Nov 14

Today’s News 14th November 2017

  • World Largest Reseller Of Virtual 'Skins' Raises $40M With An ICO

    ICO Investors are about to experience something that’s almost never happened in the brief history of the $3 billion market: An offering by a company with an actual product.

    Bloomberg Businessweek has managed to find the one ICO being launched to solve the rare problem that could actually benefit from decentralized, monetized tokens. The company is called OPSkins, and it’s the largest skins site in the $50 billion market. The company has raised $41 million in an ICO it launched last month, and hopes to raise another $7 million before the sale ends on Nov. 28. For those readers who aren’t avid gamers, Bloomberg explains that a “skin” is a decoration for the virtual guns and knives found in video games like CounterStrike: Global Offensive. While the concept of building a company around these products might seem silly, some buyers will pay thousands of dollars for the rarest skins.

    The two-year-old company has raised about $41 million by selling what it calls WAX tokens, a virtual currency that will become the default way to buy and sell skins on its intercompany skins exchange, the Worldwide Asset eXchange, which will allow buyers to connect to dozens of disparate marketplaces. The idea is to simplify purchases for gamers from different countries and give everyone a clearer sense of what a particular item is worth, using the same kind of digital-ledger system as the cryptocurrency bitcoin.

    Previously, the market for these virtual items was highly fragmented, and wealthy buyers would often play intermediaries a premium to root out the best deals on their behalf.

    The company bets that making its exchange accessible to rivals, who can then make a broader catalog available to customers, will expand its audience beyond the limitations of an individual website, says Chief Information Officer Malcolm CasSelle, who’s helping lead the WAX effort. In theory, there’s lots of room for new skins buyers, says Chris Grove, managing director at researcher Eilers & Krejcik Gaming LLC. About 200,000 new people buy virtual items through OPSkins each month, but the site sells gear for online games with more than 125 million regular players.

     

    “This could be the perfect on-ramp,” says investor Scott Walker, who helped fund the “initial coin offering,” or ICO. Early investors are getting more WAX tokens for their money, but their value will become another variable once the exchange goes live in December.

     

    OPSkins doesn’t disclose its financials, but its revenue is growing at double digits annually, says CasSelle, previously chief technology officer at Tronc Inc., the former Tribune Co. Partly, he says, the WAX token strategy is a way to stave off competitors. Over the past few months, rivals including DMarket, KyberNetwork, and SkinCoin have held ICOs to launch or expand their services. So far, though, no other trader has the muscle to create the kind of intercompany exchange OPSkins is building. Starting next year, websites that install the WAX widget will get as-yet-undetermined fees for resulting sales.

    However, before you rush out and buy WAX tokens purely for the sake of speculating, It’s worth considering the fact that OPSkins entire business is essentially at the mercy of the giant video game studio that produces many of the games whose wares Skins sells on the secondary market.

    The volatility of the WAX token price may make it a poor place to hold money not being used for short-term item buying and selling. But OPSkins’ biggest potential roadblock is the maker of the games. Industry leader Valve Corp., which publishes Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and the other big hits OPSkins exploits, has the power to ban sites from trading skins. Last year, Valve sent cease-and-desist letters to 23 online gambling sites to prevent them from using skins as collateral, a move aimed at reducing teenage gambling on professional video game matches. “Valve has certainly left the door open to an action in the future,” says Grove, the Eilers researcher.

    However, the company’s technology chief says it doesn’t need Valve Corp.’s cooperation to build a successful business.

    CasSelle says that the new exchange can work without Valve’s help, including as a way to acquire other virtual goods, and that OPSkins is looking to raise an additional $7 million in WAX tokens before it finishes its ICO on Nov. 28. (The company initially sought a total of $63 million but lowered that goal because the flurry of interest around bitcoin and its spiking value has diverted attention from ICOs.) Alexander, the personal shopper for virtual goods, says he thinks the exchange will be good for people like him in the short term, swelling the overall market for skins. “It makes the entire process effortless,” he says. “It is a massive pain dealing with the payment methods available at the moment.” But he’s hedging his bets, having returned to college to finish his degree in economics. He says he eventually wants to get a job in finance or start his own business.

    OPSkins doesn’t disclose its financials, but its chief technology officer – who was previously the CTO at Tronc Inc. – explained that the WAX token strategy is a way to stave off competitors. Over the past few months, some of OPSkins rivals, including DMarket, KyberNetwork, and SkinCoin have held ICOs to launch or expand their services. So far, though, no other company has the muscle to create the kind of intercompany exchange OPSkins is building.

    If it succeeds in being the first platform to capture a dedicated customer base, maybe – just maybe – the WAX token might have a future.

    Unfortunately for investors, most of the other 799 tokens trading on one of hundreds of exchanges scattered across the Earth, probably won’t.
     

  • Chinese Singles' Day Eats Cyber Monday For Breakfast

    As online retailers in the United States prepare for Cyber Monday, i.e. the biggest online shopping day of the year, China’s largest e-commerce company just recorded the biggest day in its history.

    As Statista's Felix Richter notes, on November 11, Chinese Singles’ Day, online shoppers bought merchandise worth more than $25 billion across Alibaba’s platforms (mainly Tmall and Taobao), shattering last year’s sales record in the process.

    Alibaba processed 812 million orders within 24 hours and its payment service Alipay handled 1.5 billion transactions during the day, peaking at an incredible 256,000 transactions per second.

    Compared to these numbers, Cyber Monday and Black Friday look like celebrations of frugality.

    Infographic: Chinese Singles' Day Eats Cyber Monday for Breakfast | Statista

    You will find more statistics at Statista

    In 2016, total Cyber Monday e-commerce sales in the United States amounted to $3.06 billion with Thanksgiving and Black Friday adding another $3.79 billion to a weekend total of $6.85 billion.

    This year’s Thanksgiving weekend will likely bring about another record in U.S. e-commerce history, but it won’t come close to matching China’s largest shopping extravaganza.

  • Stockman: US Entry Into World War I Was A Disaster

    Authored by David Stockman via The Daily Reckoning,

    103 years ago, in 1914, the Federal Reserve opened-up for business as the carnage in northern France was getting under way.

    And it brought to a close the prior magnificent half-century era of liberal internationalism and honest gold-backed money.

    The Great War was nothing short of a calamity, especially for the 20 million combatants and civilians who perished for no reason discernible in any fair reading of history, or even unfair one.

    Yet the far greater calamity is that Europe’s senseless fratricide of 1914-1918 gave birth to all the great evils of the 20th century – the Great Depression, totalitarian genocides, Keynesian economics, permanent warfare states, rampaging central banks and the follies of America’s global imperialism.

    Indeed, in Old Testament fashion, one begat the next and the next and still the next.

    The old liberal international economic order – honest money, relatively free trade, rising international capital flows and rapidly growing global economic integration – resulted in a 40-year span between 1870 and 1914 of rising living standards, stable prices, massive capital investment and prolific technological progress that was never equaled either before or since.

    The Great War undid it all.

    In the case of Great Britain, for example, its national debt increased 14-fold, its price level doubled, its capital stock was depleted, most off-shore investments were liquidated and universal wartime conscription left it with a massive overhang of human and financial liabilities.

    Yet England was the least devastated.

    In France, the price level inflated by 300% its extensive Russian investments were confiscated by the Bolsheviks and its debts in New York and London catapulted to more than 100% of GDP.

    Among the defeated powers, currencies emerged nearly worthless with the German mark at five cents on the pre-war dollar, while wartime debts – especially after the harsh peace of Versailles – soared to crushing, unrepayable heights.

    And the Great Depression’s tardy, thoroughly misunderstood and deeply traumatic arrival happened compliments of the United States.

    In the first place, America’s wholly unwarranted intervention in April 1917 prolonged the slaughter, doubled the financial due bill and generated a cockamamie peace, giving rise to totalitarianism among the defeated powers and Keynesianism among the victors.

    Even conventional historians admit as much.

    Had Woodrow Wilson not misled America on a messianic crusade, the Great War would have ended in mutual exhaustion in 1917 and both sides would have gone home battered and bankrupt but no danger to the rest of mankind.

    Indeed, absent Wilson’s crusade there would have been no allied victory, no punitive peace, and no war reparations; nor would there have been a Leninist coup in Petrograd or Stalin’s barbaric regime.

    Likewise, there would have been no Hitler, no Nazis, no holocaust, no global war against Germany and Japan and no incineration of 200,000 civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Nor would there have followed a Cold War with the Soviets or CIA sponsored coups and assassinations in Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Brazil and Chile to name a few. Surely there would have been no CIA plot to assassinate Castro, or Russian missiles in Cuba or a crisis that took the world to the brink of annihilation.

    There would have been no domino theory and no Vietnam slaughter, either.

    Nor would we have had to come to the aid of the mujahedeen and train the future al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Likewise, there would have been no Khomeini-led Islamic counter-revolution, and no U.S. aid to enable Saddam’s gas attacks on Iranian boy soldiers in the 1980s.

    Nor would there have been an American invasion of Arabia in 1991 to stop our former ally Saddam Hussein from looting the equally contemptible Emir of Kuwait’s ill-gotten oil plunder – or, alas, the horrific 9/11 blowback a decade later.

    Nor would we have been stuck with a $1 trillion Warfare State budget today. But I digress.

    Economically, the Great War enabled the already rising American economy to boom and bloat in an entirely artificial and unsustainable manner for the better part of 15 years.

    The realities of war finance also transformed the new Federal Reserve into an incipient central banking monster in a manner wholly opposite to the intentions of its great legislative architect – the incomparable Carter Glass of Virginia.

    During the Great War America became the granary and arsenal to the European Allies – triggering an eruption of domestic investment and production that transformed the nation into a massive global creditor and powerhouse exporter virtually overnight.

    Altogether, in six short years $40 billion of money GDP became $92 billion in 1920 – a sizzling 15% annual rate of gain.

    Needless to say, these fantastic figures reflected an inflationary, war-swollen economy – a phenomena that prudent finance men of the age knew was wholly artificial and destined for a thumping post-war depression.

    World War I simply gave birth to the modern Fed as we know it.

    When Congress created the Federal Reserve on Christmas Eve 1913, just six months before Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination, it had provided no legal authority whatsoever for the Fed to buy government bonds or undertake so-called “open market operations” to finance the public debt.

    In part this was due to the fact that there were precious few Federal bonds to buy. The public debt then stood at just $1.5 billion, which is the same figure that had pertained 51 years earlier at the battle of Gettysburg, and amounted to just 4% of GDP.

    Thus, in an age of balanced budgets and bipartisan fiscal rectitude, the Fed’s legislative architects had not even considered the possibility of central bank monetization of the public debt, and, in any event, had a totally different mission in mind.

    The big point here is that Carter Glass’ “banker’s bank” was an instrument of the market, not an agency of state policy. The so-called economic aggregates of the later Keynesian models — GDP, employment, consumption and investment — were to remain an unmanaged outcome on the free market, reflecting the interaction of millions of producers, consumers, savers, investors, entrepreneurs and even speculators.

    But WWI crossed the Rubicon of modern Warfare State finance. During World War I the U.S. public debt rose from $1.5 billion to $27 billion – an eruption that would have been virtually impossible without wartime amendments which allowed the Fed to own or finance U.S. Treasury debt.

    These “emergency” amendments – it’s always an emergency in wartime – enabled a fiscal scheme that was ingenious, but turned the Fed’s modus operandi upside down and paved the way for today’s monetary central planning.

    Washington learned that it could unplug the free market interest rate in favor of state administered prices for money, and that credit could be massively expanded without the inconvenience of higher savings out of deferred consumption.

    Effectively, Washington financed Woodrow Wilson’s crusade with its newly discovered printing press – turning the innocent “banker’s bank” legislated in 1913 into a dangerously potent new arm of the state.

    It was this wartime transformation of the Fed into an activist central bank that postponed the normal post-war liquidation – moving the world’s scheduled depression down the road to the 1930s.

    The Fed’s role in this startling feat is in plain sight in the history books, but its significance has been obfuscated by Keynesians presuming that the state must continuously manage the business cycle and macro-economy.

    The Great Depression thus did not represent the failure of capitalism or some inherent suicidal tendency of the free market to plunge into cyclical depression — absent the constant ministrations of the state through monetary, fiscal, tax and regulatory interventions.

    Instead, the Great Depression was a unique historical occurrence — the delayed consequence of the monumental folly of the Great War, abetted by the financial deformations spawned by modern central banking.

    The “failure of capitalism” explanation of the Great Depression is exactly what enabled the Warfare State to thrive and dominate the rest of the 20th century because it gave birth to what have become its twin handmaidens — Keynesian economics and monetary central planning.

    Together, these two doctrines eroded and eventually destroyed the great policy barrier – that is, the old-time religion of balanced budgets – that had kept America a relatively peaceful Republic until 1914.

    If only we could rewind the clock to 1917 and keep Wilson out of WWI, history – and economics – likely would have been a lot different.

  • The IRS Is Puzzled: Why Out Of 500,000 Coinbase Users, Only 900 Reported Gains Or Losses

    Almost exactly one year ago, the IRS realized that it could be leaving billions of dollars on the table in the form of uncollected taxes, and launched a tax-evasion probe on the largest US Bitcoin exchange, Coinbase, seeking to identify all Coinbase users in the U.S. who “conducted transactions in a convertible virtual currency” from 2013 to 2015.

    In a vexing paradox for cryptocurrency traders who had hoped they could avoid the IRS indefinitely as someone, somewhere once may have mentioned, the higher the price of bitcoin rose, the more motivated the IRS was to obtain access to user transaction records. Or, as Bloomberg put it, “the exploding value of the cryptocurrency since its first real-world transaction in 2010 is one reason the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is pushing to see records on thousands of users of Coinbase Inc., one of the biggest U.S. online exchanges. The company’s digital currency platform allows gains to be converted into old-fashioned dollars in transactions that the IRS alleges are going unreported.”

    To be sure, as we have reported over the past year, Coinbase and industry trade groups are fighting back in court, claiming the government’s concerns about tax fraud are unfounded and that its sweeping demand for information is a threat to privacy. That however, did not stop the IRS which claimed in a court filing that “U.S. taxpayers, including Coinbase users, have made use of virtual currencies to avoid the reporting and payment of taxes.” The agency said it needs access to customer records to “gain some degree of visibility into a space where it is already necessarily moving about somewhat in the dark.”

    Meanwhile, both Coinbase and bitcoin have exploded. Whereas Coinbase had under 5 million users last November when the IRS filed its lawuist, as of last week it had 12.2 million users, deploying 41 million virtual currency wallets in 32 countries that have so far exchanged $40 billion in digital currency. The price of bitcoin hit a record high just under $8,000 at the start of November, more than 10x higher than in November 2016.

    The biggest problem, however, and the reason why the IRS is unlikely to relent is that as the IRS said, it detected a “reporting gap” between the 500,000 virtual currency users Coinbase reported between 2013 and 2015 and the less than 900 bitcoin users reporting gains or losses for each of those years.

    That would imply that less than 0.2% of coinbase users bothered to report anything on their tax forms. One can see why the IRS is angry.

    And, worse for those who believe they will be able to get away with their cryptoprofits unscathed by Federal Taxes, following last week’s hearing, a federal judge is poised to allow a limited investigation into those gains to proceed over the company’s objection that the agency is on “a massive fishing expedition” meant to make itself look tough in the eyes of its critics in Congress, according to Bloomberg.

    “It’s legitimate for them to investigate whether people are making money on their bitcoin purchases” and paying taxes on any gains, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in San Francisco told lawyers for Coinbase at a hearing last Thursday. “I have to give tremendous discretion to the agency as to how they investigate,” she added later.

    Coinbase was not impressed. Mike Lempres, the company’s chief legal and risk officer said after the hearing that the company can’t negotiate with the IRS about a “forward-looking, rational reporting system” so long as the agency is suing it. Such discussions aren’t possible “because we’re in this tussle with them where they are improperly searching for private information of our customers with no evidence of wrongdoing,” Lempres said. He declined to comment on Corley’s pending ruling before the company has seen a final order in writing.

    Last year, the IRS persuaded Corley last year to order Coinbase to approve its summons for customer records from 2013 to 2015 for an investigation into whether taxpayers failed to report income. Coinbase resisted, and negotiations between the company and the agency resulted in a narrowed request for information about 8.9 million transactions and 14,355 account holders. Coinbase argued Thursday the inquiry remains unreasonably broad.

    On Thursday, Bloomberg reports, Corley said she would allow the IRS to investigate Coinbase customers who made money on the currency and bar the agency from probing accounts of those who hadn’t. The judge also said she’ll probably give Coinbase time to appeal her decision before it turns over any customer information.

    While lots was said of bitcoin’s drop over the past 4 days, much of attributed to suspension of the controversial Segwit 2x fork which was originally due in mid-November, some are wondering if a key catalyst for the price drop wasn’t the latest court ruling, although it in itself should have little impact on trading decisions: after all, at this point it’s a binary outcome: either the IRS will have access to all those who made money trading the crypto… or it won’t.

    In retrospect, it will be interesting to find out, if only based on the number of IRS submissions, how many of the over 12 million bitcoin accounts have actually made money trading cryptos. We will soon find out.

  • Scientists Shocked As Fisheries Collapse On West Coast: "It's The Worst We've Seen"

    Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

    The Gulf of Alaska cod populations appears to have taken a nose-dive. Scientists are shocked at the collapse and starving fish, making this  the “worst they’ve ever seen.”

    “They [Alaskan cod] get weak and die or get eaten by something else,” said NOAA’s Steve Barbeaux.

    The 2017 trawl net survey found the lowest numbers of cod on record forcing scientists to try to unravel what happened. A lot of the cod hatched in 2012 appeared to survive, but by 2017, those fish were largely gone for the surveys, which also found scant evidence of fish born in subsequent years. Many of the cod that have come on board trawlers are “long skinny fish” according to Brent Paine, executive director of United Catcher Boats.

    “This is a big deal,” Paine said. “We just don’t see these (cod) year classes disappear from one year to the next.”

    The decline is expected to substantially reduce the gulf cod harvests that in recent years have been worth — before processing — more than $50 million to Northwest and Alaska fishermen who catch them with nets, pot traps, and baited hooks set along the sea bottom.

    Barbeaux says the warm water, which has spread to depths of more than 1,000 feet, hit the cod like a kind of a double-whammy. Higher temperatures sped up the rate at which young cod burned calories while reducing the food available for the cod to consume. And many are blaming “climate change” for the effects on the fish, although scientists aren’t directly correlating the two events. “They get weak and die or get eaten by something else,” said Barbeaux, who in October presented preliminary survey findings to scientists and industry officials at an Anchorage meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

    The 2017 trawl net survey found the lowest numbers of cod on record, more than 70 percent lower than the survey found two years earlier.

     

    Barbeaux said the cod decline likely resulted from the blob, a huge influx of warm Pacific Ocean water that stretched — during its 2015 peak — from the Gulf of Alaska to California’s offshore waters.

     

    Biologists tracked increases in bird die-offs, whale strandings, and other events such as toxic algae blooms.

     

    Even today, its effects appear to linger, such as in the dismal survey results for salmon last summer off Washington and Oregon.

    The Olympian

    The blob began to take hold in 2014, and within a year had raised temperatures as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit in some surface waters of the Gulf of Alaska. In deeper waters, where cod feed, the temperature rose by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit. The surface temperatures recorded during the blob’s peak could be close to the average at century’s end, according to a recent report on climate change by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Thus, future blobs could push temperatures much higher than the most recent event.

    “They may not necessarily be more frequent, but they will be more intense,” said Nicholas Bond, a University of Washington climate scientist who assisted in the Gulf of Alaska cod research. “This is really going to be uncharted territory.”

  • Emerging Market Junk Debt Issuance Surges To New Record As The "Search For Yield" Intensifies

    It seems that the never-ending “thirst for yield” from the world’s massive pension funds, combined with the ever-present “cash on the sidelines” problem, is driving the creation of yet another global financial bubble in emerging market junk bonds.  Alas, as the FT points out today, the world’s largest fixed income investors can’t seem to get enough of the risky paper as bond issuance by the most financially vulnerable countries has suddenly spiked to a all-time high of $75 billion just as spreads are tightening to all-time lows.

    Junk-rated emerging market sovereigns have raised $75bn in syndicated bonds so far this year, up 50 per cent year on year to the highest total on record, according to figures from Dealogic, a data provider.

     

    The increase has buoyed the total volume of debt-raising by developing economies; non-investment grade issuance has made up 40 per cent of the new debt syndicated in EM so far in 2017.

     

    These rare and new issuers have been lured into the market by attractive pricing — strong investor demand for EM debt has pushed pricing up and yields down, making it one of the best-performing assets globally in 2017.

     

    According to Bloomberg Barclays indices, EM’s local currency-denominated sovereign debt has returned 10.4 per cent since the start of this year, while dollar-denominated debt has returned 7.6 per cent. By contrast, US Treasuries have returned 2.5 per cent while European nations’ debt has returned 0.9 per cent.

    Of course, for all the “doom and gloom” predictions of an imminent crash in Emerging Markets (here and here, among many others), not only have these not materialized, but the average yield on corporate junk bonds issued by emerging markets has dropped to record-low levels of around 5.5%, compared to nearly 10% just 2 years ago.

    For a case study of the yield-chasing insanity unleashed by central bankers, one has to look no further than Tajikistan.

    The central Asian country last month raised $500 million in its first-ever international bond sale, paying just 7.125% in annual interest on the debt after the U.S.-dollar offering drew a swarm of American and European buyers. Bankers had earlier shopped the 10-year bonds from the former Soviet satellite with an 8% yield, which was pulled down by strong investor demand.

    The reason for the scramble into any piece of yielding debt, even Tajik junk bonds is simple: as the IMF shows today in its latest financial stability report, there are virtually no IG bonds left with yields above 4%, and in the junk bonds space, whether in the US or offshore, it isn’t much better.

    Meanwhile, as the head of EM asset allocation at UBS Wealth Management, Michael Bollinger, pointed out to the FT, holding the 7.125% Tajik bonds until maturity can be a great yield for a pension fund with a 7% return target…that is, until the bonds can’t be refinanced at maturity.

    Michael Bollinger, head of EM asset allocation at UBS Wealth Management, said that relatively high-risk, high-yield sovereigns were attractive to institutional investors and private clients to hold to maturity.

     

    “The problem with liquidity is that when you need it most, it is least available, and that problem can be particularly pronounced in these rare issuer names,” he said.

     

    Will the flurry of issuance continue? Mr Bollinger expects it to ease off. “Some of these guys will start to find it more difficult — at this point in the cycle it is time to become more selective in EM bonds,” he said.

     

    Meanwhile, Mr Rediker warns that sovereigns with poor credit ratings could struggle to refinance their debt when it matures.

     

    “What if the rollover risk is greater than investors and issuers think it is?” he said. “That is a premise that not everybody seems to be taking as seriously as they might.”

    Of course, with garbage bonds (it’s a technical term) in Illinois yielding 3.74% (see: Muni Investors Celebrate “Juicy” 3.74% Yield On New Illinois Bonds As State Hurdles Toward Bankruptcy), it’s not all that difficult to understand why bond investors see relative value in Tajikistan.

  • Sessions Considers Appointing Special Council To Investigate Clintons

    With Special Counsel Robert Mueller reportedly preparing to make another round of arrests in his probe into the Trump campaign’s efforts to “collude” with Russia, House and Senate Republicans – not to mention President Donald Trump – will be thrilled to learn that Attorney General Jeff Sessions might soon appoint a second special counsel to investigate allegations of corruption and self-dealing involving several prominent Democrats and Obama-era officials, including Bill and Hillary Clinton.

    According to the Washington Post, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is entertaining the idea of appointing a second special counsel to investigate alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation and the controversial sale of a uranium company to Russia. A letter obtained by WaPo shows Sessions directed senior federal prosecutors to explore at least some of these matters and report back to him and his top deputy, Rod Rosenstein, as to whether the DOJ should follow up with a full-blown investigation.

    For months now, President Trump has encouraged Sessions to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Clintons. Those calls grew louder – and were joined by several senior Republicans in Congress – after it was revealed that the DNC and the Clinton campaign jointly financed the infamous “Trump dossier” – which contained several salacious claims that the FBI reportedly used to justify launching the original investigation into collusion between the Trump camp and Russia back in July 2016.

    Those calls only intensified further after the Hill reported that the FBI had launched an investigation into corruption surrounding Russia’s efforts to gain control over a stockpile of Uranium based in the US – uranium that was owned by the Canadian company Uranium One and represented 20% of total uranium assets in the US. That investigation led to the arrest of the most senior official of the US subsidiary of Rosatom, the Russian state-backed nuclear agency. Yet, for some unknown reason, the FBI neglected to inform Congress of the investigation. Several months after the arrest of the Russian, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voted to approve the sale of the Uranium One assets to Rosatom. Around the time she voted ‘yes’ on the deal, her husband Bill Clinton received a $500,000 speaking fee from Kremlin-aligned Alfa Bank, while the Clinton Foundation received more than $100 million in donations from Russia-affiliated entities.

    Session’s letter was a response from the Justice Department to an inquiry from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, who in July and again in September called for Sessions to appoint a second special counsel to investigate concerns he had related to the 2016 election and its aftermath.

    The list of matters he wanted probed was wide ranging, but included the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, various dealings of the Clinton Foundation and several matters connected to the purchase of the Canadian mining company Uranium One by Russia’s nuclear energy agency. Goodlatte took particular aim at former FBI director James Comey, asking for a second special counsel to evaluate the leaks he directed about his conversations with President Trump, among other things.

    Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote that Sessions had “directed senior federal prosecutors to evaluate certain issues raised in your letters,” and those prosecutors would “report directly to the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, as appropriate, and will make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be opened, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any matters merit the appointment of a Special Counsel."

    It appears that, after a year of being dogged by allegations that Russia was partly responsible for Trump’s upset victory over Clinton in the 2016 election, Trump’s claim that the DOJ “should be looking at the Democrats” is finally being heeded by his own attorney general.

    As we’ve long maintained, the Clintons have just as many – if not more – connections to the Russian government than Trump and his affiliates. And given the recent revelations about Don Jr’s contact with Wikileaks and Carter Page’s freelance trips to Moscow, it’s about time that these connections were brought into full public view.

    We can only hope that Sessions follows through.
     

  • Ominous Russophobia In America

    Authored by Stephen Lendman,

    It infests America like a malignant tumor, exceeding the worst of the post-WW I “Red Scare” and its repeat following WW II.

    Beginning in 1938, House Un-American Activities Committee witch-hunt hearings into alleged disloyalty and subversive activities became headline news.

    Starting in the late 1960s, more of the same followed by the renamed House Committee on Internal Security.

    Notorious McCarthyism in the 1950s was a demagogic smear campaign against prominent figures, slandering them, ruining careers, even accusing General George Marshall of being “soft on communism.”

    Notable Hollywood figures were blacklisted. McCarthyism was baseless slander, unscrupulous fear-mongering, and political lynchings.

    Harvard Law School dean Ervin Griswold once called McCarthy “judge, jury, prosecutor, castigator, and press agent, all in one.”

    Modern-day Russophobia includes a second Cold War, Russia under Vladimir Putin again considered the “evil empire,” relentless Washington and media Russian bashing, along with endless congressional and special counsel witch-hunt investigations suggesting the worst, revealing nothing.

    Russia expert Stephen Cohen said “(w)e’re in the most dangerous confrontation with Russia since the Cuban missile crisis.”

    He underestimated the threat. It’s much worse now than then. Jack Kennedy explained he “never had the slightest intention of” attacking or invading Cuba.”

    Obama was no Jack Kennedy. Nor is Trump, his administration and Congress infested with neocons, Democrats as ruthlessly dangerous as Republicans.

    The late political theorist Sheldon Wolin once called undemocratic Dems the “inauthentic opposition,” as infested with neoliberal Russophobic neocons as the Republican party.

    Virtually everyone in Washington is part of the anti-Russia crowd, Bernie Sanders among them, a progressive in name only.

    During his presidential campaign, he sounded like a modern-day Joe McCarthy, shamefully claiming “the evidence is overwhelming” that Russia “help(ed) elect the candidate of their choice, Mr. Trump, to undermine in a significant way American democracy.”

    In a YouTube video, he repeated the Big Lie, saying “the US intelligence community has concluded that Russia played an active role in the 2016 election with the goals of electing Donald Trump as president.”

    “The Trump campaign had repeated contacts with the senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.”

    The phony “dossier” showed Russian agents able to “blackmail” the White House. Like most others in Congress, Sanders is a cold and hot warrior, a self-serving con man, supporting wealth, power and privilege like the rest of Washington’s political establishment, pretending otherwise.

    Feelthebern.org states:

    “Bernie supports enforcing economic sanctions and international pressure as an alternative to any direct military confrontation when dealing with Russia.”

     

    “To temper Russian aggression, we must freeze Russian government assets all over the world, and encourage international corporations with huge investments in Russia to divest from that nation’s increasingly hostile political aims.”

     

    “The United States must collaborate to create a unified stance with our international allies in order to effectively address Russian aggression.”

     

    “(T)he United States should isolate Putin politically and economically…The entire world has got to stand up to Putin.”

    Shocking stuff, exposing the real Bernie Sanders, not the persona he publicly displays!

    Former CIA counterintelligence official/whistleblower John Kiriakou was invited to participate in a European Parliament panel – then removed at the last moment because panelist Winnie Wong, co-founder of People for Bernie, refused to appear with him, Kiriakou saying:

    “(S)he didn’t want the appearance of Bernie Sanders appearing to endorse the Russian media.”

    Kiriakou hosts a Sputnik News radio show called Loud & Clear, why she objected, supporting Sanders’ Russophobia.

    Kiriakou remarked saying “American politics rear(ed) its ugly head in Brussels.” No problems arose when he appeared on another panel with Cuba’s EU ambassador.

    It’s the “red scare all over again,” Kiriakou explained.

    Anything remotely connected to Russia is toxic. Failing to be Russophobic in Washington is a likely career-ender, much like what happens to Israeli critics.

    Intense anti-Russian sentiment in America risks the unthinkable – possible catastrophic nuclear war, humanity’s survival at stake.

  • Conservatives Smash Keurig Machines In Social Media Uproar

    Over the weekend, CNBC reported on five companies that halted all advertisements of their products on Fox News’ Sean Hannity show. These companies included:

    • 23 and Me
    • Eloquii
    • Keurig
    • Nature’s Bounty
    • Realtor.com

    The story began last Thursday, with the sexual allegations against Roy Moore, the Alabama senate candidate who, The WaPo reported that day, made sexual advances towards four teenagers when he was in his early 30s. As of today, there is even a fifth women accusing Moore of sexual misconduct.

    After the story broke on Thursday, Fox host Sean Hannity came out and asked his audience to give Moore the benefit of the doubt. According to NYTimes,

    Mr. Hannity, describing those actions on his radio show while speaking with a co-host, Lynda McLaughlin, seemed to justify Mr. Moore’s reported conduct by calling one of the encounters “consensual.”

    Hours later “On his television show, Mr. Hannity said that the statement “was absolutely wrong” and that he “misspoke.” He then brought up the possibility of accusers lying for money, or for political purposes.”

    The following day, Angelo Carusone, President of Media Matters, a ‘politically progressive media watchdog’ that monitors “conservative misinformation in the U.S. media” said this to Keurig:

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

    On Saturday, Keurig responded by saying “we worked with our media partner and FOX news to stop our ad from airing during the Sean Hannity Show”.

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

    What happened next was a firestorm on social media that swept across the United States late Saturday into Sunday. The bulk of the trend #BoycottKeurig exploded on Sunday, as many conservatives who have boycotted the NFL because of kneeling problems, decided they had to urgently get involved in the latest bitter debate splitting America. We start with ‘Snoop Baily’ who smashed the living hell out of Keurig with a driver.

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

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

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

    To keep it short, this is what it looks like when a sizable chunk of the US decides to go “Office Space”:

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

    For a while, Hannity played along with the trend empowering it to grow through his enormous social media network as conservatives were called to action to smash Keurig machines. As the day closed, he then told his audience that he was buying 500 coffee makers to give away on Monday.

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

    On Monday, however, the Krush The Keurig fun ended when Hannity told his audience to stop smashing the Coffee machines, after Keurig CEO apologizes for ‘taking sides’…

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

    Moore’s sexual allegations aside, which have yet to be rejected or confirmed, what is more concerning is the blind willingness of substantial portions of the population to succumb to instant mobilization through social media and or a media figure(s), to collectively work as a unit in completing tasks, in this case the destruction of one’s own property. Ironically, something tells us that for Keurig the news that its machines were being “Office Spaced” across the nation, was music to the CEO’s ears (think replacement value), not to mention the unprecedented media exposure as virtually everyone spent the day talking about the incident (think unlimited advertising).

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

    There’s more: as The Atlantic writes, “in destroying Keurig machines also clearly aligns these people with a global environmentalist movement. In 2015, the “Kill the K-Cup” campaign took hold among those concerned about the net waste of so many pods. A Canadian advocate encouraged people to publicly abandon the machines.”

    Now America finds itself in the midst of hordes of angry people with clubs who will soon be going through caffeine withdrawal. They could go to Starbucks, though the chain has also been condemned and boycotted by some isolationist conservatives, since earlier this year it promised to hire 10,000 refugees in response to President Trump’s executive order barring them from the country.

    Meanwhile, always eager to ride on the latest social media trend, corporate America has promptly noticed the events over the past 72 hours, and it is guaranteed that many more companies will follow in Keurig’s activist footsteps. Who knows: the resultant breaking and smashing of various “resistance” products may just end up being the CapEx spark that the US economy so desperately needs…

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