Jan 07

Today’s News 7th January 2018

  • Fusion GPS Bank Records Handed Over; May Shed Light On Payments From Russian Embezzler

    The bank for opposition research firm Fusion GPS handed over financial records on Friday, after a Federal judge struck down the firm’s attempt to conceal the records from the House Intelligence Committee the previous day. 

    At issue are 70 financial transactions from 2016, however Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) demanded “complete” records going all the way back to Aug. 2015 Fusion filed for an injunction – claiming Nunes issued the subpoena illegally, it was overly broad, and it was a violation of the 1st amendment. 



    The request also covers a period in which Fusion was paid $523,651 by a law firm for a Russian businessman whose company, Prevezon Holdings, Ltd. settled with the U.S. Justice department for $5.9 million in a money laundering an embezzlement scheme involving high level Russian officials. The Russian’s attorney was none other than Natalia Veselnitskaya of Trump Tower meeting fame.

    Federal District Court Judge Richard Leon, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote a scorching denial to Fusion’s request – concluding that Nunes legally issued the subpoena, it wasn’t overly broad, and that the transactions are not covered by the first amendment. 




    “Unfortunately for the plaintiff, I cannot agree,” Judge Leon wrote on the basis that Fusion’s commercial relationship with its clients does not provide Fusion with “some special First Amendment protection from subpoenas,” since it would allow “any entity that provides goods and services to a customer who engages in political activity to resist a subpoena on the ground that its client engages in political speech.” 

    While we don’t know what the 70 financial transactions cover, Nunes’ Subpoena was broad, demanding complete records going back to August, 2015…



    In late November, The Daily Caller‘s Chuck Ross reported that heavily redacted Fusion GPS bank records unsealed Tuesday reveal DNC law firm Perkins Coie paid Fusion a total of $1,024,408 in 2016 for opposition research on then-candidate Donald Trump – including the 34-page dossier.

    Ross also reported that law firm Baker Hostelter paid Fusion $523,651 between March and October 2016 on behalf of a company owned by Russian businessman and money launderer Denis Katsyv to research Bill Browder, a London banker who helped push through the Magnitsky Act – named after deceased Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.



    Katsyv was busted for a high level embezzlement and money laundering scheme, sanctioned by Russian Officials, in which large sums of money were stolen from the Russian government and invested in New York real estate. Some of the missing funds were traced to Katsyv‘s firm, Prevezon Holdings Ltd., which settled with the Justice Department in 2017 – paying $5.9 million in fines.

    And again, what does Nunes’ Subpoena cover? Banking records from the period in which Katsyv utilized Fusion GPS services. 

    Enter Natalia

    Katsyv’s attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya – a John McCain fan who hates Trump and uses Democrat lobbyists, was initially denied entry into the United States, only to be allowed in under “extraordinary circumstances” by Obama’s Homeland Security Department and approved by former AG Loretta Lynch so she could represent Fusion GPS client Denis Katsyv’s company, Prevezon Holdings – and attend the meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. – arranged by Fusion GPS associate Rob Goldstone.

    Let’s Review:

    • Russian businessman Denis Katsyv was a key figure in an embezzlement and money laundering scheme involving New York real estate, uncovered by Russian lawyer and accountant Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky reportedly died in Moscow’s Butyrka prison after a year of inhumane treatment. 
    • Katsyv settled with the U.S. Justice department in 2017, paying a paltry $5.9 million in 2017 to settle the case – less than 3% of the amount originally sought by federal prosecutors. 
    • Fusion GPS was paid $523,651 by Katsyv to investigate London Banker Bill Browder who pushed for the Magnitsky Act, while Katsyv’s attorney, Natalia Veselnitskayawas in the United States actively lobbying to remove the sanctions imposed by the Magnitsky Act.
    • Fusion GPS associate Rob Goldstone set up the infamous meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., Katsyv’s lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and various associates. The meeting was pitched to Trump Jr. as a “discussion on adoption”(not opposition research on Hillary Clinton) and was shut down by Trump Jr. after it became clear Veselnitskaya wanted to discuss the Magnitsky Act – which Don Jr. apparently didn’t realize was linked to the adoption issue. Others present at the meeting include Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Rob Goldstone.
    • Hours before the Trump Tower meeting, Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson met with Veselnitskaya.


    • Fusion GPS was paid $1,024,408 by DNC law firm Perkins Coie, which acted as an intermediary for Hillary Clinton and the DNC, to create the salacious 34 page dossier.
    • Fusion paid former British spy Christopher Steele $168,000 to assemble the document (which had the cooperation of two senior Kremlin officials).
    • Clinton campaign manager John Podesta met with Fusion CEO Glenn Simpson the day after the 34 page dossier was made public.

    For their efforts, Fusion GPS was paid over $1.5 million dollars between Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and the holding company owned by pro-Kremlin businessman Denis Katsyv.

    Also recall that Fusion GPS hired Nellie Ohr, the CIA-linked wife of demoted DOJ official, Bruce Ohr, to help with investigation Trump, and that Bruce Ohr was demoted after meeting with Simpson and Christopher Steele, the former MI6 spy who assembled the dossier for Fusion.



    House investigators have determined that Ohr met shortly after the election with Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS the opposition research firm that hired Steele to compile the dossier with funds supplied by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

    …evidence collected by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., indicates that Ohr met during the 2016 campaign with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the dossier.   –Fox News

    Let’s also remember Fusion’s failed effort to link the President to billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein:

    Since you asked, yes, they helped me with that, Mr. Silverstein said. But as you can see, I could not make a strong case for Trump being super close to Epstein, so they could hardly have been thrilled with that story. [In my humble opinion], that was the best story written about Trumps ties to Epstein, but I failed to nail him. Trumps ties were mild compared to Bill Clintons.

    As well as a fabricated story that a secret email server existed between Trump Tower and Moscow’s Alpha Bank – which was debunked by internet sleuths who traced the IP address to a marketing server located outside Philadelphia. 

    Fusion is currently being sued for libel in two separate cases by three Russian businessmen-bankers in US District Court for their inclusion in the Dossier, along with the ‘secret server’ story pushed by Glenn Simpson. Alfa bank executives Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan filed suit in early October, claiming their reputations were harmed by the largely unsubstantiated document

    Given that Fusion GPS appears to have had their ‘investigative’ hands in several pots related to ongoing investigations on Capitol Hill, it’s no wonder they penned a desperate self-defense last week, as if to leave people with some sort of positive impression of the company before the storm truly arrives. 


  • Why For Stock Markets Bulls, Monday Could Be "The Most Important Day"

    The holiday-shortened first week of 2018 was the best start to a year for Nasdaq since 2004 with all major indices up every trading day of the year so far.


    Between the last week of December and the first week in January, Bloomberg reports that the S&P 500 has reversed direction every year since 2011.



    A possible explanation is the expiration of government policies on Dec. 31.

    After 4 trading days, the S&P 500 is up 2.6% year-to-date – that is the best start to a year for the S&P since 2006 (and would have been the best weekly gain in 2017).

    Critically though, as Ryan Detrick notes,since 1950, when the first 5 days are up over 2%, the S&P 500 is higher for the year 15 out of 15 times with an average return of +18.6%.

    So, as Detrick concludes, if you are bullish, Monday is a big day.

    Of course, January is another seasonally strong month, with an average total return of +1.2% (+1.1% price return) since 1928. A positive January has historically led to a positive year 86% of the time (80% on a price return basis), with an average total return of +17% (+13% price return). A down January has led to a negative year 47% of the time (56% on a price return basis) with an average total return of +2% (-1% price return).

    “This doesn’t mean the index will go straight up from here, but the economic fundamentals are strong enough to support the stocks,” said Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Investors.

    “Corporate earnings growth has been solid in the last nine months, we expect another double-digits in the fourth quarter. The party is going to continue.

    After setting so many different records last year, SentimentTrader.com’s Jason Goepfert  expects 2018 to score even more.

    Among them, the major indexes haven’t been more than 5% from a 52-week high for nearly 400 days (more than 450 days if we exclude a single day last June).


    There were 3 other time periods that matched what we’re seeing now, and after each of them, the S&P 500 declined more than 7% over a period of 30-40 days.

    As Bloomberg concludes, long momentum, a strategy that returned the most since 1999 last year, rose the most in more than two years this week.

    “It feels like the late phase of a bull market in which investors are capitulating on their reluctance, and joining the party because they cannot identify any downward catalysts,” said Matthew Litfin, portfolio manager of the Columbia Acorn Fund at Columbia Threadneedle Investments.

    “Instead, investors now see lower corporate taxes ahead, global economic growth accelerating, and valuation on ‘post-tax-reform earnings’ that is palatable.”

    And remember, Gary Cohn and David Tepper both told you that stocks are not expensive

    Forward P/ETWO

    Nope, nothing to see here.

    Just ask current Fed Chair Powell

    I think we are actually at a point of encouraging risk-taking, and that should give us pause. Investors really do understand now that we will be there to prevent serious losses. It is not that it is easy for them to make money but that they have every incentive to take more risk, and they are doing so. Meanwhile, we look like we are blowing a fixed-income duration bubble right across the credit spectrum that will result in big losses when rates come up down the road. You can almost say that that is our strategy.



  • US Coal Production Crashes To Record Low

    Here’s another chart that it’s probably best not to show President Trump…

    Having promised to ‘make coal great again’ and tweeted exuberantly about the reopening of mines in June…


    President Trump’s coal nation is facing a tough end to the year as U.S. coal production sank to an all-time low in the final week of 2017 as the Christmas holiday and bitter-cold temperatures added to the long-term trends pummeling the industry.



    Miners extracted an estimated 10.5 million short tons of coal during the week ending Dec. 30, according to a report Thursday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

    That was down 28 percent from the same week in 2016 and the lowest tally in records dating to 1992.

    As Bloomberg notes, weekly coal production generally falls at the end of the year as rail and mining crews take time off, said Matt Preston, a North American coal analyst at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. But the drop-off was sharper than ever in 2017 as the industry continued to struggle to compete with natural gas and, to a lesser extent, wind and solar farms.

  • Lies We Tell Ourselves

    Authored by Major Danny Sjursen via TruthDig.com,

    Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose,
    But young men think it is, and we were young.

    — A. E. Housman, 1859-1936

    Seven of my soldiers are dead. Two committed suicide. Bombs got the others in Iraq and Afghanistan. One young man lost three limbs. Another is paralyzed. I entered West Point a couple of months before 9/11. Eight of my classmates died “over there.”



    Military service, war, sacrifice – when I was 17, I felt sure this would bring me meaning, adulation, even glory. It went another way.

    Sixteen years later, my generation of soldiers is still ensnared in an indecisive, unfulfilling series of losing wars: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Niger—who even keeps count anymore? Sometimes, I allow myself to wonder what it’s all been for.

    I find it hard to believe I’m the only one who sees it. Nonetheless, you hear few dissenting voices among the veterans of the “global war on terror.” See, soldiers are all “professionals” now, at least since Richard Nixon ditched the draft in 1973. Mostly the troops—especially the officers—uphold an unwritten code, speak in esoteric vernacular and hide behind a veil of reticence. It’s a camouflage wall as thick as the “blue line” of police silence. Maybe it’s necessary to keep the machine running. I used to believe that. Sometimes, though, we tell you lies. Don’t take it personally: We tell them to each other and ourselves as well.

    Consider just three:

    1. Soldiers don’t fight (or die) for king, country or apple pie. They do it for each other, for teammates and friends. Think Henry V’s “band of brothers.” In that sense, the troops can never be said to die for nothing.

    No disrespect to the fallen, but this framework is problematic and a slippery-slope formula for forever war. Imagine the dangerous inverse of this logic: If no soldiers’ lives can be wasted, no matter how unmerited or ill-advised the war, then the mere presence of U.S. “warriors” and deaths of American troopers justifies any war, all war. That’s intellectually lazy. Two things can, in fact, be true at once: American servicemen can die for no good reason and may well have fought hard and honorably with/for their mates. The one does not preclude the other.

    Unfortunately, it seems Americans are in for (at least) three more years of this increasingly bellicose—and perilous—rhetoric. We saw it when Sean Spicer, President Trump’s former press secretary, had the gall to declare that questioning the success of a botched January raid in Yemen “does a disservice” to the Navy SEAL killed in the firefight. It got worse from there. Trump tweeted that a certain senator—Vietnam veteran John McCain, of all people—who talked about “the success or failure of the mission” to the media had “emboldened the enemy.” According to this fabled logic, Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens died for his brothers-in-arms, and thus to even ponder the “what-for” is tantamount to abetting the enemy.

    2. We have to fight “them”—terrorists, Arabs, Muslims, whomever—“over there” so we don’t end up fighting them “over here.”

    In fact, the opposite is likely true. Detailed State Department statistics demonstrate that international terrorist attacks numbered just 346 in 2001 (down from 426 in 2000), versus 11,072 worldwide in 2016. That’s a cool 3,100 percent increase. Sure, the vast majority of those attacks occurred overseas—mostly suffered by civilians across the Greater Middle East. Then again, even domestic attacks have risen since the U.S. launched its “war on terror.” In 2001, 219 “terror” attacks worldwide were considered by the Department of State to be “anti-US,” and only four of those occurred in North America (the homeland). In 2016, by way of contrast, 72 terrorist incidents took place in North America, and 61 of those were in the United States alone.

    Consider the data another way: From 1996 to 2000 (pre-9/11), an average of 5.6 people were killed annually in terror attacks within the United States. Now fast-forward 15 years. From 2012 to 2016, an average of 32.2 people died at the hands of terrorists here in the U.S. Since 2001, lethal attacks on the homeland and/or U.S. interests haven’t decreased. Quite the reverse: Such incidents have only proliferated. Something isn’t working.

    That’s still a remarkably small number, mind you, about the same chance as death by lightning strike. Furthermore, from 2005 to 2015, 66 percent of terrorism fatalities in the U.S. were not perpetrated by Islamist groups. Besides, domestic mass shootings (in this case defined as four or more victims killed or wounded in a single event) are far more dangerous, with 1,072 incidents from 2013 to 2015. No doubt we’d hear more about these attacks if the culprits were a bit browner and named Ali or Abdullah.

    It appears that U.S. military action may even be making matters worse. Take Africa, for instance. Prior to 9/11, few American troops patrolled the continent, and there were few recognized anti-U.S. threat groups in the region. Nonetheless, President George W. Bush (and later Barack Obama) soon sent more and more U.S. special operators to “advise and assist” across Africa. By 2017, al-Qaida and Islamic State-linked factions had multiplied and were now killing American troops.

    It all appears rather counterproductive. For one final example, let us look at Yemen, just across the Red Sea from turbulent Africa. The U.S.-backed Saudi terror bombings on Yemeni civilians is doing more than just killing tens of thousands, spreading cholera and causing famine. That’s bad enough. It turns out that by helping Saudi Arabia pummel Yemen into the Stone Age, the U.S.-backed coalition is diminishing state control over broad swaths of the country and empowering al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula—which now holds sway in much of eastern Yemen.

    Let’s review: The threat from terrorism is minuscule, is not even majority “Islamic,” pales in comparison with domestic mass shooting deaths and has not measurably decreased since 9/11. Remind me again how fighting “them there” saves soldiers from having to fight “them here?”

    3. Americans are obliged to honor the troops. They fight for your freedom. Actively opposing the war(s) dishonors their sacrifice.

    This is simply illogical and another surefire way to justify perpetual war. Like the recent NFL national anthem debate, such rhetoric serves mostly as a distraction. First off, it’s abstract and absurd to argue that U.S. troops engaged in the sprawling “war on terror” are dying to secure American freedom. After all, these are wars of choice, “away-games” conducted offensively in distant lands, with dubious allies and motives. Furthermore, all this fighting, killing and dying receives scant public debate and is legally “sanctioned” by a 16-year-old congressional authorization.

    All this “don’t dishonor the troops” nonsense is as old as war itself. These sorts of “stab-in-the-back” myths were heard in Weimar Germany after World War I and in post-Vietnam America. You know the shtick: The soldiers could’ve won, should’ve won, if only they hadn’t been stabbed in the back by politicians, and so on. Let’s not forget, however, that the First Amendment—for those who bother to read it—sanctifies the citizenry’s right to dissent. Furthermore, the Constitution purposefully divides responsibility for war-making among the separate branches of government. Those who claim peaceful protest dishonors or undermines “the soldiers” don’t want an engaged populace. These folks prefer obedient automatons, replete with “thanks for your service” platitudes and yellow ribbons plastered on car bumpers. As far for me, I’ll take an engaged, thoughtful electorate over free Veterans Day meals at the local Texas Roadhouse any day.

    The half-truths, comfortable fictions and outright lies are more than a little dangerous. They are affecting the next generation of young Americans. For instance, a full decade and two wars after I graduated, I taught history at West Point. Best job I ever had. My first crop of freshman cadets will graduate in May. They’re impressive young men and women. They’re mostly believers (for that, I envy them), ready to kick ass and wipe the floor with Islamic State—or Islamic State 2.0—or whomever. No one really tells them of the quagmires and disappointments that lie ahead. A few of us try, but we’re the outliers. Most cadets are unreachable. It has always been this way.

    Truthfully, I surmise, it wouldn’t matter anyway. A surprising number of the cadets want to end up like me and so many others: disenchanted, lost and broken. There’s a romance to it. I felt the tug once, too. Some of my students will excel, and 10 years from now, they’ll come back to West Point and mentor cadets en route to the same ugly places, the same never-ending wars. Those kids, mind you, will have been born a decade after 9/11. Thinking on this near certainty, I want to throw up. But make no mistake: It will be so.

    A system of this sort—one that produces and exalts generations of hopeless soldiers—requires millions of individual lies and necessitates discarding inconvenient truths. Only maybe, just maybe, it’s all rather simple. Perhaps we’re just pawns, duped in a very old game. Maybe soldiers’ sacrifices offer nothing of any real value. Nothing, that is, besides a painful warning: Trust not your own policymakers, your leaders or even the public. They’ll let you down every time.

    * * *

    Maj. Danny Sjursen, a Truthdig regular contributor, is a U.S. Army officer and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, “Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge.”

  • Sheriff Clarke To Face Trial After Airplane Incident Investigated By FBI

    Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. will face the long arm of the law stemming from a January 15, 2017 incident in which Clarke allegedly ordered six sheriff’s deputies to take airplane passenger Daniel Black aside for interrogation after Black reportedly shot Clarke a disapproving look on the flight. 



    Black asked if Clarke was the notorious sheriff, which Clarke explained he was. Black moved towards the back of the plane shaking his head. Clarke asked Black if he had a problem and Black shook his head no. There was no further interaction on the plane. But after the two came off the plane, Black was taken into custody by six deputies waiting at the gate for him. –RawStory

    While federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Wisconsin dropped the case due to “insufficient proof,” Black has filed a civil suit against Clarke for calling him a “snowflake” on Facebook, along with several posts by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office social media accounts. Several of the charges were thrown out by a Judge on Friday, however it was decided that Clarke should face trial over whether or not his Social Media posts at the time were threats or retaliation against Black. 

    In a Facebook post after the incident, Clarke said “Next time he or anyone else pulls this stunt on a plane they may get knocked out. The Sheriff said he does not have to wait for some goof to assault him. He reserves the reasonable right to pre-empt a possible assault.”



    The account then posted “Sheriff Clarke regrets that he cannot attend this juvenile, leftist, anti-cop tantrum. He is pleased that he has their attention however.”



    In Late December, court documents revealed that the FBI executed a search warrant shortly after the incident on Clarke’s “dclarke.cowboy@gmail.com” account shortly after the incident, along with the Milwaukee sheriff’s department’s social media accounts. 

    According to a court filing, the FBI received a packet of reports from the Forensic Audit Manager for the Milwaukee County Office of the Comptroller with Black’s complaint. The Milwaukee investigator concluded, in part “Clarke used his official position as Sheriff of Milwaukee County in excess of his lawful authority to direct his deputies to stop and question Black without legal justification.”

    Shortly thereafter, the FBI obtained a warrant.


    After several media outlets reported on the incident, Clarke lashed out – tweeting “When LYING LIB MEDIA makes up FAKE NEWS to smear me, the ANTIDOTE is go right at them. Punch them in the nose & MAKE THEM TASTE THEIR OWN BLOOD,” along with several other angry tweets.



    Which resulted in a temporary suspension from Twitter.

    Clarke also tweeted a photo of a letter from the Department of Justice with their decision not to prosecute, saying “Lib media did a drive-by hit job on me today with a FAKE NEWS STORY that I am under investigation by the FBI. It s a LIE. Last MAY the US Atty s office found NO EVIDENCE of wrongdoing for doing police work. Lying Lib media took a story from LAST MAY & reports this today as new.”


    That said, Clarke still has to find out how a Wisconsin jury feels about the Sheriff “cyberbullying” a “snowflake.” 

  • Can We Afford Renewable Energy?

    Authored by Erico Matias Tavares via Sinclair & Co.,

    Over a decade ago we got involved in the development of the biofuels industry in Europe, when it began to take off in earnest there.



    At that time estimated profits from biodiesel production created considerable enthusiasm, which at one point turned euphoric with new production facilities being announced almost on a weekly basis.

    What was not to like? Europeans would get to drive their cars using green, very low-carbon, seemingly affordable fuels, saving the environment in the process. And investors would make a ton of money.

    However, reality turned out to be rather more complicated than that, much to the chagrin of those investors. Production margins were quite volatile and very difficult to hedge into the future. All that new demand ended up spiking the prices of vegetable oils – the key biodiesel production input – way above those of fossil fuels. Entire domestic production complexes went bust as a result, prompting governments across Europe to eventually implement a range of support measures to make biofuels part of the fuel mix.

    Biodiesel became the biofuel of choice in Europe for many reasons. It can be used as a blend component for diesel or replace it completely (typically referred to as B100, or biodiesel 100%). Both options were available in many pumps across Germany, the industry’s pioneer and largest European market by far at that time. Despite being staunch environmental supporters and relatively wealthy, when the price of a liter of B100 was higher just by one cent German consumers immediately switched to its fossil fuel counterpart.

    In other words, when push came to shove the willingness to pay for a “green” premium was not there – even in one of the most environmentally conscious countries in the world. This stunned us at the time.

    Making green energy affordable is a real challenge since it faces a number of constraints that drive up its cost especially in relation to fossil fuels, which remain society’s lowest common energy denominator (current biofuel production itself depends at various points on fossil fuel availability). This cost disadvantage is particularly evident in a related – and far less elastic – energy sector: renewable power.

    This relates to the production of electricity as opposed to transport, although progress in electric vehicle technology is gradually merging the two (very gradually in fact). Since the turn of this century much of the expansion of this sector across Europe has centered on wind and solar (photovoltaic) energy. This was part of the Old Continent’s efforts to become less dependent on foreign sources and meet its carbon reduction goals.

    2016 Installed Wind + Solar Capacity (W/head)

    The graph above shows installed wind and solar capacity across the European Union on a per capita basis at the end of 2016.

    Generally speaking, wealthier member states tend to have more installed capacity in these types of renewable power (more on that below). On a per capita basis Denmark is the indisputable wind champion of Europe and Germany has much higher solar than anyone else, including its Southern European counterparts that benefit from much more favorable Sun exposure.

    The graph above shows the substantial growth in renewable power in Germany in recent years. Impressive indeed. What is perhaps less obvious is the impact of all that investment in new energy sources on electricity prices.

    And that is what the graph above investigates, correlating installed wind and solar capacity per capita with household electricity prices.

    The results are pretty striking. Despite the many factors that can influence electricity prices installed wind and solar capacity appear to be particularly significant as evidenced by the high fit of the regression (almost 78%, 100% being a perfect fit).

    Germany and Denmark stand out again, this time in terms of high electricity prices. Given that both have significant domestic industrial sectors, particularly Germany, how can they charge such high prices for electricity?

    The keyword in the graph is *household* electricity prices. Industrial and other large users do not pay anywhere near in those and other countries across Europe, as shown in the following graph.

    1H 2016 Household and Industry/Other Prices (€/kWh)

    The difference in prices charged to both groups is significant. In particular, households in Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and Portugal pay considerably more than their industrial / other counterparts.

    How so?

    Industries need to be competitive to stay in business and electricity is generally a major cost component. As such governments try to mitigate the impact of their energy policies on them, otherwise they close shop and the jobs go elsewhere. Since households cannot leave as easily they are the ones that end up footing a disproportionate amount of the national electricity bill, especially in Germany where industry accounts for the largest share of consumption. Unlike B100 consumers cannot switch out so easily.

    But since carbon mitigation is high on policy agendas, how can this greening of the energy power mix be replicated elsewhere? Is Germany an appropriate case study for the rest of the world?

    The graph above correlates the premium paid by households relative to their industry/other counterparts with nominal expenditures on a per capital basis across the EU. We excluded Luxembourg from this analysis, a small country with extremely high expenditure per capita given its focus on services, which would skew the results in a relatively small sample, although not by much.

    A positive correlation can be observed with a regression fit of about 47%, which is significant in light of all other factors that impact such differential (like government policy and differences in consumption profiles, for instance).

    Renewable power is expensive. Quite expensive in fact.

    As a result, using current technologies governments are forced to make a choice between expanding their domestic production of wind and solar or having cheap electricity. There are no two ways about it.

    This is based on the results for Europe, but there is little reason to believe this would be largely different elsewhere. In the US, for example, it is no secret that “coal country” states offer much cheaper electricity prices than “green” states like California.

    A possible way to avoid this trade-off is to find some really cheap renewable power technology. Even if this could be done tomorrow, it takes quite a bit of time for those projects to reach critical mass and make a difference in the electrical pool. We are talking decades here, not years.

    In the meantime, to avoid hitting the productive sector too much, households will be called to continually bear a disproportionate amount of the bill. This is easier to achieve both in political and financial terms in wealthier countries. Indeed, this is the main goal of the Paris Climate Accord, where wealthy Western households are being asked to subsidize not only green power in their own countries but across much of the developing world as well.

    So can we afford renewable energy?

    The answer, as always, depends on how rich you are.

  • Venezuelan Soldier Shoots, Kills Pregnant Teen In Meat Market Melee

    Just when you thought things in the socialist South American utopia could not get any worse, The Guardian reports that a Venezuelan soldier is being held after opening fire on a group of citizens tussling over scarce meat and killing a pregnant teen.




    Alexandra Colopoy was shot by First Sergeant David Rebolledo, according to a tweet by the state prosecutor late on Sunday night. No further details were provided, but critics of President Nicolás Maduro’s leftwing government seized on the incident, calling it a stark example of the oil-rich country’s meltdown.

    “This is how the murderous regime treats the people,” opposition lawmaker Delsa Solorzano tweeted on Monday.

    “The sorrow of this man, whose wife and baby to be were killed by a bullet from the state, is Venezuela’s sorrow.”

    Local media reported that Colopoy’s husband and a witness said the soldiers were drunk when they arrived at the queue for pork in a poor area of Caracas. They said the soldiers ordered the people waiting in line to move on because the traditional Christmas meat had run out, but they refused.

    “The national guard went crazy and started firing,” Colopoy’s spouse Bernabé said in a filmed interview circulating on social media.

    “She fell to the ground,” he said, adding his wife was five months pregnant. His brother Alejandro was also shot, but was recovering, he said.

    Prosecutor Tarek Saab condemned the incident.

    “The Venezuelan state guarantees the respect and application of human rights, as well as sanctions for those who violate them,” he tweeted.

    Food riots and rowdy queues in front of supermarkets have become frequent in Venezuela. 

    But that will all be solved soon, according to President Maduro, as he introduces the ‘Petro’ – a cryptocurrency backed by gold and oil.

  • Here's Why There's No More Free Passes For The Clinton Foundation

    Authored by Charles Ortel via Lifezette.com,

    A new Department of Justice probe of the email and charity fraud scandals won’t end well for Bill or Hillary…

    Until recently, the Clinton Foundation has been monitored by the IRS, the Department of Justice, and the FBI, and multiple state government authorities that are seeded with persons loyal to either the Clintons or the Obamas.


    Every time, the Clinton Foundation got a free pass.



    But now it appears key authorities may finally be turning strict attention toward answering tough questions about public filings of Clinton “charities” inside and outside the United States. When these powerful organizations engage motivated minds, they will wish to concentrate on a few areas that have long gone begging for attention.

    The first time the Clinton Foundation was investigated, between 2001 and 2005, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller, then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey, and others could not seem to find obvious and escalating frauds as a supposed presidential library complex in Little Rock, Arkansas, also “fought HIV/AIDS internationally” from unregistered offices in New York and Massachusetts without ever obtaining required audits of worldwide activities.

    Strangely, as the first investigation wound down, evidence in the public domain suggests that the Clinton Foundation also defrauded the National Archivist by making demonstrably false representations in a binding legal agreement.

    For example, there is no evidence the IRS provided final approval to the Clinton Foundation to “fight HIV/AIDS internationally” as a tax-exempt purpose by Nov. 18, 2004, the date the presidential archive was officially donated.

    That Nov. 18, 2004, agreement is nowhere to be found today on the Clinton Foundation website and in public filings despite the charity’s more than 13 years of widespread solicitation across state and national boundaries using telephones, mail, and the internet.

    The next major investigation started in December 2009 when the French government launched a detailed look into UNITAID, a multilateral international organization — primarily funded by France — that has sent more than $650 million to arms of the Clinton Foundation engaged, at least in theory, in fighting HIV and AIDS.

    Reports concerning this investigation, written in French and published in 2010 and 2011, show that French government authorities, like their U.S. counterparts, missed the heart of the problem posed by the Clinton Foundation.

    The foundation, by its own description, started soliciting funding for its fight against HIV and AIDS early in 2002, though its authorized charitable status didn’t change until March 2004, after the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative Inc. was officially recognized on March 24, 2004, in Arkansas.

    Applications made to the IRS, to various states and to foreign governments for tax exemption and solicitation rights to pursue this radically different mission, are not available on the central portal operated by the Clinton Foundation, nor forthcoming, yet, from the governments concerned.

    Federal tax filings for this entity for the partial year in 2004 and for 2005 aren’t available on the Clinton Foundation website, perhaps because they show substantial activities that seem to fall far outside tax-exempt purposes approved by the IRS.

    In addition, these and other tax filings fail to explain payments to members of the Clinton family for services received and for reimbursement of expenses by donors to the Clinton Foundation.

    Even though there is no public record that the Clinton Foundation ever was authorized to control a supposed charity “fighting HIV/AIDS internationally,” the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative Inc. was supposedly liquidated as of Dec. 31, 2005, with all of its worldwide activities and obligations supposedly taken over by the parent foundation. There is no evidence in the public domain that the merger was lawfully completed in each U.S. state and foreign country in which either entity operated.

    From 2006 through 2009, the Clinton Foundation solicited funds and received a majority of its growing revenues, in theory, to fight HIV and AIDS internationally. Required audits were not prepared to strict U.S. requirements.

    Moreover, versions of these audits on the Clinton Foundation website exclude key “combining” statements that show for 2007 through 2009 just how substantial HIV- and AIDS-specific financial amounts are compared to the combined total. The Clinton Foundation attempted to reorganize in 2009, but available public filings could place multiple individuals in significant jeopardy.

    For example, claims made to the IRS in applications for federal tax exemption on Form 1023, under penalties of perjury, are false and materially misleading concerning numerous entities created after Sept. 4, 2009, to carry on unauthorized activities in which the Clinton Foundation had been engaged starting in 2002.

    To get to the heart of the vexing problems that allowed the largest unprosecuted charity frauds ever attempted to flourish from January 2001 forward, one must ask many questions of central figures in federal, state and foreign governments.

    How did Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, while U.S. attorney in Maryland, miss the fact that the Clinton Foundation was promoting use of potentially adulterated HIV and AIDS drugs from October 2003 forward, even as he took until May 2013 to help win a $500 million set of penalties against the Indian manufacturer of the generic drugs?

    Why was an African-American selected for prosecution during her re-election campaign in 2016 when Hillary Clinton was left unscathed despite the many years of questionable charitable activities by the Clinton Foundation?

    How did Rosenstein miss obvious errors in the Clinton Foundation tax filings for 2010 (originally submitted in 2011 with amended versions submitted in 2015) concerning a $37.1 million donation to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund at a P.O. Box address in Baltimore, Maryland, that was never declared, as required, in key states like New York?

    Why did Rosenstein (and many other officials, including New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman), fail to require Laureate Education and the Clinton Foundation to explain how they organized the “Clinton Global Initiative University” and why the Clinton Foundation tax filings for 2010 through 2016 don’t explain what Bill Clinton did for the $17.6 million he was paid as part-time chancellor while he held key roles at the Clinton Foundation?

    Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown, a Florida Democrat, reports to jail for a five-year term in federal prison following her conviction of being part of an $800,000 charity fraud. Why was this African-American selected for prosecution during her re-election campaign in 2016 when Hillary Clinton was left unscathed despite the many years of questionable charitable activities by the Clinton Foundation?

    Former presidents in either the Democratic or Republican parties are not above the law. Now it’s up to President Donald Trump to make this fact abundantly clear.

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