Iran Threatens To Abandon Nuclear Deal If Western Banks Don’t Start Doing Business

Iran says it will withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal if big banks continue to avoid doing business with the Islamic republic, deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi said on Thursday, speaking from London. 

The Islamic Republic agreed to restrict its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of crippling sanctions by the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. 

Following the deal, however, major banks have continued to avoid doing business with Iran for fear of violating remaining U.S. sanctions – which Iran says has hampered their efforts to rebuild foreign trade and attract investment.

Most of it is because of this atmosphere of uncertainty which President Trump has created around JCPOA, which prevents all big companies and banks to work with Iran, it’s a fact, and it’s a violation lead by the United States. –Abbas Araghchi

Compounding Iran’s woes are comments from President Trump, who told Europeans on January 12 that they must “fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal” or he would re-impose the sanctions lifted by the Obama administration as part of the pact. Trump set a May 12 deadline to review fresh “waivers” on U.S. sanctions. 

The May 12 deadline represents an opportunity for Trump to pull the U.S. out of another international deal. He has already abandoned the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade deal. He wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, a 24-year-old trade pact with Canada and Mexico. USA Today

Trump sees three major defects in the deal; its failure to address Iran’s ballistic missile program, the terms by which inspectors are allowed to visit suspected Iranian nuclear enrichment sites, and “sunset” clauses on Iran’s nuclear program which expire after 10 years. 

Araghchi contends that Trump’s interpretation of the sunset clause is incorrect, and that Trump’s continued trash-talking is in violation of the deal itself;

“There is no sunset clause in the JCPOA. Although the U.S. administration and Trump are talking about sunset clause and that JCPOA is just for 10 years, that is not true,” he said.

You know, every time President Trump makes a public statement against JCPOA saying it’s a bad deal, it’s the worst deal ever, I am going to fix it, I am going to change it, all these statements, public statements are a violation of the deal. Violation of the letter of the deal, not a sprit, the letter. If you just see paragraph 28 it clearly says that all JCPOA participants should refrain from anything which undermines successful implementation of JCPOA, including in their public statements of silly officials.

The foreign minister said that if Iran does not receive the deal’s much touted economic benefits soon, it will likely pull out of the deal before the May 12 deadline. 

“If the same policy of confusion and uncertainties about the (deal) continues, if companies and banks are not working with Iran, we cannot remain in a deal that has no benefit for us,” Araqchi told an audience at the London-based think tank Chatham House. “That’s a fact.”

What of the nuclear program?

When asked what Iran would do if the nuclear deal is scuttled, Araghchi replied:

Well if there is no deal anymore obviously there is no restrictions in our nuclear program anymore,” adding “Iran would still be a member of NPT (non-proliferation treaty) still committed to its obligations and still, you know, obliged not to go for nuclear weapons, this is our policy. And in that sense there is no sense of clause in the JCPOA, it’s like actually perception that Americans are spreading on others but this is absolutely wrong. Iran’s commitment not to ever seek or acquire or produce nuclear weapons is permanent.”

“I don’t think to add a new crisis over the non, over the proliferation of nuclear weapons would be beneficial for anybody, in the region and outside the region.”

 

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How Armed Teachers At Schools Could Work

Via Valuewalk.com,

Permitting a small percentage of school teachers with concealed carry weapon [CCW] permits to continue to carry concealed handguns and/or concealed non-lethal defensive sprays such as Mace, OC, CS, etc. at school might be worth at least trying out as a means of reducing school shooting tragedies, especially since other popular proposals may not be effective and/or garner enough support for adoption, suggests public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who offers some suggestions for effectuating such policies.

For example, he says, it should not be necessary for a large percentage of the teachers to participate, and especially not to require any who are not willing to assume the responsibility to do so, if the identity of the small percentage of teachers who regularly carry concealed weapons is kept secret.

If teachers carry weapons openly, or if students are allowed to know which teachers carry concealed weapons, any current or former student planning a shooting rampage might be able to target, work around, or neutralize (e.g., use a chain to lock them in a classrooms) those teachers known to be armed.

But if students are simply warned – with appropriate signs or otherwise – that some teachers carry concealed weapons, but are not sure which ones or how many there are, a potential shooter would face a significant risk of having his plans thwarted, and not be able to take any effective countermeasures.

Many proponents of arming teachers have suggested that the major impact of such plans would come from armed teachers actually stopping an attack which is already underway by shooting the offender. But, suggests Banzhaf, allowing a small unidentified minority of willing teachers to carry concealed weapons might provide sufficient deterrence that many shootings would be prevented, rather than simply ended more quickly once they begin.

Indeed, Banzhaf suggests that while many potential school shooters may be prepared die “heroically” at the hands of police, potential shooters may see little glory or honor in being shot down by old Mrs. Grundy who teaches 9th grade History, or by one of the other teachers.

To minimize risks to all concerned, teachers armed with concealed handgun probably should be required to use bullets – such as the Glaser round – which cannot ricochet, and which are very unlikely to penetrate walls. This will go a long way towards eliminating possible harm to innocent bystanders.

To provide even further safety, teachers probably should be required not only to pass whatever tests are required generally to obtain a CCW permit, but also whatever specialized training, review, and practice the school feels is necessary and appropriate to have a gun on school grounds, and to be prepared to use it responsible if there is an active shooter.

If there are a large number of teachers unable or unwilling to take on this added responsibility by carrying a concealed handgun – in a manner very similar to commercial airplane pilots whose primarily responsibility is flying an airplane, not protecting against terrorists – a school may wish to permit if not encourage some teachers to carry concealed defensive spray (Mace-like) products.

This alternative may well appeal to some who are opposed to the use of lethal force, would never want the awesome responsibility of taking a life (even of a shooter), are afraid that a gun could be taken from them and used to kill them or other innocents, or have similar concerns.

Defensive irritant sprays are generally regarded as non-lethal, and any person – including the teacher discharging the spray, or a nearby student who might be affected – will be at most briefly sickened, but will almost certainly survive without any lasting injuries.

While most would agree that even a small, light, and easily concealed handgun is many times more likely to stop a student shooter, a highly irritating chemical able to stop a grizzly and capable of being sprayed 20 or more feet is far more effective than attacking an armed shooter with chairs, backpacks, or even computer cables as some have suggested.

Another major advantage of defensive sprays over handguns is that they are much smaller, lighter, and easier to carry on a daily basis to one’s teaching position, thereby encouraging teachers to get into the habit of doing so. Even small handguns are heavier and are often harder to conceal, especially when wearing certain dresses or other form fitting clothing.

Banzhaf suggests that this proposal could provide a compromise that many sides in the current controversy might be willing to try. It is obviously less extreme than arming all or even most of the teachers, or having a significant number walking around with visible guns.

The latter would likely be distracting to most students, be seen as inappropriate and as sending the wrong message by many, and objectionable on many other grounds. But permitting those teachers who already have permits, and who therefore are likely to carry weapons at many other times, to do so also at school seems less offensive, and is almost certainly more effective than doing nothing and/or adopting some of the other proposed methods of deterring school shootings.

Stationing a armed guard at entrances to schools would be very expensive. Moreover, a determined student killer could then simply shoot the guard first, and then continue his murderous rampage secure in the knowledge that he will enjoy a gun-free target-rich environment.

While some other prophylactic proposals – e.g., further restrictions on gun sales, and/or improvements in the background-checking process – may yield a small amount of additional reduction in school shootings, the effect may be limited because at least some school shooters are able to acquire their weapons legally, and might well be able to do so even if some current proposals are adopted.

Moreover, the Supreme Court has ruled that the right to own and carry a firearm is entitled to some measure of constitutional protection so that – for example – trying to prevent 18-20 year old adults from purchasing firearms might face constitutional objections, and well as raise public policy concerns for some.

Likewise, says Banzhaf, simply trying to identify all teens who have a mental illness or defect which might become serious enough to lead them to shoot others might itself not be feasible, much less providing sufficient treatment, supervision, etc. to insure that it will not occur. After all, he notes, authorities cannot reliably identify teens who are members of criminal gangs which kill people, much less single out lonely teens who just might do so in the future.

Certainly, argues Banzhaf, no single prophylactic plan or proposal will be itself end the apparently-growing problem of school shootings, but it certainly makes sense to at least consider those which are in the nature of a compromise between major factions, and therefore have a chance of being adopted.

via Zero Hedge http://ift.tt/2GGcjLs Tyler Durden

Berkshire Owns $100 Billion In T-Bills: More Than China And The UK

A few months ago, we pointed out that Warren Buffett, the so-called “Oracle of Omaha” said during the 100-year anniversary celebration of Forbes magazine that the “Dow will be over a million” over the next 100 years and “that is not a ridiculous forecast”.

Of course, the second part of that statement was promptly ignored by the financial media, which churned out “shock and awe” headlines like “Warren Buffett Says The Dow Is Going Over One Million.”

Without context, this might appear to be an incredibly bullish call. But Dow one million 100 years from now would actually represent a deceleration in the Dow’s CAGR to 3.9% pre-tax, or closer to just 3% post-tax returns per year (assuming tax rates don’t trend toward 100% during the intervening period). A more optimistic prediction (at least based on past performance) would be for the Dow to hit 140,000,000 in 100 years.

DJIA

Well, we received another update on Buffett’s long-term thinking on Friday when the Wall Street Journal reported that Berkshire Hathaway is holding more than $100 billion in cash or cash-equivalents – i.e. Treasury bills – on its balance sheet.

The company is doing this at great expense to shareholders (referring to the opportunity cost that comes with avoiding higher-yielding assets) and Buffett – who is expected to release his widely read annual shareholder letter this weekend – has vowed to find a better place to park this cash. Because of this conservatism, Berkshire is now one of the largest holders of Treasury debt.

However, Buffett has been promising to find a home for the cash for a few years now – which makes one wonder whether this is part of a deliberate strategy…

Berkshire has used its mounting cash pile to become one of the world’s largest owners of U.S. Treasury bills after struggling to find big companies to buy in recent years.

It held $109 billion in cash as of Sept. 30, up from $86 billion at the end of 2016 and more than double what it had at the end of 2006. Nearly all of that was invested in short-term bills, according to Mr. Buffett.

Berkshire has an outsize presence in the $2 trillion market for Treasury bills, a type of government debt that matures in a year or less. It held more bills around the end of the third quarter than large countries such as China and the U.K. It also had more at that time than the $13.5 billion held collectively by a group of 23 primary bond dealers that are obligated to underwrite U.S. government debt sales.

Berkshire’s holdings are big enough that when bond dealers need bills for a specific date, they will come to Berkshire and arrange a trade, Mr. Buffett said.

“We’re the ones they call. We’ve got the best inventory,” Mr. Buffett said in a 2017 interview with The Wall Street Journal. “That’s a new sideline for us here.”

“There’s no way I can come back here three years from now and tell you that we hold $150 billion or so in cash or more, and we think we’re doing something brilliant by doing it,” he said at Berkshire’s annual meeting last May. “I would say that history is on our side, but it would be more fun if the phone would ring.”

Berkshire’s cash holdings swelled by $3.3 billion last week when Phillips 66 bought back 35 million shares.

This massive inventory of T-Bills, which is a sizable portion of all outstanding short-dated debt, may be causing some of the recently noted distortions in the bond market, where short-term funding costs have risen rapidly in the form of the Libor-OIS spread, which has jumped to the highest level in over a year.

Buffett has famously resisted handing out dividends to investors – but has said Berkshire would begin buying back stock if shares ever fall below 120% of book value. Both classes of Berkshire stock were trading at 165% on Thursday. 

“He’s aware that [Berkshire’s cash] is not earning a high rate of return for shareholders,” said David Kass, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and a Berkshire shareholder. “Paying out a special cash dividend, a one-time dividend at the discretion of management, makes some sense.”

Berkshire earns revenue from holding and trading its Treasury bills, but the profit is minimal relative to its overall business operations. Berkshire’s head trader, Mark Millard, opted not to speak with WSJ.

Buffett

WSJ also pointed out that other corporations with large cash piles prefer to hold higher-yielding assets like corporate bonds. But Buffett prefers to hold Treasury bills because they offer more liquidity during a downturn. Berkshire typically buys about $4 billion in Treasury bills every Monday at government auctions, or less than 4% of what the Treasury is selling, Mr. Buffett said on CNBC in January. He joked: “We’re very careful about how many we bid for.”

Buffett’s probity famously allowed Berkshire to throw a life line (and secure desperation deals that proved to be extremely lucrative over the following years) to Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and General Electric.

But with so much cash on hand, Buffett would have wide latitude to take advantage of the next downturn, potentially positioning Berkshire – which hasn’t bought a company since 2015 when it closed on Precision Castparts, its largest deal ever – to buy whatever’s on its wish list at a substantial discount.

Could this really be Buffett hinting that, though he feels compelled to maintain his optimistic rhetoric in public, he’s in reality bracing for the next crash?

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How China Could Freeze The US Military

Authored by Nick Giambruno via InternationalMan.com,

Last April, President Trump launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Syria.

He was responding to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government.

It was Trump’s most dramatic military move since he became president. It was also the United States’ first deliberate attack on the Syrian government.

At the exact moment he ordered the strike, Trump was also hosting China’s president, Xi Jinping, for dinner at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida resort. Xi’s wife was also there.

Trump said:

I was sitting at the table. We had finished dinner. We are now having dessert. And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you have ever seen. And President Xi was enjoying it. And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded. What do you do? And we made a determination to do it. So the missiles were on the way. And I said: ‘Mr. President, let me explain something to you… we’ve just launched 59 missiles… heading toward Syria and I want you to know that.’

When asked how President Xi responded, Trump claimed: “He paused for 10 seconds and then he asked the interpreter to please say it again.”

The timing of the attack was meant to intimidate Xi and send China a message.

You see, China and Syria are allies. The Chinese give Assad’s government diplomatic, military, and economic support. China has also used its veto power at the UN several times to support Syria.

Essentially, Trump invited President Xi and his wife to his home for dinner. Then, over cake, he bombed one of Xi’s friends.

Trump hoped his hardball diplomacy would encourage China to tighten the screws on North Korea. He also wanted China to make changes in other areas like trade. He explicitly told Xi as much.

However, on closer look, Trump’s Syrian fireworks show was nothing but a hollow gesture. That’s because, without China, Trump would have no missiles to launch at anyone.

The guidance systems on the Tomahawk cruise missiles Trump launched at Syria depend on special materials that China has a near monopoly on producing. Surely, Xi knew this. Though Trump probably didn’t at the time.

And it’s not just the missiles…

If China decided to cut off these special materials, the entire US military would cease to function in short order.

Not surprisingly, Trump’s display of machismo did not impress the Chinese. Nor did it make them change their approach to North Korea.

A few months later, North Korea tested both an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the continental US and a thermonuclear weapon for the first time. Both might’ve been prevented if China had pushed harder to reign in North Korea.

So eventually—and likely soon—the US government will try to force China’s hand through trade and economic means.

Trump already threatened to cut off trade with any country that does business with North Korea. He was talking about China.

And Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury threatened to kick China out of the US dollar if it doesn’t crack down on North Korea. That would be akin to dropping a financial nuclear bomb on Beijing.

Sure, these seem like exaggerated threats. But it shows Trump’s frustration. It also means trade penalties against China could be imminent.

I think a full-blown trade war is coming soon.

But China has a big card to play. It could restrict access to that special material I just mentioned—the material used to make advanced electronic components, like the Tomahawk cruise missile guidance system.

China has used this strategy before. About six years ago, it restricted exports during a spat with Japan. The supply crunch caused a veritable mania in the special material’s industry.

Almost overnight, the price of this special material went up over 10 times.

Companies in the industry went up many times higher.

That’s why you should position yourself now.

The US and China are in the early stages of a trade war. It’s only a matter of time before it escalates. That will probably happen soon. The perilous situation with North Korea guarantees it.

The next time China restricts access to this special material, I think the industry will explode… just like it did the last time.

Even a whiff of the possibility that China could restrict supplies again would send these stocks soaring.

*  *  *

The Chinese control around 90% of this special material’s supply. But there’s one tiny company outside of China that could see huge gains if the trade war with the US materializes. The Casey Research team just released a brand-new video presentation with the urgent details. Click here to watch it now.

 

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“Shocked And Outraged”: Four Broward Deputies Waited Outside School As Children Were Massacred

Coral Springs police officers were “stunned and upset” to learn that four Broward County Sheriff’s Deputies were stationed outside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and had not entered to face an active shooter, sources with the Coral Springs, FL police department told CNN.

Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi

As the details behind the Police response to the Valentines Day massacre emerge, it appears that the Coral Springs Police department – which sent 130 officers to the scene – put their lives on the line while Broward County officers simply waited for backup as the scene unfolded, in what some Coral Springs officials perceived to be a derilection of duty. 

Some Coral Springs police were stunned and upset that the four original Broward County Sheriff’s deputies who were first on the scene did not appear to join them as they entered the school, Coral Springs sources tell CNN. It’s unclear whether the shooter was still in the building when they arrived.

The four Broward Sheriff’s deputies, including fired High School Resource Officer Scot Peterson, had their pistols drawn from behind the safety of their vehicles, and “not one of them had gone into the school,” according to shocked Coral Springs police. 

The Coral Springs officers, meanwhile, entered the building soon after they arrived on scene to confront the shooter, while the four Broward County Sheriff’s deputies remained outside until two more officers arrived on scene along with an officer from neighboring Sunrise city.  

What these Coral Springs officers observed — though not their feelings about it — will be released in a report, likely next week. Sources cautioned that tapes are currently being reviewed and official accounts could ultimately differ from recollections of officers on the scene.

According to the Coral Springs Chief of Police, Anthony Pustizzi, roughly 40 of the 130 officers rushed into the building after the initial officers responded, where they carried 23 victims were carried out to medics, 20 of whom survived. 

Two days after the shooting, Putstizzi sent an internal email to his officers obtained by CNN which reads “I understand that another agency has given the impression that it had provided the majority of the rescue efforts, and that the tremendous work of the Coral Springs Police and Fire Departments has not been recognized. Please know that this issue will be addressed, and the truth will come out in time.”

The resentment among Coral Springs officials toward Broward County officials about what they perceived to be a dereliction of duty may have reached a boiling point at a vigil the night of February 15, where, in front of dozens of others, Coral Springs City Manager Mike Goodrum confronted Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.

Meanwhile, the Coral Springs Sheriff has publicly commented on the shooting. “I’ve been a police officer for 30 years,” Pustizzi said at a press conference. “You know, humans aren’t meant to see this kind of tragedy, but the officers that went in there, the dispatchers that heard it, the firemen that treated the people — you know, there’s obviously a lot of support that needs to be given to them, as well.”

“I’m thinking, you know, this is a real one. You train for this day. You hope it never happens, but you only have one way and that’s straight in, and you hope that a bullet doesn’t find you, as well, but that’s a possibility,” said Pustizzi. 

 

Meanwhile, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel gave a heartfelt press conference yesterday in which he condemned the one fired resource officer caught on camera waiting outside the high school, Scot Peterson. 

Speaking at a press conference, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said the on duty officer at Stoneman “never went in.” Israel said he was “devastated” after watching the video showing the deputy taking a position outside the Western side of Building 12 while shots rang out, “and he never went in” despite having a clear view of the entrance.

“I think he remained outside upwards of four minutes,” Israel said.

“What I saw was a deputy arrive … take up a position and he never went in,” Israel said adding Peterson should have “went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.” Peterson was suspended without pay, after which he resigned.

County Superintendent Robert Runcie said, “I’m in shock and I’m outraged to no end that he could have made a difference in all this. It’s really disturbing that we had a law enforcement individual there specifically for this reason, and he did not engage. He did not do his job. It’s one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever heard.”

* * *

Speaking at CPAC, President Trump called the sheriff’s deputy a “coward” for not going in and facing the active shooter. 

“But he certainly did a poor job. There’s no question about that. He was there for five minutes, for five minutes. That was during the entire shooting. He heard it right from the beginning. So he certainly did a poor job. But that’s a case where somebody was outside, they’re trained, they didn’t act properly or under pressure or they were a coward. It was a real shock to the police department.”

Meanwhile, Sheriff Israel also went on a CNN town hall and blamed the NRA for promoting firearms…


… even though just a few months earlier, the same sheriff said that “if you have a lone wolf assassin that’s committed to commit great carnage and killing people, there’s nothing you can do about it.” Watch 1 minute into the clip below

 

 

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US Embassy Moving To Jerusalem On Israel’s Independence Day

Via MiddleEastEye.com,

The US will relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv earlier than expected and may use a consular facility already based in the city…

The United States plans to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on 14 May, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence, a US official confirmed on Friday.

In December, US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and signalled Washington’s intention to relocate its embassy. The move infuriated many of Washington’s Arab allies and dismayed Palestinians who see as East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The US schedule for the move appears to have sped up: during his visit to Israel last month, Vice President Mike Pence said that the embassy would move by the end of 2019.

There are several possible sites for the new embassy. The most likely plan would be to locate the embassy at a US facility in Jerusalem’s south-eastern Talpiyot neighbourhood, currently used for consular affairs including passport and visa processing.

Officials said the US could initially retrofit a small suite of offices at the existing facility to accommodate current ambassador David Friedman and one or two top aides including his chief of staff.

That would allow the administration to hang an “embassy” sign over the door and formally open it in time for Israeli independence day on 14 May. 

Israeli congratulations

Soon after US officials announced the May date, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he is in contact with the US administration and will respond if and when an official American announcement is made on the planned embassy move to Jerusalem. Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the White House on 5 of March 5.

Israeli intelligence minister Yisrael Katz congratulated Trump in a tweet.

“There is no greater gift than that! The most just and correct move. Thanks friend!” Katz wrote.

Trump’s Jerusalem announcement was rejected by 128 nations in a vote in the UN General Assembly in late December.  

The overwhelming vote came during a rare emergency meeting to ask nations not to establish diplomatic missions in the historic city of Jerusalem. Israel has illegally occupied East Jerusalem since 1967.

Trump’s announcement on 6 December led to ongoing waves of protests by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. 

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, said that “this is an unacceptable step. Any unilateral move will not give legitimacy to anyone and will be an obstacle to any effort to create peace in the region.”

Abu Rdainah said that the “only way to achieve peace, security and stability” was Abbas’s proposal – outlined in his 20 February address to the United Nations Security Council in New York – that there should be an international conference to kick-start the stalled peace process with Israel, including a “multilateral mechanism” to oversee it.

Abbas is still in the United States after undergoing medical checks in Baltimore on 22 February, Abu Rdaineh said. He said the Palestinian leader would be leaving the United States on 24 February.

In Gaza, a Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, said that “moving the American embassy to Jerusalem is a declaration of war against the Arab and Muslim nation, and the US administration must reconsider its move”.

Clashes erupted in Gaza and the West Bank earlier on Friday, in a weekly protest against Trump’s stance on Jerusalem.

A spokesman for the Gaza health ministry said 25 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli live fire during clashes along the fence with Israel in Gaza.

Palestinian health officials said at least 20 Palestinians, most of them in Gaza, have been killed in protests against Trump’s decision since the 6 December announcement.

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Trumps Warns World Of “Very, Very Unfortunate Phase 2” If North Korean Sanctions Fail

If you weren’t paying attention, you might have missed it; but during today’s joint press conference with Aussie PM Turnbull, US President Trump let slip a brief comment that the rest of the world should likely be paying close attention to.

After unveiling the “heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before” against North Korea earlier in the day, President Trump told the gathered media that the US will go to “Phase 2” if those sanctions do not have the desired effects of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

As Reuters reports, in addressing what the Trump administration calls its biggest national security challenge, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned one person, 27 companies and 28 ships, according to a statement on the U.S. Treasury Department’s website.

The United States also proposed a list of entities to be blacklisted under separate United Nations sanctions, a move “aimed at shutting down North Korea’s illicit maritime smuggling activities to obtain oil and sell coal.”

The U.S. Treasury said the sanctions were designed to disrupt North Korean shipping and trading companies and vessels and further isolate Pyongyang, but as we noted previously Russian and Chinese ships have been “caught red handed” breaking the sanctions.

All of which led to his comments during today’s press conference during which Trump made apparent reference to military options his administration has repeatedly said remain on the table.

“If the sanctions don’t work, we’ll have to go phase two,” Trump said.

Phase two may be a very rough thing, may be very, very unfortunate for the world. But hopefully the sanctions will work.”

The president did not specify exactly what he meant by ‘Phase 2’ and qualified the statement saying that he didn’t think he was “going to exactly play that card.”

As a reminder, in August, Trump threatened to go beyond sanctions by bringing “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” although his administration has repeatedly said it prefers a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

After today’s comments, the big question on everyone’s mind is – what is “phase 2”?

 

 

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‘Resist’ This!

Authored by James Howard Kunstler via Kunstler.com,

Perhaps because a weary public was underwhelmed by his indictment last week of thirteen ham sandwiches with Russian dressing, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has returned to an old baloney sandwich with American cheese named Paul Manafort, and slathered on some extra mayonnaise to lubricate his journey to federal prison.

The additional charges specify tax evasion and money-laundering shenanigans around Manafort’s activities in Ukraine between 2006 and 2015, a period that included the USA’s active participation in the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected president, Victor  Yanukovych, who had declared a desire to join the Russian Customs Union instead of being shanghaied into an expanded NATO.

Scrupulous observers may note that all this took place well in advance of the 2016 US presidential election, when Manafort was candidate Donald Trump’s campaign manager for several months before being thrown overboard for reasons still publicly unknown — but probably the awareness that Manafort’s personal financial affairs were a smoldering wreck. Meanwhile, Manafort’s business colleague, Rick Gates, has also been charged by Mueller, and this week an associate of Gates, one Alex Van Der Swaan, son-in-law of a Russian billionaire, was persuaded to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Gates.

All of this suggests that there were fabulous opportunities for American profiteering in the sad-sack, quasi failed state of Ukraine, and that the feckless Manafort circle will be doing Chinese fire drills in the federal courts until the cows come home, but it doesn’t say a whole lot about Russian interference in the 2016 US election. One might surmise that there is enough pressure on Manafort and company to get them to say anything now to save their asses. On the other hand, it could lead in open court to the airing of all sorts of dirty laundry about surreptitious US meddling in Ukraine, and about the corps of camp-following money-grubbing American grifters who raced in after 2014 to steal anything that wasn’t nailed down there by the homegrown kleptocrats.

But it it also raises the question whether Mr. Mueller was invited on the scene to prosecute any old thing that fell in his path. Or why he is ignoring the much more obvious smoking mess around his old FBI colleagues who seemed to have committed manifold acts of criminal misconduct in their pursuit of FISA warrants to gather intel on candidate Trump.

In the end – if this extravagant melodrama ever does end – we are stuck with ourselves and our many serious problems here in the USA, which include especially an unraveling financial system that may leave the nation as economically broken and desolate as Russia was in 1991– but ironically with a far less resilient population unused to real travail, as the Russians were after 70 years of soviet Deep State-ism.

Our own Deep State has rapidly become an entity as sinister as the old Soviet Nomenklatura. It is interesting and dismaying to see so many public intellectuals swallow its self-serving claims when it was not so many years ago that a healthy and natural skepticism about government lying was the order of the day, especially when it came to the dark towers of US Intel.

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FBI Tipster Transcript Leaked: Cruz Will “Get Into A School And Shoot The Place Up”

A person close to Nikolas Cruz, the teenager accused of killing 17 people at a Florida high school on Valentines day, warned the FBI she was concerned Cruz would “get into a school and just shoot the place up,” according to a leaked transcript of her call to the bureau’s tip line one month before the massacre.

The transcript, seen by the Wall Street Journal, provides chilling detail about the woman’s efforts on January 5, just over a month before the February 14 tragedy, to warn authorities about Nikolas Cruz’s propensity for violence and his troubled past.

Tragically, the FBI was busier with other things.

“You know, it’s just so much,” said the caller. “I know he’s—he’s going to explode.” The woman said she was making the call because she wanted a “clear conscience if he takes off and, and just starts shooting places up,” according to the transcripts which were reviewed by the Wall Street Journal. 

The caller also mentioned that Cruz dressed up as a ninja or an ISIS fighter, according to the WSJ.

While the FBI last week acknowledged receiving such a call, the transcript, and the stark nature of the caller’s precise warnings about Cruz’s disturbing actions and volatile temperament, previously hasn’t been made public.

“It’s alarming to see these pictures and to know what he’s capable of doing and what could happen,” the caller continued. “He’s [been] thrown out of all these schools because he would pick up a chair and just throw it at somebody, a teacher or a student, because he didn’t like the way they were talking to him.”

She also said that Cruz was due to inherit $25,000 a year, from a life insurance policy, and she was worried that he would spend it on guns.

Psychopath

The concerned Cruz acquaintance also told the FBI that he mutilated frogs, and at least on one occasion, a bird. 

He brought the bird into the house,” she recounted. “He threw it on his mother’s kitchen counter and he started cutting it up. He has all kinds of hunting knives. I don’t know what knife he used, though. And he started cutting the bird up, and his mother…said, ‘What’re you doing?’ And he says, ‘I want to see what’s inside.’”

The caller then said, “That to me would be a red flag.

Apparently not so much to the FBI, which admitted last week that it failed to forward the call to the Miami field office for investigation. 

The FBI also admitted that the Bureau had investigated a school shooting threat made on YouTube last year but could not identify person behind it – despite Nikolas Cruz using his real name to sign the threat which quite literally says “Im going to be a professional school shooter.”

The man who reported Cruz, Ben Bennight, spoke with the FBI last year for about 20 minutes, and there was no follow-up from the FBI after that initial conversation.

Then, Bennight told CBS that he again spoke with the FBI on Wednesday night for about 20 minutes. They wanted to know if he knew anything more after first reporting the YouTube video last year. He said the same agent/agents he spoke with last year came to his home Wednesday.

Furthermore, as we reported earlier today, CNN’s FOIA of Broward County 911 records has produced a steady stream of scoops about Parkland, Fla. school shooter Nikolas Cruz fleshing out much of what is publicly known about Cruz’s background and the various reports made warning the FBI and other authorities about his threatening behavior.

The police were warned about Cruz’s violent past – that he’d “used a gun against people before” and had “put the gun to others’ heads in the past” – but still they did nothing.

The FBI last week issued a statement disclosing that the call wasn’t passed on to its Miami field office for investigation.

“Under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life,” the FBI said. “The information then should have been forwarded to the FBI Miami field office, where appropriate investigative steps would have been taken.”

The FBI and the Justice Department are investigating why the lead wasn’t followed up.

* * *

In addition to the FBI’s monumental failure and a steady stream of 911 calls about Cruz, video evidence revealed that an armed Broward County resource deputy stationed at Stoneman Douglas High School during the Valentine’s day massacre did “nothing” during the shooting – instead waiting outside as a gunman opened fire on students and teachers. 

The officer, Scot Peterson, resigned shortly after being placed on leave. 

“We’re not going to disclose the video at this time, and we may never disclose the video depending on the prosecution and the criminal case,”said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. 

“These families lost their children, we lost coaches. I’ve been to the funerals. I’ve been to the homes where they’re sitting shiva. I’ve been to the vigils. It’s just, there are no words.”

When asked by a reporter what the deputy should have done, the Sheriff replied “Went in. Address the killer. Kill the killer.” 

Meanwhile, the anti-2nd Amendment crowd continues to peddle children around to try and strip law abiding Americans of their right to bear arms – ignoring the fact that had the FBI and Broward County authorities simply done their jobs, 17 people would still be with us. 

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Trump Wants “Harshest” Import Tariffs: 24% On Steel, 10% On Aluminum

Defying threats of retaliation from the Chinese, Bloomberg reports that President Trump is pushing for a global tariff of 24% on all steel imports, a decision that will anger nearly every industrial manufacturer based in the US, while at the same time helping revive the fortunes of US steel producers.

The rates were first proposed by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last week.

The commerce department released reports on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s investigations into the impact on our national security from imports of steel mill products and from imports of wrought and unwrought aluminum. These investigations were carried out under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, as amended. All classified and business confidential information in the reports was redacted before the release.

Specifically, the department, found that the quantities and circumstances of steel and aluminum imports “threaten to impair the national security,” as defined by Section 232.

Ross

It also recommended several options, of which Trump now reportedly supports the stiffest.

On steel the options include: a global tariff of at least 24% on all steel imports from all nations; tariff of at least 53% on all steel imports from 12 nations with a quota by product for all steel products from all countries equal to 100% of their 2017 exports to U.S.; quota on all steel products from all nations equal to 63% of 2017 exports.

On aluminum the options include: tariff of at least 7.7% on all aluminum exports from all countries; 23.6% tariff on all products from key nations; quota on all imports from countries equal to maximum of 86.7% of 2017 exports.

Anticipating the administration’s support, six free trade advocacy groups sent an open letter to Trump on Thursday urging him not to impose the steel and aluminum tariffs. They also said the national security argument advanced by the Commerce Department wasn’t credible.

“The national security case to restrict steel and aluminum imports is thin and the toll such restrictions would take on the economy is considerable,” the letter said, adding that a thorough assessment of America’s suppliers, treaties and other agreements “makes clear that steel and aluminum imports do not jeopardize national security.”

Reports that Trump favors the stiffest tariffs recommended by the Commerce Department sent shares of steel producers soared in after hours trading:

Steel

The report followed a press conference Friday afternoon with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The two men commented on trade issues, with Trump emphasizing that he prefers bilateral trade deals while bashing China for taking advantage of the US on trade.

Earlier this year, Trump slapped a 30% tariff on solar panel imports. And he’s also approved a massive nearly 300% tariff on the Bombardier C-Series jet.

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