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Puerto Rico defaults for 1st time ever; is ‘death spiral’ next?

by on Aug.03, 2015, under News Events

© Alvin Baez
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is now in default for the first time in history after it only paid $628,000 of a $58 million debt payment it owed over the weekend.

According to the Government Development Bank for Puerto Rico (GDB), the commonwealth simply did not have the cash to make the bond payment owed to the Public Finance Corporation (PFC). Puerto Rico is currently some $72 billion in debt.

“Due to the lack of appropriated funds for this fiscal year the entirety of the PFC payment was not made today (the first business day after the Saturday deadline),” GDB President Melba Acosta-Febo said in a statement.

READ MORE: Debt-ridden Puerto Rico fails in bid for municipal bankruptcy rights

“This was a decision that reflects the serious concerns about the Commonwealth’s liquidity in combination with the balance of obligations to our creditors and the equally important obligations to the people of Puerto Rico to ensure the essential services they deserve are maintained.”

As a result of the tiny payment, the credit rating agency Moody’s said that Puerto Rico has defaulted on its debts.

“Moody’s views this event as a default,” Emily Raimes, vice president at Moody’s Investors Service, said in a statement toCNBC. “Debt service on these bonds is subject to appropriation, and the lack of appropriation means there is not a legal requirement to pay the debt, nor any legal recourse for bondholders.”

Raimes added that it does not believe the island has enough cash to make all the payments it needs do, and that similar news is on the way.

“This event is consistent with our belief that Puerto Rico does not have the resources to make all of its forthcoming debt payments,” she said. “This is a first in what we believe will be broad defaults on commonwealth debt.”

According to CNN, Puerto Rico owed a monthly debt payment of $483 million. The vast majority of that was actually paid except for the $58 million owed to PFC, something the outlet described as a strategic decision since that debt is owned by credit unions and Puerto Ricans – mainly retirees – who don’t have much of a chance to battle the move in the courts.

READ MORE: ​No federal bailout for Puerto Rico – White House

The next step in the process could involve Puerto Rico and the PFC getting together to negotiate some kind of restructuring plan. It’s possible that such a plan will push the island’s government to back austerity by raising taxes and lowering spending.

In June, Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla said the commonwealth cannot pay its debt and warned that a “death spiral” could occur if restructuring wasn’t possible.

“There is no other option. I would love to have an easier option. This is not politics, this is math,” Garcia said at the time. “My administration is doing everything not to default … But we have to make the economy grow. If not, we will be in a death spiral.”

The White House has already ruled out providing the commonwealth with a bailout, and since the island is not a municipality of a state, it does not qualify for bankruptcy. The Obama administration said it would ask Congress to look into the possibility of allowing Puerto Rico to do so, but it’s unclear how lawmakers will act in response to the situation.

“There’s no one in the administration or in DC that’s contemplating a federal bailout of Puerto Rico,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in June. “But we do remain committed to working with Puerto Rico and their leaders as they address the serious challenges.”

Puerto Rico’s problems run the gamut from a heavily damaging, decade-long recession and high unemployment to government mismanagement and excess spending. Between 2010 and 2013, some 48,000 people left Puerto Rico to find jobs in the US mainland every year.

One resident, 26-year-old Omar Rodriguez, just recently left with his family and moved to Austin, Texas, where both he and his wife obtained jobs.

“I wouldn’t imagine having the same quality of life in Puerto Rico at the moment and that saddens me,” Rodriguez said to CNN. “Saying goodbye to my parents …it was a bit unbearable.”

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Moscow will respond to NATO approaching Russian borders ‘accordingly’ – Putin

by on Jun.16, 2015, under News Events

Published time: June 16, 2015 21:17

Russian president Vladimir Putin. (RIA Novosti/Michael Klimentyev)

Russian president Vladimir Putin. (RIA Novosti/Michael Klimentyev)

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If NATO threatens Russia’s territories Moscow will respond to the threat accordingly, said President Vladimir Putin. This comes after he announced Russia’s strategic forces will be getting over 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2015.

“If someone threatens our territories, it means that we will have to aim our armed forces accordingly at the territories from where the threat is coming. How else could it be? It is NATO that approaching our borders, it’s not like we are moving anywhere,” Putin said speaking at a joint media conference with Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto in Moscow on Tuesday.

He said at the moment he sees no threat in the alliance’s activities, since the missile defense system wide deployment is a bigger threat.

“I’d refrain from whipping up emotions. Of course, we will analyze everything but so far I see nothing that might prompt us to [take responsive measures],” he said. “What worries us more is the anti-missile defense system that is being deployed – that is a significant thing of strategic importance.”

The comments come after The New York Times ran a piece Saturday, which said the Pentagon could store “battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 American troops in several Baltic and Eastern European countries.”

Day later, Poland and Lithuania revealed on-going talks with Washington to host US military equipment warehouses. This prompted a harsh reaction from Moscow; Russia warned that it has no binding obligations limiting its armed forces in its Western region.

“Russia will have no other choice but to boost its military potential along its western borders,” General Yury Yakubov, a senior Defense Ministry official told Interfax Monday. He added that a military buildup would affect tactical groupings in the Belarus and Kaliningrad region.

On Tuesday morning Putin stated that in 2015 Russia’s strategic forces will be getting over 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

In response to all these statements, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg accused Russia of “saber-rattling.”

This nuclear sabre-rattling of Russia is unjustified. It’s destabilizing and it’s dangerous. This is something which we are addressing, and it’s also one of the reasons we are now increasing the readiness and preparedness of our forces,” Stoltenberg said during a news briefing in Brussels on Tuesday.

He added that NATO is making sure it “provides the terms of protection of all allies against the enemy.”

NATO forces are currently holding military exercises in Poland codenamed Noble Jump. Their aim, according to Stoltenberg’s interview to the Polish Press Agency, is to show that the Alliance can quickly deploy its forces to any of the member countries.

READ MORE: Putin: 40+ ICBMs targeted for 2015 nuclear force boost

The drills involve about 2,000 soldiers and some 500 pieces of hardware, including tanks, jets and helicopters. The scenario is based on a hypothetical conflict with several countries taking part. It is the first official exercise of the NATO ‘Spearhead’ force established in Europe to counter what Alliance commanders have repeatedly dubbed ‘Russian aggression’.

Washington also made a statement following Vladimir Putin’s announcement about additional ICBMs.

“It does concern me,” State Secretary John Kerry said, answering a reporter’s question at a briefing. “Nobody should hear that kind of announcement from the leader of a powerful country and not be concerned about what the implications are.”

‘US, EU fails to put enough pressure on Kiev to implement Minsk deal’

Putin made the fresh statements at a media press conference with Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto in Moscow on Tuesday evening. Besides NATO, the two leaders talked much about the on-going crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s role in its resolution.

Putin said Moscow considers the Minsk ceasefire agreement to be ‘fair and balanced’ and criticized the US and EU for failing to make enough effort to pressure Kiev.

We consider [the Minsk] agreements to be fair and balanced and we are exerting the possible pressure on one of the sides of the conflict – on the unrecognized Donetsk and Lugansk republics,” Putin said The eastern Ukrainian republics are ready to hold talks on all points of the Minsk agreement, he said.

Putin noted that “none of the points of the [Minsk deal] are sole responsibility of Donbass, primarily it’s the responsibility of Kiev authorities.”

He also criticized the EU and the US leaders for failing to exercise “enough pressure on Kiev authorities” in the implementation of the ceasefire agreement. There is “no alternative” to the Minsk deal and “as hard as it may be we should follow this path,” he said.

The sides of the conflict “should sit down for direct talks” as there is “no other way,” he added.

Niinisto, in his turn, said that Moscow and Helsinki were actively participating in the OSCE work and pledged that the work would continue.

At present, everybody should exert maximum efforts to restore peace in Ukraine and remove the current strains that are present in Russia’s relations with the West,” he said.

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Obama: G7 to discuss ‘Russian aggression in Ukraine’

by on Jun.07, 2015, under News Events

Obama: G7 to discuss ‘Russian aggression in Ukraine’

9 hours ago

President Obama has said the leaders of the G7 nations will discuss “standing up to Russian aggression in Ukraine”.

Speaking at a news conference in Bavaria with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, he also joked that he had forgotten his lederhosen.

He said the two-day summit would discuss a range of issues including the global economy, violent extremism and climate change.

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Saudi Arabia starts bombing Yemen – envoy

by on Mar.25, 2015, under News Events

Published time: March 25, 2015 23:49 

Edited time: March 26, 2015 01:21

Reuters / Fahad Shadeed

Reuters / Fahad Shadeed

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Saudi Arabian forces, joined by nine other countries, have launched a military operation in Yemen against Shiite Houthi rebels, the Saudi ambassador to the US said. The offensive, which started with airstrikes, will also involve “other military assets.”

According to Ambassador Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, the military operation in Yemen started at 7 p.m. EST (11 p.m. GMT). The US is not participating in the operation, the envoy stressed.

Al Arabiya reported that warplanes of the Royal Saudi Air Force bombed positions of Yemen’s Houthi militia, targeting their air defenses.

Reports from the ground indicate that Saudi forces have bombed an office belonging to Houthi rebels in Sanaa’s Jiraf area, with many casualties.

Residents are saying that warplanes are targeting the capital’s airport, according to Reuters.

Houthis are allegedly using heavy anti-aircraft fire to respond to the bombing.

Another warplane attack was said to have been launched on Sanaa’s Dulaimi military airbase. The aircraft’s affiliation could not be immediately confirmed.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait issued a joint statement saying that they “decided to repel Houthi militias, Al-Qaeda and ISIS (Islamic State) in the country.” The Gulf states said they were responding to a “major threat” to the stability of the region, saying that their cause is to “repel Houthi aggression” in Yemen.

Al-Jubeir said the 10-country coalition launched the campaign “to protect and defend the legitimate government” of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after his appeal to intervene. Hadi is believed to have fled the country as Houthi rebels captured the southern seaport of Aden, the deposed leader’s stronghold.

Egypt is providing political and military support for the operation, the country’s state media said. Cairo is prepared to take part in air, naval and ground operations if necessary, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry has announced.

While the Saudi envoy insisted Washington only “consulted” Riyadh, a US official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that America has been supporting the military operation in an unspecified way.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia moves heavy arms to border with chaos-stricken Yemen

Houthi leaders have in turn branded the Saudi offensive as “aggression” and warned that it will drag the entire Gulf region into conflict.

“There is an aggression underway on Yemen and we will confront it valiantly,” a member of the Houthi political office, Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, told Al Jazeera. “Military operations will drag the region to a wide war.”

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Ignorance or deliberate disinformation? Obama’s ‘facts’ about Russia all wrong

by on Aug.05, 2014, under News Events

Published time: August 04, 2014 22:48
Edited time: August 05, 2014 09:21

U.S. President Barack Obama (Reuters / Larry Downing)

U.S. President Barack Obama (Reuters / Larry Downing)

Barack Obama has made light of Russia in his latest interview, coming up with four facts to illustrate the poor state of things in the country, which – strangely enough – had little to do with reality.

“I do think it’s important to keep perspective. Russia doesn’t make anything,” Obama said in his interview with the Economist. “Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking.”

RT has gathered the more recent statistics on the subjects touched upon by the US president.

‘Russia doesn’t make anything’ – WRONG

According to Russia’s Central Bank, the export of products and services has brought Russia $593 billion in 2013.

Some $355 billion in that figure is from oil and gas sales, but the remaining $238 billion came from other – non-energy – sectors of the economy.

Russia long-ago established itself as the world’s second-largest suppliers of arms after the US.

Moscow sold $15.7 billion worth of weaponry to 60 countries, including the likes of China and India, last year.

Russian high-tech solutions in atomics, space industry, aviation, telecom, computer software and many other fields are also in great demand around the globe.

‘Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow’ – WRONG

In terms of migration, Russia is ranked second in the world and is only surpassed by the US, the United Nations has stated. According to UN estimates, there are currently 11 million foreigners residing in Russia.

Since the fall of the USSR, Russia has been an attractive destination to descendants of former Soviet republics, with the flow of immigration increased fourfold in the last decade, Lyubov Eltsova, deputy trade minister, said.

In 2013, over 420,000 immigrants arrived in the country, Russia’s Federal Migration Service calculated.

According to the agency, there are also 3.7 million foreigners who are staying in Russia illegally, without proper registration.

As for Moscow, the Russian capital hosted 1 million migrants in 2013, the Federal Migration Service said. This means every 12th person living in the megapolis is a ‘guest of the capital’, according to official data only.

‘Life expectancy… around 60 years old’ – WRONG

Back in 2000, following a decade of “the wild ’90s,” male life expectancy really was at catastrophic level in Russia, standing at just 58 years.

But this this marker has been improving at a good rate since then, reaching 64 years, according to the World Health Organization.

As for women, “We’ve have reached the highest level in the history of our country, including Soviet and post-Soviet periods – 76.5 years,” Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova announced this April.

The annual birth rate in Russia has been steadily increasing by 100,000 annually over the last few years, and has recently exceeded the death rate. Over the period of January-June 2014, more than 935,500 of children were born in Russia.

According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs Olga Golodets, “It is desirable that the birth rate should reach 2 million… which would allow many of the risks for our state to be removed in this generation.”

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Ukraine on brink of civil war after blood was spilt in east – Yanukovich

by on Apr.13, 2014, under News Events

Ukraine is a foot in the door to civil war, ousted President Viktor Yanukovych said in his address from Rostov-on-Don, where he has been residing for over a month after fleeing Kiev amid protests.

“Blood was spilt today,” Yankovich told journalists referring to the events in the eastern city of Slavyansk. “Now our country finds itself in a totally new situation – with one foot in the door of a civil war. The Kiev junta has issued a criminal order to use armed forces and the army against the protesters.”

“During my time in Kiev, we never used such methods against radicals or extremists,” he added.

Part of the responsibility for dragging the country into domestic war lays on the US, which brutally interfere in the situation and to point out what to do, Yanukovich said.

The ousted president declared that CIA chief John Brennan visited Ukraine and it was after the meeting that the coup-imposed authorities in Kiev ordered a military operation in the country’s east.

Brennan “de facto sanctioned” the use of weapons and thus provoked the bloodshed, Yanukovich said.

Ukraine is now “inexorably” heading towards bankruptcy, Yanukovich also warned in his speech.

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Google Joins Forces With NSA And DARPA As Military Contractor

by on Jan.14, 2014, under News Events

Google has spent the last decade building databases on everything, including each and every computer-using American citizen. Now it intends to join forces with the United States Military to put all that info to good use. The giant “swooshing sound” you are hearing right now is the major leap forward of the Mark of the Beast.

The DC: Google CEO Larry Page has rapidly positioned Google to become an indispensable U.S. military contractor. Google recently purchased Boston Dynamics, a robotics pioneer that produces amazing humanoid robots for the U.S. Defense Department.

This development invites attention to Google’s broader military contracting ambitions — especially since Boston Dynamics is the eighth robotics company that Google has bought in the last six months.

Google Joins Forces With NSA And DARPA As Military Contractor

Just like drones are the future of air warfare, humanoid robots and self-driving vehicles will be the future of ground warfare according to U.S. defense plans.

There are many other reasons why the U.S. military is on path to become Google’s single largest customer. Likewise these reasons indicate Google has a closer working relationship with the NSA than it acknowledges publicly.

First, consider the military value of Google’s research and development efforts and the military contracting pipeline revenue it could represent.

Page created Google X, which is Google’s secretive research and development lab tasked with pursuing “moon-shot” technology breakthroughs. So far, Google X is best known for its earth-bound self-driving cars and Google Glass.

Tellingly, the purpose of the original “moon-shots” by the Soviet Union and America was military. The two Cold War superpowers were in a “space race” to publicly showcase the technological and military supremacy of their rival ideologies.

Simply, America’s Cold War “moon-shot” was about winning the military space and arms race with the former Soviet Union.

Even more tellingly, the greatest application for most all of Google X’s “moon-shot” technological efforts — are military. Like drones, self-driving vehicles, and robot soldiers could enhance military surveillance and payload delivery while reducing risks to military personnel.

Google Glass’ advances in wearable augmented reality could offer American soldiers tactical advantages over enemy combatants. Google’s Project Loon could quickly provide a supplemental battlefield bandwidth advantage in remote areas.

Second, Google’s personnel hiring signals its aspirations for a closer Google-military relationship

In 2012, Google hired Regina Dugan, the head of DOD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency(DARPA), DOD’s in-house “moon-shot” idea factory. At the time a Google spokesperson said: “Regina is a technical pioneer who brought the future of technology to the military during her time at DARPA.  She will be a real asset to Google.”

Simply, few people could have a better insider knowledge of the U.S. military’s future technology needs that Google could exploit than Ms. Dugan.

Third, Google has a long history of working for, and with, the NSA and the other U.S. intelligence services.

In 2004, Google purchased satellite mapping company Keyhole, which was strategically important enough to be funded by the CIA’s investment fund In-Q-Tel. Google turned the aptly-named “Keyhole” surveillance capability into the wildly popular Google Earth and Google Maps service used by over a billion people and over one million websites.

In 2008, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that U.S. spy agencies use “Google equipment as the backbone of Intellipedia, a network aimed at helping agents share intelligence.” The article also reported that Google had a support contract with the NSA.

In 2010, the Washington Post reported that Google worked with the NSA to figure out how Chinese hackers broke into Google. The New York Times later reported that those Chinese hackers stole Google’s entire password system called Gaia.

Fourth, Google has too many unique capabilities and metadata sets that are of strategic value to the NSA to believe Google’s denials that it does not work closely with the NSA

Snowden’s NSA revelations have underscored the high value the NSA puts on collecting the metadata of who is communicating with whom, when, where, and how much.

Remember Google is metadata central. It is veritable surveillance catnip for the NSA Think about it.Google’s cookies track the Internet behavior of nearly 2 billion people. Over a billion people regularly use Google Search, Maps, Android, and YouTube. And about a half billion people use Gmail and Google + social media.

Former NSA Director Michael Hayden has said “Gmail is the preferred Internet service provider of terrorists worldwide.”

Thus Google has the unique capability to surveil for the NSA the online behavior of a targeted group of people by country, language, interests, keywords, names, communications, physical location, movements, time and more.

Simply put, Google’s world’s largest computer already can do what the NSA wants to do most.

Add to all this Google’s unique capability to instantaneously translate 80 different languages across applications, and why wouldn’t the NSA covet a close working relationship with Google?

Finally, the behavior of America’s greatest military rivals, Russia and China, speaks volumes about the likely extent of unreported close cooperation between Google and NSA/DOD.

Remember it was the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that invented the Internet in the early ‘70s. It is no coincidence that Russia and China have been the most hostile to allowing Google’s Internet dominance to extend into their countries.

In summation, the accumulating evidence indicates that the U.S. military is on path to become Google’s single largest customer.

Page’s strategic positioning of Google’s biggest investments to strongly align with future U.S. military needs is no coincidence. It is likely tacit confirmation of a much stronger relationship than Google has acknowledged to date.

Page’s creeping militarization of Google will increasingly become problematic for the privacy of Google’s foreign users, which generate over half of Google’s revenues. While U.S. law purportedly prevents the NSA from surveilling Americans without a warrant, the NSA’s official mandate is to surveil foreign signals intelligence.

In short, Google’s creeping militarization means Big Brother Inc. aspires to work more closely with Big Brother government. source – Daily Caller

Scott Cleland is President of Precursor LLC, a consultancy serving Fortune 500 clients, some of which are Google competitors. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc. Cleland has testified before both the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google and also before the relevant House oversight subcommittee on Google’s privacy problems.

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