Mueller asking if Trump knew about hacked Democratic emails before release

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is asking witnesses pointed questions about whether Donald Trump was aware that Democratic emails had been stolen before that was publicly known, and whether he was involved in their strategic release, according to multiple people familiar with the probe. Mueller’s investigators have asked witnesses whether Trump was aware of plans for WikiLeaks to publish the emails. They have also asked about the relationship between GOP operative Roger Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and why Trump took policy positions favorable to Russia. The line of questioning suggests the special counsel, who is tasked with examining whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, is looking into possible coordination between WikiLeaks and Trump associates in disseminating the emails, which U.S. intelligence officials say were stolen by Russia. Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion and has described the special counsel’s investigation as “illegal” and a “witch hunt.”

In one line of questioning, investigators have focused on Trump’s public comments in July 2016 asking Russia to find emails that were deleted by his then-opponent Hillary Clinton from a private server she maintained while secretary of state. The comments came at a news conference on July 27, 2016, just days after WikiLeaks began publishing the Democratic National Committee emails. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said. Witnesses have been asked whether Trump himself knew then that Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, whose emails were released several months later, had already been targeted. They were also asked if Trump was advised to make the statement about Clinton’s emails from someone outside his campaign, and if the witnesses had reason to believe Trump tried to coordinate the release of the DNC emails to do the most damage to Clinton, the people familiar with the matter said.

The White House spokesman at the time, Sean Spicer, would later say that then-candidate Trump had been “joking” when he called on Russia to hack his opponent’s emails.

Investigators are also asking questions about Trump’s longtime relationship with Stone, the Republican operative, according to witnesses. Investigators have asked about Stone’s contacts with WikiLeaks during the campaign and if he’s ever met with Assange. “They wanted to see if there was a scheme. Was Stone working on the side for Trump?” after he officially left the campaign, one person interviewed by the special counsel’s office said, adding that it seemed investigators wanted to know, “Was this a big plot?” Russia stole emails from the DNC and Podesta, according to U.S. intelligence officials, and released batches of them through WikiLeaks starting in July 2016 and up until the election. As part of his plea agreement with the special counsel, former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos revealed that in a conversation in late April 2016, he was told by a professor with ties to Russian officials that they had “dirt’ on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” A 10-page memo from Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released Saturday noted that the Justice Department’s October 2016 application for a FISA warrant on another Trump foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, included the fact that Russian agents had previewed their hack and dissemination of stolen emails to Papadopoulos. Investigators were interested in statements Stone made in the final month of the 2016 campaign that strongly suggested he was aware of information the group had before it became public and when it might be released. In one instance, he wrote on Twitter that “it would soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel.” Weeks later Podesta’s stolen emails were released by WikiLeaks. As WikiLeaks was strategically publishing stolen emails in the closing months of the campaign, Trump also publicly said he loved the group. In 2017, President Trump’s CIA director, Mike Pompeo, would label the group a hostile nonstate actor.

Investigators also have shown interest in any connections Stone has to WikiLeaks and Assange, its founder. Stone has said he communicated with Assange and WikiLeaks through an intermediary he described as a journalist. The Atlantic reported this week that Stone exchanged direct messages on Twitter with WikiLeaks. Mueller’s team has asked witnesses if Stone ever met with Assange. Stone has denied ever communicating directly with Assange. Stone served briefly on the Trump campaign in 2015, leaving in August of that year. At the time he said he quit, while the campaign said he was fired. Investigators have asked witnesses about Stone’s time on the campaign and what his relationship was like with Trump after he left. “How often did they talk? Who really fired him? Was he really fired?” a witness said, describing the line of questioning. In a statement, Stone said he had “no advance knowledge of the content or source of information published by WikiLeaks.” “I have not been interviewed by the special counsel,” wrote Stone. “I never discussed WikiLeaks, Assange or the Hillary disclosures with candidate Trump, before during or after the election. I have no idea what he knew about them, from who or when. I have never met Assange.” Stone appeared before the House Intelligence Committee for four hours last September. In his prepared opening statement, which he also delivered publicly on the InfoWars YouTube channel, Stone denied that he ever engaged “in any illegal activities on behalf of my clients, or the causes which I support.” He denied having direct contact with Assange and called any exchanges with Guccifer 2.0, which took credit for hacking the DNC, “innocuous.” And he said his tweet predicting that Podesta would spend time in the “barrel” was in the context of the coverage of the resignation of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, whom he called his “boyhood friend and colleague,” over allegations about business activities in Ukraine. At that same July 2016 news conference where he referenced Clinton’s missing emails, candidate Trump said he was open to lifting sanctions on Russia and possibly recognizing its annexation of Crimea in Ukraine. The U.S. and its European allies had sanctioned Russia because of its intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, which the Obama administration refused to recognize. Investigators have asked witnesses why Trump took policy positions that were friendly toward Russia and spoke positively about Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to people familiar with the probe. Investigators have also inquired whether Trump met with Putin before becoming president, including if a meeting took place during Trump’s 2013 visit to Moscow for his Miss Universe pageant. Trump has given conflicting responses on when he first met Putin.

At least one witness was asked about Trump’s business interests in Moscow and surmised afterward that the special counsel investigation may be focused on business dealings that took place during the campaign.

Witnesses also have been asked about Stone’s connections to Manafort. At least one witness has been asked about Trump aide Dan Scavino, specifically about any involvement he may have had in the campaign’s data operation. Scavino currently runs the White House’s social media operations and is one of Trump’s closest aides.

Officials from four countries discussed exploiting Jared Kushner

WaPo: Officials from 4 countries discussed exploiting Kushner 

Kushner security clearance is downgraded

Washington (CNN)Officials from at least four countries have discussed ways they could use Jared Kushner’s intricate business arrangements, lack of experience and financial woes to manipulate President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. The paper reported that it is unclear, based on current and former US officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter, that the countries — – Mexico, Israel, China and the United Arab Emirates — acted on the conversations. The revelation is the latest in a series that call into question Kushner’s ability to work in the White House given his complex business ties. Kushner security clearance is downgraded CNN reported earlier on Tuesday that Kushner has been stripped of his access to the nation’s top secrets after chief of staff John Kelly mandated changes to the security clearance system. Kushner had been working on a temporary clearance, but, under the new system, aides who previously had “top secret” interim clearances saw their access downgrade to the less sensitive “secret” designation. According to the Post, national security adviser H.R. McMaster told his deputies in spring of 2017 that he wanted all the intelligence reports on conversations where foreign leaders discussed interactions with senior Trump officials, including Kushner. The order came after McMaster learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials without coordinating with the National Security Council.

Top White House officials were worried Kushner was “naive and being tricked” by foreign officials, one former White House official told the Post.

The news of foreign interest in Kushner’s business ties and financial woes comes after CNN reported special counsel Robert Mueller has expanded his probe beyond Kushner’s contacts with Russia into his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition.

A source familiar with the matter says the FBI is expected to wrap up the Kushner background check within a month, but the source said the FBI would hand the findings to the White House for it to make the ultimate decision on his clearance.

Mueller team asks about Trump’s Russian business dealings as he weighed a run for president

Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him 

(CNN)Investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller have recently been asking witnesses about Donald Trump’s business activities in Russia prior to the 2016 presidential campaign as he considered a run for president, according to three people familiar with the matter. Questions to some witnesses during wide-ranging interviews included the timing of Trump’s decision to seek the presidency, potentially compromising information the Russians may have had about him, and why efforts to brand a Trump Tower in Moscow fell through, two sources said. The lines of inquiry indicate Mueller’s team is reaching beyond the campaign to explore how the Russians might have sought to influence Trump at a time when he was discussing deals in Moscow and contemplating a presidential run. Two of the sources said they do not know from the questions asked whether Mueller has concrete evidence to indicate wrongdoing.Investigators asked one witness when Trump became serious about running for President, a person familiar with the matter said, adding that investigators seemed very interested in when Trump actually decided to run and how that coincided with his business ventures.  The source said the witness told Mueller’s team his impression was that Trump was serious about running back in 2014. Trump tweeted earlier this month that he “didn’t know” that he was going to run for president in 2014. This witness was also asked whether Russians had been seen in the office at Trump Tower New York prior to 2015. The answer was no. Questions have also touched on the possibility of compromising information that Russians may have or claim to have about Trump, according to two sources familiar with the matter. That subject matter echoes claims in a controversial dossier written by a former British spy who was paid by an opposition research firm underwritten by Trump’s Democratic opponents. Several lines of questioning to witnesses have centered on the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, which was held in Moscow, and unsuccessful discussions to brand a Trump Tower Moscow, two sources said. For the pageant, Trump partnered with Aras Agalarov, and his son, Emin Agalarov, billionaire real estate developers in Russia. In congressional testimony last year, Donald Trump Jr. said that “preliminary discussions” to build a tower in Moscow began between the Trump Organization and the Agalarovs after the Miss Universe pageant. Trump tweeted with excitement about the potential project, saying “Trump Tower-Moscow is next.” But the plans fell through. Rob Goldstone, a publicist for pop star Emin Agalarov, told Yahoo News last year that the Trump Tower deal was scrapped because “the economy tanked in Russia” from harsh sanctions imposed by Western countries.

Continue reading “Mueller team asks about Trump’s Russian business dealings as he weighed a run for president”

Top US diplomat QUITS as North Korea negotiator in major blow to peace talks

THE SHOCK resignation of a US diplomat responsible for paving the way to talks with North Korea has dealt a major blow to the chances of a peaceful solution to the standoff between the two nations, analysts have warned.
US special envoy to North Korea Joseph Yun
GETTY IMAGES

America’s special envoy to North Korea, Joseph Yun, announced his shock resignation Joseph Yun announced he was retiring from his post as the US special envoy to North Korea just hours after President Donald Trump reiterated he would not open dialogue with the rogue state unless there were guarantees the talks would result in Kim Jong-un’s regime giving up its nuclear weapons.

South Korean-born Mr Yun has long advocated a diplomatic solution to the tense situation and has been pursing direct diplomacy with the hermit kingdom since 2016. His departure has prompted fears Washington will be left without an experienced expert as the chance of talks between two nations reaches a crucial point. Frank Januzzi, an East Asia expert who heads the Mansfield Foundation, said on Twitter: “This is exceptionally bad news.

“Joe Yun is the only senior official left at State who has experience dealing with the complexities of North Korea policy.”

And former deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia Abraham Denmark said on Twitter that Mr Yun’s retirement was “a huge loss for the US government at a critical moment.” However the US State Department has insisted it has a “deep bench” of senior people who can take on the job. Speaking with US network CBS News after announcing his retirement, Mr Yun said: “It is really my decision. The time, I thought, was right. Mr Yun has 32 years of experience in the foreign service “There is a bit of a lull in activity and I thought it would be a good time to get out.” North Korea has signalled it may be willing to talk with the United States after a series of diplomatic contacts with South Korea during the Winter Olympics. As the games began, hopes of a breakthrough between the rival nations were raised after Kim Jong-un’s younger sister led a delegation from the North to meet with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in. The meeting ended with the prospect of a summit in Pyongyang. Nick Bit: That’s OK we have Ivanka… She can throw a fashon show…….

CNN Poll: 6 in 10 concerned Trump isn’t doing enough to protect US elections

Washington (CNN)About 6 in 10 Americans say Donald Trump is not taking seriously enough the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the US presidential election, and about the same share lack confidence the president is doing enough to prevent foreign interference in future elections, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. Almost three-quarters (72%) say they are concerned about foreign government interference in US elections generally, including 90% of Democrats, 68% of independents and 53% of Republicans, and 60% say they are not confident the president is doing enough to prevent foreign countries from influencing future American elections. The poll followed a stretch in which special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election, including spreading false information on social media, organizing political events, and communicating with “unwitting” people tied to the Trump campaign and others in order to coordinate political activities. Trump responded to the indictments with a string of tweets emphasizing that his campaign did not collude with Russian operatives, and suggesting that Russia had created discord by prompting an investigation after the election was over, writing, “they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.” Trump’s handling of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election continues to garner negative reviews: Just 30% approve of his handling of it in the new poll, the lowest level in CNN polling by one point. And most, 55%, now say they think the President has attempted to interfere in the investigation, up from 51% saying so in January. Overall, 61% say the Russia investigation is a serious matter that should be fully investigated, while 34% say it’s mainly an effort to discredit Trump’s presidency. As has been the case for some time, there’s a broad partisan gap on this question, with 89% of Democrats calling it a serious matter and 71% of Republicans saying it’s mainly an effort to discredit Trump. Partisan gaps are quite wide on concern about several aspects of Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 elections. Overall, 66% are concerned about Russian operatives’ contacts with people involved in Trump’s campaign, that includes 91% of Democrats and 63% of independents but just 36% of Republicans. Likewise, Democrats and independents express greater concern than Republicans on Russian-backed campaigns to spread disinformation to US voters (88% of Democrats, 69% of independents and 47% of Republicans) and to steal and release politically meaningful information (88% of Democrats, 67% of independents and 55% of Republicans). The gap in concern is narrower, however, on the political motivations behind investigations into that Russian interference, as majorities across party lines express concern about those motivations: 78% of Democrats, 69% of independents and 56% of Republicans concerned about that. Trump’s approval rating for handling national security more generally is also low: 40% approve, 50% disapprove.

Trump son-in-law, adviser Kushner loses access to top intelligence briefing: sources

 FILE PHOTO – White House senior adviser Jared Kushner 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, has lost access to the most valued U.S. intelligence report, the President’s Daily Brief, as the White House imposes greater discipline on access to secrets, two U.S. officials familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. Kushner, who has been operating under an interim security clearance for about a year, had his access to the highly classified briefing cut off in the past few weeks, said the sources.  A third official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recently passed new information to White House Counsel Don McGahn that led to the slowing or stopping of Kushner’s pending clearance application. The nature of that information was not clear. It also is unclear if and when Kushner’s access to the briefing, known as the PDB, which requires clearance higher than the Top Secret level, would be reinstated. Kushner, a wealthy New York businessman married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, has not received his full security clearance because of his extensive financial links, which have taken a long time to examine. He has revised his security clearance form, called an SF-86, several times.  New security clearance policies announced by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly “will not affect Mr. Kushner’s ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the President,” Lowell said.Kelly, whose handling of the Porter case was heavily criticized, decreed on Feb. 16 that any interim security clearances for staffers whose background investigations had been pending since June 1 or before would be discontinued within a week. A source familiar with the matter said the situation had caused tensions between Kushner and Kelly.

New Fed chairman isn’t afraid to raise rates amid market turmoil

Powell, who was set to make his debut before Congress on Tuesday, takes the reins at the US central bank from predecessor Janet Yellen amid an improving economy and a stock market that’s been whipsawed by violent selloffs.

In his prepared remarks, however, he noted that he expects wages to rise and inflation to be higher this year than in 2017 — two conditions that would push the Fed to make borrowing money more expensive — in order to keep the economy from overheating.

“While many factors shape the economic outlook, some of the headwinds the US economy faced in previous years have turned into tailwinds: In particular, fiscal policy has become more stimulative and foreign demand for US exports is on a firmer trajectory,” he said in prepared remarks. In his coming out, he seemed to signal that turmoil in the stock market won’t have any effect on the trajectory of the Fed’s hiking interest rates. “Despite the recent volatility, financial conditions remain accommodative,” he said.

Loyal dog dies after protecting his master’s grave for a DECADE having REFUSED to leave

A COMMITTED dog who refused to leave his owner’s grave for a decade has died at the cemetery where the man is buried. Capitan, the 15-year-old German Shepherd, lived at the side of his master’s resting place for 10 years.

capitan loyal dog grave

Capitan, a German Shepherd, died at the cemetery where this owner was buried 10 years on

Capitan’s owner, Miguel Guzman, died in 2006 and was buried in the Municipal Cemetery of Villa Carlos Paz – a city in the Argentinian state of Cordoba. The German Shepherd went missing from the family home after his funeral. Guzman’s family were shocked to discover Capitan had set up beside his owner’s graveside months later as they assumed the dog had run away.No one is sure how Capitan found the cemetery. At the time, director of the Municipal Cemetery, Hector Baccega, said: “He turned up here one day, all on his own, and started wandering all around the cemetery until he eventually found the tomb of his master. “During the day he sometimes has a walk around the cemetery, but always rushes back to the grave. “And every day, at six o’clock sharp, he lies down on top of the grave and stays there all night.” Capitan lived in the cemetery for ten additional years and became something of a global phenomenon. Four years ago, Capitan was taken to the vet and diagnosed with kidney failure. The vet who treated the dog, Cristhian Sempels, told reporters: “Unfortunately, his age and this condition (kidney failure) meant he could not hold on. “We could have admitted him to the vet, but only so that he could die in the veterinary surgery, so we preferred to leave him and attend to him in the cemetery, where he lived and felt calm.” Mr Guzman bought Capitan as a present for his 13-year-old son Damian in 2005 but died unexpectedly in March the following year. It is not confirmed where Capitan is going to be buried. Reports say that local authorities suggested that the German shepherd should be cremated, with his ashes placed beneath a monument where locals could pay tribute. As the monument would be placed in a public space, this would need to be confirmed and passed on to local institutions. Members of the Foundation of Animal Protection (FUPA) requested Capitan’s remains to be buried next to his owner. Nick Bit: Now you know why you sometimes hear dogs barking in the background on my live shows. I love Shepard’s and they love me. If you don’t understand it forget it you never will. From one dog lover to another!

Wall St falls after Powell’s comments on strengthening economy

Fed’s Powell nods to “gradual” rate increases, close eye on inflation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, pledging to “strike a balance” between the risk of an overheating economy and the need to keep growth on track, told U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday that the central bank would stick with gradual interest rate increases despite the added stimulus of tax cuts and government spending.Fed policymakers anticipate three rate increases this year, and Powell gave no indication in prepared remarks to the House Financial Services Committee that the pace needs to quicken even as the “tailwinds” of government stimulus and a stronger world economy propel the U.S. recovery.  “The [Federal Open Market Committee] will continue to strike a balance between avoiding an overheating economy and bringing … price inflation to 2 percent on a sustained basis,” Powell said in prepared remarks for his first monetary policy testimony to Congress as Fed chief.“Some of the headwinds the U.S. economy faced in previous years have turned into tailwinds,” Powell said, noting recent fiscal policy shifts and the global economic recovery. Still, “inflation remains below our 2 percent longer-run objective. In the (FOMC‘s) view, further gradual rate increases in the federal funds rate will best promote attainment of both of our objectives.” The testimony sent Powell’s first signal as Fed chief that the massive tax overhaul and government spending plan launched by the Trump administration will not prompt any immediate shift to a faster pace of rate increases. “Gradual” has been the operative word since the Fed began raising rates under Powell’s predecessor, Janet Yellen, in late 2015.The Fed is expected to approve its first rate increase of 2018 at the next policy meeting in March, when it will also provide fresh economic projections and Powell will hold his first press conference.  “This is a continuation of where this Fed was under Chair Yellen,” said Robert Albertson, principal and chief strategist at Sandler O‘Neill & Partners in New York.

Rick Gates Must Have Some Good Dirt for Mueller to Drop Charges

On Tuesday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed a motion to dismiss charges against former Trump deputy campaign chair Rick Gates that were part of an indictment filed in Virginia federal court. The indictment, filed last week, accused Gates and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort of tax and bank fraud related to money earned for past work for the Ukrainian government. Days after that indictment, Gates cut a deal with Mueller where he pleaded guilty in a separate case in D.C. federal court. Gates is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation, and if the dismissal of the other case is any indication, he could be helping a lot already. Gates is already talking, and Mueller likes what he’s hearing. Mueller’s main investigation is regarding the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russian interference with the 2016 election, but it has taken some turns, as Gates’ cases show. The charges against Manafort still stand, and Mueller could be using Gates to get to him. If the Trump campaign was involved in any illegal activity, Manafort would know it, since he was the head of the operation, at least for a while. “The kinds of crimes Manafort is charged with … these are document-heavy crimes,” Abrams said. “Meaning, there’s a lot of evidence there. You don’t really need Gates to be able to prove the Manafort case.”

So if Mueller isn’t using Gates to get to Manafort, that means he’s probably talking to him about the Trump campaign itself. So far, there’s been a lot of smoke surrounding the campaign’s ties to Russia, but no fire.

We’ve seen emails from Donald Trump Jr. about meeting with a Russian lawyer to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, and we’ve had campaign members plead guilty to lying about their contacts with Russia. Whether Trump’s campaign truly did anything illegal still remains to be seen, but if they did, there’s a good chance Gates knows about it. With the dismissal of his case on Tuesday, Mueller might know about it too.

Does Steve Mnuchin really know this little about inflation?

 

The Treasury secretary tried to make the case last week that just because wages rise, it doesn’t mean inflation will result. “You can have wage inflation and not necessarily have inflation concerns in general,”

Nick Bit: BULLSHIT!!! Wages are the biggest driver of consumer inflation and everyone except for thsi JERK OFF damn well knows it.

President Trump’s appointee said to Bloomberg. The story didn’t mention whether or not Mnuchin said it with a straight face. Inflation, of course, is the main concern of the bond market right now. That concern has been ongoing for quite a while but was exacerbated a month ago when the Labor Department announced that average hourly wages rose a lot more than expected.

Increases in wages and inflation go hand in hand — just ask anyone.

While people like it when wages rise, the financial markets don’t because it means that interest rates will climb faster than the Fed desires. That’s especially true these days because the tax reductions that the Trump administration enacted are tripling this years budget deficit.. Mnuchin probably forgot about the effect the tax changes will also have on prices. A host of Federal Reservers have stepped forward to say how little they are concerned about rising interest rates — which, of course, means they are getting more and more concerned or they wouldn’t be repeatedly saying they aren’t. The next crisis for the market could come next week. Whether the markets will wait for the March 9 release of the February employment report or get spooked a day or two ahead of time is anyone’s guess. If the employment report is too strong or pay increases more than expected, hang on to your hats.

Saudi Arabia’s king announces the surprise sacking of his most senior generals on the eve of major visit to UK

Al-Bunyan (pictured) was retired after he inaugurated an arms exhibition this week in Riyadh by the Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), the state-owned defence company, which has drawn several global defence firms

Saudi Arabia’s most senior generals were sacked last night in a major shake-up on the eve of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Britain.      King Salman yesterday replaced top military commanders including the chief of staff, state media said. The monarch replaced the heads of the ground forces and air defences, as well as civilian officials including several deputy ministers, in a series of late-night royal decrees. No official reason was given for the sweeping overhaul, but it comes as Mohammed bin Salman pursues military reform and a bloody campaign against Yemen’s Iran-aligned Huthi rebels nears the end of its third year.   King Salman  yesterday replaced top military commanders including the chief of staff, state media said’  Termination of the services of General Abdul Rahman bin Saleh al-Bunyan, Chief of Staff,’ the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) announced, adding that Fayyad al-Ruwaili had been appointed as his replacement. It comes just a week before Mohammed bin Salman is due to tour Britain, France and the USA.  He is expected to meet Theresa May, Boris Johnson and senior members of the Royal Family.  Al-Bunyan was retired after he inaugurated an arms exhibition this week in Riyadh by the Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), the state-owned defence company, which has drawn several global defence firms. No official reason was given for the sweeping overhaul, but it comes as Mohammed bin Salman pursues military reform and a bloody campaign against Yemen’s Iran-aligned Huthi rebels nears the end of its third year  The Yemen conflict has led to what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. More than 9,200 people have been killed in the conflict and another nearly 2,200 Yemenis have died of cholera.  Saad Crown Prince Mohammed, the son of the monarch and heir to the throne, is the country’s defence minister and has been consolidating his grip on power in recent months while pushing major economic and social reforms. The young prince has pursued an assertive regional policy, including leading a military intervention in neighbouring Yemen since 2015 that is seen as a proxy war with arch-rival Iran. Nick Bit: Talk about a country that needs a military coupe.  The royal family is out of control. They feel the heat from Iran and their war in Yemen which  is going badly. AND oil prices low by their budget spending and production cuts have got the royals running scared!

US will overtake Russia as top oil producer next year says the International Energy Agency

The United States will overtake Russia as the world’s biggest oil producer by 2019 at the latest, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday, as the country’s shale oil boom continues to upend global markets.
Oil refinery
James Steidl | iStock | Getty Images Plus

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said at an event in Tokyo the United States would overtake Russia as the biggest crude oil producer “definitely next year”, if not this year.”U.S. shale growth is very strong, the pace is very strong … The United States will become the No.1 oil producer sometime very soon,” he told Reuters separately. U.S. crude oil output rose above 10 million barrels per day (bpd) late last year for the first time since the 1970s, overtaking top oil exporter Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said early this month that U.S. output would exceed 11 million bpd by late 2018. That would take it past top producer Russia, which pumps just below that mark. The soaring U.S. production is upending global oil markets, coming at a time when other major producers — including Russia and members of the Middle East-dominated Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) — have been withholding output to prop up prices. U.S. oil is also increasingly being exported, including to the world’s biggest and fastest growing markets in Asia, eating away at OPEC and Russian market share.

Meanwhile, U.S. net imports of crude oil fell last week by 1.6 million bpd to 4.98 million bpd, the lowest level since the EIA started recording the data in 2001, reflecting further erosion in a market OPEC has been relying on for decades.

Birol said production growth was not just strong in the United States. “Canada, especially the oil sands, and Brazilian offshore projects. These are the two major (non-U.S.) drivers,” he said. Nick Bit: By this fall the US wiLl be the worlds largest oil producer. In two years the US will be the worlds largest fossil fuels exporters. Talk about great again SCREW stupid ass coal.  America the OPEC of the world. CRUDE WILL BE UNDER  UNDER $10.00 BEFORE THE FAT LADY GETS SLIM ON OUR DIET PLAN.

Italian election: EU refuses to punish Italy on major issues in fear of fuelling Right

MIGRATION, debt and air pollution are all divisive issues the EU is avoiding before the Italian election in a bid to stop a eurosceptic backlash which could hand victory to populist or right wing parties in Italy.

Juncker and Five Star Movement leader GETTY

EU chiefs are ignoring the major issues in the run up to the vote for fear of the rise of the Right The has let Italy escape with far more than other countries ahead of the March election as it fears it could cause more people to vote for the eurosceptic parties such as the Five Star Movement and the Northern League.

Brussels is worried any rise in populist parties could jeopardise the stability of the bloc, especially from Italy, a founding member and the third largest economy in the eurozone.

Euroscepticism has grown in recent years in reaction to the migrant crisis and austerity policies imposed by Brussels. It has meant the two main issues forming candidates’ political campaigns are based on the economy and immigration. The European Commission has revealed Italy will not face any “procedural consequences” for failing to tackle the country’s high levels of public debt.

At 132 percent of GDP, Italy has the European Union’s worst debt ratio after Greece.

Rome only said how it would attempt to reduce the deficit by 0.1 per cent and not 0.3 per cent of its GDP, which the EU asked for. The whole EU could be rocked if the populist parties gain too much support The European Commissioner for economic and financial affairs, Pierre Moscovici, said: “What would have happened had we imposed a different strategy? “The right amount of firmness and flexibility on the basis of objective basis is necessary, and we’ve always worked on an objective basis”. The bloc has delayed the reform of the EU’s migration system from spring to summer, which Rome has said puts an unfair burden on Italy as it requires migrants to apply for protection in the first EU county they enter. Italians will cast their vote on March 4 Immigration has been a key campaigning vote in the election after Italy has absorbed more than 600,000 migrants over the last four years, with more than 180,000 arriving in 2016. The World Health Organisation has revealed that three Italian cities are the worst in Europe when it comes to air pollution and smog.

Why is the world silent about Xi Jinping’s power grab?

President, or Emperor? Xi Jinping pushes China back to one-man rule
Emperor Xi Jinping pushes China back to one-man rule

(CNN)Leaders in the West have been suspiciously quiet about the expected changes to the Chinese constitution that would remove the two-term limit on the presidency — which would allow President Xi Jinping to rule the country unchallenged for decades to come. Why the silence? Firstly, most countries that deal with China will have assumed that Xi was here to stay anyway. They know China is a one-party state, and that the Communist Party holds sway over everything. So unilaterally changing the rules its gives itself would not harm anyone. Most international observers will have been baffled the restriction was ever there in the first place. But there is also a more pragmatic reason for silence. For all the Western complaints about the parlous state of human rights, in their hearts they know they need a country which is stable and predictable — even if it is a stable and predictable autocracy. A China that contributed to uncertainty in a world where Donald Trump is US president, the UK is trying to leave the EU, where the Middle East looks like it is perpetually inflamed by unrest, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo seems to be slipping toward yet more civil war would be a truly scary place. A fifth of humanity could become refugees. The world’s key supply source for so many manufactured goods could be disrupted or shut down. An uncertain China would make the various crises the world faces today look tame. For all the West’s unease about a one-party state having such dominance at the moment, because of the stability it gives over such a crucial region, the Communist Party’s total control of China is something Western leaders buy into and support.

Rising mortgage rates hit new home sales hard, an ominous sign for builders

Home buyers increasingly can’t afford what they want. Higher mortgage rates, combined with the loss of homeowner tax breaks in some of the nation’s most expensive markets, are taking away buying power.
New home sales down 7.8% in January

New home sales down 7.8% in January   Sales of newly built homes are falling, and the culprit is clear. Homebuyers increasingly can’t afford what they want. Higher mortgage rates, combined with the loss of homeowner tax breaks in some of the nation’s most expensive markets, are taking away buying power.
Sales fell in December, when the new tax law was signed and then again in January, when mortgage rates moved higher. Sales are now at their lowest level since August of last year.

The government’s measure of new home sales is based on signed contracts during the month, reflecting the people who are out shopping and signing deals with builders. It is therefore a strong read on current reactions to home affordability. Mortgage rates moved a full quarter of a percentage point higher during January, from below 4 percent to about 4.25 percent. It then took off further from there. “It seems that the jump in mortgage rates in January had an immediate impact on contract signings,” wrote Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. “You can’t get more interest rate sensitive when it comes to homes and cars with the associated cost to finance.” Builders are not only increasing prices, but they are also mostly focused on the move-up market, not the entry level where homes are needed most.  Supply rose to the highest level in four years, another sign that new construction is increasingly out of financial reach for today’s home buyers. Builders did note a drop in buyer traffic in January, according to a monthly sentiment survey from the National Association of Home Builders. That measure did not improve in February, when rates moved even higher. Sales of existing homes fell in January as well, with the blame laid squarely on a severe shortage of homes for sale.

Oil hits 2-week high as Saudi Arabia to keep output well below cap

Oil pumpjacks in the Permian Basin oil field are getting to work as crude oil prices gain.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images Oil pumpjacks in the Permian Basin oil field are getting to work as crude oil prices gain.

Oil prices extended gains to hit two-week highs on Monday, supported by comments from Saudi Arabia that it would continue to curb exports in line with the OPEC-led effort to cut global supplies. Both benchmarks earlier hit their highest since Feb. 7. “The rise in equities made it easier to buy risk assets such as oil,” said Tomomichi Akuta, senior economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting in Tokyo. “But amid worries over U.S. crude production at near record highs, oil is struggling to make a move.” Prices were supported after Saudi Arabian oil minister Khalid al-Falih on Saturday said the country’s oil production in January-March would be well below output caps, with exports averaging below 7 million barrels per day (bpd). Saudi Arabia hopes OPEC and its allies will be able to relax production curbs next year and create a permanent framework to stabilize oil markets after the current supply cut deal ends this year, Falih added.

March seasonal turnaround for crude around the corner  “A study is taking place and once we know exactly what balancing the market will entail we will announce what is the next step. The next step may be easing of the production constraints,” he told reporters in New Delhi. “My estimation is that it will happen sometime in 2019. But we don’t know when and we don’t know how”. U.S. energy companies last week added one oil rig, the fifth weekly increase in a row, bringing the total count up to 799, the highest level since April 2015, Baker Hughes energy services firm said on Friday. Hedge funds and money managers upped their bullish wagers on U.S. crude oil for the first time in four weeks, data showed on Friday.Meanwhile, Libya’s National Oil Corp said on Saturday it had declared force majeure on the 70,000 bpd El Feel oilfield after a protest by guards closed the field. Nick Bit: Silliness!!  A temporary strike by oil guards on a very small field and oil pops. They are spending a lot of money trying to stop oil from falling. They will get a rally back before the next plunge!

Axios: Trump pushing to have personal pilot run FAA

(CNN)President Donald Trump is pushing to have his longtime personal pilot, John Dunkin, to head the Federal Aviation Administration, according to a report from Axios. Dunkin, who flew Trump’s personal plane during the campaign, is reportedly on the short list for the top spot at the agency that oversees civil aviation in the United States. Dunkin has previously told people that he would often face delays while flying Trump around and that a pilot running the agency would prevent that. Administration officials have been pushing back against industry critics of the potential appointment. “John Dunkin isn’t just a pilot,” an administration official told Axios. “He’s managed airline and corporate flight departments, certified airlines from start-up under FAA regulations, and oversaw the Trump presidential campaign’s air fleet, which included managing all aviation transportation for travel to 203 cities in 43 states over the course of 21 months.” Dunkin has been interviewed for the post, with one source saying he was “impressive.” Other potential candidates for the job include Republican Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri and current acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell. He took over for Michael Huerta, an Obama appointee, whose term expired in January. Nick Bit: Just like in every third world shit hole. The Dictator elect brings his family and friends into power with him. What a joke. He is no more qualified to head the FAA then Melania the fashion queen is qualified to be a diplomat. Very sad!

Florida Gun Show Witnesses Record Attendance amid Dem Gun Control Push

The Florida Gun Show witnessed record attendance Saturday at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

The record attendance comes as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) push more gun control for gun shows. Other Democrats, like Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), are pushing an “assault weapons” ban, a bump stock ban, and universal background checks, among other controls. The public response to the gun control push was a record turnout at the Florida Gun Show. WTSP reports “almost 7,000” people attended the show Saturday, and they expected even more people to attend on Sunday. Gun show manager George Fernandez said he has never seen crowds so big. And he quickly admitted, “Some of the people attending are afraid that future legislation will impact their gun ownership rights.” Nick Bit: First of all like it or not gun ownership is a right! AND you better get them while you still can. The school shooting was not a matter of guns. But a matter of insufficient, inept security. Its easy to blame the guns. But the truth is government still is not securing public places. The world over public places are being secured. Not that hard airports all over the US  are secure. Now its time to get the schools up to speed.

After its $10-Billion Loss in Q4, GE “Restates” Earnings for 2017 and 2016

A classic Friday night bad-news SEC-filing dump.

It’s not like General Electric doesn’t already have enough existential problems, ranging from its $29-billion pension-fund “nightmare” to the $9.8 billion loss in Q4 that it reported in January. It’s in a massive restructuring, trying to shed $20 billion in assets. Some of its core businesses are deteriorating. And it’s being hounded for its famously opaque and purposefully confusing earnings reports. So to keep the damage to a minimum, GE disclosed on Friday after hours in an SEC filing that it will:

  • Have to restate the loss for 2017, making it even larger.
  • Have to restate its 2016 earnings per share and also take a big charge against “retained earnings.”
  • Face a Justice Department investigation into its now defunct subprime mortgage business.

This Justice Department investigation of its subprime mortgages originated between 2005 and 2007 by its now defunct unit, WMC Mortgage Corp, was listed under items that “could cause our actual results to be materially different than those expressed in our forward-looking statements.” And they may “affect our estimates of liability, including possible loss estimates.” Of note concerning those subprime mortgages: GE got bailed out by the Fed and the Federal government during the Financial Crisis. GE received bailout loans from TARP, a Federal program, and the FDIC guaranteed $139 billion of GE Capital debt. In addition, the New York Fed, which handled the Fed bailouts, handed GE large amounts of cheap loans (which GE has paid back). GE’s then CEO Jeff Inmelt was a director at the New York Fed during that period and was involved in the decisions of the Fed bailouts. At the same time, he was on CNBC hyping his company’s stock. But the restatements for 2016 and 2017 earnings are separate. They have to do with how the company accounted for revenues from long-term contracts. The SEC is already investigating GE’s accounting of its long-term service contracts. GE had previously disclosed this investigation. The new way of accounting for those long-term contracts “will simply more closely align revenue with cash,” GE explained. And this “we believe will be helpful to our investors.” So for 2016, this change of accounting for long-term contracts will generate a charge of $4.2 billion – $1 billion related to commercial aircraft engines and $3.3 billion related to services businesses in Power and Aviation – against retained earnings on its balance sheet. Thus, it will bypass the income statement. GE originally reported a profit of $8.2 billion for 2016 In addition, GE estimates that its 2016 earnings on its income statement, originally reported as $0.89 a share, will be cut by $0.13 to $0.76 a share; and that its 2017 loss of $0.72 a share (or $6.2 billion) will increase by $0.16 to a loss of $0.88 a share. As a reminder, GE also lost $6.1 billion in 2015. GE says it has adopted the new standard as of January 1, 2018. But everything remains uncertain: This accounting of revenues closer in line with cash than the prior numbers will also impact future periods “for years,” but to a lesser extent, and “this expectation is based on many variables, including underlying business performance, which are subject to change, making the effect of the standard on future periods difficult to estimate.” Nick Bit: GE is a dead broke piece of shit! They will be going bankrupt and a few of their assets will be sold off. The majority will be dismantled and liquidated. This is a example of a company that failed in the 2007/9 wipe out. Since that time they are walking dead men. Their are many more out their!

Catalonia Spain: Protests greet King Felipe at MWC

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Riot police faced off with Catalan protesters

King Felipe of Spain has been met with protests on his first visit to Catalonia since last October’s failed independence bid in the Spanish region. Police held back hundreds of people as the king arrived in Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress technology fair. Senior Catalan officials refused to attend a formal reception. Meanwhile, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola vowed to carry on wearing a yellow ribbon in support of imprisoned Catalan politicians. Guardiola, a former Barcelona midfielder, said this was because he was a “human being before a manager”. Earlier this week, he was charged by the Football Association for “wearing a political message”. In a setback for the pro-independence cause, a survey published by the respected Catalan Centre for Opinion Studies last week suggested support for independence had dropped sharply, with a majority of Catalans now against the idea. According to the poll, 53.9% reject independence while 40.8% support it – down from  On Saturday, protesters in Barcelona chanted anti-monarchist slogans as King Felipe arrived for the opening of the fair. Scuffles broke out between the demonstrators and riot police. Senior Catalan officials, including Barcelona Mayoress Ada Colau, refused to attend a formal reception. She said she was protesting against the king’s support for the repression of the independence movement. Pro-independence parties in the wealthy north-eastern region called a referendum on the issue in October, which was met with a heavy police crackdown and attracted global attention. The government in Madrid sacked the Catalan regional government, imposed direct rule and called new elections, but pro-independence parties returned with a slim majority. It is Spain’s biggest political crisis since democracy was restored in 1975. Several Catalan pro-independence politicians have been imprisoned in connection with the referendum, deemed illegal by Madrid. Others, including sacked regional President Carles Puigdemont, are in self-imposed exile in Brussels. Nick Bit: This is a big problem for Spain and a even bigger roblem for the European Union. This battle is far far from over. It will end up with Spain leving the EU.

Broward’s Cowards

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel speaks at CNN’s town hall meeting, February 21, 2018. (Michael Laughlin/Pool/Reuters)

It is impossible to imagine circumstances under which Broward County sheriff Scott Israel could attempt to perform his duties with the confidence of the public. He should resign immediately, and if, as he promises, he refuses to go quietly, then he should be shown the door by the people he professes to serve. The numbers tell the story: 23 sheriff’s calls involving the Parkland shooter; 18 sheriff’s calls involving the shooter’s behavior directly (some of the others were principally about his brother); four sheriff’s deputies, armed and trained, cowering outside the high school while the killer within carried out his massacre; 17 dead.In spite of having the school’s armed “resource officer” — an on-site deputy — and three other sheriff’s deputies outside the school during the massacre, no one lifted a finger to stop the shooting until police from Coral Springs arrived and entered the building, at which point the killer escaped, walking off the campus with the rest of the stunned students. He then walked down the street to a fast-food restaurant and ordered himself a drink, and wandered around the neighborhood for a while (past an elementary school) before being spotted by a Coral Springs police officer, to whom he surrendered without incident. He eventually made his way into the Broward County sheriff’s custody — when he was delivered there in handcuffs.

 

The sheriff’s department (and other law-enforcement agencies from Palm Beach County to the FBI) had every reason to believe not only that the killer was a danger to others but that he was specifically planning a school massacre. People who knew him called in with that specific worry, and the killer boasted online of his plan to become a school shooter. Those boasts were forwarded to the FBI, which did precisely nothing in response. The killer himself called police to tell them he had been having trouble after the death of his mother. Nick Bit: its not the back ground checks, its not the age you can buy a gun, its not checking for crazy people, its not the size of the magazines, it not even the weapon. Like at the airport, the court house, the federal building and the liberal move star house its a matter of the security. No security its a slaughter. Security means its a shoot out between armed gunmen.

 

 

U.S. Democrats’ memo charges Republicans trying to undermine Russia probes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic minority on the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on Saturday released a response to Republican charges that the FBI and Justice Department have abused the law in their investigation of possible ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The Democrats’ 10-page memo, released on Saturday in partially-redacted form, calls an earlier Republican version “a transparent effort to undermine” the FBI, the Justice Department, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and congressional probes into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. The Republican memo, the Democrats allege, “also risks public exposure of sensitive sources and methods for no legitimate purpose.” The Democratic memo and a Republican counterattack that included a point-by-point refutation of the minority Democrats’ conclusions, are an escalation of the partisan feuding that Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, and other members of his party have said is sabotaging the House committee’s investigation.

The latest duel on Capitol Hill comes as Mueller’s investigation gathers steam, including a guilty plea on Friday from Richard Gates, Trump’s deputy campaign manager.

The Democratic memo charges that Republicans deliberately omitted facts from their document that undermine their allegation that the FBI conducted improper surveillance of one-time Trump campaign aide Carter Page, “whom the FBI assessed to be an agent of the Russian government.”

The Justice Department’s request for a surveillance warrant “was based on compelling evidence and probable cause to believe Page was knowingly assisting clandestine Russian intelligence activities in the U.S.,” the memo says.

“The FBI had ample reason to believe that Carter Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power based on his history, including the fact that he had previously been a target of Russian recruitment, his travel to Russia and other information,” Schiff said in a statement.  The Democratic memo also disputes a Republican charge that the FBI initiated a counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 based on an unverified dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and paid for by the Democratic National Committee through a law firm.

By then, the memo reveals, “the FBI had already opened sub-inquiries into a (redacted number of) individuals linked to the Trump campaign.” All the names except Page’s were blacked out, but a footnote names Gates, former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, campaign aide George Papadopoulos, and one-time Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

All but Page and Manafort now have pleaded guilty to federal charges and are believed to be cooperating with Mueller.

The FBI received Steele’s reporting in mid-September, more than seven weeks after launching its investigation of Page’s ties to Russia.

The requests ”made only narrow use of Steele’s reporting, “chiefly his suspected July 2016 meetings in Moscow with Russian officials.” The Democrats also said the Justice Department’s Oct. 21, 2016, application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for warrants to monitor Page and three subsequent renewals offered “a multipronged rationale for surveiling Page,” who by then had left Trump’s campaign.

The memo raises but does not answer questions about whether Page or other Trump affiliates might have helped Russia craft a politically sophisticated cyber campaign to help Trump win the presidency by targeting specific groups, prejudices, and areas. Mueller last week described those efforts in a detailed indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian companies for meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump urges national unity, investigation of ‘the other side’ amid Russia probe

US President Donald Trump speaks during the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, February 23, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saying there were “no phone calls, no meetings, no collusion,” President Donald Trump on Saturday pushed for an investigation of “the other side” amid the FBI probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, while claiming “we need intelligence that brings our country together.”

“A lot of bad things happened on the other side, not on this side, but on the other side. And somebody should look into it, because what they did is really fraudulent and somebody should be looking into that and by somebody, I’m talking about you know who,” Trump told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, a reference widely interpreted to mean Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In a free-ranging phone interview, Trump said the Democratic memo released by the House Intelligence Committee on Saturday afternoon was a “total confirmation” of the GOP memo released three weeks ago by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), even though the Democratic response purports to rebut Republican claims that the FBI and the Justice Department relied on the disputed Steele dossier in an application to spy on a Trump campaign adviser.

Trump has repeatedly said there was no “collusion” between his campaign and Russian officials and has publicly urged Sessions to investigate top officials at the FBI over their handling of the investigation.

Sessions’ recusal from overseeing what has become special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is reportedly a frequent sore spot in his relationship with the president. Trump added that the blame for not stopping “Russian meddling, if you want to call it that” in the 2016 presidential election rests with President Barack Obama, since he was in office when Russian interference occurred. But he added: “We should all be on the same team. We should all come together as a nation.”

Nick Bit: Sounds to me like a desperate man. Trump claims their were no phone calls, no meetings and no collusion between HIM directely  and the Russians. And i believe him.  That  was Flynn, Maliford, Trump Jr and Son in LAW from Hell kushners job. Which I believe will be Proven.

 

Fed’s Bullard warns that too many rate hikes this year could slow the economy too much

Fed's James Bullard on rate hike concerns

 

Central bankers need to be careful not to increase interest rates too quickly this year because that could slow the economy too much, St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard told CNBC on Thursday. Wall Street expects the Fed to raise rates at next month’s meeting, in the first of what’s seen as at least three total hikes in 2018. The Fed increased the cost of borrowing money three times last year to the current range of 1.25 to 1.50 percent. Hiking rates by a total of 1 percent this year, which would signal four increases of the typical 0.25 percent, would be “priced for perfection,” Bullard said. “The idea that we need to go 100 basis points in 2018, that seems like a lot to me,” he said. “Everything would have to go just right. The economy would have to surprise on the upside a bunch of times during the year. I’m not sure that’s a good way to think about 2018.” The Fed needs to follow the economy, which is showing strength but still little inflation, Bullard said, adding he doesn’t expect the years of below-target inflation to change rapidly. “We’ve got a ways to go on this inflation story.”

“One thing I’m concerned about is if [there’s] a bunch of hikes this year Fed policy will turn restrictive,” he said. “The neutral fed funds rates is pretty low.”

The fed funds rate is a key short-term interest rate that banks use to lend each other money overnight. Bullard appeared on “Squawk Box” one day after the release of the minutes from the Fed’s January policy meeting. Central bankers held interest rates steady last month but indicated optimism about the economy and inflation moving higher toward the Fed’s 2 percent target. “It was natural for us to be meeting in January and saying good things about 2017,” he said, considering the U.S. and the global economy surprised to the upside. The Fed should only move from a reactive to a proactive stance only if inflation moves to target with expectations of further price pressures on the horizon, said Bullard, who is not a voting member on the central bank’s policymaking Federal Open Market Committee. But he’s still part of the conversation. On Thursday, the central bank’s newest member, Fed Governor Randal Quarles, said Tokyo that below-target inflation should not stand in the way of future rate increases. “After assessing the recent data, my take is that the current shortfall in inflation from target is most likely due to transitory factors that will fade through 2018, pushing inflation back up to target,” said Quarles, who has an FOMC vote.

Investors and traders have been nervous lately about economic growth running too hot and inflation overshooting and whether those conditions might lead the Fed to increase rates more aggressively than planned.

Wall Street got off to an incredibly strong start in January after a banner 2017. But the stock market tanked in early February after a higher-than-expected wage number in January’s jobs report sparked fears of inflation and rising rates. Stocks on a closing basis eventually bottomed out on Feb. 8, briefly plunging into 10 percent correction territory. The market had been up for six-straight sessions before declines on Tuesday and Wednesday. While stocks were swinging all over the place, the 10-year Treasury yield was spiking to around four-year highs just below 3 percent.

Oil turns higher after unexpected inventory drop

 

Reuters An employee works on at the Centenario deep-water oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Veracruz, Mexico.

Oil futures turned higher after government data showed an unexpected drop in crude inventories last week. The Energy Information Administration said crude-oil stocks fell by 1.616 million barrels in the week ended Feb. 16. Analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a 1.9 million barrel rise. West Texas Intermediate crude oil for April delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange erased an early loss, jumping higher after the data and ending the day with a gain. Oil in storage in Cushing, Okla., the delivery point for Nymex WTI futures, continued to fall as well, declining by 2.7 million barrels. The drop in inventories comes even as refinery maintenance season gets under way, weighing on demand for crude. A rise in crude exports was also part of the picture, with the EIA apparently including the first export of a supertanker cargo loaded from the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at Clipper Data. “Even though refinery runs dropped below 16 million barrels per day for the first time since the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, lower net imports have resulted in a draw,” he said. “The big jump in crude exports appears to have been because the EIA included the first export cargo from LOOP in last week’s number.”  Through January, WTI scored five consecutive monthly gains, bolstered in part by “surprisingly high” compliance rates on production curbs agreed to by members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, and several other major producers, said Fawad Razaqzada, analyst at Forex.com, in a note. “If growth in demand does not keep up, crude inventories are likely to rise again. What’s more, the OPEC will not be able to keep its production agreement with other non-OPEC members for too long should the U.S. continue to win more market share,” he said.

Russia sends new stealth fighters for combat trials in Syria as Putin uses civil war to test latest military technology

Vladimir Putin has sent his fearsome new state-of-the-art Su-57 stealth fighters for combat trials in the Syrian war zone. Two of the fifth generation Sukhoi warplanes have been spotted landing at Russia's Khmeimim Air Base (pictured)

Vladimir Putin has sent his fearsome new state-of-the-art Su-57 stealth fighters for combat trials in the Syrian war zone. Two of the fifth generation Sukhoi warplanes were spotted landing at Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base, south-east of the city of Latakia. The aircraft made its maiden flight in December last year and there was surprise at its deployment in Syria during its testing phase. Putin has backed Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in his battle against rebels and jihadists in the country.  Assad’s forces have launched a devastating bombing raid on rebel-held positions in eastern Ghouta in recent days, killing more than 300.  Vladimir Putin has sent his fearsome new state-of-the-art Su-57 stealth fighters for combat trials in the Syrian war zone.  The aircraft (file picture) made its maiden flight in December last year and there was surprise at its deployment in Syria during its testing phase

The ultra-modern warplane is designed for 'air superiority and attack roles', Russian defence chiefs claims

The ultra-modern warplane is designed for ‘air superiority and attack roles’, Russian defence chiefs claims. Earlier this month deputy Russian defence minister Yuri Borisov said: ‘We are buying Su-57 jets for combat trials. The first stage of state trials has been concluded.’  The ultra-modern warplane is designed for ‘air superiority and attack roles’. The fighter is also equipped with ‘airborne active phased array radar’, which allows it to ‘see’ air, ground and naval targets at distances far beyond most modern systems. Once in full service – expected next year – it will be capable of striking the enemy with a variety of modern weapons, including short, medium and long-range air-to-air, air-to-ground, and special anti-radar missiles. Built from composite materials, the ‘super manoeuvrable’ stealth fighter includes an in-flight refueling system.  It comes weeks after it emerged that Russia is developing a new generation of shockproof military ‘robo-balls’ that have been battle-tested in Syria.The cost £18,500 robo-balls are fitted with four video cameras allowing a 360 degree view to their controllers. They have diode lights as well as a microphone and transmitter working on radio signals. They can be thrown into trouble spots sending pictures and audio to receivers some 50 metres away. Syria ‘is where these devices went through combat trials,’ said a statement from the Kremlin.

United Nations Security Council Votes Unanimously for Syrian Cease-Fire

 The United Nations Security Council on Saturday broke its impasse on Syria and voted unanimously for a resolution demanding a 30-day nationwide cease-fire beginns
Resolution calls for humanitarian-aid access, medical evacuations and end to sieges on civilian areas

UNITED NATIONS—The United Nations Security Council on Saturday broke its impasse on Syria and voted unanimously for a resolution demanding a 30-day nationwide cease-fire begin “without delay.” The resolution, put forward by Kuwait and Sweden, calls for access for U.N. humanitarian-aid convoys, medical evacuation of the injured and a lifting of sieges on civilian areas such as Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus that has suffered with limited food, water and electricity while under heavy bombardment by Syrian government forces. The resolution makes an exemption for military operations against terrorist groups such as Islamic State, the Nusra Front and al Qaeda. Sweden’s Ambassador to the U.N. Olof Skoog told the council that, in the seven years of Syria’s conflict, “the situation has never been worse” and the resolution’s aim was to offer humanitarian relief and to “avert the disaster unfolding before our eyes.”“Our goal with this resolution is clear. The Assad regime needs to stop its military activities around Eastern Ghouta,” said U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Ms. Haley criticized Russia, Syria and Iran for holding up the resolution and said every hour the vote was delayed meant more Syrian mothers had lost their children.  After the vote, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vasily Nebenzya, said his country had drawn-out the negotiations to reach a “meaningful” text that wouldn’t be used as a “pretext for a military operation” in Syria. In response to Ms. Haley, Mr. Nebenzya said Russia demanded “an end to this reckless rhetoric,” and called for an end to military presence in Syria by antiregime coalition forces. He said that it was up to the parties on the ground to implement a cease-fire and ensure the resolution would be effective.Syria’s Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar Ja’afari told the council his government interpreted the resolution to apply to areas in Syria “controlled” by the U.S., which has special forces present in northern Syria; to Afrin, where Turkish military is fighting Kurdish groups; and in the Golan Heights, where Israel has a presence.

Mexican president’s planned visit to White House postponed after testy phone call with Donald Trump over border wall

A Mexican official said Trump lost his temper during the conversation

US President Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto postponed plans for the Mexican leader’s first visit to the White House, after a testy phone call involving Trump’s push for a border wall, a senior US official said.

“The two leaders agreed now was not the immediate right time for a visit but that they would have their teams continue to talk and work together,” the official said Saturday. Mexican officials had been talking about a summit between Trump and Pena Nieto in the next few weeks, without specifying when. The Washington Post, which first reported the delay earlier on Saturday, said the two leaders spoke for about 50 minutes on Tuesday. But the discussion led to an impasse when Trump would not agree to publicly affirm Mexico’s position that it would not fund construction of the wall along the US-Mexico border.

A Mexican official said Trump lost his temper during the conversation, the newspaper reported. But it said US officials described Trump as frustrated and exasperated, because he believed it was unreasonable for Pena Nieto to want him to back off his campaign promise of forcing Mexico to pay for the wall.

Mexico’s foreign ministry said it had nothing to say about the call, other than a statement on Tuesday that said Trump had expressed condolences for a helicopter crash in Mexico and both sides had committed to advancing the bilateral agenda of trade, migration and security. The wall, a key item for Trump’s political base of supporters, has become a sticking point in talks to keep alive a federal programme that protects from deportation young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children. Pena Nieto, who met Trump in July on the sidelines of a G20 summit, cancelled an earlier meeting after Trump threatened to impose a tax on Mexican imports to pay for the wall. Trump also met the Mexican president once during the 2016 election campaign.

370 miners to lose their jobs at Pennsylvania coal mine

Some 370 coal miners will lose their jobs, with layoffs starting next month, due to the planned closure of the 4 West Mine in southwestern Pennsylvania. On March 2, 191 miners will be thrown out of work when the 4 West Mine, located in Greene County, about 60 miles south of Pittsburgh near the West Virginia border, stops coal production. Another 175 miners will be laid off by June 1 after the company removes underground equipment and seals the mine. Another four miners will be let go when the mine officially closes on December 31. The mine is operated by Dana Mining Company, which is owned by Mepco LLC. It provided coal for a nearby power plant operated by a related company. The company said it was able to buy outside coal cheaper than could be produced at their own mine.

“The mine is being permanently closed because the aging of the mine and adverse geological conditions have impaired the productivity of the mine and forced higher costs of coal production,” Brian Osborn, senior vice president of operations at Mepco, told the Greene County Messenger.

“The 4 West Mine simply can’t compete in today’s steam coal market as most of our competitors have the advantage of better mining conditions and the higher production rates associated with longwall mining,” added Osborn. The closure will be another blow to workers living in the area, which already suffers from high unemployment and poverty. It is estimated that for every coal mining job destroyed, another five people will lose their jobs in supporting industries. Workers at the Bailey complex are also worried that their jobs may not last long. The Bailey complex consists of three underground mines: Bailey, Enlow Fork and the Harvey mine. They are the largest underground mines in the country, running five long wall and 15-17 continuous miner sections. The three mines are able to produce on average 26 million tons of coal each year.“We are just running coal, they are not spending anything on maintenance to keep the equipment going,” a miner at the Bailey complex told the WSWS. Greene County voted by nearly a 70 percent margin for Trump in the 2016 presidential elections, largely due to his demagogic promise to bring back coal jobs and anger at the Obama administration over mine closures and layoffs that have exacerbated the conditions of grinding poverty facing many in the area. Nick Bit: So much for making coal great again! Guess they won’t vote for Trump next time!!!! SUCKER!

Piece of shit hid as shooter mowed down the kids: Control the Cops NOT the Guns

 

Parkland School Shooting

Here is what you need to know about armed deputy who failed to act during school shooting

Scot Peterson stood outside during shooting, sheriff says

PARKLAND, Fla. – As gun fire erupted within Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the armed deputy who was tasked with protecting the children of the Parkland community is accused of taking cover to protect himself instead of doing what he had been paid and trained to do. When faced with the realization Thursday that he was going to be suspended without pay, Sheriff Scott Israel allowed Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Scot Peterson to resign/retire, which would make him eligible for whatever benefits and pay he might be entitled to receive. While Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle to kill 17 people, Peterson was armed and in uniform. Israel said he was seen “taking up a position” outside of the west side of building 12 during the massacre, “and he never went in.” According to a Coral Springs police officer, Peterson hid behind a concrete column near the stairs. Israel said Cruz began shooting at 2:21 p.m., and exited the building about 2:27 p.m. Peterson, who towers over 6 feet tall, was outside the building for four minutes, according to Israel.  His actions appeared to contradict what his superiors expected of him. They were also inconsistent with his most recent employee evaluation stating that he took “pride in protecting the students, faculty and staff” and “was dependable and reliable.”

Sgt. Greg Molamphy nominated him as the Parkland Deputy of the Year in 2017. In a memo Molamphy sent to Lt. Michael DeVita, he wrote Peterson handled “issues that arise with tact and solid judgment.” Records show he was transferred to the school resource officer program in 1991. Three years later, the Florida Association of School Resource Officers recognized him with the most outstanding school resource officer in the state award.  The 54-year-old veteran had been working at MarjoryStoneman Douglas High School since 2009, according to Parkland records. Israel said that he “resigned/retired” from his position as school resource officer Thursday, after learning from Lt. Barry Lindquist that he was under investigation. He received numerous awards during his tenure. In 2013, Parkland officials named him Broward County Sheriff’s Office Parkland employee of the year. The department recognized Peterson as SRO of the Year for proving “to be reliable in handling issues with tact and judgment” in 2014.  Records show his base pay was over $100,000 a year in 2013 and 2014, but dropped to about $75,800 in 2015. His overtime pay remained about the same during those three years.  After recognizing his 30 years of service in 2015, Israel wrote that Peterson’s “dedication and allegiance” were “the best illustrations of the service BSO provides.” That same year, the Sun Sentinel reported he was among the police officers who were living for free on school property in exchange for after-hours campus security. Records show he had been living at Atlantic Technical College in Margate since 2000 and applied for a home loan in 2015. Nick Bit: you can wipe your ass with those awards they issue like popcorn at a movie theater. The man is very very lucky one of my kids were not slaughtered as he hid behind a concrete wall. Screw gun control. Crazy people check lists, bump stops, Banning semi auto weapons. Get the 6 figure  pay “hero first responders” to do their freeging jobs…….. If you have armed security that is competent at all schools this crazy shit shoot em ups will end!!!

US Gross National Debt Spikes $1 Trillion in Less Than 6 Months

In the chart, note the somewhat technical jargon (marked in green) of what will happen going forward. The past week saw record issuance of Treasury debt, and that surge of Treasury debt issuance will continue. The Treasury department now expects that the debt will increase by $617 billion by mid-year.

As of the latest reporting by the Treasury Department, the US gross national debt rose by $41.5 billion on Thursday, February 22, to a grand total of $20.8 trillion. Here’s the thing: On September 7, 2017, five-and-a-half months ago, just before Congress suspended the debt ceiling, the gross national debt stood at $19.8 trillion. At that time, I was holding my breath waiting for the gross national debt to take a huge leap in a single day – as it always does after the debt ceiling gets lifted or suspended – and jump to the next ignominious level. It sure did the next day, when it jumped $318 billion.And it continued. Over a period of 8 weeks, the gross national debt jumped by $640 billion. Four weeks after that, it had ballooned by $723 billion, at which point Fed Chair Yellen – whose cheap-money policies had enabled Congress to do this for years – said that she was “very worried about the sustainability of the US debt trajectory.” Then Congress served up another debt ceiling – a regular charade lawmakers undertake to extort deals from each other, beat the White House into submission, and keep the rest of the world their on their toes. It goes like this: First they pass the spending bills, directing the Administration to spend specific amounts of money on a gazillion specific things spread around specific districts. Then they block the means to pay the credit card bill. That debt ceiling was suspended on February 8, at which point the gross national debt began to surge again, adding $1 trillion ($960.4 billion rounded to the nearest 100 million), a 5% jump in the gross national debt in just 5.5 months. The debt ceiling is like playing toss with a loaded gun: The gun will normally not go off because almost everyone is trying very hard to catch the gun without pulling the trigger. And historically speaking, it hasn’t gone off yet, and everyone hopes that it will never go off. It’s dramatic, and sound bites from those playing toss permeate the media, but what it really does is distract from the consequences of the fiscal policies that these same people are hammering out in Congress. Those consequences are best summed up over time in the gross national debt. The Treasury Department, in its Financial Report for fiscal 2017, which it just released, and which was silenced to death by the media, shows where that money came from and where it went. Now, just add the tax cuts and the ballooning Deficits will only get bigger. by Wolf Richter

Saudi oil minister hopes OPEC, allies can ease output curbs in 2019

Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih listens during a news conference after an OPEC meeting in Vienna, Austria, November 30, 2017.

Saudi Arabia hopes OPEC and its allies will be able to relax production curbs next year and create a permanent framework to stabilize oil markets after the current supply cut deal ends this year, its oil minister said on Saturday.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is reducing output by about 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) as part of a deal with Russia and other non-OPEC producers.

The pact, aimed at propping oil prices, began in January 2017 and will run until the end of 2018. Khalid al-Falih said OPEC and its allies were committed to bringing balance and stability to the market and that he hoped it would be possible to ease output curbs next year.”A study is taking place and once we know exactly what balancing the market will entail we will announce what is the next step. The next step may be easing of the production constraints,” he told reporters in New Delhi. “My estimation is that it will happen sometime in 2019. But we don’t know when and we don’t know how”. Falih said OPEC was determined to translate the success of the deal to curb supply into a permanent framework with other major producers. “What we want is an evergreen framework that brings producers from OPEC and non-OPEC (countries) together in a market monitoring fashion that allows  Falih said compliance with the output cuts in January was “exceptional.” Oil prices have doubled from their lows in 2015-2016 after the cuts. Falih said the market had absorbed rising U.S. shale oil production, as output from countries such as Venezuela and Mexico had declined. He did not specify the size of stake Aramco will take in the west coast refinery, but added “the more the better.” Last year, Saudi Arabia pledged billions of dollars of investments in projects in Indonesia and Malaysia to secure long-term oil supply deals.

Curcumin has been used as a herbal remedy in arthritis and heart disease

Curry ingredient turmeric is MORE effective than paracetamol or ibuprofen at easing painful injuries, study finds

Turmeric is more effective than popular painkillers at easing the agony of sports injuries, new research suggests. After less than three weeks, taking a key component of the Indian staple spice, known as curcumin, eases injured rugby players’ discomfort just as much paracetamol or ibuprofen, but without their side effects, a study found. Study author Dr Francesco Di Pierro from the Milan-based pharmaceutical company Velleja Research, said: ‘This study suggests the naturally-derived, curcumin-based product could represent a promising safe, analgesic remedy in painful osteo-muscular conditions associated with intense, high impact, physical activities.’ The researchers believe curcumin may also benefit sufferers of inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis patients, without causing the complications associated with many existing treatments. Curcumin has been used as a herbal remedy in arthritis, cancer and heart disease. Turmeric is more effective than popular painkillers at easing the agony of sports injurie. Turmeric may prevent osteoporosis, research revealed in May last year. The popular Indian spice helps to build and repair bone mass in the elderly, a study by Genoa University found. Taking a turmeric supplement improves bone density by up to seven per cent over six months, the research adds. A compound in turmeric, known as curcumin, is thought to balance out cells that remove ageing parts of bone before it is replaced, according to previous findings. The researchers analysed otherwise healthy men and women with an average age of 70 who were all suffering declining bone density. Bones in their heels, jaws and fingers were measured at the start of the study using ultrasound scanning. Turmeric boosts memories by nearly 30%. This comes after research released last month suggested turmeric may boost people’s memories by nearly 30 per cent, as well as easing depression. Taking curcumin causes people to have significantly less protein build-up in the regions of the brain associated with memory and emotion, a study found. Past studies have linked the onset of Alzheimer’s disease to the accumulation of protein plaques in the brain. Curcumin, which gives turmeric its yellow color, is thought to improve memory and boost mental health due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation has previously been linked to both dementia and severe depression. Study author Dr Gary Small from the University of California, LA, said: ‘These results suggest that taking this relatively safe form of curcumin could provide meaningful cognitive benefits over the years.’  Nick Bit: I have been taking a tea spoon full of Curcumin in yogurt for 2 years. I no longer take 25mg of Aspirin. Stuff really works.

Bond King Gundlach says it would be a ‘miracle’ if White House’s inflation view works out

Jeffrey Gundlach
David A. Grogan | CNBC Jeffrey Gundlach
  

The Trump administration is betting that wages can rise without sparking runaway inflation, but the world’s leading bond manager isn’t so sure. Fed policymakers and Wall Street economists have been in a hot debate over inflation, with minutes from the most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting showing that members were divided over the current trend. Investors, meanwhile, recoiled earlier this month when Labor Department data showed that average hourly earnings over the past year rose at a 2.9 percent pace, the most since the Great Recession. The question for markets is whether wages can rise at a healthy pace without triggering broader inflation concerns. Stock market indexes briefly went into a correction after the wage data and the accompanying inflation fears, which are primarily that the Fed will be forced to raise interest rates more quickly than anticipated.

In a tweet Friday morning, Jeffrey Gundlach, billionaire founder of DoubleLine Capital, expressed doubt that income can rise appreciably without causing inflation pressures.

 

According to Gundlach’s thinking, rising wages can hurt either way — by cutting into profits if inflation doesn’t rise, or by pushing bond yields higher with a rise in inflation, which in turn would hurt stock valuations.  White House officials are leaning toward the impossible scenario where wages rise without inflation.

“There are a lot of ways to have the economy grow,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Bloomberg in an interview Thursday. “You can have wage inflation and not necessarily have inflation concerns in general.”

Markets have been nervous over how the scenario plays out. In addition to the stock market drop, government bond yields have spiked in recent days, with the benchmark 10-year Treasury note edging closer to 3 percent, considered a critical point. Fed officials discussed the issue in January, though that was days before the report on wage growth. According to the minutes, Fed officials still tend to adhere to the Phillips curve, which shows that higher wages generally do come with higher inflation.

Bank of America is worried about the threat of cryptocurrency to its business

Cryptocurrencies pose a competitive threat to Bank of America‘s business, the company said in a regulatory filing Thursday.
Yiannis Kourtoglou | AFP | Getty Images

“Clients may choose to conduct business with other market participants who engage in business or offer products in areas we deem speculative or risky, such as cryptocurrencies,” the bank said. Such increased competition may “negatively affect our earnings” or affect “the willingness of our clients to do business with us.” The comments were part of an annual 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about the bank’s operations and business risks. The bank said it had no further comment. Bank of America’s filing added that widespread adoption of new technologies in financial services, including cryptocurrencies, “could require substantial expenditures” in order to adapt to evolving industry standards and consumer preferences. However, Bank of America has not embraced the rise of interest in cryptocurrencies. The firm’s Merrill Lynch wealth management arm banned its roughly 17,000 financial advisors from buying bitcoin-related investments for clients. The bank also said earlier this month that customers cannot use its credit cards to buy cryptocurrencies. The development of cryptocurrency trading so far has seen the emergence of a new industry with rapidly growing businesses such as exchanges like Coinbase and bitcoin “mining” companies like Bitmain. Meanwhile, Bank of America has been quietly researching blockchain technology, as are other major banks. Nick Bit: Your damn straight Banks should be worried.. Because bitcoin will become the dominate technology in the near future.

Federal Reserve expects further rate increases

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve says it expects the ongoing strength of the U.S. economy to drive gradual increases in interest rates this year, delivering the same steady-as-it-goes message under new leader Jerome Powell as it had provided under Janet Yellen. The Fed’s projection on rate hikes came with the Friday release of its semi-annual monetary report to Congress. Powell will testify on the report before the House Financial Services Committee next Tuesday, his first public appearance since he took over as chairman earlier this month.

The report stated that the Fed expects steady economic gains will warrant “further gradual increases” in the Fed’s benchmark rate.

But it said the rate was likely to remain low enough to stimulate the economy over the next two years.The Fed’s key policy rate is currently in a range of 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent. The Fed raised rates three times last year, with the most recent hike occurring in December. In December 2008, the Fed had pushed the rate to a record low near zero, as it struggled to contain a severe financial crisis and the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It kept the rate unchanged for seven years until December 2015 and since that time has boosted the rate in five tiny quarter-point moves, including last year’s hikes.

At the December 2017 meeting, Fed officials signaled that they expected to raise rates another three times in 2018.

However, investors have grown concerned that signs of rising wages and inflation pressures might prompt the central bank to speed up the  hikes. Those fears were one of the factors leading to a series of stomach-churning days in the stock market earlier this month, a sell-off that began after the Labor Department reported that wage gains had accelerated in January.  The policy report released Friday noted that stock prices had declined after hitting record highs in January. It partially attributed the strong stock gains last year and into January to investor anticipation of a boost to after-tax earnings from corporate tax cuts that were included in the tax bill Congress passed in December. The report noted that even with the sell-off in recent weeks, the valuation of stocks, judged by the stock price related to company earnings, remained near the highest levels seen since the late 1990s.

Many economists now believe the Fed will end up raising rates four times this year with the first hike likely to come in March, which will be Powell’s first meeting as chairman.

KFC apologizes for chicken shortage with a hilarious hidden message

KFC has issued a high-profile, humorous apology for its chicken shortages in the UK. The bright red advertisement showed an empty bucket with the chain’s initials scrambled to say “FCK” on it, alongside an apology.

kfc apology uk 1
KFC took out full-page newspaper ads on Friday to apologize for its restaurant closures.

The fast-food chain used a full-page ad in British newspapers to apologize for shutting down hundreds of restaurants this week because it ran out of chicken.

“A chicken restaurant without any chicken. It’s not ideal. Huge apologies to our customers, especially those who traveled out of their way to find we were closed,” the ad said.

As many as 800 out of about 900 KFC locations were closed on Monday due to the logistical snafu. By Friday, the majority of the stores had reopened. “It’s been a hell of a week, but we’re making progress, and every day more and more fresh chicken is being delivered to our restaurants. Thank you for bearing with us,” the ad said. KFC, which is owned by Taco Bell and Pizza Hut parent Yum! (YUM), said the chicken shortage had been caused by a “couple of teething problems” after it switched to a new delivery partner, DHL (DPW), last week. DHL said a number of deliveries had been “incomplete or delayed” because of “operational issues.” The German company added that it is “not the only party responsible for the supply chain to KFC.”A KFC spokesperson said on Friday that some stores may remain closed this weekend and some locations “will operate with a reduced menu or shortened hours.” The cheeky apology was well received. “I think they’ve done a fantastic job,” said Rupert Younger, a PR expert and director of the Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation. “It speaks to a business that understand that mistakes were made and they’re prepared to have fun at their own expense.”

 

KFC has a chicken delivery problem in the UK
KFC has a chicken delivery problem in the UK

The UK is KFC’s largest market in Europe, and one of its top five globally. Franchisees operate 95% of KFC’s outlets in the country. The company said Monday that it would pay its staff as normal, and it was encouraging franchisees to do the same. KFC did not say whether it would compensate its franchisee operators for lost business.

Trump: Behavior of Russia, Iran in Syria Is ‘Humanitarian Disgrace’

Citi will refund $335M to cardholders it overcharged

The refund — due to cardholders who once lapsed but then resumed making timely payments — will result in checks of about $190 apiece for 1.75 million customers who were wrongly penalized since 2011. The bank said it uncovered the error during a semiannual review of cardholders hit with increasing annual percentage rates for being delinquent or missing payments. “While we believed our methodology was sound, a periodic internal review identified potential flaws,”said Liz Fogarty, Citi’s head of public affairs for global consumer banking. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, which took effect in 2011, requires card issuers to reduce the APRs on previously lapsed cardholders who right their ways. Each review covered about 70 million accounts and, collectively, they’ve delivered $3 billion to Citi customers. Fogarty estimated that was about 90 percent of the interest-rate savings due Citi customers. However, on learning about the remaining 10 percent, Citi said in a regulatory filing on Friday that it informed its regulators, revised its methodology and set about “providing remediation.”

 

Trump-Russia: Manafort ‘paid European ex-politicians’

Image copyright EPA Mr Manafort insists he is innocent

Ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly paid unnamed former senior European politicians to lobby for Ukraine’s previous pro-Russia government, a new indictment filed by special counsel Robert Mueller says. Mr Manafort paid over €2m ($2.5m; £1.8m) to the ex-politicians, including a former European chancellor, it says. Mr Trump’s ex-deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, has admitted conspiracy and lying to investigators in a plea deal. Mr Mueller is investigating claims of Russian political meddling in the US. Mr Manafort faces new charges of conspiracy, money-laundering, failing to register as an agent for a foreign actor and making false statements. His alleged payments to former senior European politicians were made in 2012 and 2013, the new indictment says. He is also alleged to have created a body called the Hapsburg Group to give the former politicians’ lobbying efforts the appearance of independent analysis. The alleged paid lobbying was part of Mr Manafort’s work for the Ukrainian government, a pro-Russian party, the Party of Regions, and its leader Viktor Yanukovych, who was president between 2010 and 2014, the indictment says. Mr Manafort’s work is said to have continued after Mr Yanukovych was overthrown and fled to Russia in 2014 following anti-government protests. The indictment says Mr Manafort did not register as an agent of a foreign principal for this work as required by law. He is also alleged to have hidden millions of dollars made from his Ukraine work in offshore accounts. The new indictment was filed after Rick Gates pledged to co-operate in “any and all matters” with the Mueller inquiry. Nineteen people – including Mr Manafort and Mr Gates – have been indicted by the special counsel:

 

With rates low, Fed officials fret over next U.S. recession

NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Federal Reserve policymakers are fretting that they could face the next U.S. recession with an arsenal of policies little different from that used in the last downturn but robbed of much of their punch because interest rates are still low. In the midst of an unprecedented leadership transition, Fed officials are publicly debating how to prepare for the next downturn. Should they scrap their approach to inflation targeting? How big of a balance sheet should they retain? How much further can they raise interest rates and still keep the economy on a growth path?

All this comes against a backdrop of an unexpectedly large boost from tax cuts and government spending that will drive up deficits, leaving less room for a fiscal rescue in the next recession.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is that when that next recession happens, and hopefully not for a long time, I don’t think we have as strong a toolkit as we would like to have to respond to that,” San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams said Friday at a Town Hall Los Angeles event.

To pull out of the 2007-2009 recession, the Fed slashed short-term interest rates to near zero and bought $3.5 trillion in bonds to push down longer-term borrowing costs. Since late 2015 it has gradually reversed course. Its key rate is now in the range of 1.25 to 1.5 percent, and the Fed expects to end this year with rates between 2 percent and 2.25 percent.With an aging population slowing the economy’s growth potential, the Fed projects it can raise rates only to about 2.75 percent before borrowing costs will really start to brake the economy. Before the recession, most economists thought that neutral level was closer to 4 percent. With rates so low, there would be little room to cut them to provide stimulus when the world’s largest economy, which is heating up, eventually turns around. Rosengren, one of only a few sitting policymakers who also served during the last downturn, said the expanding U.S. deficits could further erode the government’s ability to help curb any future recession.

Since mid-December the Republican-controlled Congress and President Donald Trump aggressively cut taxes and boosted spending limits, which are expected to push the annual budget deficit above $1 trillion next year and expand the $20 trillion national debt.

That stimulus, combined with synchronized global growth, signs of U.S. inflation perking up, and unemployment near a 17-year low could set the stage for overheating that ends one of the longest economic expansions ever. William Dudley, president of the New York Fed, said at the conference, the ability to again purchase bonds if and when rates hit zero “seems like a good tool to have.”

The Fed’s approach to any economic slowdown, policymakers have said, would be to cut rates, pledge further stimulus and only then buy bonds.

Nick Bit: It is my firm belief the FED will in the coming recession/depression will be buying bonds. And they will take rates double digit negative. It will be the only real tool they will  have left. its a tool they will use they are not talking about. I believe the only option they will have is double digit negative interest rates. I believe we should help them and as they are buying bonds with double digit yields we should sell them some.

Self-driving cars with “remote” drivers could test on Calif roads in April: DMV

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Self-driving cars that back up their computerized system with a remote human operator instead of a fallback driver at the wheel could be tested on California roads as early as April, the state department of motor vehicles said. Relying on a remote human operator – who could control multiple autonomous vehicles from miles away – is a step that would allow a path to profitability in the nascent field of self-driving technology by eliminating California’s requirement for in-car minders.Experts believe early adopters of the technology will include ride-hailing services seeking to maximize paying passengers while eliminating paid backups traveling with them. The race to develop autonomous vehicles includes such global automakers as General Motors and technology giants like Alphabet Inc’s Waymo unit. If they are ready to deploy the remote monitor technology by April, it would be the first time they could test their cars on public roads in the state without physical drivers present.The remote control technology, already used by NASA and the military, is seen as a way to more quickly usher in the commercial rollout of self-driving cars. The new regulations are expected to be approved later this month, and take effect in April after a month-long public notice period.  Companies like Nissan, Waymo and startups Zoox, Phantom Auto and Starsky Robotics have been working on the technology, which allows for a remote operator to take control of a vehicle if the underlying autonomous system inside the car encounters problems, known in the industry as difficult-to-solve “edge” cases. “We think we have the ultimate backup system – which is a human,” said Elliot Katz, co-founder of Phantom Auto, which last month at the CES technology conference demonstrated how cars driving in Las Vegas could be remotely controlled from Mountain View, California, over 500 miles away. The presence of a remote operator also helps companies reassure lawmakers and the public, said Katz, who said he expected companies to deploy such technology on California roads soon after April. Getting rid entirely of drivers capable of taking the wheel in case of problems has concerned some lawmakers. U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have questioned the safeguards in an autonomous vehicle bill currently stalled in the Senate. During a January Senate hearing, Zoox Chief Executive Officer Tim Kentley-Klay testified that “teleoperations” technology would play a role in the overall system of the Silicon Valley startup. “When your model is to have autonomous vehicles deployed as a for-hire service in cities, you are still going to need a command center in that city that has a human-in-the-loop oversight of the fleet, both to deal with vehicles if they have an issue but also to deal with customers if they need help,” Kentley-Klay said.

Toys R Us expected to go bust NEXT WEEK

3,200 workers face losing their jobs at risk as retailer grapples with £15million VAT bill

Closing down: Sale signs outside the chain's Basingstoke store which has been earmarked for closure 

The children’s retailer is preparing to appoint administrators early in the week as the firm is reportedly days away from going bust. Senior bosses are understood to have alerted the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) today as filing for administration will mean thousands nationwide will risk losing their income security. Bosses had been scrambling to find a business to rescue the troubled couple in its eleventh hour but time is running out with the Revenue’s deadline earmarked as Tuesday. Closing down: Sale signs outside the chain’s Basingstoke store which has been earmarked for closure. The news comes as the US arm of toy giant plans to close a further 200 stores putting thousands of jobs at risk as it attempts to avoid a total collapse of the business. Toys R Us closed 182 stores in the US last year, hitting 4,500 employees. The decision to close another 200 stores would take the total to almost 400 – roughly half of its estate in the US. It comes after the retailer saw disappointing sales over the crucial Christmas period as demand for online shopping continues to hammer the High Street at home and in the US. The US arm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year but claimed at the time that the incident would have no

Special counsel files new charges against Trump ex-aides Manafort and Gates

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The special counsel in the Russia probe filed new criminal charges on Thursday against President Donald Trump’s former campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, stepping up pressure in a legal battle that started last year. The 32-count indictment filed by Robert Mueller in Alexandria, Virginia, federal court includes charges of bank fraud and lying on tax returns. It alleges that Manafort, with Gates’ assistance, laundered more than $30 million and duped banks into lending money. It says the pair used funds from secret offshore accounts to enjoy a life of luxury. Manafort and Gates already face criminal charges by Mueller’s office in federal court in Washington, D.C., that include conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy to defraud the United States and failure to register as foreign agents for political work they did for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party. The pair were among the first to be charged as part of Mueller’s ongoing investigation into whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Russia has denied meddling in the campaign and Trump has denied any collusion took place. The probe has shadowed Trump’s year-old presidency. The latest charges against Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign manager for five months in 2016, and Gates, who was deputy campaign manager, do not mention their work for the Trump campaign. Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, said Manafort is innocent of the new charges which, he noted, “have nothing to do with Russia and 2016 election interference/collusion.” The new indictment charges wrongdoing as recently as January 2017 and alleges that Manafort and Gates were desperate for cash when their lobbying business dried up, after pro-Kremlin Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was forced to flee to Russia after being ousted from power

Reuters: Kelly, McMaster Mull Resigning

Image: Reuters: Kelly, McMaster Mull Resigning
Longstanding friction between U.S. President Donald Trump and two top aides, the National Security Adviser and the Chief of Staff, has grown to a point that either or both might quit soon, four senior administration officials said. Both H.R. McMaster and John Kelly are military men considered by U.S. political observers as moderating influences on the president by imposing a routine on the White House. They have also convinced Trump of the importance of international alliances, particularly NATO, which he has criticized as not equally sharing its burdens with the United States.However, all the officials were quick to add that the tensions could blow over, at least for now, as have previous episodes of discord between the president and other top officials who have fallen out of favor, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Asked about sources saying that either National Security Adviser McMaster or Chief of Staff Kelly, or both, might be leaving, White House spokesman Raj Shah on Thursday did not address the possibility. He said, “the president has full confidence in each member of the team.” Press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday that Trump “still has confidence in General McMaster.” Neither Kelly nor McMaster responded to requests for comment on whether they would remain in the administration.  Trump swatted McMaster in a Twitter post after his comments at a European conference last weekend that he was certain Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election campaign, which Trump has been reluctant to acknowledge. Kelly and McMaster have chafed at Trump’s treatment of them in public and in private, which both at times have considered insulting, said all four officials, speaking on condition of anonymity. The current and most potent irritant, they said, is Kelly’s effort, supported by McMaster, to prevent administration officials who have been unable to obtain permanent high-level security clearances from having access to the government’s most closely held secrets. Under pressure to act last week, Kelly strengthened the security clearance process in response to a scandal involving Rob Porter, a former official accused of domestic abuse by two ex-wives. Staffers whose interim clearances have been pending since June would have them revoked on Friday. That would bar Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner from reading the president’s daily intelligence brief, which often contains information on covert operations and intelligence collected from spy satellites, spies, and close U.S. allies. “There have been running battles between Trump and his generals,” said one of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Kelly is a retired Marine general and McMaster an Army lieutenant general. After U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians, a Russian propaganda arm and two other firms on Feb. 16 with tampering in the election to boost Trump, McMaster said the evidence of Moscow’s meddling was “incontrovertible.” Trump publicly chastised McMaster in a Twitter post, saying McMaster “forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted by the Russians.”

China seizes control of Anbang Insurance as chairman prosecuted

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The Chinese government on Friday seized control of Anbang Insurance Group Co Ltd and said its chairman had been prosecuted, dramatically illustrating Beijing’s willingness to curtail big-spending conglomerates as it cracks down on financial risk. Anbang  had violated laws and regulations which “may seriously endanger the solvency of the company”, the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) said in a statement announcing the seizure, without giving details. The CIRC also said Anbang’s chairman and key shareholder, Wu Xiaohui, had been prosecuted for economic crimes. Wu was arrested in June as troubles mounted for one of China’s most aggressive buyers of overseas assets. The Shanghai prosecutors office said in a statement Friday that Wu had recently been charged with fundraising fraud and abuse of his position, and that his case had been forwarded to the city’s intermediate court for prosecution. During the government takeover of Anbang Group, which will last for one year starting from Friday, the company will be managed by a group of officials from the CIRC, the central bank and other key financial regulators and government bodies. The takeover of Anbang, which claims 1.97 trillion yuan (222.37 billion pounds) in assets and ranks 139 on the Global Fortune 500 list, is a defining blow to a conglomerate best known for acquiring New York’s landmark Waldorf Astoria “The group has become too big to fail in some sense,” said the lawyer, who declined to be identified by

Armed officer on the Florida high school campus did nothing to stop the shooter

Multiple fatalities have been reported and several more injured at a high school northwest of Miami. According to law enforcement the suspect is in custody. Some media are reporting the suspect as former student, Nicolas Cruz.
School shooting in Parkland, Florida, USA – 14 Feb 2018

The Florida school where a former student shot and killed 17 people is grappling with word that the armed officer on campus did nothing to stop the shooter. That failure, plus reports of a delay in security camera footage scanned by responding police added to what the Florida House speaker described as an “abject breakdown at all levels.” The Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has reignited national debate over gun laws and school safety, including proposals by President Donald Trump and others to designate more people — including trained teachers — to carry arms on school grounds. Gun-control advocates, meanwhile, have redoubled calls for bans or further restrictions on assault rifles.

The school resource officer on Feb. 14 took up a position viewing the western entrance of that building for more than four minutes after the shooting started, but “he never went in,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a news conference.

The officer, Scot Peterson, was suspended without pay and placed under investigation, then chose to resign, Israel said. When asked what Peterson should have done, Israel said the deputy should have “went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer.” The sheriff said he was “devastated, sick to my stomach. There are no words. I mean these families lost their children. We lost coaches. I’ve been to the funerals. … I’ve been to the vigils. It’s just, ah, there are no words.”

 

Trump Not Out of Woods Yet, Law Prof Says

The recent indictment against various Russian individuals and entities that alleged a massive scheme to interfere with the U.S. political system leading up to the 2016 election was eye-opening, not just for revealing just how big the alleged plot was, but for its lack of any allegations that President Donald Trump‘s campaign had anything to do with it. Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation’s main purpose was to investigate the Trump campaign’s connections to Russian interference efforts, but after these indictments, plus those of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, as well as multiple guilty pleas, Mueller has yet to charge anyone involved in Trump’s campaign with illegal acts involving collusion with Russia. According to George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley, however, a lack of collusion evidence doesn’t mean the president is out of the woods just yet. Mueller’s broad authority could lead to him discovering potential impropriety with Trump’s business dealings, even if it has nothing to do with his campaign. “Trump’s extensive holdings and deals maximize the risk of irregularities and violations,”

In particular, Trump’s business history with Russia is extensive, with Donald Trump Jr. acknowledging that the Trump family has received a significant amount of money in investments from Russia.

Trump Sr. had extensive dealings with Deutsche Bank, which has been implicated in Russian money laundering. A reported fear of Trump’s lawyers is that Mueller’s team wants a sit-down interview with Trump in order to see if they can get him to say the wrong thing that could result in similar charges. Even if Trump didn’t do anything that was technically illegal in the past, if he contradicts himself or isn’t completely truthful about something during such an interview, that could be enough for thee Special Counsel’s office to pounce on him.  Turley brought up the recent news of payments made to keep women from discussing alleged affairs they had with Trump. Most notable was Trump  attorney Michael Cohen‘s claim that he paid former adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to not talk about an affair she claimed to have had with Trump while he was already married to wife Melania. “Mueller could investigate the payments as possible campaign-finance violations within his mandate,” . Such charges wouldn’t put Trump’s administration in jeopardy, Turley said,  they are reasons for the president to remain concerned until the investigation reaches its conclusion.

 

Spain hit by HUGE protests: Thousands of retirees take to streets over pensions fears

Protesters
THOUSANDS of OAPs have been marching in Spain to demand “decent pensions” – even cutting access to the Spanish Parliament in Madrid and stopping traffic from passing.
The angry demonstrators managed to break the police cordon of the Congress building in Madrid to take their demonstration to the doors of the government building. The retirees are demonstrating across Spain, calling for higher pensions and demanding authorities ensure funding for social security. Protesters have been holding signs calling the 0.25 per cent increase in pensions this year “miserable” and saying it is not enough to keep up with inflation.

The pensioners have taken their fight to the main squares of 40 cities and towns across the country, including Bilbao, Barcelona, Seville and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. In Bilbao, thousands of pensioners surrounded the town hall shouting: “We are pensioners, not terrorists”. They have also been shouting in desperation: “What a shame, what a shame! They steal from us!”

Organisers of the protests, which includes the biggest workers’ unions in Spain, petitioned parliament to call on political parties to stop blocking changes to the laws on pensions. The government does not believe that the pensions payouts in Spain are sustainable with the ageing population and fewer workers contributing to the national social security fund.

Protester

The OAPs think the pensions should increase more in line with inflation The protest organisations are demanding the prime minister’s government to guarantee pensions for present and future generations. During a protest in Madrid, Workers’ General Union leader Mari Carmen Barrera said Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy should explain why the Spanish economy is growing three percent while pensions are only growing 0.25 percent.

Mr Barrera said: “Last week, when the government’s president asked the Spanish people to save for their pension, he was implying that future pensions will not be enough to live.”

“That’s an intolerable situation.”