Russian President Vladimir Putin has not yet formally declared his intention to seek another term as leader of Russia, but many observers noted that a sweeping speech he gave at the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi this week served as a template for his campaign ahead of the March election. The speech’s overarching theme was to burnish Putin’s accomplishments as the man who restored ‘power and respect’ to Russia. But in doing so, he heaped abuse on the US and its western allies, accusing them of selectively adhering to international law, and of taking advantage of Russia during the 1990s when the country was struggling to rebuild following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bloomberg reported. He accused the US of abusing Russia’s trust, and seeking to take advantage of the political and economic chaos that persisted for much of the 1990s and early 2000s, according to Russia Today. ‘The biggest mistake our country made was that we put too much trust in you; and your mistake was that you saw this trust as a lack of power and you abused it,” he said during a question-and-answer session that was carried on national television. What was needed, he said, was ‘respect.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 20, 2017.
Not even a full day after Senators reached a “bipartisan” deal to keep subsidies to health insurers for the next two years, this latest attempt to keep Obamacare alive appears to be dying, because moments after Fox News reported that the Alexander-Murray Bill “will be dead in the House” as many in the GOP “want full repeal and replace”, Bloomberg reported that the bipartisan deal has “stalled out” according to Senator Thune, while Senator Hatch said that he opposes the Alexander-Murray fix altogether. ALEXANDER/MURRAY HEALTHCARE BILL WILL BE DEAD ON ARRIVAL IN THE HOUSE. HOUSE GOP INSISTS ON REPEAL/REPLACE – SOURCES: FOX NEWS ALEXANDER-MURRAY PLAN `HAS STALLED OUT,’ GOP SEN. THUNE SAYS SEN. ORRIN HATCH SAYS HE OPPOSES ALEXANDER-MURRAY OBAMACARE FIX
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 18, 2017.
Last week we wrote about how some former HSBC FX traders, led by Mark Johnson, orchestrated a carefully crafted plan to front-run a massive buy order for British Pounds using the code phrase “my watch is off.” Now, courtesy of court filings in a British case to extradite one of the participants, Stuart Scott, we learn exactly how much each HSBC trader made for his trading book in the illicit scheme that netted a total of $8 million in profits. Per Bloomberg: “The defendant personally obtained over $500,000 profit,” the U. S. Justice Department, represented by British lawyer Mark Summers, said in written arguments prepared for the hearing. “The offenses of which he is accused are highly serious. They involve a systematic and organized conspiracy to defraud, committed in breach of trust.” Scott was charged, along with his ex-boss Mark Johnson, by the Justice Department in July 2016 with using insider knowledge to front-run a $3.5 billion currency deal by Cairn Energy Plc that made the bank $8 million. Johnson is on trial in New York and a jury there could begin deliberations this week.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 16, 2017.
Update: Late Thursday, the administration said it would immediately stop paying what are known as cost-sharing reduction subsidies. The payments go to health insurers in the Affordable Care Act to help lower-income people with co-pays and other cost sharing. Without them, insurers have said they’ll dramatically raise premiums or pull out of the law’s state-based markets. According to Bloomberg, the White House said the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services both concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare. ‘The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system,’ the White House said in the statement. The payments will stop immediately, with no transition period, Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. They next payments were due next week. ‘Congress has not appropriated money for CSRs, and we will discontinue these payments immediately,’ the department said.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 13, 2017.
Finian Cunningham Sputnik Google is the latest US internet company to claim it found ‘Russia-linked’ advertisements on its network – allegedly posted to influence the US presidential election last year. Twitter and Facebook have already made similar claims and all three are now facing more scrutiny in the coming weeks before Congressional committees. What is truly astounding about this hysteria over alleged Russian interference in US democracy is that American citizens are being distracted from what is, by far, the much more alarming issue of how their government and Congress is bought by US Big Business. Bloomberg reported this week that: ‘Google identifies Russian election interference network’. It said the internet giant found political ads worth $4,700 which it believes are ‘tied to the Russian government’. These ads, it is claimed, carried political articles which were meant to influence which way American citizens would vote in the presidential contest between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump last November. Google has reportedly said that another $53,000 worth of ads are ‘under review’ for suspicion of being ‘linked’ to the Russian government. This follows claims made by Facebook that it had earlier identified $100,000 spent on ads by Russian sources, while Twitter said it had located $274,000 worth of such ads. The Russian government has repeatedly rejected accusations that it tried to meddle in the US election. Moscow rightly highlights the dearth of any evidence and total lack of due legal process. The American allegations have also whipped up a toxic climate to curb the legitimate media activities of Russian news channels.
There is a lot of confusion as to what is going on in Spain at this moment, with The Spain Report noting that “TV presenters asking politicians and guests if there has been a declaration of independence or not, and that “Spain confused.” Wikipedia took a more pragmatic approach, and defined Catalonia’s independence as lasting all of 9 seconds: from the moments Puidgemont announced independence, to his declaration literally 9 seconds later he was suspending the outcome of the Catalan referendum.
It did not help that moments ago, the following two Bloomberg headlines hit: CATALAN LAWMAKERS SIGN DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE: AP CATALAN LAWMAKERS DELAY IMPEMENTATION OF DECLARATION: AP
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 10, 2017.
In the most bizarre news of the day, Bloomberg’s Hugh Son noticed that in a late Thursday filing, the board of JPMorgan approved a series of revisions to the bank’s by-laws, including a particularly notable one: a new section defining what constitutes a quorum in an emergency resulting from “an attack on the United States” or a ‘nuclear or atomic disaster.’ That scenario is listed among emergencies that – understandably – might make it hard to hold a normal meeting for board members of America’s largest bank. The clause can be activated not just in case of a nuclear disaster or World War III, but also in a variety of situations including “without limitation apparent terrorist activity or the imminent threat of such activity, chemical and biological attacks, natural disasters, or other hazards or causes commonly known as acts of God.” In short, JPMorgan’s Board has decided it is time to seriously consider a TEOTWAWKI scenario. As Son notes, in such an event, any member of the board or the firm’s operating committee can call a meeting using ‘any available means of communication.’ And, just in case everyone else on the Board happens to die, one person will be sufficient to constitute a quorum. Vacancies can be filled by a majority vote of available directors. And if none are around, then designated officers can stand in. No officer, director or employee can be held liable in such a situation, except for ‘willful misconduct.’
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 5, 2017.
Two days ago, when we previewed the first ever visit by a Saudi King to the Russian capital – a move which prompted Bloomberg to call Russian president Putin the “new master of the Middle East” – we pointed out that according to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, a joint Russian-Saudi fund to invest in the energy sector will be announced during the forthcoming visit of the Saudi King to Moscow, and that the preliminary agreement to establish the $1 billion fund has already been reached. Fast forward to today when diplomatic history was made on Thursday, when Putin met with the King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – the first state visit to Russia by a reigning Saudi monarch – and the launch of a new level of relations between the countries, as well as billions in new energy-focused deals (for more on the strategic implications from the summit, please read this).
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 5, 2017.
If a union no longer works you always need to have a way to leave. Whether marriage or political. — Michael Krieger (@LibertyBlitz) October 3, 2017
If you’ve read my work over the past several weeks, you’ve probably noticed an increased fascination with secession/independence movements around the world. I think we’re at the very early stages of this developing trend, which will see nation-states across the world fracture for a variety of reasons. The historical significance of the political changes we’re about to live through cannot be overstated. As I wrote in last month’s piece, The Future Will Be Decentralized: To conclude, I recognize that I’m making a huge call here. I think the way human beings organize their affairs will experience the most significant paradigm level shift we’ve seen in the Western world since the end of the European feudal system hundreds of years ago. That’s how significant I think this shift will be. There are two key things that need to happen for this to occur. The first is technological innovation, and that’s already happening. The second is increased human consciousness. As Thoreau noted, in order for us to have greater self-determination we need to be ready for it. Are we ready? I think we’re getting there. While extremely significant, the Catalan independence movement is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a global drive toward political decentralization. For example, just today I came across another potential secessionist hotspot in an unexpected place, Brazil. Bloomberg reports:
Obamacare repeal 3.0 went down in flames Tuesday. According to Bloomberg, opposition from three Republican Senators derailed the latest attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Leaders decided the Senate won’t vote before Saturday’s deadline to use a fast-track procedure to keep Democrats from blocking a GOP-only bill. On Monday, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine added her opposition to that of GOP Senators John McCain of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky, enough to sink the legislation in the 52-48 Senate.’ This raises broader questions: Can Republicans get anything done? Is there any chance of Trump pushing through his ambitious economic agenda? Calling the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill a ‘repeal’ was a bit of a stretch. It would have turned Obamacare Medicaid funds into block grants to the states, and repealed the penalties that enforce the individual and employer mandates. Most of the ACA taxes and insurance regulations would have stayed in place. In fact, even the mandates would have technically remained on the books. The penalties would have simply been set at zero.
This post was published at Schiffgold on SEPTEMBER 27, 2017.
As tensions between North Korea and the U. S. continue to escalate with every Trump tweet and subsequent response by Kim Jong-Un, National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster said that the U. S. has prepared “four or five different scenarios” for how the crisis with North Korea will be resolved, adding ominously that ‘some are uglier than others.” McMaster declined to comment on the extent to which North Korea’s deeply-buried nuclear program was vulnerable to U. S. military strikes — an assessment made of Iran before the 2015 framework agreement designed to stop its nuclear program. He acknowledged that every military option assumed a reaction from North Korea that endangered South Korean citizens, adding it’s ‘foremost in our minds.’ That danger ‘is certainly taken into consideration in all our planning and war gaming, table-top exercise efforts,’ McMaster said. Still, while McMaster said the threat from Pyongyang is ‘much further advanced’ than anticipated and the Pentagon said the president has a ‘deep arsenal’ to draw upon if needed, Bloomberg quoted U. S. officials who dismissed North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho’s comment that President Donald Trump’s warnings to Pyongyang at the United Nations amounted to a declaration of war. That said, both governments have said ‘all options’ are on the table in dealing with the tensions. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, speaking in India on Tuesday, said the U. S. wants to keep engagement with North Korea in the diplomatic realm as long as possible. But on Monday Ri escalated tensions with his remark that North Korea would be within its rights to shoot down U. S. warplanes flying in international airspace. That startled markets, coming just days after the Pentagon sent planes near North Korea’s border.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 26, 2017.
North Korean war-talk has extended early gains for Brent Crude (driven by anxiety over the post-Kurd-referendum fallout), pushing prices to their highest since July 2015. To the highest since July 2015… As Bloomberg reports, Kurdish oil supplies may be in jeopardy as Turkey, Iran and the Iraqi central government in Baghdad sought to isolate the semi-autonomous Kurds as balloting began on Monday. Meanwhile, OPEC and its partners implemented more than 100 percent of their agreed cuts last month, OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said Friday in Vienna, providing more fuel to the oil rally.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 25, 2017.
Ens trobarem amb moltes adversitats. L'Estat vol intervenir la nostra autonomia, per no ens aturaran! #HolaRepbica pic.twitter.com/7Wdodq3AA0 — Joaquim Forn (@quimforn) September 23, 2017
Spain found itself on the verge of a full-blown sovereign crisis on Saturday, after the “rebel region” of Catalonia rejected giving more control to the central government in defiance of authorities in Madrid who are trying to suppress an independence referendum on Oct. 1. As tensions rise ahead of the planned Catalan referendum on October 1, and as Madrid’s crackdown on separatist passions took a turn for the bizarre overnight when as we reported Spain’s plan to send boatloads of military police to Catalonia to halt the referendum backfired with dockers in two ports staging a boycott and refused access, on Saturday Spain’s Public Prosecutor’s Office told Catalan Police chief Josep Lluis Trapero that his officers must now obey orders from a senior state-appointed police coordinator, Spanish news agency EFE reported on Saturday. The Catalan Police, however, disagreed and as Bloomberg reports, the SAP union – the largest trade group for the 17,000-member Catalan Police, known as Mossos d’Esquadra – said it would resist hours after prosecutors Saturday ordered that it accept central-government coordination. The rejection echoed comments by Catalan separatist authorities.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 23, 2017.
Update: According to Bloomberg, Trump won’t be declaring war (yet), and instead the announcement is sanctions related. TRUMP’S N. KOREA ANNOUNCEMENT TO BE SANCTIONS-RELATED: OFFICIAL TRUMP SAYS `WE WILL BE PUTTING MORE SANCTIONS ON NORTH KOREA” * * * Following yesterday’s anticlimatic Rex Tillerson press conference in which the Secretary of State was expected, by some, to make an important announcement only to disappoint, moments ago National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster said on CNN that “the president will make an important announcement today about the continuation of our efforts to resolve this problem with North Korea short of war.” McMaster added that Trump will “make that announcement as he meets with our very close allies South Korea and Japan.’ As Bloomberg reminds us, President Trump is set to meet with South Korea President Moon Jae-inat 11:30am and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at 12:15pm in New York.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 21, 2017.
On September 18, the US Senate voted to ban the use of products from the Moscow-based cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab by the federal government, citing national security risk. The vote was included as an amendment to an annual defense policy spending bill approved by the Senate on the same day. The measure pushed forward by New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen has strong support in the House of Representatives, which also must vote on a defense spending bill. The legislation bars the use of Kaspersky Lab software in government civilian and military agencies. *** On September 13, a binding directive issued by Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, ordered federal agencies to remove Kaspersky Lab products from government computers over concerns the Russia-based cybersecurity software company might be vulnerable to Russian government influence. All federal departments and agencies were given 30 days to identify any Kaspersky products in use on their networks. The departments have another 60 days to begin removal of the software. The statement says, The department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks. The Russian law does not mention American networks, nevertheless it is used as a pretext to explain the concern. Similar bans against US government use of Kaspersky products have been suggested before. In 2015, Bloomberg News reported that the company has close ties to Russian spies.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 21, 2017.
McCain sounds very much like a no on TrumpCare, calls for markups, amendments, debate in scrum. "I'm not supportive of the bill yet." — Jeff Stein (@JStein_Vox) September 18, 2017
Update from Bloomberg: McCain still on the fence: MCCAIN SAYS NOT SUPPORTIVE AT THIS TIME OF GRAHAM-CASSIDY BILL MCCAIN: WILL DISCUSS GRAHAM-CASSIDY HEALTH BILL W/COLLEAGUES Will third time be the charm for the GOP on repealing Obamacare? A last ditch attempt by Senate Republicans to push through repeal and replace Obamacare appears to be gaining steam ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline, but according to Bloomberg it faces significant challenges to get a deal done before a hard deadline in 12 days. A number of Republicans have reportedly jumped on board a proposal by Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana to replace the Affordable Care Act’s insurance subsidies with block grants to states. However, some of the same GOP senators who blocked various stages of the prior two repeal efforts are withholding their support. The Hill confirms that supporters do not appear to have the 51 votes necessary to pass the bill yet, but pressure is growing on Republicans to back the measure, which could replace much of ObamaCare with block grants for states. “In a crucial boost for its chances on Monday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) offered his support.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 18, 2017.
For a man who once criticized the Clinton Foundation for taking millions of dollars in ‘donations’ from Wall Street “Fat Cats,” Obama seems to be in a rush to replicate the lucrative Clinton scam via his very own Obama Foundation. As Bloomberg points out this morning, since leaving office in January, Obama has already collected millions in speaking fees from the same Wall Street banks that may have cost Hillary her shot at the White House. Last month, just before her book ‘What Happened’ was published, Barack Obama spoke in New York to clients of Northern Trust Corp. for about $400,000, a person familiar with his appearance said. Last week, he reminisced about the White House for Carlyle Group LP, one of the world’s biggest private equity firms, according to two people who were there. Next week, he’ll give a keynote speech at investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald LP’s health-care conference. Obama is coming to Wall Street less than a year after leaving the White House, following a path that’s well trod and well paid. While he can’t run for president, he continues to be an influential voice in a party torn between celebrating and vilifying corporate power. His new work with banks might suggest which side of the debate he’ll be on and disappoint anyone expecting him to avoid a trap that snared Clinton. Or, as some of his executive friends see it, he’s just a private citizen giving a few paid speeches to other successful people while writing his next book. ‘He was the president of the entire United States — financial services are under that umbrella,’ said former UBS Group AG executive Robert Wolf, an early supporter who joined the Obama Foundation board this year. ‘He doesn’t look at Wall Street like, ‘Oh, these are individuals who don’t want the best for the country.’ He doesn’t stereotype.’
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 18, 2017.
The ‘Wall Street Democrats’ is the wing of the party created by the Clintons and nurtured further by Barack Obama. It takes money hand over fist from Wall Street for political campaigns, wags a warning finger at Wall Street from the public podium while stuffing its administrations with Wall Street execs, then its leadership reaps millions of dollars in personal speaking fees from the robber barons after leaving office. As of this morning, there’s no longer any debate that Obama is firmly entrenched in this cozy world of money. Bloomberg News is reporting that former President Obama has accepted upwards of $400,000 a clip to speak before Wall Street firms Northern Trust Corp. and Cantor Fitzgerald and an unspecified sum from Carlyle Group LP. The speeches at Northern Trust and Carlyle Group occurred over the past month and a half. The Cantor Fitzgerald speech is scheduled for next week. Adding to the intrigue, Obama’s future roster of private speeches to Wall Street banks is not available for public inspection. Equally problematic, while it was widely reported in February that Obama has signed with the Harry Walker Agency to represent him for speaking engagements, that agency showcases Bill and Hillary Clinton in its 2017 Speakers Bureau brochure while Obama goes missing. Adding to the curiosity, which went unreported in the Bloomberg article, the Twitter account for the Harry Walker Agency is promoting appearances by its other speakers from Obama’s administration (it represents a stable full) but when we went back months on its Twitter account, we found no mention of Obama’s private speeches that have already occurred since he left office.
The most important event in China in five years is about to take place, and Beijing isn’t taking any chances. Ahead of the Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress – an event so massive that according to Bloomberg “nothing escapes its pull” – which is slated to start on October 18 in Beijing, regulators have made it clear to the nation’s top brokers, bankers and financiers that they don’t want to see any major turbulence in markets. In a repeat of the fiasco that followed the bursting of China’s equity bubble in the summer of 2015 when Beijing effectively nationalized the stock market, and went so far as to throw prominent hedge fund managers and assorted “speculators” in prison, the China Securities Regulatory Commission has ordered local brokerages to “mitigate risks” and ensure stable markets before and during the Communist Party’s leadership congress next month, according to Bloomberg. Additionally, to leave virtually nothing to chance – and to have ready scapegoats in case someone does in fact sell – the CSRC also banned brokerage bosses from taking holidays or leaving the country from Oct. 11 until the congress ends. Brokerage bosses were told to avoid travel of any kind from Oct. 11 until the congress ends, including business trips. Luckily for them, China’s national day holidays are coming up in the first week of October. Local markets will be shut for an entire week, providing plenty of time to recharge for the congress. Since the congress, which is expected to replace about half of China’s top leadership, is of paramount importance to President Xi Jinping who will use it as a foundation to cement his influence into the next decade, nothing is allowed to spoil the optics of supreme control at this critical moment.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 17, 2017.
As the two old, cold war adversaries, Russia and NATO, prepare to begin massive war games to show off their respective military strengths, it was the UK’s turn to accuse Russia first of “testing the West” by conducting war games on NATO’s eastern flank in its biggest military exercise in four years. Speaking on BBC’s ‘The Andrew Marr Show’ on Sunday, U. K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said that Russia’s exercise “is designed to provoke us, it’s designed to test our defenses, and that’s why we have to be strong. Russia is testing us and testing us now at every opportunity. We’re seeing a more aggressive Russia. We have to deal with that.” In a testament to our hyperbolic times, Fallon’s statement also contained just a “little bit” of fake news: while Fallon said that more than 100,000 Russian and Belorussian troops are at the borders of North Atlantic Treaty Organization members, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said last month that the so-called Zapad 2017 exercise Sept. 14-20 involves 13,000 troops, and that the drills are ‘purely of a defensive nature” according to Bloomberg.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 11, 2017.