Saudi forces say Houthi missile intercepted over Saudi city – state media

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi air defence forces intercepted a missile fired by Houthi fighters in neighbouring Yemen at the southern Saudi city of Najran on Saturday, the Saudi-led coalition said. In a statement carried by state news agency SPA the coalition said that according to initial findings an Indian resident was injured by falling debris after the missile was intercepted. The Houthi-run Saba news agency earlier said a missile was fired at a Saudi National Guard base in Najran, and that it had led to “losses in the ranks of the enemy and its military equipment”. The Iran-aligned Houthis have launched scores of missiles at the kingdom since the coalition intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 after the Houthis drove Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile. Last week, Saudi air defence forces intercepted a flurry of missiles, and falling debris caused the first death in the capital Riyadh. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of supplying missile parts and expertise to the Houthis, who have taken over the Yemeni capital Sanaa and other parts of the country. Tehran and the Houthis deny the charge.

Tesla says Autopilot was engaged during fatal Model X crash

Tesla says Autopilot was engaged at the time of a deadly Model X crash that occurred March 23rd in Mountain View, California. The company posted a statement online late Friday, after local news reported that the victim had made several complaints to Tesla about the vehicle’s Autopilot technology prior to the crash in which he died. After recovering the logs from the crash site, Tesla acknowledged that Autopilot was on, with the adaptive cruise control follow distance set to a minimum. The company also said that the driver, identified as Apple engineer Wei “Walter” Huang, had his hands off the steering wheel and was not responding to warnings to re-take control.

The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision. The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken.

The driver of the car, Huang, was headed southbound on California’s Route 101 when his Model X crashed headfirst into the safety barrier section of a divider that separates the carpool lane from the off-ramp to the left. The front end of his SUV was ripped apart, the vehicle caught fire, and two other cars crashed into the rear end. Huang was removed from the vehicle by rescuers and brought to Stanford Hospital, where he died from injuries sustained in the crash, according to Mercury News. The National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) has launched an investigation into the incident. Tesla said the reason the crash was so severe was because the attenuator had been crushed in a prior accident without being replaced. “We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash,” the company said, echoing a comment it made earlier in the week. In its statement, Tesla admits that Autopilot is an imperfect system, but argues its far better than the alternative.

Tesla Autopilot does not prevent all accidents – such a standard would be impossible – but it makes them much less likely to occur. It unequivocally makes the world safer for the vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists.

No one knows about the accidents that didn’t happen, only the ones that did. The consequences of the public not using Autopilot, because of an inaccurate belief that it is less safe, would be extremely severe. There are about 1.25 million automotive deaths worldwide. If the current safety level of a Tesla vehicle were to be applied, it would mean about 900,000 lives saved per year. We expect the safety level of autonomous cars to be 10 times safer than non-autonomous cars.

Huang’s death occurred less than a week after a self-driving Uber vehicle killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, sparking a national debate about the safety of autonomous cars. Tesla has faced questions about Autopilot before, when a Florida driver died from a collision with a tractor-trailer in 2016. The NTSB found that Autopilot operated mostly as intended, but it “gave far more leeway to the driver to divert his attention to something other than driving,” which contributed to the crash. The NTSB has also recently looked into a January 2018 accident where the driver of a Model S claims to have been using Autopilot when the car crashed into a fire truck.

McCabe’s legal defense fund exceeds fundraising goal twice

(CNN)The fundraising page for a legal defense fund for fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has managed to raise $500,000 within its first 48 hours. By Saturday morning, the GoFundMe page had far surpassed its updated fundraising goal of $250,000, largely through small donations, since it was set up Thursday with an initial goal of $150,000. “Although we know legal fees could exceed that based on the path ahead, we will not be raising the goal again,” a spokesperson for McCabe told CNN in an email. The page says the fund is intended for use in dealing with a Department of Justice inspector general investigation, congressional inquires, and potential lawsuits. After more than two decades of service in the FBI, McCabe was fired earlier this month by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said he was taking the action after the inspector general and the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility concluded McCabe had made “an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor − including under oath − on multiple occasions,” which is a career-ending offense. McCabe was fired a little more than 24 hours before his expected retirement on his 50th birthday, when he would have become eligible to receive early retirement benefits. The firing could put a significant portion of those benefits in jeopardy, CNN has reported. The FBI’s former second-in-command has denied he misled the inspector general when questioned about authorizing FBI agents to speak with the news media. McCabe also argued his termination is part of the administration’s larger effort to discredit the FBI and the special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. According to the GoFundMe page, the funds raised will be solely used for his legal defense. McCabe “will continue to fight for the pension and benefits he deserves, rather than accept any crowdfunding for that purpose,” the page said, adding that any remaining funds will be donated to charity. Nick Bit: The DON needs to be very worried… this guy is not going away!

Trump’s call for tariffs creating anxiety in the farm belt

HOSPERS, Iowa (AP) — In Sioux County, where swine barns interrupt the vast landscape of corn-stubbled fields, exports of meat, grain and machinery fuel the local economy. And there’s a palpable sense of unease that new Chinese tariffs pushed by President Donald Trump – who received more than 80 percent of the vote here in 2016 – could threaten residents’ livelihood. The grumbling hardly signals a looming leftward lurch in this dominantly Republican region in northwest Iowa. But after standing with Trump through the many trials of his first year, some Sioux County Trump voters say they would be willing to walk away from the president if the fallout from the tariffs causes a lasting downturn in the farm economy. “I wouldn’t sit here today and say I will definitely support him again,” said 60-year-old hog farmer Marv Van Den Top. “This here could be a real negative for him.” Last week, Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on a range of Chinese goods, a move aimed at punishing Beijing for stealing American technology. The Chinese government responded with a threat to tag U.S. products, including pork and aluminum, with an equal 25 percent charge. That sent a chill through places like Sioux County, which ranks first among Iowa’s 99 counties in agricultural exports. In 2016, the county sold $350 million in meat, grain, machinery and chemicals overseas. Far closer to the sparsely populated crossroads of South Dakota and Minnesota than Iowa’s bustling Des Moines metro area, Sioux County is home to just 34,000 people, but more than 1 million hogs, 6 million chickens and nearly as impressive numbers of cattle and sheep. Brad Te Grootenhuis sells about 25,000 hogs a year and could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if the tariffs spark a backlash from China. He said it’s possible he would abandon Trump if pork’s price decline continues and lasts. “Any time you’re losing money, nobody’s happy,” the 42-year-old farmer said. “I’ve got payments to make, plain and simple.” “There is an uncertainty to exactly what the next two to three years are going to look like,” Schmidt said. A Trump voter in 2016, Schmidt said that if “things are bad and someone better comes along, we’re willing to take a look.”

Trump tells advisers he wants U.S. out of Syria – senior officials

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump has told advisers he wants an early exit of U.S. troops from Syria, two senior administration officials said on Friday, a stance that may put him at odds with U.S. military officials who see the fight against Islamic State as nowhere near complete.A National Security Council meeting is set for early next week to discuss the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State in Syria, according to U.S. officials familiar with the plan.  Two other administration officials confirmed a Wall Street Journal report on Friday that said Trump had ordered the State Department to freeze more than $200 million in funds for recovery efforts in Syria while his administration reassesses Washington’s role in the conflict there. Trump called for the freeze after reading a news report that the U.S. had recently committed an additional $200 million to stabilise areas recaptured from Islamic State, the paper said. The funding was announced by departing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in February at a meeting in Kuwait of the global coalition against Islamic State.

The decision to freeze the funds was in line with Trump’s declaration during a speech in Richfield, Ohio, on Thursday, where he said it was time for America to exit Syria.

A spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council said that “in line with the President’s guidance, the Department of State continually re-evaluates appropriate assistance levels and how best they might be utilized, which they do on an ongoing basis.”“We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon,” Trump said on Thursday, based on allied victories against Islamic State militants. “Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon, very soon, we’re coming out,” Trump said. “We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be.”  U.S. military officials have warned that the militants could regain the freed areas quickly unless they are stabilized. Nick Bit: Why is Trump really leaving Syria when the peace is not settled yet. Thats because Trumps video tape producer and black market banker PUTIN demand it. pretty simple equation!

President Trump accuses Amazon of scamming the USPS

He also says that The Washington Post should register as a lobbyist

This morning, Trump once again tweeted about online retailer Amazon.com, alleging that it is scamming the United States Postal Service and that the agency should raise its shipping rates. He also says that The Washington Post — owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos — should register as a lobbyist. Earlier this week, Axios reported that President Donald Trump wanted to take on Amazon. The President followed up with a tweet on March 29th, saying that Amazon was taking advantage of the USPS, paying little in state and local taxes, and putting retailers out of business. The New York Times outlined earlier this week that Amazon has collected sales taxes since April 2017. The retailer reported $957 million in income taxes last year. The Times also lays out that while the USPS is losing money — it reported losses of $2.7 billion in 2017 — these losses are due in part to declining volumes of “marketing and first-class mail,” and the agency’s requirement to prefund the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund each year, which costs over $5 billion annually. Indeed, the growth in package shipping from retailers like Amazon have been beneficial to the agency, which “have offset its general shortfalls in revenue.” The Washington Post reports that officials have explained to the President that Amazon’s contracts with the USPS are profitable.

In his second tweet, the president says that the retailer is taking advantage of the USPS, saying that Amazon is scamming the agency. He cites a Citi Bank report (via the Times) which says that the agency’s rates are underpriced, and that price adjustments could bring in additional revenue of $2.6 billion each year. The Times notes that while Amazon does have a shipping arrangement with the USPS, the agency has reviewed the rates and found them to be profitable, and has said that said rates are competitive in the marketplace. The Post cites officials who say that Trump’s anger towards Amazon is a result of the paper’s coverage of his administration, and claims that it is acting as a lobbyist on behalf of Bezos. The Post says that while it is owned by the Amazon CEO, it operates independently of the retailer. We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment, and will update if we hear back.

Dem senator: It’s likely that Trump will fire Mueller

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said on Friday that he believes that President Trump is likely to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, saying that the recent ousters of top administration officials make such a move all the more probable.

“I think the president’s abrupt recent actions in how he dismissed the VA secretary, the secretary of State, other key members of his Cabinet suggest that this is something he is likely to do,” Coons said. Coons said that many lawmakers believe that it would be “dreadful” if Trump fired Mueller, who is carrying out the law enforcement investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. But many of those same lawmakers do not think that Trump would actually go through with it, Coons said. He challenged that notion by pointing to the recent spate of dismissals among the top ranks of the Trump administration. Trump has moved in recent weeks to shakeup his Cabinet. The series of firings began earlier this month with the abrupt dismissal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. That was followed by the firing of national security adviser H.R. McMaster last week. And on Wednesday, Trump announced that he had fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and tapped White House physician Ronny Jackson to replace him. Trump has publicly and privately bristled at Mueller’s investigation, which he has called a “witch hunt” intended to undermine his presidency. Those complaints have long fed speculation that he could try to fire the special counsel. The New York Times reported in January that Trump had once tried to have Mueller fired shortly after the special counsel’s appointment last year. The president reportedly backed off from that demand after White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign. Some lawmakers have called for Congress to pass legislation that would curb the president’s ability to do away with Mueller. One proposal, introduced by Coons and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), would require that Mueller be informed in writing of the specific reason for his firing and that he be given the ability to appeal such a decision.

Trump told aides not to publicly tout move to supply weapons to Ukraine: report

Trump told aides not to publicly tout move to supply weapons to Ukraine: report
© Getty Images

President Trump reportedly told aides not to publicly promote a decision last year to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine to bolster the country’s fight against pro-Russia separatists. NBC News reported Thursday that Trump wanted his aides to downplay the decision to arm Ukrainian forces because he was concerned it would rattle relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “He doesn’t want us to bring it up,” one White House official sai. “It is not something he wants to talk about.” Trump has faced scrutiny for his apparent reluctance to publicly criticize Moscow and Putin. But officials told NBC News that Trump has taken a harder line toward Russia in private.  In a phone call with the Russian leader last week, for example, Trump warned that if the two Cold War foes were to reignite the arms race, the U.S. would come out on top.  “If you want to have an arms race we can do that, but I’ll win,” Trump reportedly told Putin. And after Putin delivered a speech earlier this month in which he unveiled nuclear weapons that he claimed were capable of evading missile defense systems, Trump called the leaders of France, Germany and Britain to say that their countries needed to ban together, according to NBC News. Just this week, Trump moved to expel 60 Russian officials operating in the U.S. That move came as part of a coordinated effort with two dozen other countries to punish Moscow for the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter on British soil. But even after that decision, Trump has not offered any public condemnation of Russia’s alleged actions.

Ex-FBI deputy McCabe’s online legal defense fund nears $300,000 in hours

 

FILE PHOTO: FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (C) arrives to testify behind closed doors before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired by the Trump administration but has said he was terminated because he is a crucial witness in the Russia investigation, has raised more than $292,000 in seven hours to help cover costs defending against other ongoing government probes, the funding website showed. A statement on the GoFundMe internet page unveiled earlier on Thursday said the goal was to raise $150,000 from the public but it was raised to $250,000 because of a response that “has been remarkable and beyond our expectations.” The action represents an escalation of the battle between McCabe and the administration over his firing amid heavy criticism by President Donald Trump. It also raises the prospect that McCabe could legally challenge his termination in the future. “Andrew McCabe’s FBI career was long, distinguished, and unblemished,” the statement said. “His reward for that has been a termination that was completely unjustified, amidst repeated ad hominem The report used as the basis for the firing has still not been made public. Following McCabe’s termination, Trump took to Twitter, where he declared it was a “great day for Democracy.” McCabe’s dismissal came less than two days before his 50th birthday, when he would have been eligible to retire from the Federal Bureau of Investigation with his full pension. McCabe has disputed the findings by the inspector general’s office. He said he believes he is facing administration retaliation because he is a crucial witness into whether Trump may have tried to obstruct a criminal probe now being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. While he was the FBI’s No. 2 official, McCabe was deeply involved in overseeing investigations related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, and whether Russia colluded with Trump’s campaign. Trump has denied that any collusion occurred and Russia has denied meddling.Reuters has reported that McCabe kept contemporaneous notes following his conversations with Trump, as well as notes related to former FBI Director James Comey’s conversations with Trump.  Trump fired Comey in 2017, prompting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Mueller as special counsel. Trump later acknowledged in a televised interview that he fired Comey over “this Russia thing.”

Russia tests its new nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile

  • Russia tested its new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the second time on Friday.
  • The nuclear weapon called Sarmat will replace the current Soviet-era missile called Veovoda.
  • The test was carried out at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, as spaceport in the west of Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with supporters at his campaign headquarters in Moscow, Russia March 18, 2018.
Yuri Kadobnov | POOL | Reuters Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with supporters at his campaign headquarters in Moscow, Russia March 18, 2018.

Russia tested its new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the second time on Friday, the country’s defense ministry said in a tweet. The nuclear weapon called Sarmat will replace the current Soviet-era missile called Veovoda. Russia’s ministry of defense tweeted a video showing the ICBM taking off.

It’s the second test of Sarmat. The first took place towards the end of last year.

The test was carried out at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, as spaceport in the west of Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled details of the missile in March. At the time, he said that the ICBM “can reach any point in the world.” The ICBM was unveiled as part of a raft of defense measures during his annual State of the Union address earlier this month.There are worries about the rising tension between some countries when it comes to nuclear weapons. North Korea has also been carrying out tests of its ICBM. Russia’s missile test comes at a time when it faces backlash from other major nations after Britain blamed the country for the poisoning of Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal. The U.S. and other countries have expelled some Russian diplomats. The Kremlin responded on Thursday by expelling 60 American diplomats from Russia.

Dow snaps longest win streak in 20 years

Tech selloff drags down US stocks
Tech selloff drags down US stocks The euphoria that carried the market higher and higher last year came to an end during the first months of 2018.

It was an extremely turbulent quarter that featured two 1,000-point Dow plunges, powerful rallies and a growing list of fears for investors. Despite a 309-point jump on Thursday, the Dow lost more than 2% over the three months. That snaps a nine-quarter win streak, the longest in 20 years, and marks the Dow’s worst performance since 2015. (Markets are closed on Friday for Good Friday.) Wall Street started the year with a boom, as the Dow crossed 25,000 and then 26,000 in the span of just seven trading days. Investors were overjoyed about President Trump’s corporate tax cuts and expectations that growth would accelerate. But the Dow is ending the first quarter about 2,500 points, or 9%, below its all-time high on January 26. That was the Dow’s 99th record closing high since Trump’s election, and the century mark seemed just around the corner.

dow worst quarter chart

 

 

Trump’s crackdown on trade, first with aluminum and steel tariffs and then with threats against China, unnerved Wall Street. Trade war fears have since eased a bit as Trump has softened his stance and hopes have risen for a resolution with Beijing. “With tariffs, there is a lot of bark, but there’s not much bite,” said David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Funds. The tech world, once a reliable source of strength, has faltered. Facebook (FB) tumbled into a bear market as a data crisis consumed one of America’s most widely held companies. Other former tech darlings like Tesla (TSLA) and Alphabet (GOOGL), the parent company of Google, have fallen sharply from their all-time highs. Even Amazon (AMZN) is under pressure, thanks to attacks from Trump.  Congress is stimulating the already healthy economy with a rush of spending and huge corporate tax cuts, just as the Federal Reserve is tapping the brakes on growth by raising interest rates. The collision of those powerful forces was bound to create some turbulence.

Mueller probing Russia contacts at Republican convention: sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Investigators probing whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia have been questioning witnesses about events at the 2016 Republican National Convention, according to two sources familiar with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiries.

Mueller’s team has been asking about a convention-related event attended by both Russia’s U.S. ambassador and Jeff Sessions, the first U.S. senator to support Trump and now his attorney general, said one source, who requested anonymity due to the ongoing investigation.

Another issue Mueller’s team has been asking about is how and why Republican Party platform language hostile to Russia was deleted from a section of the document related to Ukraine, said another source who also requested anonymity. Mueller’s interest in what happened at the Republican convention in Cleveland, Ohio in July 2016, is an indication that Trump campaign contacts and actions related to Russia remain central to the special counsel’s investigation.

 

Investigators have asked detailed questions about conversations that Sessions, then a Trump campaign adviser, had at a convention event attended by then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak, said the first source, who was questioned by Mueller about the event.The same source said Mueller’s team also has been asking whether Sessions had private discussions with Kislyak on the sidelines of a campaign speech Trump gave at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel in April 2016.  Sessions’ spokespersons have denied repeatedly that he had any private discussions with Kislyak at the Mayflower, although Sessions has admitted to speaking briefly to Kislyak at the event.

At one committee meeting, according to people in attendance, Diana Denman, a member of the platform committee’s national security subcommittee, proposed language calling for the United States to supply “lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces and greater coordination with NATO on defense planning.” After the convention, Denman told Reuters in 2016, J.D. Gordon, a Trump foreign policy adviser, told her he was going to speak to Trump about the language on Ukraine, and that Trump’s campaign team played a direct role in softening the platform language. Sessions recused himself last year from the federal probe into Russian election meddling after it emerged that he had failed to say during his Senate confirmation hearing to be attorney general that he had met with Russia’s ambassador in 2016.

Trump on North Korea: ‘The Rhetoric Has Calmed Down’ Takes back Steel Tariffs

President says he may hold up U.S.-South Korea trade deal until after summit with North Korea’s Kim.This is the deal below he declared a GREAT BREAKTHROUGH: “Just this week we secured a wonderful deal with South Korea,”  a GREAT BREAKTHROUGH

Remember This Photo OP: Steel was going to be great again! HA HA HA HA never mind. Trump has exempted the major steel imported from AND and ALL Tariffs… All i can say is SUCKERS

President Donald Trump said Thursday that the rhetoric between the United States and North Korea has “calmed down” recently. He first told the audience about a recent trade deal that the United States reached with South Korea. “Just this week we secured a wonderful deal with South Korea,” Trump said. “We were in a deal that was a horror show. It was going to produce 200,000 jobs—and it did, for them. That was a Hillary Clinton special, I hate to say it. ‘This will produce 200,000 jobs.’ She was right, but it was for them; it wasn’t for us. So we have redone it. And that is going to level the playing field on steel and cars and trucks coming into this country.” Trump went on to say that he might hold up the deal until he meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un later this year and sees if the two men can reach an agreement.

“I may hold it up till [sic] after a deal is made with North Korea. Does everybody understand that?” Trump asked. “Because it is a very strong card, and I want to make sure everyone is treated fairly and we’re moving along very nicely with North Korea. We’ll see what happens. Certainly the rhetoric has calmed down just a little bit, would you say? Would you say?”

Earlier this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping informed Trump about his meeting with Kim and said the North Korean leader is looking forward to meeting with Trump. Nick Bit: That is called outclassed by the Chinese. That is why he is backing away from S.Korean sanctions.

“We’ll see how it all turns out. Maybe it will be good, and maybe it won’t,” Trump said. “If it is no good, we’re walking. If it is good we will embrace it, but it’s going to be very interesting over the next period of time. And South Korea has been wonderful, but we’ll probably hold that deal up for a little while, see how it all plays out.” Nick Bit: this is caledl all ahead reverse. I thought steel was going to be great again! All i can say is never mind

Gold futures extend decline after biggest loss since February

Gold futures added to losses on Thursday, a day after the precious metal registered its largest one-session loss since February and closed at a one-week low. Gold fell $3.50, or less than 0.3%, at $1,326.50 an ounce—after marking its lowest finish since March 21 on Wednesday. The decline for Wednesday also was the largest since Feb. 20, according to FactSet data. Silver meanwhile, shed 5 cents, or 0.3%, to $16.205 an ounce. A strengthening of the dollar and an easing of geopolitical tensions amid a moderation of declines in the S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were partly credited with the yellow metals stumbles in the prior session. Global uncertainty tends to lift assets considered havens like gold, and a beefier buck tends weigh on commodities that are typically priced in the currency. Gold also has been under pressure even as other havens like the 10-year Treasury note have rallied, pushing its yields, which move in the opposite direction, to its lowest levels in seven weeks. The 10-year Treasury yield finished at 2.777% late Wednesday in New York.

 

President Trump tweets about ‘concerns’ over Amazon

President Donald Trump tweeted early Thursday about his “concerns” that e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, +0.65% isn’t paying its fair share of taxes and is hurting the U.S. Postal Service, erasing the company’s premarket gains. The stock was up as much as 1.6% before the tweet, later declining as much as 0.8%. Amazon shares tumbled 4.4% on Wednesday after a report that Trump was set to go after it, though White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders later said the administration had no specific policies or actions under consideration. “I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!” The post office told MarketWatch it had no comment on the matter. A New York Times report published over the weekend said Amazon is “collecting sales tax in every state that has one,” though the same may not be said for taxes by every local government at every level. And an Axios report published Wednesday quoted sources as saying the president continued to complain that Amazon is taking advantage of the USPS despite the fact that it has “been explained to him in multiple meetings that his perception is inaccurate and that the post office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon.” Shares of Amazon are up 63.7% for the past year while the S&P 500 index SPX, +1.44% is up 10.3% for the period. Nick Bit: Bezos owns the Washington Post. Which like CNN carries negative stories about the president.So this is little more then payback

US economy is headed for recession and the Fed will be held responsible, SocGen bear warns

With credit card delinquencies rising sharply at smaller banks, Societe Generale’s uber-bearish strategist Albert Edwards has predicted that the U.S. economy is headed for recession.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

“Markets are now sniffing out a rising stench,” Edwards claimed in his latest research note, published Thursday. Edwards said a flattening of the U.S. yield curve — where the difference between short-dated and longer-dated U.S. Treasury yields narrow — was revealing investor fears about the economic recovery, despite punchy data related to consumer and business optimism. “The optimists have had their day. This data merely reflects the illusion of prosperity,” Edwards argued.

We're pricing for goldiocks but closer to Frankenstein

Markets are pricing for Goldilocks but closer to Frankenstein, says economist  “They say a fish rots from the head down. Unlike the 2008 financial crisis, this time I expect it is the Fed that will be held responsible for yet another debt crisis. Do not expect their independence to survive,” Edwards added.

Edwards cited data which showed that credit card charge-off rates at small U.S. banks had peaked to 7.9 percent. This is a level not seen since the end of the global financial crisis. Charge-off rates represent the level of debt that a creditor has decided it has no chance of collecting.

A similar but separate analysis measuring credit card delinquency also revealed an alarming spike at small banks. “All the data we’ve seen over the last few weeks has basically been that the consumer is maxed out, we’ve seen that in credit card loans as well, so I think the consumer is done spending the money,” said Steen Jakobsen, economist at Danish investment house Saxo Bank on Tuesday. Whether rising credit card stress among small bank customers is a sign of a growing problem that could slow growth or stifle equity markets remains unclear.

WH official: Jackson vouching for Trump’s health on TV helped him get VA job

Washington (CNN)White House physician Ronny Jackson’s performance during an extended grilling over President Donald Trump’s health and cognitive fitness played a part in his nomination for secretary of Veterans Affairs, a White House official told CNN Wednesday. The official said Trump liked the way Jackson handled himself with reporters during the briefing in January. Trump’s selection of Jackson, his personal physician, to replace Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin immediately raised questions about Jackson’s experience and qualifications, according to multiple veterans groups and Capitol Hill sources.

Asked how Jackson is qualified to oversee medical care for US veterans, the White House official noted Jackson brings with him both a medical and military background to the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as past praise for his work in previous administrations.
The decision to nominate Jackson to run the government’s second largest department surprised members of Congress, veteran advocacy groups and officials within the department, the sources told CNN.
Representatives from groups and lawmakers openly questioned whether Jackson had the right experience to run the sprawling agency, despite his military and medical background. “I have no idea what to expect from him, quite frankly,” Vietnam Veterans of America president John Rowan told CNN, adding that he was disappointed that the President had removed Shulkin, but he also expressed some relief at the pick, adding that it could have been worse. “We were hoping that we prevailed, but at least he isn’t appointing one of those rabid privatization people, so that’s a plus,” Rowan said. A source told CNN in January that Trump liked Jackson’s performance in the briefing room answering questions about his presidential physical. At the White House briefing, Jackson vouched for Trump’s neurological function, pronounced him in “excellent” health and attributed part of the positive health assessment to good genetics.
“He’s like central casting — like a Hollywood star,” Trump said, according to an audio recording of his remarks obtained by CNN. And last Friday, the Pentagon announced Trump had nominated Jackson for a promotion from rear admiral (lower half) to rear admiral (upper half). A senior White House official told CNN after Trump announced his selection of Jackson for the VA post that Jackson would resign his commission and retire from active duty before being confirmed.Nick Bit: If you help Trump spin things and are good before the cameras you get a great central casting  job. In this case a woefully unqualified candidate ACTING as VA administrator…… NOT GOOD!

AP Exclusive: US, Mexico open new maritime front in drug war: Build a “Sea Wall”

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S. and Mexican governments are sparring over immigration and trade, but the two countries are joining forces on the high seas like never before to go after drug smugglers. The United States, Mexico and Colombia will target drug smugglers off South America’s Pacific coast in an operation that is scheduled to begin Sunday and last for the foreseeable future, Coast Guard officials told The Associated Press. U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Paul F. Zukunft teased the idea during a recent defense conference in San Diego, saying the United States “can’t do it alone.” “It’s no secret we are besieged with the flow of drugs from Latin America to the United States,” he said. U.S. and Mexican forces have routinely worked together at sea, but the latest effort “marks a significant step in terms of information sharing, collaboration and cooperation between the United States, Mexico and other partner nations,” according to the Coast Guard. The Americans and Mexicans will exchange intelligence more freely than in the past, which could mean sharing information on well-traveled routes for drug smugglers or preferred paths for specific smuggling organizations, Coast Guard spokeswoman Alana Miller said. They will also board the other country’s vessels to view operations and gain expertise, Miller said. In 2015, three members of the Mexican navy boarded a Coast Guard vessel during a port call in Huatulco, Mexico, but this operation calls for more frequent exchanges, and they will be at sea. The operation will last “for the foreseeable future as long as it’s working for everyone,” Miller said. “It’s sort of open-ended.”

Traffickers over the years have increasingly turned to the sea to move their illegal goods, traversing an area off South America that is so big, the continental United States could be dropped inside. Smugglers routinely move cocaine out of countries like Colombia to Central America and Mexico via fishing boats, skiffs, commercial cargo ships – even homemade submarines.

The operation comes after five years of record seizures by the Coast Guard. But U.S. officials say because of limited resources, the U.S. military’s smallest service still catches only about 25 percent of illegal shipments in the Pacific. Even so, the Coast Guard annually seizes three times the amount of cocaine confiscated at the U.S.-Mexico border.  Nick Bit: Does the DON know about this. Its time to build a big beautiful SEA WALL! Shit what a great idea……. That will stop them!  And we will make the WORLD pay for it!

Trump ousts David Shulkin from VA, names White House doctor to the post

 Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson poised to take over 2nd-largest federal agency
Reuters David Shulkin testifies on Capitol Hill in February 2017.

WASHINGTON —President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he had ousted his Veterans Affairs secretary, David Shulkin, and tapped the White House physician, Ronny Jackson, as his replacement. “I am pleased to announce that I intend to nominate highly respected Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, MD, as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. He said Robert Wilkie, who currently serves as under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness at the Department of Defense, would serve as acting secretary “in the interim.”

Jackson is a U.S. Navy rear admiral who has served as a White House physician during the past three administrations. In that role, he has overseen health care for the cabinet and senior staff, served as a physician supervisor at Camp David and led the White House Medical Unit, the White House said. Jackson, if confirmed by the Senate, would take over the second-largest federal agency, which has more than 370,000 employees. Trump has been considering replacing Shulkin for weeks, following an inspector general’s report last month that said the secretary had misspent taxpayer money during an official trip to Europe last year.

Spurned by big law firms, Trump relies on a handful of lesser-known attorneys

Spurned by big law firms, Trump relies on a handful of lesser-known attorneys
Jay Sekulow, pictured here in 2015, is anchoring what remains of President Trump’s legal team along with three other lawyers. (Steve Helber / Associated Press)

An unlikely trio — a law professor, a part-time local prosecutor and a lawyer focused on advocating conservative issues — is playing an increasingly central role in representing President Trump in the Russia investigation as he struggles to find top talent for his diminished legal team. All three are connected to Jay Sekulow, Trump’s last remaining personal lawyer after John Dowd, a white-collar criminal defense attorney, resigned last week and other lawyers have declined to join up. Dowd had been leading negotiations with the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about a possible presidential interview. “With John’s departure, there’s obviously more on us,” Sekulow said. Trump has been hunting for another defense attorney, but he’s been turned down several times. Two other lawyers who were announced just last week as joining his team, the husband-and-wife duo of Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing, dropped out on Sunday, citing conflicts with other clients. The developments have elevated Sekulow, who’s best known as an advocate for conservative religious causes at the American Center for Law and Justice, to the central figure in the president’s defense strategy. The three other lawyers have either worked for Sekulow’s group or alongside him on various legal issues in the past. Sekulow said that they’ve been helping represent the president since he was hired in June. Their roles, however, are enhanced now. One of the lawyers, Ben Sisney, is the center’s senior counsel for litigation and public policy. He previously worked as a lawyer in Oklahoma and clerked for a U.S. District Court judge there. Another lawyer is Mark Goldfeder, a senior lecturer at Emory University School of Law in Atlanta. According to the biography on the school’s website, his work has focused on religious and international issues. The third lawyer is Andrew Ekonomou, an Atlanta-based attorney who has the most experience with criminal cases. He previously worked as a state and federal prosecutor, at one time serving as the acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. Ted Olson, a prominent Republican lawyer and former solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration, is one of the lawyers who turned down the president. He later told MSNBC that the upheaval in the Trump administration is “not good for anything.” “I think everybody would agree this is turmoil, it’s chaos, it’s confusion,” Olson said.

States ARE Strapped for Cash

The proportion of state and local tax revenues dedicated to Medicaid and public pensions is the highest since the 1960s
In 2008, then Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt predicted Medicaid costs would “crowd out virtually every other category of spending” for states within 10 years.
Photo: ALI ABBAS/EPA/Shutterstock

Many cities, in turn, are increasing fees and fines on everything from garbage collection to parking tickets. Others, such as Hartford, Conn., have teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. The cash crunch is likely to get worse. Federal actuaries predict that Medicaid’s annual cost, which was $595 billion in 2017, will exceed $1 trillion in 2026. States and many localities pay about 38% of that tab. The remainder is covered by the federal government. Policy makers in Washington have talked about revamping entitlement programs such as Medicaid, but so far their efforts have gained little traction. That leaves it up to states to try to contain spending—and make do with less. Nearly 70 million Americans, about one-fifth of the population, depend on Medicaid for health coverage, including more than 28 million children. The biggest financial beneficiaries are the disabled, the elderly and poor working-age adults. Nationwide, state spending on higher education and local tax revenue sharing, adjusting for inflation, have both declined since 2008, according to the Journal’s analysis. So has state and local spending for infrastructure.

 

An $800 billion disconnect between the Fed and Treasury is ballooning in the bond market: Wells Fargo

Oversupply is 'big difference maker' for bond market, says Wells Fargo
Oversupply is ‘big difference maker’ for bond market, says Wells Fargo

Just as the Federal Reserve pares back its bond holdings, the U.S. government is bringing more to market. That could have a major impact on bond yields, says one Wells Fargo strategist. “The government bond supply, which is surging now, is really the big difference maker,” Michael Schumacher, head of interest rate strategy at Wells Fargo, told CNBC’s “Futures Now” on Tuesday. “At the same time the Fed is shrinking its portfolio — we heard this from the new chair Mr. [Jerome] Powell last week — the Treasury is issuing bond after bond after bond.” The difference between Treasury supply and Fed buying is a “disconnect” that could balloon to $800 billion this year, estimates Schumacher, pushing yields significantly higher. Wells Fargo expects the yield on the 10-year Treasury note to hit 3.20 percent by the end of the year, around 40 basis points higher than current levels. Yields have not been that high since May 2011. The 10-year has not even crossed the 3 percent threshold since January 2014. Supply levels have been on bond traders’ minds this week. The U.S. Treasury will put up for auction a record $294 billion in new debt before the holiday weekend as it covers rising federal government spending and lower tax revenues. President Donald Trump signed a $1.3 trillion budget on Friday. The Fed, a big purchaser of bonds, began to unload its holdings last October. Progress in reducing its Fed’s balance sheet will likely not change unless its outlook sees a “very significant and unexpected weakening,” Fed Chairman Powell reaffirmed in his first press conference last week. “Who is going to buy the bonds? We keep searching around and there haven’t been, frankly, many takers,” said Schumacher. “The U.S. Treasury right now is scrambling a little bit, and it’s that big glut you’ve got coming out of the market that really should push rates up.” The potential for a trade war between U.S. and China is another big risk to the bond market, says Schumacher. Bond rates could go in either direction depending on how new developments play out. “If it’s not really a trade war, then it’s more a skirmish. Then you can say it’s inflationary, rates probably go up a little bit,” said Schumacher. “If it really deteriorates into an all-out war then it’s probably an economy killer and rates drop. It’s kind of a nuanced thing.” The yield on the 10-year Treasury is hovering close to its highest levels in more than four years. The 10-year currently trades at 2.78 percent after hitting a year-to-date high of 2.94 percent on Feb. 21.

The Beginning of the End? Key Takeaways From PIMCO’s Cyclical Outlook

 

  • First, the Fed raised the target range for the federal funds rate to 1.5% to 1.75%, the sixth rate hike in this cycle. With core PCE inflation (the Fed’s preferred measure) at 1.5%, this means the real policy rate is now no longer negative. If, like me, you believe that that the neutral real policy rate (r*) is currently around zero, the Fed’s policy stance is no longer accommodative.
  • Second, the median FOMC participant now expects seven more rate hikes of 25 basis points to 3.4% by the end of 2020, adding two more hikes compared to the December 2017 dot plot, and taking the fed funds rate some 50 basis points above the Fed’s own estimate of the long-run neutral policy rate in three years’ time (See Tiffany Wilding’s take on the FOMC decision on the PIMCO blog). So the Fed now officially expects to overshoot neutral. Let this sink in.
  • Third, recall that the Fed is running down its balance sheet at an accelerating pace this year, which is worth about one additional rate hike.

As I see it, the end of easy money in the U.S. implies that the days of suppressed volatility in financial markets are coming to an end. With the dampened blanket of excess liquidity finally being withdrawn, beware of what lies beneath…

 

Apple’s Tim Cook rebukes Zuckerberg over Facebook’s business model

“We could make a ton of money if we monetized our customers, if our customers were our product,”  “We’ve elected not to do that … We’re not going to traffic in your personal life. Privacy to us is a human right, a civil liberty.”

Tim Cook: ‘We could make a ton of money if we monetized our customers, if our customers were our product. We’ve elected not to do that. Privacy to us is a human right.’
.’ Photograph: China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, issued a harsh rebuke of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s business model on Wednesday, saying that detailed profiles of individuals compiled by internet platforms should not exist.“We could make a ton of money if we monetized our customers, if our customers were our product,” Cook said in an interview with Recode and MSNBC that will air on 6 April. “We’ve elected not to do that … We’re not going to traffic in your personal life. Privacy to us is a human right, a civil liberty.”  Cook also said that it is past time to regulate Facebook. “I think the best regulation is no regulation, is self-regulation,” he said. “However, I think we’re beyond that here.” The comment echoed remarks Cook made in Beijing last week, when he said: “I think that this certain situation is so dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary.” Facebook has received a deluge of criticism in the wake of the Observer’s reporting that the personal information of 50 million American users was used by the electioneering firm Cambridge Analytica. But Cook has been sounding the alarm on mass data collection by Facebook and Google for years. The executive has long pointed to the distinction between Apple’s business model – selling products to customers for a profit – and that of internet platforms that are “gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it”, as he said in 2015. That business model has been extraordinarily profitable for Facebook and Google, but the companies are now facing a reckoning from consumers waking up to the sheer volume of information being collected from them – and concerned about who might be using it and how.

 

Trump’s lawyer discussed idea of him pardoning Flynn, Manafort: report

Trump's lawyer discussed idea of him pardoning Flynn, Manafort: report
© Getty Images

A lawyer for President Trump reportedly discussed the possibility last year of the president pardoning his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The lawyer, John Dowd, who abruptly resigned from his role last week, broached the topic last year with lawyers for Flynn and Manafort, The New York Times reported Wednesday. According to the Times, Dowd talked about the idea as special counsel Robert Mueller was building cases against Flynn and Manafort. Dowd’s conversations with a lawyer for Flynn happened after Dowd took over as the president’s personal lawyer last summer, the newspaper reported. Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts. Meanwhile, the discussion with Manafort’s lawyer happened before the former Trump campaign chairman was indicted in October on money laundering charges and other alleged financial crimes, according to the Times.

U.S. fourth-quarter growth revised up to 2.9 percent; consumer spending surges

The Atlanta Federal Reserve is currently forecasting the economy growing at a 1.8 percent rate in the January-March period.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. economic growth slowed less than previously estimated in the fourth quarter as the biggest gain in consumer spending in three years partially offset the drag from a jump in imports. Gross domestic product expanded at a 2.9 percent annual rate in the final three months of 2017, instead of the previously reported 2.5 percent, the Commerce Department said in its third estimate for the quarter on Wednesday. That was a slight moderation from the third quarter’s brisk 3.2 percent pace. The upward revision to the fourth-quarter growth estimate also reflected less inventory reduction than previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had expected that fourth-quarter GDP growth would be revised up to a 2.7 percent rate.

There are signs that economic activity slowed further in the first quarter, with retail sales falling in February for a third straight month. Housing data have been generally weak and the trade deficit hit a more than nine-year high in January.

 

“Tax cuts and stronger government spending will boost average GDP growth to 2.9 percent in 2018,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics in New York. “We forecast this environment will lead the Fed to raise interest rates four times this year.”There are worries the Trump administration’s adoption of protectionist trade measures could sour business sentiment and hurt spending on capital goods.  The economy grew 2.3 percent in 2017, an acceleration from the 1.5 percent logged in 2016. The government also reported on Wednesday that after-tax corporate profits increased at a 1.7 percent rate in the fourth quarter after rising at a 5.7 percent pace in the third quarter. Imports grew at an upwardly revised 14.1 percent pace instead of the previously reported 14.0 percent rate. That was the fastest pace since the third quarter of 2010 and overshadowed a rise in exports driven by weakness in the dollar. There were modest downward revisions to business and residential construction spending growth estimates in the fourth quarter. Growth in government spending was raised slightly. Nick Note: Trump and his economic team predicted 3.5% to 4.5% Gdp growth rate. Not going to happen!

Trump campaign aide communicated with person tied to Russian intelligence in 2016

FILE PHOTO: Rick Gates, former campaign aide to U.S. President Donald Trump, REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A former Russian intelligence officer who worked with U.S. President Donald Trump’s former top campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates was communicating with Gates during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to court records filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office. The connection between Gates and the former intelligence officer, identified only as “Person A” in the records filed late on Tuesday, is significant because criminal charges against Gates and Manafort relate only to their lobbying work for Ukraine prior to the 2016 U.S. presidential election and do not delve into their activities during the campaign. Gates pleaded guilty last month to lying to the FBI and conspiring to defraud the United States, and has agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether there was any collusion with Moscow by Trump’s campaign.Manafort, meanwhile, has pleaded not guilty to charges in two indictments filed by Mueller’s office. The charges range from bank fraud and filing false tax returns, to conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to launder money and failing to register as a foreign agent when he lobbied for the pro-Russian government of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Gates’ alleged communications with the former intelligence officer were revealed in a sentencing document for former Skadden Arps attorney Alex van der Zwaan, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to lying to the FBI and who is due to be sentenced on April 3.

In it, prosecutors said that Gates and van der Zwaan were in touch with the ex-Russian intelligence officer, who also worked for Manafort’s lobbying firm in Ukraine, in September and October 2016. The presidential election was in November 2016. They also said that when van der Zwaan was interviewed by the special counsel’s office, he “admitted that he knew” about the Russian connection because Gates had told him about it. The description of Person A in the court records appears to match with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian who worked for Manafort. Reuters could not immediately reach him for comment. In the past, he has denied having ties to Russian intelligence services. The Russian government has denied meddling in the 2016 election and Trump has denied any collusion by his campaign.

Trump hates Amazon, not Facebook

Photos: Mark Wilson / Getty Images; The Washington Post
Capitol Hill wants Facebook’s blood, but President Trump isn’t interested. Instead, the tech behemoth Trump wants to go after is Amazon, according to five sources who’ve discussed it with him. “He’s obsessed with Amazon,” a source said. “Obsessed.”

What we’re hearing: Trump has talked about changing Amazon’s tax treatment because he’s worried about mom-and-pop retailers being put out of business.

  • A source who’s spoken to POTUS: “He’s wondered aloud if there may be any way to go after Amazon with antitrust or competition law.”
  • Trump’s deep-seated antipathy toward Amazon surfaces when discussing tax policy and antitrust cases. The president would love to clip CEO Jeff Bezos’ wings. But he doesn’t have a plan to make that happen.

Behind the president’s thinking: Trump’s wealthy friends tell him Amazon is destroying their businesses. His real estate buddies tell him — and he agrees — that Amazon is killing shopping malls and brick-and-mortar retailers.

  • Trump tells people Amazon has gotten a free ride from taxpayers and cushy treatment from the U.S. Postal Service.
  • “The whole post office thing, that’s very much a perception he has,” another source said. “It’s been explained to him in multiple meetings that his perception is inaccurate and that the post office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon.”
  • Axios’ Ina Fried notes: The Postal Service actually added delivery on Sunday in some cities because Amazon made it worthwhile.
  • Trump also pays close attention to the Amazon founder’s ownership of The Washington Post, which the president views as Bezos’ political weapon.

Trump never talks about Mark Zuckerberg or Facebook: He isn’t tuned in to the debate over how they handle people’s data, and thinks the Russia story is a hoax, sources say.

  • Axios’ Kim Hart points out: “Trump told Axios last year he doesn’t mind Facebook because it helps him reach his audience. He’s an old-school businessman who sees the world in terms of tangible assets: real estate, physical mail delivery, Main Street, grocery stores. It reminds me of the story Jim wrote a while back about Trump’s fixation with 1950s life. Amazon takes direct aim at some of the core components of mid-century business.”

One warning sign for Facebook: Vice President Mike Pence is concerned about Facebook and Google, according to a source with direct knowledge.

  • Though Pence isn’t yet pushing internally for any specific regulations, he argues these companies are dangerously powerful.
  • The source said the V.P. worries about their influence on media coverage, as well as their control of the advertising industry and users’ personal info.
  • When private discussions have turned to the idea of busting Facebook and Google, Pence has listened with keen interest and is open to the suggestion that these two companies need shaking up.

Little-known lawyer to take larger role on Trump defense team: report

Little-known lawyer to take larger role on Trump defense team: report
© Greg Nash
A little-known attorney is reportedly expected to take on a prominent role on President Trump‘s legal team.

Andrew Ekonomou — a former prosecutor with a doctorate in medieval history — will assume a more central role, Reuters reported. Ekonomou has been helping Jay Sekulow in representing Trump in special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russian election interference and possible ties between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. Ekonomou has not worked on high-profile cases such as the Russia investigation, however, according to Reuters. He said in an interview that he has been “tested plenty of times.” “Just because you’re not a Beltway lawyer doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing,” he said. Ekonomou’s more prominent role comes after the abrupt resignation last week of John Dowd. A report earlier this week said two more leading attorneys have rejected an offer to represent Trump. Tom Buchanan and Dan Webb, who are partners at Winston & Strawn, told The Daily Beast that the president reached out to them to see if they would join his legal team. They turned down the offer, citing business conflicts.  Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson also rejected a reported job offer to join Trump’s legal team. The White House said Sunday that conflicts would prevent Washington, D.C.-based lawyer Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing from joining as well. Trump is reportedly seeking to shake up his legal team amid frustrations within the White House over Mueller’s probe, which has cast a cloud over the administration for more than a year. Nick Bit:  Trumps defense team is in a mess. Hard to defend a guilty man who one way or another keeps showing his guilt. This will end very badly for Trump

Kim, Xi portray strong ties after NKorea leader’s China trip

BEIJING (AP) — With smiles and firm handshakes, North Korea and China used a surprise summit this week to show that despite recent tensions, Pyongyang still has a powerful backer and Beijing will not be sidelined in discussions about the fate of its unpredictable neighbor. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s secretive talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing appear aimed at improving both countries’ positions ahead of Kim’s anticipated meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump in the coming weeks. A key objective for Beijing is to reassert its relevance to the talks, from which it has been excluded. China has appeared increasingly shut out as its relations with the North deteriorated and Pyongyang reached out to Seoul and Washington.

“Kim Jong Un’s visit shows that China is not marginalized, but playing a leading role. This saves China a lot of face,” said Pang Zhongying, a North Korea expert at Renmin University in Beijing.

“North Korea once again is taking advantage of China,” Pang said. “It plays the China card, showing South Korea and the U.S.: China is still my ally.” Official reports from both countries on Wednesday depicted in effusive terms warm ties between the leaders in an effort to downplay recent tensions over Kim’s development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

The Chinese government confirmed Wednesday that North Korea’s reclusive leader Kim Jong Un went to Beijing and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. It is Kim’s first known trip to a foreign country since he took power in 2011. (March 28) In the reports, “Kim reaffirms the traditional friendship between the two countries as if nothing had ever happened, when the relationship had plummeted to unprecedented lows,” said Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Kim made the visit to China at Xi’s invitation, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said, in his first trip to a foreign country since he took power in 2011. Xinhua said the trip ran from Sunday to Wednesday but appeared to include travel time from Pyongyang on the special armored train that Kim traveled on, which secretly arrived in Beijing on Monday and left Tuesday afternoon.

 

 

For China, the visit also projects to its public that Xi is firmly in charge of steering Beijing’s relations with North Korea in a way that favors China’s interests. “This is China asserting its regional hegemony and influence, saying, ‘Hey, you talk to me first,’” said Michael Kovrig, senior adviser for Northeast Asia at the International Crisis Group.

China preparing list of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. imports: Global Times

FILE PHOTO: Containers are seen at the port in San Pedro, California, U.S., March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Riha, Jr.

BEIJING (Reuters) – China will soon announce a list of retaliatory tariffs on United States exports to China to counter an expected announcement from the United States of proposed new tariffs on Chinese imports, the Global Times said Wednesday. The Chinese list will target a large number of major U.S. imports to China, said the English-language editorial. The widely-read state run Global Times is run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, although its stance does not necessarily equate with Chinese government policy.Trade tensions between the two countries flared last week after U.S. President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and targeted China by announcing plans for tariffs on up to $60 billion of Chinese goods. Alarm over a possible trade war between the world’s two largest economies has chilled financial markets as investors anticipated dire consequences should trade barriers go up due to Trump’s bid to cut the U.S. deficit with China.  Markets are now waiting for the U.S. to publish a list of Chinese products that could be targeted with additional tariffs after a U.S. inquiry found China guilty of intellectual property theft and unfair trade. “Compared to China’s list, the U.S. list hurts itself more than China. The tougher the move, the stronger the impact on Washington,” said the Global Times in its editorial.“This will deal a heavy blow to Washington that aggressively wields the stick of trade war and will make the U.S. pay a price for its radical trade policy toward China,” the tabloid outlet said.  The Global Times said the United States was naive to think it could make China agree to unreasonable demands as China’s economy is strong and stable, while it has “weathered bluster before from previous U.S. administrations”.

An unheard-of problem: The President can’t find a lawyer

Two more lawyers decline to join Trump legal team

(CNN)Several top US law firms have left President Donald Trump with few places to turn for legal help in the Russia probe. Five large law firms are passing on the opportunity to represent the President after a shakeup last week on his private defense team and as he anticipates giving possible testimony to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Well-known Washington lawyers cited several reasons for declining the President in recent weeks, according to multiple sources familiar with their decisions. Among them:

Trump appears to be a difficult client and has rebuked some of his lawyers’ advice. He’s perceived as so politically unpopular he may damage reputations rather than boost them.

Lawyers at large firms fear backlash from their corporate clients if they were to represent the President. And many want to steer clear of conflicts of interest that could complicate their other obligations. Two more lawyers decline to join Trump legal team “With a figure who is as polarizing as the President, it makes the decision about whether to represent him a more difficult one,” said Philip West, chairman of large Washington law firm Steptoe & Johnson. The firm was among several to decline to represent Trump last year. “Any large law firm has clients that have very strong feelings.” Even in a city with such a sizable legal industry, so many top lawyers and large law offices with white-collar and national security specialists have already been hired by witnesses, subjects and companies involved in the Mueller probe. Thus, few in town can take new clients at the center of it.

 Trump tweets ‘many lawyers and top law firms’ want to join his legal team
The result is a previously unheard-of Washington problem: The President of the United States is struggling to build an experienced, large legal defense team as the special prosecutor digs in to his campaign and administration. His official legal defense team consists of two lawyers, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow, neither affiliated with a traditional law firm.
The latest to turn down the invitation, Dan Webb and Tom Buchanan of the law firm Winston & Strawn, said Tuesday they “were unable to take on the representation due to business conflicts.” Webb and others at the firm represent the Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash in a criminal money laundering case in Chicago, where he continues to face possible extradition from Austria. Firtash was previously a business contact of indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, making the Ukrainian potentially connected to the Mueller probe. John Dowd’s resignation tells you a lot about Donald Trump’s mindset. Olson, Bennett and Giuffra all said no shortly after they were asked. The invitations became public last week when John Dowd, Trump’s private attorney for Mueller matters, quit. Dowd, who previously worked for a large firm and handled several high-profile trials, was central to determining Trump’s legal strategy and negotiating with Mueller’s office. Trump then failed last week to bring aboard a husband-and-wife replacement team to aid Sekulow, after announcing that Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing would join his team. Sekulow cited conflicts as the problem. A source familiar with the White House said other lawyers in Washington and New York have reached out to help and could still join the team. The person would not name those lawyers, or explain the timeline. Earlier this week, Bennett told Politico he hoped Cobb would leave the White House. “He’s not helping himself or his reputation,” Bennett said. Boutrous added the President is a “notoriously difficult client who disregards the advice of his lawyers and asks them to engage in questionable activities.”

Oil prices fall on surprise US inventory rise; China crude volatile

 American Petroleum Institute reported a surprise 5.3 million barrels rise in crude sticks in the week to March 23, to 430.6 million barrels.
Art Cashin: Investors fear long-range demand for oil won’t be strong

Oil prices fell on Wednesday, with Brent dropping back below $70 per barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate dipping below $65, pulled down by a report of increasing U.S. crude inventories that surprised many traders. Traders said the falls came after the American Petroleum Institute (API) late on Tuesday reported a surprise 5.3 million barrels rise in crude stocks in the week to March 23, to 430.6 million barrels. U.S. oil production has already jumped by almost a quarter since mid-2016, to 10.4 million barrels per day (bpd), taking it past top exporter Saudi Arabia and within reach of the biggest producer, Russia, which pumps around 11 million bpd. Wednesday’s price falls came despite Saudi Arabia saying it was working with Russia on a historic long-term pact that could extend controls over world crude supplies by major exporters for many years.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Reuters that Riyadh and Moscow were considering greatly extending a short-term alliance on oil curbs that began in January 2017 after a crash in crude prices, with a partnership to manage supplies potentially growing “to a 10-to-20-year agreement.”

Nick Note: What stupid shit! Russia and the Saudis have invested heavily to INCREASE their output capacity. And now they want you to believe for 10 to 20 years they will curb their output. Yea right! And in the process let the US take market share. Prices are doomed to fall. Russia cannot afford to not maximize oil profits. Ditto for the Saudis. Their choice is simple either arm to the teeth using oil review or curtail oil production and arms buildup and be defeated.

Tech Shares Tumble Again as Regulatory Risks Rattle Investors

Prospect of increased oversight fuels declines in sector’s big names and broader market

Tech Shares Sink

Technology stocks are suffering one of their worst beatings in years, as investors reassess a sector that has been considered the growth engine of the global economy but now faces the prospect of greater regulatory scrutiny. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index fell 2.9% Tuesday. That selloff carried over to the broader market, where the S&P 500 index slumped 1.7%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.4%, giving back some of Monday’s 2.8% rebound. U.S. Treasury yields also declined. Analysts said that reflected in part a move by some investors to reduce risk at the end of the quarter by selling stocks and putting that cash into bonds. Bond prices rise when yields fall. But tech shares were hit the hardest, dragging down the broader market in the final hour of trading. A series of recent developments pointed to more government oversight of the industry. Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is planning to testify before Congress about the social-media company’s privacy and data-use standards, according to people familiar with the matter. The company’s shares fell 4.9% on Tuesday and are down 15% this month over concerns about its handling of user data, on track for its worst monthly decline since 2012. The Federal Trade Commission, in a statement Monday, signaled that it is conducting a broad probe of Facebook, while 37 state attorneys general are also demanding explanations for its practices.

 

Now, mounting troubles at Facebook and Uber are clouding the industry’s outlook. The entire group has come under scrutiny, especially after valuations have risen to their most expensive levels since just before the financial crisis last decade and volatility has increased. The Nasdaq’s 2.9% decline on Tuesday marked the fourth straight daily move of at least 2%, the longest such stretch since October 2011.  Flows into the biggest tech ETF showed signs of cracking, as investors pulled $1.2 billion from the Technology Select Sector SPDR exchange-traded fund during the February selloff, its heaviest month of outflows since October 2014, according to Morningstar. “We’re very nervous about what those stocks are going to do over the next six months,” Mr. Bagwell said. “These have been easy trades for a long time. This makes it very difficult to trade those names.”

Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower: Facebook Able to Listen to You at Home and Work

Former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie (Image via YouTube)

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christoper Wylie, appearing before a committee of British MPs on Tuesday, said that Facebook has the ability to spy on users in their homes and offices. The British parliament is investigating Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in the Brexit election. MP Damian Collins, who chaired the committee, asked Wylie whether Facebook has the ability to listen to what people are talking about in order to better target them with ads. “There’s been various speculation about the fact that Facebook can, through the Facebook app on your smartphone, listen in to what people are talking about and discussing and using that to prioritize the advertising as well,” Collins said. “Other people would say, no, they don’t think it’s possible. It’s just that the Facebook system is just so good at predicting what you’re interested in that it can guess.” He asked for Wylie’s thoughts on the possibility. “On a comment about using audio and processing audio, you can use it for, my understanding generally of how companies use it… not just Facebook, but generally other apps that pull audio, is for environmental context,” Wylie said. “So if, for example, you have a television playing versus if you’re in a busy place with a lot of people talking versus a work environment.” He clarified, “It’s not to say they’re listening to what you’re saying. It’s not natural language processing.  Facebook has long denied allegations that its app listens in on users in order to customize ads. “I run ads product at Facebook. We don’t – and have never – used your microphone for ads. Just not true,” Rob Goldman, vice president of ads products at Facebook, tweeted on October 2017. “That includes Facebook-owned Instagram,” he added. But users have raised concerns about the practice after observing that they’ve been targeted with ads for products they’ve never expressed an interest in online. Many Facebook users have reported examples and alleged evidence that the app is listening in on their conversations.

Arizona suspends Uber’s self-driving car tests after fatal crash

Uber's deadly self-driving car crash caught on camera
Uber’s deadly self-driving car crash caught on camera

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey sent a letter Monday to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi informing him of the decision. Just over a week ago, a self-driving Uber car struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. It was the first fatal autonomous car accident. According to a copy of the letter obtained by CNN, Ducey said he found video footage of the crash “disturbing and alarming.” He said it raised “questions about the ability of Uber to continue testing in Arizona.” In a response to the letter, an Uber spokesman noted that the company had quickly pulled all its autonomous vehicles from the roads following the accident. “We proactively suspended self-driving operations in all cities immediately following the tragic incident last week,” the spokesman told CNN on Monday. “We continue to help investigators in any way we can, and we’ll keep a dialogue open with the governor’s office to address any concerns they have.” A self-driving Uber Volvo XC90 SUV struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she walked her bicycle across a street in Tempe on March 18, according to police. A test driver from Uber was behind the wheel of the car at the time. The Tempe Police Department and the National Transportation Safety Board have launched investigations into the crash. Arizona has taken a welcoming approach to self-driving car technology. Ducey signed an executive order earlier this month allowing autonomous vehicles on the state’s roads without a test driver behind the wheel. Waymo — the self-driving car division of Google’s parent company, Alphabet — also actively tests its autonomous vehicles in the state. Uber’s recent crash has spurred greater scrutiny of the self-driving vehicle industry across the country. Last week, Boston’s government asked self-driving companies operating in the city to halt operations while safety procedures were reviewed. Nick Note: Sad.. its bound to happen. Self driving cars are and will be even more safer then drives falling a sleep, texting and wigged out on their drug of choice!

Stocks may already be in a bear market —here’s how long it could last

Getty Images

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 670 points on Monday, but it will hit bottom on Mar. 4, 2019, at 18,328.27. That’s on the assumption that a major bear market began at the Jan. 26 highs, and that the ensuing bear market will be average both in terms of length and loss. That would mean we face 11 more months of a declining market, in which the Dow DJIA, +0.74%  will drop another 5,205 points (or 22.1%) from its Jan. 26 peak. Of course, we don’t know yet whether we’re in a major bear market. The Dow’s impressive rally on Monday surely is letting the bulls breathe a little more easily, since last Friday the Dow Theory, the oldest stock-market timing system in widespread use today, came within a hair’s breadth of issuing a major bear market signal.

Even after Monday’s surge, we’re not out of the woods, since last week’s decline called into serious question the idea that the bull market is alive and well after surviving its late-January/early-February correction. So it’s important to face squarely what investors will be up against if indeed a bear market started at the late-January highs. Your reaction depends a lot on whether you see the glass as half-full or half-empty. A bear market would undoubtedly be painful for many, if not most, of us — and excruciating for some. Yet such a decline would still leave the Dow almost exactly where it closed on Election Day in 2016. Given the many doom-and-gloom predictions made then about the impact of a Donald Trump presidency, some may feel lucky that an average bear market would leave them no worse off than where they stood on that November day.

To reach these conclusions about an average bear market, I relied on a bear-market calendar maintained by Ned Davis Research, the quantitative research firm. Since 1900, by their count, there have been 36 bear markets, averaging 403 days in length and in which the Dow lost 31.1%.

‘Wolf of Wall Street’ to investors: Watch out for these red flags

History also suggests that bear markets are erased relatively quickly. I base that optimistic assessment on how long it took, after each of the 36 bear markets since 1900 on the Ned Davis Research calendar, for stocks to make it back to the bull-market highs that preceded those bear markets. (I took into account dividends and inflation, which is important because analyses based on price action alone exaggerate bear market recovery times.)

I found that it takes an average of 3.2 years from the beginning of a bear market for the stock market to battle back to where it stood at the beginning. Again assuming a bear market began in late January, and that both the bear market and the subsequent recovery are average, the Dow will back at new all-time highs by April 2021 — just over three years from now.

That no doubt will disappoint investors who’ve been spoiled rotten by this bull market. In reality, unless you need to withdraw assets from your stock portfolio during the next three years, average bear markets are not as terrible as we fear.

Rumor is that Paul Ryan may resign as U.S. House speaker, Scalise will replace him, Amodei says

Nevada’s 2nd U.S. House District Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, said on Nevada Newsmakers Monday that Rep. Paul Ryan may soon resign as Speaker of the U.S. House. Amodei said he was repeating a rumor that’s around Capitol Hill. “The rumor mill is that Paul Ryan is getting ready to resign in the next 30 to 60 days and that Steve Scalise will be the new Speaker,” Amodei said. “Now that is interesting because nobody has talked to members (of the U.S. House) on how they are going to vote (on new leadership),” Amodei said. “Now, maybe they have talked to all of the members but me. I don’t know, so that is the rumor mill from last week.” Scalise, from Louisiana’s 1st U.S. House District, is currently the House majority whip, responsible for rounding up votes on various bills and issues. In June of 2017, he was shot during practice for the congressional baseball team in Virginia. He survived after being in critical condition and returned to Congress in late September of 2017. This is not the first time resignation rumors about Ryan, of Wisconsin, have surfaced. Last December, he said he was “soul searching” about his leadership role in the U.S. House.  At the time, he denied the rumors of resignation, saying they were “irresponsible.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders affirmed President Donald Trump’s commitment to his pledge to impose stiff tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, despite House Speaker Paul Ryan expressing worries about the planned tariffs. When asked why Ryan would resign now, Amodei said that maybe he has accomplished what he set out to do as the U.S. House leader and may want to move on to other challenges. “I don’t know. If I was just guessing, he wanted to do the tax-cut bill,”  Amodei said, referencing the passage in Congress of major tax cuts late last year. “You know, (former Speaker) John Boehner said the thing: ‘Hey, I checked all of the boxes I thought were important and I’m moving on to whatever else.'”

Dow’s 670-point surge belies fact that stock market is on the brink of an absolute breakdown

All 3 stock benchmarks logged their best one-day gains since August 2015. After some of the biggest point drops EVER
Everett Collection
Is a bearish breakdown in the offing?

 

U.S. stocks are coming off the biggest weekly decline in more than two years, and the aftermath of that drop has market technicians warning that major indexes are on the verge of a full-fledged, technical breakdown.

“The extent of the deterioration in equities is very much a concern given the combination of near-term technical damage, along with the decline in longer-term momentum after having reached record overbought conditions into late January,” wrote Mark Newton, technical analyst at Newton Advisors, in a Monday research note.

Here are some levels that the market is trying to defend or retake in Monday trade after last week’s withering action:

S&P 500 200-day moving average

The S&P 500 index SPX, +2.72% ended Friday’s session clinging perilously above its 200-day moving average, which was at 2,585.22. The broad-market benchmark, ultimately, ended at 2,585.38—an encouraging sign for market bulls. Market watchers tend to follow moving averages to help determine if bullish or bearish trends are intact. The chart below shows the 200-day MA (in green) presently at 2,586.16, and the pink line signifying its 50-day MA, according to FactSet data:

Source: FactSet
The Nasdaq’s 100-day moving average

The technology laden Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +3.26% finished Friday’s session firmly below its 100-day moving average, another mid- to long-term line in the sand that chart watchers pay attention to (see chart below, with the 100-day MA in the red

Source: FactSet
Dow Theory sell signal

A Dow Theory sell signal was close to forming. According to MarketWatch columnist Mark Hulbert there are a number of steps, but as of Friday, the market had just to see the Dow Jones Transportation Average DJT, +2.07% close below its Feb. 9 low of 10,136.61 to trigger that sell signal after the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +2.84% on Friday closed below its February low. On Monday, the transports closed up 2.1% at 10,373.21.

Lack of leadership

According to data from Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading, a little more than half of Dow components were trading below their 200-day moving averages (see first chat below), which hadn’t happened since 2015. Meanwhile, about 50% of the S&P 500 components were trading above their 200-day moving averages (see second chart), with a break below indicating “notable technical damage has been done to this market,” O’Rourke wrote.

Source: JonesTrading
Source: JonesTrading
What’s ahead?

“Bottom line, the evidence suggests that last week’s selling should be near at least minor support. However, on any signs of a bounce into early April, one would need to adopt defensive positioning again, and prepare for the possibility of additional selling and implied volatility.”

Meanwhile, Frank Cappelleri, chief market technician at Instinet LLC, said it was important to watch for levels in the 10-year Treasury note, which had been seeing muted action even as stocks soared. That is especially curious given that bonds, considered havens, tend to see selling as stocks climb. Bond prices and yields move in the opposite direction.

“If investors are more willing to buy bonds than stocks that would be telling,” Cappelleri told MarketWatch. The 10-year note yield TMUBMUSD10Y, -0.03% was recently at 2.84% compared with an intraday low around 2.82%.

 

UAE completes construction of unit 1 at 5.6GW Barakah nuclear power plant

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has officially completed construction of the 1,400MW unit 1 of the $32bn Barakah nuclear power plant in Al Dhafra Region in UAE.

The 5600MW nuclear power plant, which will feature four units with Advanced Power Reactor 1400 MW (APR-1400) nuclear reactor technology. The reactors, each with 1,400MW capacity, are being developed by the South Korea’s state utility Korea Electric Power (Kepco). “With construction completion achieved, the UAE joins an elite group of countries that have managed to build such a complex and demanding facility to the highest standards of safety and quality.” Planned to be completed by 2020, the Barakah power plant is expected to contribute up to 25% of the UAE’s electricity needs and save up to 21 million tons of CO2 emissions annually.Nahyan added: “The U.A.E. Peaceful Nuclear Energy Program will play a strategic role in the growth of our nation by enhancing our energy security, diversifying our economy, and creating employment opportunities for our people.” The Unit 1 reactor will now complete operational readiness preparations to secure operating license approval from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR). Additionally, the unit is undergoing a number of assessments by independent international nuclear energy experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). Construction of the project’s units 2, 3 and 4 are 92%, 81%, and 66% complete respectively. Commenting on the milestone, World Nuclear Association director general Agneta Rising said: “The UAE’s policy of reducing electricity generation from fossil fuels by developing a mix of clean energy technologies that includes a substantial contribution from nuclear energy is one that should be embraced worldwide, including in South Korea. “Using nuclear energy will help ensure the swiftest and most cost-effective transition to a clean, secure and reliable energy future.” Nick Note: What bullshit. One of the countries with some of the worlds largest  oil and natural gas reserves needs not 1 but 4 nuclear reactors for HA HA  electricity. We got no leaders with brains…… ALL ALL are sold out party boys and corrupt as hell. They pass legislation in the US that the politicians vote for they have not even read. How do you that that will end up//.

Russia Completes ESPO pipeline – Largest supplier of oil to China

BEIJING (Reuters) – Russia remained the top crude oil supplier to China  data showed after beginning 2018 on a strong note after the start-up of an expanded trans-Siberia pipeline and as Beijing released more crude import quotas to independent refiners.  Angola and Iraq took the second and third positions for the month, leapfrogging Saudi Arabia, which was the second-largest supplier to China in 2017.  Russian supplies came in at 5.67 million tonnes, or 1.34 million barrels per day (bpd), up 23.4 percent from a year earlier, data from the Chinese General Administration of Customs showed.  The January number compared with 1.194 million bpd in December.

The strong Russian exports to the world’s largest crude oil buyer came as a second East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline, as well as expanded domestic connections in China, started commercial operation in January.

China imported 4.45 million tonnes, or 1.05 million bpd, of crude from Iraq, up 28 percent from a year ago.  Saudi Arabia supplied 4.29 million tonnes, or 1.01 million bpd, to China in January. That was down 15 percent from the same year-ago rate and compared with 1.11 million bpd in December.  Even so, exports from the kingdom are expected to rise to record levels this year as Saudi Aramco ramps up supplies to Chinese state oil firm CNOOC, as well as the Huajin refinery owned by defense giant NORINCO.  China’s total crude oil imports last month soared 20 percent from the same month a year earlier to a record rate of 9.57 million barrels per day, beating the previous peak of 9.17 million bpd.  Customs data also showed China’s oil imports from the United States soared to 2.01 million tonnes last month, or roughly 472,508 bpd. That compares with just 257,861 tonnes a year ago.  In 2017, U.S. shipments, which benefited from OPEC-led supply cuts, averaged about 153,000 bpd. Nick Note: Don’t let them shit you oil production is soaring. Funny how they forgot to tell you the ESPO pipeline built in record time is supplying NEW OIL FROM NEW RUSSIAN  FIELDS to china. The world is awash in  oil and prices will plunge again!

 

 

Diplomats ousted: US, Europe punish Russia over spy case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and more than a dozen European nations kicked out Russian diplomats on Monday and the Trump administration ordered Russia’s consulate in Seattle to close, as the West sought joint punishment for Moscow’s alleged role in poisoning an ex-spy in Britain. Warning of an “unacceptably high” number of Russian spies in the U.S., the Trump administration said 60 diplomats would be expelled — all Russian intelligence agents working under diplomatic cover, the U.S. said. The group includes a dozen posted to Russia’s mission to the United Nations who the officials said were engaged in “aggressive collection” of intelligence on American soil. The move was one of the most significant actions President Donald Trump’s administration has taken to date to punish Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin, especially over its intelligence activities. The last time they spoke, less than a week ago, Trump congratulated Putin for his re-election but didn’t raise the spy case, Russia’s alleged election-meddling in the U.S. or its own tainted voting process, prompting dismayed critiques even from Trump’s fellow Republicans. Fourteen European Union nations were expelling Russian diplomats, EU chief Donald Tusk said, with more likely to follow. An EU official put the total from those countries at more than 30 Russians. Germany, Poland and France each planned to boot four, the Czech Republic three and Italy two. The steps on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean add to a serious escalation of tensions between Russia and the West that has been building since the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer convicted of spying for the U.K., and his daughter, Yulia. The two remain in critical condition and unconscious. A policeman who responded to their home was also injured. Monday’s expulsions appear to involve the largest number of Russians kicked out of the United States since 1986, when the Reagan administration expelled 55. The George W. Bush administration expelled 50 Russians in 2001 in retaliation for Robert Hanssen spy case. In its waning days, the Obama administration expelled 35 over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump has repeatedly wavered on whether he believes Moscow was behind the election-meddling, despite assessments from U.S. intelligence agencies and the special counsel investigation into Russia’s actions and potential collusion with Trump’s campaign. But this month, Trump’s administration hit Russians with its first sanctions for the campaign interference, and also accused Moscow of an elaborate plot to hack America’s electric grid and key infrastructure.

Battered by Great Recession, underfunded public pensions to persist

FILE PHOTO: An elderly couple looks out at the ocean as they sit on a park bench in La Jolla, California November 13, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Ten years on from the financial crisis, many U.S. state and local public pension systems are still the worse for wear. Investment returns have been uneven and funding levels have yet to recover. Many pension funds have meanwhile attempted to boost returns by loading up on alternative investments to levels unheard of a decade earlier. “Some just cannot grow their way out of it. We have had several years of stellar (stock market) returns and it barely improved the underfunding situation,” said Mikhail Foux, municipal credit analyst at Barclays in New York. The benchmark S&P 500 U.S. stock index has tripled in the past nine years, driven in part by unprecedented zero interest rate policies and massive monetary stimulus from central banks around the globe aimed at combating the deepest recession in a generation.But pension returns struggled to match the broad market, and recent wobbles in U.S. equities have fed fears of another downturn. “Now what happens when markets are falling 10 to 15 percent?” Foux asked.

In 2007, a year before the crisis began, the median funded level was 92 percent for state retirement and 97 percent for local plans, according to Wilshire Funding Studies. That fell to 68 percent for states and 72 percent for local governments by 2016, the most recent data.

That prompted retirement systems to turn to riskier alternative investments such as hedge funds, private equity, real estate and commodities to pad returns. U.S. public pension funds became the biggest risk-takers among pension funds internationally, according to one academic study updated in February 2017.Public pension funds’ assumed rates of investment return have trended lower since the crisis. If a plan’s returns fall below that expected rate, government sponsors need to make up for the loss.Between 1993 and 2012, as 10-year U.S Treasury yields fell by 4.3 percentage points, large private-sector U.S. plans reduced their discount rates to 4.4 percent from 8.2 percent. For large public plans for funding purposes, the rate only fell from 7.8 percent to 7.7 percent in the same period, according to the institute’s report. In the years since the crisis it has proven difficult for some governments to modify retirement benefits, and legal wranglings are ongoing. Legal or political constraints have stymied changes in states like Illinois, Kentucky and New Jersey, where contributions have lagged actuarially required levels for decades. Lawsuits filed against more than 40 state and local governments since 2008 contested pension changes on constitutional grounds, according to the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which tracks the litigation. Courts in 13 states have upheld reductions in cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for retirees’ pension payments, but have struck reductions down in four. In California, long-standing judicial rulings prohibiting the state and local governments from reducing benefits will be tested in three lawsuits before the state supreme court, according to Stuart Buck, the Arnold Foundation’s vice president of research. Nick Note: this wipe out that has already started will finish the bankruptcy of ALL retirement funds that the 207 wipe  out started. People are not going to get enough out of their retirement ha ha a a funds to buy peanuts to feed the pigeons.

Trump Suggests Using Military Funds to Build His Wall

President Trump talks about the 1 .3 trillion spending bill he did end up signing. (Photo: Screengrab/C-SPAN)

(CNSNews.com) – After threatening to veto a $1.3 trillion spending bill that funded many Democrat priorities, President Trump ended up signing the deficit-boosting measure on Friday. Trump said he wasn’t happy about it — neither were many conservatives — but his desire to boost military spending and national security “overrode” his disappointment in other items that he considered to be a “waste of money.” Early Sunday morning, Trump indicated that he might find a way to build his wall, even though the bill he signed bars spending on anything other than “fences” and “levees.”
He tweeted about it: “Because of the $700 & $716 Billion Dollars gotten to rebuild our Military, many jobs are created and our Military is again rich. Building a great Border Wall, with drugs (poison) and enemy combatants pouring into our Country, is all about National Defense. Build WALL through M!” (M stands for military.) In a second tweet, Trump wrote: “Much can be done with the $1.6 Billion given to building and fixing the border wall. It is just a down payment. Work will start immediately. The rest of the money will come – and remember DACA, the Democrats abandoned you (but we will not)!” Trump on Friday said he will “never sign a bill like this again.”  The conservative pundits mentioned above said he won’t get the chance. Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Republicans offered Democrats a deal on DACA in exchange for funding President Trump’s border wall. “So we said, so let’s do multi-year funding for the wall for multi-year relief for the DACA kids, and they walked away from that. They wouldn’t take that,” Ryan told “Fox & Friends”  on March 22.


The backlash against the president signing the bill included prominet talk-radio hosts: As CNSNews.com reported, nationally syndicated radio talk show host, author and American attorney Mark Levin took to social media on Friday, calling on President Trump to “veto this outrageous, unconscionable spending and borrowing bill!” “McConnell and Ryan can’t even manage the budget process and limit spending, let alone advance a conservative agenda and cut liberal projects,” Levin said. “These guys are truly lightweights. And our kids and grandkids will suffer one day. Utterly unconscionable, uncontrollable spending and borrowing. No wonder the GOP will get its ass kicked in the midterms.”

Likewise, Rush Limbaugh warned that Trump that if he signed the bill, he would alienate his base: “This budget is designed to separate Trump voters from Trump,” Limbaugh said. “This budget is designed to make Trump voters think that Trump’s presidency is irrelevant. This budget is designed to make Trump voters concluded, “You know what? There isn’t gonna be a wall and there isn’t gonna be anything serious on immigration, and so having Trump be president is meaningless.” Limbaugh offered the many reasons why Trump should veto the bill: “This budget not only doesn’t fund his agenda,” he said “This budget makes it practically impossible for his agenda to be implemented, particularly on the primary thing that got him elected, which is dealing with the border and illegal immigration. Stop thinking of Congress as Republicans and Democrats. You’ve got to think of that as one unified group of people, establishmentarians who are working in a coordinated way to thwart and nullify the election and agenda of the Trump presidency.” Limbaugh said the budget deal is “the last piece of significant legislation” that will pass before the midterm election: “So this is gonna be the thing that is the last big congressional action that will serve as informing American voters of what’s been going on. This is designed to make Donald Trump look ineffective. It’s designed to make it look like his presidency doesn’t count for anything, that, ‘All the lies he told during the campaign, it turns out he can’t deliver on.’ It’s really designed to make him look isolated, alone, and ineffective.”

Remington: Oldest US gunmaker files for bankruptcy

Image copyright EPA
Image caption A Remington handgun – the firm is facing big debts and slumping sales

The oldest gun manufacturer in the US, Remington Outdoor, has filed for bankruptcy in the wake of slumping sales.The firm, founded more than 200 years ago, filed for bankruptcy protection to cut a deal  with its creditors. Remington’s chief financial officer said the company’s sales dropped significantly in the year before its bankruptcy, court papers show. The filing comes amid fresh demands for greater gun control in the US. A shooting at a Florida high school in February has revived the debate on gun control, and on Saturday tens of thousands of young Americans took part in protests. As a result of public pressure, some US retailers have attempted to restrict firearm sales, with some requiring background checks and others halting the sale of firearms in their stores. In anticipation of a Hillary Clinton presidency, some weapons manufacturers had increased production, expecting greater sales from Americans fearing increased gun control. Remington, best known for its rifles and shotguns, was founded in 1816. After it emerged a Remington rifle was used in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, victims’ family members filed a lawsuit against the gunmaker.In court papers filed in Delaware, Remington’s chief financial officer, Stephen Jackson, said the company was having difficulty meeting requirements from its lenders as a result of declining sales. During the bankruptcy process, the company will stay in business. In most US Chapter 11 bankruptcy processes, the debtor proposes a reorganisation plan to maintain its business and pay creditors over a period of time. Nick Bit: You better get them while still can. Because this party will soon end.

Oil prices find support in trade talks and Mideast tensions

Crude oil futures slipped on Monday, but losses were capped by a rebound in stock markets and escalating Saudi-Iran tensions. Global stocks came off six-week lows on optimism that the United States and China are set to begin trade talks, easing fears about a trade war between the world’s two largest economies. The possibility of a full-blown trade war had weighed on the energy complex on fears that it could harm oil demand. U.S. President Donald Trump last week signed a memorandum that could impose tariffs on up to $60 billion of imports from China. “The … trade war story … should be taken into account when trying to quantify the potentially bullish effect of the geopolitical element in oil markets,” said analysts at consultancy JBC Energy. The market also found support from rising Middle East tensions. Saudi air defences shot down seven ballistic missiles fired by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi militia on Sunday, some of which targeted Saudi capital Riyadh. “Geopolitics and growing concerns about the United States leaving the Iran [nuclear] deal lifted oil prices back towards $70 per barrel,” said Norbert Rucker, head of macro and commodity research at private Swiss bank Julius Baer.

Beyond trade concerns, crude was pressured by a rise in the number of active U.S. oil rigs to a three-year high of 804, implying further rises in production. U.S. oil output has already jumped by a quarter since mid-2016 to 10.4 million barrels per day (bpd).

 

“With US crude production likely to be close to 10.5 million bpd by now and NGL (natural gas liquids) output also increasing strongly, there is a clear chance that year-on-year supply growth in the U.S. could at hit 2 million bpd over the summer months,” JBC said. Hedge funds and other money managers raised their net long U.S. crude futures and options positions in the week to March 20 after two weeks of cutting bullish bets, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said on Friday.  Nick Bit: The equation stays the same in the middle east. Saudi oil fields nor production are under no military threat. What will swing the equation is what will CONTINUE to be record breaking increases in US crude oil and NG output.

Bank stocks are breaking down even as rates are rising

 

Even as interest rates are expected to rise this year and Treasury yields are rallying, bank stocks are taking a hit. Financials are among S&P 500 sectors in corrections, and bank ETFs are getting pummeled. The KRE, which tracks regional banks, along with the KBE, which tracks larger banks, just posted their worst weeks in a little over two years. Gina Sanchez, CEO of Chantico Global, is watching banks’ performance over the last several sessions. While she is positive on the group in the longterm, she has near-term concerns. Here are her reasons why.

Banks typically reap the rewards of higher interest rates, but they appear to be bucking that trend, falling amid a widespread concern in the market around recently announced tariffs and trade war fears.

While the broader market has been hit considerably, and banks are participating in that decline, the reason behind the banks’ particular downside lies in protectionism holding down long-term growth expectations, and the flattening of the yield curve.

 Long-term growth expectations impact the “long end” of the yield curve, referring to long-dated Treasury notes like the 10- and 30-year yields, which are not keeping pace with short-dated Treasury yields like that on the 2-year note.

While banks typically do well when interest rates rise, the reality is a steeper yield curve lends itself to greater profitability for the banks themselves.

Bottom line: Bank stocks are thought to fare well in rising rate environments, but as Treasury spreads fall, financial equities are taking a hit.

Trump: ‘Economy is looking really good’

Trump: 'Economy is looking really good'
© Getty Images

President Trump on Monday touted the economy, saying the underlying strength of companies “has never been better.”

“The economy is looking really good. It has been many years that we have seen these kind of numbers,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

“The underlying strength of companies has perhaps never been better.”

The tweet from the president comes as the National Association for Business Economics in a new forecast projected that this year the American economy will expand 2.9 percent. The group previously predicted the economy would grow 2.5 percent in 2018.Trump periodically plugs the United States economy on Twitter and has used the social media platform to promote last year’s GOP tax cuts. “TAX CUTS will increase investment in the American economy and in U.S. workers, leading to higher growth, higher wages, and more JOBS!” Trump said in December. Nick Bit: Really? I don’t think so.

Iowa family died after inhaling toxic gas in Mexico, authorities say

(CNN)An Iowa couple and their two children died from inhaling toxic gas while vacationing in Mexico, local authorities said.The bodies of Kevin Wayne Sharp; his wife, Amy Marie Sharp; their son, Sterling, 12; and daughter Adrianna, 7, were discovered Friday at a rental condominium in the beach town of Tulum. The family had been dead for about 36 to 48 hours, the Quintana Roo prosecutor’s office said Saturday. Autopsies showed they suffocated after inhaling toxic gases, but it’s unclear what type of gas led to their deaths, the prosecutor’s office added.

There were no signs of foul play or suicide, officials said.
Investigators ruled out a possible robbery because they did not see evidence of a disturbance inside the condo. Photos released by Mexican officials show crews and firefighters wearing masks while checking a gas stove in the condo. They performed “physical inspection of the room’s gas installation” and are expected to release a technical report at a later date.
Kevin Wayne Sharp with his wife, Amy Marie, son Sterling and daughter Adrianna.
Kevin Wayne Sharp with his wife, Amy Marie, son Sterling and daughter Adrianna.
Jana Weland, a relative, told CNN the family arrived in Tulum on March 15. They were staying in a rental house they found through a vacation rental company. The last contact the family had with the Sharps was a picture the son posted on Snapchat of his feet by the water that day, Weland said. The Sharps were supposed to return from their vacation Wednesday, Weland said. Kevin Sharp, who owns a beer distribution company, failed to check in with his employees that morning as planned, which was unlike him, Weland said. Nick Bit: Just think about the money they saved going to shit hole Mexico!

Bitcoin Cash Being Accepted by ‘Gold Bug’ Peter Schiff’s Firm

Bitcoin Cash Market

The very famous while bearish on cryptos – ‘gold bug’ Peter Schiff is not so much of a bitcoin-lover. For some time now he has commented on various occasions that Bitcoins is worthless and it of the same status like tulip or Beanie Babies hype. Going against Max Keiser, last year Schiff added that digital currency market signals are wrong signals to be supported on: “[Bitcoin] is being created but there is no real value in bitcoin; it’s all based on faith. If somebody doesn’t want your bitcoin there’s nothing you can do with it, right?” asks Schiff during the debate with Keiser. But, as it turns out – Peter Schiff is accepting cryptocurrency through Bitpay, the payment processor. As he told the audience in the Libertycon conference in Washington DC, in the first chance he cashes out into traditional currency during the debate with Sterlin Lujan – Bitcoin.com Communications Ambassador. Now the economist’s bullion company Schiff Gold accepts the decentralized cryptocurrency bitcoin cash (BCH). Although Schiff Gold accepts BCH through the payment processor Bitpay the company says the firm believes precious metals is the best solution for a safe-haven asset.

“We strongly recommend physical precious metals as the best long-term, safe-haven assets and caution our clients to avoid speculative investments,” explains the company’s website.

However, we also support any free market approach to money and barter and recognize bitcoin as a valid payment system — We are proud to work with Bitpay to process your transaction in bitcoin.

For the time being, bullion dealers that are open to the same way of payment by Bitcoin Cash are Silvergoldbull, Apmex and JM Bullion.
The post Bitcoin Cash Being Accepted by ‘Gold Bug’ Peter Schiff’s Firm appeared first on Ethereum World News.

Kudlow defends China approach: Trump sees himself as a ‘free trader’

Kudlow defends China approach: Trump sees himself as a 'free trader'
© Getty Images

President Trump‘s new top economic adviser Larry Kudlow defended Trump’s approach to trade policy with China in an interview, calling the president a “free trader” despite criticism that his policies are protectionist. In an interview Sunday on AM 970 in New York, Kudlow told host John Catsimatidis that Trump’s proposed $60 billion in tariffs against China were meant to force the country to stop its theft of American intellectual property. “Contrary to [the view of] recent American presidents, China technology transfer is China’s stealing of American intellectual property rights, the Chinese counterfeiting of American goods, the Chinese tariffs and barriers have got to stop,” Kudlow said. “The president regards himself as a free trader,” the former CNBC host added. “[But] the path to free trade must be to correct unfair trading practices, of which, frankly John, China is guilty.” Kudlow went on to say that stock market instability this week was a result of China’s proposed $3 billion in reciprocal tariffs meant to counter 25 percent tariffs on steel imports to the U.S. and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum imports to the U.S. “The shock to the markets what is the extent of US-China tariff arguments,” Kudlow said. “This is larger and more comprehensive on both sides, John, because China is retaliating more then a lot of people in the market expected.” On Thursday, the president said that he wants “reciprocal” trade policy with China, adding that the U.S. would respond to any tariffs China put in place. “We want reciprocal, mirror,” he said. “If they charge us, we charge them the same thing. That’s the way it’s gotta be.”

Trump pick John Bolton warns of ‘a little shock therapy’ with China tariffs

Trump pick John Bolton warns of 'a little shock therapy' with China tariffs
© Getty Images

Bolton pointed to Trump’s announcement Thursday that the U.S. would impose up to $60 billion in tariffs against China over what he called its unfair trade practices. China has already threatened reciprocal tariffs over the move. Trump said the tariffs on Chinese products were aimed at curbing China’s infringement of copyrights and intellectual property patents that cost U.S. companies billions in lost revenue each year. “I don’t think anybody is looking to have a trade war,” Bolton told New York AM 970 radio host John Catsimatidis in an interview broadcast Sunday. “For far too long China has taken advantage of its place in the world … the trade arrangements it has with the United States and other countries,” he continued. “The United States lives by these agreements,” Bolton said. “All we’re asking for here is for the Chinese to do the same. So I think this could be a little shock therapy, get their attention, and hopefully it’ll have a good impact.” Trump called for the tariffs in response to a government study confirming the economic damage done over stolen intellectual property. The president signed a memorandum Thursday demanding sweeping actions by the Treasury Department against the world’s second-largest economy. “They just copy it and build their own. It’s theft. There’s no other description for it,” Bolton said of China’s trade practices involving intellectual property. China is reportedly planning a retaliatory set of tariffs in response that would target $3 billion in U.S. imports.  Trump named Bolton, a former ambassador to the United Nations, as his new national security adviser, replacing H.R. McMaster. Bolton, who will become the third person to hold the White House post under Trump, will enter the position next month.

Cambridge Analytica-linked firm ‘boasted of poll interference’

Image copyright AF
A brochure suggests the parent company of scandal-hit data firm Cambridge Analytica boasted of interfering in Nigeria’s 2007 election – widely dismissed as lacking credibility

The company that became Cambridge Analytica boasted about interfering in foreign elections, according to documents seen by the BBC. Cambridge Analytica is embroiled in a storm over claims it exploited the data of millions of Facebook users. The BBC has seen a brochure published by parent company SCL Elections, it is believed prior to 2014. It claims, for instance, that it organised rallies in Nigeria to weaken support for the opposition in 2007. The UK Foreign Office says it was unaware of this alleged activity before SCL was awarded British government contracts in 2008. Cambridge Analytica says it is looking into the allegations about SCL. Speaking on the Sunday Politics show, Conservative former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said the claims about SCL were “absolutely appalling” and “run totally counter to the policy of the British government in promoting free and fair elections in the developing world”. He added that it is “perfectly clear that the British government should have nothing to do with it”.In the document, SCL Elections claimed potential clients could contact the company through “any British High Commission or Embassy”. It also claims SCL received “List X” accreditation from the UK’s Ministry of Defence which provided “Government endorsed clearance to handle information protectively marked as ‘confidential’ and above”. The brochure outlines how SCL Elections had apparently organised “anti-election rallies” to dissuade opposition supporters from voting in the Nigerian presidential election in 2007. The election was described by EU monitors as one of the least credible they had observed. The document claims SCL Elections deliberately exploited ethnic tensions in Latvia in the 2006 national elections in order to help their client. SCL also claims that ahead of the elections in Trinidad and Tobago in 2010, it orchestrated an “ambitious campaign of political graffiti” that “ostensibly came from the youth” so the client party could “claim credit for listening to a ‘united youth'”. Most of the examples detailed in the brochure took place before the British government entered into at least six contracts with SCL.The former Labour Foreign Office Minister and Cabinet minister Lord Hain has tabled a written question in the House of Lords on Monday for urgent clarification on the matter of Embassy endorsement. He said the SCL case was “lifting the lid on a potential horror story” of other companies using data to manipulate voters. The Ministry of Defence has confirmed SLC were given a provisional List X accreditation but had not had it since 2013. A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “It is not now nor ever has been the case that enquiries for SCL ‘can be directed through any British High Commission or Embassy’.” “Our understanding is that, at the time of the signing of the contract for project work in 2008/9, the FCO was not aware of SCL’s reported activity during the 2006 Latvian election or 2007 Nigerian election.” In a statement, the acting CEO of Cambridge Analytica, Dr Alexander Tayler, said “Cambridge Analytica was formed in 2013, out of a much older company called SCL Elections.

They can’t put us all in prison’: violent protests erupt in Catalonia after arrest of separatist leaders

Spain’s Supreme Court  issued international warrants for six other figures who have fled abroad, including former regional president Carles Puigdemont

Thousands of protesters descended on the streets of Catalonia late Friday after Spain’s Supreme Court detained five separatist leaders for their role in last year’s independence bid.The court also issued international arrest warrants for six other Catalan figures who have fled abroad, including former regional president Carles Puigdemont.  Twenty-four protesters were lightly injured in clashes with police, emergency services said. Riot police used batons to keep the demonstrators away from the federal government offices in Barcelona. The protest had been called on Thursday, by the radical Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDR), before the court decisions were announced. Spain’s Supreme Court said on Friday it would prosecute 13 key Catalan separatists for “rebellion”, a crime which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in jail. A Supreme Court judge held former Catalan parliament president Carme Forcadell and three former regional ministers alongside Turull.

Judge Pablo Llarena decided that the five posed a flight risk, after Marta Rovira became the latest leading pro-independence figure to flee abroad to escape charges. Rovira ignored the summons and announced she was taking “the road to exile”. The deputy leader of the left-wing separatist ERC party, whose chief is currently in jail, is currently in Switzerland, according to Spanish media. Llarena also issued international arrest warrants for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed exile in Belgium along with four of his former ministers. All five left Spain following a proclamation of independence for Catalonia in October. One of them, Clara Ponsati, has since moved on to Scotland. With numerous leaders abroad or in jail, the separatists have struggled to reorganise or even remain in politics. Three more members of the parliament announced Thursday they were giving up their seats. In a broad alliance swinging from centre-right to far left, the separatists failed to elect a new regional president on Thursday after their most radical faction refused to back Turull in a vote of confidence.

John Bolton plans to fire dozens of White House officials: report

President Trump’s new national security adviser is reportedly planning major staffing changes at the National Security Council. Sources close to the situation told Foreign Policy that John Bolton is preparing to “clean house” and remove nearly all of the political appointees brought in by his predecessor. “Bolton can and will clean house,” one former White House official told Foreign Policy. Another former official said any National Security Council officials appointed under former President Obama “should start packing their shit.” Foreign Policy reported that Bolton is planning to remove dozens of current officials, with a focus on those who have been “disloyal” to the president. Bolton is the newest high-level addition to the Trump administration. The president announced late Thursday via tweet that Bolton would be replacing H.R. McMaster, making him Trump’s third national security adviser in just 14 months.

The shake-up came just days after Trump also fired his secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, replacing him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. By hiring Bolton, many have speculated that Trump is moving to the right on foreign policy issues. Bolton has been a harsh critic of the Iran nuclear deal, and supported the Iraq War as former President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations. He also penned an op-ed making the case for a strike on North Korea.

 

China warns US it will defend own trade interests

China's President Xi Jinping (L) and US President Donald Trump attend a working session on the first day of the G20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 7, 2017.
Patrik Stalloarz | AFP | Getty Images China’s President Xi Jinping (L) and US President Donald Trump attend a working session on the first day of the G20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 7, 2017.
The United States has flouted trade rules with an inquiry into intellectual property and China will defend its interests, Vice Premier Liu He told U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a telephone call on Saturday, Chinese state media reported.

The call between Mnuchin and Liu, a confidante of President Xi Jinping, was the highest-level contact between the two governments since U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans for tariffs on up to $60 billion of Chinese goods on Thursday.

The deepening rift has sent a chill through financial markets and the corporate world as investors predicted dire consequences for the global economy should trade barriers start going up.

Several U.S. chief executives attending a high-profile forum in Beijing on Saturday, including BlackRock Inc’s Larry Fink and Apple Inc’s Tim Cook, urged restraint. In his call with Mnuchin, Liu, a Harvard-trained economist, said China still hoped both sides would remain “rational” and work together to keep trade relations stable, the official Xinhua news agency reported. In a statement on its website, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said it had filed a request – at the direction of Trump – for consultations with China at the World Trade Organization to address “discriminatory technology licensing agreements”. China’s commerce ministry expressed regret at the filing on Saturday, and said China had taken strong measures to protect the legal rights and interests of both domestic and foreign owners of intellectual property. The Trump administration responded by telling China to immediately shave $100 billion off its record $375 billion trade surplus with the United States. Beijing told Washington that U.S. export restrictions on some high-tech products are to blame. “China has already prepared, and has the strength, to defend its national interests,” Liu said on Saturday. Firing off a warning shot, China on Friday declared plans to levy additional duties on up to $3 billion of U.S. imports in response to U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminium, imposed after a separate U.S. probe.

Trump’s impulses put White House credibility on the line

WASHINGTON (AP) — What’s the White House’s word worth? Days of conflicting and misleading statements from President Donald Trump and his top aides have fueled new questions about the White House’s credibility, sowing mistrust and instability within the West Wing and leaving some congressional Republicans wondering if they have a good faith negotiating partner in the president. That was the case on Friday, when Trump blasted out a morning tweet threatening to veto a massive government spending bill that the White House had guaranteed lawmakers and the public that he would sign. White House officials privately insisted the president was simply venting after watching news coverage that cast the deal as a defeat for several of his priorities. After hours of uncertainty, Trump’s veto threat crumbled, and he ultimately signed the legislation. Still, it left some Republicans rattled.

“The spontaneity and lack of impulse control are areas of concern for lots of members on both sides of the aisle,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, a Pennsylvania Republican who has been critical of the president. “Disorder, chaos, instability, uncertainty, intemperate statements are not conservative virtues in my opinion.” Trent Lott, the former Republican Senate majority leader from Mississippi, said GOP lawmakers “feel a good deal of consternation” about the White House-induced whiplash. But he added: “I assume there was method in what the president did.” Members of both parties said they were troubled that Trump seems oblivious to how he has undermined his own clout and agenda by staking out positions and then brazenly abandoning them. Where legislators once might have attributed such missteps to the president’s newness to Washington and its ways, not anymore. Trump’s vacillating on the spending bill was just one in a series of recent instances that put the credibility of the White House’s words under a microscope. Earlier this month, Trump bragged at a private fundraiser about having made up facts on trade during a conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. And in recent days, he and his staff have issued stern denials about the prospects of national security adviser H.R. McMaster departing the White House and a potential shake-up on the legal team that handles Trump’s role in the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference and obstruction of justice.   “It doesn’t care about its credibility outside of a narrow swath of the American people.”

Numerous polls show a majority of Americans don’t believe Trump is truthful, including a recent Quinnipiac survey in which 57 percent said the president was not honest. Trump’s backers sometimes point to the fact that he was elected even though polls during the campaign showed similar results.

Trump’s willingness to skirt the truth has frequently put his advisers in the awkward position of issuing strong statements in public that are quickly undermined by the president. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly batted down reports about McMaster’s ouster in the days leading up to Trump’s announcement that he was bringing in a new national security adviser.

China should not seek high growth as financial risks mount, warns government official

China should focus less on rapid economic growth and more on the quality of its economy, given the dangers from already accumulating financial risks, a senior Chinese Communist Party official warned on Saturday.In the past 30 years, China had created a miracle of high-speed growth, Yang Weimin, deputy director of the Office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs, said at the annual China Development Forum in Beijing. “Over the next 30 years, China can create another miracle of high-quality growth,” he said. An obsession with beating growth targets has led many local government officials to develop their economies at a breakneck pace, often to the detriment of the environment and sometimes their finances. President Xi Jinping said China should focus on the quality of its growth last October at the opening of the twice-a-decade Communist Party congress. Economists say better-than-expected growth in 2017, when the country handily beat its target of about 6.5 per cent, gives Beijing room to press ahead with its campaign to reduce risks in the country’s financial system. But economists warn that it remains to be seen whether China will fall back on the old growth engines of credit-fuelled investment and policy stimulus, plus wobble on its commitment to stabilise leverage ratios. Li Yang, an influential economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a top government think tank, told the forum China’s macro leverage ratio rose 2.5 percentage points in 2017, but the structure of the leverage has improved. Stephen Roach, a Yale University economist, said China’s economy still faced challenges and imbalances including low private consumption and slow reforms of state-owned firms. “We are here to celebrate the miracle, but we cannot just assume that because you pulled off this great miracle in the past, you can just push the button and do it again,” Roach, a former chief economist at Morgan Stanley, told the forum. “China cannot afford to ignore the risks that it faces in the external environment, especially with respect to its major partner – the United States,” he said.

Congress passes $1.3 trillion spending bill, funds government through September

(CNN)Early Friday morning, the Senate passed a $1.3 trillion spending package that will increase funding for the military and domestic spending and will keep the government funded through the end of September, sending the legislation to the President for his signature house ahead of a midnight deadline. The Senate passed the bill after a whirlwind day where at least two Republican senators held up the legislative process and made it appear unclear whether the bill could pass ahead of the deadline. The bill passed 65-32, averting a potential government shutdown and funding the government through September 30. The House passed the legislation earlier Thursday, voting 256-167 with Democrats and Republicans coming together to pass it less than 24 hours after the 2,300-page bill was made public. The Senate needed unanimous consent — meaning all members have to agree — to bring the bill up for a timely vote. If one member objects, it could force the government into a brief shutdown, which is why many congressional observers were watching Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who forced a brief shutdown last month using a similar procedural maneuver. On Thursday, Paul spent hours criticizing the bill and the process by which the legislation is made public and passed, and appeared to live-tweeting as he scanned the measure. “Page 430 of ‘crumni-bus: Good news. The government is going to “earn” $350 million by selling oil from Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” he tweeted. “Bad news is the $ won’t go to reduce the $21 trillion debt. The $ will be instead be spent elsewhere by the Federal government.” Earlier Thursday, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when the Senate would vote — he smiled and said in front of reporters, “whenever Sen. Paul decides we can.”The massive spending package marks the end of a months-long funding stalemate in which lawmakers were forced to pass one short-term spending bill after another to stave off a shutdown. The package includes more than just money to fight the opioid epidemic, pay the military and fund more than $21 billion in infrastructure projects. It also includes policy changes like one that would incentivize states to enter more records into the country’s gun background check system and another that would cut off aide to the Palestinian Authority until Palestinians cease making payments to the families of terrorists.

China responds to Trump tariffs with proposed list of 128 US products to target

 The trade war has started! even if idiots in the Trump administration have not scratched their collective asses and figured it out……… YET
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross
Commerce Secretary Ross: I don’t think we’re starting a trade war
China is ‘firing back’ after US announces tariffs on steel and aluminum  The world’s second-largest economy has responded to President Donald Trump’s controversial trade tariffs. China’s commerce ministry proposed a list of 128 U.S. products as potential retaliation targets, according to a statement on its website posted Friday morning. The U.S. goods, which had an import value of $3 billion in 2017, include wine, fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts, steel pipes, modified ethanol, and ginseng, the ministry said. Those products could see a 15 percent duty, while a 25 percent tariff could be imposed on U.S. pork and recycled aluminium goods, according to the statement.
  The statement did not go into greater detail. U.S. agricultural products, particularly soybeans, have been flagged as the biggest area of potential retaliation by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping leave after an opera performance at the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, November 8, 2017. Beijing will take measures against the 128 U.S. goods in two stages if it cannot reach an agreement with Washington, the ministry said, adding that it could take legal action under World Trade Organization rules. Asian stock markets took a dive on the news, with Japan’s Nikkei index sliding as much as 4 percent.

The Friday response from Beijing is relatively measured, experts told CNBC. The decision to target $3 billion in U.S. imports is significant, “but it’s not a lot in terms of the total U.S.-China relationship,” said economist Tony Nash, who is CEO and founder of data analytics firm Complete Intelligence. Chinese imports from the U.S. are expected to hit $172 billion this year, he pointed out. Trump signed an executive memorandum on Thursday that will impose tariffs on up to $60 billion in Chinese imports. “This is the first of many” trade actions, the president said. The new measures will primarily target certain products in the technology sector where Beijing holds an advantage over Washington. That followed Trump’s executive order earlier this month that imposed broad duties on foreign aluminum and steel imports — an action that many said could trigger a global trade war.

Intercept: Saudi crown prince bragged about Kushner relationship

Saudi prince's White House visit continues Kushner courtship
Kushner to win favor and loans from the Price of darkness. Gave him top secret intelligence information from the CIA on who in the kingdom was loyal to the price. That got 381 tortured and money extorted from them. And a TOP CIA asset Major General Ali al-Qahtani, a top aide to a son of the late King Abdullah, was among those held and tortured to death. this is what forced General Kelly to pull kushners top secret security clearance

Washington (CNN)Jared Kushner, tasked by his boss and father-in-law, President Donald Trump, with mediating Middle East peace early in the administration, has so far staked a bulk of those efforts on the ascendant Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. And according to a new report, the Saudi prince — known casually by his initials, MBS — took advantage of that power. When Kushner, Trump’s senior aide, made an unannounced trip to Riyadh last year, the Intercept — citing three sources — reported Wednesday, MBS told confidants after the meeting that Kushner had discussed Saudi leaders who are disloyal to the crown prince.

One person “who talks frequently to confidants of the Saudi and Emirati rulers” told the Intercept that MBS bragged to United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed that Kushner was “in his pocket.”
The Intercept also reported that Kushner’s information on Saudi royals not loyal to MBS was contained in the President’s Daily Brief, a document presented to the President every morning. The men tortured at the 5 star prison were the ones Kushner ratted out!
Kushner lost his access to the document earlier this year when new security clearance rules were instituted. Eager to consolidate power and rein in the sprawling orbit of the Saudi royal family and aristocratic class, Prince bin Salman listened intently and a week later cracked down on corruption in the country by imprisoning more than 200 members of the country’s ruling class inside the confines of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, charging each with corruption.  “What we did in Saudi Arabia was extremely necessary,” the Saudi crown prince told CBS in his first interview with a Western outlet. “All actions taken were in accordance with existing and published laws.”
A spokesman for Kushner declined to comment on the allegation. But a spokesman for Kushner’s lawyer — Peter Mirijanian — slammed the report.
“Some questions by the media are so obviously false and ridiculous that they merit no response. This is one,” he said. The report comes a month after The Washington Post reported that officials from at least four countries — Mexico, Israel, China and the United Arab Emirates — have discussed ways they could use Kushner’s intricate business arrangements, lack of experience and financial woes to manipulate the senior White House aide.
 Kushner and MBS have fostered a close relationship for months, White House officials told CNN, and the top White House aide played a key role when the Saudi prince visited the White House this week. Correctly viewing MBS as ascendant in the Muslim nation, Kushner worked for months earlier in the administration to build close ties with him. And when the prince’s 82-year-old father, King Salman, handed over some power earlier this year, the two grew closer. Kushner, in an effort to deepen that bond, took an unannounced trip to Saudi Arabia in October 2017 where he met directly with the crown prince. The two also met on Tuesday night at Kushner’s home, the Saudi Embassy said Wednesday.

House sends record $1.3 trillion spending bill to the Senate Thursday

Congress just gave people 2,322 reasons to hate it even more

(CNN)The House has passed a $1.3 trillion spending package that will increase funding for the military and domestic spending and will keep the government funded through the end of September. The legislation passed 256-167 with Democrats and Republicans coming together to pass it less than 24 hours after the 2,300-page bill was made public. Now, it’s up to the Senate to pass it before the government runs out of money Friday at midnight. The Senate need unanimous consent — meaning all members have to agree — to bring the bill up for a timely vote. If one member objects, it could force the government into a brief shutdown, which is why many congressional observers are watching Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who forced a brief shutdown last month using a similar procedural maneuver. When asked in front of reporters by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy when the chamber will vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell smile and said, “Whenever Sen. Paul decides we can.” The massive spending package marks the end of a months-long funding stalemate in which lawmakers were forced to pass one short-term spending bill after another to stave off a shutdown. The package includes more than just money to fight the opioid epidemic, pay the military and fund more than $21 billion in infrastructure projects. It also includes policy changes like one that would incentivize states to enter more records into the country’s gun background check system and another that would cut off aide to the Palestinian Authority until Palestinians cease making payments to the families of terrorists. President Donald Trump will sign the omnibus bill if it reaches his desk, Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters on Thursday. On the left, some Democrats rejected the proposal because it didn’t include permanent protectees under for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The internal GOP backlash to the amount of spending and the process of rushing the measure through just 16 hours after it was released was on full display on the House floor on Thursday. Twenty-five House Republicans broke with their leadership and opposed the usually party line procedural vote bringing up the legislation. But the measure narrowly passed 211-207.

John Dowd’s resignation tells you a lot about Donald Trump’s growing problems

(CNN)The resignation of John Dowd, Donald Trump’s top personal attorney, is the latest — and largest — signal that the President of the United States is shifting his strategy in regards special counsel Bob Mueller’s ongoing probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Even as Mueller’s questions for Trump have come into much sharper relief over the past 10 days, Trump has upped his personal attacks on the former FBI director even while adding controversial conservative attorney/talking head Joseph di Genova to his team. And now, the Dowd resignation.

The message is unmistakable: The closer Mueller and his team move to Trump himself — the terms of an interview between the special counsel and the President remain a matter of considerable debate — the more the President appears to be bracing for a very negative end result from the probe and putting the pieces in places to win the PR battle that will follow the conclusion of the Mueller probe.
Remember that Dowd was part of the legal braintrust that assured Trump that this whole Mueller probe would be wrapped up by the end of the year, that there was absolutely nothing to worry about and that the best course of action for Trump was to ignore Mueller. What appears to have dawned on Trump is that playing nice (or his version of nice) with Mueller isn’t working. Mueller doesn’t appear to be moving to end the probe any time soon and he seems disinclined to treat Trump nicely. Of course, this was always a ridiculous supposition by Trump: Mueller is leading a criminal probe and will go wherever the evidence leads. The idea that he would go easy on the President because Trump didn’t attack him by name is totally without grounding in anything we know about Mueller. The veil has been torn off for Trump now — likely the result of the face-to-face meeting late last week between his lawyers and the special counsel’s office in which Mueller and his team went over the areas they are interested in talking to the president about: The June 2016 meeting with the Russians at Trump Tower, his role in crafting a statement from his son Don Jr. about that meeting, his firing of Mike Flynn as the national security adviser and the firing of James Comey as FBI director. What that meeting seems to drive home for Trump is the reality of his situation. And what is Trump’s way? A relentless effort to undermine Mueller and those who work for him in hopes of discrediting whatever the special counsel ultimately finds.  The simple fact is this: Trump has come to the realization that Mueller has backed him into a corner. And when Trump’s back is against the wall, he reverts back to what (and who) he knows best. And that’s attack, attack, attack. Get ready. Because that’s what’s coming. Nick Note: This is not a act of strength but weakness. Trump now knows for sure Muller got everything. The collusion with the Russian troll farm that won Trump the election. The KGB agent Dr Alexksandr Kogen from St Petersberg University (on Putin’s Payroll) who got the Face Book data, Republican data base and Bannon’s Cambridge files on 250,000,000 Americans with 5000 data point on each individual and was the transfer agent that got Trump campaign analytical data  to the Russians through Cambridge Analytical, Laundering Money for Russians to get around US sanctions over the Taking of the Crimea. That saved Trump Tower and the Soho building. The yellow showers and other things  Trump wants HIDDEN that Putin has on video tape, AND Trumps criminal interference in the investigation and desperate attempts to stop it! And don’t forget the Russian foreign nationals that did likes with frustrated factory workers and coal miners that voted on Russian urging and  psychological manipulation that got Trump elected.

Trump’s Trade Threats Put China’s Leader on the Spot

Delegates listening to President Xi Jinping of China during the closing session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on Tuesday. Credit Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

BEIJING — For the better part of two decades, China’s leaders have made the most of the global trade rules set by the United States and others, seizing on opportunities to bolster their nation’s economic rise while finessing American complaints that they were not always playing fair. Now, for the first time, China faces an American president who is embracing protectionist measures, and that has presented its leader, Xi Jinping, with an extraordinary challenge: Even as he has elevated his status as the country’s “helmsman,” with a new mandate to rule indefinitely, the United States is moving to treat China more seriously as a strategic rival and to recast an economic relationship that has long bound the two countries. The punitive actions unveiled by President Trump on Thursday — tariffs on $60 billion worth of Chinese goods, as well as new restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States — put Mr. Xi on the spot, forcing him to consider retaliatory action. On Friday, China said it was proposing additional tariffs on 128 American products valued at $3 billion even as it called on Washington to resolve the dispute through negotiations to “avoid damage to the broader picture of Chinese-U.S. cooperation.” The trade tensions could send a shudder through the global economy and complicate Mr. Xi’s efforts to sustain China’s rapid growth in the face of rising debt and an aging population. “People in the U.S. and China have for years said the wolf is coming, the wolf is coming, but the wolf hasn’t come,” he said. “This time, the wolf is coming. And how to deal with the wolf? I would say that there is still no consensus.” Analysts in Washington and Beijing say that Mr. Xi will want to demonstrate resolve by standing up to Mr. Trump while finding a way to steer the countries away from a broader confrontation that could slow China’s rise and undermine its global ambitions. Mr. Trump’s determination to carry out pledges from his presidential campaign — in which he repeatedly accused China of “raping” the United States and its workers — has frustrated Mr. Xi’s team. They must now decide how to respond to a mercurial American president who heaps praise on Mr. Xi personally even as he rails against a trade relationship that they argue has benefited both nations — a view endorsed by Mr. Trump’s predecessors and, until recently, by much of the American business establishment.  Mr. Liu came to Washington acting as Mr. Xi’s personal envoy, Mr. Trump declined to meet him. Instead, the White House announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, including from China, on the first day of his visit. China has warned that it will retaliate, tit-for-tat, against tariffs and other measures. Even before the announcement of punitive measures in Washington on Thursday, the Ministry of Commerce in Beijing issued a statement sharply criticizing the Trump administration. “We firmly oppose the unilateralism and trade protectionism of the United States,” it said. “China will absolutely not sit back and watch as its legal rights and interests get hurt.”

Immigration Advocates Revel in Trump’s Failure to Get Wall Funding

President Donald Trump does not get funding for his proposed border wall in the newest spending bill
Image: Immigration Advocates Revel in Trump's Failure to Get Wall Funding

President Donald Trump’s inability to secure funding for his border wall brought out gleeful reactions – if not mocking – from immigration advocates, The Washington Post reports.No wall funding also means no protections for illegal immigrants, but there’s a difference for immigration advocates – Dreamers are in the hands of the federal courts – and likely the Supreme Court in the fall – while Trump may never get another chance to secure wall funding.  “Trump blew it; he got greedy and now he probably will not get his wall,” Kevin Appleby, senior director at the Center for Migration Studies, told the Post.”President Trump had an opportunity to deliver on two promises. One, build the wall. Two, to sign a ‘bill of love’ for Dreamers. His desire to slash legal immigration and increase immigration enforcement makes delivering on these promises impossible,” Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, told the Post.  Democrats, unencumbered from the urgency to act now on behalf of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, rebuffed the flurry of proposals coming out of the White House this week in its attempt to secure wall funding in exchange for DACA protections in the $1.3 trillion discretionary funding bill moved by Congress.Trump was seeking $25 billion; the omnibus provides him $1.6 billion. Trump blasted Democrats on Thursday for refusing to help Dreamers, but with Democrats hopeful of retaking the majority in the House in November while the fate of illegals courses through federal courts, the leverage was theirs, this time. “He would’ve actually fulfilled one of his goals, even though I abhor that goal,” Sen. Robert Menendez told the Post. “He would have solved a major immigration question that’s going to tug at his administration moving in the days ahead.”

Trump slaps China with about $60 billion in tariffs: ‘This is the first of many’

President Donald Trump speaks before signing trade sanctions against China on March 22, 2018, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 22, 2018.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Image
President Donald Trump speaks before signing trade sanctions against China on March 22, 2018, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 22, 2018.

President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum on Thursday that would impose about $60 billion in retaliatory tariffs on Chinese imports.

“This is the first of many” trade actions, Trump said as he signed the memo.

The new measures are designed to penalize China for trade practices that the Trump administration says involve stealing American companies’ intellectual property. They will primarily target certain products in the technology sector where China holds an advantage over the U.S. The new measures follow a so-called 301 investigation led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer into China’s potentially unfair trade practices with the U.S. Lighthizer’s office will publish a list of targeted products in 15 days, and there will be a 30-day period for public comment, according to senior administration officials. The U.S. Trade Representative’s yet-to-be-released report covers 1,300 product lines, the administration officials said. The bottom line, said Trump’s trade director, Peter Navarro, on Thursday, is that the U.S. is “strategically defending itself against economic aggression.” The president is standing up for American corporations, he added. Lighthizer told lawmakers on Thursday, however, that China is likely to retaliate against the tariffs by targeting U.S. agricultural products that are reliant on the Chinese export market. The Trump administration had previously signaled that the tariffs would apply to at least $30 billion in Chinese imports, multiple news outlets reported. Trump himself has pushed for $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. In the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday before Trump’s announcement, Lighthizer outlined the Chinese products that will be subject to the new tariffs, including aeronautics, modern rail, new-energy vehicles and high-tech products.

A worker monitors the loading of shipping containers at the new container port in Wuhan, in central China's Hubei province.

 

 

 

Lighthizer also suggested that the U.S. may take action against the World Trade Organization for its alleged failures on promoting a fairer trade landscape. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the Trump administration is weighing the possibility of a lawsuit against the WTO policies that cover Chinese trade. A senior administration official told reporters earlier on Thursday that the tariffs would be pegged at about $50 billion. The new trade restrictions exacerbate fears of sparking a global trade war that were raised after Trump signed executive orders enacting broad tariffs on steel and aluminum on March 8.

Retired general tears into Kushner: ‘Simply outrageous’ he is leading representative of US

A retired four-star Army general during an interview Wednesday tore into White House adviser Jared Kushner. “Putting Jared Kushner, a 30-something person with no foreign policy or defense policy experience, as a leading representative of the United States is simply outrageous,” retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey told MSNBC. He also warned that Kushner’s portfolio shows the “personalization of a family business dealing with U.S. policy.” Kushner, President Trump‘s son-in-law, has faced scrutiny in the past. Earlier this month, a group of 25 House Democrats called for White House chief of staff John Kelly to fire Kushner.  The lawmakers wrote in a letter it is “impossible for the American people or their elected Representatives to have faith that Jared Kushner will put their interests above his own personal and finance interests.” The letter cites a series of recent reports on Kushner’s financial interests with foreign leaders. The Washington Post reported late last month that foreign officials from at least four countries have discussed how to use Kushner’s lack of experience to their advantage. Meanwhile, special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Justice Department investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, is reportedly looking into whether Kushner’s financial ties have had any impact on the Trump administration’s policies.

John Dowd Resigns as Trump’s Lead Lawyer in Mueller Probe

John Dowd Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg
John Dowd resigned as Donald Trump’s lead attorney against Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe as the president’s impatience grows over the intensifying inquiry into possible collusion in the 2016 election. His decision came after Trump decided to add a new high-profile lawyer, Joseph diGenova, to his legal team. A frequent guest on Fox News, diGenova has publicly attacked Mueller’s investigation and the FBI, saying he believes Trump was framed by Justice Department officials on a political vendetta.

DiGenova’s remarks put him at odds with the posture of cooperation and deference Trump’s lawyers have publicly taken toward Mueller and his hiring could signal a more confrontational approach.

Later Thursday, when Trump was asked by reporters whether he still wants to testify to Mueller, he said, “Yes, I would like to.” But the president has been impatient for Mueller’s investigation to come to a close, and the loss of Dowd may only drag out the process. Dowd had acted as the team’s point person in dealing with Mueller and has spent months carefully negotiating terms of an interview between Mueller and Trump. Dowd was deeply versed in the facts of the case, including the tens of thousands of pages of documents that had been handed over to Mueller and the dozens of witnesses Mueller had interviewed. DiGenova is coming in late to an effort that has been going on since the summer and faces a heavily staffed team of Justice Department investigators on the other side. He also could find himself at odds with Trump’s other lawyers, who have set a tone of cooperation with Mueller. DiGenova, for example, has suggested that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller’s work, to be removed and appointed as a judge.It’s unusual for a client to have such an abrupt change so far into a case, said Patrick Cotter, a former U.S. prosecutor. The move suggests the president “is flailing around trying to find some lawyer who has a magic recipe to win the war.” In announcing his deparure Thursday, Dowd said, “I love the president and wish him well.” Jay Sekulow, another Trump lawyer, said the legal team will continue its work defending the president.

Fed Raises Rates and Signals Faster Pace in Coming Years

Vote to raise interest rates at the first meeting led by Jerome Powell was unanimous
 

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell Wednesday at a news conference in Washington.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell Wednesday at a news conference in Washington. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News By Nick Timiraos

WASHINGTON—Federal Reserve officials signaled Wednesday they could pick up the pace of interest-rate increases to cool economic growth after next year. The Fed voted unanimously to raise its benchmark federal-funds rate by a quarter-percentage point to a range between 1.5% and 1.75%. Officials said they expected to lift it another two or three times this year, and three times next year. New forecasts show officials project faster economic growth, higher inflation and lower unemployment in coming years.They indicated they expect they will need to tap on the monetary brakes, raising rates in 2020 to a level that would mark the first time in more than a decade that interest-rate policy was deliberately restrictive.  Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, in his first news conference as the central bank’s chief, said officials want to balance two risks. One is that they raise rates too much, causing inflation to stay below their 2% target and damaging the Fed’s credibility. The other is that they raise rates too slowly, letting the economy overheat and forcing them to move more quickly, triggering a recession. “We’re trying to take the middle ground, and the committee continues to believe that the middle ground consists of further gradual increases in the federal-funds rate,” Mr. Powell said.

Federal-funds interest rate target

The rate increase approved Wednesday was widely expected.

Fed officials see higher interest rates, faster economic growth and lower unemployment in the next few years than they did in their December projections.

Most Fed officials still said they now anticipate increasing rates four times this year; seven of 15 penciled in four rate increases, up from four of 16 in December. The projected moves would leave the fed-funds rate in a range between 3.25% and 3.5% by 2020. Such a level would be slightly restrictive of growth because it is nearly one half a percentage point above the level policy makers estimate would neither spur nor curb economic activity over the long run. The Fed has a poor record of trying to cool the economy without triggering a recession. “It’s a risky thing to do, but they might feel they have to do it because this fiscal stimulus is coming at the wrong time,” Mr. Perli said.

 

EXCLUSIVE: Fired FBI official authorized criminal probe of Sessions, sources say

Session Fired Mccabe as payback and to hide Sessions Russian collusion During the Trump campaign

Nearly a year before Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired senior FBI official Andrew McCabe for what Sessions called a “lack of candor,” McCabe oversaw a federal criminal investigation into whether Sessions lacked candor when testifying before Congress about contacts with Russian operatives, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.
PHOTO: US Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on November 14, 2017, in Washington, DC.
 

Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly accused Sessions of misleading them in congressional testimony and called on federal authorities to investigate, but McCabe’s previously-unreported decision to actually put the attorney general in the crosshairs of an FBI probe was an exceptional move. One source told ABC News that Sessions was not aware of the investigation when he decided to fire McCabe last Friday less than 48 hours before McCabe, a former FBI deputy director, was due to retire from government and obtain a full pension, but an attorney representing Sessions declined to confirm that. Last year, several top Republican and Democratic lawmakers were informed of the probe during a closed-door briefing with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and McCabe, ABC News was told. In his own words: McCabe claims firing part of ‘ongoing assault’ on Russia probe  DOJ gives special counsel internal docs on proposed Sessions resignation, source says By then, Sessions had recused himself from the FBI’s probe of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, giving Rosenstein oversight of the growing effort. Within weeks, Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to take over the investigation and related inquiries, including the Sessions matter. Two months ago, Sessions was interviewed by Mueller’s team, and the federal inquiry related to his candor during his confirmation process has since been shuttered, according to a lawyer representing Sessions. “The Special Counsel’s office has informed me that after interviewing the attorney general and conducting additional investigation, the attorney general is not under investigation for false statements or perjury in his confirmation hearing testimony and related written submissions to Congress,” attorney Chuck Cooper told ABC News on Wednesday. According to the sources, McCabe authorized the criminal inquiry after a top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and then-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., wrote a letter in March 2017 to the FBI urging agents to investigate “all contacts” Sessions may have had with Russians, and “whether any laws were broken in the course of those contacts or in any subsequent discussion of whether they occurred.” It’s unclear how actively federal authorities pursued the matter in the months before Sessions’ interview with Mueller’s investigators. It’s also unclear whether the special counsel may still be pursuing other matters related to Sessions and statements he has made to Congress – or others – since his confirmation. During his confirmation in January 2017, Sessions told the Senate committee that he had not been in contact with anyone connected to the Russian government about the 2016 election. He also said he was “not aware” of anyone else affiliated with the Trump campaign communicating with the Russian government ahead of the election.

Two months later, after a Washington Post report disputed what Sessions told Congress, the attorney general acknowledged he had met the Russian ambassador twice during the presidential campaign, but insisted none of those interactions were “to discuss issues of the campaign.”

Sessions “made no attempt to correct his misleading testimony until The Washington Post revealed that, in fact, he had at least two meetings with the Russian ambassador,” Leahy and Franken said in a statement at the time. “We know he would not tolerate dishonesty if he were in our shoes.” Sessions called any suggestions that he misled lawmakers “false.” Nevertheless, charges subsequently brought by Mueller raised more questions over Sessions’ testimony to Congress.

Continue reading “EXCLUSIVE: Fired FBI official authorized criminal probe of Sessions, sources say”

Putin ‘will use World Cup like Hitler’s Olympics’, agrees Johnson

Image caption Boris Johnson was speaking to the Foreign Affairs committee

The foreign secretary has agreed that President Putin is using the World Cup in Russia as a “PR exercise” akin to how Hitler used the 1936 Olympics. Labour MP Ian Austin put it to Boris Johnson that the Russian president wanted to “gloss over [his] brutal corrupt regime”. Mr Johnson replied: “I’m afraid that’s completely right, completely right.” He added that he would have an “urgent conversation” with Russia about the safety of fans at the tournament. The foreign secretary said it was of “crucial importance” in light of 23 British diplomats being expelled from Russia – including the individual responsible for football fans. A Downing Street spokesman confirmed Mr Johnson was speaking on behalf of the government and that they were working closely with police on plans for the World Cup. Earlier, Boris Johnson described it as “a sign” from President Putin that “no one could escape the long arm of Russian revenge”. He also claimed Russia chose the UK for the attack because it had “called out” Russian abuses “time and again”. Hitler became German leader in 1933 and used Berlin’s hosting of the Summer Games of 1936 as part of the propaganda for his Nazi regime. He had already brought in rules in the country to ensure all athletics organisations had an “Aryan-only” policy, which led to international backlash. But despite threats of boycotting, the games went ahead. “The idea of Putin handing over the World Cup to the captain of the winning team; the idea of Putin using this as a PR exercise to gloss over the brutal, corrupt regime for which he is responsible; it fills me with horror,” what happens to you if you decide to support a country with a different set of values, such as our own. You can expect to be assassinated’.” Mr Johnson said the UK believes “in freedom and in democracy, and in the rule of law, and has time and again called out Russia over its abuses of those values. The ministry had invited all ambassadors in the country to attend the meeting, but reports suggested a number of Western diplomats refused to attend.

 

Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook made mistakes in handling the Cambridge Analytica scandal

 

Mark Zuckerberg has finally responded to the furor over Facebook’s handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In a post today, he said he is working to prevent similar abuses of user privacy. “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post. “I’ve been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago. But we also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.” Though he took responsibility for Cambridge Analytica’s abuse of the platform, he stopped short of making an apology. His remarks were Zuckerberg’s first since reports in The New York Times and The Guardian revealed the extent to which data mining firm Cambridge Analytica misused user data from as many as 50 million Facebook users. The data was provided by a University of Cambridge psychology professor named Aleksandr Kogan, who passed it along to Cambridge Analytica in violation of Facebook’s terms of service. The move raised fresh concerns about how Facebook data can be used without consent, triggering investigations in the United States and the United Kindgom and causing the company’s stock price to plunge. Zuckerberg also laid out a three-step plan to rebuilding user trust. In the most significant step, Facebook will remove developer access to your data if you haven’t used it in three months. The company is also performing audits on apps that had access to information similar to the data Kogan had access did in 2014, before Facebook removed developers’ ability to mine information about your friends’ profiles.  “We know that this was a major violation of peoples’ trust.” In the end, Zuckerberg took responsibility for the misuse of user data. “I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I’m responsible for what happens on our platform,” he wrote. “I’m serious about doing what it takes to protect our community. While this specific issue involving Cambridge Analytica should no longer happen with new apps today, that doesn’t change what happened in the past. We will learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward.”

Whistleblower claims Bannon oversaw early efforts to collect Facebook data: report

 Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon was involved with Cambridge Analytica’s data acquisition project before the firm was ever involved with President Trump‘s campaign, a former employee says.
Whistleblower claims Bannon oversaw early efforts to collect Facebook data: report
© Getty Images

The Washington Post reports that a former employee of the controversial data analytics firm says Bannon was involved with the firm in 2014 as it gathered information on thousands of Americans apparently without their knowledge. Chris Wylie, a self-described whistleblower and former employee of the firm told the Post that Bannon oversaw the firm’s efforts in 2014, the year Wylie left, as the firm tested messaging on terms that would become central themes of the Trump campaign: “drain the swamp” and “deep state.” “We had to get Bannon to approve everything at this point. Bannon was Alexander Nix’s boss,” said Wylie, then the firm’s research director. “Alexander Nix didn’t have the authority to spend that much money without approval.” Bannon served as vice president and secretary of Cambridge Analytica from 2014 to 2016. He served as the chief executive of Trump’s campaign, and then became senior strategist in the White House after Trump’s victory. Bannon was dismissed by Trump in August, and the two had a falling out over quotations Bannon gave to Michael Wolff, the author of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” The former White House aide did not respond to a request for comment from the Post on the story. Cambridge Analytica is accused of covertly obtaining data from 50 million users that was compromised by a third party and using it during the campaign, despite just 270,000 users giving permission for their data to be stored. In a statement, the firm has said it “strongly denies” the reports it used the data obtained as part of its work with the Trump campaign. “This Facebook data was not used by Cambridge Analytica as part of the services it provided to the Donald Trump presidential campaign; personality targeted advertising was not carried out for this client either. The company has made this clear since 2016,” Cambridge Analytica said.

Sen. Graham: Trump Firing Mueller Would Be Impeachable Offense

Image: Sen. Graham: Trump Firing Mueller Would Be Impeachable Offense

Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday said it would “probably” be an impeachable offense if President Donald Trump fired special counsel Robert Mueller without cause. In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Graham, R-SC, said he empathizes with Trump’s frustration with the Justice Department for being “overly political,” but said that can’t justify firing Mueller.”I think what the president will have done is stopped an investigation (into) whether or not his campaign colluded with the Russians, what effect the Russians had on the 2016 campaign,” Graham told Hewitt. “I can’t see it being anything other than a corrupt purpose. “I’ve seen no evidence of collusion, but to stop an investigation without cause, I think, would be a constitutional crisis,” Graham said.Hewitt asked Graham if he had conveyed to the president to not fire Mueller.  “I think I just did,” said Graham, who earlier this week said firing Mueller would be the “beginning of the end” to Trump’s presidency.But Graham understands the president’s frustration.  “The FBI’s handling of the dossier was really unprofessional, inappropriate. The Clinton email investigation was a joke. McCabe probably deserves to be fired,” Graham told Hewitt. “So the president’s right to be upset with the Department of Justice being overly political. He would be wrong, in my view, to try to stop this investigation without cause on the Mueller side. They’re disconnected in time. Mueller came along long after this. He’s looking at things unrelated to the dossier,” Graham told Hewitt.However, Graham does believe a second special counsel should be impaneled to address the missteps of the Justice Department and the FBI. The DOJ “can’t grade their own homework. Somebody outside the system needs to take a fresh look,” Graham said. “You need a second counsel to look at how the FBI agents behaved when it came to the Clinton email scandal.”

Former CIA director: Trump has shown a lack of integrity

Former CIA Director John Brennan told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday that President Trump has shown a “lack of integrity” in office. In an interview, the former Obama-era CIA chief explained his tweets attacking Trump following the firing of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, whom Brennan defended “The president has shown a lack of understanding of international affairs, as well as a real ignorance about what it takes to be president of the United States,” Brennan said.  “He is mean-spirited, he is dishonest, he has shown a lack of integrity, and he has continued to, I think, demean the office of the presidency,” Brennan added. Brennan’s comments follow a tweet from the former CIA director accusing the president of turning McCabe into a “scapegoat” for problems at the FBI. McCabe said last week that he was fired over his proximity to former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired last year. “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America … America will triumph over you,” Brennan tweeted in response to Trump. His comments referring to Trump’s “lack of understanding of international affairs” appeared to be a reference to Trump’s recent announcement of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, which were widely panned by Washington Republicans and free trade advocates. Brennan condemned the tariff plan in a tweet earlier in March.

“You show an amazing albeit unsurprising ignorance of how technology, automation, and the attendant evolution of economics and societies have transformed the world. Your simple minded policies–imposition of tariffs–have the potential to seriously damage our future prosperity,” Brennan wrote.

Brennan is a frequent critic of the president, and in February tweeted that the president was being “petty” by attacking law enforcement over the ongoing Russia investigation. “It never ceases to amaze me how successful you have been making yourself so small, petty, and banal with your tweets,” Brennan said at the time. “Your insecurity is well deserved, as is your concern over Russia investigation. Thomas Paine was right when he said, ‘These are the times that try men’s souls.'”

Trump keeps up aggressive attacks on Mueller

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump called out special counsel Robert Mueller in a series of typo-ridden tweets Wednesday morning, continuing his recent aggressive attacks on the Russia probe. “‘Special Council is told to find crimes, wether crimes exist or not. I was opposed the the selection of Mueller to be Special Council, I still am opposed to it. I think President Trump was right when he said there never should have been a Special Council appointed because (…) there was no probable cause for believing that there was any crime, collusion or otherwise, or obstruction of justice!’ So stated by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz,” Trump said in a series of tweets.

Trump later deleted and corrected some, though not all, of the typos in his first tweet.
Dershowitz, a lawyer and professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, referred CNN to his op-ed published by The Hill Wednesday morning, which had similar though not identical comments tothose Trump tweeted. “I stand by what I wrote in The Hill this morning. Please check and quote it. It lays out my point accurately,” Dershowitz said. In his Hill op-ed, Dershowitz argues that a special counsel should not have been appointed. “There was no evidence of any crime committed by the Trump administration. But there was plenty of evidence that Russian operatives had tried to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, and perhaps other elections, in the hope of destabilizing democracy,” he writes.
He continued: “The vice of a special counsel is that he is supposed to find crimes, and if he comes up empty-handed, after spending lots of taxpayer money, then he is deemed a failure. If he can’t charge the designated target — in this case, the President — he must at least charge some of those close to the target, even if it is for crimes unrelated to the special counsel’s core mandate. By indicting these low-hanging fruits, he shows that he is trying.” Trump has ratcheted up his criticism of Mueller’s investigation in recent days. Last week, Trump tweeted that the Mueller probe “should never have been started and there was no crime.” He has also questioned the political impartiality of the investigation.

Federal Reserve hikes interest rate to highest level in a decade amid stronger economy

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday lifted its key interest rate from 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent, the highest level since 2008. The move, the central bank’s first major decision under new Chairman Jerome H. Powell, was widely expected as the U.S. economy continues to strengthen and stock markets remain near record highs. The Fed also significantly boosted its forecast for U.S. growth this year and next. The U.S. economy is on track to expand 2.7 percent this year and 2.4 percent in 2019, Fed officials now say, a jump from the prior projection done before the Republican tax cuts were finalized. “The economic outlook has strengthened in recent months,” the Fed said in its statement Wednesday. The Fed’s policy committee still met despite the snow that shut down most of Washington D.C.

The Fed anticipates hiking rates three more times in 2018, part of an ongoing move away from the extraordinary measures it took to stimulate the economy during and after the great recession, but it opened the door to potentially doing four hikes

The higher rates are likely to be welcomed by savers, but not by borrowers who will face more expensive loan terms going forward. Americans should expect even faster growth and lower unemployment ahead, Fed officials said. Unemployment is now expected to fall to 3.8 percent this year and 3.6 percent in 2019, which would be the lowest level in decades. Of the 15 Fed board members, six anticipate the Fed will hike four times this year and one believes five hikes will be necessary. It’s not quite enough to tip the official forecast to four rate increases, but it’s getting close. “I think they will end up tightening four times this year, but they don’t have to signal that yet,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. The Fed hasn’t hiked rates four times in a year since 2006.

CNN: Trump, Kelly furious after leak that Trump was not to congratulate Putin

President Trump and his chief of staff John Kelly are furious that details of the president’s national security briefing materials telling him not to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin were leaked to the press, according to a CNN report Wednesday.

Trump was reportedly “fuming” on Tuesday night after The Washington Post reported that Trump’s national security advisers specifically instructed him not to congratulate Putin on his electoral victory. The Post reported that the materials read “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.”

Only a small group of staffers would have access to those briefing materials and would have known what his advisers would suggest before the phone call to Putin on Tuesday morning, CNN reported. The network, citing an unnamed source, reported that the president was asking allies and outside advisers who they thought was responsible for the leak. The source told CNN that the incident has again given air to Trump’s long-held belief that members of his administration are actively working against him. A White House official told the network that Kelly is furious that a confidential presidential briefing was made public just hours after the president’s phone call with Putin. Kelly reportedly plans to address the leak on Wednesday as aides work to figure out how the information became public. Other White House staffers are irritated by the most recent leak as well. “This is unacceptable,” one White House official told CNN. Social media users were quick to mock Trump on Twitter for appearing to directly ignore his advisers.  Trump faced fierce backlash in Washington for celebrating Putin’s victory, which was ripped by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and others as an “insult to every Russian citizen” who was denied the right to vote in a free and far election.

Putin’s reelection was marred by claims of ballot-box stuffing and multiple reports of poll-watchers being blocked from conducting their official duties.

However, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to say whether the Trump administration believed Putin’s victory was won fairly.  “We’re focused on our elections,” Sanders said during the press briefing on Tuesday. “We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate.” 

Women in Bill O’Reilly defamation suit want settlement agreements made public

Fox gave O'Reilly contract after $32 million settlement
Fox gave O’Reilly contract after $32 million settlement

Three women who are suing Bill O’Reilly for defamation and breach of contract have asked a federal judge to allow their settlement agreements with the former Fox News star to be entered into the public record. In a motion filed Tuesday with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, attorneys Nancy Erika Smith and Neil Mullin argued that O’Reilly’s plea for the settlements to be kept under seal “should be denied outright because he has made no effort to bear his burden of proof and cited no law to support his extraordinary request.” “Courts generally do not allow the filing of documents under seal absent extraordinary circumstances,” Smith and Mullin wrote. “Settlement agreements in which the parties agree to confidentiality do dnot merit filing under seal unless a compelling need is shown. Important constitutional and common law principles require public access to judicial documents.” In December, Smith and Mullin brought the lawsuit on behalf of Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, who alleged that O’Reilly and Fox News broke a non-disparagement clause that arose from a 2002 settlement agreement. Later that month, Bernstein was joined on the lawsuit by two other women who had settled with O’Reilly: Andrea Mackris and Rebecca Gomez Diamond. Bernstein had accused O’Reilly of verbal abuse and discrimination, while Mackris and Diamond claimed that he sexually harassed them. O’Reilly has consistently denied wrongdoing, asserting that he made the settlements to protect his children from the damaging publicity. But when the New York Times reported last year that O’Reilly had made several such settlement payments to women totaling millions of dollars, it marked the beginning of the end for one of the most successful commentators in the history of cable news. Activists targeted advertisers on his top-rated program, “The O’Reilly Factor,” and within weeks of the story’s publication, O’Reilly was fired by Fox.

Months later, the Times dropped another bombshell: O’Reilly reached a $32 million settlement with Lis Wiehl, a former legal analyst at Fox. Despite all the attention, the exact contents of those settlements remain a mystery — and O’Reilly would like to keep it that way. In a letter sent Monday to Deborah Batts, the judge presiding over the defamation suit, O’Reilly attorney Andrew Bourne requested that the agreements only be filed “in redacted form and under seal.”

Allegations from women in his past shadow Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chorus of women from President Donald Trump’s past is getting louder. Accusations about Trump’s past sexual exploits bubbled up on three fronts Tuesday, with two women pressing court cases and a porn actress publicly needling the president. Trump has so far weathered the rising #MeToo movement, but the latest developments served as a fresh reminder about the shadow thrown by questions about the thrice-married businessman’s past.

—A former Playboy model who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006 filed a lawsuit in California seeking to invalidate a confidentiality agreement so she can discuss her alleged relationship.

—A New York City judge ruled that a defamation lawsuit by a former contestant on “The Apprentice” can move forward while Trump is in office. She has accused Trump of unwanted sexual contact.

—Porn actress Stormy Daniels and her lawyer continued their media campaign against Trump as she seeks to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election so she can discuss their relationship. “People DO care that he lied about it, had me bullied, broke laws to cover it up, etc.,” Daniels tweeted. Trump has consistently denied accusations from all three women. He has previously called his accusers “liars” and has deemed such reports “made up stuff.” But it was another distraction for a White House already contending with a rash of high-level departures and a stalled legislative agenda. Some longtime allies questioned whether the accusations would have much impact. More than a dozen women came forward during the 2016 campaign to say that Trump had harassed them or worse, many speaking out in the wake of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which he was heard bragging about groping women. Some of them spoke out again as the #MeToo movement took off. “I think we learned through the campaign something we never thought was true. People were able to bifurcate the person from the policies,” said former campaign adviser Barry Bennett. “They were willing to overlook the personal behavior or the words on tape.”

In the case of the Playboy model, Karen McDougal filed suit Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court against American Media Inc., the company that owns the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer. It had paid her $150,000 during the 2016 presidential election. The lawsuit alleges that McDougal was paid for the rights to her story of an affair, but the story never ran. It also alleges that Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, was secretly involved in her discussions with American Media. McDougal’s lawsuit was filed on the same day a New York judge sided with Summer Zervos, a 2006 “Apprentice” contestant. She sued Trump after he dismissed as “fabricated” and “made-up” her claims of misconduct at a hotel in Beverly Hills, California, in 2007. Her lawsuit sought an apology and at least $2,914. In saying the suit can go forward, Judge Jennifer Schecter wrote, “No one is above the law.” Daniels and McDougal have offered strikingly similar stories about their alleged relationships with Trump. Both women claim to have had sexual encounters with him in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, in 2006. McDougal, who was the 1998 Playboy Playmate of the Year, said Trump also brought her to his private bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

 

Paul Ryan says he received ‘assurances’ that firing Mueller ‘not even under consideration’

Washington (CNN)House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday he received “assurances” that President Donald Trump is not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller.

“The special counsel should be free to follow through with his investigation to its completion without interference,” the Wisconsin Republican said during a House GOP leadership news conference on Capitol Hill. “Absolutely, I am confident that he will be allowed to do that.”
He continued, “I have received assurances that his firing is not even under consideration. We have a system based upon the rule of law in this country. We have a justice system and no one is based on that justice system.”
Ryan would not say who gave him that information and he did not answer if legislation to protect Mueller was something he’d support.
Lindsey Graham vows to protect Robert Mueller

Lindsey Graham vows to protect Robert Mueller 01:42
Recent public comments Trump has made — on Twitter in particular — have been extremely critical of the Mueller investigation and were seen as a signal Trump might take steps to fire him. Some Republican members of Congress, including Ryan, have shown their support for Mueller since Trump made his most recent comments. Notably, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not publicly weighed in.
White House special counsel Ty Cobb emphasized in a statement Sunday night that Trump is not considering firing Mueller.
“In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the special counsel, Robert Mueller,” Cobb said.

White House won’t say if Russian election was ‘free and fair’

The White House on Tuesday refused to say whether it believes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s victory was the result of a free and fair election. “We’re focused on our elections. We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.
“What we do know is that Putin has been elected in their country, and that’s not something that we can dictate to them — how they operate,” she added.

Putin’s reelection to another six-year term was marred by reports of irregularities, which were seized upon by U.S. allies such as the United Kingdom.  But Sanders revealed that Trump declined to press Putin on the election and a range of other controversial topics, including Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and a nerve-agent attack on a former Russian double agent living in Britain that the U.S. and others have blamed on Russia. The spokeswoman defended the decision, saying that Trump wanted to focus on areas of possible cooperation with Russia rather than divisive issues.  The White House also faced accusations of hypocrisy from critics who noted that it slapped sanctions last summer on what it called the “illegitimate” Venezuelan government after leader Nicolás Maduro tried to bypass the legislature to rewrite the nation’s constitution.

  During a Tuesday morning phone call, Trump congratulated Putin on his reelection and proposed a summit meeting to discuss the “arms race” between the U.S. and Russia.  U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, who has harshly criticized Putin for the nerve-gas attack, has not called the Russian leader. French President Emmanuel Macron offered best wishes “to Russia and the Russian people,” but not Putin, in an official statement.  Leading Putin opponent Alexei Navalny was banned from running due to a criminal conviction that critics said was politically motivated. International organizations reported incidents of ballot stuffing and election observers being barred from doing their jobs.

Trump’s national security advisers warned him not to congratulate Putin. He did it anyway.

In this file photo taken on Friday, July 7, 2017, President Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. Where against all protocols a US interrupter was not present (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers Tuesday when he congratulated Russian President Vladi­mir Putin on his reelection — including a section in his briefing materials in all-capital letters stating “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” according to officials familiar with the call.

Trump also chose not to heed talking points from aides instructing him to condemn the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain with a powerful nerve agent, a case that both the British and U.S. governments have blamed on Moscow.

The president’s conversation with Putin, which Trump described as a “very good call,” prompted fresh criticism of his muted tone toward one of the United States’ biggest geopolitical rivals amid the special counsel investigation into Russia’s election interference and the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian officials. Although the Trump administration has taken a tougher stance toward Russia recently — including minor new sanctions last week on some entities for election meddling and cyberattacks — the president has declined to forcefully join London in denouncing Moscow for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England, this month. They remain critically ill. Trump told reporters that he had offered his well wishes on Putin’s new six-year term during a conversation that covered a range of topics, including arms control and the security situations in Syria and North Korea. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Skripal’s case was not discussed. Information on Syria and North Korea was also provided to the president in writing before the call, officials said. “We’ll probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future,” Trump said of Putin, though Sanders emphasized that nothing is planned.

The White House press office declined to comment on the briefing materials given to Trump. Two people familiar with the notecards acknowledged that they included instructions not to congratulate Putin. with Putin. Trump, who initiated the call, opened it with the congratulations for Putin, one person familiar with the conversation said. Putin’s latest consolidation of power came in what foreign policy analysts said was a rigged election in which he got 76 percent of the vote against several minor candidates. World leaders have hesitated to congratulate Putin, since his reelection occurred in an environment of state control of much of the news media and with his most prominent opponent barred from the ballot. Nick Note: Put the pieces together. Russia is the greatest threat ever to the US. And the president has been compromised by the Russians. We are in grave danger until he is out of office.

Fox News contributor quits, slams network as ‘propaganda machine’ for Trump

 

A Fox News contributor has quit the network, blasting the channel as a “propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration” in an email announcing his departure. Retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters announced that he was quitting Fox News as a strategic analyst on Tuesday in a fiery email to colleagues, BuzzFeed News reported.

“Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed,” Peters wrote.

“Four decades ago, I took an oath as a newly commissioned officer. I swore to ‘support and defend the Constitution,’ and that oath did not expire when I took off my uniform. Today, I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers,” he said.

“In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration,” Peters continued.

The former contributor wrote that he was “appalled” by network hosts who had previously criticized former President Obama for his handling of Russian President Vladimir Putin for now advancing “Putin’s agenda by making light of Russian penetration of our elections and the Trump campaign.” Trump is a frequent viewer of Fox News and often highlights the network and its hosts on Twitter. Nick Note: For years i applauded Fox News as the only remaining conservative voice. BUT they have been corrupted by Trump. They defend his obvious guilt and their arguments are something out of the theater of the absurd. Their coverage is down right stupid. They are something out of a communist dictatorship  disinformation campaign. Many people are misinformed by them. I will be provent right. Obviousness Trump colluded with the Russians he has been compromised!  And he is a Traitor to his country. Russia is our greatest enemy and Trump is the ultimate  Manchurian candidate. Not a day goes buy that he does not continue his sell out to the Russians. And the proof abounds. The country is in grave danger until Trump is taken out of office

Exposed: Undercover secrets of Trump’s data firm

An investigation by Channel 4 News has revealed how Cambridge Analytica claims it ran ‘all’ of President Trump’s digital campaign – and may have broken election law. As the report went on air, the firm announced it has suspended chief executive Alexander Nix, pending a full investigation.

An undercover investigation by Channel 4 News has revealed how Cambridge Analytica claims it ran key parts of the presidential campaign for Donald Trump. The British data company was secretly filmed discussing coordination between Trump’s campaign and outside groups – an activity which is potentially illegal. Executives claimed they “ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy” for President Trump. In the third part of a Channel 4 News investigation into Cambridge Analytica, bosses also talked about:

  • The full scale of their pivotal work in Trump’s election win
  • How they avoid Congressional investigations into their foreign clients
  • Setting up proxy organisations to feed untraceable messages onto social media
  • Using a secret email system where messages self-destruct and leave no trace
  • Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in the “Defeat Crooked Hilary” brand of attack ads

In a series of meetings filmed at London hotels over four months, between November 2017 and January 2018 an undercover reporter for Channel 4 News posed as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka.

UPDATE: Cambridge Analytica have announced they have suspended chief executive Alexander Nix pending a full investigation. They said: “In the view of the board Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 News do not represent the values or operations of the firm.”

‘We ran all the digital campaign’

The company says their work with data and research allowed Mr Trump to win with a narrow margin of “40,000 votes” in three states providing victory in the electoral college system, despite losing the popular vote by more than 3 million votes.

The election was plagued by allegations of fake news and smears on social media, along with the alleged attempt by Russia to influence the outcome.

Mr Nix boasted about Cambridge Analytica’s work for Trump, saying: “We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy.”

Separately, Mr Turnbull described how the company could create proxy organisations to discreetly feed negative material about opposition candidates on to the Internet and social media.

He said: “Sometimes you can use proxy organisations who are already there. You feed them. They are civil society organisations.. Charities or activist groups, and we use them – feed them the material and they do the work…

“We just put information into the bloodstream to the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to watch it take shape. And so this stuff infiltrates the online community and expands but with no branding – so it’s unattributable, untrackable.”

Cambridge Analytica’s senior executives were also filmed discussing a twin-track strategy to campaigning, putting out positive messages through the official Donald J Trump for President campaign, while negative material was pushed out through outside organisations.

Cambridge Analytica’s chief data scientist Dr Tayler said: “As part of it, sometimes you have to separate it from the political campaign itself. So in America you know there  are independent expenditure groups running behind the campaign… Super pacs. Political action committees.

“So, campaigns are normally subject to limits about how much money they can raise.  Whereas outside groups can raise an unlimited amount. So the campaign will use their finite resources for things like persuasion and mobilisation and then they leave the ‘air war’ they call it, like the negative attack ads to other affiliated groups.”

In a different meeting, Mr Turnbull described how the company created the “Defeat Crooked Hilary” brand of attack ads, that were funded by the Make America Number 1 super-PAC and watched more than 30 million times during the campaign.

Coordination between an official election campaign and any outside groups is illegal under US election law. Cambridge Analytica deny wrongdoing, insisting a strict firewall separated out their activity and that they were transparent about their work on political campaigns and PACs.

 

‘No paper trail’

In one exchange Alexander Nix revealed the company used a secret self-destructing email system that leaves no trace. He said: “No-one knows we have it, and secondly we set our… emails with a self-destruct timer… So you send them and after they’ve been read, two hours later, they disappear. There’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing.”

Mr Nix also belittled representatives on the House Intelligence Committee to whom he gave evidence in 2017. He claims Republican members asked just three questions. “After five minutes – done.”

“They’re politicians, they’re not technical. They don’t understand how it works,” he said.

Mr Nix further claimed that Democrats on the Committee are motivated by “sour grapes”.

He said: “They don’t understand because the candidate never, is never involved. He’s told what to do by the campaign team.”

“So the candidate is the puppet?,” the undercover reporter asked.

“Always,” replied Mr Nix.

He added that his firm could avoid any US investigation into its foreign clients. “I’m absolutely convinced that they have no jurisdiction…,” he said. “We’ll say none of your business.”

The meetings involved Mr Nix, along with Mark Turnbull, Managing Director Political Global, and Dr Alex Tayler, the company’s chief data scientist.

‘Very disturbing’

Defeated presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has told Channel 4 News how she faced a “massive propaganda effort” during the election – and questioned if Cambridge Analytica helped the Russians in their alleged attempt to influence the election outcome.

Continue reading “Exposed: Undercover secrets of Trump’s data firm”

This Is Going to Be Worse Than Watergate

In 1973, there were still some independent-minded lawmakers in the Grand Old Party. Today, not so much.

Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast

The firing of Andrew McCabe. The statement by Trump lawyer John Dowd to The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff that Robert Mueller should end his probe soon. Donald Trump’s tweetstorm just after that, his first tweets mentioning Mueller by name along with promises by aides that more attacks are on the way. The amped-up speculation that Trump will fire Jeff Sessions and replace him with someone who hasn’t recused himself so that someone can fire Mueller. Somewhere in there also came an official reassurance by Trump lawyer Ty Cobb that the president has no plans to fire Mueller. Right. That’s about as reassuring as the NCAA promising that all that cheating is a thing of the past. The temperature’s rising. The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reports that this president feels he really knows how to do this job now, and from here on in we’re going to see Trump unchained. So the Trump we’ve been seeing has been chained? God help us. Where are we headed? If Trump fires Sessions and brings in whomever, and that person does fire Mueller, we will be in the midst of a major constitutional crisis. The standard line is “the worst since Watergate.” But this one is looking like it could be far worse than Watergate. Why? Because in 1973, we had a Republican Party with some independent-minded lawmakers in it. Here is The New York Times article covering the Saturday Night Massacre in October 1973. The third paragraph states: “Senior members of both parties in the House of Representatives were reported to be seriously discussing impeachment of the president because of his refusal to obey an order by the United States Court of Appeals that he turn over to the courts tape recordings of conversations about the Watergate case, and because of Mr. Nixon’s dismissal of Mr. [Archibald] Cox.”If Trump fires Mueller, could Haberman and her White House-based Times colleagues write that same sentence today? I very much doubt it.  Every time there’s a Mueller firing scare—and this is not the first; last June, Trump ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, but McGahn refused and Trump backed off—a few Republicans, to their credit, do step forward and say he’d better not. Lindsey Graham. Jeff Flake. And this time around, Trey Gowdy. And now Bob Corker is talking tough, too. Great. That’s four. Out of 289.

Continue reading “This Is Going to Be Worse Than Watergate”

Facebook stock drops after reports of FTC probe and UK summons of Zuckerberg in data scandal

Mark Zuckerberg should speak out about Facebook breach, says Cramer

 

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether the use of personal data from 50 million Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica violated a consent decree the tech company signed with the agency in 2011, The probe follows a weekend of turmoil for the social media giant. Reports this weekend said the research firm improperly gained access to the data of more than 50 million Facebook users. “We are aware of the issues that have been raised but cannot comment on whether we are investigating. We take any allegations of violations of our consent decrees very seriously as we did in 2012 in a privacy case involving Google,” a spokesman for the FTC said Tuesday. Facebook said Tuesday it has received a letter from the FTC with questions, but has not been informed of a formal probe. A violation of the consent decree could carry a penalty of $40,000 per violation, which could mean a fine conservatively estimated to be “many millions of dollars in fines” for Facebook, The Washington Post reported over the weekend, citing a former FTC official. Facebook will brief members of congressional intelligence committees, commerce committees and judiciary committees Tuesday and Wednesday, NBC News reported. Facebook has maintained the mishandling of data was the result of abuse on the part of Cambridge Analytica and app developer Aleksandr Kogan. “We reject any suggestion of violation of the consent decree. We respected the privacy settings that people had in place. Privacy and data protections are fundamental to every decision we make,” Facebook said in a statement to the Post on Saturday.

The consent decree requires that Facebook notify users and receive explicit permission before sharing personal data beyond their specified privacy settings.

Weekend reports by The Observer newspaper in the U.K. and The New York Times allege Facebook users willingly provided their data to a psychology quiz app developed by Kogan, who then passed the data along to Cambridge Analytica without the users’ knowledge — constituting a potential violation. “We remain strongly committed to protecting people’s information. We appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the FTC may have,” Rob Sherman, deputy chief privacy officer at Facebook said in a statement. Shares of Facebook fell nearly 5 percent Tuesday, after skidding as much as 8 percent on Monday. UK officials are also investigating, ordering auditors hired by Facebook to stand down and summoning CEO Mark Zuckerberg to provide evidence for review.

Revealed: Trump’s election consultants filmed saying they use bribes and sex workers to entrap politicians

An undercover investigation by Channel 4 News reveals how Cambridge Analytica secretly campaigns in elections across the world. Bosses were filmed talking about using bribes, ex-spies, fake IDs and sex workers.

Senior executives at Cambridge Analytica – the data company that credits itself with Donald Trump’s presidential victory – have been secretly filmed saying they could entrap politicians in compromising situations with bribes and Ukrainian sex workers. In an undercover investigation by Channel 4 News, the company’s chief executive Alexander Nix said the British firm secretly campaigns in elections across the world. This includes operating through a web of shadowy front companies, or by using sub-contractors. In one exchange, when asked about digging up material on political opponents, Mr Nix said they could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house”, adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”. In another he said: “We’ll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land for instance, we’ll have the whole thing recorded, we’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the Internet.” Offering bribes to public officials is an offence under both the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Cambridge Analytica operates in the UK and is registered in the United States. The admissions were filmed at a series of meetings at London hotels over four months, between November 2017 and January 2018. An undercover reporter for Channel 4 News posed as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka. Mr Nix told our reporter: “…we’re used to operating through different vehicles, in the shadows, and I look forward to building a very long-term and secretive relationship with you.” Along with Mr Nix, the meetings also included Mark Turnbull, the managing director of CA Political Global, and the company’s chief data officer, Dr Alex Tayler. Mr Turnbull described how, having obtained damaging material on opponents, Cambridge Analytica can discreetly push it onto social media and the internet. He said: “… we just put information into the bloodstream of the internet, and then, and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again… like a remote control. It has to happen without anyone thinking, ‘that’s propaganda’, because the moment you think ‘that’s propaganda’, the next question is, ‘who’s put that out?’.” Mr Nix also said: “…Many of our clients don’t want to be seen to be working with a foreign company… so often we set up, if we are working then we can set up fake IDs and websites, we can be students doing research projects attached to a university, we can be tourists, there’s so many options we can look at. I have lots of experience in this.” In the meetings, the executives boasted that Cambridge Analytica and its parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) had worked in more than two hundred elections across the world, including Nigeria, Kenya, the Czech Republic, India and Argentina. The company is at the centre of a scandal over its role in the harvesting of more than 50 million Facebook profiles. Chief executive Mr Nix has also been accused of misleading a parliamentary select committee, which is now asking him to provide further information. He has denied the allegations.

Dr Aleksandr Kogan, the Cambridge academic accused of misusing Facebook is a Russian Agent on the Kremlin’s payroll

Dr Aleksandr “Alex” Kogan, a University lecturer at the Department of Psychology, has been thrust into the limelight after he was banned from Facebook for improper use of data. A multi-organisation investigation lead by revelations from a whistleblower who assisted Kogan at the data-analysis and influence firm Cambridge Analytica has alleged that the Cambridge academic developed tools to analyse and influence the behaviour of Facebook users.

The whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, has reported  that Kogan’s trolls in Russia  were  helped Cambridge Analytical that  influence the outcome of the 2016 US election.

Kogan was born in Moldova, and lived in Moscow until he moved the United States at the age of seven. He studied at the University of California, Berkeley, and in Hong Kong before joining the University of Cambridge as a lecturer in psychology and psychometrics.

Kogan is also an associate professor at the St Petersburg University – a fact his Cambridge colleagues, aside from the head of the Department of Psychology, were not told, according to The Guardian/Observer. In this position, he received funding from the Russian government to study ‘Stress, health and psychological wellbeing in social networks’. In a CV from 2014, which was previously available on the University’s website, Kogan made no mention of his connection to St Petersburg, or to having received any grants.

Kogan’s company, Global Science Research (GSR), PART OF BANNOS/TRUMPS CAMPAIGN MACHINE CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICAL was behind the app, ‘thisisyourdigitallife’, which harvested the data of tens of millions of Facebook users which was then passed on to Cambridge Analytical and the Russian Troll farm. According to Wylie, hundreds of thousands of Facebook users took personality tests with the app. In doing so, users consented to their data being collected for academic use.  The app also collected the personal information of test-takers’ Facebook friends, thus racking up data on tens of millions of users, which was accessible to Cambridge Analytica and used to win Trump the election. This contravened the social network’s ‘platform policy’ which banned the collection of friends’ data for any reasons aside from improving user experience. Nick Bit: I wonder how long before Dr Aleksandr “Alex” Kogan of Russia turns up dead?

 

Data Firm Tied to Trump Campaign Talked Business With Russians Its called collusion!

Agence France-Presse Getty Images

When the Russia question came up during a hearing at the British Parliament last month, Alexander Nix did not hesitate. We’ve never worked in Russia, said Mr. Nix, head of a data consulting firm that advised the Trump campaign on targeting voters. As far as I’m aware, we’ve never worked for a Russian company, Mr. Nix added I’ve never worked with a Russian organization in Russia or any other country, and we don’t have any relationship with Russia or Russian individuals. But Mr. Nix’s business did have some dealings with Russian interests, according to company documents and interviews. Mr. Nix is a director of SCL Group, a British political and defense contractor, and chief executive of its American offshoot, Cambridge Analytica, which advised the Trump campaign. The firms’ employees, who often overlap, had contact in 2014 and 2015 with executives from Lukoil, the Russian oil giant.

The contacts took place as Cambridge Analytica was building a roster of Republican political clients in the United States and harvesting the Facebook profiles of over 50 million users to develop tools it said could analyze voters behavior. Cambridge Analytica also included extensive questions about Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, in surveys it was carrying out in American focus groups in 2014. It is not clear what or which client  prompted the line of questioning, which asked for views on topics ranging from Mr. Putin’s popularity to Russian expansionism. On two promotional documents obtained by The New York Times, SCL said it did business in Russia. In both documents, the country is highlighted on world maps that specify the location of SCL clients, with one of the maps noting that the clients were for the firms elections division. In a statement, SCL said an employee had done commercial work about 25 years ago for a private company in Russia

Photo

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, left, meeting with Vagit Alekperov. He is the head of Lukoil, an oil giant that was in talks with Cambridge Analytica employees. Credit Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin, via Reuters

Cambridge Analytica has been a political flash point since its role in the Trump campaign attracted scrutiny after the election. While Mr. Nix’s firm turned over some records to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during its investigation of Russian interference, Democrats on the committee want a fuller review. It is imperative to interview a broader range of individuals employed by or linked to Cambridge Analytica, they said in a report this month  Christopher Wylie, who helped found Cambridge Analytica and develop the company’s voter-profiling technology, said Lukoil showed interest in how the company used data to tailor messaging to American voters. I remember being super confused,” said Mr. Wylie, who took part in one of the Lukoil meetings. I kept asking Alexander, Can you explain to me what they want?  he said, referring to Mr. Nix. I’dont understand why Lukoil wants to know about political targeting in America.

We are sending them stuff about political targeting they then come and ask more about political targeting, Mr. Wylie said, adding that Lukoil just didn’t seem to be interested in how the techniques could be used commercially.

A second person familiar with the discussions backed up Mr. Wylie’s account, but spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a confidentiality agreement. Though Lukoil is not state-owned, it depends on Kremlin support, and its chief executive, Vagit Alekperov, has met with Mr. Putin on a number of occasions. Reuters reported last year that Lukoil and other companies received instructions from the state energy ministry on providing news stories favorable to Russian leadership.

Republicans tell Trump: Lay off Mueller _ but they don’t act

WASHINGTON (AP) — More Republicans are telling President Donald Trump in ever blunter terms to lay off his escalating criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia probe. But party leaders are taking no action to protect Mueller, embracing a familiar strategy with the president — simply waiting out the storm. Trump blistered Mueller and his investigation all weekend on Twitter and started in again Monday, questioning the probe’s legitimacy with language no recent president has used for a federal inquiry. “A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!” Trump tweeted.

Mueller is leading a criminal probe into whether Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign had ties to Russia and whether there has been obstruction of justice since then.

Trump was told to cut it out on Sunday by such notable Republicans as Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Then on Monday he was told that firing Mueller would be “the stupidest thing the president could do” by Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. The White House insists President Trump is not planning on firing special counsel Robert Mueller. Still, some Republicans are alarmed that about the possibility and warning that Mueller’s investigation should be allowed to play out unimpeded. (March 19) Trump added a new lawyer. Joseph diGenova, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, will join his team later this week. DiGenova has been outspoken in his defense of Trump, talking of a “brazen plot” to exonerate Hillary Clinton in an email investigation and to “frame” Trump with a “falsely created crime.” His sniping is getting more pointed. Trump challenged the probe’s existence over the weekend and strongly suggested political bias on the part of Mueller’s investigators. The tweets ruffled some GOP lawmakers. South Carolina’s Gowdy admonished the president’s lawyers, saying that if Trump is innocent, “act like it.” Trump has fumed to confidants that the Mueller probe is “going to choke the life out of” his presidency if allowed to continue indefinitely, according to an outside adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations with the president.

Fox’s Napolitano: McCabe firing could be seen as obstruction of justice

Fox New’s Judge Andrew Napolitano warned Monday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘s firing on Friday of former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe could be seen as “obstruction of justice.” Napolitano said on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” Monday that he viewed McCabe’s firing as “vindictive” and “reckless.” “Andrew McCabe is more likely than not to be a witness against the Attorney General’s boss, the president of the United States,” Napolitano said. “I think that firing him in that environment could very well be determined to diminish his effectiveness as a witness. What’s that called, obstruction of justice.” “I don’t know if Bob Mueller wants to go there, but that’s the argument,” he added. Sessions fired McCabe on Friday night, saying that the former FBI official had made an unauthorized disclosure to the media and wasn’t fully forthcoming with investigators. McCabe said that he was fired to as part of an effort to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference, in which he is likely to be a witness.  McCabe led the FBI in the weeks after President Trump’s firing of former FBI director James Comey, a reported area of interest in Mueller’s probe.  Napolitano also blasted Trump’s lawyer John Dowd for saying in a statement that he wanted Mueller’s probe to be shut down.

“Going on television, saying, ‘I pray that you shut down shop,’ is not the way a lawyer for an innocent defendant conveys the message on TV,” Napolitano said.

Dowd initially told The Daily Beast that he was making the statement on Mueller’s probe on behalf of the president, but later walked back the remark. Trump once described Napolitano as a “very talented legal mind.”

Turns Out Andrew McCabe Didn’t Lose His Pension After All

Andrew McCabe‘s estimated $1.8 million pension was reportedly lost forever when he was fired. As it turns out, he may just have to wait awhile–but that amount may ultimately be substantially diminished. According to George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley, McCabe’s firing late Friday night merely means the former deputy FBI director lost access to early pension recovery at age 50. The standard federal retirement period begins at age 57. Turley notes that under the Federal Employees Retirement System (“FERS”), benefits vest after five years of federal service. McCabe’s benefits, therefore, were not totally lost when he was fired for cause over alleged media leaks–and consequently allegedly lying to federal investigators about those leaks. The FERS system is the primary retirement system for federal civil service employees. FERS replaced the older Civil Service Retirement System in January 1987, but most federal employees hired on or after January 1984 are automatically enrolled in a FERS-based plan. Andrew McCabe began working for the FBI in New York in 1996, where he investigated Russian organized crime. It appears McCabe was attempting to take advantage of the special FERS eligibility program for law enforcement officers. This plan would have allowed McCabe to retire with his full pension after 20 years of creditable service at the age of 50. Instead, McCabe’s FERS benefits won’t be available until the age of 57 at the earliest under more basic FERS rules. To clarify: because McCabe’s benefits vested after five years of service and he continuously paid into the FERS plan while employed by the FBI, McCabe’s benefits are waiting for him when he’s legally allowed to retire. McCabe could also–and likely will–file a request for his pension but it probably wouldn’t be acted on until many years from now. His request would be coded into the system and he’d simply have to wait. Debra Roth, legal affairs columnist for the Federal Times, noted:

If you are not eligible for an immediate annuity at the time of termination, you do not lose your eligibility for a “deferred” annuity just like any other federal worker who leaves federal service short of being fully eligible to collect a retirement annuity. Your annuity will be deferred until you reach the age eligibility to collect a deferred annuity.

As for offers by various Democrats who’ve allowed their hearts to bleed for Republican McCabe? They may not amount to much. McCabe’s attempts at early retirement are conditioned on primary law enforcement employment–he can’t just shuttle around Democratic congressional offices with lattes in hand and expect to take advantage of the perks and privileges offered to federal law enforcement officers.

Additionally, there’s some indication that McCabe could be entirely barred from early retirement due to the nature of his firing. According to 5 U.S.C. §8412(d)(2):

An employee who is separated from the service, except by removal for cause on charges of misconduct or delinquency…after becoming 50 years of age and completing 20 years of service as a law enforcement officer, member of the Capitol Police or Supreme Court Police, firefighter, nuclear materials courier, or customs and border protection officer, or any combination of such service totaling at least 20 years.

This statute suggests McCabe’s options for some form of early retirement have been wholly eliminated because he was fired “for cause.” Instead, McCabe will probably just have to wait it out–and likely lose out on seven years’ worth of pay in the process. Nick Bit: its down right humiliating Trumps gang that can not shoot straight ended up delaying his retirement nothing more!

Trump to hire diGenova, who argued FBI framed president

Trump to hire diGenova, who argued FBI framed president

President Trump is adding a lawyer to his legal team who has endorsed the idea that the Justice Department framed him, according to a report in The New York Times. Trump plans to hire longtime Washington lawyer Joseph E. diGenova, The Times wrote, citing three people told of the decision. It said he is unlikely to take a lead role on the team, but that he would add an aggressive presence. The president is increasingly signaling he intends to go in a different direction with his legal strategy, and this weekend began attacking by name special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump’s lawyers previously had advised him not to attack Mueller. Adding diGenova suggest Trump wants to go more on the attack, given diGenova’s past statements arguing investigations of Trump are meritless. “There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime,” he said on Fox News in January. “Make no mistake about it: A group of F.B.I. and D.O.J. people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime,” said diGenova, who was previouslya Republican-appointed United States attorney for the District of Columbia. Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that the Mueller probe should “never have been started.”

“There was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!” Trump tweeted.

On Monday, Trump again called the investigation a witch hunt and claimed it had “massive conflicts of interest.” Trump’s lawyer John Dowd over the weekend also called on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to shut down Mueller’s Russia probe. Nick Note:Well is OK to have a witch hunt if your hunting Witches…..

Facebook shares slide after reports of data misuse for TRUMP CAMPAIGN

A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of a displayed stock graph in this illustration taken

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc’s shares fell more than 4 percent in premarket trading after media reports that a political consultancy that worked on President Donald Trump’s campaign gained inappropriate access to data on 50 million Facebook users. The move would knock $23.8 billion off the social network’s market value of $538 billion as of Friday’s close and shares in other social media companies including Twitter Inc and Snap Inc also dipped in early deals in New York. One Wall Street analyst said the reports raised ‘systemic problems’ with Facebook’s business model and a number said it could spur far deeper regulatory scrutiny of the platform. The head of European Parliament said on Monday that EU lawmakers will investigate whether the data misuse has taken place, adding the allegation is an unacceptable violation of citizens’ privacy rights. Facebook was already facing new calls for regulation from U.S. Congress and questions about personal data safeguards after the reports from the New York Times and London’s Observer over the weekend.

The papers reported on Saturday that private information from more than 50 million Facebook users improperly ended up in the hands of data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, and that the information had not been deleted despite Facebook demands dating back to 2015.

“This episode appears likely to create another and potentially more serious public relations ‘black eye’ for the company and could lead to additional regulatory scrutiny,” said Peter Stabler, analyst at Wells Fargo. Nick Note: This information along with Cambridge Analytical data base on EVERY American voter With Fusion GPS analytics  eneded up at the Russian Troll Farm. They targeted Trumps make America great crowd that swung the elections his way. I call this collusion. And their are bodies popping up all over the place who were involved in this…..

McCabe firing: Trump’s ‘great day for democracy’ smacks of dictatorship

(CNN)If the firing of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe on Friday night felt like something you’d see in a third-world dictatorship, you aren’t alone. It reminded many of authoritarian leaders in other nations who purge those from the government who have not shown absolute loyalty or who have dared to publicly contradict them. In a vacuum, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ firing of McCabe approximately 26 hours before he would be eligible for early retirement benefits could turn out to be above reproach. The Justice Department Inspector General’s Michael Horowitz, nominated to this position in 2011 by then President Barack Obama, had reportedly concluded that McCabe had “misled investigators about his role in directing other officials at the FBI” to speak to the media in connection with an ongoing investigation. However, the Inspector General’s report has not yet been publicly released, and McCabe vehemently denies the charges.

Trump is creating a dangerous echo chamber around himself

Trump is creating a dangerous echo chamber around himself And, more importantly, we don’t live in a vacuum. We live in the real world where context matters. And what we saw was Donald Trump lead a very public campaign to smear, undermine and ultimately replace McCabe, who was acting as FBI director after Trump fired James Comey, with current FBI director Christopher Wray. Was Trump out to get McCabe because McCabe dared to publicly contradict Trump when he testified before Congress in May?
Just consider this: there was McCabe, only two days after Trump fired Comey, undermining Trump’s claim that Comey had lost the confidence of the rank and file FBI agents. And then McCabe undercut the White House’s assertion that the FBI regarded the investigation into the Russian election as a low priority, with McCabe saying instead it was “highly significant.”
Could it be that Trump wanted McCabe out because, as McCabe put it to The New York Times, his firing “was part of an effort to discredit me as a witness” in the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller? After all, McCabe is in a unique position to corroborate Comey’s claim that Trump had demanded his loyalty when he was FBI director and that Trump had asked Comey to drop his investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who has since pled guilty to lying to the FBI.

Lindsey Graham: Mueller Probe ‘Has Absolutely Nothing to Do With’ McCabe, Must Be Able to Continue

Recent remarks from both sides of the aisle have linked the recent termination of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) appeared on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday and made it clear that these are totally separate issues. “Let me be clear about this, What Mr. McCabe did has absolutely nothing to do with the Mueller investigation,” Graham told host Jake Tapper. “The dossier, I think, was mishandled by the FBI, I think was inappropriately used and presented to the FISA court. That’s a separate issue than the Mueller investigation…. They’re separate in time, they’re not connected in any way.” In a statement, McCabe had said his termination, days before he was set to retire, “is part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day.” He added, “Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel’s work.” President Donald Trump and his team have also seemed to link these issues in the wake of McCabe’s firing. Trump attorney John Dowd said in a recent statement:

I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier

Trump himself also tweeted about the investigation over the weekend, referring to Mueller by name when he hadn’t done so in the past. The president said the investigation “never should have been started,” and said it was based on the “Fake Dossier” which was used “for surveillance of my campaign.”

This, of course, ignores the fact that the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign began months before they acquired a FISA warrant for Carter Page, and the fact that Page was no longer with the Trump campaign when they began their surveillance of him.

Graham said that not only is Robert Mueller’s investigation separate from the FISA warrant issue and any problems with McCabe and the FBI, but Mueller should continue his investigation and must be able to do so completely unfettered. “I pledge to the American people as a Republican to make sure that Mr. Mueller can continue to do his job without any interference,” he said. “I think he’s doing a good job, and everything  about McCabe and the FBI handling of the dossier has nothing to do with the Russia investigation and Mr. Mueller.” Tapper said that Trump’s tweets seem to indicate that he’s considering having Mueller fired, and asked Graham what he thinks of this. Graham noted that the Special Counsel can only be terminated for good cause, and he sees no reason to fire him. If Trump tried to get rid of Mueller anyway, it would be a serious problem, Graham warned. “As I said before, if he tried to do that, it would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule of law nation.”

Sen. Flake: Trump Firing Mueller ‘Massive Red Line That Can’t Be Crossed’

Image: Sen. Flake: Trump Firing Mueller 'Massive Red Line That Can't Be Crossed'
(AP) By Cathy Burke | Sunday, 18 Mar 2018

Sen. Jeff Flake on Sunday bluntly warned President Donald Trump not to “go after” special counsel Robert Mueller, calling any ouster amid his Russia investigation “a massive red line that can’t be crossed.” “Don’t go there,” the retiring Arizona Republican demanded in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” insisting Congress would push back. “Once he goes after Mueller, then we’ll take action,” he said. “I think that people see that as a massive red line that can’t be crossed… I would just hope that enough people would prevail on the president now, ‘don’t go there.’” “I hope that the pushback is now to keep the president from going there,” he added.Flake, who may be contemplating his own bid to challenge Trump in 2020, also disputed the president’s declaration that it was “a great day for democracy” when Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired Friday night, less than two days before he was to retire.  “I think it was a horrible day for democracy. To have firings like this happening at the top, from the president and the attorney general does not speak well for what’s going on.”Flake said he would wait for the release of the Justice Department’s inspector general report, which was used as a basis by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire McCabe — and that the Senate Judiciary Committee “will be looking into it.” He said he was surprised, however, “that the president would get so far ahead of this.”  “I’m just puzzled by why the White House is going so hard at this,” he said. “Other than they’re very afraid of what might come out. I don’t know how you can have any other conclusion.”

Schiff: Trump shows pattern of targeting people who corroborate Comey

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on Sunday that President Trump is firing people who claim they can corroborate former FBI director James Comey on possible obstruction of justice charges. Schiff pointed to the firing of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe on Friday as the latest example.

“The fact that McCabe and every other of the James Comey associates…who corroborate James Comey on the issue of potential obstruction of justice, every one of them has been targeted by the administration, by the Republicans in Congress and is this because they corroborate James Comey?” Schiff told ABC’s “This Week.”

“That’s a question we also have to answer,” Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said. Schiff charged that Trump has targeted Comey’s general counsel James Baker and his chief of staff James Rybicki because they back a possible case that Trump obstructed justice in the FBI investigation of Russian election interference and possible collusion with members of the Trump campaign. Both FBI staffers were removed from their positions by new FBI director Christopher Wray, but the FBI denied reports they were pushed out due to their previous association with Comey. Trump fired Comey last May. Days afterward, the Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller to take over the FBI’s investigation into Russian actions. McCabe, who Sessions fired on Friday for allegedly disclosing unauthorized information to the press and failing to be candid about it with investigators, argued that his firing is an effort to undermine the Mueller investigation. Trump has criticized McCabe for months and celebrated his ouster over the weekend. According to Trump, McCabe was biased and tainted by the Democratic campaign his wife ran in Virginia, where she accepted campaign donations from Clinton allies. Schiff said he is unsure if McCabe’s firing is justified. “His firing may be justified, there is no way for us to know at this point,” Schiff said. “But even though it may have been justified it can also be tainted.”

Democrats hold double-digit lead for 2018 midterm elections

A new NBC News/WSJ poll also shows President Trump’s approval ratings edging up

WASHINGTON — Democrats enjoy a 10-point advantage over Republicans in congressional preference for the 2018 midterm elections, even as President Donald Trump’s job approval rating has ticked up, the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds.

 Fifty percent of registered voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 40 percent want a GOP-controlled one.

That double-digit lead — typically a sign of strong Democratic performance for the upcoming election — is up from the party’s 6-point edge in January’s NBC/WSJ poll, which was 49 percent to 43 percent, though the change is within the poll’s margin of error.

The survey, which was conducted March 10-14, also shows Democrats holding the early enthusiasm advantage: Sixty percent of Democratic voters say they have a high degree of interest in the upcoming elections (registering either a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale), versus 54 percent of Republicans who say the same thing. In addition, 64 percent of 2016 Clinton voters say they have a high level of interest, compared with 57 percent of 2016 Trump voters. And among independent voters, Democrats lead in congressional preference by 12 points, 48 percent to 36 percent.

Meanwhile, the NBC/WSJ polls finds that Trump’s approval rating stands at 43 percent among all Americans — up four points from January.  Fifty-three percent of adults say they disapprove of the president’s job, down from 57 percent two months ago. The improvement for Trump comes from Republican respondents (who went from 78 percent approve in January to 84 percent this month), white men (52 percent to 59 percent) and independents (33 percent to 45 percent). “Trumpism may well help Donald Trump in his 2020 election, but the buck stops there — which is a flashing red light for Republicans in 2017 or 2018,” says Democratic pollster Fred Yang, who conducted the poll with GOP pollster Bill McInturff.

Still, Trump’s overall approval rating at 43 percent is the lowest for any modern president at about 14 months into his job.

“Survey to survey, numbers bounce around. But today’s state of play continues to tell the same story — a president with lower than average job approval starting his second year with a Democratic edge in the midterms,” says McInturff, the Republican pollster.

Also in the poll, the most popular political figures and institutions are the Federal Bureau of Investigation (48 percent positive, 20 percent negative), Planned Parenthood (52 percent positive, 25 percent negative), the “Me Too” Movement (35 percent positive, 18 percent negative) and special counsel Robert Mueller (28 percent positive, 19 percent negative). The most unpopular figures and institutions include House Speaker Paul Ryan (24 percent positive, 37 percent negative), President Trump (37 percent positive, 52 percent negative) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (21 percent positive, 43 percent negative).

Washington Post editorial board warns Trump: No one is above the law, not even the president

The Washington Post editorial board wrote a scathing response to President Trump’s celebration over the the ouster of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, calling Trump a “nasty, small-minded despot.”  Trump took to Twitter early Saturday to celebrate McCabe being fired after over 20 years at the bureau, claiming it was a “great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – a great day for democracy.” 

The Washington Post said in an opinion on Saturday that Trump’s behavior stood out as bullying.  “Mr. Trump acts like a nasty, small-minded despot, not the leader of a democracy more than two centuries old in which rule of law is a sturdy pillar. If there is doubt that the timing of Mr. McCabe’s dismissal was driven by political vengeance, Mr. Trump does everything he can to prove the worst with his own sordid words.”  Trump did not speak like the leader of the United States but as a  tyrant from a “banana republic” like Azerbaijan, Cambodia or Turkey.  “In nations without a strong democratic foundation, tyrants cling to power by belittling perceived enemies and insulting and co-opting other institutions, such as a free press, law enforcement and the military, coercing them into subservience,” the editorial board wrote.  McCabe’s fate at the FBI apparently hung in the balance of a Justice Department inspector general’s report that hasn’t been made public yet.  But the Post argued that Trump is trying to capitalize on that report to silence McCabe’s potential testimony in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the possible obstruction of justice Trump committee when he fired McCabe’s former boss, James Comey.  “Now the president has attempted to discredit, and lauded the punishment of, a potential witness against him, an affront to the integrity and independence of law enforcement,” the Post wrote.  Trump jumped on McCabe with “unseemly ferocity” but contrary to Trump’s tweet, the hardworking men and women of the FBI are far more distinguished for their fairness. “In fact, the hardworking men and women of the FBI, the Justice Department, the intelligence agencies and elsewhere in government come to work every day to uphold the values of a democratic system based on rule of law — a system that is distinguished by the simple principle that everyone is judged fairly, not by grudge or whim, and that no one is above the law, not even the president.” Nick Note: These are words and actions of a man becoming increasing more desperate by the day. This issue is simply did TRUMP do bad things with the Russians. Like money laundering in his NY real estate. And ddi he through Cambridge Analytical and Fusions GPS engage the Russians to interfere in the elections. Including having the Russians gather and release the famous “Hillary emails” Don’t let the blizzard of bullshit they are blowing blind  you to the core issues here

Trump Lawyer Says Special Counsel Inquiry Should Be Ended

A lawyer for President Trump said that Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, should end the special counsel inquiry. Credit Pete Marovich for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — A lawyer for President Trump called on the Justice Department on Saturday to end the special counsel investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, shifting abruptly to a more adversarial stance as the inquiry appeared to be intensifying. The comments by the lawyer, John Dowd, were prompted by the firing late on Friday of the former deputy F.B.I. director Andrew G. McCabe. Mr. Dowd exhorted Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who oversees the special counsel, to end the inquiry and accused the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey of concocting a baseless investigation. “I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the F.B.I. Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier,” Mr. Dowd told The Daily Beast.

His remarks capped another round of revelations in recent days that reinvigorated or displayed Mr. Trump’s frustrations with the investigation, which has cast a shadow over his presidency. He was said to be angered over a New York Times report that records from the Trump Organization were subpoenaed, and he celebrated the firing of Mr. McCabe, who was among the first F.B.I. officials to scrutinize possible links between Russia and the Trump team, calling his dismissal a “great day for Democracy” on Twitter.

On Saturday evening, Mr. Trump for the first time posted a tweet that specifically mentioned the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. The president again denounced the inquiry he is conducting as a “witch hunt.”  “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime,” he wrote. “It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign.” Mr. Dowd, by contrast, did not name the special counsel in his statement, but the implication that he believed Mr. Mueller should be fired was unmistakable. Such a move could set off alarms among Republicans in Congress, who have largely stood by as the president repeatedly assailed the Justice Department and the F.B.I. People close to the president were skeptical that Mr. Dowd was acting on his own. Mr. Trump has a history of using advisers to publicly test a message, giving him some distance from it.

Fusion GPS Founder Hauled From the Shadows for the Russia Election Investigation

Glenn R. Simpson, a founder of the research firm Fusion GPS, in November before a closed hearing on Capitol Hill. He has given at least 20 hours of testimony before three congressional committees. Credit Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

WASHINGTON  As investigators circle President Trumps administration over ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Simpson, a 53-year-old Wall Street Journal veteran-turned-master of high-dollar research, has arrived at the biggest story of either of his careers, lurching to the center of the Russia-tinged scandal that clouds the presidency. Mr. Trump knows his work intimately. Mr. Simpson is the man behind an explosive dossier  produced at his firm, Fusion GPS, with a former British spy, Christopher Steele outlining possible connections between the president, his associates and Russian officials. For months, Mr. Simpsons name has ricocheted across the halls of Congress and the airwaves of Fox News, becoming shorthand in conservative circles for purported investigatory overreach and counterconspiracies against the White House. Questions about his research have become central to Republican attempts to discredit not just Fusion but the very existence of inquiries into Mr. Trump, including the efforts of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.Republican leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee have asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Mr. Steele, whom Mr. Simpson hired, lied to federal authorities about his contacts with journalists.  Mr. Simpson himself has been hauled before three congressional committees for some 20 hours of questions and answers, placing him among the most significant players in the Trump-Russia affair, if math is the metric. Uncooperative, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said of Mr. Simpsons turn before the Judiciary Committee, which he leads. Fusions task has often translated, roughly, to finding unsavory things about unsavory people, at the behest of not-especially-savory clients. The firm often represents corporations, hedge funds or law firms, providing a sort of public-records forensics that resembles journalism. It leans on its understanding of the news media, and its contacts among reporters, to elevate its clients and squeeze their adversaries.

More notable to some lawmakers is Mr. Simpsons connection to two figures with deep bonds to Russian power, who have long fought for a pet Kremlin cause: Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist, and Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, a lawyer known as a formidable Moscow insider.

Photo

Christopher Steele, a former British spy, was commissioned by Mr. Simpson to produce a dossier of opposition research during Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign. Simpsons Russian source of information was hit with nerve gas and in on life support at a London Hospital. Photo Credit Victoria Jones/Press Association, via Associated Press

The two have worked to turn back the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 American law detested by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, that punishes Russian human rights violators. And together with Mr. Simpson, the trio worked on behalf of a Russian-owned company accused by the United States government of laundering some of the funds stolen in a fraud uncovered by Sergei L. Magnitsky, after whom the act was named. Mr. Simpson had been hired by a law firm, BakerHostetler, representing the company. As part of this work, he compiled damaging allegations against William F. Browder, an American-born financier and Kremlin foe who was the driving force behind the Magnitsky Act. Hes a professional smear campaigner and liar for money, Mr. Browder said of Mr. Simpson. The credibility of anything that he does is in question. The Magnitsky Act was a topic of discussion at an infamous meeting that both Ms. Veselnitskaya and Mr. Akhmetshin attended at Trump Tower in June 2016 with Donald Trump Jr., who had been promised compromising information on Hillary Clinton. Mr. Simpson was in court with Ms. Veselnitskaya hours before the Trump Tower meeting and saw her again shortly after it, his lawyer, Joshua A. Levy, confirmed. But these contacts were related to Mr. Simpsonâs work on the case for BakerHostetler, Mr. Levy said, and Fusion only learned about the Trump Tower meeting in news reports last year.

 Nick Note: The Fusion GPS data, Cambridge Analytical data, Fact Book data and Republican party polling and voter data ALL ended up at the Russian troll farm. Along with the famous Hillary emails. And none know shit about it… YEA RIGHT!!!!  And the Russians bombed the Make America Great blue collar  districts that won Trump the election….. Amazing coincidence… AND every freeging day the President screams from the roof top of the WHITE HOUSE their was NO NO NO NO collusion………

Cambridge Analytica denies using Facebook data for Trump campaign, says its cooperating with the social network

Facebook's news feed

Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm used by the Trump campaign during the 2016 elections, insisted on Saturday that it did not misuse or hold data obtained from Facebook users, despite having been sanctioned by the platform for doing so.

On Friday, Facebook announced that it had suspended Cambridge Analytica, suggesting the firm had not been honest about deleting user data sent to it by the makers of a popular psychology test app.

That particular app, called “thisisyourdigitallife,” was itself banned by Facebook back in 2015. However, the social network has accused Cambridge Analytica of holding that data, despite assurances to the contrary. “Several days ago, we received reports that, contrary to the certifications we were given, not all data was deleted,” Facebook said in a blog post. “We are moving aggressively to determine the accuracy of these claims. If true, this is another unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments they made.”

Cambridge Analytica now finds itself in the middle of a political firestorm, amid a roiling debate over ‘information warfare’ that is being used to influence the electoral process. It stands accused of harvesting Facebook user data to profile voters that that were ultimately targeted by the Trump campaign, which spent over $6 million on information obtained by the firm.

“In 2014, we contracted a company led by a seemingly reputable academic at an internationally-renowned institution to undertake a large scale research project in the United States,” Cambridge Analytica said. “This company, Global Science Research (GSR), was contractually committed by us to only obtain data in accordance with the U.K. Data Protection Act and to seek the informed consent of each respondent,” it added.

In a statement, Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner, one of the most prominent voices in the debate about online political advertising, said the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook spat was indicative of a market that’s “essentially the Wild West” of advertising.

“Whether it’s allowing Russians to purchase political ads, or extensive micro-targeting based on ill-gotten user data, it’s clear that, left unregulated, this market will continue to be prone to deception and lacking in transparency,” Warner said on Saturday. “This is another strong indication of the need for Congress to quickly pass the Honest Ads Act to bring transparency and accountability to online political advertisements,” the senator added.

The firm, initially funded by a multimillion investment by conservative billionaire Robert Mercer and helmed by former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, touted tools using data to identify and sway voters. That approach is now under fire on both sides of the Atlantic.

Despite Facebook’s claims that Cambridge Analytica used the information in the service of Trump’s presidential ambitions, the firm dismissed the notion. Christopher Wylie, one of Cambridge Analytica’s founders who left the firm in 2014, spoke disparagingly about the company in an interview with The New York Times published on Saturday. “Rules don’t matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair,” Wylie told the publication. “They want to fight a culture war in America,” he added. “Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war.” Nick Note: we hooked with them years ago in my research. As soon as they realized i was on to them they cut us off. Their are always back doors. For sure they were one of the conduits of info for the Russian Trolls that colluded aided and abetted and won Trump the election.

 

Warner calls on Congress to protect Mueller after McCabe’s firing

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said on Saturday that all members of Congress need to defend special counsel Robert Mueller, after a report suggested that President Trump’s lawyer wanted Mueller to be fired.

“Every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, needs to speak up in defense of the Special Counsel. Now,” Warner wrote in a tweet.

Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, told the Daily Beast that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should end special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. He appeared to compare Mueller to former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired on Friday night. His comments come one day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe after an internal watchdog review. Sessions said McCabe gave the media information without authorization and lacked “candor” with investigators.

“I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss [former FBI Director] James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier,” Dowd told The Daily Beast in a statement, referring to the “Steele dossier” that Republicans say prompted the ongoing Russia investigation.

Dowd initially told the Daily Beast that he was speaking as Trump’s counsel but then walked back his statement to say he was speaking in his personal capacity. McCabe has denied the claims against him and said he was fired to undermine Mueller’s ongoing probe. Prior to being fired, he faced months of criticism for his role in the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton. Trump had accused him of being biased against him, pointing to McCabe’s wife, who ran for office in Virginia as a Democrat in 2015 and had accepted donations from a top Clinton ally.

The White House has denied Trump has any plans to fire Mueller and continues to cooperate in his investigation. Nick Note: see that part in RED above. Don’t buy that shit for a minute. Trump’s working his way up the “FAKE NEWS” food chain. Its all about killing the Mueller investigation.

James Comey warns Trump: The American people will ‘soon’ be able to judge ‘who is honorable and who is not’

James Comey to appear on The View

 

Former FBI Director James Comey shot a message at President Trump after his former deputy Andrew McCabe was fired, warning that “the American people will hear my story very soon,” “And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not,” he added in a terse tweet. Comey has a book coming out next month and a planned media tour to go along with it.

Trump, who just last night celebrated McCabe’s ouster as a “great day for democracy,” had just tweeted about hoJamw the “fake news” media was “beside itself” when “McCabe was caught, called out and fired.””How many hundreds of thousands  of dollars was given to wife’s campaign by Crooked H friend, Terry M, who was also under investigation? How many lies? How many leaks? Comey knew it all, and much more!” Trump said.

The Associated Press also had just reported that McCabe, like Comey, kept personal memos of his interactions with Trump. McCabe served more than two decades in the FBI. He was appointed deputy director by Comey in January 2016. In the past year, he came under fire amid allegations of bias, stemming from a campaign contribution his wife received from a Hillary Clinton ally and his supervision of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s email server while she was secretary of state. McCabe has rejected reports from the FBI’s Office of Personal Responsibility and Office of Inspector General, cited by Sessions, which concluded he made unauthorized leaks and made disingenuous statements under oath. In a statement late Friday, McCabe said that there has been an effort to “slander” him and accused the push to remove him as being part of the Trump administration’s “ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation,” which is looking at whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. Trump has long called the Mueller probe a “witch hunt” and was reportedly come close to demanding his termination in the past. His lawyer, John Dowd, reacted to McCabe’s ouster on Saturday, telling the Daily Beast that it was now time for Mueller to be fired. It was in the aftermath of Comey’s ouster, after he said Trump asked him to lay off the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and asked him for loyalty, that the Washington Post reported Mueller had expanded his investigation to look at possible obstruction of justice. Trump himself teased last summer that there might be “tapes” of his conversations with Comey, but later denied there were any recordings. In response to Trump’s tease, Comey famously said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” while testifying to the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017. The former FBI director has made waves since his termination, as it was revealed Comey memorialized several encounters he had with Trump in a series of memos. In one memo, Comey detailed how the president pressured him to end the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. In another, Comey recalled how Trump demanded loyalty from him. A federal judge ruled last month that Comey’s memos would not be released to the public. After McCabe gave private testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in December, reports, which relied on leaks, indicated McCabe said he could corroborate Comey’s description of conversations he had with Trump before he was fired in May of last year. In a previously unpublished interview with Politico, conducted before he was fired late Friday, McCabe predicted that he would be a “significant witness.

Days before Florida bridge collapsed, engineer reported cracks

(CNN)Two days before a bridge crumbled in Miami, killing six people, an engineer for the company that designed it called a Florida Department of Transportation employee, warning of “some cracking.” The state employee was out on assignment that day. The call from W. Denney Pate of FIGG Bridge Engineers was unanswered, and the voice mail he recorded unheard — until Friday. In the voice mail, Pate said the cracking on the north end of the span should be repaired. However, he added, there were no safety concerns on the project near Florida International University. “We’ve taken a look at it and, uh, obviously some repairs or whatever will have to be done,” Pate said. “But from a safety perspective, we don’t see that there’s any issue there so we’re not concerned about it from that perspective although obviously the cracking is not good and something’s going to have to be, ya know, done to repair that.” It’s too early to tell whether the bridge failed when construction workers were applying post-tensioning force to strengthen the beams, said Robert Accetta of the National Transportation Safety Board. Accetta said a crack in the bridge “does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.” Sen. Bill Nelson is asking for documents related to the “engineering, design, construction, safety and inspection.”

“In light of the fact that there were multiple agencies and companies involved, we’re going to need a clear understanding of who had what role in this horrible tragedy,” he said in a statement. Nick Note: LOCK THEM LOCK UP! THEM LOCK THEM UP!. Procedure  when damage is discovered is to shut down the highway. LOCK THEM LOCK THEM LOCK THEM UP This is the 3rd bridge these criminals built that failed!

Russia to expel 23 British diplomats, Moscow says, as spy attack dispute escalates

Tit-for-tat expulsions come as Moscow reiterates demand for evidence it was involved in poisoning of former double agent living in US
British police officers stand on duty as members of the Army work in a residential street in Alderholt, southern England, on March 15, 2018, as investigations and operations continue in connection with the poison attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter. Photo: AFP 

Russia on Saturday announced it is expelling 23 British diplomats and threatened further measures in retaliation in a growing diplomatic dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.The Russian Foreign Ministry also said in a statement that it is ordering the closure of the British Council, a government organisation for cultural and scientific cooperation, and ending an agreement to reopen the British consulate in St Petersburg. It ordered the diplomats to leave within a week.  The announcement followed on the heels of Britain’s order this week for 23 Russian diplomats to leave Britain because it said Russia was not cooperating in the case of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, both found March 4 poisoned by a nerve agent officials claim was developed in Russia. The Skripals remain in critical condition. Britain’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of personally ordering the poisoning of the Skripals, without offering any evidence. Putin’s spokesman denounced the claim.

The Russian statement said the government could take further measures if Britain takes any more “unfriendly” moves toward Russia. British Ambassador Laurie Bristow was called to the Foreign Ministry on Saturday morning to be informed of the moves. “This crisis has arisen as a result of an appalling attack in the United Kingdom, the attempted murder of two people, using a chemical weapon developed in Russia and not declared by Russia at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, as Russia was and is obliged to do under the Chemical Weapons Convention,” Bristow insisted after being informed of the expulsions.

House Intel Dem to Trump: ‘Gloat now, but you will be fired soon

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) scolded President Trump for celebrating the firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Friday night, telling him to “gloat now, but you will be fired soon.”

“And it’s not going to be done cowardly, as you’ve done to so many who’ve served you,” Swalwell tweeted Saturday. “There’s a storm gathering, Mr. President, and it’s going to wipe out you and your corrupt organization all the way down to the studs.”

The Democrat, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, was responding to Trump’s tweet celebrating McCabe’s firing. Swalwell also tweeted on Friday night that McCabe’s firing showed “how guilty people act.” Trump, who had attacked McCable multiple times, called the firing “a great day for democracy.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe on Friday after an internal FBI office found that McCabe wasn’t completely honest with investigators during a review and had made an unauthorized disclosure to the media.

McCabe quickly hit back, saying he was dismissed as part of an effort to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller. McCabe could be a key witness in Mueller’s probe of Russia’s election interference, as he led the FBI in the weeks after Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey.

McCabe’s firing took place just two days before he was scheduled to retire and be eligible for his pension. His dismissal puts that pension in jeopardy

House Republican blasts McCabe firing, says Trump’s conduct doesn’t ‘bode well’ for GOP

“I just don’t think this bodes well.”
CREDIT: SCREENGRAB

During a Saturday morning interview on CNN, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) harshly criticized the Trump administration’s decision to fire former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, adding that he doesn’t think it bodes well for his party. “Candidly, it looks like retribution and a bit vindictive,” Dent said. “And I think it’s unfortunate. The man said he’s resigning, and on a Friday night before his 50th birthday, he’s fired to take away his pension? I don’t like the optics of this. I really don’t.”

Dent said he thinks the attorney general made the decision under pressure from President Trump. Trump has repeatedly publicly demanded that Sessions fire McCabe, who is potentially a key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the president for possible obstruction of justice

“I have to tell you, it looks like the attorney general may have been browbeaten into this,” Dent added. “He’s been publicly humiliated and shamed by the president on multiple occasions, and I just don’t think this bodes well.”

Dent linked McCabe’s firing with his party’s struggles in recent special elections — including the loss of a seat in a deep-red district in his home state last Tuesday.

“We just had a special election on Tuesday. And all this continuing chaos and drama that we’re seeing with the Tillerson firing, the McCabe firing, Stormy Daniels, all this stuff, this is having an impact on Republicans down ballot. If people didn’t get the message on Tuesday, I hope they get it now.”  “This is 5-alarm fire,” Dent added. “We simply just can’t dismiss the election on Tuesday to local events… It’s about these larger issues of this toxic political environment we find ourselves in.”  Nick Note: Trump like most demagogues has the ability to get good men to do bad things. Americans elected a whore monger, Failed businessman who saved his empire by laundering money for Americas biggest enemy the Russians who were under sanctions. Even BillyBob is starting to figure it out. The last 4 elections Trump stumped his candidates all lost! He is not going to make steel great again a pigs ass. He is not going to return manufacturing back to the US.  only to have robots replace people. He did not really give people a tax break. And the tax beak bonanza for billionaires is causing the deficits and national debt to soar. As a direct result the FED is raising rates. And after the sugar high the US economy will enter a recession… Which as he does great evil to avoid impeachment will turn into a depression. He is destroying the economy just like he did in his bushiness. AND he will resign or be impeached.

 
 

Dent also questioned the wisdom of Republican attacks on law enforcement agencies, noting that while Trump has “been battling with the FBI and certain elements of the intelligence community for some time,” he doesn’t think it’s “in the interests of the Republican Party.”

“I always had the sense that the rank and file of the FBI had pretty high regard for Mr. Comey,” Dent said. “I don’t know what their relationship was with Mr. McCabe. I hadn’t heard terrible things. I guess the point I’m making is Comey and McCabe seem to have some respect within the FBI by the rank and file, so I’m not sure what the message is that the president is sending there.”

Dent, who is in his seventh term and is not seeking reelection, is the former chair of the House Ethics Committee. In January, he criticized members of his own party — including Trump — for publicy suggesting there’s an anti-Trump cabal within the law enforcement and intelligence agencies, saying, “We need to get behind law enforcement, show some respect here, and move away from these conspiracy theories.”

“I’ve never heard of an administration, a president attacking his own government. But that’s essentially what’s happening,” he said.  “And I think my colleagues ought to cease and desist from some of this rhetoric against our law enforcement officials who are very professional and thorough.”

A Dire Warning from Congressman Duffy: Democrats WILL impeach Trump

Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy believes “absolutely, wholeheartedly” that Democrats will vote to impeach President Trump if they win control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

“Democrat candidates might be sketchy about admitting that, especially in more 50-50 seats, but of course they’re going to impeach Donald Trump,” Duffy told News/Talk 1130 WISN’s Dan O’Donnell on Friday. By the way, there aren’t that many Blue Dog Democrats left in Congress. They are radical leftist, socialist Democrats.  They are like Nancy Pelosi. They are far-left people. “That’s who’s winning their primaries, and do you think that the far-left ‘Resist’ movement base of the Democrat Party would accept anything other than impeachment?” House Democrats took two impeachment votes against President Trump in the past few months, gaining support for impeachment by the second vote.  58 Democrats voted to impeach in December, while 66 voted for impeachment the following month. Prominent House Democrats, including California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, have repeatedly called for the President’s impeachment, though House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has attempted to downplay such talk.

Duffy strongly believes that Democrats will have no trouble getting the simple majority (218 votes) to trigger impeachment proceedings should the Democratic Party retake control of the House.

Nick Note: It is my opinion that the Democrats Will take the House in the fall elections. I believe they will the moment they put their hand on the bible and are sworn in start Impeachment Proceeding against Trump. AND AND AND Trump will  resign to spare his son and son in law prison and himself criminal liability after impeachment. Resigning will allow Trump to hide his sorted past and keep his wealth.

Parkland Shooting Surveillance Video Shows Deputy Stayed Outside

Parkland shooting surveillance video shows a Florida sheriff’s deputy going toward the high school building while a gunman massacred 17 students and staff members, but he then backed away and stayed outside with his handgun drawn. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office released the video Thursday showing Deputy Scot Peterson’s actions during the Feb. 14 shooting. It shows him and two staff members rushing in a cart toward the three-story freshman building where the shootings happened. When they arrive, Peterson pulls his weapon and goes forward but then retreats and takes up a position outside the building.During most of the six minutes of shooting, the camera’s view of Peterson is blocked by a light pole but parts of him occasionally appear. He never went inside. There is no sound on the video. About 11 minutes after the 19-year-old suspect Nikolas Cruz began shooting, the video shows a glimpse of Coral Springs police officers who have arrived at the school rushing toward the building. By then, Cruz had fled. He was arrested an hour later about a mile from the school. Sheriff Scott Israel blasted Peterson eight days after the shooting, saying the deputy should have entered the building immediately, “addressed the killer, killed the killer.”The 54-year-old deputy retired rather than accept a suspension. He is still being investigated by internal affairs. Peterson has denied wrongdoing. In a statement issued through his lawyer shortly after his retirement, he said he thought the shots were being fired from outside the school. But in radio transmissions released last week it appears the 32-year veteran deputy knew almost immediately the shots were coming from inside the freshman building.Peterson’s attorney, Joseph DiRuzzo, did not return a call and email Thursday seeking comment. John Bostain, an independent police trainer, reviewed the video at the request of The Associated Press. He said it confirms that Peterson should have entered the building: that is an almost-universal response in police training after the 1999 Columbine High and 2012 Sandy Hook school shootings. He said the question is why he didn’t: was it because of Peterson’s individual character or something about the culture in the Broward Sheriff’s Office that made him avoid a deadly force situation.

U.S. sanctions Russians for meddling, but not Putin’s oligarchs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States slapped sanctions on Russian individuals and entities for U.S. election meddling and cyber attacks but put off targeting oligarchs and government officials close to President Vladimir Putin, prompting lawmakers in both parties to say President Donald Trump needs to do much more.With the United States under pressure to act, the steps announced by the U.S. Treasury Department represented the most significant taken against Moscow since Trump assumed office in January 2017.  Along with imposing sanctions on 19 individuals and five entities including Russian intelligence services, the Trump administration publicly blamed Moscow for the first time for a campaign of cyber attacks stretching back at least two years that targeted the U.S. power grid including nuclear facilities.The United States also joined Britain, Germany and France in demanding that Russia explain a military-grade nerve toxin attack in England on a former Russian double agent, with Trump saying: “It certainly looks like the Russians were behind” the incident.

But congressional critics called the administration’s action a woefully inadequate retaliation for Russia interference in the 2016 U.S. election and other actions.

“The sanctions today are a grievous disappointment and fall far short of what is needed to respond to that attack on our democracy let alone deter Russia’s escalating aggression, which now includes a chemical weapons attack on the soil of our closest ally,” said Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee. “Today’s action, using authorities provided by Congress, is an important step by the administration. But more must be done,” Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce added. He later urged Trump to sanction Russia for the poisoning in Britain.

Trump has faced fierce criticism in the United States for doing too little to punish Russia for the election meddling and other actions, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians, an allegation the president denies.

Sixteen of the Russian individuals and entities sanctioned were indicted on Feb. 16 as part of Mueller’s criminal investigation. “They didn’t hit Putin’s power structure and they didn’t team up with Europe,” Brian O’Toole, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank and a former senior adviser at the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said of the administration’s actions. In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia was preparing retaliatory measures, as U.S.-Russian relations plunged again. Nick Bit: Trump’s Sanctions are a sick joke. He has only taken action against the Troll Workers 13 of them. He has left Putin’s billionaires alone. Many of them investors in Trump properties……..

In a first, US blames Russia for cyberattacks on energy grid

Oliver Nicolaas Ponder | Getty Images

The Trump administration on Thursday blamed the Russian government for a campaign of cyber attacks stretching back at least two years that targeted the U.S. power grid, marking the first time the United States has publicly accused Moscow of hacking into American energy infrastructure. Beginning in March 2016, or possibly earlier, Russian government hackers sought to penetrate multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, including energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation and manufacturing, according to a U.S. security alert published Thursday. The Department of Homeland Security and FBI said in the alert that a “multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors” had targeted the networks of small commercial facilities “where they staged malware, conducted spear phishing, and gained remote access into energy sector networks.” The alert did not name facilities or companies targeted. The direct condemnation of Moscow represented an escalation in the Trump administration’s attempts to deter Russia’s aggression in cyberspace, after senior U.S. intelligence officials said in recent weeks the Kremlin believes it can launch hacking operations against the West with impunity. It coincided with a decision Thursday by the U.S. Treasury Department to impose sanctions on 19 Russian people and five groups, including Moscow’s intelligence services, for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other malicious cyber attacks. Russia in the past has denied it has tried to hack into other countries’ infrastructure, and vowed on Thursday to retaliate for the new sanctions. U.S. security officials have long warned that the United States may be vulnerable to debilitating cyber attacks from hostile adversaries. It was not clear what impact the attacks had on the firms that were targeted. But Thursday’s alert provided a link to an analysis by the U.S. cyber security firm Symantec last fall that said a group it had dubbed Dragonfly had targeted energy companies in the United States and Europe and in some cases broke into the core systems that control the companies’ operations. Malicious email campaigns dating back to late 2015 were used to gain entry into organizations in the United States, Turkey and Switzerland, and likely other countries, Symantec said at the time, though it did not name Russia as the culprit. The decision by the United States to publicly attribute hacking attempts of American critical infrastructure was “unprecedented and extraordinary,” said Amit Yoran, a former U.S. official who founded DHS’s Computer Emergency Response Team. “I have never seen anything like this,” said Yoran, now chief executive of the cyber firm Tenable, said. A White House National Security Council spokesman did not respond when asked what specifically prompted the public blaming of Russia. U.S. officials have historically been reluctant to call out such activity in part because the United States also spies on infrastructure in other parts of the world. News of the hacking campaign targeting U.S. power companies first surfaced in June in a confidential alert to industry that described attacks on industrial firms, including nuclear plants, but did not attribute blame. “People sort of suspected Russia was behind it, but today’s statement from the U.S. government carries a lot of weight,” said Ben Read, manager for cyber espionage analysis with cyber security company FireEye Inc. The campaign targeted engineers and technical staff with access to industrial controls, suggesting the hackers were interested in disrupting operations, though FireEye has seen no evidence that they actually took that step, Read said. A former senior DHS official familiar with the government response to the campaign said that Russia’s targeting of infrastructure networks dropped off after the publication in the fall of Symantec’s research and an October government alert, which detailed technical forensics about the hacking attempts but did not name Russia. The official declined to say whether the campaign was still ongoing or provide specifics on which targets were breached, or how close hackers may have gotten to operational control systems. “We did not see them cross into the control networks,” DHS cyber security official Rick Driggers told reporters at a dinner on Thursday evening. Driggers said he was unaware of any cases of control networks being compromised in the United States and that the breaches were limited to business networks. But, he added, “We know that there is intent there.” It was not clear what Russia’s motive was. Many cyber security experts and former U.S. officials say such behavior is generally espionage-oriented with the potential, if needed, for sabotage.

Fragmented banking standards could be the ‘seeds’ of the next financial crisis, expert warns

  • While the U.S. is easing rules on banks, Europe has for the last couple of years toughened them.
  • These opposing moves on regulation are a “bad thing.”

 

Forcing different standards on banks and other financial services across the globe could spark the next financial crisis, the vice chairman of a prominent U.S. financial services firm said Friday.

While the U.S. is easing rules on banks, Europe has for the last couple of years toughened them. On Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed new rules to soften regulation introduced in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. But in Europe, brokers were obliged at the start of the year to split their research from their trading operations, in a series of attempts to increase transparency in investment banking. But these opposing moves on regulation are a “bad thing,” Larry Thompson, the vice chairman of DTCC (Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation), an American post-trade financial services company, told CNBC. The firm acts as a clearing house, which is an intermediary institution between buyers and sellers of financial securities. “There should be standards that are cross-nations, there should be harmonization of all of those rules,” he said. When asked if the world would change in that direction, Thompson said “probably not.” Furthermore, when asked if the lack of coordination on banking rules could be the “seeds of the next crisis,” he said: “It could be.” Traditionally, regulations are toughened following a financial crisis and then later eased back. Nick Note: The IDIOTS have stopped stress testing banks. Because their algorithms (the curse of our time) says another recession is impossible. So the banks have dramatically cut their capital. Now new rules will exempt HA HA HA HA HA  “small banks” from Dodd/Frank. So how do they define your small neighborhood bank? One of one quarter trillion in assets. Here is a news flash…. That is NOT SMALL. And here is a reality check… They are already broke!

Stephen Hawking’s final Reddit post is going viral over its ominous warning about robots

 He warned against a looming conflict between robots and humans before his death
AFP/Getty ImagesStephen Hawking died Tuesday at age 76.

Famed physicist Stephen Hawking died Tuesday at the age of 76, and before he departed this world, he left us with warnings that Earth is headed for a “catastrophic ending” in the near future.

This doom will not come from a fiery asteroid or even global warming, but from rising inequality fueled by increasingly smart robots, Hawking said.

“Intelligent future AI will probably develop a drive to survive and acquire more resources as a step toward accomplishing whatever goal it has, because surviving and having more resources will increase its chances of accomplishing that other goal,” he said in a Reddit Ask Me Anything forum in 2015. “This can cause problems for humans whose resources get taken away.” His solution? We should all leave the planet and find new lives in outer space. His dire prediction came as robots and artificial intelligence increasingly take over human jobs, with some 800 million people around the world — including a third of the workforce in the U.S. — predicted to be out of jobs by 2030 because of automation, according to an eight-month study from the McKinsey Global Institute. Though Hawking often warned about the upcoming robot takeover, he noted technology could also produce new solutions. “If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed,” he wrote. “Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution.”

“There may be some work that will still need to be done by humans, like quality control, but it would be minimal,” he said.  He noted Uber as an example: now the company employs hundreds of thousands of drivers around the world, but it is anticipated to replace them with self-driving cars by 2030. Under the tenets of luxury communism, such services would be provided by the state rather than a private company, with profits being used to increase the standard of living for all.Some argue automation will not evolve to meet all of the needs of humans, or that the model of luxury communism isn’t environmentally sustainable. Hawking himself said the future didn’t seem bright for such a model. “So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality,” he said.

Others say some form of shared wealth from automation is inevitable and already coming to fruition. In 2016, Swiss voters rejected an initiative to create a guaranteed minimal income on which to live, a concept that tech magnates like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerburg have both promoted.

Russia will test its ‘unstoppable’ new ‘Satan 2’ nuclear missile

Russia is preparing to carry out tests of the 'Satan 2' nuclear missile which can carry 16 warheads and evade all missile defences, according to the Kremlin

  • Russia is preparing to test its ‘unstoppable’ new nuclear missile dubbed Satan 2 
  • Military says rocket weighs 200 tonnes and can carry up to 16 nuclear warheads 
  • Putin also bragged that it cannot be stopped by any missile defence system
  • Fresh tests come amid heightened tensions with the West over spy poisoning

Russia is preparing to test its ‘unstoppable’ new nuclear missile, the country’s military has announced. General Valery Gerasimov told state news that preparations are underway for tests of the missile, dubbed Satan 2 by NATO, at the Plesetsk cosmodrome. The rocket can carry up to 16 nuclear warheads and President Putin bragged earlier this month that it cannot be stopped by any missile defense system.

The missile was previously tested in December last year, with footage of the launch system shown during Putin's state of the nation address (pictured)

The missile was previously tested in December last year, with footage of the launch system shown during Putin’s state of the nation address. The announcement comes amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the poisoning of a former spy on UK soil with Russian nerve agent.Gerasimov described the exercise as a ‘pop-up test’ to TASS, meaning it will likely test the launch system which ejects the missile from its silo.

Previous test footage used computer animations to show the flight of the missile, suggesting this has not been tested yet. It is not clear if this will form part of the new tests

 Russia announced the fresh tests amid heightened tensions with the West and as Putin warned Britain not to threaten ‘a nuclear power’ Gerasimov’s announcement came on Tuesday, shortly after British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was ‘highly likely’ Russia was behind the poisoning of former double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury. Mrs May gave the Russian government 24 hours to explain itself, before announcing on Wednesday that she would be expelling 23 Russian diplomats from the UK.

High-level visits from Russians to the UK were also cancelled, and it was announced that the royal family will not be attending the world cup in Russia this summer. Nick Bit: The US has WASTED hundreds of billions on missile defense systems that are useless and rendered obsolete before they are even deployed.  The Pentagon  still  moved ahead with systems knowing that the supersonic missile was a reality……. That’s called making defense contractors great again! This supersonic missile is indeed  unstoppable. By any technology presently under development. AND their is nothing on the drawing board that can stop the SATAN! Here is the good news: coal will be GREAT again and we can all move into a local coal mine when the unstoppable missiles are coming. Its kind like your own black hole in your backyard.

Trump has decided to remove his national security adviser: Washington Post

 National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster speaks at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, U.S., March 15, 2018.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to replace his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, but the move is not expected to be made immediately, the Washington Post reported on Thursday. Citing five people with knowledge of the plans, the Post said Trump was considering several possible replacements, including former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and Keith Kellogg, the chief of staff of the National Security Council.On Tuesday,“I’m really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want,” Trump told reporters after Tillerson was fired. McMaster is not expected to be ousted immediately, the Post reported. Trump is willing to take his time making the change to avoid humiliating McMaster and carefully choose a strong replacement, the Post said. Trump never personally gelled with McMaster and the president recently told White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that he wanted McMaster replaced, according to the Post. Trump has complained that McMaster, a three-star Army general, is too rigid and that his briefings go on too long and seem irrelevant, the Post reported. McMaster is Trump’s second national security adviser, succeeding Michael Flynn who was dismissed a year ago for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Saudi will develop a nuclear bomb if Iran does

Sadui Crown Prince warns as he likens Iran’s  regime’s leader to Hitler

Saudi Arabia will rapidly acquire a nuclear weapon if arch-rival Iran develops one, the country’s Crown Prince has warned. Mohammed bin Salman said the Saudis ‘do not want’ nukes but would be forced to develop them should their Shia counterparts acquire them first.  The 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne made the comments in an interview in which he also likened Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to Hitler. Saudi Arabia will be forced to rapidly acquire nukes if arch-rival Iran manages to develop the weapon, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said (file image)  ‘Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,’ Salman told CBS in an interview that will air on Sunday. The comment came after he was asked about remarks in which he described Khamenei as ‘the new Hitler of the Middle East’. ‘He wants to create his own project in the Middle East very much like Hitler who wanted to expand at the time. ‘Many countries around the world and in Europe did not realize how dangerous Hitler was until what happened, happened.  ‘I don’t want to see the same events happening in the Middle East.’ Saudi Arabia is already stepping up plans to develop nuclear energy as part of reforms being led by Salman that aim to end the region’s dependence on oil.

Salman likened Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to Hitler in the same interview, saying he wants to expand his influence over the Middle East

The United States, South Korea, Russia, France and China are already bidding on a multi-billion dollar tender to build Saudi Arabia’s first two nuclear reactors. The world’s top oil exporter has previously said it wants nuclear technology only for peaceful uses. However, it has not made it clear whether it plans to develop the capacity to enrich uranium in order to produce fuel, or whether it will acquire this from overseas. Enriched uranium can also be used to create nuclear warheads.

Donald Trump Jr.’s wife Vanessa files for divorce

Exported.;
Donald Trump Jr. and Vanessa Trump’s relationship through the years

Donald Trump Jr.’s wife has filed for divorce. Vanessa Trump married Trump Jr. in 2005. They have five children.The reasons for the divorce filed Thursday in Manhattan Supreme Court were not clear. The divorce was listed as “uncontested,” indicating the split was amicable. Trump Jr., 40, has been traveling extensively while running his father’s business with his brother, Eric. The Trumps issued a joint statement asking for privacy. “After 12 years of marriage, we have decided to go our separate ways. We will always have tremendous respect for each other and our families. We have five beautiful children together and they remain our top priority. We ask for your privacy during this time.” In a 2006 interview with the International Herald Tribune, Vanessa shared how she met her future ex. “I’m at this fashion show,” Vanessa said, recalling the 2003 encounter. “Donald Trump comes up to me with his son: ‘Hi, I’m Donald Trump. I wanted to introduce you to my son Donald Trump Jr.’” The three briefly chatted and then crossed paths again during intermission. “Donald comes back up to me again, ‘I don’t think you’ve met my son Donald Trump Jr.,’” Vanessa said.“Yeah, we just met, five minutes ago,” she replied. Last month, Vanessa, 40, was taken to a hospital after opening an envelope addressed to Trump Jr. containing a white powder. A note accompanying the powder — which was later determined to be corn starch — read “now you get what you deserve,” sources said. A Massachusetts man, Daniel Frisiello, 24, was charged with sending the material. The divorce came on the same day The New York Times reported that special counsel Robert Mueller had served subpoenas on the Trump Organization for any internal documents related to Russia.Mueller has also reportedly been looking into a Trump Tower meeting Trump Jr. held with Russians who offered dirt on Hillary Clinton in 2016.  Chemtob said it was possible that Mueller’s investigation into interference in the 2016 election played a role in the timing of the divorce. “(Vanessa) may want to distance herself as much as possible from the investigation,” she said. “If this is going to affect her financially, then separating now would be in her best interest.”  Nick Bit: Its common knowledge that Trump JR is dirty on MANY things and facing serious fines and jail time!

Without Toys R Us, 30,000 jobs, a black hole for toy makers

NEW YORK (AP) — The demise of Toys R Us will have a ripple effect on everything from toy makers to consumers to landlords. The 70-year-old retailer is headed toward shuttering its U.S. operations, jeopardizing the jobs of some 30,000 employees while spelling the end for a chain known to generations of children and parents for its sprawling stores and Geoffrey the giraffe mascot. The closing of the company’s 740 U.S. stores over the coming months will finalize the downfall of the chain that succumbed to heavy debt and relentless trends that undercut its business, from online shopping to mobile games. And it will force toy makers and landlords who depended on the chain to scramble for alternatives. CEO David Brandon told employees Wednesday the company’s plan is to liquidate all of its U.S. stores, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Associated Press. Brandon said Toys R Us will try to bundle its Canadian business, with about 200 stores, and find a buyer. The company’s U.S. online store would still be running for the next couple of weeks in case there’s a buyer for it. Workers in the U.S. will get paid for the next 60 days if they show up for work, but after that all benefits and pay will be cut, Brandon told employees at the meeting, according to the recording. Some workers will be asked to stay longer to help with the liquidation. It’s likely to also liquidate its businesses in Australia, France, Poland, Portugal and Spain, according to the recording. It’s already shuttering its business in the United Kingdom. That would leave it with stores in Canada, central Europe and Asia, where it could find buyers for those assets. Toys R Us Asia Ltd. has more than 400 retail outlets in Brunei, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. It is a Hong Kong-based joint venture with the Fung Group, which owns a 15 percent stake. It also controls Asian sourcing giant Li & Fung, a major supplier to Western retailers like Wal-Mart. Toys R Us had about 60,000 full-time and part-time employees worldwide last year It wasn’t able to compete with a growing Amazon: The toy seller said in bankruptcy filings that Amazon’s low prices were hard to match. And it said its Babies R Us chain lost customers to the online retailer’s convenient subscription service, which let parents receive diapers and baby formula at their doorstep automatically.

Mueller Subpoenas Trump Organization, Demanding Documents About Russia

WASHINGTON — The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, according to two people briefed on the matter. It is the first known instance of the special counsel demanding documents directly related to President Trump’s businesses, bringing the investigation closer to the president. The breadth of the subpoena was not clear, nor was it clear why Mr. Mueller issued it instead of simply asking for the documents from the company, an umbrella organization that oversees Mr. Trump’s business ventures. In the subpoena, delivered in recent weeks, Mr. Mueller ordered the Trump Organization to hand over all documents related to Russia and other topics he is investigating, the people said. The subpoena is the latest indication that the investigation, which Mr. Trump’s lawyers once regularly assured him would be completed by now, will drag on for at least several more months. Word of the subpoena comes as Mr. Mueller appears to be broadening his investigation to examine the role foreign money may have played in funding Mr. Trump’s political activities. In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s investigators have questioned witnesses, including an adviser to the United Arab Emirates, about the flow of Emirati money into the United States. Neither White House officials nor Alan S. Futerfas, a lawyer representing the Trump Organization, immediately responded to requests for comment. The Trump Organization has typically complied with requests from congressional investigators for documents for their own inquiries into Russian election interference, and there was no indication the company planned to fight Mr. Mueller about it.

The Trump Organization has said that it never had real estate holdings in Russia, but witnesses recently interviewed by Mr. Mueller have been asked about a possible real estate deal in Moscow. In 2015, a longtime business associate of Mr. Trump’s emailed Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, at his Trump Organization account claiming he had ties to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and said that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would help Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

Mr. Trump signed a nonbinding “letter of intent” for the project in 2015 and discussed it three times with Mr. Cohen. Mr. Mueller could run afoul of a line the president has warned him not to cross. Though it is not clear how much of the subpoena is related to Mr. Trump’s business beyond ties to Russia, Mr. Trump said in an interview with The New York Times in July that the special counsel would be crossing a “red line” if he looked into his family’s finances beyond any relationship with Russia. The president declined to say how he would respond if he concluded that the special counsel had crossed that line.

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Global oil demand picks up but still lags rising supply: IEA

LONDON (Reuters) – Global oil demand is expected to pick up this year but supply is growing at a faster pace, leading to a rise in inventories in the first quarter of 2018, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday. The IEA raised its forecast for oil demand this year to 99.3 million barrels per day (bpd) from 97.8 million bpd in 2017. Commercial oil inventories in industrialized OECD nations rose in January for the first time in seven months to 2.871 billion barrels, 53 million barrels above their five-year average, the Paris-based IEA said.  The January increase of 18 million barrels over the December inventory level was roughly half the size of rises normally seen at this time of year, according to the agency, which advises Western governments on energy policy.

Reuters Graphic

But it said Venezuela, where an economic crisis has cut oil production by 50 percent in two years to lows not seen in more than a decade, could still trigger a renewed drawdown in stocks.

“With supply from Venezuela clearly vulnerable to an accelerated decline, without any compensatory change from other producers, it is possible that the Latin American country could be the final element that tips the market decisively into deficit,” the IEA said.

Reuters Graphic

In a bid to drain inventories, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and several other producers have been implementing a deal to cut output by about 1.8 million bpd from January 2017 until the end of 2018. Assuming no change in OPEC output for the rest of the year, the IEA said it expected a small increase in OECD inventories in the first quarter of 2018 with declines after that. The agency said it expected supply from non-OPEC nations to grow by 1.8 million bpd in 2018 to 97.9 million bpd, led by the United States, where crude output was forecast to rise by 1.3 million bpd during 2018 to more than 11 million bpd by the end of the year.

Reuters Graphic

OPEC crude output fell in February to 32.1 million bpd, led by Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates.The IEA raised its estimate for demand for OPEC oil to 32.4 million bpd for 2018 from last month’s forecast of 32.3 million bpd. The agency said the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump decision to impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum, which has prompted threats of retaliation from major trading partners, posed a risk to global economic growth forecasts. “A slowdown would have strong consequences, particularly for fuel used in the maritime sector and in the trucking industry,” the IEA said. It said growth in world trade had been strong, accelerating from 2.5 percent in 2016 to 4.7 percent in 2017, citing this as the likely reason behind a sturdy 1.8 percent rise in 2017 in global gasoil demand. Nick Bit: Lira liar pants on fire. oil demand is leveling off and wlil drop as the global recession deepens

Atlanta Fed, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan GDP Forecasts Crash

A lower than expected retail sales number Wednesday has many economists revising down their forecast of first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP).

The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow estimate fell to 1.9 percent, down from 2.5 percent just five days ago. At the start of February, the Atlanta Fed’s estimate called for GDP growth above 5 percent.

Economists at JP Morgan lowered their estimate to 2.0 percent, down from 2.5 percent. Goldman Sachs lowered its estimate from 2 percent to 1.8 percent. U.S. retail sales fell for a third consecutive month in February, according to data released Wednesday by the Commerce Department. Economists had forecast a month-over-month gain of 0.3 percent in February. Instead, sales fell by 0.1 percent. The decline was driven by a fall in purchases of big-ticket items such as cars and building materials. Consumer spending appears to have slowed at the start of the year, after growing a 3.8 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter. The slowdown suggests that those who warned the Trump tax cuts could cause the economy to overheat were off-track. If anything, it now appears that the tax cuts will give the economy a needed boost. Nick Bit: As we have been predicing First Quarter GDP will be UNDER 2% growth. A budjet disaster. Remeber the Trump administration predicted 3 to 6 GDP growth. They need over 4% to hlep to get soaring deficits under control. ITA A DISASTER!!! The reson Trump bought in Kudlow is he is a old, desperate, washed up and sold out. Trump needs him to plug GDP of ovoer 3.5% in the OMB budgt estimets. Its a old trick. Trump is in big truble tht is why they want tax cuts HA HA A Phase 2

Trump lawyers have no easy options on interview request

WASHINGTON (AP) — The special counsel’s office wants to talk to Donald Trump about the firings of James Comey and Michael Flynn, but as the president’s lawyers negotiate the terms and scope of a possible interview, they’re left with no easy options. Balking at an interview, even a narrowly tailored one focused on obstruction of justice questions, risks perpetuating the perception that Trump has something to hide. But agreeing to discuss those matters with Robert Mueller’s team is risky for Trump, whose statements can be unpredictable and inconsistent. Weeks of dialogue between the sides have yet to resolve a question of extraordinary consequence: Will Trump, like many of his aides before him, get grilled by Mueller’s prosecutors? “Obviously this is not just a legal problem, but this is also a political problem,” said Robert Ray, who succeeded Kenneth Starr as the independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation. “Life is not that simple. It requires a delicate balance between weighing the important legal issues that are involved but also recognizing the important political consequences as well.” The negotiations have been closely held, but a resolution could arrive soon to avert the prospect of a grand jury subpoena, as happened to President Bill Clinton during Whitewater, or a lengthy court challenge reminiscent of the Watergate era. Mueller’s interest in Trump himself has appeared focused on seminal moments of his administration even amid signs of an expanding, and intensifying, investigation. In the past month alone, Mueller secured the guilty plea of a Dutch lawyer for lying to the FBI, indicted 13 Russians accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential election and secured the grand jury testimony of a well-connected Lebanese-American businessman whose statements could open a new front for investigators. Yet Mueller’s office has so far presented the president with more limited questions. Prosecutors trying to establish whether Trump took steps to obstruct justice have conveyed interest in talking with the president about his decision to fire Comey as FBI director last May and about multiple conversations between the two men, including one in which Comey says he was encouraged to end an investigation into national security adviser Michael Flynn, people familiar with the investigation say. They’re also interested in the February ouster of Flynn and the events leading up to it — the White House was warned weeks earlier that law enforcement thought he was vulnerable to blackmail — and in Trump’s pressuring of Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his recusal from the Russia investigation. The White House initially said Trump was acting on the Justice Department’s recommendation when he dismissed Comey, but Trump has said that he’d have done it anyway and was considering “this Russia thing” at the time. And though Trump has denied Comey’s account of his conversation about Flynn, a tweet from his account after Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI appeared to suggest for the first time that the White House knew at the time Flynn was ousted that he had misled investigators about his Russian contacts.

It’s impossible to rule out that Mueller’s team won’t seek answers from Trump on the investigation’s other tentacles, making it dangerous for Trump to be interviewed “because there are lots of things that Mueller is looking at that Trump doesn’t know the answer to,” said Solomon Wisenberg, the deputy independent counsel under Starr who questioned Clinton in the Whitewater probe. “This is very dangerous. There’s no question if he were a normal client, you would tell him, don’t go in for an interview,” Wisenberg said.

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Ben Shapiro: 2018 will be ‘very, very ugly’ for GOP

Ben Shapiro: 2018 will be 'very, very ugly' for GOP
© Greg Nash

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro said that the results in recent special elections show that 2018 could be “very, very ugly” for the GOP. “In the seven special elections held in 2017, the average shift from 2016 results was D+16. Tonight, it’s D+20. 2018 will be very, very ugly unless something cataclysmic happens for GOP,” Shapiro tweeted on Tuesday night.

 

 

The commentator and editor-in-chief of the conservative publication The Daily Wire made the comments during a tight race in the Pennsylvania House special election. President Trump had won the district by nearly 20 points in the 2016 election. He said that factors like a strong economy should mean that public opinion is in favor of Republicans while they’re in control of the government. “Which says that the popularity of the president is a serious factor in Democratic turnout,” Shapiro added.

 

He also dismissed comments that described Democratic candidate Conor Lamb as a Republican, saying that Lamb’s “a Democrat tailored for the district.” “If Democrats are smart enough to run non-Pelosi types in red districts, that will exacerbate the GOP wipeout,” Shapiro said, referring to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

 

 

Democrats have pointed to a possible upset by Lamb as an argument to run Democratic candidates in traditionally red districts in an attempt to flip Congress from GOP control. Democrats have to win 24 seats in the 2018 midterms to take control of the House. Nick Bit: The democrats will sweep the fall elections. Trump is desperate. No one is buying the $80 a moth tax break for standard filers. And billions for billionaires as a great thing. People have figured out the FAT CATS are taking the tax Break Bonanza for Billionaires Bucks and running. No real corporate investment in HA HA HA jobs jobs jobs. MOST ALL the windfall has gone to stock buybacks enriching the insiders through their stock options which they are cashing in faster then a Stormy erection! . People taking deductions are getting killed. And except for a Opiod burn out no one is buying making coal,steel and assemble line work as a great thing. What worked for a narrow presidential victory in loser boozer drug user districts in the presidential election will not work this time. Hillary was sleeping. I guarantee you the democrats are no loner sleeping.

Republicans sound alarm as Democrats claim Pennsylvania win

Trump held two events in the district during the campaign, including a rally on Saturday. Last week, he announced tariffs on imported steel that had been expected to appeal to voters in a state known for its steel industry.

CANONSBURG, Pa./WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans sounded the alarm on Wednesday after Democrats claimed victory in a Pennsylvania congressional election seen as a referendum on U.S. President Donald Trump’s performance, although the vote tally remained officially too close to call.

In an ominous sign for Trump’s Republicans eight months before national midterm elections, moderate Democrat Conor Lamb led conservative Republican Rick Saccone on Wednesday by a fraction of a percentage point for the House of Representatives seat.

The earliest the election result could be certified is March 26, according to a state official, but the final tally could be unknown for weeks.Republicans have until the results are officially certified to challenge the outcome or pursue a recount. Saccone on Wednesday afternoon sent a fundraising email to supporters saying the “campaign is far from over.”

The election should have been a shoo-in for Republicans in a district that Trump won by almost 20 points in the 2016 presidential election. He campaigned for Saccone, who started the race well ahead of Lamb.

Republican Speaker Paul Ryan called the election a “wakeup call” in a meeting with Republican House members and pushed them to raise more campaign funds. He also urged them to do more to highlight tax cuts approved by the Republican-dominated Congress and signed by Trump.Lamb led Saccone by 627 votes on Wednesday, the state’s unofficial returns showed; Lamb had 49.8 percent of the vote and Saccone 49.6 percent. The patchwork of small towns, farms and Pittsburgh suburbs that make up Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district is so Republican that Democrats did not even field candidates in the previous two House elections..The election, held to replace a Republican who resigned amid a scandal last year, was the latest forceful electoral showing for Democrats, who also won a governor’s race in Virginia and scored a U.S. Senate upset in conservative Alabama. Lamb’s strong showing buoys Democrats nationally as they seek to win control of the House from Republicans in the November elections. Democrats see 118 Republican-held districts in play. If they flip 24 seats, they could reclaim a House majority.

Saccone’s poor performance is worrying for Republicans who were sure that tax cuts they passed last year, the party’s only major legislative achievement under Trump, would be a vote winner.

Nick Note: America will not be great again with Steel, Coal mines or trying to support factory assemble line workers. AND Trump will not be great again. He pulled all the sleazy tricks out of his hat. Including starting a trade war in a desperate attempt to win. AND he is now a proven loser boozer.  bottom line he did not and could not deliver the goods. Watch as he gets more and more desperate and self destructs.. Democratic win in the fall election means Trump get thorn out on his ass AS in impeachment….YOUR FIRED!

Philippines drugs war: Duterte to withdraw from ICC

Image caption Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016 promising a crackdown on drug dealers

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has said he plans to withdraw his country from the International Criminal Court (ICC) after it began examining the country’s drugs war. “It is apparent that the ICC is being utilised as a political tool against the Philippines,” Mr Duterte said. He also condemned “baseless” attacks by the UN. The ICC in February began examining alleged crimes committed during the controversial anti-drugs crackdown. ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the court would be looking at reports of extrajudicial killings. She stressed that the examinations by the ICC – based in The Hague – were “not an investigation” but a process of examining information “in order to reach a fully informed determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation”.A statement from the Philippine administration said the ICC inquiry was “in violation of due process”.  The president also condemned “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks” on him and his administration by the UN. The statement contradicts some of Mr Duterte’s previous comments about the drugs war, including his willingness to “slaughter” drug addicts and dealers. There has been growing international pressure on Mr Duterte about his country’s war on drugs, which has caused the deaths of thousands. Ms Bensouda first said she was “deeply concerned” about reports of extrajudicial killings in October 2016, less than four months after Mr Duterte assumed office on a pledge to crack down on drug dealers.

And last month, as the ICC announced its preliminary inquiry, the UN Human Rights Council questioned the Philippines’ human rights record and called on the country to accept a UN special rapporteur. On Monday, local media reported that the Philippine Senate had filed a resolution saying the country’s withdrawal from international treaties would only be valid with its consent. The country’s constitution states that adoption of an international treaty cannot be revoked without the support of both president and Senate.

Barclays strikes payment deal with cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase in the UK

LONDON — Barclays has agreed to provide US cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase with access to the UK’s Faster Payments Scheme in a first for the bank and for an exchange in the UK. Coinbase is gaining access to the Faster Payment Scheme, the core payment infrastructure used by consumers to move money in the UK. Coinbase’s UK head Zeeshan Feroz confirmed to Business Insider that the company was partnering with Barclays on the deal. “There is no other exchange today that has access to domestic banking,” he said. “UK consumers today have to jump through all sorts of hoops around sending money to European accounts using euros in order to get money in and out.”  Faster Payments will allow Coinbase’s UK customers “to see a vastly improved deposit and withdrawal experience,” Feroz said. The deal represents the first major partnerships between a UK bank and a cryptocurrency exchange. Many traditional lenders are reluctant to work with cryptocurrencies due to their anonymity and potential for use in laundering money. Feroz said Barclays “approached it with the right mindset” and closely scrutinized Coinbase’s compliance processes. An e-money license from the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), also announced on Tuesday, helped get the deal done. Thomson Reuters“It’s an approval of the compliance and the KYC processes we have today,” Feroz said of the FCA license. “There’s an element of trust here in a business that is regulated by the FCA.”The UK is Coinbase’s biggest market in Europe and is twice as large as the next biggest, Feroz said. He declined to name the second largest country. Nick Note: As you know i have been urging you to set up an accounts at CoinBase. And start buying bitcoin. After scary swings Bitcoin will establish itself,

One leak and we’ll all drown’: top Chinese lawmaker raises alarm over river of local government debt

NPC Standing Committee member says liabilities have been hidden and vastly underestimated

Yin Zhongqing, who was re-elected on Tuesday as a deputy director of the National People’s Congress’s financial and economic affairs committee, said

Kremlin defies PM’s midnight ultimatum and issues chilling warning

Russia to Britain DO not  ‘threaten a nuclear power’  Putin raises the stakes over nerve agent attack on spy in Salisbury
Theresa May(pictured outside No10 today) has been holding talks with world leaders to lay the groundwork for sanctions if the Kremlin fails to come up with an explanation as to how the nerve agent Novichok was used
Theresa May(pictured outside No10 today) has been holding talks with world leaders to lay the groundwork for sanctions if the Kremlin fails to come up with an explanation as to how the nerve agent Novichok was used
  • Theresa May secured support of Donald Trump for her response to Salisbury
  • She already had the backing of France and Germany to stand up to Moscow 
  • The Kremlin has hit back with dark warnings not to threaten a nuclear power
  • Moscow said it would retaliate if May delivers on threatened ‘punitive’ respons

Russia last night issued a chilling warning to Britain not to threaten a nuclear power as Kremlin officials ignored Theresa May’s midnight deadline to explain how the nerve agent that poisoned a former spy found its way into Britain. As Mrs May prepared to unveil retaliatory measures against Moscow, Vladimir Putin’s officials refused to explain how Sergei Skripal was poisoned with the military-grade chemical weapon. And – in a coded reference to President Putin’s boasts about his nuclear arsenal – Russian officials warned: ‘Any threat to take punitive measures against Russia will meet with a response. The British side should be aware of that.’ Moscow did not comply with a deadline of midnight last night to answer Britain’s questions about the poisoning outrage in Salisbury ten days ago. This means that – with the backing of the US, Germany and France – Mrs May is now heading toward a showdown with President Putin and his regime. Nick Bit: Russia is out of control. They feel they can do what they want because they have the “video”. Why has Trump not approved even 1 sanction against Russia? Think about IT!

Trump picks controversial figure Haspel as new CIA chief

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Gina Haspel, a veteran CIA clandestine officer picked by President Donald Trump on Tuesday to head the CIA, is a controversial figure, backed by many in the U.S. intelligence community but regarded warily by some in Congress for her involvement in the agency’s“black site” detention facilities.Gina Haspel, a veteran CIA clandestine officer.  Haspel was selected as the agency’s new director after the Republican president fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and chose current CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Tillerson’s replacement.U.S. officials said that while Haspel was generally held in high regard at the CIA, her nomination raised the unwelcome prospect of greater congressional and media scrutiny of officers who are more comfortable in the dark than in the spotlight.  When she was named deputy director last year, intelligence officers who served with her and congressional officials said that in 2002, during Republican former President George W. Bush’s administration, she ran a secret CIA prison in Thailand codenamed“Cat’s Eye.” Two suspected members of the al Qaeda militant group were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques at the facility. Three years later, still during Bush’s presidency, she helped carry out an order to destroy videotapes of the waterboarding, which simulates drowning and is considered a form of torture, according to those people.Such facilities are called“black sites” because their existence is unacknowledged by the U.S. government.  Senator Ron Wyden, a Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Tuesday he opposed the nominations of both Pompeo and Haspel. “Ms. Haspel’s background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director,” Wyden said.“Her nomination must include total transparency about this background, which I called for more than a year ago when she was appointed deputy director. If Ms. Haspel seeks to serve at the highest levels of U.S. intelligence, the government can no longer cover up disturbing facts from her past.” “Haspel is a particularly controversial choice, given her reported past involvement in torture at CIA black sites. No one responsible for torture should be leading a federal agency, period,” said Rob Berschinski, senior vice president of Human Rights First.“The Senate should use her confirmation process to send a strong signal about where this country stands on correcting the mistakes of the past.”

Russian emigre Nikolai Glushkov found dead in London home

London (CNN)Nikolai Glushkov, a Russian businessman the UK refused to extradite to Russia on fraud charges, has died in his London home, his neighbor Pat Egan told CNN. According to Egan, police knocked on her door in Kingston, southwest London, at 3.30 a.m. local time to ask whether she or her husband had seen or heard anything. In a statement, British police confirmed they were investigating the death of a man in his 60s in southwest London, but did not identify him. Police said the death was being treated as unexplained, adding that the counterterrorism team would lead the investigation “as a precaution because of associations that the man is believed to have had.” “There is no evidence to suggest a link to the incident in Salisbury,” police added, referring to the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Egan said forensic crews attended the scene, but were not wearing hazmat suits. She added that police removed several bags of evidence. According to the Russian Embassy in London, the UK refused to extradite Glushkov in February 2016 on charges of large-scale fraud and embezzlement during his time as the deputy director of the Russian national airline Aeroflot.The émigré was acquainted with Russians who died in unexplained circumstances in the UK.  Glushkov was questioned as part of a British inquiry into the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, who died a slow and painful death after drinking tea laced with highly radioactive polonium-210 in 2006 in a hotel bar in London. Glushkov told the inquiry that he bumped into Litvinenko in the office of Boris Berezovsky, a powerful oligarch and émigré who was found dead in 2013 on the bathroom floor of his home in Berkshire, on the western outskirts of London. British police said at the time they found no sign of a struggle, suggesting Berezovsky had taken his own life. Glushkov was a friend of Berezovsky and argued publicly that he believed the exiled tycoon had been murdered. Glushkov won notoriety in Russia’s bare-knuckled transition to a market economy in the 1990s, when business, political and criminal interests often collided amid the privatization of state assets. Boris Berezovsky was found dead on the bathroom floor of his home in 2013. Glushkov was formerly an employee of Berezovsky, one of the billionaires who bankrolled the 1996 re-election of President Boris Yeltsin. Berezovsky subsequently fell out with Yeltsin’s successor, President Vladimir Putin, and Glushkov found himself caught up in a politically charged corruption case. In 2000, Glushkov was arrested on charges of embezzling funds from Aeroflot, in which Berezovsky was a shareholder. Glushkov was sentenced in 2004 by the Savelovsky Court of Moscow to three years and three months in prison and released for time served, Russian news agency Tass reported. According to Tass, he received political asylum in the UK in 2010. But Russian courts continued to pursue him. Last year, a Moscow court tried him in absentia for embezzlement from Aeroflot,the Russian court-reporting agency RAPSI reported.

Trump’s Personal Assistant Fired Over Security Issue

Problems related to online gambling and mishandling taxes prevented John McEntee from gaining necessary security clearance

 

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump’s personal assistant, John McEntee, was fired and escorted from the White House on Monday after being denied a security clearance over financial problems in his background, according to senior administration officials and people close to the former aide.  People close to Mr. McEntee said problems related to online gambling and mishandling of his taxes prevented him from gaining the clearance necessary for the role. The Secret Service is investigating Mr. McEntee for those issues, according to a law enforcement official.  White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, “We don’t comment on personnel issues.” Mr. McEntee didn’t return a call seeking comment. On Tuesday morning, less than a day after Mr. McEntee’s ouster from the White House, the Trump presidential campaign announced he would join the 2020 effort as a senior adviser for campaign operations. Mr. McEntee, 27 years old, was one of the longest-serving aides to Mr. Trump, dating back to the earliest days of the campaign when some of the only aides around the then-candidate included Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser; Stephen Miller, the president’s policy director; White House communications director Hope Hicks, who announced her resignation two weeks ago; and Dan Scavino, who is the White House director of social media. Mr. McEntee had joined the campaign in 2015 a few years after graduating college.

 

 

“It’s not going to be great for morale,” one White House official said about Mr. McEntee’s departure. Mr. McEntee was removed from the White House grounds on Monday afternoon without being allowed to collect his belongings, a White House official said. He left without his jacket, a second White House official said.

U.S. Boosts Philippine Military With Drones Amid Militant Threat

The Scan Eagle increases the Philippines’ capability to police its porous maritime borders

A Philippine air force officer explains to U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim, third from left, and Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, third from right, one of the six donated ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, during the turn-over ceremonies at the military air base in Manila on Tuesday.
A Philippine air force officer explains to U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim, third from left, and Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, third from right, one of the six donated ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, during the turn-over ceremonies at the military air base in Manila on Tuesday. Photo: ted aljibe/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The U.S. military donated six surveillance drones to the Philippines on Tuesday, a gift to a long-time ally whose maverick president has been increasingly hostile to Washington despite American help in battling a violent Islamist insurgency.

While the U.S. routinely donates military equipment to allies, Washington’s relationship with the Philippines has been unusually fraught since Rodrigo Duterte took power in 2016. The president aired old grievances, saying the U.S. has taken advantage of its former colony and unfairly criticized his human rights record, including a bloody war on drugs that has left thousands dead. Mr. Duterte has instead built a relationship with China, praising Beijing for promises of investment and donations of weapons and downplaying a dispute over territorial claims in the South China Sea. He made little mention of the deployment of a U.S. military drone during a bloody battle last year to reclaim a city held for five months by hundreds of militants allied with Islamic State, but publicly credited China with donating the weapons that killed the militant leaders. Philippine officials have warned that Islamist militants were regrouping and may seek to mount fresh attacks, including against popular vacation spots. Despite Mr. Duterte’s public animosity toward the U.S., the Philippine military retains close ties with the Pentagon, which has provided training and conducted joint exercises with the Philippines for decades. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the donation is “an indication of the Philippines’ and the United States’ goodwill, deep friendship, and genuine commitment to peace,” government media reported. The American ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Y. Kim, said the donation represents “our strong commitment to enhance the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”The U.S. has for years kept a small detachment of special forces in the Philippines and last year launched a new counterterrorism mission in response to a heightened threat from Islamist insurgents, who operate primarily in Muslim-dominated areas in the south.  The Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial System, a drone equipped with cameras and other scanners and worth $13.2 million, was officially transferred at a ceremony in the Philippines.  The Scan Eagle also has the capability to support the Philippines in maritime security, the U.S. Embassy said, a key concern for Washington as China continues to fortify artificial islands in the South China Sea to assert its claims to the strategic sealane.

Trump tells people he is selecting Larry Kudlow to replace Gary Cohn

“I don’t know if I could put him in that same position or not. He’s not quite as strong on those tariffs as we want,” Trump said. Kudlow, an economic analyst who informally advised Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, penned an op-ed in the National Review with two others urging the President to rethink his decision on tariffs before he signed them. Kudlow later suggested during a radio interview that the tariffs were “basically gone,” with the exception of China and “a few other countries.”
“Canada is exempt. Mexico is exempt. Australia is exempt. I guarantee you, all of Europe is going to wind up being exempt, and I bet you our allies in Asia will wind up being exempt. China may be the only one,” Kudlow said.
But the President values people who can make the rounds on cable television to defend the administration, as Cohn often did. Nick Bit: If all the countries that supply the majority of steel to the US are exempt from the Tariffs.  Its hard to see how the Tariffs make us Steel HA HA HA HA great AGAIN?
As far as Kudlow, this will end badly! He is a desperate man. And Trump is really good at getting people to kiss his ass and sell out their principals. ASK a shamed Cohen.

Previously withheld UCLA video shows heckling of Mnuchin

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A previously withheld video has been released showing the near-constant heckling of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin during a moderated talk about the economy at UCLA. The university initially balked at releasing the video, saying that Mnuchin “subsequently withdrew” his agreement for it to be posted online. The video shows audience members hissing at Mnuchin throughout the Feb. 26 event in Los Angeles. The hissing was so loud the secretary barely spoke a sentence without commenting about it. Seven minutes into Mnuchin’s opening remarks, three different women shouted at him and were either carried or escorted out of the room by police after they ignored warnings to stop. They yelled that the U.S. is bullying North Korea and criticized President Donald Trump’s tax legislation.  The decision to withhold the video drew criticism from students, free speech groups and members of the news media. Several organizations, including The Associated Press, filed public-records requests arguing for the video to be released. UCLA agreed to release the video on Friday, saying in a statement only that it had received Mnuchin’s consent to do so. Withholding the video at Mnuchin’s request and choosing to release it only after receiving his consent both are problematic decisions, said David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, one of the groups that argued for the release. “This event took place at a public institution and the video was collected by a state body,” Snyder said in a statement Monday. “It’s troubling that the university initially caved to the request of a third party to withhold public records, and even more troubling that when they did eventually release the footage, they claimed to do so because they ‘received consent’ from the Treasury Department.” Mnuchin or any other third party shouldn’t have any control over UCLA under California public records laws, Snyder said. In the video of Mnuchin’s remarks, the secretary at times makes jokes about the relentless hissing while at others he appears irritated. “I normally go speak to people who want to listen to me speak,” Mnuchin quipped. “You guys get to hiss at me. I don’t get to hiss at you.” The hissing came after nearly everything Mnuchin said, including at one point when he spoke of his role to issue sanctions to other countries over human-rights violations. “You’re going to hiss about sanctions?” Mnuchin said. “We shouldn’t have sanctions? You guys are OK with all the oppression and everything going on in the world?”

 

Marathon Announces Facility in Quebec Has Commenced Bitcoin Mining Operations – Stock soars

Nick Bit: This stock Is one of 4 BItcoin Stocks on out lottery ticket buy list

LOS ANGELES, March 12, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Marathon Patent Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:MARA) (“Marathon” or the “Company”), today announced that it has commenced bitcoin mining at its new facility in Quebec. On February 8, 2018, the Company announced it had purchased 1,400 Bitmain Antminer S9 miners (“Antminer S9s”) and on February 15, 2018 the company announced it had leased 26,700 square feet of data center space in Quebec, Canada. The Company is pleased to announce the completion of its installation and the commencement of operations which are expected to utilize approximately 2.0 MW and deliver approximately 19 Ph/s of ASIC mining capacity. The Antminer S9s are presently mining Bitcoin, but are able to mine other digital assets/cryptocurrency using the SHA256 algorithm. Marathon is seeking to add up to an additional 3.9 MW of power. If successfully completed, this is expected to provide capacity for up to 2,800 additional Antminer S-9s that if acquired, could be located at this facility. Merrick Okamoto, Marathon’s Interim Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors, stated, “Today’s announcement represents a milestone for the Company. I’d like to thank everyone that worked so hard to make this day a reality for our shareholders.”

Continue reading “Marathon Announces Facility in Quebec Has Commenced Bitcoin Mining Operations – Stock soars”

Tillerson says several steps needed for U.S. talks with North Korea

ABUJA (Reuters) – Several steps will be necessary to agree the location and scope of talks between the United States and North Korea, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Monday.U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a news conference with Chad’s Foreign Minister Mahamat Zene Cherif (not pictured) in N’Djamena, Chad, March 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst Tillerson has been involved in discussions within the U.S. administration on a possible meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.“There will be several steps necessary to agree on location, agree on the scope of those discussions. It’s very early stages. We’ve not heard anything directly back from North Korea but we expect to hear something directly from them,” he said during a visit to Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. He was speaking at the end of a week-long trip to five African countries. Tillerson did not clarify which steps were needed for the talks and declined to comment on potential locations. It would be the first face-to-face encounter between any leaders of the two countries and potentially marks a major breakthrough in easing tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme. Tillerson has cut short his first trip to Africa since becoming the top U.S. diplomat in order to return to Washington on Tuesday, a day ahead of schedule, to deal with urgent work. Nick Bit: I feel a lot better now their is an adult in the room.

137 House Democrats sign letter urging action against Russia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Over two-thirds of U.S. House of Representatives Democrats urged President Donald Trump to enact sanctions on Russia, the latest push by lawmakers for a response to investigators’ findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.At least 137 of the Democrats in the House signed a letter, seen by Reuters on Monday, “strongly urging” Trump to adhere to a law he signed last summer imposing sanctions on those who do business with Russia’s military and intelligence sectors.  “We strongly urge you to reverse course, follow the letter and spirit of the law, and demonstrate that the security of our country and integrity of elections are sacrosanct,” the letter said.

They said Trump had missed a Jan. 29 deadline to impose sanctions included in the law, known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

Members of Congress, Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, have been pushing the administration to punish Russia for what House Speaker Paul Ryan described as a “sinister and systematic attack” on the 2016 U.S. campaign, and prevent potential foreign interference in this November’s mid-term elections. Russia has denied seeking to meddle in the U.S. vote. Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion between his associates and Moscow. Probes of the issue, by congressional committees and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, have shadowed Trump’s first 14 months in office. Separately, the Democratic Senate and House leaders, as well as the top Democrats on the congressional Judiciary committees, released a letter on Monday urging Trump to use every resource available to extradite 13 Russians Mueller indicted last month for 2016 meddling. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that the indicted Russian nationals could be prosecuted in Russia if they were found to have broken Russian law. There could be action on Russia sanctions soon. Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, insisted to a Senate hearing last week that the administration is engaged on the issue of election security, and said the Treasury Department would announce sanctions on Russia as soon as this week. Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Susan Thomas

Saudi general tortured to death’ during Ritz-Carlton imprisonment

The report was published shortly before Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives in the US for meetings with the Trump administration - Credit: AFP PHOTO / Saudi Royal Palace / BANDAR AL-JALOUD
The report was published shortly before Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives in the US for meetings with the Trump administration Credit: AFP PHOTO / Saudi Royal Palace / BANDAR AL-JALOUD
More than 200 powerful Saudis were imprisoned in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh – REUTERS

A Saudi general may have been tortured to death and several wealthy businessmen were allegedly abused in captivity at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent crackdown on powerful figures in Saudi Arabia, according to a newspaper report. More than 200 businessmen, princes and government officials were detained in November and imprisoned at the luxury hotel in Riyadh in what the Saudi government said was an anti-corruption drive.  According to the New York Times, some of the powerful detainees may have suffered abuse at the hands of their captors as they were coerced into agreements to hand over billions of dollars to the Saudi government in return for their freedom.  Saudi Arabia has dismissed the allegations of abuse as “absolutely untrue”.  The most dramatic accusation involves Major General Ali al-Qahtani, an aide to a senior Saudi prince seen as a potential rival to the 32-year-old Prince Mohammed, who died in government custody in mid-December.  Sources told the newspaper that the general’s “neck was twisted unnaturally as though it had been broken” and that his body had burn marks which appeared to be the result of electric shocks.

General Qahtani was taken to hospital in November but was reportedly returned to his interrogation after being seen by doctors. The government has not offered an official explanation for how he died.

The general’s death had been widely reported in Arab and Iranian media previously but not in detail. The US report comes shortly before Prince Mohammed, known by his initials “MBS”, is due in Washington for meetings with the Trump administration.  General Qahtani was an aide to Prince Turki bin Abdullah, a former governor of Riyadh who is from a rival line of the Saudi royal family to Prince Mohammed. Prince Turki was himself detained during the November crackdown on allegations of corruption. He was eventually released. A further 16 detainees were allegedly left in need of medical treatment after their abuse. Some reportedly told family members they had been beaten, deprived of sleep, or interrogated with hoods over their heads.  “All allegations of abuse and torture of those investigated during the anti-corruption proceedings are absolutely untrue,” a Saudi official said.

Trump’s hastily passed tax law is error-riddled

After rushing through the bill, Congressional Republicans may have to re-write parts of iT

After years of dishonestly whining that the Affordable Care Act was written in secret and rushed through Congress with insufficient debate, Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration cobbled together their tax legislation in December and rushed it through Congress. Now, it appears, America is paying the price for their shoddy work. Desperate to pass the bill — which contained massive tax cuts for President Trump and the very rich, and tax increases for many poor and middle class families — with only Republican votes, the GOP majority was forced to make deals and amendments on the fly. Indeed, USA Today reported in December that the Senate actually passed its version of the bill with last-minute alterations that were “handwritten into the margins.”

Now, the error-riddled legislation President Trump signed into law may be so problematic that it may need to be re-written, the New York Times reported on Sunday. “Companies and trade groups are pushing the Treasury Department and Congress to fix the law’s consequences some intended and some not, including provisions that disadvantage certain farmers, hurt restaurateurs and retailers and could balloon the tax bills of large multinational corporations,” the paper reported. Even the pro-GOP U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote to the Treasury Department on Thursday raising concerns about ambiguities in the legislation.One problem, known as the “grain glitch,” is that the bill contained a massive deduction for farmers who sell to cooperatives, but offers no such deduction if they sell their crops to independent agribusinesses.  Another drafting error in the bill means that restaurants and retailers who do renovations will have to deduct their costs over 39 years, instead of the intended 15 year period.  Unlike the legislation itself — which was rammed through under the budget reconciliation so as to require only 51 votes in the Senate — any legislative fixes will require some Democratic support. But Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told The Times that his party will demand substantive changes as well: “We’re not just going to sit down and fix the things they did badly because they did it in the dead of night with lobbyists at the table.” As recently as last summer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) published a “flashback” document listing a series of out-of-context newspaper quotes to demonstrate that Obamacare was the result of a “‘secret’ closed door” process. And McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) have steadfastly blocked even bipartisan efforts to make technical fixes to that legislation.

Cash is far from dead and use is rising: BIS

LONDON (Reuters) – Even though more people now use cards, mobile phones or even facial recognition technology to pay street performers, buy pizza or donate to church on Sundays, hard cash is showing no signs of dying out, central bankers said. The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) said cryptocurrencies and the debate around them – such as whether cash will be replaced by virtual substitutes – are part of a broader debate about the nature of money. The payments sector has argued that the use of cash is falling and therefore they don’t need to provide as many ATM machines or bank branches.But in the BIS’ latest quarterly review, researchers took a closer look at whether cash is becoming a relic of the past as some claim.  “Some of the breathless commentary gives the impression that cash in the form of traditional notes and coins is going out of fashion fast,” said Hyun Song Shin, BIS economic adviser and head of research said.

“Despite all the technological improvements in payments in recent years, the use of good old-fashioned cash is still rising in most advanced and emerging market economies.”

Cash in circulation has actually risen in recent years, from 7 percent of GDP in 2000 to 9 percent in 2016, although it has fallen in Sweden and a few other places.

“The resilience of cash as a social institution reminds us of the importance of understanding the economic functions of money, beyond just the innovations in technology,” Shin said. Still, debit and credit card payments are rising as well, from 13 percent of GDP in 2000 to 25 percent in 2016. People hold more cards and are using them for more and smaller transactions, Shin said. Nick Bit: The use of cash is skyrocketing.. don’t let them shit you. Be sure to fill the First National Bank of YOUR Mattress nice and legal like

Deutsche Bank to pay staff 2 billion euros in bonuses for 2017, Even though it lost BILLIONS

FILE PHOTO: Flags with the logo of Deutsche Bank are seen at the headquarters ahead of the bank’s annual general meeting in Frankfurt, Germany May 18, 2017. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank said on Sunday its 2017 bonus pool would be above 2 billion euros ($2.46 billion), as the loss-making bank seeks to retain staff during a major overhaul. But the bank’s top managers are foregoing their annual bonuses for 2017 after coming under fire for awarding big incentive payouts even though Germany’s largest bank lost money last year.

“Variable compensation for the whole bank will be somewhat over 2 billion euros,” Deutsche board member Karl von Rohr told news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA).

The sacrificing of bonuses for the management board “isn’t because we are of the opinion that we did a bad job,” von Rohr was quoted by DPA as saying. “Rather, we considered it for the best that the board takes responsibility.” A spokeswoman for Deutsche confirmed the information. A bonus pool of just over 2 billion euros is significantly higher than the 546 million euros paid in 2016 but below the 2.4 billion euros awarded the year before. The bank sharply curtailed bonus payments for 2016 following speculation that it would need a state bailout to stay afloat. Deutsche Bank came under fire in January over reports it planned to pay more than 1 billion euros in bonuses despite being pushed to its third consecutive annual loss due to the one-off impact of a U.S. tax reform.

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  • DBKGn.DE

With Deutsche still struggling to return to the black under the stewardship of Chief Executive John Cryan, the generous pay awards irked many in Germany as perceptions grow that wealth is increasingly being concentrated in the hands of the super-rich. At the same time, Deutsche Bank is slashing its headcount, having reaffirmed plans to cut 9,000 jobs from 2015 levels, around one in 10 staff globally, with 4,000 expected to go in Germany. In justifying his bonus plans, Cryan said last month Deutsche was making a “one-off investment” to retain staff and that bonuses for 2018 would be closely linked to performance.

The bank will detail executive compensation when it publishes its annual report next Friday.

Nick Bit: they are not paying board members “bonuses”  BUT they will give them other compensation like massive stock options they don’t want you to know about

NYT: Trumps and Kushners discussing business

(CNN)The Trump Organization and Jared Kushner’s family company plan to do business together on a Jersey Shore development known as Pier Village, The New York Times reported. Kushner Companies plans to pay the Trump Organization to manage at least one hotel at the center of the development in Long Branch, the Times reported, citing people briefed on the talks. The Trump Organization, currently being managed by President Donald Trump’s two sons, and Kushner Companies have signed a letter of intent to work together on the hotel, according to the report. The Trump Organization also began managing a Kushner-owned hotel in Livingston, NJ, last year, people briefed on the matter told the Times. CNN previously reported that Trump and Kushner retain financial interests in their respective businesses. The potential deal raises questions about potential conflicts of interest, legal experts told the Times. A deal is not final, and the Kushners are not required by law to inform local officials — who agreed to back the oceanfront development with $20 million in bonds — of any deal, the Times said. Whether or not a deal is reached, Kushner is expected to eventually own 20 percent of the hotel, and he was personally involved in the project early in the presidential campaign, the newspaper reported. The White House declined to comment to the Times, but both companies confirmed their discussions about the hotel at Pier Village, the newspaper reported. Kushner Companies said in a statement to the Times that the Trumps “have zero equity of any type in our properties or businesses” and that the proposed Long Branch deal comes as a result of the company lacking a specialization in the hospitality industry, which caused it to have “a business obligation to seek the most capable resource.”

The Trump Organization disputed that a deal would pose a conflict of interest.
“This is a straight-up business deal,” Eric Danziger, the head of Trump Hotels, told the Times. “If there were something out of the ordinary about the deal, then I think that question is fair,” he said.” Marilyn L. Glynn, who served as general counsel in the Office of Government Ethics during both Republican and Democratic administrations, told the newspaper that deals between the two families do not inherently violate any ethics rule. But, she added, “The concern is that the President might not want to do anything that would upset the Kushner family agreement to do business with his company.”

CNN Exclusive: The more opioids doctors prescribe, the more money they make

In 2014 and 2015, opioid manufacturers paid hundreds of doctors across the country six-figure sums for speaking, consulting and other services. Thousands of other doctors were paid over $25,000 during that time. Physicians who prescribed particularly large amounts of the drugs were the most likely to get paid. “This is the first time we’ve seen this, and it’s really important,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a senior scientist at the Institute for Behavioral Health at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, where he is co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative. “It smells like doctors being bribed to sell narcotics, and that’s very disturbing,” said Kolodny, who is also the executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. The Harvard researchers said it’s not clear whether the payments encourage doctors to prescribe a company’s drug or whether pharmaceutical companies seek out and reward doctors who are already high prescribers. “I don’t know if the money is causing the prescribing or the prescribing led to the money, but in either case, it’s potentially a vicious cycle. It’s cementing the idea for these physicians that prescribing this many opioids is creating value,” said Dr. Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
  The CNN/Harvard analysis looked at 2014 and 2015, during which time more than 811,000 doctors wrote prescriptions to Medicare patients. Of those, nearly half wrote at least one prescription for opioids.
Fifty-four percent of those doctors — more than 200,000 physicians — received a payment from pharmaceutical companies that make opioids.
Doctors were more likely to get paid by drug companies if they prescribed a lot of opioids — and they were more likely to get paid a lot of money.
Among doctors in the top 25th percentile of opioid prescribers by volume, 72% received payments. Among those in the top fifth percentile, 84% received payments. Among the very biggest prescribers — those in the top 10th of 1% — 95% received payments. Barnett, one of the Harvard researchers who worked with CNN, said pharmaceutical companies pay doctors for a reason. “It’s not like they’re spending this money and just letting it go out into the ether,” he said. “They wouldn’t be spending this money if it weren’t effective.”

Tillerson Cuts Short Africa Trip Amid ‘Pressing Matters’ in U.S.

  • Trip has coincided with announcement on North Korea meeting
  • Tillerson fell ill while in Kenya, canceled some events
Rex Tillerson Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cut short his trip to Africa by about a day to deal with pressing matters in the U.S. Tillerson is ending his trip early to deal with work that needs to be attended to in Washington, D.C., Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein told reporters Monday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. He’ll travel to Chad and Nigeria today, as scheduled, but scrapped plans to spend the night in Nigeria, Goldstein said. The five-nation trip to Africa has coincided with two major foreign-policy events: President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and the dramatic announcement on Thursday that the president would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in May. Tillerson, 65, fell ill while in Kenya and had to cancel planned events in Nairobi on Saturday. The secretary had gone two days without sleep while working on North Korea and other issues, Goldstein said March 10. Nick Bit:  Its good idea to get the kindergarten teacher back in the classroom in hte White House before they get white paste all over themselves!

Trump Lawyers Are Considering A Challenge To Stop “60 Minutes” From Airing A Stormy Daniels Interview

Anderson Cooper interviewed the adult film performer and director on Thursday. CBS plans to air the interview next Sunday, March 18.

Lawyers associated with President Donald Trump are considering legal action to stop 60 Minutes from airing an interview with Stephanie Clifford, the adult film performer and director who goes by Stormy Daniels, BuzzFeed News has learned.

“We understand from well-placed sources they are preparing to file for a legal injunction to prevent it from airing,” a person informed of the preparations told BuzzFeed News on Saturday evening. It was not immediately clear what legal argument the lawyers would be making to support the considered litigation, and Trump and his legal team often have threatened litigation without following through on those threats in the past. Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney who previously was a longtime lawyer for the Trump Organization, directed questions about the possibility of litigation to Larry Rosen, who Cohen told BuzzFeed News is “my attorney handling this matter.” Rosen — a partner in the firm LaRocca, Hornik, Rosen, Greenberg & Blaha — acknowledged his role in the matter generally but did not comment directly on the possibility of seeking an injunction. BuzzFeed News has learned that CBS plans to air the 60 Minutes interview with Clifford next Sunday, March 18. An action to try to prevent the interview from airing would be the latest in a flurry of developments in a case that began just before the 2016 election when Cohen paid Clifford $130,000 in return for her silence about a sexual relationship she allegedly had with Trump in 2006. At the time, Trump was under intense pressure over comments he’d made about his treatment of women in the run-up to the vote. The Wall Street Journal revealed the payment — and Cohen’s route to making it — in January this year, but its details became public only on March 6 when Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, filed a lawsuit seeking to void what Avenatti now calls the “hush arrangement.” The lawsuit followed a temporary restraining order Cohen obtained in arbitration — on behalf of EC, LLC, the company Cohen set up to facilitate the payment — in late February to keep Clifford from talking about the temporary restraining order, the 2016 payment, or the underlying “confidential information” the payment intended to protect. In the suit, Avenatti alleged that the settlement agreement signed by Cohen and a previous lawyer for Clifford either was never valid because Trump had not signed it or otherwise agreed to its terms, which purport to bind Trump, or should be declared unenforceable because the agreement violates public policy. Avenatti included the settlement agreement as an exhibit to the lawsuit. The next day, Avenatti and Clifford appeared in a photograph with Anderson Cooper, which Avenatti posted to Twitter — including “@60Minutes” in the tweet.

Continue reading “Trump Lawyers Are Considering A Challenge To Stop “60 Minutes” From Airing A Stormy Daniels Interview”

Medellin, Colombia: ‘Murder Capital’ Becoming Retirees’ Haven

Image: Medellin, Colombia: 'Murder Capital' Becoming Retirees' Haven
A view of Medellin at night in Colombia (Georg Ismar/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

Medellin, Colombia, the one-time murder capital of the world, is rapidly becoming a haven for U.S. retirees seeking refuge in a city where the weather is always warm, people are friendly and healthcare options far surpass those offered in the United States. “People still think that Medellin is the murder capital of the world, but it’s not,” former Coral Springs, Florida, high school teacher Cindy Crawford Thomas, who has moved with her husband to the one-time home base of notorious drug cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar, told The Miami Herald.According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, the Thomases are far from alone. In 2017, 6,704 retirement checks were being sent to Colombia, marking an 85 percent increase from 2010. More checks head to Colombia than to any other Latin American country except for Mexico. There are even more expatriates heading to Colombia who are still too young to receive Social Security, and still others continue to have checks deposited in U.S. bank accounts, so the number of people heading to Colombia is even higher than the Social Security’s figures are showing.The new Medellin is a far different place than it was during Escobar’s days, when his cartel used it as their headquarters. At that time in the 1990s, the city had the highest murder rate in the world. It peaked in 1995 at 225 homicides per 100,000 people. But now, the homicide rate has dropped to about 20 per 100,000 people, putting it below the U.S. cities of St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans and Detroit. In addition, the hospitals in Colombia rank at 22nd among 190 countries, above the United States in 37th place and Canada in 33rd, according to a World Health Organization report from 2000, and permanent residents can be insured through a low-cost state-run healthcare system.Colombia remains a violent place in certain areas, however, and continues to be the world’s top producer of cocaine.  Also, the cost of living remains high, and Medellin is not for everyone, warns Brad Hinkelman, the founder of Casacol, a property development company catering to retirees. “We have people who come to our office who are not suited for living here,” he told The Herald. “They think they are going to live off of their Social Security and live in the Taj Mahal, and we have to kind of bring them down.” Nick Bit: Anyone who goes their even for a visit has a death wish!

Brussels on the Brink: EU’s Hostile Front Against UK Faces Collapse as Italy Election Winners Back Brexit

The EU’s hostile front against the UK in the ongoing Brexit talks faces collapse, as the populists who routed the establishment in the Italian elections insist the bloc must back down and offer a generous and constructive deal. “Great Britain is a friendly country with a long tradition of trading with Italy,” said Matteo Salvini, the populist firebrand who is in line to become prime minister, after his Lega party proved the most popular of the parties making up the centre-right coalition which took first place in the Italian elections. “You made a free choice with Brexit and I very much hope that it will be possible to maintain completely open trade with the EU without any penalties,” he told The Telegraph. Lega’s economics chief, Claudio Borghi, confirmed a Salvini-led government would refuse to go along with the current intransigent strategy, which he believes will damage European economies in the service of German interests.“There will be no blind trust in what Germany wants,” he declared. “Punishment or anything of the kind would be sheer stupidity. We export more to the UK than we import back and we certainly don’t want to hurt our Professor Alberto Bagnai, a Lega senator for the Abbruzzi, voiced similar sentiments, saying: “The EU is becoming more and more of a German empire. We are seeing German bureaucrats taking over the key positions in the EU institutions” — a pointed reference to the recent elevation of Jean-Claude Juncker’s ‘Rasputin’, Martin Selmayr, to the head of the EU bureaucracy, in decidedly dubious circumstances. “We call our movement the ‘Common Sense Revolution’ and it makes no sense at all for the EU to adopt a policy of revenge over Brexit,” he added. The other big winners in the Italian elections, the insurgent Five Star Movement (M5S), is also pressuring Brussels to change tack and adopt a more constructive approach. “We shouldn’t try to punish the British people for choosing Brexit,” insisted part leader Luigi Di Maio. M5S founder and guarantor Beppe Grillo has been even more forthright, cheering the Brexit vote as a well-deserved rebuke to the EU establishment, and saying: “Mediterranean countries, and Italy first among them, should take the same line towards the EU.” While the mainstream media has tended to portray the EU as speaking with one voice on Brexit, Salvini and M5S already have sympathisers in Central and Eastern Europe, with the Hungarians warning that a ‘No Deal’ scenario will hurt the EU more than Britain and that a comprehensive free trade agreement is vitally important. The leader of Poland’s governing party, too, has described two camps within the EU: one favouring a close relationship with the departing UK, and one bent on making an example of the country to discourage other independence movements. Italy’s new government, whatever shape it ultimately takes, may well shift the balance of power in Brussels against the more hostile camp decisively.