Dec 13

Today’s News 13th December 2017

  • UBS Is Using Ethereum Technology To Soften The Impact Of MiFid II

    After devising blockchain-based systems to help facilitate equity and bond trading (remember Goldman’s cryptocoin?) as well as derivatives clearing, some of the leading banks in the blockchain space are banding together to build a system that they hope will help banks streamline another essential function: Compliance.

    According to CoinDesk, UBS is leading an Ethereum-based project designed to make it easier for banks to reconcile a wide range of data about their counterparties. Barclays, Credit Suisse, KBC, SIX and Thomson Reuters have also signed on to the project. The project is meant to soften the impact of MiFid II, a set of new European banking regulations that will go live shortly after New Year’s.

    Traditionally, regulated firms use what are called "legal entity identifiers" that are stored in a global data system to execute transactions on behalf of clients, even if those clients themselves don't have one of the codes. But as part of a sweeping regulatory change called the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) II, scheduled to go live in the EU on Jan. 3, 2018, all eligible legal entities will be required to have and use these codes.

     

    Instead of mandating that each of these institutions perform these checks independently, though, the banks built Madrec to mutualize much of the effort in a potentially industry-wide reconciliation process hosted in the Microsoft Azure cloud.

    In an interview with CoinDesk, Peter Stephens, the head of UBS’s blockchain research and development efforts, explained how the system was designed, and to what end. Surprisingly, out of the many blockchain or distributed ledger projects that UBS is involved with (R3, Hyperledger etc.), Stephens said he expects the compliance project to be the first to go live.

    Built over a six-month period, the platform evolved into a smart contract-powered network designed to integrate with identifiers endorsed by The Legal Entity Identifier Regulatory Oversight Committee (LEI ROC) and others. The reconciliation of the LEI reference data includes industry classification and information from the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA).

     

    Instead of each company checking the information independently, and reconciling the results periodically, the blockchain smart contracts will ensure accuracy in almost real-time.

     

    To do this, the anonymized reference data is hashed to the Ethereum blockchain, while the source data itself remains within the institution. The smart contracts then reconcile the data, letting users quickly identify anomalies and reconcile them.

     

    Since every eligible entity will be held to those same standards, Stephens argues that helping one another ensure the accuracy of their work will only positively impact their respective bottom lines, leaving room for competition elsewhere.

    UBS is hardly the only major European bank that’s investing heavily in blockchain technology. In a presentation obtained by CoinDesk, Christian Nolting, also the bank’s global head of wealth, and Marcus Muller, global head of the CIO office, explained digital currencies and blockchain to their fellow bankers.

    In the presentation, the bankers asserted that the  “opportunities associated with blockchain technologies are huge,” and could be fully put into practice within the next few years.

    And in what's possibly one of most grandiose predictions about blockchain's impact on the global economy, the bankers predicted that roughly 10% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) would be tracked or otherwise "regulated" by a blockchain by 2027.

    Read the presentation in its entirety below:

     

    Cio Insights Reflections – Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains – Emea – Client Ready by zerohedge on Scribd

     

  • Paul Craig Roberts: "ISIS Is Defeated, The US Is Next In Line"

    Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,

    Is the US really a superpower or just the biggest collection of stupidity on the planet?

    Washington has already lost the Syrian war once. Now it is about to lose it a second time.

    A few days ago the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, declared a “complete victory” in Syria:

    “Two hours ago, the (Russian) defense minister reported to me that the operations on the eastern and western banks of the Euphrates have been completed with the total rout of the terrorists.”

    The Iranian commander of the forces which support the Syrian and Iraqi governments sent a note to the U.S. to let Washington know that any remaining U.S. forces in Syria will be fought down:

    “The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp Brigadier General Haj Qassem Soleimani sent a verbal letter, via Russia, to the head of the US forces commander in Syria, advising him to pull out all US forces to the last soldier ‘or the doors of hell will open up.'”

     

    “My message to the US military command: when the battle against ISIS (the Islamic State group) will end, no American soldier will be tolerated in Syria. I advise you to leave by your own will or you will be forced to it.”

    According to reports, Russia has confirmed that Iran will stay in Syria as long as Syrian President Assad, who insists on liberating all of Syria without exception for the Americans, decides. Washington’s plan to occupy a corner of Syria and revive ISIS is dead in the water, as will be all US troops sacrificed to this purpose.

    According to reports, CIA director Mike Pompeo sent a letter to Soleimani expressing his concern about Iran’s intention to attack American interests, declaring Washington “will hold Soleimani and Iran accountable for any attack.”

    According to reports the CIA’s letter had no effect and was treated with total contempt:

    “Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, a senior aid to the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei confirmed Pompeo’s attempt to send a letter but said  ‘Soleimani refused to read it or to take it because he has nothing further to add.’

     

    Sources in the area believe it is not unlikely that Kurdish troops – operating in al-Hasakah and who are faithful to the government of Damascus – are willing to be spearheaded against the US forces. Many of these troops remained loyal to Syria: they reject any occupation forces on its land or the partition of the country.”

    There are references to 1983 events where hundreds of US Marines and French paratroopers were killed following double suicide attacks by Islamists in Beirut. As a consequence of these attacks, the American forces left in a rush. The future could well mirror this past event.

    Possibly this is fake news.

    If not, we must accept that the humiliation that the United States, its government and its peoples have suffered is the work of the Neoconservatives and their doctrine of American World Hegemony. It is the Neoconservatives who caused the US to be at war with Muslims for 16 years. It is the Neoconservatives acting through Obama and Hillary who brought America to humiliating defeat in Syria.

    There are only a handful of these neoconservatives. Why do Americans tolerate them?

    Why doesn’t Trump have them arrested? They are anti-American, pro-Israel to the core. The Neoconservatives are the worst enemy of Americans and of all mankind.

    It looks like the Russians have had enough of Washington’s arrogance.

    Russian general Konashenkov, whose Su-35 chased away the inferior US F-22 that was attempting to interfere with a Russian attack on ISIS said that any claims made by US military officials concerning the fact that there is “any part of the airspace in Syria that belongs to the US” are “puzzling.”

     

     Konashenkov also said that “Syria is a sovereign state and a UN member and that means that there can be no US airspace ‘of its own.’ Unlike the Russian Air Force, the US-led coalition is operating in Syria without any legal basis.”

    Will Washington realize that it has squandered its leadership in the Middle East and go home, or will Washington bring more humiliation upon America?

  • Ron Paul Says He Was "Surprised" His Followers Prefer Bitcoin To Gold

    Earlier this week, former Congressman Ron Paul posted a Twitter poll asking his followers to choose between four different assets for a long-term investment, with the stipulation that the bearer would need to keep their money locked up for ten years.

     

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    Paul admitted he was surprised when he saw that a majority of respondents – 54% – selected bitcoin over gold, dollars and a 10-year Treasury bond.

    During an interview with the Street, a reporter asked Paul if he was surprised that his followers prefer bitcoin to gold.

    Yea a little bit. I was a little bit – of course I wasn’t surprised that only 2% would store it in Federal Reserve notes, nor do they think they should buy Treasury bills. Gold has 36% but bitcoin has 54%…it’s the sort of information that tells me where my viewers are and what they’re thinking. Most of my viewers know how supportive I am of gold, and they know I’m tolerant of digital currencies.

    Still, Paul believes cryptocurrencies are an interesting experiment and is generally supportive of their development and increasing popularity. But when asked for his thoughts on where bitcoin might be in ten years, he demurred.

    What’s it going to be like in ten years? Nobody knows. But we have a pretty good idea where gold will be. It’s been around a long time and it’s not going away.

    Though the market for gold is still much larger than the market for bitcoin, Paul’s interviewer asked if the interest in cryptocurrencies could be one reason for gold’s recent stumbles.

    I think we could still be in a phase where gold could take off. It’s just a matter of figuring out when…the fed has created so much money and people have sort of caught on to it like a fever."

    Paul said he doesn’t invest in bitcoin or any other cryptocurrencies, and has no plans to start.

    No, I don’t intend to at all. I find it fascinating, but as an investor, no…"

    At the interview’s conclusion, Paul explained that digital currencies have helped demonstrate an important principle about government and sound money: When a government loses all credibility and its currency becomes worthless, people will work out an alternative monetary system on their own. Venezuela and Zimbabwe have been perhaps the best examples of this: bitcoin trades at a premium in both countries. And in Venezuela, bitcoin miners risk being prosecuted by the government.

    “Take a country like Zimbabwe or Venezuela. They change their attitudes quickly when they get in trouble.”
     

  • John Lennon Was Right: The Government Is Run By Maniacs For Maniacal Means

    Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

    Not much has changed in the 37 years since John Lennon was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet.

    All of the many complaints we have about government today – surveillance, corruption, harassment, political persecution, spying, overcriminalization, etc. – were used against Lennon, who never refrained from speaking truth to power and calling for social justice, peace and a populist revolution.

    Little wonder, then, that the U.S. government saw Lennon as enemy number one.

    A prime example of the lengths to which the U.S. government will go to persecute those who dare to challenge its authority, Lennon was the subject of a four-year campaign of surveillance and harassment by the U.S. government (spearheaded by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover), in an attempt by President Richard Nixon to have him “neutralized” and deported. As Adam Cohen of the New York Times points out, “The F.B.I.’s surveillance of Lennon is a reminder of how easily domestic spying can become unmoored from any legitimate law enforcement purpose.”

    Years after Lennon’s assassination, it would be revealed that the FBI had collected 281 pages of surveillance files on him. As the New York Times notes, “Critics of today’s domestic surveillance object largely on privacy grounds. They have focused far less on how easily government surveillance can become an instrument for the people in power to try to hold on to power. ‘The U.S. vs. John Lennon’ … is the story not only of one man being harassed, but of a democracy being undermined.”

    Such government-directed harassment was nothing new.

    The FBI has had a long history of persecuting, prosecuting and generally harassing activists, politicians, and cultural figures, including Martin Luther King Jr.

    In Lennon’s case, the ex-Beatle saw that his music could mobilize the public and help to bring about change. Yet while Lennon believed in the power of the people, he also understood the danger of a power-hungry government. “The trouble with government as it is, is that it doesn’t represent the people,” observed Lennon. “It controls them.”

    By March 1971, when his “Power to the People” single was released, it was clear that Lennon was ready to participate in political activism against the U. S. government, the “monster” that was financing the war in Vietnam.

    The release of Lennon’s Sometime in New York City album, which contained a radical anti-government message in virtually every song, only fanned the flames of the government’s war on Lennon.

    In 1972, Nixon had the ex-Beatle served with deportation orders “in an effort to silence him as a voice of the peace movement.” Despite the fact that Lennon was not plotting to bring down the Nixon Administration, as the government feared, the government persisted in its efforts to have him deported. Equally determined to resist, Lennon dug in and fought back. Finally, in 1976, Lennon won the battle to stay in the country. By 1980, the old radical was back and ready to cause trouble.

    Unfortunately, Lennon’s time as a troublemaker was short-lived.

    Mark David Chapman was waiting in the shadows on Dec. 8, 1980, just as Lennon was returning to his New York apartment building. As Lennon stepped outside the car to greet the fans congregating outside, Chapman dropped into a two-handed combat stance, emptied his .38-caliber pistol and pumped four hollow-point bullets into Lennon’s back and left arm.

    John Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

    Much like Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy and others who have died attempting to challenge the powers-that-be, Lennon had finally been “neutralized.” 

    Yet Lennon’s legacy lives on in his words, his music and his efforts to speak truth to power.

    Even so, his work to change the world for the better is far from done.

    As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, peace remains out of reach. Activists and whistleblowers continue to be prosecuted for challenging the government’s authority. Militarism is on the rise, all the while the governmental war machine continues to wreak havoc on innocent lives. And those who do dare to speak up are labeled dissidents, troublemakers, terrorists, lunatics, or mentally ill and tagged for surveillance, censorship or, worse, involuntary detention.

    As Lennon shared in a 1968 interview:

    I think all our society is run by insane people for insane objectives…

     

    I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal means.

     

    If anybody can put on paper what our government and the American government and the Russian… Chinese… what they are actually trying to do, and what they think they’re doing, I’d be very pleased to know what they think they’re doing.

     

    I think they’re all insane. But I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.”

    So what’s the answer?

    Lennon had a multitude of suggestions.

    “If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”

     

    “Produce your own dream. If you want to save Peru, go save Peru. It’s quite possible to do anything, but not to put it on the leaders….You have to do it yourself.”

     

    “Peace is not something you wish for; It’s something you make, Something you do, Something you are, And something you give away.”

     

    “War is over, if you want it.”

    In other words, fighting the evil of the American police state can only come about by way of conscious thoughts that are put into action.

    Do you want an end to war? Then stop supporting the government’s military campaigns. Do you want government violence against the citizenry to end? Then demand that your local police de-militarize. Do you want a restoration of your freedoms? You’ll have to get the government to recognize that “we the people” are the masters in this relationship and government employees are our public servants.

    The choice is ours.

    The power (if we want it), as Lennon recognized, is in our hands.

    “The people have the power, all we have to do is awaken that power in the people,” concluded Lennon. “The people are unaware. They’re not educated to realize that they have power. The system is so geared that everyone believes the government will fix everything. We are the government.”

    For the moment, the choice is still ours: slavery or freedom, war or peace, death or life.

    The point at which we have no choice is the point at which the monsters—the maniacs, the powers-that-be, the Deep State—win.

    As Lennon warned, “You either get tired fighting for peace, or you die.”

  • Toronto's Housing Bubble Is Crushing The Strip Club Industry

    Until now, Canada’s soaring housing prices were just another innocent asset bubble spawned by low interest rates and an endless supply of Chinese cash that needed to get laundered.  That said, massive bubbles are almost always followed by severe unintended consequences that can have a crippling impact on society as a whole…and in Toronto those unintended consequences are now manifesting themselves in the form of a rapidly deteriorating supply of strip clubs.

    As Bloomberg points out today, the soaring value of Toronto real estate has made it all but impossible for strip club owners to turn down multi-million offers from condo developers leaving only a dozen strip clubs in a city whose purple neon lights used to be easily visible from the distant fringes of our solar system.

    Condos are killing the Toronto strip club. In a city that once had more than 60 bars with nude dancers, only a dozen remain, the rest replaced by condominiums, restaurants, and housewares stores. Demand for homes downtown and for the retailers that serve them is driving land prices to records, tempting owners of the clubs, most of which are family-run, to sell at a time when business is slowing.

     

    “Sometimes I feel like the last living dinosaur along Yonge Street,” says Allen Cooper, the second-generation owner of the famous—or infamous—Zanzibar Tavern. The former divorce lawyer says he has been approached by at least 30 suitors for his property in the past few years but is holding out for a “blow my socks off” offer. “I don’t know how many condos we’re going to get, but it seems like just a wall” of them, Cooper says.

    Zanzibar

    Of course, with ~1-acre plots of land selling for C$225 million, it’s not difficult to understand why strip club owners are increasingly choosing to shut off their neon signs for good…even with the consolidation of market share it’s nearly impossible to make that lap dance math pencil out.

    Remington’s Men of Steel, a male dance club behind a heavy door, sold to KingSett Capital Inc., which last year flipped it to Cresford Developments as part of a bigger portfolio on that block that went for about C$160 million ($125 million), according to real estate data supplier Altus Group. That club is closing next year, to be replaced by a 98-story condo.

     

    The fading of the strip-club era can be seen in a five-block area along Yonge Street, near Toronto’s counterpart to Times Square, Yonge-Dundas Square. It was once dubbed Sin Strip for its neon-clad bars, sex shops, and movie theaters. Today there are about 20 development applications for condos and commercial buildings on the stretch.

     

    Farther north, an entire city block is a construction site as two condo towers and some retail space replace a strip of colorful and creaky buildings that once offered body piercing and pole-dancing shoes. “We target a very specific market, mostly men. We’re not a shopping destination, so more people doesn’t mean a lot more business,” says Bill Greer, general manager and three-decade veteran of the Brass Rail Tavern, a two-story club in the area. “I don’t think we’ll be around in 10 years’ time.” Just outside the Brass Rail’s doors, a 75-story residential tower opened this year on a piece of land that cost C$53 million. An 80-story luxury tower is under construction following a C$225 million deal for less than 1 acre, according to data from Altus.

    But at least one Toronto strip club owner, Spiro Koumoudouros of the House of Lancaster, has drawn a line in the sand saying he’s not going anywhere…“What am I going to do, sit at home and die?”…if only we could all exhibit such courage in times of extreme crisis. 

    Finally, since we know your interest in this story was only prompted by your desire to see a larger version of the teaser pic…here you go:

    Stripper

  • GE Is Trying To Figure Out Who Knew About Immelt's "Chase Plane"

    The Wall Street Journal broke one of the most memorable news stories of the year over the summer when it reported that former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt – who bowed out in June amid intensifying pressure to revitalize the company’s long-suffering share price – would routinely use a "chase plane" when flying to foreign destinations – that is, a second completely empty jet would fly behind Immelt's aircraft. The company has provided multiple justifications for the second plane, including saying it was for security purposes, and to ensure timely arrival for "business critical" meetings.

    The story, which has become emblematic of GE’s longstanding tradition of grossly overspending on executive perks, was a major embarrassment for Immelt, who denied reports that he specifically requested the jet, claiming instead that his air transportation was arranged by the company’s corporate air team. Finally, he admitted that he had used two GE corporate jets in this manner up until 2014, when he changed the policy to use "locally sourced jets" as chase planes instead of one of the GE fleet.

    Now, in what looks like yet another hollow gesture to try and assuage investors’ concerns about out-of-control spending at the company, WSJ is reporting that the results of yet another internal investigation into Immelt’s in-flight preferences were “discussed at the company’s latest board meeting."

    This investigation was purportedly led by William “Mo” Cowan, GE’s vice president of litigation and legal policy, is leading an effort in recent weeks to find out who knew about the extra plane and when they knew it. At first blush, the investigation has the feel of a purge, meant to help the company justify cutting loose any remaining Immelt loyalists.

    A similar investigation was reportedly carried out in 2014 after an employee complained to the board about the jets. Though the findings of that probe are unknown, one thing is clear: Nobody was fired because they knew about the jet but didn't inform the board.

    General Electric Co. recently conducted an internal review into the flying of a spare business jet to accompany former Chief Executive Jeff Immelt, as it seeks to understand an unusual practice that went on for years and surprised investors when they learned of it in October.

     

    The investigation was discussed at a GE board meeting last week, people familiar with the matter said. William “Mo” Cowan, GE’s vice president of litigation and legal policy, led an effort in recent weeks to find out who knew about the extra plane and when they knew it, one person said.

     

    It is unclear whether any findings would be made public.

     

    Mr. Immelt has said, including in a recent letter to GE’s board, that he wasn’t aware of the backup jet and that he ended the practice when he discovered it in 2014. GE has said that the two-plane practice was discontinued in 2014 and that it was limited to overseas trips with security risks and so-called business critical itineraries.

    That’s right: GE conducted a separate “internal investigation” into the two-jet practice back in 2014 after an employee complained to the board. According to Immelt, the practice was discontinued shortly after. But flight records cited by WSJ show the jet was in use as recently as this spring. Furthermore, during Immelt’s 16-year tenure as CEO, GE spent millions of dollars a year on air travel.

    Since Immelt left the company before the WSJ story broke, the only person who has been disciplined by the company so far for their involvement in corporate-jet gate is Susan Peters, the company's former head of HR, who recently "retired" after 38 years at the company.

    GE’s market cap has shrunk by $125 billion this year as the company’s finances have deteriorated. After taking the reins, Flannery wasted no time slashing expenses, including shedding thousands of jobs and halving the company’s annual dividend.

    Jeff Immelt

    Meanwhile, Immelt will remain chairman until his retirement at the end of this year.

    At that point, Flannery – who has only benefited from this story, which cast his predecessor in a negative light while highlighting his reputation as a fiscally responsible cost-cutter – will be emboldened to continue his push to undo his predecessor's legacy by downsizing the business.

  • In Stunning Victory, Democrat Doug Jones Wins Alabama Senate Seat; Trump Responds: "A Win Is A Win…"

    Update: President Trump has reacted to Doug Jones' victory:

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    Update: US equity futures are sinking after Democrat Doug Jones unexpectedly wins the Alabama Senate special election against Roy Moore, the state’s Republican former chief justice who was dogged throughout the campaign by sexual misconduct accusations.

    AP reports that Jones has 49.6% to Moore’s 48.8% with 88% of vote counted, enough to give him the win according to news stations. As a reminder, in 2016 President Trump carried the state election by nearly 30 ppts over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

    Jones wins seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, who became Trump’s attorney general.

     

    Jones, 63, a former federal prosecutor, becomes first Democrat in U.S. Senate from deeply-Republican state of Alabama in over 20 years (last Ala. Democratic senator was Howell Heflin, who left office in 1997; the state’s senior senator Richard Shelby was a Democrat but switched parties to the Republicans in 1994)

    Putting Jones' victory in context, T=the last time a new Democrat was elected to the Senate from Alabama is 1978. That senator, Howell Heflin, left in 1997.

    In a twitter post, Alabama's new senator was laconic, stating simply "thank you Alabama"…

    … while top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said "things are looking better and better for 2018."

    Once Jones is sworn in, GOP’s Senate majority would narrow to the smallest possible 51-49… which explains why US equity futures are sliding…

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    Shortly after 8pm EST this evening, the voting results of one of the most controversial special elections in modern history, which pits Republican Roy Moore against Democrat Doug Jones for Jeff Sessions' vacant Senate seat, will start to flow in to news desks all around the country.

    While this election would have been a complete blowout just a few months ago, allegations of sexual assault which surfaced against Moore in November and which reportedly occurred in the late '70s, have made it a complete toss up.  As we noted earlier this morning, even pollsters have no clue how to predict voter turnout tonight with Fox News predicting a 10-point win for Jones and Emerson predicting a 9-point win for Moore.

    For those looking to get an early read on how the night might turn out, we would suggest keeping a close eye on Mobile which is the second largest county in Alabama and is home to a disproportionate share of the state's affluent republicans who are the most likely to abandon Moore.  Otherwise, while voter turnout will undoubtedly be down from the 2016 presidential contest, shifts in support in Jefferson and Montgomery counties, both with high concentrations of African-American voters, could provide an early signal on whether Jones has been successful in turning out his base.

    With that intro, tune in below for the live results:

    * * *

    For those who missed it, below is the preview we shared earlier this morning.

    After a last weekend of campaigning with celebrities, Doug Jones (D) with Alabama native Charles Barkley and Roy Moore (R) with Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon and controversial former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, election day for one of the most controversial special elections in modern U.S. history has finally arrived. 

    As The Hill points out, Moore's chances to become the first Democrat to win an Alabama Senate seat since 1992 rely on his ability to turnout African-American voters in cities like Birmingham and Montgomery.  Moore's fate, on the other hand, depends on voters in the more affluent city of Mobile and rural white voters from around the state.

    Jones spent the weekend on stops with prominent black Democratic lawmakers such as Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, while Congressional Black Caucus members Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) held get-out-the-vote events down state.

     

    While African-Americans make up roughly a quarter of Alabama’s population, years of dismal Democratic returns have left his party without much of a ground game.

     

    “I wish that the [Democratic National Committee] had focused more on states and making certain they had infrastructure here,” he said.

     

    While Moore’s time on the trail has been limited recently — there were rumors he attended the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia on Saturday — he did sit down for an interview on “The Voice of Alabama Politics” at the state Republican Party headquarters, which aired Sunday.

    Of course, as we pointed out yesterday, the polls headed into election day are almost completely useless as pollsters admit they have no idea how to handicap voter turnout today.  While voter turnout in mid-cycle elections is always difficult to predict, this one is especially complicated in light of the sexual assault allegations against Roy Moore. 

    Which is precisely why the latest Fox News Poll of likely voters showed a commanding 10-point lead for Democrat Doug Jones….

    Even though a poll released the day before by Emerson showed the exact opposite with a 9-point lead for Moore.  Per Real Clear Politics:

    RCP

    As CNN notes, the key to victory in Alabama could come down to Mobile, a region that is home to scores of more affluent, moderate, business-type Republicans who are most likely to abandon Moore for Jones or simply elect to sit this election out.

    There's a reason Trump's event was in Pensacola, and Moore closed his campaign with big rallies in Fairhope a week from election day and Midland City on Monday night: They're all in the Mobile media market.

     

    If Jones is going to win, he can't rely purely on turning out his base and hoping Republicans stay home. He'll need some white, conservative supporters, and the Mobile region is his best chance to win some.

     

    Those are the voters Moore's supporters have targeted with a message that the election is a referendum on Trump's agenda.

     

    "It's an up-or-down vote tomorrow between the Trump miracle and the nullification project," Bannon said Monday night in Midland City.

    As a quick reminder, here is how Alabama voted in the 2016 Presidential election.  Hillary performed well in the heavily African-American cities of Birmingham (+7.6%) and Montgomery (+26.8%) while Trump carried Mobile (+13.7%) and most of the rural areas of the state.

    All of which ultimately resulted in a massive 27.7 point blowout victory for Trump.

    So, after weeks of intense media focus on an election that should have been a foregone conclusion, we are now just a few hours away from finding out whether Republicans made their first a serious special election blunder by choosing to support a highly controversial candidate who was potentially doomed from the moment sexual assault allegations against him first surfaced last month.

  • Bitcoin Bears Unleashed? Interactive Brokers Folds, Will Allow Clients To Short Futures

    A week after Thomas Peterrfy, the founder, Chairman and CEO of Interactive Brokers and one of the 'giants' of electronic trading in US financial markets warned that:

    "the introduction of bitcoin futures into a clearing house could increase systemic risk."

    And just days after the firm said its

    "clients would be unable to short the bitcoin futures market because of the extreme volatility of bitcoin."

    Interactive Brokers has reportedly flip-flopped and as Bloomberg reports, plans to let bitcoin bears bet against the digital currency’s recently debuted futures contracts.

    Starting this week, the brokerage will allow its users to take short positions on bitcoin futures under certain conditions, according to company spokeswoman Kalen Holliday, who said the decision was made “in response to client demand.”

     

    Interactive Brokers has accepted long positions with a margin requirement of at least 50 percent since the contracts debuted Sunday on Cboe Global Markets Inc.

    That is great news for the arbs who can now actively compress the $1000 Bitcoin futures premium…

    Of course, as Bloomberg notes, shorting bitcoin futures, or betting that their price will fall, is potentially an even riskier strategy.

    It’s possible to lose an unlimited amount of money on a short position, particularly if the cost of the digital currency and its derivatives continues to climb.

    Bloomberg reports that Interactive Brokers has a few requirements for shorting bitcoin futures, which seem to suggest this is not quite as cut and dried a short futures position as 'bitcoin bears' would hope.

    • the spread must be one-to-one, and
    • the short leg must have the earlier expiry date so that once it expires the surviving leg will be long…
    • Trading won’t be offered in retirement accounts or to Japanese residents.

    Sounds more like IB is allowing traders to short the front-month against the back-month – not exactly what most were hoping for, but it's progress perhaps. For now, the news has prompted some selling pressure across the complex.

    So prepare for the pending short squeeze as all 'the smartest people in the room' pile in short on this no-brainer bubble…

  • CNN & MSNBC Attempt Coverup of Bogus Story They Started

    Authored by Mike Shedlock via www.themaven.net/mishtalk,

    CNN & MSNBC refuse to provide any transparency on how they blew a major anti-trump story.

    The headline image is from the BBC story Russia-Trump: Who's who in the drama to end all dramas?

    The BBC names the key players, but it missed one: the media.

    On December 9, Glen Greenwald at the Intercept reported The U.S. Media Suffered Its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages and Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened.

    I covered the story in Trump Accuses CNN of Purposeful Fake News "Fraud on American Public".

    In a nutshell, three news outlets, starting with CNN and followed by MSNBC broke a bombshell story on Trump that false. CBS jumped on the bandwagon but later blamed CNN.

    Supposedly, multiple, credible sources said Trump had access to Wikileaks information on Russia before Wikileaks posted it.

    The story timeline was false.

    Coverup Begins

    Days later, CNN refuses to disclose its sources or say what happened.

    Greenwald blasted CNN in a Tweet again today…

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    How Did It Happen?

    The Slate reports We Still Don’t Know Why Three Different Outlets “Confirmed” the Same Bogus Russia Story Last Week.

    "None of the outlets disclosed anything about the identities and/or motivations of the sources – and there are supposedly at least two of them! – who made such a consequential error of reading comprehension.

     

    Nor did any of them provide further information when I contacted them this afternoon asking whether they’d found out anything more about last week’s mysterious, sudden D.C.-wide inability to distinguish between 4 and 14," says the Slate, offering six possibilities.

    Six Possibilities

    1. The outlets were relying on solid sources who all made the same honest mistake.
    2. The outlets were relying on secondhand sources who were just B.S.-ing the whole time and repeating a bad story that had gotten to them via a game of national security telephone.
    3. The outlets were relying on bad-faith sources who were intentionally trying to make the mainstream media look bad. (The Sept. 14 email in question is in the possession of the House Intelligence Committee; maybe some Trump loyalists on the committee pulled a James O’Keefe.)
    4. Only one source ever actually misread the date of the email; the rest of the sources that “confirmed” the story simply confirmed the existence of the email, not when it was sent. These “confirming” sources were then all conflated together by outlets overeager to rush out a big scoop.
    5. “Fake news.” (As in, the reporters made all of it up to GET TRUMP.)
    6. Aliens.

    Trump Blasted CNN

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    That Tweet was on the day it happened. Here are some followups.

     

    Trump on Fake News

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Trump on Dumbest Man on Television

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Trump on Coverup

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

     

    Which Door?

    The Slate writer opted for door number four. I suggest it's safe to rule out door number one, an honest mistake, and door number six, aliens.

    After that, many combinations are possible.

    But regardless of the answer, it's clear that CNN is willing to rush unconfirmed garbage to the press, from sources that are not exactly credible.

     

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