Tag: Industrial War Complex (page 1 of 345)

Arab League Holds Emergency Session: Iran And “Terrorist” Hezbollah Must Be Stopped

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, in opening remarks to the Arab League today, declared that the kingdom “will not hesitate to defend its national security to keep its people safe” while requesting that joint action be taken to stop Iranian "aggression" and attacks on Arab states. 

Last weekend Saudi Arabia called an emergency session of the Arab League to address what it labeled "Iranian interference" after the bizarre series of events related to MBS' aggressive internal purge, which included the detention of Lebanese ex-PM Hariri, left the kingdom in an unprecedented state of strife and uncertainty.  The destabilizing events were precipitated by a November 4 attack claimed by Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen, which the Saudis called a "violation" committed by Iran, though Iran denied that it had anything to do with the rare ballistic missile launch out of Yemen. 


Arab League meeting in Cairo on Sunday. Image source: AFP

Arab foreign ministers from member states met at League headquarters in Cairo on Sunday and in predictable fashion blasted Iran and Hezbollah for sowing instability and discord within Arab countries, citing Iranian "aggression" and expanding influence. The meeting is only the 12th such emergency summit to be held since the Arab League's founding in 1945 – a fact which hints at Saudi Arabia's increased desperation to confront Hezbollah while also shifting blame from its own self-made crisis at home.

The extraordinary session was also urged by close allies among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait – all of which also backed the Saudi diplomatic and economic war against Qatar which erupted early last summer. Among the many Saudi charges against Qatar is included supposed Iranian infiltration of the tiny oil-rich nation. 

According to Bloomberg, Arab League head Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a press conference carried on al-Arabiya that a resolution referred to Hezbollah as a "terrorist organization". Furthermore, he said that though the Arab league won’t declare war against Iran at the moment, the resolution is a clear condemnation of Iranian interference in the region.

In addition, Hossam Zaki, Arab League Assistant Secretary, struck a hardline tone when he told Asharq al Awsat newspaper, "What Iran is doing against some Arab countries calls for taking more than one measure to stop these violations, interferences and threats, which are carried out through many various means." 

Much of Sunday's meeting focused on Lebanon, with Bahrain's foreign minister announcing that the country has come under the "total control" of Iran-backed Hezbollah. "The Lebanese Republic, in spite of our relations with it as a brotherly Arab nation… is under the total control of this terrorist party," said Bahraini FM Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, in reference to Hezbollah. "Iran's biggest arm in the region at the moment is the terrorist Hezbollah arm," he charged further. Bahrain recently joined Saudi Arabia in ordering its citizens out of Lebanon in what could be early signs of a looming regional war. 

Of course, there was not even a hint of Arab League condemnation of Saudi Arabia effectively kidnapping Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who is currently in an awkward state of limbo – or an exile of sorts – in Paris at the invitation of France's President Emmanuel Macron, though Hariri is vowing to return to Beirut this week. 

As many astute pundits have pointed out, it's now "blame Iran time" according to the official Saudi (and allies) narrative of events in order to set the stage for public support for potential military action against Iran. Though it's unlikely that the Gulf states would take direct military action against Hezbollah and Iran, there could be efforts underway to give political backing for an Israeli incursion into Lebanon.

Meanwhile the Lebanese are increasingly aware that their country has fallen in the cross hairs of an unusual alliance between Saudi Arabia, Israel, and anti-Iranian interests which see Hezbollah and pro-Iranian proxies as the number one threat and scapegoat for all of the region's problems. Lebanese President Michel Aoun has accused Saudi Arabia of effectively kidnapping Hariri and holding him hostage, though Hariri himself has since given bizarre excuses for his prolonged absence.

As discussed previously, Iran is currently being scapegoated for just about all tensions which have exploded in the gulf over the past month, including the following growing list of grievances:

  • the civil war in Yemen,
  • sowing internal discord and rebellion among Shia communities within the gulf monarchies,
  • the Qatar economic blockade and isolation over accusations that it is "Iran friendly",
  • the latest civil unrest in Bahrain and the alleged bombing of a major oil pipeline there,
  • ratcheting up tensions with Israel in support of Hezbollah,
  • destabilizing Lebanon itself leading to PM Saad Hariri's "resignation" – all of this precipitating the Saudi "night of the long knives".
  • the war in Syria and sectarian strife

It may not come immediately, but there could be war on the horizon as Saudi Arabia and its regional allies grow increasingly desperate for "action" against Iran and Hezbollah.

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Weinstein Watershed – Here’s A List Of The 42 Men Accused Of Sexual Misconduct (So Far)

Since The New York Times published allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein in October, there has been a watershed as multiple men in entertainment, media and politics in the U.S. and beyond face allegations ranging from inappropriate behavior to forced sexual misconduct to rape.

As The Associated press reports, the #MeToo moment is also prompting re-examination of past sexual misconduct claims against powerful men, including Democratic former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. He was impeached and then acquitted of perjury and obstruction of lawmakers’ investigation into his sexual encounters with a White House intern, and he settled a sexual harassment lawsuit stemming from his time as Arkansas governor.

A look at some of the men accused since the Weinstein accusations emerged:

Entertainment:

— Producer Harvey Weinstein— Accused by dozens of women of sexual harassment or sexual assaults, including rape. Fired by The Weinstein Co. and expelled from various professional guilds. Under investigation by police departments in New York, London, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. Weinstein denies all allegations of non-consensual sex, but he has apologized for causing “a lot of pain” with “the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past.”

— Celebrity chef John Besh — Accused by 25 women of sexual harassment. He has stepped down from the company he founded.

— Comedian Louis C.K. — Accused by five women of sexual misconduct. Planned release of film “I Love You, Daddy” halted. Netflix special canceled. He says the allegations are true and has apologized.

— Cinefamily executives Hadrian Belove and Shadie Elnashai — Accused of sexual misconduct. Movie theater shut down in the wake of allegations due to crippling debt.

— Actor Richard Dreyfuss — One woman alleges sexual harassment. He denies the allegation.

— Director-producer Gary Goddard — Accused by one man of sexually molesting him when the man was 12. He denies the allegation.

—Casting employee Andy Henry — Admitted to urging women to take off their clothes during coaching sessions in 2008 while working on the “CSI” series. He was fired by his current employer.

— Actor Dustin Hoffman — Accused by woman of sexual harassing when she was 17. He has apologized for his behavior.

— Actor Robert Knepper — Accused by one woman of sexual assault. He denies the allegations.

— Showrunner Andrew Kreisberg — Accused by 19 women of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching. The “Supergirl” and “Arrow” showrunner has been suspended by Warner Bros. Television Group. He told Variety he has made comments on women’s appearances and clothes “but they were not sexualized.”

— Actor Jeremy Piven — Accused by three women of sexual misconduct. He denies all allegations.

— Filmmaker Brett Ratner — Accused by at least six women of sexual harassment. Playboy shelved projects with Ratner and Ratner stepped away from Warner Bros. related activities. He denies the allegations.

— Comedy festival organizer Gilbert Rozon — Accused by at least nine women of sexually harassing or sexually assaulting them. Rozon stepped down as president of Montreal’s renowned “Just for Laughs” festival and apologized “to all those I have offended during my life.”

— Producer Chris Savino — Accused of harassing up to 12 women. Fired from Nickelodeon. He has apologized for his behavior.

— Actor Steven Seagal — Accused by two women of rape. He denies the allegations.

— Actor Tom Sizemore — Accused of groping an 11-year-old actress in 2003. Utah prosecutors declined to file charges, citing witness and evidence problems. He denies the allegation.

— Actor Kevin Spacey — Accused by at least 24 men of sexual misconduct or assault. London police reportedly investigating a sexual assault. Fired from “House of Cards” and replaced in Ridley Scott’s completed film “All the Money in the World.” Massachusetts prosecutors are investigating one allegation. His former publicist has said he is seeking unspecified treatment.

— Actor Jeffrey Tambor — Two women — an actress on his show “Transparent” and his assistant — allege sexual misconduct. He denies the allegation, saying in a statement that he has “never been a predator — ever.”

— Actor George Takei — One man alleges sexual assault. He denies the allegation.

— Writer-director James Toback — Accused by hundreds of women of sexual harassment. Beverly Hills police investigating complaints. He has denied the allegations to the Los Angeles Times.

— “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner — Accused by one woman of sexual harassment. He denies the allegation.

— Actor Ed Westwick — Accused by two women of sexual assault. The BBC pulled an Agatha Christie adaptation from its television schedule and halted production on a second sitcom starring the former “Gossip Girl’ actor. Los Angeles police are investigating. He denies the allegations.

Media, publishing and business:

— Billboard magazine executive Stephen Blackwell — Accused of sexual harassment by one woman. He has resigned from the magazine.

— Penguin Random House art director Giuseppe Castellano — Accused by one woman of sexual harassment. Penguin Random House is investigating. Castellano has not commented.

— New Republic publisher Hamilton Fish— Multiple sexual harassment allegations. He has resigned from the magazine.

— Journalist Mark Halperin — Accused of harassing about 12 women while at ABC News. Book contract terminated. Fired from job at NBC News. He has denied some of the allegations.

— Artforum publisher Knight Landesman — Accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and sued by one woman. He has resigned from the magazine.

— NPR news chief Michael Oreskes — Accused of inappropriate behavior or sexual harassment by at least four women while at The New York Times, NPR and The Associated Press. He has been ousted from NPR.

— Amazon executive Roy Price — Accused by one woman of sexual harassment. He resigned from Amazon.

— Webster Public Relations CEO Kirt Webster — Accused of sexual assault by one woman. Firm renamed and Webster is “taking time away.”

— Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner — Accused by one man of sexual harassment. He says he did not intend to make the accuser uncomfortable.

— New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier — Accused of sexually harassing numerous women. Removed from the masthead of The Atlantic magazine. He has apologized for his behavior.

— NBC News booker Matt Zimmerman — Accused of inappropriate conduct by multiple women at the network. He was fired from NBC.

Politics:

— U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) — Accused of forcibly kissing a woman while rehearsing for a 2006 USO tour; Franken also was photographed with his hands over her breasts as she slept. Franken has apologized, while maintaining that he remembered the rehearsal differently. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called for an ethics investigation of Franken.

— U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore (R.-Ala.) —Accused of sexually assaulting two women decades ago when they were teenagers; about a half-dozen other women have accused Moore of inappropriate conduct. The former state Supreme Court chief justice denies the allegations. He has rebuffed pressure from national Republican leaders to step aside; the state GOP is standing by him.

— Former President George H.W. Bush — Accused of patting seven women below the waist while posing for photos with them in recent years, well after he left office. The 93-year-old Republican has issued repeated apologies through a spokesman “to anyone he has offended,” with the spokesman noting that the former president uses a wheelchair and that his arm sinks below people’s waists when they take photos with him.

— Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel — Accused of sexually inappropriate comments and behavior toward a number of women, Bittel resigned. Meanwhile, Democratic state Sen. Jeff Clemens resigned after a report that he had an extramarital affair with a lobbyist, and Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala is being investigated by the Senate over allegations of harassment and groping. Latvala has denied the allegations.

— Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover — Stepped down as speaker this month after news surfaced that the Republican had settled a sexual harassment claim from a GOP caucus staffer. Hoover denied the harassment allegation but said he sent consensual yet inappropriate text messages. He remains in the Legislature.

— British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon — Accused of inappropriate advances on two women, the Conservative resigned. Sexual harassment and assault allegations have also emerged against a number of other U.K. political figures. Labour Party legislator Carl Sargeant is believed to have taken his own life after harassment allegations cost him his post as the Welsh government’s Cabinet secretary for communities and children. He had asked for an independent inquiry to clear his name.

Sports:

— International Olympic Committee member Alex Gilady — Accused by two women of rape and by two others of inappropriate conduct. Gilady denied the rape accusations, said he didn’t recall one of the other allegations, but acknowledged a claim he’d propositioned a woman during a job interview 25 years ago was “mainly correct.” He stepped down as president of an Israeli broadcasting company he founded. The IOC has said it is looking into the allegations.

— Former South African soccer association president Danny Jordaan — Accused by former member of parliament Jennifer Ferguson of raping her in 1993. Jordaan denies the accusation.

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Mugabe Admits ‘Mistakes’, But Refuses To Resign In Defiant Speech

Update 8:  Bloomberg is reporting that Zimbabwe’s ruling party will proceed Monday with its plans to impeach President Robert Mugabe after the long-term leader refused to resign Sunday evening, as was expected. Bloomberg's sources said Mugabe’s speech, including a vow to preside over the party conference in December, deviated from an earlier agreement with military authorities to read a prepared statement of resignation.

Unsurprisingly given his past remarks, it seems Mugabe is comfortable risking a civil war if it means retaining his tenuous grip on power. So with the path forward for Zimbabwe looking dangerously uncertain, the AP has published a timeline reminding readers exactly how we got to this point…

  • Nov. 6: After a campaign of public insults against Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe fires his longtime deputy, later accusing him of plotting to take power via witchcraft. Mnangagwa flees the country.
  • Nov 13: Army commander Constantino Chiwenga issues a rare public rebuke, saying the military won't hesitate to "step in" to calm political tensions and criticizing the handling of the once-prosperous southern African nation's crumbling economy.
  • Nov. 14: Armored personnel carriers are seen on the outskirts of the capital, Harare. The military moves in overnight, taking control of the state-run broadcaster.
  • Nov. 15: The military announces that Mugabe is under house arrest and an operation has begun to arrest "criminals" around him who harmed the economy. Unpopular first lady Grace Mugabe, who many feared would replace Mnangagwa and even succeed her husband, disappears from view.
  • Nov. 16: State-run media publish extraordinary photos of a smiling Mugabe shaking hands with the army commander at the State House amid negotiations on the president's exit as the military tries to avoid accusations of a coup.
  • Nov. 17: The army, which continues to refer to Mugabe as president, allows him to make his first public appearance since house arrest. He appears at a graduation ceremony to polite applause.
  • Nov. 18: The bulk of the capital's roughly 1.6 million people pour into the streets in an anti-Mugabe demonstration that even days ago would have brought a police crackdown.
  • Nov. 19: The ruling party Central Committee expels Mugabe as party leader and tells him to step aside as president by noon Monday or face impeachment. In a speech on national television, he does not announce his resignation as expected.

* * *

Update 7: The path forward for the Zimbabwe military, PANU ZF and Mugabe is still uncertain, but the president has made one thing strikingly clear: He appears he intends to cling to power until he is forcibly removed…

 

Furthermore, Bloomberg is reporting that Mugabe's speech deviated from his prepared comments, suggesting that he deliberately misled his military handlers.

* * *

Update 6: At the close of a long-winded address, Mugabe admitted that "mistakes have been made" during his tenure as president, but insisted that the people of Zimbabwe learn to put these mistakes behind them, and move forward, adding that he would preside over the upcoming Congress.

In short, he is not resigning…

 

Many noted that the speech didn't sound like a resignation speech. It was also much shorter than the hours-long addresses Mugabe is known for. Mugabe's own political party, ZANU PF, promised earlier that Mugabe would resign by noon Monday. During the speech, he noted that Zimbabwe's economy had hit a "rough patch" (something of an understatement) and added that the ruling party needed to put an end to victimization and arbitrary decision-making.

He also noted in his speech that “intergenerational conflict must be resolved,” apparently a reference to the exile of his 52-year-old wife, Grace, whom he had been grooming to succeed him. Mugabe is 93 and had been backed by fellow veterans of the country’s liberation war, until they recently turned against him.

Of course, Mugabe isn't the first African leader in recent memory to pull a stunt like this…

 

The Associated Press reported that Mugabe has "baffled the country" by refusing to resign:

The ruling party’s Central Committee just hours earlier told him to resign as president by noon Monday or face impeachment proceedings the following day.

 

Zimbabweans gathered in expectation of a celebration. Instead, Mugabe appeared to hint at challenging the ruling party, which has expelled him as its leader, by trying to stay on.

 

Mugabe made a reference to presiding over a party congress next month. “The congress is due in a few weeks from now. I will preside over its processes, which must not be possessed by any acts calculated to undermine it or compromise the outcomes in the eyes of the public."

 

Officials close to the talks between Mugabe and the military had said Mugabe was resigning.

Just a few minutes after going live today, the state broadcaster, ZBC, had more than 12,000 live viewers on Facebook, which likely qualifies it as the largest Facebook Livestream audience of anyone in Zimbabwe. The number jumped to more than 20,000 soon after the announcement began and about 33,000 several minutes later. The final count we got was 36,500. At the end of the broadcast, the video had received more than a quarter of a million views, according to TechZim.

* * *

Update 5: Here's the live feed for Mugabe's speech, which is being broadcast on the state TV channel:

* * *

Update 4: Reuters is reporting that Robert Mugabe has reluctantly agreed to resign the presidency of Zimbabwe after 37 years in power. His decision comes after members of his own party voted to oust him during an emergency vote held Sunday.

ZANU-PF had given the 93-year-old less than 24 hours to quit as head of state or face impeachment, an attempt to secure a peaceful end to his tenure after a de facto coup.

Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster ZBC said Mugabe, who was once lauded as an anti-colonialist hero for driving the British out of what was then called Rhodesia, would address the nation shortly. Earlier on Sunday, the official Herald newspaper showed pictures of him meeting top generals at his State House offices, and a ZBC source said an outside-broadcast truck was being sent in preparation for an announcement.

 

…Mugabe's speech is now expected to begin 'shortly':

 

 

 

* * *

Update 3: After a meeting with military officials, Mugabe's resignation appears imminent…

 

 

* * *

Update 2: Mugabe, who remains under house arrest, is meeting with the commanders of the country's military shortly after lawmakers approved an ultimatum for the long-time strongman to either resign, or be forced…

 

 

* * *

Update: Initial media reports about Mugabe's ouster were confusing: While the country's ruling party had voted to expel him, several sources quoted by western media outlets said the vote was only the trigger to start the process of removing Mugabe, and that he is still technically president of Zimbabwe. 

Fortunately, the ruling Zanu-PF party has issued a quick clarification: Mugabe – who has obstinantly refused to officially abdicate in accordance with the military's demands – has until noon tomorrow to resign. If he doesn't, he will be impeached.

 

Zimbabwe's ruling party confirmed the news in a tweet…

 

 

 

* * *

A day after thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Harare to celebrate the imminent removal of Robert Mugabe, the country’s 93-year-old dictator who’d been effectively deposed during a surprise coup earlier this week, the country’s ruling party has officially voted to remove him from office and install his former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as interim leader.

As we’ve pointed out, Mugabe triggered his own downfall when he fired Mnangagwa last week to try and clear a path for his much-younger wife, Grace, to succeed him as leader of Zimbabwe. Mugabe tried to appoint his 52-year-old wife to Mnangagwa's former position, which would've positioned her to be his successor. However, Mnangagwa’s sudden ouster outraged the leaders of Zimbabwe’s military, who decided to intervene and place Mugabe under house arrest.

Mugabe had resisted the military’s request to step down, so on Friday, the country’s 10 provincial committees resolved to oust Mugabe. That decision was ratified Sunday at a meeting of Zimbabwe’s central executives, according to the head of the country's influential liberation war veterans.

Meanwhile, ABC reported that Mugabe's wife Grace – who reportedly fled the country after the coup – has been officially expelled by ZANU-PF, the ruling party. Veterans leader Chris Mutsvangwa said now that Mugabe’s ouster is official, processes to remove the 93-year-old as President could now begin.

Attendants at the meeting sang and danced in celebration after unanimously voting to remove Mugabe.

 

 

After the vote, members of the central committee started singing “Chengetedza” by Jah Prayzah, a popular Zimbabwean musician. According to local media, the song has become an anthem for the de facto anthem of the movement to oust Mugabe.

 

 

Before voting, members of Zimbabwe’s central committee sung the national anthem.

 

 

According to one BBC reporter, journalists were asked to leave the room after the vote as the party set about formalizing the decision.

 

    In his opening remarks at a meeting of ZANU-PF's Central Committee, Obert Mpofu, the official chairing the gathering, said the party had come together with "a heavy heart,” adding that Mugabe’s wife, Grace, and others in his orbit had taken advantage of his age and feebleness to loot the country’s national resources. Mpofu then hailed the beginning of "a new era, not only for our party but for our nation Zimbabwe,” according to ABC.    

Mpofu said Mugabe was responsible for "many memorable achievements.”

Mugabe, who remains under house arrest, was reportedly supposed to meet Sunday with the military for a second round of talks to negotiate his departure. It’s unclear if this meeting has taken place.

While Zimbabwe lawmakers have voted to begin the process of Mugabe’s ouster, he technically remains the president of Zimbabwe. However, the vote greatly increases the pressure on him to abdicate, the BBC reported.

Veterans leader Mutsvangwa expressed his excitement over Mugabe’s ouster in an interview with local media.

“The president is gone! Long live the new president!”

 

 

Shortly before the vote, local media captured this iconic video of demonstrators tearing down a billboard advertising the Zimbabwe Youth League, a pro-Mugabe group.

 

 

Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since the country won its independence from the UK in 1980. Under his watch, the economy has imploded, leaving 95 percent of the workforce unemployed, according to Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions estimates, and forcing as many as 3 million people into exile.

While Zimbabwe's ruling party led the effort to oust Mugabe, opposition lawmakers had threatened to begin impeachment proceedings if he was not swiftly removed, according to Fox News.

"If Mugabe is not gone by Tuesday, then as sure as the sun rises from the east, impeachment process will kick in," said Innocent Gonese, a member of the opposition MDC-T party.

Hope for a better future crested on Sunday. But whether life will measurably improve for the people of Zimbabwe remains to be seen…

 

 

 

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“I Should Have Left Them In Jail” – Trump Slams UCLA Player’s Parents Indignation

A clearly frustrated President Trump raged over Twitter this afternoon at the father of a UCLA basketball player who downplayed Trump’s importance in getting his son released from shoplifting charges in China…

As a reminder, LaVar's son, LiAngelo, and two other players were arrested and accused of shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store while the UCLA basketball team was on a trip to China for its season-opening game.

The players faced potential jail sentences for the charge, but Trump reportedly spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping about resolving the situation. The players were released, and landed in the United States last week.

Trump took credit for their release, and questioned in a tweet whether the players would thank him.

The players subsequently held a press conference last week and apologized for the incident and thanked Trump.

However, as The Hill reports, ESPN on Friday asked LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of LiAngelo and Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, about Trump’s role in bringing his son back to the United States.

"Who?" Ball responded.

 

"What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out."

 

"As long as my boy's back here, I'm fine," LaVar Ball told ESPN.

 

"I'm happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, 'They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.'

 

I'm from L.A. I've seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn't define him."

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Think Bitcoin Is A Bubble? Here’s Your Chance To Short It

Has the fact that the price of a single bitcoin has risen nearly eight-fold so far this year prompted you to turn bearish on the world's most valuable digital currency?

Well, here’s your chance to short it. 

A Swiss asset-management firm called Vontobel launched a new futures product on Friday that will make it easier for retail investors to short bitcoin.

Bitcoin of course recently bounced back to all-time highs after a more-than $1,000 drop last week. Traders who were short made a killing on their positions. But cashing in on the drop would’ve been far easier with new futures products designed to let customers bet against the bitcoin price.

The contracts, which will trade on the SIX Exchange, will enable investors to profit even if the currency – which has proven vulnerable to vicious selloffs – falls in value. According to Reuters, the company will release two mini futures, a type of derivatives instrument that represents a fraction of the value of standard futures, making it easier for retail traders to access the market.

According to Eric Blattmann, head of public distribution of financial products at Vontobel, the news comes at a time when traditional traders are simply looking for more options when it comes to trading cryptocurrencies.

Swiss investment solutions provider Leonteq Securities AG also announced the launch of a separate product. Leonteq’s product has a two-month maturity, while Vontobel’s is longer, but investors can of course exit their positions early since each product will trade on an exchange.

He said in statements:

"We have seen big demand for our long tracker certificate from investors interested in playing the upside potential of bitcoin and now they have also the possibility to hedge their position or go short."

Manuel Durr, head of public solutions at Leonteq, said clients appreciate being able to open long or short positions in bitcoin.

“The initial feedback has been extremely positive,” said Manuel Dürr, head of public solutions at Leonteq. “Clients do very much appreciate the possibility of choosing between a long or a short investment in bitcoin.”

The move comes after US derivatives exchange CME Group announced it would start trading bitcoin derivatives next month.

Already, New York-based startup LedgerX is offering live cryptocurrency futures trading, with $1 million traded in its first week.

While some exchanges have allowed customers to open short positions on margin, the Vontobel contract has become the easiest way for retail traders to short the digital currency. We wonder: Could this help inject more two-way volatility and slow, or perhaps even reverse, bitcoin's meteoric rise?

But if you’re looking to short the world’s most valuable digital currency, The Vontobel mini-futures are probably your best bet.

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Israeli Tank Fires On Syrian Targets After “Violation Of 1974 Ceasefire”

Two weeks after a “secret” Israeli military cable leaked, indicating coordination between Israel and Saudi Arabia over Syria and constituting the first formal proof that the Saudis and Israelis are deliberately coordinating to escalate the situation in the Middle East, by using Syria as a false flag scapegoat, moments ago the IDF announced that an Israeli tank had fired upon Syrian army positions near the Israeli border in the Golan Heights on Sunday, following what the IDF called a “violation of the 1974 ceasefire.


Israeli forces near a border fence between the Israeli side of the Golan Heights and Syria

According to JPost, the IDF fired upon Syrian army positions Sunday evening near the Israeli border in the Golan Heights on Sunday, the IDF spokesperson’s office reported.

This was the second “warning shot” by Israel into Syrian territory in two days. According to the JPost, a similar incident occurred on Saturday, when an IDF tank fired a warning shell near Syrian forces after identifying a Syrian army-built outpost in the demilitarized zone between Syria and Israel, similarly contrary to ceasefire agreements.

According to preliminary reports, Syrian forces had been working to fortify a military outpost in the buffer zone, in violation of ceasefire agreements, and an IDF tank fired deterring shots in response.

According to the IDF spokesman, the outpost was located close to the Druse village of Hader on the Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights. Earlier this month, following intense fighting in the village, the IDF said it was willing to provide assistance and prevent the capture of the Druse village by anti-regime forces.

“The IDF is ready and prepared to assist the residents of the village, and will prevent the harming or conquering of the village of Hader because of our deep commitment to the Druse population,” said IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Northern Command commander Maj.- Gen. Yoel Strick and Commander of the Bashan Division Brig.-Gen. Yaniv Ashur were said to be assessing the situation on Israel’s northern border.

It is unclear if Syria (or Russia, or Iran) were planning a retaliation.

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Watch Live: Mugabe Agrees To Step Down, Ending Historic 37-Year Reign

Update 5: Here's the live feed for Mugabe's speech, which is being broadcast on the state TV channel:

* * *

Update 4: Reuters is reporting that Robert Mugabe has reluctantly agreed to resign the presidency of Zimbabwe after 37 years in power. His decision comes after members of his own party voted to oust him during an emergency vote held Sunday.

ZANU-PF had given the 93-year-old less than 24 hours to quit as head of state or face impeachment, an attempt to secure a peaceful end to his tenure after a de facto coup.

Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster ZBC said Mugabe, who was once lauded as an anti-colonialist hero for driving the British out of what was then called Rhodesia, would address the nation shortly. Earlier on Sunday, the official Herald newspaper showed pictures of him meeting top generals at his State House offices, and a ZBC source said an outside-broadcast truck was being sent in preparation for an announcement.

 

…Mugabe's speech is now expected to begin 'shortly':

 

 

 

* * *

Update 3: After a meeting with military officials, Mugabe's resignation appears imminent…

 

 

* * *

Update 2: Mugabe, who remains under house arrest, is meeting with the commanders of the country's military shortly after lawmakers approved an ultimatum for the long-time strongman to either resign, or be forced…

 

 

* * *

Update: Initial media reports about Mugabe's ouster were confusing: While the country's ruling party had voted to expel him, several sources quoted by western media outlets said the vote was only the trigger to start the process of removing Mugabe, and that he is still technically president of Zimbabwe. 

Fortunately, the ruling Zanu-PF party has issued a quick clarification: Mugabe – who has obstinantly refused to officially abdicate in accordance with the military's demands – has until noon tomorrow to resign. If he doesn't, he will be impeached.

 

Zimbabwe's ruling party confirmed the news in a tweet…

 

 

 

* * *

A day after thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Harare to celebrate the imminent removal of Robert Mugabe, the country’s 93-year-old dictator who’d been effectively deposed during a surprise coup earlier this week, the country’s ruling party has officially voted to remove him from office and install his former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as interim leader.

As we’ve pointed out, Mugabe triggered his own downfall when he fired Mnangagwa last week to try and clear a path for his much-younger wife, Grace, to succeed him as leader of Zimbabwe. Mugabe tried to appoint his 52-year-old wife to Mnangagwa's former position, which would've positioned her to be his successor. However, Mnangagwa’s sudden ouster outraged the leaders of Zimbabwe’s military, who decided to intervene and place Mugabe under house arrest.

Mugabe had resisted the military’s request to step down, so on Friday, the country’s 10 provincial committees resolved to oust Mugabe. That decision was ratified Sunday at a meeting of Zimbabwe’s central executives, according to the head of the country's influential liberation war veterans.

Meanwhile, ABC reported that Mugabe's wife Grace – who reportedly fled the country after the coup – has been officially expelled by ZANU-PF, the ruling party. Veterans leader Chris Mutsvangwa said now that Mugabe’s ouster is official, processes to remove the 93-year-old as President could now begin.

Attendants at the meeting sang and danced in celebration after unanimously voting to remove Mugabe.

 

 

After the vote, members of the central committee started singing “Chengetedza” by Jah Prayzah, a popular Zimbabwean musician. According to local media, the song has become an anthem for the de facto anthem of the movement to oust Mugabe.

 

 

Before voting, members of Zimbabwe’s central committee sung the national anthem.

 

 

According to one BBC reporter, journalists were asked to leave the room after the vote as the party set about formalizing the decision.

 

    In his opening remarks at a meeting of ZANU-PF's Central Committee, Obert Mpofu, the official chairing the gathering, said the party had come together with "a heavy heart,” adding that Mugabe’s wife, Grace, and others in his orbit had taken advantage of his age and feebleness to loot the country’s national resources. Mpofu then hailed the beginning of "a new era, not only for our party but for our nation Zimbabwe,” according to ABC.    

Mpofu said Mugabe was responsible for "many memorable achievements.”

Mugabe, who remains under house arrest, was reportedly supposed to meet Sunday with the military for a second round of talks to negotiate his departure. It’s unclear if this meeting has taken place.

While Zimbabwe lawmakers have voted to begin the process of Mugabe’s ouster, he technically remains the president of Zimbabwe. However, the vote greatly increases the pressure on him to abdicate, the BBC reported.

Veterans leader Mutsvangwa expressed his excitement over Mugabe’s ouster in an interview with local media.

“The president is gone! Long live the new president!”

 

 

Shortly before the vote, local media captured this iconic video of demonstrators tearing down a billboard advertising the Zimbabwe Youth League, a pro-Mugabe group.

 

 

Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since the country won its independence from the UK in 1980. Under his watch, the economy has imploded, leaving 95 percent of the workforce unemployed, according to Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions estimates, and forcing as many as 3 million people into exile.

While Zimbabwe's ruling party led the effort to oust Mugabe, opposition lawmakers had threatened to begin impeachment proceedings if he was not swiftly removed, according to Fox News.

"If Mugabe is not gone by Tuesday, then as sure as the sun rises from the east, impeachment process will kick in," said Innocent Gonese, a member of the opposition MDC-T party.

Hope for a better future crested on Sunday. But whether life will measurably improve for the people of Zimbabwe remains to be seen…

 

 

 

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MSNBC Guest Exclaims “White Men Pose The Biggest Threat To Americans” After FBI Report On ‘Black Extremists’

Jamira Burley appeared on “MSNBC Live” Saturday, claiming that white men "pose the biggest threat to Americans every single day."

As The Daily Caller's Justin Caruso details, in a segment about the Justice Department looking at “Black Identity Extremist” groups, Burley said:

“Again it continues to try to undermine and criminalize our leaders in a way that undermines the movement. We saw that with MLK when J. Edgar Hoover wrote letters telling him to commit murder, we saw that when Fred Hampton was actually assassinated by police.”

She continued:

“And so I think this is nothing new, what is interesting though is that white men continue to be the–pose the biggest threat to Americans every single day.

 

It’s been documented and verified that they are more likely to burn down churches, more likely to commit mass murders and mass shootings and so Jeff Sessions’ reality and his assessment on these people is both lacking in facts and both reality.”

The irony is that Burley's discussion was meant to buffer The FBI's recently released report on the rise on black "extremists" and are increasingly targeting law enforcement.

"I have never met a black extremist. I don’t know what the FBI is talking about," said Chris Phillips, a filmmaker in Ferguson.

Before the Trump administration, the report might not have caused such alarm.

The FBI noted it issued a similar bulletin warning of retaliatory violence by "black separatist extremists" in March 2016, when the country had a black president, Barack Obama, and black attorney general, Loretta Lynch.

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Mnuchin On Bond-Villain Comparison: “I Guess I Should Take That As A Compliment”

Treasury Secretary and noted Hollywood producer Steven Mnuchin provoked criticisms from his political opponents after photos surfaced last week of Mnuchin and his wife Louise Linton posing with a sheet of newly printed dollar bills bearing Mnuchin’s signature.

Asked by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace what it was like being compared with a bond villain after the photos went viral, Mnuchin said he took it as a compliment.

“I heard that. I never thought I’d be quoted as looking like a villain from the James Bond [movies]. I guess I should take that as a compliment that I look like a villain in a great, successful James Bond movie,” Mnuchin said.

 

“I was very excited about having my signature on the money and it’s something I’m very proud of being the secretary and helping the American people.”

Mnuchin said he thought nothing of it at the time the photo was taken, saying he didn’t expect it to be so widely shared on the Internet.

“I didn’t realize the pictures were public and going on the internet and viral but people have the right to do that people can do that that’s the great thing about social media today people can say what they want.”

Asked why he chose to print his signature in script instead of using cursive, Mnuchin explained that he felt his ordinary signature was too sloppy to print on US currency.

“I had a very, very messy signature that you could barely read, and I felt that since it’s going to be on the dollar bill forever that I should have a very clean signature,” Mnuchin said.

An Associated Press photographer captured Mnuchin and Linton posing with the sheet of dollar bills – the first to include Mnuchin’s signature – at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing last week, according to Politico.

After photos of the couple posing with the sheet of newly minted $1 bills went viral, twitter users poked fun at the pair's expensive tastes, with one joking they were shopping for 'bathroom mats' and another calling the sheet of bills, 'their new line of luxury toilet paper.'

This isn’t the first time Mnuchin and his wife have been criticized for appearing out-of-touch: The mockery comes just months after Louise Linton was roundly mocked for a tone-deaf Instagram post authored in response to criticisms of her posing next to a taxpayer funded jet.

Before that, the two were cleared after an investigation into whether they timed a flight in another taxpayer funded chartered jet to coincide with the solar eclipse that happened back in August.

The new bills are expected to enter circulation next month.

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Mnuchin On Bond-Villain Comparisons: “I Guess I Should Take That As A Compliment”

Treasury Secretary and noted Hollywood producer Steven Mnuchin provoked criticisms from his political opponents after photos surfaced last week of Mnuchin and his wife Louise Linton posing with a sheet of newly printed dollar bills bearing Mnuchin’s signature.

Asked by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace what it was like being compared with a bond villain after the photos went viral, Mnuchin said he took it as a compliment.

“I heard that. I never thought I’d be quoted as looking like a villain from the James Bond [movies]. I guess I should take that as a compliment that I look like a villain in a great, successful James Bond movie,” Mnuchin said.

 

“I was very excited about having my signature on the money and it’s something I’m very proud of being the secretary and helping the American people.”

Mnuchin said he thought nothing of it at the time the photo was taken, saying he didn’t expect it to be so widely shared on the Internet.

“I didn’t realize the pictures were public and going on the internet and viral but people have the right to do that people can do that that’s the great thing about social media today people can say what they want.”

Asked why he chose to print his signature in script instead of using cursive, Mnuchin explained that he felt his ordinary signature was too sloppy to print on US currency.

“I had a very, very messy signature that you could barely read, and I felt that since it’s going to be on the dollar bill forever that I should have a very clean signature,” Mnuchin said.

An Associated Press photographer captured Mnuchin and Linton posing with the sheet of dollar bills – the first to include Mnuchin’s signature – at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing last week, according to Politico.

After photos of the couple posing with the sheet of newly minted $1 bills went viral, twitter users poked fun at the pair's expensive tastes, with one joking they were shopping for 'bathroom mats' and another calling the sheet of bills, 'their new line of luxury toilet paper.'

This isn’t the first time Mnuchin and his wife have been criticized for appearing out-of-touch: The mockery comes just months after Louise Linton was roundly mocked for a tone-deaf Instagram post authored in response to criticisms of her posing next to a taxpayer funded jet.

Before that, the two were cleared after an investigation into whether they timed a flight in another taxpayer funded chartered jet to coincide with the solar eclipse that happened back in August.

The new bills are expected to enter circulation next month.

http://WarMachines.com

The Stage Has Been Set For The Next Financial Crisis

Authored by Constantin Gurdgiev via CaymanFinancialReview.com,

Last month, the Japanese government auctioned off some US$4 billion worth of new two-year bonds at a new record low yield of negative 0.149 percent. The country’s five-year debt is currently yielding minus 0.135 percent per annum, and its 10-year bonds are trading at -0.001 percent. Strange as it may sound, the safe haven status of Japanese bonds means that there is an ample demand among private investors, especially foreign buyers, for giving away free money to the Japanese government: the bid-to-cover ratio in the latest auction was at a hefty US$19.9 billion or 4.97 times the targeted volume. The average bid-to-cover ratio in the past 12 auctions was similar at 4.75 times. Japan’s status as the world’s most indebted advanced economy is not a deterrent to the foreign investors, banking primarily on the expectation that continued strengthening of the yen against the U.S. dollar, the U.K. pound sterling and, to a lesser extent, the euro, will stay on track into the foreseeable future. See chart 1

In a way, the bet on Japanese bonds is the bet that the massive tsunami of monetary easing that hit the global economy since 2008 is not going to recede anytime soon, no matter what the central bankers say in their dovishly-hawkish or hawkishly-dovish public statements. And this expectation is not only contributing to the continued inflation of a massive asset bubble, but also widens the financial sustainability gap within the insurance and pensions sectors. The stage has been set, cleaned and lit for the next global financial crisis.

Worldwide, current stock of government debt trading at negative yields is at or above the US$9 trillion mark, with more than two-thirds of this the debt of the highly leveraged advanced economies. Just under 85 percent of all government bonds outstanding and traded worldwide are carrying yields below the global inflation rate. In simple terms, fixed income investments can only stay in the positive real returns territory if speculative bets made by investors on the direction of the global exchange rates play out.

We are in a multidimensional and fully internationalized carry trade game, folks, which means there is a very serious and tangible risk pool sitting just below the surface across world’s largest insurance companies, pensions funds and banks, the so-called “mandated” undertakings. This pool is the deep uncertainty about the quality of their investment allocations. Regulatory requirements mandate that these financial intermediaries hold a large proportion of their investments in “safe” or “high quality” instruments, a class of assets that draws heavily on higher rated sovereign debt, primarily that of the advanced economies.

The first part of the problem is that with negative or ultra-low yields, this debt delivers poor income streams on the current portfolio. Earlier this year, Stanford’s Hoover Institution research showed that “in aggregate, the 564 state and local systems in the United States covered in this study reported $1.191 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities (net pension liabilities) under GASB 67 in FY 2014. This reflects total pension liabilities of $4.798 trillion and total pension assets (or fiduciary net position) of $3.607 trillion.” This accounts for roughly 97 percent of all public pension funds in the U.S. Taking into the account the pension funds’ penchant for manipulating (in their favor) the discount rates, the unfunded public sector pensions liabilities rise to $4.738 trillion. Key culprit: the U.S. pension funds require 7.5-8 percent average annual returns on their assets to break even on their future expected liabilities. In 2013-2016 they achieved an average return of below 3 percent. This year, things are looking even worse. Last year, Milliman research showed that on average, over 2012-2016, U.S. pension funds held 27-30 percent of their assets in cash (3-4 percent) and bonds (23-27 percent), generating total median returns over the same period of around 1.31 percent per annum.

Not surprisingly, over the recent years, traditionally conservative investment portfolios of the insurance companies and pensions funds have shifted dramatically toward higher risk and more exotic (or in simple parlance, more complex) assets. BlackRock Inc recently looked at the portfolio allocations, as disclosed in regulatory filings, of more than 500 insurance companies. The analysts found that their asset books – investments that sustain insurance companies’ solvency – can be expected to suffer an 11 percent drop in values, on average, in the case of another financial crisis. In other words, half of all the large insurance companies trading in the U.S. markets are currently carrying greater risks on their balance sheets than prior to 2007. Milliman 2016 report showed that among pension funds, share of assets allocated to private equity and real estate rose from 19 percent in 2012 to 24 percent in 2016.

The reason for this is that the insurance companies, just as the pension funds, re-insurers and other longer-term “mandated” investment vehicles have spent the last eight years loading up on highly risky assets, such as illiquid private equity, hedge funds and real estate. All in the name of chasing the yield: while mainstream low-risk assets-generated income (as opposed to capital gains) returned around zero percent per annum, higher risk assets were turning up double-digit yields through 2014 and high single digits since then. At the end of 2Q 2017, U.S. insurance companies’ holdings of private equity stood at the highest levels in history, and their exposures to direct real estate assets were almost at the levels comparable to 2007. Ditto for the pension funds. And, appetite for both of these high risk asset classes is still there.

The second reason to worry about the current assets mix in insurance and pension funds portfolios relates to monetary policy cycle timing. The prospect of serious monetary tightening is looming on the horizon in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada and the eurozone; meanwhile, the risk of the slower rate of bonds monetization in Japan is also quite real. This means that the capital values of the low-risk assets are unlikely to post significant capital gains going forward, which spells trouble for capital buffers and trading income for the mandated intermediaries.

Thirdly, the Central Banks continue to hold large volumes of top-rated debt. As of Aug. 1, 2017, the Fed, Bank of Japan and the ECB held combined US$13.8 trillion worth of assets, with both Bank of Japan (US$4.55 trillion) and the ECB (US$5.1 trillion) now exceeding the Fed holdings (US$4.3 trillion) for the third month in a row.

Debt maturity profiles are exacerbating the risks of contagion from the monetary policy tightening to insurance and pension funds balance sheets. In the case of the U.S., based on data from Pimco, the maturity cliff for the Federal Reserve holdings of the Treasury bonds, Agency debt and TIPS, as well as MBS is falling on 1Q 2018 – 3Q 2020. Per Bloomberg data, the maturity cliff for the U.S. insurers and pensions funds debt assets is closer to 2020-2022. If the Fed simply stops replacing maturing debt – the most likely scenario for unwinding its QE legacy – there will be little market support for prices of assets that dominate capital base of large financial institutions. Prices will fall, values of assets will decline, marking these to markets will trigger the need for new capital. The picture is similar in the U.K. and Canada, but the risks are even more pronounced in the euro area, where the QE started later (2Q 2015 as opposed to the U.S. 1Q 2013) and, as of today, involves more significant interventions in the sovereign bonds markets than at the peak of the Fed interventions.

How distorted the EU markets for sovereign debt have become? At the end of August, Cyprus – a country that suffered a structural banking crisis, requiring bail-in of depositors and complete restructuring of the banking sector in March 2013 – has joined the club of euro area sovereigns with negative yields on two-year government debt. All in, 18 EU member states have negative yields on their two-year paper. All, save Greece, have negative real yields.

The problem is monetary in nature. Just as the entire set of quantitative easing (QE) policies aimed to do, the long period of extremely low interest rates and aggressive asset purchasing programs have created an indirect tax on savers, including the net savings institutions, such as pensions funds and insurers. However, contrary to the QE architects’ other objectives, the policies failed to drive up general inflation, pushing costs (and values) of only financial assets and real estate. This delayed and extended the QE beyond anyone’s expectations and drove unprecedented bubbles in financial capital. Even after the immediate crisis rescinded, growth returned, unemployment fell and the household debt dramatically ticked up, the world’s largest Central Banks continue buying some US$200 billion worth of sovereign and corporate debt per month.

Much of this debt buying produced no meaningfully productive investment in infrastructure or public services, having gone primarily to cover systemic inefficiencies already evident in the state programs. The result, in addition to unprecedented bubbles in property and financial markets, is low productivity growth and anemic private investment. (See chart 2.) As recently warned by the Bank for International Settlements, the global debt pile has reached 325 percent of the world’s GDP, just as the labor and total factor productivity growth measures collapsed.

The only two ways in which these financial and monetary excesses can be unwound involves pain.

The first path – currently favored by the status quo policy elites – is through another transfer of funds from the general population to the financial institutions that are holding the assets caught in the QE net. These transfers will likely start with tax increases, but will inevitably morph into another financial crisis and internal devaluation (inflation and currencies devaluations, coupled with a deep recession).

The alternative is also painful, but offers at least a ray of hope in the end: put a stop to debt accumulation through fiscal and tax reforms, reducing both government spending across the board (and, yes, in the U.S. case this involves cutting back on the coercive institutions and military, among other things) and flattening out personal income tax rates (to achieve tax savings in middle and upper-middle class cohorts, and to increase effective tax rates – via closure of loopholes – for highest earners). As a part of spending reforms, public investment and state pensions provisions should be shifted to private sector providers, while existent public sector pension funds should be forced to raise their members contributions to solvency-consistent levels.

Beyond this, we need serious rethink of the monetary policy institutions going forward. Historically, taxpayers and middle class and professionals have paid for both, the bailouts of the insolvent financial institutions and for the creation of conditions that lead to this insolvency. In other words, the real economy has consistently been charged with paying for utopian, unrealistic and state-subsidizing pricing of risks by the Central Banks. In the future, this pattern of the rounds upon rounds of financial repression policies must be broken.

Whether we like it or not, since the beginning of the Clinton economic bubble in the mid-1990s, the West has lived in a series of carry trade games that transferred real economic resources from the economy to the state. Today, we are broke. If we do not change our course, the next financial crisis will take out our insurers and pensions providers, and with them, the last remaining lifeline to future financial security.

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Clinton Mocks Trump: “How Does He Get Anything Done Between Tweeting And Golfing?”

Just a few short hours after President Trump challenged his former friend-turned-rival Hillary Clinton to run against him again in three years, Clinton shot back by questioning how the president has time to get anything done in between feuding with perceived enemies on twitter and slicing up the back nine.

"Honestly, between tweeting and golfing, how does he get anything done? I don’t understand it," she said, according to the Hill. "Maybe that’s the whole point."

She also claimed that Trump is “obsessed” with her repeated claims that her rival only managed to wi because he had the help of Russia, the FBI, email-gate, systemic misogyny….the list goes on.

Even her own husband broke with her on Saturday when, during an interview, former President Bill Clinton said believed former FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen an investigation into her handling of classified information on a private email server just days before the election had little to do with the outcome of the vote, the Hill reported.

Still, Hillary Clinton was undeterred:

"I’m going to keep speaking out," Clinton said at an event celebrating the 25th anniversary of former President Bill Clinton's 1992 electoral victory. "Apparently my former opponent is obsessed with me speaking out."

Since emerging from the woods of Chappaqua, New York, where she had retreated following her embarassing electoral flop, Clinton has tried to position herself as a leader of the “resistance." She has persistently criticized his conduct in office, and repeatedly insisted that the Trump campaign purposefully colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted: Crooked Hillary Clinton is the worst (and biggest) loser of all time. She just can’t stop, which is so good for the Republican Party. Hillary, get on with your life and give it another try in three years!

 

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Bill Clinton said the decision to reopen the investigation wouldn't have been as damaging had the controversy surrounding her emails not been overblown in the first place.

"We have a slight disagreement about this," the former president said, speaking alongside the former secretary of State at an event celebrating the 25th anniversary of his 1992 presidential victory.

"If the voters hadn't really been told that the email … was the most important issue since the end of World War II, I doubt if the FBI director could have flung the election at the end."

Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes, though Trump has disputed this figure by insisting that millions of illegal immigrants likely voted to help their preferred candidate. Yet Trump dominated the electoral college, sweeping swing states in the Midwest and south, and smashing through the Democrats famed “Wall of Blue.”
 

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ECB Proposes End To Deposit Protection

Submitted by GoldCore

It is the 'opinion of the European Central Bank' that the deposit protection scheme is no longer necessary:

'covered deposits and claims under investor compensation schemes should be replaced by limited discretionary exemptions to be granted by the competent authority in order to retain a degree of flexibility.'

To translate the legalese jargon of the ECB bureaucrats this could mean that the current €100,000 (£85,000) deposit level currently protected in the event of a bail-in may soon be no more. But worry not fellow savers, as the ECB is fully aware of the uproar this may cause so they have been kind enough to propose that:

"…during a transitional period, depositors should have access to an appropriate amount of their covered deposits to cover the cost of living within five working days of a request."

So that's a relief, you'll only need to wait five days for some 'competent authority' to deem what is an 'appropriate amount' of your own money for you to have access to in order eat, pay bills and get to work.

The above has been taken from an ECB paper published on 8 November 2017 entitled 'on revisions to the Union crisis management framework'.

It's 58 pages long, the majority of which are proposed amendments to the Union crisis management framework and the current text of the Capital Requirements Directive (CRD).

It's pretty boring reading but there are some key snippets which should be raising a few alarms. It is evidence that once again a central bank can keep manipulating situations well beyond the likes of monetary policy. It is also a lesson for savers to diversify their assets in order to reduce their exposure to counterparty risks.

Bail-ins, who are they for?

According to the May 2016 Financial Stability Review, the EU bail-in tool is 'welcome' as it:

 
 

…contributes to reducing the burden on taxpayers when resolving large, systemic financial institutions and mitigates some of the moral hazard incentives associated with too-big-to-fail institutions.

As we have discussed in the past, we're confused by the apparent separation between 'taxpayer' and those who have put their hard-earned cash into the bank. After all, are they not taxpayers? This doesn't matter, believes Matthew C.Klein in the FT who recently argued that "Bail-ins are theoretically preferable because they preserve market discipline without causing undue harm to innocent people."

 

Ultimately bail-ins are so central banks can keep their merry game of easy money and irresponsibility going. They have been sanctioned because rather than fix and learn from the mess of the bailouts nearly a decade ago, they have just decided to find an even bigger band-aid to patch up the system.

 
 

'Bailouts, by contrast, are unfair and inefficient. Governments tend to do them, however, out of misplaced concern about “preserving the system”. This stokes (justified) resentment that elites care about protecting their friends more than they care about helping regular people.' – Matthew C. Klein

But what about the regular people who have placed their money in the bank, believing they're safe from another financial crisis? Are they not 'innocent' and deserving of protection?

When Klein wrote his latest on bail-ins, it was just over a week before the release of this latest ECB paper. With fairness to Klein at the time of his writing depositors with less than €100,000 in the bank were protected under the terms of the ECB covered deposit rules.

This still seemed absurd to us who thought it questionable that anyone's money in the bank could suddenly be sanctioned for use to prop up an ailing institution. We have regularly pointed out that just because there is currently a protected level at which deposits will not be pilfered, this could change at any minute.

The latest proposed amendments suggest this is about to happen.

 

Why change the bail-in rules?

The ECB's 58-page amendment proposal is tough going but it is about halfway through when you come across the suggestion that 'covered deposits' no longer need to be protected. This is determined because the ECB is concerned about a run on the failing bank:

 
 

If the failure of a bank appears to be imminent, a substantial number of covered depositors might still withdraw their funds immediately in order to ensure uninterrupted access or because they have no faith in the guarantee scheme.

This could be particularly damning for big banks and cause a further crisis of confidence in the system:

 
 

Such a scenario is particularly likely for large banks, where the sheer amount of covered deposits might erode confidence in the capacity of the deposit guarantee scheme. In such a scenario, if the scope of the moratorium power does not include covered deposits, the moratorium might alert covered depositors of the strong possibility that the institution has a failing or likely to fail assessment.

Therefore, argue the ECB the current moratorium that protects deposits could be 'counterproductive'. (For the banks, obviously, not for the people whose money it really is:

 
 

The moratorium would therefore be counterproductive, causing a bank run instead of preventing it. Such an outcome could be detrimental to the bank’s orderly resolution, which could ultimately cause severe harm to creditors and significantly strain the deposit guarantee scheme. In addition, such an exemption could lead to a worse treatment for depositor funded banks, as the exemption needs to be factored in when determining the seriousness of the liquidity situation of the bank. Finally, any potential technical impediments may require further assessment.

The ECB instead proposes that 'certain safeguards' be put in place to allow restricted access to deposits…for no more than five working days. But let's see how long that lasts for.

 
 

Therefore, an exception for covered depositors from the application of the moratorium would cast serious doubts on the overall usefulness of the tool. Instead of mandating a general exemption, the BRRD should instead include certain safeguards to protect the rights of depositors, such as clear communication on when access will be regained and a restriction of the suspension to a maximum of five working days by avoiding a cumulative use by the competent authority and the resolution authority.

Even after a year of studying and reading bail-ins I am still horrified that something like this is deemed to be preferable and fairer to other solutions, namely fixing the banking system. The bureaucrats running the EU and ECB are still blind to the pain such proposals can cause and have caused.

Look to Italy for damage prevention

At the beginning of the month, we explained how the banking meltdown in Veneto Italy destroyed 200,000 savers and 40,000 businesses.

In that same article, we outlined how exposed Italians were to the banking system. Over €31 billion of sub-retail bonds have been sold to everyday savers, investors, and pensioners. It is these bonds that will be sucked into the sinkhole each time a bank goes under.

A 2015 IMF study found that the majority of Italy’s 15 largest banks a bank rescue would ‘imply bail-in of retail investors of subordinated debt’. Only two-thirds of potential bail-ins would affect senior bond-holders, i.e. those who are most likely to be institutional investors rather than pensioners with limited funds.

Why is this the case? As we have previously explained:

 
 

Bondholders are seen as creditors. The same type of creditor that EU rules state must take responsibility for a bank’s financial failure, rather than the taxpayer. This is a bail-in scenario.

 

In a bail-in scenario the type of junior bonds held by the retail investors in the street is the first to take the hit. When the world’s oldest bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena collapsed ordinary people (who also happen to be taxpayers) owned €5 billion ($5.5 billion) of subordinated debt. It vanished.

Despite the biggest bail-in in history occurring within the EU, few people have paid attention and protested against such measures. A bail-in is not unique to Italy, it is possible for all those living and banking within the EU.

Yet, so far there have been no protests. We're not talking about protesting on the streets, we're talking about protesting where it hurts – with your money.

As we have seen from the EU's response to Brexit and Catalonia, officials could not give two hoots about the grievances of its citizens. So when it comes to banking there is little point in expressing disgust in the same way. Instead, investors must take stock and assess the best way for them to protect their savings from the tyranny of central bank policy.

To refresh your memory, the ECB is proposing that in the event of a bail-in it will give you an allowance from your own savings. An allowance it will control:

"…during a transitional period, depositors should have access to an appropriate amount of their covered deposits to cover the cost of living within five working days of a request."

Savers should be looking for means in which they can keep their money within instant reach and their reach only. At this point physical, allocated and segregated gold and silver comes to mind. This gives you outright legal ownership. There are no counterparties who can claim it is legally theirs (unlike with cash in the bank) or legislation that rules they get first dibs on it. Gold and silver are the financial insurance against bail-ins, political mismanagement, and overreaching government bodies. As each year goes by it becomes more pertinent than ever to protect yourself from such risks.

 

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Crew Of Missing Argentine Submarine Makes Contact Attempt

Argentinians breathed a collective sigh of relief Saturday night after authorities revealed that the crew of a missing submarine had attempted to make contact for the first time since communication with the sub suddenly ceased on Wednesday. Defense Minister Oscar Aguad said over Twitter on Saturday night that the submarine, which was carrying a crew of 44 sailors, had sent seven “communication attempts” earlier in the day. He did not provide further details.

“We received seven signals from satellite calls that would come from the submarine San Juan. We are working hard to locate him and we convey hope to the families of the 44 crew members: that they may soon have them in their homes.”

The vessel disappeared from radar last week, forcing the Argentine navy to hastily organize a search and recovery effort. The last registered position of the vessel was on November 15 at 07:30 in latitude 46 ° 44 ‘south and longitude 59 ° 54 West, at the height of Puerto Madryn and off the coast of Patagonia. Since then, the vessel has not reappeared on radar, or been spotted by the search party, according to the Associated Press.

The whereabouts of the vessel, the subject of an intensive search involving eight nations including the US, remains a mystery. Officials don’t even know whether it’s at the surface or underwater.

The submarine ARA San Juan left Argentina Monday to participate in naval exercises off southern Argentina before departing Monday from the city of Ushuaia for a naval base in Mar de Plata. The last contact was made after the northbound vessel passed the Valdes Peninsula about 270 miles off Argentina’s coast.

NASA joined the search effort on Saturday with a P-3 Orion propeller-driven patrol airplane, equipped with magnetometers, infrared cameras and other sensors that can detect a submerged submarine. The aircraft, which can also measure ice thickness, is temporarily based in Ushuaia to take part in a NASA survey of Antarctica.

Argentine naval officials said they received no distress signals from the vessel, a German-built TR-1700 model, before losing contact. Vessels from Chile, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, South Africa and the United Kingdom are also assisting in the search.

Pope Francis, a native of Argentina, said in a statement issued by the Vatican earlier Saturday that he was praying for the safe return of the submarine and its crew, and for “spiritual serenity and Christian hope” for Argentina. He said he felt especially close to family members “in these difficult moments."

Anguished family members of the crew have gathered at the Mar de Plata base awaiting news.

“It’s agonizing the passing of the hours, a mixture of horrible feelings and silence,” said Marcela Moyano, wife of submarine machinist Hernan Rodriguez, in an interview at the base with TodoNoticias TV channel before Aguad’s announcement. “It’s a situation of desperation and fear. But we’re still hopeful they are returning,” according to the Associated Press.

Of the missing sub’s 44 crew members, one is a woman: Lt. Eliana Maria Krawczyk, 34, the sub’s operations chief. Her father, Eduardo, said in a TV interview Thursday that he last talked to his daughter two weeks ago.

“She told me that after arriving at Tierra del Fuego, that the (female) governor of the state came aboard the submarine and congratulated her because a woman was on the crew,” Eduardo Krawczyk said. He added that he is praying for his daughter’s safe return and that seeing her again will be like “being born again."

Psychologists and a Roman Catholic bishop have arrived at the naval base to counsel family members. Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said the fleet was “not discarding any hypothesis” on what might have happened to the sub.  “We are going to suppose the submarine had problems of communications, that there might have been a blackout, or power failure, and that it is now adrift,” Balbi said. “From (projected) movement after going adrift, we can estimate the search area."

The diesel-powered sub is one of three submarines in Argentina’s fleet. Measuring 220 feet long, the sub has a range of 13,000 miles. It underwent a major overhaul and reconditioning in 2008 that officials here say qualified it for 30 years more of use.

But weather in the search area has turned rough, with strong winds and waves as high as 20 feet, complicating the rescue operation, Balbi said.

“Remember that the part of the submarine that is above surface is very small, just a third of its length. The color of the vessel doesn’t help either because it mimics that of the ocean,” Balbi told reporters.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri tweeted Friday that the government is doing everything it can to find the sub: “We are in contact with the families of the crew of the submarine ARA San Juan who is missing to inform and support them. We share your concern and that of all Argentines."

Four Argentine ships, various helicopters and 500 marines are participating in the search.

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“People Ask, Where’s The Leverage This Time?” – Eric Peters Answers

One of the Fed’s recurring arguments meant to explain why the financial system is more stable now than it was 10 years ago, and is therefore less prone to a Lehman or “Black monday”-type event, (which in turn is meant to justify the Fed’s blowing of a 31x Shiller PE bubble) is that there is generally less leverage in the system, and as a result a sudden, explosive leverage unwind is far less likely… or at least that’s what the Fed’s recently departed vice Chair, and top macroprudential regulator, Stanley Fischer has claimed.

But is Fischer right? Is systemic leverage truly lower? The answer is “of course not” as anyone who has observed the trends not only among vol trading products, where vega has never been higher, but also among corporate leverage, sovereign debt, and the record duration exposure can confirm. It’s just not where the Fed usually would look…

Which is why in the excerpt below, taken from the latest One River asset management weekend notes, CIO Eric Peters explains to US central bankers – and everyone else – not only why the Fed is yet again so precariously wrong, but also where all the record leverage is to be found this time around.

This Time, by Eric Peters

“People ask, ‘Where’s the leverage this time?’” said the investor. Last cycle it was housing, banks.

 

“People ask, ‘Where will we get a loss in value severe enough to sustain an asset price decline?’” he continued. Banks deleveraged, the economy is reasonably healthy.

 

“People say, ‘What’s good for the economy is good for the stock market,’” he said.

 

“People say, ‘I can see that there may be real market liquidity problems, but that’s a short-lived price shock, not a value shock,’” he explained.

 

“You see, people generally look for things they’ve seen before.”

 

“There’s less concentrated leverage in the economy than in 2008, but more leverage spread broadly across the economy this time,” said the same investor.

 

“The leverage is in risk parity strategies. There is greater duration and structural leverage.”

 

As volatility declines and Sharpe ratios rise, investors can expand leverage without the appearance of increasing risk.

 

“People move from senior-secured debt to unsecured. They buy 10yr Italian telecom debt instead of 5yr. This time, the rise in system-wide risk is not explicit leverage, it is implicit leverage.”

 

“Companies are leveraging themselves this cycle,” explained the same investor, marveling at the scale of bond issuance to fund stock buybacks.

 

“When people buy the stock of a company that is highly geared, they have more risk.” It is inescapable.

 

“It is not so much that a few sectors are insanely overvalued or explicitly overleveraged this time, it is that everything is overvalued and implicitly overleveraged,” he said.

 

“And what people struggle to see is that this time it will be a financial accident with economic consequences, not the other way around.”

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