formal venue like the New York Stock Exchange. GBTC had $1.69 billion in assets under management, as of the end of November, according to its website.

“We’re cognizant of the risks,” Winton said. He said in addition to bitcoin’s technological potential, the investment firm was interested in holding the digital currency because it wasn’t as tied to the performance of traditional financial assets. Ark’s Innovation ETF also holds the Bitcoin Investment Trust, with a 5.8 percent weighting as of Thursday, according to the company’s website.