All posts by Moderator

Russia And Iran Complete First Oil-For-Goods Transfer, Extend Agreement For A Year

Nearly four years after Iran and Russia first agreed to an oil-for-goods swap agreement worth billions of dollars, RT is reporting that the first delivery of Iranian crude oil to Russia under the program has been completed, and the two sides are angling to extend the deal, possible for another five years.

“The agreement is effective; it has been extended for the year, but in general, we think it should be extended for five years,” said Russian Energy Ministry Aleksandr Novak.

As we reported more than three years ago, the $20 billion agreement was initially signed in April 2014 when Iran was facing Western sanctions over its nuclear program (they have since been lifted thanks to the Iran deal, but will likely soon be reimposed).

Russia

When the sanctions against Tehran were lifted in 2016, Novak said the deal was no longer necessary. However, Novak said in March 2017 that the plan was back on the table with Russia buying 100,000 barrels per day from Iran and selling the country $45 billion worth of goods. Another agreement was later signed in late May.

Current Iranian oil supplies under the program amount to five million tons per year. The first delivery was made in November 2017 and totaled one million tons.

Russia and Iran have also discussed cooperation in energy, electricity, nuclear energy, gas and oil, as well as cooperation in the field of railways, industry, and agriculture. Novak said in February that Russia’s state trading enterprise Promsirieimport has been authorized by the government to carry out the purchase of Iran’s oil through the oil-for-goods program under study by both countries

The oil-for-goods swaps are expected to boost trade between the two countries (while conveniently circumventing the petrodollar system). The nations have also signed six provisional agreements to collaborate on “strategic” energy deals worth up to $30 billion.

Presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said earlier this month that Russian investment in Iranian oil and gas fields could total more than $50 billion.

And in a sign of closer cooperation to come, Ushakov said Iran is weighing whether to enter the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union – a move that could come within months. A free-trade zone deal would be expected to “trigger further development of our bilateral trade and expansion of investment cooperation.”

“A Calamitous Collapse”: Former Podesta Group Employees Reveal Truth Behind Firm’s Downfall

Former Podesta Group employees have spilled the beans about their former boss, Tony Podesta – in a scathing Wall Street Journal article which details the firm’s collapse. As part of the report, The Journal got its hands on “internal Podesta Group accounting,” as well as “financial documents, calendars and communications.”

The D.C. lobbying firm founded in 1993 by John and Tony Podesta folded shop following Hillary Clinton’s monumental loss in the 2016 US election, when a flood of clients ran for the door virtually overnight, realizing the Podesta Group’s influence ended with the Clinton campaign. 

The Journal describes Tony Podesta’s fall as a “calamitous collapse” following the 2016 US election:

Then he fell, a calamitous collapse propelled by unexpected blows, delivered by fate and made worse by hubris. Financial problems, legal threats and the election of President Donald Trump took it all away—the clients, the firm and, finally, Mr. Podesta’s position as one of Washington’s most influential players.

Here are some cliff notes from the report:

  • The Podesta Group ended 2015 as Washington D.C.’s third largest Lobbying firm, with nearly $30 million in revenue from over 100 clients – who promptly bailed after Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election. That didn’t seem to bother Tony.  

The string of embarrassing news accounts disturbed many of the Podesta Group’s corporate clients, companies that preferred to stay clear of such publicity. Mr. Podesta operated as if the whole mess would soon blow over.WSJ

  • The Podesta Group got in trouble for the IRS for improperly reporting a $300,000 shipping expense for Tony Podesta’s art, after which he began billing his firm $360,000 a year to rent pieces displayed at the office. 

Employees of the Podesta Group set up a system to prevent Mr. Podesta from being reimbursed by the company for personal expenditures. A 36-page instruction manual for Mr. Podesta’s executive assistants included this directive: “It is up to you and your best judgment as to what gets reimbursed.”

  • Podesta told his employees that he would entertain letting them buy equity in the firm – then worth an estimated $50 million, then stiffed them when they showed up to discuss. 

Firm employees approached Mr. Podesta in early 2014 about selling them a share of the business. The Podesta Group was worth at least $50 million at the time, former employees estimated. Over dinner, Mr. Podesta told them he was open to the idea and suggested they meet with lawyers.

On the day of the meeting, employees gathered in the firm’s conference room. Mr. Podesta didn’t show.

  • Tony Podesta worked for clients without his firm’s knowledge – such as Italian tire maker Pirelli, which paid $113,500 a year to Podesta while the Podesta Group was concurrently representing French tire manufacturer Michelin.  

Neither Michelin nor its Podesta Group lobbyists knew about Mr. Podesta’s side deal, according to the people involved.

  • SunTrust bank severed ties with the Podesta Group when they discovered that they were doing work for a U.S. subsidiary of a sanctioned Russian bank – presumably Russia’s Kremlin-owned Sberbank, which paid the Podesta group $170,000 over a 6 month period through September 2016 to lobby against 2014 economic sanctions by the Obama administration.

SunTrust Banks Inc. sought to sever ties with the firm over the sanctioned Russian bank. The Podesta Group’s chief executive sent an exasperated email to a colleague. “Tony thinks these types of clients have no repercussions on the firm,” she said, but “this should really provide evidence that we have to take the clients we bring on seriously.”

Following Mrs. Clinton’s defeat that November, the Podesta Group cut bonuses and commissions.

  • One day after US prosecutors announced the indictments of Manafort and Gates, “an official with the firm’s new bank, Chain Bridge Bank, demanded $655,000 in cash or collateral within 24 hours – or it would cut the firm’s credit line.

Mr. Trump, who occasionally pointed an unwelcome spotlight on the firm, tweeted that day: “The biggest story yesterday, the one that has the Dems in a dither, is Podesta running from his firm.” –WSJ

  • Podesta’s purchases of artwork behind his wife’s back reportedly caused Heather Podesta to file for divorce. Tony kept most of his art collection, while Heather received nearly $5 million in retirement savings, homes in Washington and Manhattan, and $4 million paid quarterly over five years. 

  • The day after Tony’s Podesta’s expensive divorce was finalized, he told employees the firm could make more money by abandoning their liberal ethos and representing big tobacco and the NRA – leading to one lobbyist quitting, costing the firm over $2 million in annual revenue. 
  • Clients were spooked as Special Counsel Robert Mueller began closing in on associate Paul Manafort. Recall the Podesta Group decided (coincidentally) to retroactively file as a foreign agent for their work with the Manafort’s Pro-Russia Centre for a Modern Ukraine campaign – tied to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, shortly before Manafort’s indictment. The Podesta Group made $1.2 million as part of that effort

Before dawn on Monday Oct. 23, 2017, NBC News reported that Mr. Mueller was preparing to indict Mr. Manafort and implicate Mr. Podesta regarding the Ukraine work. The phones started ringing: Clients wanted to know what was going on. The firm’s bank wanted to discuss its account.

The following night, Mr. Podesta threw himself a birthday party, serving hundreds of guests pizza from a brick-oven stove in his backyard in Kalorama. –WSJ

  • The unraveling was swift. As clients such as Wells Fargo, Wal Mart and Oracle Corp. bailed on the Podesta Group, they death-spiraled into default – as Tony refused to pledge his giant art collection against firm obligations. 

With clients leaving, the Podesta Group had no money. Rent was due the next day. One idea was to use Mr. Podesta’s art collection as collateral for a loan, but he refused.

“At that time, it was inadvisable to provide additional guarantees as an individual for the obligations of the corporation,” the Podesta Group’s spokeswoman said.

The Podesta Group’s chief financial officer sent Mr. Podesta a 7:23 p.m. email: “If we don’t have collateral pledged prior to 5pm tomorrow, we will be in default.” If the firm went into default, the CFO wrote, “we will not be able to meet our rent, your art payments, ad campaigns, and most importantly payroll.

Mr. Podesta responded: “need list of next 5 layoffs,” among other questions. The next day, he left for an art show in Turin, Italy. The bank’s deadline passed.

On Friday, the firm’s CFO quit. That night, a senior manager sent an email to Mr. Podesta, still in Italy, saying the bank had frozen the firm’s funds.

“This means that we have no way to pay employees,” the email said. “If we do not alert employees immediately that we have no way to pay them for their work, the firm is committing fraud.” –WSJ

Meanwhile, in October 2017 a “long time” former Podesta Group executive with “direct personal knowledge” detailed several other aspects of life inside Tony Podesta’s lobbying machine to Tucker Carlson. Some bombshell claims and quotes from the former employee:

  • In 2013, John Podesta allegedly recommended that Tony hire David Adams, Hillary Clinton’s chief adviser at the State Department, giving them a “direct liaison” between the group’s Russian clients and Hillary Clinton’s State Department
  • In late 2013 or early 2014, Tony Podesta and a representative for the Clinton Foundation reportedly met to discuss how to help Uranium One – the Russian owned company that controls 20 percent of American Uranium Production – and whose board members gave over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation.
  • “Tony Podesta was basically part of the Clinton Foundation.”
  • Believing she would win the 2016 election, Russia considered the Podesta Group’s connection to Hillary highly valuable.

Separately, White House visitor logs revealed that Tony Podesta visited the White House at least 114 times during the Obama administration, and was said to have had “special access” to the administration through his brother, John Podesta, while lobbying for various pro-Kremlin interests.

  • Podesta Group was a nebulous organization with no board oversight and all financial decisions made by Tony Podesta. Carlson’s source said payments and kickbacks could be hard for investigators to trace, describing it as a “highly secret treasure trove.” One employee’s only official job was to manage Tony Podesta’s art collection, which could be used to conceal financial transactions.

The Podesta group also earned $180,000 lobbying for Russian-owned mining company Uranium One during the same period that the Clinton Foundation was receiving millions from individuals connected to the U1 transaction.

The WSJ must have inadvertently left out another factor which may have contributed to Podesta Group clients heading for the hills; a spotlight on Tony Podesta’s strange artwork which began swirling around the internet during the emergence of the discredited “pizzagate” theory.

Internet sleuths pointed to a June, 2015 issue of “Washington Life” magazine featuring some of Tony Podesta’s artwork, along with a 2004 Washington Post article entitled Married, With Art – describing how shocked Podesta guests stumbled across pictures of naked teenagers during a house tour. 

At political events, there’s an inevitable awkwardness,” former Clinton administration official Sally Katzen

Folks attending a house tour in the Lake Barcroft neighborhood in Falls Church earlier this year got an eyeful when they walked into a bedroom at the Podesta residence hung with multiple color pictures by Katy Grannan, a photographer known for documentary-style pictures of naked teenagers in their parents’ suburban homes. “They were horrified,” Heather recalls, a grin spreading across her face. –WaPo

One piece of art which sparked curiosity is an illustration of a girl against a green background:

Photo: Joseph Allen, Washington Life Magazine

As well as more pictures of children laying around:

…from an artist who creates pictures of children in grotesque circumstances:

Then there’s artist Louise Bourgeois’ “Arch of Hysteria” in Podesta’s Falls Church home – a headless body contorted into a “tetanus arch” – which also happens to be a pose Jeffrey Dahmer posed at least one victim. Comet Ping Pong pizza shop owner James Alefantis – another figure in the unproven “pizzagate” controversy, thought it was pretty cool while he was hanging out at Podesta’s place.

Here’s one of Podesta’s many other staircases in 2014:

Tony also loaned out a wax statue entitled “Dismembered” to the DC College of Arts and Sciences in 2011, which appears to depict a vivisected child:

At the end of the day, disturbing art or not – Hillary Clinton’s loss meant that Tony Podesta’s ability to provide clients access to the White House had disappeared for at least four more years. Indeed, the Podesta Group lost its most valuable commodity on the night of November 8, 2016 – and the rest is history.

The Dollar’s 70-Year Dominance Slowly Coming To An End

Authored by Alex Deluce via GoldTelegraph.com,

The US dollar hasn’t been backed by gold since 1971, but that might change soon.

Republican Congressman Alex Mooney is proposing that the US once again place value on the dollar by backing it with physical gold. The problem is, the Federal Reserve has been printing money with the abandon of a drunken copy machine, and the 147.3 million ounces of gold being held in Ft. Knox may not be enough to cover the out-of-control fiat currency currently in circulation.

According to Alex Mooney’s bill, the dollar has decreased 30 percent in purchasing power since 2000. It has lost 96 percent of its value since 1913. On an average, the US is devalued by 50 percent every generation.

If the gold standard were to be reinstated, control of the dollar would revert to free market forces instead of the whim of the Federal Reserve. It would mean that each dollar would have its equivalent in gold, as it did prior to 1913. At that time, the US economy grew at a robust annual rate of 4 percent compared to an average annual growth of 2 percent since 2000.

Officially, the US has 8,133.5 tons of gold in reserves, although the government won’t confirm that number. No one is permitted inside the various vaults to verify. Even the purity of the available gold bars is in question, as many may not conform to industry standards. As other countries contemplate the return to the gold standard, unless the US catches up, the dollar will lose its dominance as the world reserve currency.

China launched its oil futures-backed Petro-Yuan in March.

The oil industry has revolved around the petrodollar since the 1970s. It is expected that the Petro-Yuan will take up to $800 billion worth of trade from the petrodollar. Currently, the petrodollar secures global demand for the dollar. For the US, the petrodollar translates into tremendous purchasing power. China’s Petro-Yuan may change all that.

China is the largest crude oil importer in the world, and that may give it enough leverage to unseat the US dollar when it begins to pay Saudi Arabia for its crude in Petro-Yuan. This provides an opportunity for oil exporters to bypass the current powerful petrodollar arrangement. If this happens, it could mean serious trouble for the US dollar. The value of the dollar is heavily dependent upon US oil imports. If oil exporters become dependent on the Petro-Yuan instead of the petrodollar, it could be the death blow for the dollar. In addition to the Petro-Yuan, China has been quietly building up its gold reserves for years and may have plans to ultimately back the yuan with gold.

President Trump has been discussing tariffs on Chinese imports while attempting to persuade Beijing not to use its crude oil contracts as a means of trade. China is unlikely to agree to this, thus opening the possibility of a nasty trade war between the two countries.

China has much to lose in a trade war. Its economy is overly dependent on exports to the US. Also, the Petro-Yuan is, as yet, an unknown quantity, while the petrodollar has been securely established for decades. In addition, the US is less dependent on oil than China, as it is able to produce more oil for its own needs. While China’s oil futures are a wakeup call to the US, they are still a dice toss.

Additionally, Germany is another country that is rediscovering the value of gold. The Deutsche Bundesbank has recently recalled $28 billion worth of gold previously stored in New York and Paris back to Frankfurt.

The National Bank of Hungary has called back 100,000 ounces of gold back to its Budapest reserves in an effort to strengthen its own market. Other central banks have followed suit. There is a global interest in keeping gold reserves close to home in the event of upheaval in the geopolitical situation.

At this point, it is unknown whether Congressman Mooney’s bill to reinstate the gold standard will pass. What is certain is that the global interest in gold continues to take off. In bettor’s terms, gold is the last ace in the hole for global currency stability.