Lively markets puncture complacency while more disruption would be an economic asset
Following his sudden re-appearance on The Ellen Show after vanishing for 6 days, numerous questions remain unanswered about Mandalay Bay shooting hero Jesus Campos' timeline and perhaps more concerning stil is that The Daily Mail reports that he was pressured into giving his only interview to Ellen DeGeneres because the giant company that owns the Las Vegas casino feared he would spill the beans about the shooting timeline if he was grilled by real journalists.
As we detailed previously, Campos had originally agreed to do five interviews, all on Thursday last week, but suddenly went missing, his union boss, who was helping set up the deal, told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview. David Hickey, president of the Michigan-based International Union, Security Police and Fire Professionals of America, would not confirm that MGM was behind the decision, but said the company certainly influenced Campos.
‘I was in a meeting with MGM’s upper management and they were definitely concerned about how tough someone like Hannity would be on him and they voiced their opinions,’ Hickey said.
He said all sides had agreed parameters for the interviews. ‘Everyone knew he wasn’t to talk about security protocols, staffing or training or give out names of employees.’
But he said the company — that, like most of Vegas’s casino industry, obsessively controls what employees are allowed to say to the media — was pressuring Campos not to give too much away.
‘I thought they were being negative, telling him that someone was going to be tough and how they were worried about his health — it wasn’t the thing he needed to hear four hours before the interviews were going to begin.’
Hickey said he met with the MGM executives at a location in Las Vegas where Campos was staying. They met in the living room but he wanted a word with some of the management team in private so they went into the bedroom.
When they returned, Campos had gone, and Hickey said he hasn’t seen or heard from him since. The next thing he knew the security official had bailed on the five interviews.
Then he learned on Monday that instead of appearing on a news show he would go on Ellen.
‘It certainly wasn’t my choice that he should appear on that circus,’ Hickey told DailyMail.com.
Ellen did not press him on the official timeline of the shooting, which has changed three times since the massacre.
And that appears to have been MGM's plan.
When he went through his recollection of the night, she did not press him to clarify some of the lingering questions about the official timeline – such as whether he or hotel officials delayed calling police for six minutes after he was shot.
If that version is proven to be true, it could open MGM to massive costs from lawsuits.
DeGeneres told him:
'I know you've had so many people asking for you to tell the story and talk about it and I understand your reluctance. You're talking about it now and you're not going to talk about it again.
‘I don't blame you. Why relive it over and over?'
Sources told DailyMail.com, MGM is worried that families of the 58 people murdered as well as many of the 546 injured in the Mandalay Bay massacre will launch lawsuits potentially worth billions of dollars against the company, and they thought Campos might not keep his story straight under the pressure of the TV lights and tough questioning.
That is why Campos, 25, appeared on a daytime chat show hosted by a fast-talking, dancing comedienne, rather than take questions from TV hardhitters such as Fox News’ Sean Hannity, NBC News or ABC News.
‘MGM was behind the decision to call off all the interviews and did a deal with Ellen, knowing she would not play hardball on the timeline as long as she had the exclusive,’ a TV insider told DailyMail.com.
The stench of coverup continues…
The EU should join the US and Latin America in sanctioning officials
The firm recalled 1.2m cars in Japan because uncertified technicians performed final checks.
When it comes to the cost of living in cities, a general rule of thumb is that housing prices are much higher in the country’s economic and population hubs, especially in the cities along the coasts.
As Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins notes, particularly in recent years, prices have been pushed sky-high in places like New York City or San Francisco through a combination of limited supply of new homes, increasing demand, shifting demographics, and government regulations.
PUTTING IT INTO PERSPECTIVE
Today’s visualization from HowMuch.net applies a common denominator to compare 97 of the biggest cities in the United States. Using a measure of median household income against the average mortgage payment in each city, we get a gauge of how many hours must be worked each month just to pay down the house.
The visualization uses data from the U.S. Census for household income and Zillow for median home listing price, while calculating mortgage payments based on a standard 30-year term.
Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist
Using the above method to compare the amount of hours it takes to pay down a monthly mortgage, we see some interesting contrasts in the country.
Here are the five most expensive cities in the United States for housing:
With about 170 hours in a normal work month, the average people in these cities are spending 50% or more of their income just to pay down their mortgages. It’s worst in New York City and Los Angeles, where at least 65% of income is going towards housing.
These cities stand in stark contrast to the five cheapest cities based on hours of work needed:
In a city like Memphis, TN it takes only 18.4 hours of work a month to pay down the average mortgage. That’s equal to only about 10% of monthly household income.
Interestingly, even though coastal hubs have high prices relative to the cities in the middle of the country, they differ quite widely against each other. This discrepancy does not necessarily show in terms of ranking, but more in terms of the actual hours of work needed.
Washington, D.C., for example, requires less than half the hours of work to pay down a mortgage than Los Angeles or New York City. Meanwhile, a popular west coast hub like Seattle only needs 72.8 hours in comparison to New York’s 113.5 hours.
Concerns grow that some African nations have taken to private debt markets too eagerly
As the Russia-gate hysteria spirals down from the implausible to the absurd, almost every bad thing is blamed on the Russians, even how they turned the previously pristine Internet into a 'sewer'…
With the U.S. government offering tens of millions of dollars to combat Russian “propaganda and disinformation,” it’s perhaps not surprising that we see “researchers” such as Jonathan Albright of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University making the absurd accusation that the Russians have “basically turned [the Internet] into a sewer.”
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Kremlin wall in Moscow, Dec. 6, 2016. (Photo by Robert Parry)
I’ve been operating on the Internet since 1995 and I can assure you that the Internet has always been “a sewer” – in that it has been home to crazy conspiracy theories, ugly personal insults, click-bait tabloid “news,” and pretty much every vile prejudice you can think of. Whatever some Russians may or may not have done in buying $100,000 in ads on Facebook (compared to its $27 billion in annual revenue) or opening 201 Twitter accounts (out of Twitter’s 328 million monthly users), the Russians are not responsible for the sewage coursing through the Internet.
Americans, Europeans, Asians, Africans and pretty much every other segment of the world’s population didn’t need Russian help to turn the Internet into an informational “sewer.” But, of course, fairness and proportionality have no place in today’s Russia-gate frenzy.
After all, your “non-governmental organization” or your scholarly “think tank” is not likely to get a piece of the $160 million that the U.S. government authorized last December to counter primarily Russian “propaganda and disinformation” if you explain that the Russians are at most responsible for a tiny trickle of “sewage” compared to the vast rivers of “sewage” coming from many other sources.
If you put the Russia-gate controversy in context, you also are not likely to have your “research” cited by The Washington Post as Albright did on Thursday because he supposedly found some links at the home-décor/fashion site Pinterest to a few articles that derived from a few of the 470 Facebook accounts and pages that Facebook suspects of having a link to Russia and shut them down. (To put that 470 number into perspective, Facebook has about two billion monthly users.)
Albright’s full quote about the Russians allegedly exploiting various social media platforms on the Internet was: “They’ve gone to every possible medium and basically turned it into a sewer.”
But let’s look at the facts. According to Facebook, the suspected “Russian-linked” accounts purchased $100,000 in ads from 2015 to 2017 (compared to Facebook’s annual revenue of about $27 billion), with only 44 percent of those ads appearing before the 2016 election and many having little or nothing to do with politics, which is curious if the Kremlin’s goal was to help elect Donald Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton.
Even former Clinton political strategist Mark Penn has acknowledged the absurdity of thinking that such piddling amounts could have any impact on a $2.4 billion presidential campaign, plus all the billions of dollars worth of free-media attention to the conventions, debates, etc. Based on what’s known about the Facebook ads, Penn calculated that “the actual electioneering [in battleground states] amounts to about $6,500.”
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Monday, Penn added, “I have 40 years of experience in politics, and this Russian ad buy mostly after the election anyway, simply does not add up to a carefully targeted campaign to move voters. It takes tens of millions of dollars to deliver meaningful messages to the contested portion of the electorate.”
Puppies and Pokemon
And, then there is the curious content. According to The New York Times, one of these “Russian-linked” Facebook groups was dedicated to photos of “adorable puppies.” Of course, the Times tried hard to detect some sinister motive behind the “puppies” page.
Similarly, CNN went wild over its own “discovery” that one of the “Russian-linked” pages offered Amazon gift cards to people who found “Pokémon Go” sites near scenes where police shot unarmed black men – if you would name the Pokémon after the victims.
“It’s unclear what the people behind the contest hoped to accomplish, though it may have been to remind people living near places where these incidents had taken place of what had happened and to upset or anger them,” CNN mused, adding:
“CNN has not found any evidence that any Pokémon Go users attempted to enter the contest, or whether any of the Amazon Gift Cards that were promised were ever awarded — or, indeed, whether the people who designed the contest ever had any intention of awarding the prizes.”
So, these dastardly Russians are exploiting “adorable puppies” and want to “remind people” about unarmed victims of police violence, clearly a masterful strategy to undermine American democracy or – according to the original Russia-gate narrative – to elect Donald Trump.
A New York Times article on Wednesday acknowledged another inconvenient truth that unintentionally added more perspective to the Russia-gate hysteria.
It turns out that some of the mainstream media’s favorite “fact-checking” organizations are home to Google ads that look like news items and lead readers to phony sites dressed up to resemble People, Vogue or other legitimate content providers.
“None of the stories were true,” the Times reported. “Yet as recently as late last week, they were being promoted with prominent ads served by Google on PolitiFact and Snopes, fact-checking sites created precisely to dispel such falsehoods.”
There is obvious irony in PolitiFact and Snopes profiting off “fake news” by taking money for these Google ads. But this reality also underscores the larger reality that fabricated news articles – whether peddling lies about Melania Trump or a hot new celebrity or outlandish Russian plots – are driven principally by the profit motive.
The Truth About Fake News
Occasionally, the U.S. mainstream media even acknowledges that fact. For instance, last November, The New York Times, which was then flogging the Russia-linked “fake news” theme, ran a relatively responsible article about a leading “fake news” Web site that the Times tracked down. It turned out to be an entrepreneurial effort by an unemployed Georgian student using a Web site in Tbilisi to make some money by promoting pro-Trump stories, whether true or not.
The owner of the Web site, 22-year-old Beqa Latsabidse, said he had initially tried to push stories favorable to Hillary Clinton but that proved unprofitable so he switched to publishing anti-Clinton and pro-Trump articles, including made-up stories. In other words, the Times found no Russian connection.
The Times article on Wednesday revealed the additional problem of Google ads placed on mainstream Internet sites leading readers to bogus news sites to get clicks and thus advertising dollars. And, it turns out that PolitiFact and Snopes were at least unwittingly profiting off these entrepreneurial ventures by running their ads. Again, there was no claim here of Russian “links.” It was all about good ole American greed.
But the even larger Internet problem is that many “reputable” news sites, such as AOL, lure readers into clicking on some sensationalistic or misleading headline, which takes readers to a story that is often tabloid trash or an extreme exaggeration of what the headline promised.
This reality about the Internet should be the larger context in which the Russia-gate story plays out, the miniscule nature of this Russian “meddling” even if these “suspected … links to Russia” – as the Times initially described the 470 Facebook pages – turn out to be true.
But there are no lucrative grants going to “researchers” who would put the trickle of alleged Russian “sewage” into the context of the vast flow of Internet “sewage” that is even flowing through the esteemed “fact-checking” sites of PolitiFact and Snopes.
There are also higher newspaper sales and better TV ratings if the mainstream media keeps turning up new angles on Russia-gate, even as some of the old ones fall away as inconsequential or meaningless (such as the Senate Intelligence Committee dismissing earlier controversies over Sen. Jeff Sessions’s brief meeting with the Russian ambassador at the Mayflower Hotel and minor changes in the Republican platform).
Saying ‘False’ Is ‘True’
And, there is the issue of who decides what’s true. PolitiFact continues to defend its false claim that Hillary Clinton was speaking the truth when – in referencing leaked Democratic emails last October – she claimed that the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies “have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin, and they are designed to influence our election.”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (right) talks with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, with John Brennan and other national security aides present. (Photo credit: Office of Director of National Intelligence)
That claim was always untrue because a reference to a consensus of the 17 intelligence agencies suggests a National Intelligence Estimate or similar product that seeks the judgments of the entire intelligence community. No NIE or community-wide study was ever done on this topic.
Only later – in January 2017 – did a small subset of the intelligence community, what Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described as “hand-picked” analystsfrom three agencies – the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation – issue an “assessment” blaming the Russians while acknowledging a lack of actual evidence.
In other words, the Jan. 6 “assessment” was comparable to the “stovepiped” intelligence that influenced many of the mistaken judgments of President George W. Bush’s administration. In “stovepiped” intelligence, a selected group of analysts is closeted away and develops judgments without the benefit of other experts who might offer contradictory evidence or question the groupthink.
So, in many ways, Clinton’s statement was the opposite of true both when she said it in 2016 and later in 2017 when she repeated it in direct reference to the Jan. 6 assessment. If PolitiFact really cared about facts, it would have corrected its earlier claim that Clinton was telling the truth, but the fact-checking organization wouldn’t budge — even after The New York Times and The Associated Press ran corrections.
In this context, PolitiFact showed its contempt even for conclusive evidence – testimony from former DNI Clapper (corroborated by former CIA Director John Brennan) that the 17-agency claim was false. Instead, PolitiFact was determined to protect Clinton’s false statement from being described for what it was: false.
Of course, maybe PolitiFact is suffering from the arrogance of its elite status as an arbiter of truth with its position on Google’s First Draft coalition, a collection of mainstream news outlets and fact-checkers which gets to decide what information is true and what is not true — for algorithms that then will exclude or downplay what’s deemed “false.”
So, if PolitiFact says something is true – even if it’s false – it becomes “true.” Thus, it’s perhaps not entirely ironic that PolitiFact would collect money from Google ads placed on its site by advertisers of fake news.
The world’s oldest gold trader is for sale after a massive money laundering scandal may have terminally crippled one of the most iconic names in the business.
Canada’s Bank of Nova Scotia is exploring options for its gold business ScotiaMocatta, the Financial Times reported, which include a possible sale of Canada’s most popular precious metals trader. Scotiabank made a decision to sell ScotiaMocatta following a massive money laundering scandal centered on a U.S. refinery that involved smuggled gold from South America. The ScotiaMocatta business, a mainstay in PM trading, is one of London’s main gold trading banks and is being sold by JPMorgan.
According to the FT sources, ScotiaMocatta’s future had been underway for several months, with ScotiaBank allegedly seeking a buyer for up to a year and was likely to shrink the business if a sale is not completed, although according to the article Chinese buyers – the world’s dumbest money these days – are rumoured to be the key targets of the sale.
While gold trading has been in a cyclical decline in recent years, the “straw that broke the camel’s back” in prompting the sale was Scotiabank’s lending to Elemetal, a precious metals refinery in Dallas. Scotiabank was one of its biggest lenders, they said. The problem emerged in March, when US prosecutors accused workers at a subsidiary of Elemetal, NTR Metals in Florida, of a money laundering scheme using “billions of dollars of criminally derived gold” mostly from Peru.
Here the story take a turn into a slightly surreal detour:
NTR imported more than $3.6bn of gold from Latin America between 2012 and 2015, the court documents allege. Two of the accused, Samer Barrage and Juan Granda, pleaded guilty last month to a charge of money laundering in plea deals.
After the story came to light in March, Elemetal was kicked off the London Bullion Market Association’s “Good Delivery List” of gold refiners;
This was an almost instant death sentence for the company as buyers will usually only buy gold from a refiner on the list. Indeed, in the same month, New York’s Comex futures exchange said it was no longer taking gold from Elemetal for delivery against futures contracts in the world’s biggest gold futures market.
And this is where the scourge of gold rehypothecation emerged, as in the scandal surrounding Elemetal, it became impossible for holders of Elemetal gold to sell the gold bars on, leaving them sitting in bank vaults, according to traders quoted by the FT. Buyers are reluctant to take the gold, given the investigations.
This means that hundreds of millions in loans made to Elemetal by ScotiaMocatta are suddenly stuck in limbo. It also means that one of five bullion banks that settle gold trades in the London market, the world’s largest, has effectively been blackballed. It was built on the 1997 purchase by Scotiabank of Mocatta Bullion, which traces its roots back to 1671. And with Mocatta crippled, Scotiabank, which has the biggest foreign presence of any Canadian bank, is focusing its international strategy on the Pacific Alliance, a Latin American trade bloc comprising Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia. It will also hope to find a willing Chinese buyer for the gold trading operation.
Mocatta’s exit will be good news for HSBC and JPMorgan, which dominate the London market; their large balance sheets enable them to provide credit to clients and refiners around the world. Additionally, and unlike Scotiabank, they also have vaults in London. Gold trading in London is estimated to be worth more than $5tn a year, although as the FT notes, there are no precise figures on how much gold is traded there every day.
Senate republicans took a major, if relatively easy, step toward passing Trump's tax plan on Thursday night with the critical passage of a budget blueprint that would protect a $1.5 trillion tax cut from a Democratic filibuster. Senators narrowly voted 51-49 to pass the fiscal year 2018 budget after a several hour-long marathon on the Senate floor. The budget resolution could also pave the way for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil exploration by ensuring that drilling legislation can pass with only Republican votes according to the NYT.
With a 52-seat majority, Mitch McConnell had a narrow path to getting the 50 votes needed to clear the budget through the upper chamber. But GOP leadership caught a break this week when Sen. John McCain, a holdout over defense spending, announced he would vote yes, and Sen. Thad Cochran, recovering from health issues, returned early to Washington.
The budget’s passage could keep Republicans on track to pass a tax package late this year or early in 2018. That said, there are still plenty of possible complications, not least of all bickering within the GOP over the final shape of the tax package – where the fate of state and local tax exemptions has still to be decided – as the following Goldman flowchart shows: the steps that were successfully passed tonight are shown in green.
The House could pick up the Senate-passed budget as early as next week and give final approval to parliamentary language protecting the Republicans’ coveted tax effort. If House Republicans instead insist on negotiating a compromise that melds the Senate and House budget plans, tax legislation could be delayed.
“Passing this budget is critical to getting tax reform done, so we can strengthen our economy after years of stagnation under the previous administration,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
The Senate gave its approval to the budget blueprint on Thursday night after considering a flurry of amendments, a tedious process that gives the minority party an opportunity to force the majority to endure politically difficult votes. One Democratic amendment that was rejected sought to stop tax cuts from going to the top 1 percent; another would have restored cuts to Medicare.
The Senate approved the budget after the previously discussed so-called vote-a-rama, a legislative whirlwind in which amendments are considered one after another
Giving tonight events an aura of fatalistic determinism, Senator Lindsey Graham, and a member of the Budget Committee, said "this is the last, best chance we will have to cut taxes,” and warned that the consequences would be ruinous if the party failed. “That will be the end of us as a party,” he said, “because if you’re a Republican and you don’t want to simplify the tax code and cut taxes, what good are you to anybody?”
Where things get laughable is when one considers the context of what just happened: In Congress, the annual budget resolution provides an outline of federal spending and revenues. The Senate’s blueprint, for the 2018 fiscal year that began Oct. 1, claims to achieve a balanced budget within a decade, assuming greater economic growth and using an accounting method that excludes Social Security. In order to erase projected deficits, it calls for trillions of dollars in spending cuts over the coming decade.But the cuts exist only on paper, without legislation to achieve them.
And as the GOP predicts that by 2028 US government spending will equal revenues, here is what will really happen:
Meanwhile, as Republicans played with excel's "goalseek" function, Democrats sounded the alarm, warning that the aspirational cuts in the budget plan called for slicing more than $1 trillion from Medicaid and about $470 billion from Medicare over a decade. Unfortunately for Democrats, they have exactly zero say in the matter: Though Democrats have pleaded to have more say in the tax overhaul, parliamentary language in the budget resolution would allow Republicans to pass a tax bill without any cooperation from the minority party.
“Passing this budget is not a requirement for passing tax reform,” said Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan. “Passing this budget is only a requirement to pass a tax bill with as few votes as possible, without input or buy-in from members of the minority.”
For Republicans, the budget debate provided a moment to showcase their main goal in the coming months, which according to the NYT is approving an overhaul of the tax code for the first time in decades, which they hope will lead to greater economic growth. But before they can move ahead with a tax bill, the House and Senate need to agree on the same budget resolution. The House approved its budget resolution, which had long been stalled, on Oct. 5. The House budget also lays the groundwork for a tax bill, but, unlike the Senate’s approach, it calls for the legislation to not add to the deficit.
The House budget resolution also seeks more concrete action when it comes to cutting spending, instructing committees to come up with legislation that would produce at least about $200 billion in savings.
However, according to The Hill, a House GOP source says the amendment seems sufficient to avoid a conference committee between the two chambers, and allow the House to simply pass the Senate resolution.
Ultimately, however, the only reason why the vote passed so easily is because as the Hill explained, it doesn't matter, and was merely viewed as a mere vehicle for passing tax reform
"This is the biggest hoax cast upon the American people ever that this budget process even exists. The only thing about this that matters is in preparation for tax reform," said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who voted for the budget. Corker noted bluntly that he believes the budget doesn't have a real-world impact and if he was chairman of the Budget Committee he would disband it. When a staffer told him he was about to miss an amendment vote, he shot back: "yeah, on a vote that doesn't matter."
McCain, explaining why he would support the budget, added: “At the end of the day, we all know that the Senate budget resolution will not impact final appropriations.”
Then again, all of these nuances were lost on the shotgun headline scanning algos, which read that Trump's tax plan is one step closer to passage and sent both the USDJPY…
… and 10Y yields surging…
With gold lower…
With Dow Futs up over 100 points…
… and the Fed cursing their fate, because as Dudley explained yesterday, the last thing the feed needs right now as it is desperate to avoid tightening fast, is a burst of wage inflation, something which Trump's tax proposal, if it passes, will promptly lead to, crushing the Fed's carefully laid plan to take years and years in unwinding it balance sheet and rising rates.