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Friday 11.28.2014

Remember How Obamacare Hit Its Enrollment Target Last Year? Yeah... Not Quite
It's been nearly two weeks since open enrollment for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- better known as Obamacare -- kicked off, and so far it's been mostly smooth sailing from a technical perspective for the federally run Healthcare.gov along with many of the state-run exchanges. Sure, there have been a select few exchanges that have struggled with technical difficulties, including the one in my home state of Washington; however, compared to last year -- when certain exchanges, including Healthcare.gov itself, were almost unusable for the first two months -- it's a night-and-day difference. A relatively smooth start was important for the exchanges this year, even with a number of complications thrown into the mix. In addition to insurers trying to sign up the remaining uninsured, they also needed to focus on ways to retain last year's paying enrollees.

Oil prices crash below $70
Oil prices came crashing down Thursday to trade below $70 per barrel after OPEC announced it was leaving oil production levels unchanged. WTI crude trading in the U.S. fell by roughly 7% to just below $69 -- a level not seen since May 2010. In Europe, Brent crude prices also fell by about 7% to trade just below $73. Many had expected OPEC to agree on a cut to oil production in a bid to boost prices. But the organization of major oil producing nations refused to budge after six hours of negotiations. Specifically, Saudia Arabia, which has the most clout among the OPEC members, wanted production levels to stay put. This lack of action is bad news for certain oil-producing countries like Russia, Nigeria and Venezuela, which depend on prices of at least $90 a barrel to meet their economic targets. Lower oil prices could also halt the U.S. shale oil boom, which depends on higher prices.

Hillary Clinton Paid Up To $300,000 For Delivering Speeches
Hillary Clinton is making hundreds of thousands of dollars for speaking at universities, Wall Street banks, and industry conventions across the United States. Clinton is the only 2016 presidential contender being paid for speeches she delivers. Under the Freedom and Information Act, The Washington Post obtained copies of e-mails and other internal communication of Clinton’s efforts to manage her speaking engagements. The documents acquired by The Washington Post provide some of the demands made by Clinton and the speakers’ agent, the Harry Walker Agency. Immediately after Clinton left her job as secretary of state in February, Hillary delivered a speech in March, at the University of California at Los Angeles. Harry Walker Agency controlled and managed every detail of Clinton’s speaking appearances.

EU adds 13 Ukrainian separatists, five organisations to sanctions list
European Union governments agreed on Thursday to add 13 Ukrainian separatists and five organisations to the bloc's sanctions list, diplomats said. Ambassadors from the 28 EU countries meeting on Thursday targeted the separatists with asset freezes and travel bans and the organisations with asset freezes because of their "involvement in action undermining Ukraine's territorial integrity," an EU source said. The names were kept secret but are expected to be published in the EU's Official Journal on Saturday. The organisations targeted are mainly political groups rather than companies, diplomats said. The decision swells an EU sanctions list over Ukraine that already covers 119 people and 23 entities. EU governments are also discussing proposals for an "enhanced ban" on investments in Crimea as part of the EU's policy of refusing to recognise Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian region in March.

European Commission has 'abdicated its role' as financial watchdog

False confidence rising in the US
A recent article argues that the increasing demand for consumer credit is an indicator of increasing consumer confidence. The argument seems reasonable due to the way it is presented--there is an entirely different conclusion one would draw were the argument presented differently. In just the same manner, we can infer the confidence that lenders have in a country by computing the ratio of a nation's debt to its actual holdings of real money. A high ratio suggests great confidence--even though it could just as easily be a measure of ruin. In the case of the US, we have used the ratio of its official debt to its official gold holdings. For other countries, we would have to include foreign currency holdings as "wealth". Confidence in the US hit an all-time high in September 2001. Then something happened, and confidence in the US fell steadily until the end of 2012. The falling confidence level occurrred because the value...

Swiss Yes Vote Possible - First “Gold Rush” Of 21st Century?
On November 30, voters in Switzerland will head to the polls to decide whether the Swiss National Bank (SNB) should back the Swiss franc with gold by increasing its gold holdings to 20% - up from current levels of 7%. The conservative Swiss People's party proposed the initiative, called "Save Our Swiss Gold", with the intention of boosting the security and financial and monetary independence of Switzerland in these times of financial uncertainty. They believe that a 20% gold holding will protect the Swiss people from currency debasement, currency devaluation and an international monetary crisis. In the case of a "yes" vote, gold prices are likely to surge. Analysts do not believe a yes vote is possible. However, analysts have got the mood of the people wrong in many referendums both in Switzerland and throughout Europe in recent years. We believe that the vote will be very close - much closer than many analysts suggest.

Immigrants in US illegally but granted work permits could qualify for some retirement benefits
Many immigrants in the United States illegally who apply for work permits under President Barack Obama's new executive actions would be eligible for Social Security and Medicare benefits upon reaching retirement age, according to the White House. Under Obama's actions, immigrants who are spared deportation could obtain work permits and a Social Security number. As a result, they would pay into the Social Security system through payroll taxes. No such "lawfully present" immigrant, however, would be immediately entitled to the benefits because like all Social Security and Medicare recipients they would have to work 10 years to become eligible for retirement payments and health care. To remain qualified, either Congress or future administrations would have to extend Obama's actions so that those immigrants would still be considered lawfully present in the country. None of the immigrants who would be spared deportation under Obama's executive actions...

Hackers force message on websites via US firm
A U.S. firm that helps connect more than 700 companies with customers through social media says a Syrian group hacked the company's web address to upload a message to other websites. Gigya CEO Patrick Salyer outlined what happened in a blog published Thursday. At around 6:45 a.m. Eastern Time, the company discovered "sporadic failures with access to our service," Salyer wrote. The executive said hackers had rerouted Internet traffic from Gigya's website to an outside computer server. That server generated a message to visitors that their site had been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army. Published reports noted the message appeared on websites for several UK newspapers, CNBC and the National Hockey League. The message also showed up briefly on some retail sites just as they prepared for the biggest shopping day of the year on Friday. The National Retail Federation did not immediately comment Thursday.

Labor Group Plans Strike of Walmart Stores on Black Friday
For the third year in a row, OUR Walmart is planning a massive strike on Black Friday. Employees at Walmart stores in at least six states and Washington, D.C., plan to strike on one of the busiest shopping days of the year to protest workers’ wages and hours. OUR Walmart, an employee labor group, announced earlier in November that workers across the country would walk out over “illegal silencing of workers who are standing up for better jobs.” The group has been hosting Black Friday strikes since 2012, but promises this year’s will be the largest yet. The group has the support of some of the nation’s labor unions including UFCW, a grocery and retailers union, the American Federations of Teachers in New Mexico, and AFL-CIO. In a statement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “the entire labor movement will proudly stand with the brave workers at Walmart as they lead the largest mobilization to date for better wages and schedules.”

Oil price slump sparks concern

Gawker: Ferguson Rioters are Helping the Economy
Destroying small businesses, burning cars and shooting at firefighters is a positive for the economy, says liberal website Gawker. In an article entitled “Actually, Riots are Good: The Economic Case for Riots in Ferguson,” Salon writer and Gawker contributor Matt Bruenig makes the case that destroying the livelihood of those in your community actually produces benefits because it stops police from misbehaving. “Rioting that occurs in response to gross police misconduct and criminal system abuses imposes costs on doing those things,” Bruenig states. “It signals to police authorities that they risk this sort of destructive mayhem if they continue on like this.” Bruenig goes further by arguing that property linked to the criminal justice system would be even more beneficial to destroy, as government officials would be forced to cover the costs. “To be sure, burning down AutoZones is not an optimal way to impose costs on state authorities.

Greeks Go On Strike Over New Austerity Measures
Thousands of Greeks walked off the job on Thursday in a general strike to protest further austerity measures, while government officials wrangled with the country’s international creditors over economic policy and whether to extend Greece’s financial bailout. The 24-hour walkout, the first general strike since April, shut down public services, forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights and disrupted public transportation across the country. At issue are proposed civil service layoffs and pension-system changes that the international creditors, known as the troika, have demanded. The European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund have bailed Greece out financially twice since 2010, providing a total of 240 billion euros ($300 billion) in loans to help the country cope with its immense debts. In return, they have insisted that Greece impose strict fiscal discipline, including deep spending cuts and tax increases.

Why Wall Street has high hopes for Black Friday
Things are looking up for shoppers and retailers this holiday shopping season. The economy is creating jobs at a pace that hasn't been seen since the dot-com bubble was still inflating. Crude oil prices have plunged, pushing gasoline prices to levels not seen since 2010. Stocks are at record highs and home prices continue to slowly drift higher, bolstering household wealth. Fears over external threats like Ebola and ISIS are easing. So it's no wonder that retail stocks, as represented by the S&P Retail Index (XRT), recently punched out of a trading range going back to the start of the 2013 shopping season (which ended in disappointment on the polar vortex freeze out) to push to new record highs. Will this year's optimism ultimately be justified? Wall Street certainly thinks so. The team at Capital Economics believes this could be the best holiday shopping season in nine years. But they warn against putting too much focus on Black Friday itself...

Sierra Leone: Ebola burial team dumps bodies in pay protest
Workers employed by Sierra Leone's Ministry of Health to bury Ebola victims took drastic action this week in a dispute over pay, abandoning the bodies of 15 people in the street. Some were paraded at the entrance to a hospital Monday to stop people from entering. Another body was placed outside the entrance to a hospital administrative building. The workers have gone on strike because they say they are owed seven weeks of their "hazard" pay of $100 a week. Burying Ebola victims is a dangerous task, since the deadly virus is spread through contact with bodily fluids. The bodies were all cleared as of Tuesday after burial teams working for the Red Cross, rather than the state, were called in. The National Ebola Response Center has announced the sacking of all involved in the strike, said Sidi Yahyah Tunis, a spokesman for the center. Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are the three West African countries at the heart of the current Ebola outbreak.

Europe’s bond yields slide on hopes of ECB QE
Bond yields across Europe continued to slide Thursday as weak inflation data and hints from the Vice President of the European Central Bank (ECB) boosted hopes of a full-blown sovereign bond-buying program. Bonds from countries on the so-called periphery of the euro zone performed particularly well, with yields on benchmark 10-year bonds from Ireland, Italy and Portugal hitting 10-year lows. France and Germany's bond yields also slipped. It comes after ECB Vice President, Vitor Constancio, raised hopes of full-blown quantitative easing – also known as QE – on Wednesday. He said the central bank expected its balance sheet to rise to 2012 levels on the back of measures already agreed, but added the purchase of sovereign debt and "other assets" could be an option if the environment didn't develop as expected. There have been concerns, however, that such assets could be overvalued – although Constancio dismissed this concern on Thursday.

Bill Holter-Gold will be the Last Man Standing

Indicators Paint Very Negative Picture
If you think the U.S. economy is marching ahead just fine by looking at the stock market, you may be mistaken. Key stock indices hitting new all-time highs don’t mean conditions in the U.S. are better. In fact, the reality of the economic situation is the complete opposite. Several indicators I follow are ringing alarm bells, but there are four indicators ringing especially loud: rising homelessness, increasing food stamp use and declining savings, employment and income problems, and perception versus reality. Homelessness on the Rise. In times of economic growth, one would expect the standard of living to improve. Sadly, it’s getting worse in the United States for very many. Consider the homelessness among children in the U.S. economy; it is increasing! According to research by the American Institute for Research, in 2013, there were 2.5 million children homeless in the U.S.—a historic high that means one in every 30 children are homeless in America.

Walmart Canada expands ‘grab and go’ online service as competition with Amazon heats up
Walmart Canada is expanding its ‘grab and go’ locker pickup system for online orders just in time for Christmas, beating Amazon Canada to the punch. Walmart began testing a locker system for web customers at 10 Toronto-area stores in August, offering it as an alternative to home delivery. It allows customers to pickup the goods at a locked unit with a personal PIN code tied to their order, thereby skipping cash register lines and in-store shopping time. On the strength of the early pilot, Walmart is now expanding the project to 33 other Toronto-area stores between now and Dec. 5, before targeting a gradual rollout to other Canadian markets over the next 18 months. “Certain stores and areas will use the service more frequently and more often, so that is how we are planning our rollout,” said Gino DiGioacchino, executive vice-president of e-commerce and chief of operations at Walmart Canada. The strategy comes as the country’s biggest mass merchant looks to limit competition...

Soros: The European Union is a “Failed” Experiment In “International Governance”
Is the Western elite’s brainchild – the European Union – disintegrating? Due to persistent economic problems, the rise of “popular resentment” across the continent, the political fallout after the illegal coup in Ukraine and the subsequent unpopular economic war on Russia, the EU is on the verge of crumbling. In an interview with France 24, the hedge fund manager, billionaire and founder of the Open Society Foundation, George Soros, reveals that the European Union has failed to achieve the desires of the elite and many within Europe now see “Russia as a role model”: We have to recognise that the [European] Union itself, which is a noble, well-intended experiment in international governance, has failed, and has not delivered what it promised, and there is such a degree of disappointment that even Russia can offer an alternative. Soros then asserts that many in Europe – including the UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, Front National President Marine Le Pen in France...

Opportunities In The Cayman Islands - Attorney

Alibaba IPO: Why List In the U.S.?
Whether it is accurate or not, Alibaba (BABA) originally was characterized as China’s answer to Amazon (AMZN). Alibaba looks to be growing in both the range of services it offers -- and more importantly, the profits it can deliver to its new shareholders -- following the NYSE IPO. The question we’ll look at in this article is why that IPO and other foreign companies’ IPOs are taking place through U.S. exchanges. Control. Although it is far from proven, the best hypothesis as to why Alibaba launched in the U.S. is that it allowed founder Jack Ma to maintain control of the company. Alibaba’s pre-IPO structure allowed Ma and co-founder Joseph Tsai to keep control of the company despite not owning a significant percentage of shares. Ma’s reported first choice of exchanges, Hong Kong, frowns on control methods not based on majority ownership. The NYSE and the U.S. in general, however, allow companies to use share classes to maintain control of publicly traded companies.

More Than 80,000 Pounds of Turkey Flown to US Troops Abroad
Even U.S. service members who find themselves in the middle of a combat zone were able to enjoy a turkey dinner this Thanksgiving, courtesy of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). The U.S. Army News Service reports that DLA is bringing Thanksgiving to thousands of American soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and West Africa. U.S. Capt. Frank Hartnett, an ISAF spokesman, told Breitbart News: U.S. Forces at ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] Headquarters in Kabul enjoyed a great spread with all of the traditional Thanksgiving fixings. There was plenty of Turkey, gravy and stuffing for all the troops. Senior leaders were on-hand and served troops as a gesture of respect for their efforts so far from home. Our international partners also enjoyed taking part in our tradition and gave thanks. As many as 24,000 U.S. soldiers remained in Afghanistan as of the end of October, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) revealed.

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