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Apr 12, 2018

The Guardian | Comey book likens Trump to mafia boss 'untethered to truth' | US news Fri 13 Apr 2018 02.12 BST - UTC-5

theguardian.com

Comey book likens Trump to mafia boss 'untethered to truth' | US news

Martin Pengelly

The former FBI director James Comey denounces Donald Trump as “untethered to truth” and likens the president to a mafia boss, in an explosive new book set to bring fresh turmoil to the White House.
Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, out next Tuesday, is published 11 months after he was fired by Trump, who allegedly tried to lean on him to shut down an investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Comey’s sacking triggered the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russian election meddling and alleged collusion between Moscow and Trump aides. Trump has denied collusion and called the investigation a “witch-hunt”.
In Comey’s book, obtained by the Guardian from a bookseller in New York, the former FBI chief describes his first trip to Trump Tower in January 2017, to brief the president-elect about the dossier on his links to Russia compiled by the former British spy Christopher Steele.
Comey writes that Trump “appeared shorter than he seemed on a debate stage with Hillary Clinton”. He adds: “His face appeared slightly orange, with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assume he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coiffed, bright blond hair, which on close inspection looked to be all his. I remember wondering how long it must take him in the morning to get that done.”
Comey then describes discussions by Trump’s team of the political implications of the dossier and possible strategies when it made the news media, all while intelligence community leaders remained in the room.
“Holy crap,” Comey writes, “they are trying to make each of us an ‘amica nostra’ – a friend of ours. To draw us in. As crazy as it sounds, I suddenly had the feeling that, in the blink of an eye, the president-elect was trying to make us all part of the same family.”
Comey, who likens Trump’s presidency to a “forest fire”, repeatedly in the 304-page book paints Trump as a mafia-style boss.
For example, in a discussion of a White House meeting with Trump and then chief of staff Reince Priebus in February 2017, Comey says that “because he never stops talking”, Trump “pulls all those present into a silent circle of assent”.
“The encounter left me shaken,” he writes. “I had never seen anything like it in the Oval Office. As I found myself thrust into the Trump orbit, I once again was having flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and the truth.”
Of Trump’s now famous demand over dinner at the White House in January 2017, “I need loyalty”, Comey writes: “To my mind, the demand was like Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony – with Trump in the role of the family boss, asking me if I have what it takes to be a ‘made man’.”
Comey also considers his experiences as acting attorney general under George W Bush, his appointment as FBI director by Barack Obama and his investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of private email while secretary of state. He recounts a one-on-one interview with Obama, after the 2016 election, in which he is moved “almost to the verge of tears” and tells the 44th president: “I dread the next four years.”
Comey writes that he told Trump during that first meeting at Trump Tower he was not under investigation personally, despite the FBI general counsel, Jim Baker, having “argued powerfully” such an assurance could be “misleadingly narrow”, given the scope of the investigation into whether the Trump campaign had coordinated with Russia. Trump has repeatedly referred to that assurance.
Describing a visit to the FBI’s Manhattan office after the Trump Tower session, Comey writes: “After the uncomfortable conversation I’d just had, it was like taking a shower.”
Comey also writes that Trump fixated upon an allegation that he invited prostitutes to his hotel room in Moscow during the Miss Universe event in 2013. In a later call, Comey writes, Trump denied the most lurid allegation, insisting: “I’m a germaphobe. There’s no way I would let people pee on each other around me.”
“I actually let out an audible laugh,” Comey writes, adding: “I imagined the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow was large enough for a germaphobe to be at a safe distance from the activity.”
Comey did not, he writes, communicate this thought to Trump.
Of his firing, in May 2017, Comey says he first thought news of it – which those in the room as he gave a speech in Los Angeles saw first on a TV screen behind him – was a practical joke.
“I now saw the same words,” he writes. “COMEY FIRED. I wasn’t laughing any longer.”
Eventually, he writes, John Kelly, then secretary of homeland security, called to say “he was sick about my firing and that he intended to quit in protest. He said he didn’t want to work for dishonorable people who would treat someone like me in such a manner. I urged Kelly not to do that, arguing that the country needed principled people around this president. Especially this president.”
Kelly is now White House chief of staff, subject to reports he has fallen out of favor.
In an epilogue, Comey passes judgment on Trump’s character. Writing that “our country is paying a high price” for the 2016 election, he says: “This president is unethical, and untethered to the truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven, and about personal loyalty.”
The book, an instant bestseller, will be supported by a media blitz. In response, the Republican party has organized a Trumpian scheme to attack “Lyin’ Comey” – and has set up a rebuttal website.

RT | May's Cabinet arrives at Downing Street ahead on action in Syria - April 12, 2018.

CNN | Syrias most controversial War tactics - April 12, 2018.

The Washington Post | James Comey’s memoir: Trump fixates on proving lewd dossier allegations false on April 132, 2018.

washingtonpost.com

James Comey’s memoir: Trump fixates on proving lewd dossier allegations false



President Trump, center, shakes hands with then-FBI director James B. Comey during a law enforcement reception at the White House in January 2017. (Andrew Harrer/European Pressphoto Agency)
The nation’s intelligence chiefs had just finished briefing Donald Trump on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election when FBI Director James B. Comey stayed behind to discuss some especially sensitive material: a “widely circulated” intelligence dossier contained unconfirmed allegations that Russians had filmed Trump interacting with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013.
The president-elect quickly interrupted the FBI director. According to Comey’s account in a new memoir, Trump “strongly denied the allegations, asking — rhetorically, I assumed — whether he seemed like a guy who needed the service of prostitutes. He then began discussing cases where women had accused him of sexual assault, a subject I had not raised. He mentioned a number of women, and seemed to have memorized their allegations.”
The January 2017 conversation at Trump Tower in Manhattan “teetered toward disaster” — until “I pulled the tool from my bag: ‘We are not investigating you, sir.’ That seemed to quiet him,” Comey writes.
Trump did not stay quiet for long. Comey describes Trump as having been obsessed with the prostitutes portion of the infamous dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, raising it at least four times with the FBI head. The document claimed that Trump had watched the prostitutes urinate on themselves in the same Moscow suite that President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama stayed in previously “as a way of soiling the bed,” Comey writes.
Trump offered varying explanations to convince Comey it was not true. “I’m a germaphobe,” Trump told him in a follow-up call on Jan. 11, 2017, according to Comey’s account. “There’s no way I would let people pee on each other around me. No way.” Later, the president asked what could be done to “lift the cloud” because it was so painful for first lady Melania Trump.
Then, on May 9, 2017, Trump fired Comey, leading to the Justice Department special counsel’s Russia investigation.
The discussions about the Steele dossier — which Comey recounts for the first time in his book — are among a number of explosive revelations in “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership,” a 304-page tell-all in which the former FBI director details his private interactions with Trump as well as his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
The Washington Post obtained a copy of the book before its scheduled release on Tuesday.
In his memoir, Comey paints a devastating portrait of a president who built “a cocoon of alternative reality that he was busily wrapping around all of us.” Comey describes Trump as a congenital liar and unethical leader, devoid of human emotion and driven by personal ego.

FBI Director James B. Comey appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3, 2017. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
Comey narrates in vivid detail, based on his contemporaneous notes, instances in which Trump violated the norms protecting the FBI’s independence in attempts to coerce Comey into being loyal to him — such as during a one-on-one dinner in the White House residence.
Interacting with Trump, Comey writes, gave him “flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”
The result, in Comey’s telling, is “the forest fire that is the Trump presidency.”
“What is happening now is not normal,” he writes. “It is not fake news. It is not okay.”
‘Surviving a bully’
Comey describes a Feb. 14, 2017, meeting in the Oval Office where Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to clear the room so he could bring up the FBI investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn directly with Comey — a key event in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of whether Trump sought to obstruct justice.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump said, according to Comey’s account of the meeting, some of which he first shared in Senate testimony last year. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Comey writes that he regrets not interrupting Trump to explain that his plea was wrong. He recalls later confronting Sessions, whom he describes as “both overwhelmed and overmatched by the job.”
“You can’t be kicked out of the room so he can talk to me alone,” Comey told Sessions, according to the book. “You have to be between me and the president.”
Comey also recounts new observations: “Sessions just cast his eyes down at the table, and they darted quickly back and forth, side to side. He said nothing. I read in his posture and face a message that he would not be able to help me.”

Then- FBI director James B. Comey appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3, 2017. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
A lifelong Republican until recently, Comey delivers an indirect but unmistakable rebuke of the GOP’s congressional leaders as well: “It is also wrong to stand idly by, or worse, to stay silent when you know better, while a president brazenly seeks to undermine public confidence in law enforcement institutions that were established to keep our leaders in check.”
Comey stops short of outlining a legal case against the president, explaining that because he does not know all the evidence he cannot determine whether Trump intended to obstruct justice by firing him and by asking him to back off the FBI’s investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“I have one perspective on the behavior I saw, which while disturbing and violating basic norms of ethical leadership, may fall short of being illegal,” he writes.
Still, the book is an indictment of Trump’s presidency as well as of his character. Each chapter can be interpreted as an elaborate trolling of Trump, starting with the title, “A Higher Loyalty,” a subtle reference to the loyalty pledge that Trump sought and did not receive from Comey.
Comey describes being bullied as a child growing up in Allendale, N.J. — taunted, body slammed into lockers and given “wedgies.” Bullies, he writes, “threaten the weak to feed some insecurity that rages inside them . . . Surviving a bully requires constant learning and adaptation. Which is why bullies are so powerful, because it’s so much easier to be a follower, to go with the crowd, to just blend in.”
Comey also ruminates on the psychology of liars in an apparent nod to the current occupant of the Oval Office.
“They lose the ability to distinguish between what’s true and what’s not,” Comey writes. “They surround themselves with other liars . . . Perks and access are given to those willing to lie and tolerate lies. This creates a culture, which becomes an entire way of life.”
The turmoil surrounding former FBI Director James Comey and President Trump started long before Comey was fired on May 9. (Jenny Starrs, Julio Negron/The Washington Post)
The turmoil surrounding former FBI Director James Comey and President Trump started long before Comey was fired on May 9. Here are the pivotal moments from Comey's time as head of the agency, including his private meetings with the president. (Jenny Starrs,Julio Negron/The Washington Post)
‘Trying to do the right thing’
Comey defends his handling of the Clinton email investigation and for the first time details a private assurance he received from President Obama following Clinton’s defeat. Many Democrats blame Comey for announcing less than two weeks before the election that the FBI was examining a new trove of Clinton emails for possible classified material.
Comey writes that Obama sat alone with him in the Oval Office in late November and told him, “I picked you to be FBI director because of your integrity and your ability. I want you to know that nothing — nothing — has happened in the last year to change my view.”
On the verge of tears, Comey told Obama, “Boy, were those words I needed to hear . . . I’m just trying to do the right thing.”
“I know,” Obama said. “I know.”
Comey also writes that in a post-election briefing for senators, then-Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) confronted him about “what you did to Hillary Clinton.” Comey responded, “I did my best with the facts before me.” A teary-eyed Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) grabbed him by the hand afterward and said, “I know you. You were in an impossible position,” Comey writes.
Clinton wrote in her campaign memoir, “What Happened,” that she felt “shivved” by Comey. Two days before the election, Comey announced that the FBI had reviewed the new emails and found nothing to change its view that Clinton should not be prosecuted. But in Clinton’s assessment, the damage already had been done.
Comey, who says his wife and daughters voted for Clinton, includes a message in his book to the would-be first female president: “I have read she has felt anger toward me personally, and I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry that I couldn’t do a better job explaining to her and her supporters why I made the decisions I made.”
Comey is critical of then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, saying she had a “tortured half-out, half-in approach” to the Clinton investigation and that he considered calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor.
One day shortly before the election, Lynch and Comey met privately. Comey writes that the attorney general wrapped her arms around him and implied that she thought he had done the right thing.
But as their meeting ended, Comey writes, “She said, with just the slightest hint of a smile, ‘Try to look beat up.’ She had told somebody she was going to chew me out for what I had done. What a world.”
‘I need loyalty’
The first time Comey met Trump was at the pre-inauguration intelligence briefing. Comey, who is 6’8” tall, writes that the 6’3” president-elect looked shorter than he did on television. “His face appeared slightly orange,” Comey writes, “with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coifed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his.”
“As he extended his hand,” Comey adds, “I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.”
Trump was accompanied at the Trump Tower session by his national security team, as well as by political aides Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, who were slated to become White House chief of staff and press secretary respectively. Trump asked only one question, Comey writes: “You found there was no impact on the result, right?”
James R. Clapper Jr., then the director of national intelligence, replied that the intelligence community did no such analysis.
Comey recalls being struck that neither Trump nor his advisers asked about the future Russian threat, nor how the United States might prepare to meet it. Rather, he writes, they focused on “how they could spin what we’d just told them.”
With Clapper and then-CIA Director John O. Brennan — both Obama appointees — still in the room, Priebus and other Trump aides strategized for political advantage, Comey writes. The Trump team decided they would emphasize that Russian interference had no impact on the vote — which, Clapper reminded them, the intelligence community had not determined.
When the meeting ended, Comey stayed behind with Trump to discuss the salacious dossier. The day before, as Clapper and Comey briefed Obama about Russian interference, the president asked who planned to tell Trump about the Moscow prostitute allegations. Clapper replied that Comey would.
Obama “turned his head to his left and looked directly at me,” Comey recalls. “He raised and lowered both of his eyebrows with emphasis, and then looked away . . . To my mind his Groucho Marx eyebrow raise was both subtle humor and an expression of concern. It was almost as if he were saying, ‘Good luck with that.’”
A week after the Trump Tower meeting, on Jan. 11, Comey writes that Trump called him and said he was concerned about the dossier being made public and was fixated on the prostitutes allegation. The president-elect argued that it could not be true because he had not stayed overnight in Moscow but had only used the hotel room to change his clothes. And after Trump explained that he would never allow people to urinate near him, Comey recalls laughing.
“I decided not to tell him that the activity alleged did not seem to require either an overnight stay or even being in proximity to the participants,” Comey writes. “In fact, though I didn’t know for sure, I imagined the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow was large enough for a germaphobe to be at a safe distance from the activity.”
After one week as president, Trump invited Comey to dinner. Comey describes the scene on Jan. 27: The table in the Green Room was set for two. The president marveled at the fancy handwriting on the four-course menu placards and seemed unaware of the term calligrapher. White House stewards served salad, shrimp scampi, chicken Parmesan with pasta and vanilla ice cream.
Comey writes that he believed Trump was trying “to establish a patronage relationship,” and that he said: “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.”
“I was determined not to give the president any hint of assent to this demand, so I gave silence instead,” Comey writes. “I stared at the soft white pouches under his expressionless blue eyes. I remember thinking in that moment that the president doesn’t understand the FBI’s role in American life.”
Trump broke the standoff by turning to other topics, Comey writes, speaking in torrents, “like an oral jigsaw puzzle,” about the size of his inauguration crowd, his free media coverage and the viciousness of the campaign. He talked about the Clinton email investigation as in three phases, as if it were a television series: “Comey One,” “Comey Two” and “Comey Three.” Trump also tried to convince Comey that he had not mocked disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski at a campaign rally, and then turned to the detailed allegations of sexual assault against him.
“There was no way he groped that lady sitting next to him on the airplane, he insisted,” Comey writes. “And the idea that he grabbed a porn star and offered her money to come to his room was preposterous.”
And then Trump brought up “the golden showers thing,” Comey writes. The president told him that “it bothered him if there was ‘even a one percent chance’ his wife, Melania, thought it was true.” Comey writes that Trump told him to consider having the FBI investigate the prostitutes allegation to “prove it was a lie.”
As the dinner concluded, Trump returned to the issue of loyalty.
“I need loyalty,” Trump tells Comey, according to the book.
“You will always get honesty from me,” Comey replies.
“That’s what I want, honest loyalty,” Trump said, reaching what Comey writes was “some sort of ‘deal’ in which we were both winners.”
President Trump on April 9 said he did “the right thing” when he fired James B. Comey as FBI director last year. (The Washington Post)
President Trump on April 9 said he did “the right thing” when he fired James B. Comey as FBI director last year. (The Washington Post)
‘Lift the cloud’
The two men were back together at the White House a couple weeks later. Comey had dropped by the chief of staff’s office to explain to Priebus — who he describes as “both confused and irritated” — the appropriate way for the White House to interact with the FBI. When they finished, Priebus asked if Comey wanted to say hello to Trump — an ironic gesture, Comey recalls, considering he was just explaining the importance of the bureau’s independence.
Comey demurred, but Priebus insisted and brought him to the Oval Office, where Trump was stationed behind the Resolute Desk. The president, Comey recalls, “launched into one of his rapid-fire, stream-of-consciousness monologues” — this time about a recent Super Bowl interview with then-Fox News Channel personality Bill O’Reilly in which Trump complimented Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.
“But he’s a killer,” O’Reilly told Trump.
The president’s reply: “There are a ton of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”
Trump fumed to Comey about the media criticism he received.
“I gave a good answer,” Trump said, according to Comey. “Really, it was a great answer. I gave a really great answer.”
Trump sought validation: “You think it was a great answer, right?”
Comey replied, “We aren’t the kind of killers that Putin is.”
Trump apparently did not take the correction well. Comey writes that the president’s eyes changed and his jaw tightened, and Priebus escorted him out.
The next month, Trump called Comey to complain about the Russia investigation as a “cloud” that was impairing his presidency and, again, brought up the Moscow prostitutes allegation.
“For about the fourth time, he argued that the golden showers thing wasn’t true, asking yet again, ‘Can you imagine me, hookers?’” Comey writes of their March 30, 2017, call. “In an apparent play for my sympathy, he added that he has a beautiful wife and the whole thing has been very painful for her. He asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud.’”
Comey recalls telling the president the FBI was investigating it as quickly as possible, and that he had told Congress Trump was not personally under investigation, to which the president repeatedly told him, “We need to get that fact out.”
Two weeks later, on April 11, Trump called Comey again to check on his request to “get out” that he is not under investigation, Comey writes.
“He seemed irritated with me,” Comey recalls.
“I have been very loyal to you, very loyal. We had that thing, you know,” Trump told him, according to the book, apparently referring to the loyalty dinner.
That was the last time the two men spoke. On May 9, as Comey was talking with FBI employees in the Los Angeles field office, he peered at a television screen and saw a news alert: “COMEY FIRED.”
Comey describes soon receiving an “emotional call” from Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly.
“He said he was sick about my firing and that he intended to quit in protest,” Comey writes. “He said he didn’t want to work for dishonorable people who would treat someone like me in such a manner. I urged Kelly not to do that, arguing that the country needed principled people around this president. Especially this president.”
Kelly did not resign. Two and a half months later, he was named White House chief of staff.

Busuiness Insider | Fintech and Payments Best Practices & Fintech and Payment Technology Research for Large & Small Business

businessinsider.com

Fintech and Payments Best Practices & Fintech and Payment Technology Research for Large & Small Business


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Associated Press (AP) | Behind-the scenes Animal Planets "The Zoo" on April 12, 2018.

Investopedia | 5 Reasons Why Bitcoin Is Still In a Bull Market on April 12, 2018.

investopedia.com

5 Reasons Why Bitcoin Is Still In a Bull Market

Caleb Silver

Long time bitcoin bull Thomas Lee has found a unique way to make his case in favor of the cryptocurrency even as wild price swings have investors on edge. He believes that despite the 70% selloff in the cryptocurrency since its 2017 highs, it is still in a bull market, and should reach $25,000 per bitcoin by the end of the year. That case centers heavily on the psychological state of millennials as it relates to trust in government and financial institutions, the growing size of the generation’s buying and investing power and the remarkable adoption of cryptocurrencies by younger generations across the world, especially in Asia.
Lee cut his teeth as an equity analyst covering the wireless industry in the late 1990s when not many people believed it would take over our lives the way it did. He went on to become JP Morgan’s Chief Equity Strategist from 2007 to 2014 and became a fixture on business news television, well known for his bullish calls on tech and the overall markets. He founded Fundstrat Global Advisors in 2016, and serves as its Head of Research.
Addressing the CMT Symposium, a gathering of market technicians and technical analysts, in New York City, Lee laid out his thesis, combining a mix of fundamental and technical analysis, demographical studies and futuristic projections to make his case.
Here are a few pillars on which his thesis rests:

Digital Economy Boom

We are living in an increasingly digital world, where technology is responsible for the lion’s share of economic growth over the past two decades. That will only increase going forward. Lee points out that the global economy was $60 trillion a decade ago. Now it is $80 trillion. 50% of that growth came from the digital economy. 70% of Gen X’ers and millennials use digital banking.

Trust is Declining

The digital boom has brought along security problems. Customer records for 2 billion people have been hacked between breaches at companies like Equifax, Target and Visa. Not only is it a question of trusting whether your data is safe with a company, Pew Research studies show that trust in government itself is at a 60-year low.
Cryptocurrencies address that problem of lack of trust. In fact, an interesting correlation that Lee points out is that other countries where trust in governments is low, is where bitcoin essentially is thriving.

The Millennial Market

Its not about just following the trend but there’s a wide range of factors that show that millennials as a demographic are primed for investing in crytpocurrencies:
  • Millennials are the largest generation in terms of overall births, in history: 95.8 million births.  They are well educated. 72% of millennials enrolled in college, and higher education leads to more income. It’s a fact.
  • Millennials and Gen X’rs are going to have a lot of money. Disposable income will grow at a 9.1% compound annual growth rate in the next decade, more than doubling from $3 trillion to $7.1 trillion. These generations, especially millennials, will be the biggest purchasers of big ticket items like houses, cars and computers.
  • They will need banking! Millennials will represent 72% of all financial services purchases over the next decade.
  • Millennials are eager to own cryptocurrencies, and Lee hypothesizes that they want to own it at the expense of bonds. According to a Harris survey, only 4% of millennials own crypto, but 30% say they prefer it to bonds.
  • And they have the tools to invest in crypto handy. Investing apps like Robinhood are gaining huge traction with their crypto offerings. The app has 4 million users, and 25% of them are investing in bitcoin and other cryptocurrency on it. Keep in mind, Robinhood launched its crypto investing platform just a year ago.

Old is Gold but New is Crypto

The Silent Generation bought gold, and it proved to be a reliable investment in turbulent times during the 20th century. It has not proved to be so, since. They are transferring those gold assets and investments down to their offspring, but it is not clear whether we will value Gold like our parents and grandparents did. Bitcoin’s survivability since 2008 has been remarkable, and the pickup by younger generations shows early signs that they prefer it, despite the fact that it is not a store of value. ( see also: Bitcoin or Gold? Depends on the State)

Geographic Diversity

Look to Asia.  A lot of technological revolutions come from the East. Look at video games, mobile and animation. In Japan, 14% of males own some form of crypto. In South Korea, 23% of its citizens are involved in crypto, in some form. In other geographies too, cryptocurrencies are gaining popularity.
Now, it hasn’t been easy investing in bitcoin, especially if you bought the hype in 2017. But, its important to know that bitcoin has seen bigger crashes than the one that has taken place over the past 4 months. At around $8,000 per bitcoin as of this writing, its right back where it was before its parabolic rise in the back half of 2017. Millions of accounts or digital wallets were opened, but most of them with less than $1000 in them. The big investors and the HODL’rs, who have been in the game for years, have done very nicely, by the way.
Still, Lee believes the price will triple by the end of 2018. In addition to the fundamental and sociological factors listed above, he points out that at around $8,000 per bitcoin, it is trading at 1x the cost to mine the token, or its book value, put another way. Given the way the world population will age and the massive transfer of wealth and spending power that will accompany it, Lee sees an undervalued asset that will recover from the bursting of the hype bubble this year, and beyond.
Caleb Silver, Editor-in-chief
Investing in cryptocurrencies and other Initial Coin Offerings ("ICOs") is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or other ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein. As of the date this article was written, the author owns bitcoin.

The Washington Post | Politics: FBI raid sought Trump lawyer’s communications with bank that loaned him money against his taxi business on April 12, 2018.

washingtonpost.com

FBI raid sought Trump lawyer’s communications with bank that loaned him money against his taxi business



President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen maintained a taxi business while working for the Trump Organization. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)
A federal investigation into what role President Trump’s personal attorney played in facilitating payments to two women who alleged affairs with Trump is also examining the lawyer’s interactions with a bank that gave him loans against his taxi business.
When they raided the office of Trump lawyer Michael D. Cohen on Monday, FBI agents sought his communications with New York-based Sterling National Bank about taxi medallions owned by Cohen, according to a person familiar with the search warrant.
The request indicates that prosecutors may have interest in specific financial transactions that Cohen undertook while using his taxi business as collateral.
The request for records about Cohen’s communications with Sterling provides a fuller picture of the federal investigation into the longtime Trump confidant. The probe appears focused in part on Cohen’s efforts tamp down negative stories about the real estate mogul as he ran for president, according to people familiar with the work of investigators.
People with knowledge of the inquiry have told The Washington Post that Cohen is under investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations.
[Trump attorney Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud, campaign finance violations]
Cohen has held taxi interests as a side business even as he worked as a top lawyer for Trump for the last decade. Public records show he took out a business loan from Sterling in late 2014 for an unspecified amount using three taxi companies as collateral. Cohen also obtained a $1.98 million real estate loan with his in-laws from the bank in 2015, records show.
Andy MacMillan, a spokesman for Sterling, declined to comment on Cohen, saying customer information is confidential. He said the bank cooperates with all proper government requests for information or documents.
Cohen did not respond to requests for comment. His attorney, Stephen Ryan, declined to comment. Earlier this week, Ryan called the raids “inappropriate and unnecessary” and complained that investigators seized privileged records.
The effort by investigators to obtain documents related to the bank and Cohen’s taxi business is the latest detail to emerge about the raid of Cohen’s office and residences Monday, which enraged Trump.
During their search, federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York also sought information related to Cohen’s October 2016 payment of $130,000 to an adult-film star who claims she had an affair with Trump. Cohen has said he used a home equity line of credit to make the payment and that Trump was not aware of it.
The search warrant also included requests for information on Cohen’s communications with Trump about “potential sources of negative publicity” before the 2016 election, including an “Access Hollywood” tape that captured Trump making vulgar comments about women, The Post has reported.
[Federal investigators sought Trump’s communications with his lawyer about ‘Access Hollywood’ tape]
The inquiry was opened by the Manhattan-based U.S. attorney’s office following a referral from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Though taxi medallions have declined dramatically in value with the proliferation of ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, they remain valuable assets that allow holders to operate a taxi. The medallions are also often used by their holders as collateral for loans. Industry analysts say the New York City medallions reached a peak value of about $1.2 million apiece in 2014 but are currently worth about $300,000 each.
Cohen started in the cab business in the 1990s while working as a personal injury lawyer, years before he joined the Trump Organization.
In an interview with The Post last year, Cohen said his clients at the time included many taxi cab companies and that he learned one client was selling his taxi business.
“He asked me if I wanted to buy it. So I took a shot and I knew his partner, because I represented him as well. That’s how I got into the taxi business,” Cohen said.
Cohen left the taxi business a decade ago to work for Trump, but he has maintained ownership of a few dozen taxi medallions in New York and Chicago, according to Cohen and public records. He owns his medallions through a series of companies with colorful names such as Sir Michael Hacking Corporation and Lady Laura Hacking Corporation, apparently named for his wife, public records show.
When he was in the taxi business full-time, Cohen worked with Simon Garber, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union who also operated a fleet of cabs in Moscow. (Cohen said he never worked with Garber in Russia.)
Cohen said his New York fleet also included medallions he purchased from his wife’s parents.
By 2003, when Cohen made an unsuccessful New York City Council bid, he owned a fleet of 200 taxis, he told a voter’s guide at the time.
Cohen told The Post last year that he sold the management of the fleet to Garber around that time, but he retained ownership of some medallions. Their relationship soured during a bitter contractual dispute.
By then, Cohen was working as an attorney at the Trump Organization and collecting income on a small number of medallions. He contracted with Evgeny “Gene” Friedman, another immigrant from the former Soviet Union known as the “Taxi King” of New York, to manage his fleet, according to people with knowledge of the taxi industry.
Friedman has struggled financially as the value of taxi medallions has plummeted in recent years. He declared bankruptcy on some of his medallions in 2016 and last year was charged by the New York state attorney general with theft related to allegedly failing to pay $5 million in taxes, according to public records. Friedman has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial June 18.
Friedman’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment. Another Friedman attorney has denied that he committed wrongdoing.
Records held by the New York Department of Taxation and Finance show that Cohen’s medallion companies currently owe more than $55,000 in taxes.
Alice Crites contributed to this report.

The White House | President Trump Gives Remarks on Tax Cuts for American Workers on April 12, 2018.

Business Insider | Fintech and Payments Best Practices & Fintech and Payment Technology Research for Large & Small Business on April 12, 2018.

businessinsider.com

Fintech and Payments Best Practices & Fintech and Payment Technology Research for Large & Small Business


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CNBC | Asia, Europe and U.S. Stock markets Report on April 12, 2018.

                                                                            ASIA
cnbc.com

Geopolitics, Syria, stocks and oil in focus

Cheang Ming



Asian stocks closed lower on Thursday as investor confidence seen earlier in the week wavered overnight amid geopolitical tensions.
The Nikkei 225 eased 0.12 percent, or 26.82 points, to close at 21,660.28. The broader Topix was lower by 0.39 percent as its automakers and oil sectors slid, while consumer goods stocks notched slight gains as investors digested earnings.
Over in South Korea, the Kospi gave up gains late in the session, slipping 0.06 percent to close at 2,442.71. Cosmetics plays sank, but oil-related stocks and most technology names advanced, with Samsung Electronics finishing the session up 0.29 percent.





NIKKEI NIKKEI 21660.28
-26.82 -0.12%
HSI HSI 30831.28
-66.43 -0.21%
ASX 200 S&P/ASX 200 5815.50
-13.20 -0.23%
SHANGHAI Shanghai 3180.20
-27.88 -0.87%
KOSPI KOSPI Index 2442.71
-1.51 -0.06%
CNBC 100 CNBC 100 ASIA IDX 8615.89
-43.23 -0.50%
Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 closed lower by 0.23 percent at 5,815.50 as gains in the materials and energy subindexes were offset by the move lower in industrials, among other sectors. The heavily weighted financials sector slipped 0.44 percent.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index pared early gains to edge down by 0.74 percent by 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN despite strength in the energy sector, which was buoyed by the advance in oil prices. Tech names were downbeat, with Tencent lower by 2.19 percent ahead of the market close.
Markets on the mainland, meanwhile, closed in negative territory. The Shanghai composite slipped 0.87 percent to end at 3,180.20 and the Shenzhen composite finished the day lower by 0.58 percent at 1,840.27.
MSCI's broad index of shares in Asia Pacific excluding Japan declined, last trading lower by 0.54 percent.

Geopolitical jitters 

The cautious moves in the region on Thursday tracked the weaker lead on Wall Street following a tweet from President Donald Trump taunting Russia about a possible missile strike on Syria.
Trump's tweet that Russia should "get ready" for a potential strike on Syria came after a likely chemical weapons attack over the weekend on a rebel-held town in the eastern Ghouta region of Syria.
"The missile tweet was sufficient to frighten the horses to some extent, dampening risk sentiment," David de Garis, director of economics at National Australia Bank, said in a note.
The newfound focus on geopolitics took the focus off a trade spat between the U.S. and China.
Asian markets had bounced earlier in the week after remarks from Chinese President Xi Jinping promising some steps to further open up China's economy. That confidence wavered in the last session as investors awaited signals that Xi's comments would translate into action.
Investors also digested the release of minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's March meeting, which reflected that "all" policymakers expected the U.S. economy to continue growing and for inflation to rise. Those views strengthened the belief that more interest rate hikes lay ahead.
Gold prices, which initially rose on the back of heightened political risk in the Middle East in the last session, gave up some gains following the release of minutes from the Fed.
In currencies, the dollar pared some losses after coming under pressure against the safe-haven Japanese currency amid the pick up in geopolitical risk overnight. Against the yen, the dollar traded at 106.83 by 2:45 p.m. HK/SIN.
The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against six rival currencies, was mostly flat at 89.532.
Of note, the Hong Kong dollar touched a 33-year low earlier on Thursday, touching the low end of its trading band between 7.75 and 7.85 per dollar. The currency, which is pegged to the greenback, last traded at 7.8498 to the dollar.
Oil prices extended gains after surging in the last session as markets focused on geopolitical risk. U.S. West Texas Intermediate was higher by 0.52 percent at $67.17 per barrel and Brent crude futures shed edged up 0.32 percent to trade at $72.29.
Global benchmark Brent touched its highest levels in more than three years in the last session following Trump's tweet on Wednesday.
In economic news, the Bank of Korea kept interest rates steady at 1.5 percent on Thursday, a move that was largely expected by the market.
Meanwhile, in individual movers, Japanese retailer Aeon jumped 4.06 percent after the company announced that annual profit rose 14 percent compared to one year ago.

                                                                           EUROPE 

cnbc.com

European markets higher after mixed morning; Playtech shares up 6%

Justina Crabtree, Sam Meredith

European markets closed provisionally higher on Thursday afternoon as President Donald Trump clarified his position on Syria and earnings season kicked off.






FTSE FTSE 7258.34
1.20 0.02% 662481946
DAX DAX 12415.01
121.04 0.98% 84591272
CAC CAC 5309.22
31.28 0.59% 84736127
IBEX 35 --- --- --- --- --- ---
The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally 0.7 percent higher on Thursday after a morning of mixed trade. All major bourses and most sectors were in positive territory.
Technology surged ahead in afternoon trade, 1.2 percent to the upside. British software firm Micro Focus led the sector and was trading second on the Stoxx 600, 6 percent higher.
Banks and insurance stocks were also both over 1 percent higher in the afternoon.
Oil and gas stocks were over 0.5 percent higher in afternoon deals, telling a similar story to the morning's trade amid elevated Middle East tensions. London-based offshore contractor Subsea 7 was the top performer in the sector after RBC Capital Markets upgraded its stock recommendation to "perform" from "underperform." Its shares were over 3.8 percent higher on the news.
Basic resources stocks were close to the flatline, having pared back the morning's losses. Imerys was the worst performer in the sector after its U.S. unit, Imerys America Talc, and Johnson & Johnson were ordered to pay $117 million in damages by a New Jersey state court on Wednesday. The jury ordered the companies to pay punitive damages to a man who said he had developed cancer due to his exposure to asbestos in talc-based products. Shares of Imerys were down 4.7 percent by mid-afternoon.
The food and beverages sector was the poorest performer, down over 0.3 percent. Heineken Holding fared the worst, down over 1.4 percent.
British hedge Fund Man Group topped the European benchmark, trading 7.8 percent higher on earnings news. The world's largest listed hedge fund said that net inflows of $4.8 billion in the first quarter of this year contributed to funds under management rising 3 percent in the same time period, although there were performance losses.
Carrefour slumped towards the bottom of the European benchmark after the French food retailer reported weaker-than-anticipated figures for the first quarter. Its shares were off almost over 3 percent, though they had hit their lowest level since October 2012 earlier in the day, after the company cited a slowdown in sales during the first three months of 2018.
British gambling technology firm Playtech announced Thursday it had agreed to buy a 70.6 percent stake in Italian betting and gaming firm Snaitech for 846 million euros ($1.05 billion), Reuters reported. The move was thought to source a large chunk of Playtech's revenue from regulated markets. Shares of the London-listed stock were more than 6 percent higher on the news.

U.S. stocks up sharply

Stateside, stocks rose sharply on Thursday after President Donald Trump clarified his position on a possible missile attack in Syria. Companies also began reporting first quarter earnings.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 300 points, with IBM leading the index higher. The S&P 500 rose 0.7 percent as financials gained 1.3 percent. The Nasdaq composite advanced 0.8 percent.
Oil prices slipped from three-year highs but continued to be supported by heightened geopolitical tension in the Middle East. Brent crude futures traded at $71.96, down 0.1 percent on Thursday morning. Meanwhile, WTI was flat at $66.78 — a price last hit in December 2014.

                                                                          U.S. 
 
cnbc.com

Stocks jump after Trump says Syria attack may not be imminent

Fred Imbert, Alexandra Gibbs

Stocks rose sharply on Thursday after President Donald Trump clarified his position on a possible missile attack in Syria, while the latest earnings season kicked off.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 361 points, with Intel leading the index higher. The S&P 500 rose 1.1 percent as financials gained 2 percent. The Nasdaq composite advanced 1.2 percent.
Tech stocks helped the indexes rise, as Amazon, Apple and Netflix all traded higher. Banks shares gained as well, with J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs all climbing more than 2 percent.
In a tweet, Trump said: "Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our 'Thank you America?'"

"That's giving a boost to stocks, but the market is still gripped with uncertainty," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities. "Until that's gone, the market will stay in this volatile range."
Crude and gold futures retreated following Trump's tweet.
Frank Babino, a trader with Knight Capital Americas LP, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011. Jin Lee | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Frank Babino, a trader with Knight Capital Americas LP, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011.
Stocks also added to their gains after Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, said Trump told lawmakers that a deal on NAFTA was close. Trump himself later said a deal was "pretty close."
The moves Thursday comes after a down session for Wall Street on Wednesday. The Dow dropped more than 200 points after Trump taunted Russia with the threat of imminent military action in Syria.
Trump appeared to criticize the Kremlin, for the country's support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, after a suspected chemical attack occurred in Syria over the weekend.

Stocks rebounded Thursday as the latest corporate earnings season began. Before the bell, BlackRock posted earnings per share and revenue that surpassed analyst expectations. The asset manager's stock rose 2.8 percent.
Delta Air Lines reported quarterly earnings that beat estimates, despite rising costs. The company's stock rose 2.3 percent.
Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo are among the companies scheduled to report Friday morning.
"The risk of earnings disappointing have increased," said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors. "This quarter, we've seen expectations for earnings go up. If we don't meet them, that could be at risk."
Investors have high expectations for this earnings season. According to FactSet, S&P 500 earnings are forecast to have grown by 17.1 percent last quarter. That would be the biggest quarterly earnings growth since the first quarter of 2011, when they rose 19.5 percent.
Dubravko Lakos-Bujas, head of U.S. equity strategy at J.P. Morgan, said in a note Thursday that earnings growth for the quarter could surpass expectations.
"In our view, there is still room for estimates to move higher given second order tax reform benefits are difficult to model (i.e., the impact of dynamic scoring, rising disposable income, lower utility bills, higher business investment, etc) and more likely to be reported than projected in advance by the Street and corporates," Lakos-Bujas said.
In economic news, weekly jobless claims fell by 9,000 last week to 233,000. Import prices, meanwhile, remained unchanged in March.
Correction: Peter Cardillo is chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities. A previous version of this story misstated the firm's name.

GATA | THE GATA DISPATCH | Craig Hemke: A lesson in suppression on April 12, 2018.

Craig Hemke: A lesson in suppression

Submitted by cpowell on 03:51PM ET Thursday, April 12, 2018. Section: Daily Dispatches 11:50p ET Thursday, April 12, 2018
Dear Friend of GATA and Gold:
A hundred tonnes of paper gold were dumped on the futures market yesterday to control the monetary metal's price amid war tension, the TF Metals Report's Craig Hemke writes today.
Hemke writes: "Do you really think that some mining CEOs had left standing orders with the bullion banks to immediately sell forward a year's worth of production on any sudden, war-related spike in price? Give me a break! But this is what the apologists and shills want you to believe."
Hemke's analysis is headlined "A Lesson in Suppression" and it's posted at the TF Metals Report here:
https://www.tfmetalsreport.com/blog/8941/lesson-suppression
CHRIS POWELL, Secretary/Treasurer
Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee Inc.
CPowell@GATA.org

Financial Times (FT) | World: Mark zuckerberg says own data were sold - April 12, 2018.

RT | UN Security Council Dicusses Syria crisis on April 12, 2018.

FTC addresses Uber’s undisclosed data breach in new proposed order on April 12, 2018.

 

FTC addresses Uber’s undisclosed data breach in new proposed order

Lesley FairApr 12, 2018

In its August 2017 proposed consent agreement with Uber, the FTC alleged, among other things, that the company’s unreasonable security practices resulted in a May 2014 data breach. But there’s more to the story now. According to the FTC, Uber experienced another breach in the fall of 2016 – right in the middle of the FTC’s nonpublic investigation – but didn’t disclose it to the FTC until November 2017. To address that issue, the FTC has withdrawn from its original settlement with Uber and announced a new proposed settlement. It’s the story behind that story that your company will want to know about.
In addition to a count about deceptive assurances Uber made to consumers in response to reports that employees were accessing riders’ personal information, the FTC’s August 2017 complaint included a second count related to security lapses in Uber’s use of a third-party cloud storage service. Despite the company’s expansive security claims, the FTC charged that a series of Uber decisions and omissions – when taken together – resulted in unreasonable security for personal data Uber stored on that service.
Among the lapses the FTC challenged, one proved particularly damaging: Uber’s policy of allowing its staff to use a single access key that provided full admin privileges over the sensitive data Uber stored in clear, unencrypted text on that cloud service. Why was that decision so fateful? Because when an Uber engineer publicly posted an access key on GitHub, a code-sharing site popular with software developers, an intruder used that all-access backstage pass to grab personal data about more than 100,000 people.
That May 2014 breach was cited in the FTC’s original action against Uber. However, Uber experienced another breach in the fall of 2016 also stemming from lax security choices Uber made in its use of the third-party cloud storage service. Once again, intruders used an access key that an Uber engineer had posted on GitHub. This time, the key was posted to a private GitHub repository. However, Uber let its engineers access the company’s GitHub repositories through engineers’ individual accounts, which were generally tied to personal email addresses. Uber didn’t prohibit its engineers from reusing credentials and didn’t require them to enable multi-factor authentication when accessing the company’s GitHub repositories. The intruders said they got access by using passwords that were exposed in other big data breaches. In a one-month period, intruders used that plain-text access key to download 25.6 million names and email addresses, 22.1 million names and mobile phone numbers, and 607,000 names and driver’s license numbers of U.S. Uber riders and drivers.
Uber learned of the breach on November 14, 2016, when an attacker contacted the company, demanding a six-figure payout. Uber paid $100,000 through the third party that administers Uber’s “bug bounty” program. Many companies have bug bounty programs to offer rewards for the responsible disclosure of serious security vulnerabilities. But unlike a legitimate bug bounty, this was an Uber pay-out to the same attackers who maliciously exploited the vulnerability to steal personal information about millions of people.
Uber failed to disclose the breach to affected consumers until November 21, 2017, more than a year after the company learned about it. Furthermore, the fall 2016 breach occurred while Uber was in discussions with the FTC about its investigation of the May 2014 breach, which also related to the company’s practices for securing consumer data stored on the third-party cloud service. Despite the pendency of that probe, Uber didn’t tell the FTC about the second breach until November 2017.
What’s the upshot of this revelation? When the FTC announces an administrative settlement, the proposed consent agreement is put on the record for 30 days for public comment. After considering the comments, the FTC either accepts the order as final or doesn’t. In this instance, the FTC has withdrawn its proposed settlement with Uber and is entering into a new agreement that also will be on the record for 30 days for public comment beginning today through May 14, 2018. The FTC will then decide whether it should withdraw from the new agreement or accept it as final.
What’s different about the new proposed complaint and order? The complaint includes an additional section describing the allegations related to the fall 2016 data breach. The proposed order features a number of additional provisions designed to address what happened in this case and protect consumers in the future. You’ll want to read the order for the specifics, but here are some ways that it’s notably broader.
The order proposed in August 2017 would have required Uber to implement a comprehensive privacy program. The new order requires the program also to address: 1) secure software design, development, and testing, including access key management and secure cloud storage; 2) how Uber reviews and responds to third-party security vulnerability reports, including its bug bounty program; and 3) prevention, detection, and response to attacks, intrusions, or systems failures. Under a new provision, Uber will have to submit a report to the FTC about any episode where the company has to notify any U.S. federal, state, or local government entity about the unauthorized access of any consumer’s information. And the reporting and recordkeeping provisions have been expanded to keep a closer eye on what Uber is up to, including the operation of its bug bounty program and communications with other law enforcers.