Tuesday, 31 October 2017

USA 2017-18 = 1973-74 Repeat?

Baltic Dry Index. 1534 -12   Brent Crude 60.82

"It is always the best policy to speak the truth, unless of course, you are an exceptionally good liar."

Jerome K. Jerome. Author.

Does history repeat? Is America about to move on from merely a house divided, to a house divided and at legal civil war, anti-Nixon 1973-1974 style, when a media delegitimised, deeply flawed, but silent majority President, was hounded from office for little more than "Democrat" dirty tricks as usual, but getting caught. Something about Salem, comes to mind.

While of great delight to leftist cold war Europe, and great alarm to rightist cold war Europe; a straight gift to communist Russia and China, America lost the Vietnam war in 1975 after all, and lost its way and largely global leadership until the election of President Reagan in November 1980,  repeating the mistakes of 1973-74 in 2017-18, and all because a deeply flawed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton lost a shoe-in election, a repeat of 1973-34 in 2017-18 carries a catastrophic downside risk.  The failure of the west in the face of rising super-power China, and a resurgent Russia that is reshaping the Middle East, and with China, much of Eur-Asia.

In 1974-75, the USSR was stagnant and sclerotic, China was staggering under the ending excesses of Mao’s murderous “cultural revolution” and the fanaticism of the increasingly ruling “gang of four.”  In short, Communism was dying, albeit unappreciated in the US led west. The USA was the unrivaled superpower  since at least the Cuban missile crisis, if not earlier. In 2017-18, a new Mao is rising in China, Russia has a new confidence on the world stage, the EUSSR is starting to disintegrate, the global financial system in just one Lehman away from collapse, the USA is deeply trapped in unrepayable debt, one global interest rate normalisation away from a likely technical default on its debt. 

The next decade of automation and artificial intelligence, threatens millions of ordinary workers jobs all across the west, starting in the USA. There has never been a worse time for the USA to go all introspective navel gazing, while fighting a political partisan, internal spoils for the taking, take no prisoners internal war. Yet that it seems, is exactly, what we are about to get next.

Stay long fully paid up physical gold and silver, held outside to the US financial system.  Every few decades or so the American political system goes self destructive nuts, and we seem to have entered the first episode of the 21st century. And all because a deeply flawed “lady” lost an election.

"I doubt if any of them would even intentionally double-park."

President Richard M. Nixon. (On Haldeman and Ehrlichman.)

October 30, 2017 / 2:32 PM

Former Trump adviser Papadopoulos pleads guilty to lying to FBI

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An obscure Trump campaign adviser pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about contacts with people who claimed to have ties to top Russian officials, in the first criminal charges alleging links between the campaign and Moscow, said court documents released on Monday.

George Papadopoulos, who joined the Trump presidential campaign in March 2016, lied in January about communicating with those individuals to arrange a meeting between then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said in the documents.

The documents said an unidentified campaign official advised Papadopoulos around May 2016 that Trump himself “is not doing these trips” but that “it should be someone low-level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”

While not mentioned in the documents, top Trump campaign advisers, including Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and Campaign Manager Paul Manafort met at Trump Tower in New York in June 2016 with Russians claiming to have derogatory information on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. It was not known whether that meeting resulted from Papadopoulos’ efforts.

The special counsel said Papadopoulos - a Chicago-based international energy lawyer - lied to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents about when he learned from an unnamed foreign professor that Russia claimed to have “dirt” in the form of “thousands of emails” on Clinton.

Prosecutors said Papadopoulos told agents he had been in contact with the professor before he joined Trump’s campaign. In fact, they said, Papadopoulos met with the professor after joining the campaign.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders on Monday played down Papadopoulos’ campaign role, saying it was “extremely limited” and that he was a volunteer.


October 30, 2017 / 5:43 PM

Charges may pressure ex-Trump manager to cooperate - lawyers

(Reuters) - The charges announced on Monday against Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager to President Donald Trump, as part of a U.S. probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, include money laundering as well as the lesser-known offence of conspiracy against the United States.

The indictment was the first released by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating alleged Russian efforts to tilt last year’s vote in Trump’s favour. The Kremlin denies meddling. Trump denies colluding with the Russians.

While neither Trump nor his campaign is mentioned in the indictment, Mueller could be aiming to pressure Manafort and his associate Rick Gates, who is also charged, to cooperate in the larger collusion probe.

The first count in the indictment against Manafort and Gates is a common federal charge, mainly because it can target a wide range of conduct and can be tacked on to other charges.

Charges of conspiracy against the United States, which carry a maximum sentence of five years, have been brought against al Qaeda militants for planning attacks as well as individuals accused of fraud against the government.

In January the Department of Justice charged Volkswagen AG executives with conspiring to defraud the United States by cheating on U.S. emissions tests.

The charge against Manafort and Gates is related to their alleged failures to report their overseas financial holdings and to report that they were working on behalf of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.

---- Most of the counts against Manafort and Gates involve their alleged failure to report foreign bank accounts to the tax-collecting U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Each charge carries a maximum five-year sentence.

They are also charged with failing to register with the U.S. Department of Justice as agents of Yanukovich and making false statements about their work. Those counts are punishable by up to five years in prison.

October 31, 2017 / 12:06 AM

Facebook says 126 million Americans may have seen Russia-linked political posts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Monday that Russia-based operatives published about 80,000 posts on the social network over a two-year period in an effort to sway U.S. politics and that about 126 million Americans may have seen the posts during that time.

Facebook’s latest data on the Russia-linked posts - possibly reaching around half of the U.S. population of voting age - far exceeds the company’s previous disclosures. It was included in written testimony provided to U.S. lawmakers, and seen by Reuters, ahead of key hearings with social media and technology companies about Russian meddling in elections on Capitol Hill this week.

Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) separately has found 2,752 accounts linked to Russian operatives, a source familiar with the company’s written testimony said. That estimate is up from a tally of 201 accounts that Twitter reported in September.

Google, owned by Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), said in a statement on Monday it had found $4,700 (3,559.26 pounds) in Russia-linked ad spending during the 2016 U.S. election cycle, and that it would build a database of election ads.

Executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google are scheduled to appear before three congressional committees this week on alleged Russian attempts to spread misinformation in the months before and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Russian government has denied any attempts to sway the election, in which President Donald Trump, a Republican, defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Facebook’s general counsel, Colin Stretch, said in the written testimony that the 80,000 posts from Russia’s Internet Research Agency were a tiny fraction of content on Facebook, equal to one out of 23,000 posts.

In the Trump camp counter attack, what’s good for the Clintonista-Obamaites, is good for the Trumpista’s too. Mutual assured destruction is now at work.

"The tragic lesson of guilty men walking free in this country has not been lost on the criminal community."

President Richard M. Nixon.

Mega-Lobbyist Podesta Quits After U.S. Charges Manafort

By David Voreacos and Ben Brody
Democratic mega-lobbyist Tony Podesta has stepped down from his 30-year-old firm as the indictment of President Donald Trump’s onetime campaign chairman drew attention to the company’s foreign advocacy, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Podesta -- whose clients have included Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Altria Group Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., Pfizer Inc. and other representatives of some of the most active industries in Washington -- told a company wide meeting Monday that he was stepping down from the Podesta Group Inc., according to an earlier report by Politico. The person who confirmed Podesta is stepping down asked not to be identified because the decision isn’t public. Podesta didn’t respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.

News of Podesta’s resignation followed an indictment issued Monday by U.S. Justice Department 
Special Counsel Robert Mueller of Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates. The charges detailed Manafort’s clandestine influence campaign on behalf of Ukraine’s deposed president Viktor Yanukovych, including work with two unidentified companies that "lobbied multiple members of Congress and their staffs about Ukraine sanctions, the validity of Ukraine elections, and the propriety of Yanukovych’s imprisoning his presidential rival."

Mueller’s indictment identified the firms as Company A and Company B and said they were allegedly paid by Manafort with more than $2 million in offshore funds. The person who confirmed Tony Podesta’s departure said that Company B is the Podesta Group, which disclosed in April that it had worked for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine.

“The Podesta Group has fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s office and taken every possible step to provide documentation that confirms compliance with the law," according to a statement the firm issued Monday.

Podesta is the brother of John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, who
also served as White House chief of staff under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Did Mueller’s Team Violate Manafort’s Constitutional Rights? They May Have.

by Rachel Stockman | 11:43 am, October 30th, 2017
Ex-campaign adviser Paul Manafort turned himself in Monday after being indicted for money laundering, and a slew of other financial crimes. The feds alleged he illegally funneled millions of dollars of payments into offshore bank accounts in order to avoid detection by U.S. authorities as it related to his work on behalf of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. While the indictment containing Manfort’s alleged criminal activities is very detailed, and well-documented, there is one area that could hurt Mueller’s investigation. Mueller’s team may have obtained evidence in the raid of Paul Manafort’s home that was not covered by the search warrant. That could be problematic.

In a surprise raid on July 26th, FBI agents busted into Manafort’s home in Alexandria, Virginia to collect documents and other materials related to the FBI probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. At the time, Manafort’s attorney raised concerns about how the raid was conducted. In order for the feds to obtain a warrant, a federal judge would have to determine that probable cause existed that a crime was committed. As part of the warrant, investigators attached an affidavit which contained a list of items that FBI agents hoped to collect. That’s where the trouble appears to be in Manafort’s case.

As a legal website, we were immediately drawn to the revelation that evidence was collected that may not have been covered by the warrant. That’s a serious development, and one that Manafort’s attorneys will no doubt seize upon. But, is it necessarily illegal? Did the agents do anything wrong? It’s not clear. It certainly could raise some serious constitutional issues that could taint the investigation.

Through an older CNN article, we get a bit more of a hint about what specifically the agents may have gathered:

---- As the article points out, this certainly brings up concerns as to what exactly was seized, what investigators saw, and who handled the material. You can’t “unsee” evidence once you saw it.

“If they (investigators) had any kind of heads up, and they went beyond the scope of the warrant, that could be a problem,” Henry Hockeimer, a former federal prosecutor, told LawNewz.com.

In 2005, Eric D. McArthur, who coincidentally now serves as Deputy Associate Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, authored an article about the Fourth Amendment implications if investigators collect attorney-client privileged information. He wrote:

[T]he Fourth Amendment is violated when the government purposely, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently searches privileged attorney-client communications. In other words, the Fourth Amendment is violated whenever law enforcement officials have reason to believe that a search or seizure is likely to expose them to privileged attorney-client communications and fail to take reasonable steps to minimize their exposure.

A similar issue came up recently in a case against Wall Street financier Benjamin Wey. A federal judge threw out all of the evidence gathered against him through warrants because the “sweeping” searches of his property violated his Fourth Amendment right. Judge Alison Nathan found that the searches were “grossly negligent” in that they collected evidence that went beyond the scope of the warrant like medical records, and divorce records. In the case of Manafort, it appears that his lawyers warned investigators about the existence of attorney-client privileged documents and memos. If investigators didn’t take the proper precautions to avoid collecting these documents, they could be in trouble for violating Manafort’s constitutional rights.

In real news, Asian markets nervously marked time ahead of today’s month-end “dress up” Tuesday. Iffy numbers from China suggests that all is not going to script, and with the CPC 5 year Congress now out of the way, is a debt house cleaning coming next? After the month-end dress up, le deluge?

Asia Stocks Mixed After China PMI; Bonds Advance: Markets Wrap

By Adam Haigh
Equity markets in Asia fluctuated and bonds added to gains as caution crept into markets following a drop in China’s factory gauge and as investors continued to assess developments on U.S. tax reform.
Japan’s stocks ended the day slightly weaker, with SoftBank Group Corp. tumbling the most in almost a year on news that a deal to merge its Sprint Corp. unit with T-Mobile US Inc. may be in jeopardy. The yen was steady as the Bank of Japan maintained its key policy rate and target for the yield on 10-year government bonds, while showing concerns remain on the inflation outlook.

The Bloomberg dollar index bounced from Monday’s drop and is on track for its best month since the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president as 10-year Treasury yields held below 2.4 percent, with Trump’s choice to lead the Federal Reserve due by the end of the week.

South Korea’s Kospi index climbed to a record high and the won advanced after China and South Korea agreed to put aside a disagreement over the deployment of a U.S. missile shield. While Asian equity markets have been largely held hostage by news out of the U.S. on tax and the next Fed chair, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index is on course to finish its best month since January and its 10th consecutive month of gains.

American tax reform and the outlook for U.S. monetary policy remain dominant market themes. The phase-in plan for corporate tax cuts has been considered, but may not yet be final, said a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. The New York Times reported Jerome Powell will be chosen to helm the Fed, in line with expectations from betting markets.

China’s official factory gauge fell this month, with new orders and prices leading the decline, as officials increasingly prioritize a campaign to clamp down on polluting industries and rein in debt. Still, China’s economy continues to defy predictions of a sharper slowdown triggered by the leverage campaign and property risks. The latest reading also comes as manufacturing gauges in Europe, the U.S. and Japan earlier this month all added to evidence in support of global economic growth.

Another China Company Defaults on Bond Payment as Borrowing Costs Jump

Bloomberg News
Another Chinese company has missed a local bond payment, highlighting how weaker firms in the nation are struggling to honor their debts as borrowing costs jump.

Dandong Port Group Co. failed to repay part of notes investors sold back to the issuer Monday, according to a statement on the Chinamoney website that cited the firm’s “big debt burden.” The privately held company is based in Dandong, an industrial city bordering North Korea that has been an area of focus amid United Nations sanctions against Kim Jong Un’s regime.

Bond yields in China have surged after central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan voiced concern about high corporate borrowing on Oct. 15. That sparked a 16 basis point jump in the the average yield on AA- rated corporate securities this month, set for the biggest increase since May, according to Chinabond data. Twenty onshore bonds have defaulted this year, compared with 21 in the same period of 2016, according to Bloomberg-compiled data. 

“The rising borrowing costs have eroded companies’ profits and made it more and more difficult to roll over existing debt,” Xu Hanfei and Li Yuze, analysts at China Merchants Securities Co. said in a report Tuesday, commenting on the default.

Dandong Port sold the 1 billion yuan ($151 million) of five-year bonds in 2014 with an initial coupon rate of 5.86 percent and an option for investors to sell them back to the company early. All the investors have exercised that option, and the company only paid back a portion of the principal, it said without specifying an amount. It paid 58.6 million yuan in interest Monday, according to the statement.

Dandong is the biggest Chinese city along the border with North Korea and the center of the country’s trade with Kim’s regime.

Bank of China Slumps as Lender Lags Peers in Taming Bad Loans

Bloomberg News
Bank of China Ltd. shares slumped the most in almost four months in Hong Kong after the lender failed to report the same improvements in asset quality as its rivals.

The stock lost 3.2 percent to HK$3.90 as of 11:16 a.m. local time, paring its rally this year to 13 percent. Bocom International Holdings Co. and Huatai Securities Co. downgraded Bank of China after its results Monday revealed a jump in impairment losses and a higher nonperforming-loan ratio.
Its biggest rivals reduced their NPL ratios.

“As a whole, Bank of China’s results in the third quarter didn’t sustain from the strong recovery in the second quarter,” Bocom International analysts Wan Li and Hannah Han wrote in a report. “The improvement trend of asset quality is weaker than peers.”

Bank of China reported an NPL ratio of 1.41 percent as of Sept. 30, up from 1.38 percent three months earlier. Its impairment losses in the third quarter jumped 63 percent, eroding most of the gains generated by lending income.

The numbers were a blot on what was regarded by analysts as a broadly positive earnings season for
the country’s big banks. The Big Four -- including Bank of China -- all reported double-digit increases in lending income in the third quarter, validating in part some of the rally that had driven their valuations to a two-year high this year.

"When a President does it, that means that it is not illegal."

President Richard M. Nixon.

"The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people," former Nixon domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman told Harper's writer Dan Baum for the April cover story published Tuesday.

"You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities," Ehrlichman said. "We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."

“I am not a crook.”

President Richard M. Nixon.

Crooks and Scoundrels Corner

The bent, the seriously bent, and the totally doubled over.

Equifax again! Who knew the gatekeepers could be so incompetent? Surely this reaches the standard of criminal negligence?

10.28.17 09:00 am

Security News This Week: Equifax Was Warned of Vulnerability Months Before Breach

Equifax Was Warned

Last year, a security researcher alerted Equifax that anyone could have stolen the personal data of all Americans. The company failed to heed the warning.

Months before its catastrophic data breach, a security researcher warned Equifax that it was vulnerable to the kind of attack that later compromised the personal data of more than 145 million Americans, Motherboard has learned. Six months after the researcher first notified the company about the vulnerability, Equifax patched it—but only after the massive breach that made headlines had already taken place, according to Equifax's own timeline.

This revelation opens the possibility that more than one group of hackers broke into the company. And, more importantly, it raises new questions about Equifax's own security practices, and whether the company took the right precautions and heeded warnings of serious vulnerabilities before its disastrous hack.

Late last year, a security researcher started looking into some of the servers and websites that Equifax had on the internet. In just a few hours, after scanning the company's public-facing infrastructure, the researcher couldn't believe what they had found. One particular website allowed them to access the personal data of every American, including social security numbers, full names, birthdates, and city and state of residence, the researcher told Motherboard.

The site looked like a portal made only for employees, but was completely exposed to anyone on the internet. It displayed several search fields, and anyone—with no authentication whatsoever—could force the site to display the personal data of Equifax's customers, according to the researcher. Motherboard saw multiple sets of the data they were able to access.

"I didn't have to do anything fancy," the researcher told Motherboard, explaining that the site was vulnerable to a basic "forced browsing" bug. The researcher requested anonymity out of professional concerns.

"All you had to do was put in a search term and get millions of results, just instantly—in cleartext, through a web app," they said. In total, the researcher downloaded the data of hundreds of thousands of Americans in order to show Equifax the vulnerabilities within its systems. They said they could have downloaded the data of all of Equifax's customers in 10 minutes: "I've seen a lot of bad things, but not this bad."

While probing Equifax servers and sites, the researcher said that they were also able to take control—or get shell access as hackers refer to it—on several Equifax servers, and found several others vulnerable to simple bugs such as SQL injection, a common, basic way of attacking sites. Many servers were running outdated software. According to one analysis performed in early September, Equifax had thousands of servers exposed on the internet, indicating both massive sprawl and loose control of its infrastructure, which increased the company's attack surface.

After discovering all these issues in December, the researcher said they immediately reported them to the company.

"It should've been fixed the moment it was found. It would have taken them five minutes, they could've just taken the site down," they told me. "In this case it was just 'please take this site down, make it not public.' That's all they needed to do."

According to the researcher, Equifax didn't take the site down until June.

Everyone knows what happened next.

Technology Update.

With events happening fast in the development of solar power and graphene, I’ve added this section. Updates as they get reported. Is converting sunlight to usable cheap AC or DC energy mankind’s future from the 21st century onwards?

Rapid cellphone charging getting closer to reality

Date: October 25, 2017

Source: University of Waterloo

Summary: The ability to charge cellphones in seconds is one step closer after researchers used nanotechnology to significantly improve energy-storage devices known as supercapacitors.

The ability to charge cellphones in seconds is one step closer after researchers at the University of Waterloo used nanotechnology to significantly improve energy-storage devices known as supercapacitors.

Their novel design roughly doubles the amount of electrical energy the rapid-charging devices can hold, helping pave the way for eventual use in everything from smartphones and laptop computers, to electric vehicles and high-powered lasers.

"We're showing record numbers for the energy-storage capacity of supercapacitors," said Michael Pope, a professor of chemical engineering who led the Waterloo research. "And the more energy-dense we can make them, the more batteries we can start displacing."

Supercapacitors are a promising, green alternative to traditional batteries -- with benefits including improved safety and reliability, in addition to much faster charging -- but applications have been limited so far by their relatively low storage capacity.

Existing commercial supercapacitors only store enough energy, for example, to power cellphones and laptops for about 10 per cent as long as rechargeable batteries.

To boost that capacity, Pope and his collaborators developed a method to coat atomically thin layers of a conductor called graphene with an oily liquid salt in supercapacitor electrodes.

The liquid salt serves as a spacer to separate the thin graphene sheets, preventing them from stacking like pieces of paper. That dramatically increases their exposed surface area, a key to maximizing energy-storage capacity.

At the same time, the liquid salt does double duty as the electrolyte needed to actually store electrical charge, minimizing the size and weight of the supercapacitor.

"That is the really cool part of this," Pope said. "It's a clever, elegant design."

The innovation also uses a detergent to reduce the size of the droplets of oily salt -- which is combined with water in an emulsion similar to salad dressing -- to just a few billionths of a metre, improving their coating action. The detergent also functions like chemical Velcro to make the droplets stick to the graphene.

Increasing the storage capacity of supercapacitors means they can be made small and light enough to replace batteries for more applications, particularly those requiring quick-charge, quick-discharge capabilities.

In the short term, Pope said better supercapacitors could displace lead-acid batteries in traditional vehicles, and be used to capture energy otherwise lost by buses and high-speed trains when they brake.

Further out, although they are unlikely to ever attain the full storage capacity of batteries, supercapacitors have the potential to conveniently and reliably power consumer electronic devices, electric vehicles and systems in remote locations like space.

"If they're marketed in the correct ways for the right applications, we'll start seeing more and more of them in our everyday lives," Pope said.

The monthly Coppock Indicators finished September

DJIA: 22,405 +223 Up. NASDAQ:  6,496 +274 Up. SP500: 2,519 +179 Up.