Sunday, September 17, 2017

Today's links

1-- GOP Congressman Sought Trump Deal on WikiLeaks, Russia


The possible “deal”—a term used by Mr. Rohrabacher during the Wednesday phone call—would involve a pardon of Mr. Assange or “something like that,” Mr. Rohrabacher said. In exchange, Mr. Assange would probably present a computer drive or other data-storage device that Mr. Rohrabacher said would exonerate Russia in the long-running controversy about who was the source of hacked and stolen material aimed at embarrassing the Democratic Party during the 2016 election.

“He would get nothing, obviously, if what he gave us was not proof,” Mr. Rohrabacher said...
A Trump administration official confirmed Friday that Mr. Rohrabacher spoke to Mr. Kelly about the plan involving Mr. Assange. Mr. Kelly told the congressman that the proposal “was best directed to the intelligence community,” the official said. Mr. Kelly didn’t make the president aware of Mr. Rohrabacher’s message, and Mr. Trump doesn’t know the details of the proposed deal, the official said.

In the call with Mr. Kelly, Mr. Rohrabacher pushed for a meeting between Mr. Assange and a representative of Mr. Trump, preferably someone with direct communication with the president.
“I would be happy to go with somebody you trust whether it is somebody at the FBI; somebody on your staff,” Mr. Rohrabacher said. The California congressman said he would be pleased to talk to CIA Director Mike Pompeo, but that the agency “has its limitations” and wanted “to cover their butt by having gone along with this big lie.” The CIA was one of the intelligence agencies that helped determine in January that emails from prominent Democrats were stolen by Russian intelligence and given to WikiLeaks.

Mr. Pompeo has said that WikiLeaks is akin to a foreign hostile intelligence service and is an adversary of the U.S. “WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service,” Mr. Pompeo said in an April speech where he criticized the organization for stealing secrets from democratic governments all while receiving the backing of authoritarian states....

After the visit to London, Mr. Rohrabacher said in a statement that Mr. Assange “emphatically stated that the Russians were not involved in the hacking or disclosure of those emails.”

Mr. Rohrabacher has also publicly stated his desire to arrange some sort of meeting between Mr. Assange and Mr. Trump or his representatives in media interviews after the visit. He told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday that he had talked to “senior people at the White House” about presenting Mr. Assange’s evidence...

The U.S. intelligence community later concluded that the Democratic emails were stolen and released at the direction of the Russian government, as part of a multipronged influence campaign aimed at boosting Mr. Trump at the expense of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. In a January report, the intelligence agencies said they had “high confidence” that Russian hackers stole emails from U.S. victims and released them publicly using WikiLeaks, another website called DCLeaks and a hacker persona known as Guccifer 2.0, among other channels...

Other Russia tactics, directed from the highest levels of the Russian government, included efforts to hack state election systems and disseminate through social media and other outlets negative stories about Mrs. Clinton and positive ones about the Mr. Trump, the report said. Russia denies any interference, while Mr. Trump has called the investigations into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia a “witch hunt.”


2--Rohrabacher: Someone Leaked 'Very Important' Call With John Kelly concerning WikiLeaks

"I have honored the confidentially of a very important business-related call," he said, speculating that someone inside the White House or within U.S. intelligence agencies leaked the call.


"I don't know who it is, all I know is I'm up against an array of very powerful forces, including the intelligence services and major newspapers that are basically allied with the liberal Left who have every reason to undermine communication on this issue," he told the Washington Examiner.


"Look, there are very powerful forces at work," he added. "We've got the NSA, the FBI and the CIA, all of whom confirmed a major lie that was being used for political purposes and a lie that was repeated and repeated in order to undercut our new president."


3-- Former CIA Agent Blows Whistle On Secret Shadow Government


4--US-Backed Forces and Syrian Troops Get Dangerously Close in Deir ez-Zor


5-- The White House Declares War on James Comey


I think there is no secret [that] Comey, by his own self-admission, leaked privileged government information. Weeks before President Trump fired him, Comey testified that an FBI agent engaged in the same practice; they face serious repercussions. I think he set his own stage for himself on that front. His actions were improper and likely could have been illegal. Comey leaked memos to The New York Times, your own outlet. He politicized an investigation by signaling he would exonerate Hillary Clinton before he ever interviewed her or other key witnesses.

As reporters immediately realized, that sounded like the president’s chief spokeswoman calling for the Justice Department to prosecute Comey, which would be both an escalation of rhetoric and a highly unusual suggestion that a political opponent face prosecution.

6-- Why Lifting Deir ez-Zor's Blockade is 'the Beginning of the End of Syria's War'


The successful Deir ez-Zor operation was the biggest breakthrough against Daesh since the terrorist group first launched an offensive in the province.
The terrorists had been blockading Deir ez-Zor since 2014, with food and other supplies only being airlifted into the city. Daesh  also took control over a large swath of the province of Deir ez-Zor and cut off roads to government-held districts...

"Israel and Egypt are building a line of communication with the Kremlin, seeing [Russian President Vladimir] Putin as a more reliable leader who fulfills his obligations."
"Tel Aviv and Cairo were echoed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is also ready to bolster a strategic line with Moscow on energy, Eurasian security and the future calibration of the Middle East," Gvozdev concluded.


The public was kept in the dark until 2011 that the financial system and U.S. economy only survived the 2008 crash because the Federal Reserve was secretly pumping $16 trillion in almost zero interest loans to Wall Street and its foreign brethren from 2007 through at least the middle of 2010. The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), whose details were publicly disclosed, represented a tiny portion of the actual, massive bailout.

Glass-Steagall legislation was enacted in 1933 and kept the U.S. financial system safe for 66 years until its repeal in 1999. It was put in place in 1933 as the stock market was on its way to losing 90 percent of its value following the 1929 crash and after the U.S. Senate had spent three years intensely investigating the Wall Street corruption that had caused the crash. It was wisely decided by Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that the new legislation would ban banks holding insured deposits backstopped by the taxpayer from being housed under the same roof with Wall Street’s casino-like investment banks and brokerage firms, which had a jaded history of blowing themselves up. Nine short years after the repeal of Glass-Steagall, century old iconic names on Wall Street lay in ruins and their demise and interconnectedness led to the worst economic crisis in the United States since the Great Depression.

8-- Dodd-Franks phony reforms triggered more fleecing of America people

On May 21, 2012, the Times published a piece by business writer, Andrew Ross Sorkin, titled: “Reinstating an Old Rule Is Not a Cure for Crisis.” In the article, Sorkin writes:

“The first domino to nearly topple over in the financial crisis was Bear Stearns, an investment bank that had nothing to do with commercial banking.  Glass-Steagall would have been irrelevant. Then came Lehman Brothers; it too was an investment bank with no commercial banking business and therefore wouldn’t have been covered by Glass-Steagall either. After them, Merrill Lynch was next — and yep, it too was an investment bank that had nothing to do with Glass-Steagall.

“Next in line was the American International Group, an insurance company that was also unrelated to Glass-Steagall.”

Sorkin was not just wrong but outrageously dead wrong on every single bank. As we wrote in 2012:

“There are four companies mentioned in those five sentences and in every case, the information is spectacularly false.  Lehman Brothers owned two FDIC insured banks, Lehman Brothers Bank, FSB and Lehman Brothers Commercial Bank. Together, they held $17.2 billion in assets as of June 30, 2008, 75 days before Lehman went belly up…Merrill Lynch also owned three FDIC insured banks… Bear Stearns owned Bear Stearns Bank Ireland, which is now part of JPMorgan and called JPMorgan Bank (Dublin) PLC…AIG owned, in 2008 at the time of the crisis, the FDIC insured AIG Federal Savings Bank.  On June 30, 2008, it held $1 billion in assets.  AIG also owned 71 U.S.-based insurance entities and 176 other financial services companies throughout the world, including AIG Financial Products which blew up the whole company selling credit default derivatives. What this has to do with Glass-Steagall is that the same deregulation legislation, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that gutted Glass-Steagall in 1999, also gutted the 1956 Bank Holding Company Act and allowed insurance companies and securities firms to be housed under the same umbrella in financial holding companies...

Today, the latest Times editorial is attempting to blame the Trump administration for putting the nation’s financial system at risk through rollbacks in the Dodd-Frank reform legislation signed into law under Obama in 2010.  The editorial writers state: “The Republican-controlled Congress is too jammed up to move ahead with legislation to weaken Dodd-Frank. But that won’t be necessary, since the administration is doing a good job of dismantling the regulations on its own.”

What the New York Times knows it should be saying is that the Dodd-Frank legislation is an illusion of financial reform while it allows the New York Times’ hometown boys to become billionaires while running the largest wealth transfer system in U.S. history – fleecing the pockets of the 99 percent across America.

9--Corporate Debt Threatens U.S. Economic Prospects

According to recent studies, U.S. corporations’ debt levels could pose some serious headwinds for the United States’ economy in the next major downturn. In April, the International Monetary Fund announced the following red flags:

The U.S. corporate sector has added $7.8 trillion in debt and other liabilities since 2010;

Among S&P 500 firms, median net debt “is close to a historic high of more than 1 ½ times earnings”;

Looking at a “broader set of nearly 4,000 firms accounting for about half of the economy-wide corporate sector balance sheet, suggests a similar rise in leverage across almost all sectors to levels exceeding those prevailing just before the global financial crisis”;

Debt is especially high “in the energy, real estate, and utilities sectors, ranging between four and six times earnings”;

In July 2016, S&P Global released a report which found that “global corporate credit quality has been weakening over recent years.” It said that in a sampling of about 14,400 nonfinancial corporations around the globe, “two out of five” are highly leveraged. The report noted further:

“Our base case anticipates an orderly slowdown of credit growth relative to real growth and inflation, as the latter two factors gradually rise in coming years. However, it is not hard to envisage more negative outcomes where a credit crunch (‘Crexit’ scenario) occurs, should inflation return, rates rise, and bond prices fall. Alternatively, a worst-case scenario comprising several negative economic and political shocks (such as a potential fallout from Brexit) could unnerve lenders, causing them to pull back from extending credit to higher-risk borrowers

“The average interest coverage ratio — a measure of the ability for current earnings to cover interest expenses — has fallen sharply over the past two years. Earnings have dropped to less than six times interest expense, close to the weakest multiple since the onset of the global financial crisis.”

In December of last year, the Financial Times obtained a study from a Wall Street trade group, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), which found that if you added short-term company borrowings such as those found in money market funds to outstanding corporate debt, the total comes to a whopping $11.3 trillion. The article notes the following:

“Much of the debt sold by companies in recent years has been used to buy back their own shares, pay out higher dividends or finance big mergers and acquisitions. While these buybacks funded by cheap borrowing have boosted earnings, a missing ingredient has been spending on investment to build their businesses.”

Economist Michael Hudson has a great deal to say about corporations buying back their own shares in his book, Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy. Hudson writes in one chapter:

“Instead of warning against turning the stock market into a predatory financial system that is de-industrializing the economy, [business schools] have jumped on the bandwagon of debt leveraging and stock buybacks. Financial wealth is the aim, not industrial wealth creation or overall prosperity. The result is that while raiders and activist shareholders have debt-leveraged companies from the outside, their internal management has followed the post-modern business school philosophy viewing ‘wealth creation’ narrowly in terms of a company’s share price. The result is financial engineering that links the remuneration of managers to how much they can increase the stock price, and by rewarding them with stock options. This gives managers an incentive to buy up company shares and even to borrow to finance such buybacks instead of to invest in expanding production and markets.”

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