If you can’t bit them, coin them: Bitcoin-skeptic JP Morgan reveals its own cryptocurrency

By ethan / February 15, 2019

Just a few weeks after JP Morgan declared cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to only have value in a post-capitalist dystopia, the $ 2.5tn banking giant announced its own blockchain-based “JPM Coin” – should we be worried?

While many cryptocurrency enthusiasts are both pained and confused to see the words “blockchain” and “corporate-payments” used in a sentence together, JP Morgan’s unexpected move may be a sign of big finance taking a major step into the digital asset market.

Just a couple years ago, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon declared that he “didn’t give a sh*t” about anonymous decentralized currency system bitcoin and denounced it as a “fraud.” Putting people’s money where his mouth is, his company even banned customers from purchasing bitcoin using the bank’s credit cards.

Also on rt.com Max Keiser: Why JPMorgan is in a bubble and not bitcoin

All the same, the possibility of instantaneously settling payments between bank clients without relying on wire-transfers proved too promising to pass up, and the bank announced Thursday it had already successfully tested its own “payment leg” for blockchain transactions.

Blockchain technology developed as an anonymous decentralized ledger to help keep transactions secure and stable after the 2008 financial crisis. The fact that the technology was not tied to any government or large corporate entity was one of the biggest selling points in a period which saw a massive drop in public trust for such institutions. Some even felt cryptocurrencies could play a role in putting banks like JP Morgan out of business for good.

Also on rt.com Can’t take it with you? $ 190mn of crypto funds ‘inaccessible’ after password holder dies

Now, however, JP Morgan thinks it can use the same technology to make itself and its clients even more money, even without the context of a major crisis. Of course, by “clients” they mean only large corporate accounts which will be the only ones with access to the payment method as a part of the bank’s efforts to keep the currency stable. The JPM Coin will also be tied to the dollar, trading at a 1 to 1 ratio. Unlike bitcoin, JPM Coins only exist to secure a transaction on the blockchain and are then instantly redeemed for dollars and destroyed.

Despite being an unprecedented step in an industry that has traditionally seen digital assets as too much of a risk, JPM Coin is not exactly a “cryptocurrency” in the fullest sense. It is essentially a glorified liquidity tool, and even in that regard, it will only handle a small fraction of the lender’s wholesale payments business on exclusively international trades.

Nonetheless, some Crypto-enthusiasts on Twitter have already begun to gear up for a fight, not happy with a big bank making its presence felt in the marketplace.

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‘Go join Farage’s new party’: Tory minister lashes out at Rees-Mogg’s ‘treacherous’ Brexiteers

By ethan / February 15, 2019

A Tory cabinet minister has launched a scathing attack on hardline Brexiteer faction, the ERG, after claiming they “drank champagne to celebrate” PM May’s deal being defeated – telling them to defect to Nigel Farage’s new party.

In an interview for The House magazine, business minister Richard Harrington accused the European Research Group, headed by prominent backbench Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg of “treachery,” claiming that in his “view they’re not Conservatives.”

Also on rt.com May mocked after claiming ‘I wanted Brexit sorted by Christmas,’ as SNP’s Blackford calls her a liar

Harrington, who voted ‘remain’ in the 2016 EU referendum, and has himself intimated that he would be willing to quit May’s cabinet if no-deal Brexit became government policy urged ERG members to join a party that was more in line with their vision for the UK.

“I read that Nigel Farage is setting up a new party called ‘Brexit’ and if I were them I’d be looking at that, because that seems to reflect their views more than the Conservative Party does,” Harrington suggested.

The government minister was giving his views in the aftermath of Theresa May losing a vote (303-258) on her Brexit deal, that sought to give her more time to negotiate with the EU, changes to the contentious Irish backstop. The ERG abstained on the vote, with its deputy chairman, Steve Baker, a former Brexit minister claiming they couldn’t back something that took “no-deal off the table.”

May’s defeat last night, albeit on a vote that was legally non-binding, has triggered a Tory civil war with cracks appearing within the PM’s cabinet, specifically on the issue of taking the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal – off the table.

Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, has told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Britain is prepared to leave the bloc without a divorce deal, insisting the only way to avoid such a scenario is for the UK parliament to vote for May’s Brexit agreement.

However, foreign office and international development minister, Alistair Burt, has lambasted such suggestions, taking to social media to claim: “We are not leaving without a deal,” in a reply to former Brexit Secretary David Davis.

The PM’s defeat on Thursday night was her 11th on Brexit in 14 months. It further adds to the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and arguably undermines her pledge to EU leaders that she would be able to gain a good majority of MPs to support her deal.

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Floyd Mayweather to make $80mn in 2019, plans to have 5 fights (VIDEO)

By ethan / February 15, 2019

Boxing great Floyd Mayweather plans to fight five more bouts similar to the money-spinning exhibition he took part in late last year against Tenshin Nasukawa in Japan, saying he could earn as much as $ 80 million by doing so.

Mayweather, who renewed his official retirement after defeating Conor McGregor in what was, for now at least, his last professional bout appears to have found another way to squeeze dollars out of the boxing world without having to put his undefeated record in peril, after telling TMZ that he plans to fight in a series of exhibitions this year.

Also on rt.com Easy Money: Floyd Mayweather blows away Tenshin Nasukawa with first-round TKO at Rizin 14

The first, he says, will come in July and will be against a “Japanese boxer, a former boxer.

Mayweather, 42, was contracted by Japanese fight promotion RIZIN to box their prized asset, Nasuwaka, last year and Mayweather made quick work of the 20-year-old kickboxer, knocking him down several times within the first round.

And it appears their arrangement is set to continue.

“They called me, I got another one in Japan, in July… for like $ 10 million, three rounds, Mayweather said.

“I got another one in July, same rules, always my rules. It’s a Japanese boxer, a former boxer from what I heard, I got a call today. In exhibitions this year alone, I think I got about four or five exhibitions this year… I’ll make about $ 80 million, this year.

The former world champion across numerous weight classes said that these type of contests are a good way to make money without putting his health at risk.

“It’s all about being smart,” he said. “My faculties are very important.

However, Mayweather’s newfound method of making money appears to indicate that his time as a professional prizefighter has come to an end, despite a recent challenge from former foe Manny Pacquiao. 

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Russian PM calls on government to go beyond ‘dry figures’ to address poverty

By ethan / February 15, 2019

The Russian government should do more to help its 19 million citizens living below the poverty line, said Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. He suggested providing better-targeted assistance to the poor than just statistics.

“Decisions on payments and benefits are made on the basis of dry figures. It’s a standard data set, an impersonal picture. We need to make a more detailed social portrait of poverty in our country,” Medvedev told the heads of Russian regions on Friday.

The prime minister added that to help financially struggling people it is necessary to understand their needs and living conditions, health and education levels. Thus the social portrait will allow the government to understand how to help each person, like help in finding a job, getting an education, providing health services or helping open a small business.

Also on rt.com Siberian pensioner gives rope to regional minister in suicide message after minuscule payment rise

Earlier this week, Medvedev told the participants of the Russian Investment Forum in Sochi that the growth of national gross domestic product (GDP), which has recently reached a six-year peak, does little for ordinary people, who simply “don’t feel it.”

Last week, Russia’s state statistics agency reported that the country’s economy expanded 2.3 percent to $ 1.6 trillion in 2018. However, Economic Development Minister Maksim Oreshkin said that the factors that contributed to the economic growth were mostly in the spheres not affecting citizens’ livelihood, like oil production.

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US investor & top partners of Baring Vostok equity fund detained in Moscow on fraud allegations

By ethan / February 15, 2019

Published time: 15 Feb, 2019 11:31 Edited time: 15 Feb, 2019 11:46

A Moscow district court has ordered the detention of the founder and senior partner of Baring Vostok private equity, as part of an ongoing inquiry into fraud allegations. Other employees were also taken into custody.

Michael Calvey, a US citizen, was detained in the Russian capital on Friday along with other Baring Vostok associates, Vagan Abgaryan, Philippe Delpal, and Ivan Zyuzin, the firm said in a statement. It said the arrests have nothing to do with the company’s activities but relate to a dispute around Russia’s Vostochny Bank.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

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Flipping finger!: Putin suffers Judo injury during training with Olympic champ in Sochi (VIDEO)

By ethan / February 15, 2019

Russian president and judo supremo Vladimir Putin picked up an unfortunate finger injury while sharpening his skills in Sochi with Russia’s judo team on Thursday, while in the South Russian resort town following talks on Syria.

Putin is a well-known lover of combat sports and a keen practitioner of the modern martial art, holding the coveted rank of black belt in judo, and was fine-tuning his technique with Iranian and Turkish counterparts in the Southern Russian resort, while taking a break from trilateral talks on Syria. 

The 66-year-old has never been one to shy away from a tussle, especially when demonstrating to young up-and-comers his know-how on the mat, acquired over a decades-long love affair with judo.

However, Putin came a cropper while training with Beslan Mudranov, who won gold in the 60kg division at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. It wasn’t the athleticism and strength of the champion that downed Putin, rather an injury to his finger suffered on one particular throw.

All started swimmingly between the pair and Putin began grappling with Mudranov, who at 32 is 34 years his junior, practicing flips and throws at Yug-Sport center. 

All seemed well as Putin executed the first move. Then, after regaining his stance, Putin at first seemed to wince but then laughed off an apparent pain in his hand.

But when the pair initiated another clinch, the president complained again of having hurt his finger, prompting Mudranov and other coaches to trot off for strapping. 

Mudranov dutifully helped the president with the knock, taping up the offending finger, which allowed him to complete the rest of the training session, of course, with reduced contact.

Despite the setback, Putin spoke to reporters after training, claiming the session had raised his adrenaline and helped him “get real”. 

“It’s a well known medical fact: the level of adrenaline increases in a person who practices physical exercises, so your mood improves, and you take a different look on the world around you. I can probably say that it helps you to get real”, he said, Sputnik News reported. 

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Russia will launch Arctic LNG 2 project even if US sanctions scare off investors – Finance Ministry

By ethan / February 15, 2019

The US bill introducing new sanctions against Russia aims to sabotage the Arctic LNG 2 project, according to Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov. But Moscow will launch the project even if it has to do it on its own, he added.

Earlier this week, US senators introduced a bill suggesting a wide range of sanctions against Moscow, targeting its foreign debt, banking sphere and energy sector, including liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects abroad.

The sanctions may target the massive Arctic LNG 2 project developed by Russia’s biggest privately owned natural gas producer Novatek. France’s Total has recently joined the project, while Chinese investors also show strong interest in it.

Also on rt.com Russia’s largest LNG project kicks into high gear

If the US proceeds with the punitive measures, it is unclear how foreign partners may react, Siluanov said. While Russia hopes that “business interests will prevail,” the country can turn the project into reality on its own, the minister stressed.

“In any case we will implement this Arctic LNG project because we have the resources,” Siluanov told Russian outlet Business FM. He added that the country may consider using public funds due to the growing capacity of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is to surpass 7 percent of GDP this year.

The minister added that Novatek’s Yamal LNG plant in the Arctic, which recently reached full capacity, has already proven its high profit margins for investors.

Also on rt.com Dangerous liaisons? Italians want to build LNG plant in Russian Arctic despite US sanctions threat

Novatek’s second plant for liquefying gas in the region, Arctic LNG 2 on the Gydan Peninsula in Northern Siberia, is expected to start operations in 2022-2023. It will produce 19.8 million tons of LNG per year when at full capacity.

The project is estimated to cost up to $ 35 billion. Various foreign firms, such as Siemens, Italian companies Nuovo Pignone and Saipem, and Turkey’s Renaissance services have signed supply and construction contracts for the new facility.

The sanctions bill targeting Russia was earlier slammed by top Russian officials. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was “bordering racketeering” and has nothing to do with international trading rules. Meanwhile, the Russian government warned that it is weighing up a proper response if the bill becomes law.

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Sexting between Ryan Adams & 14yo girl reportedly probed by FBI amid claims singer preyed on women

By ethan / February 15, 2019

The FBI has reportedly launched an inquiry into allegations that rocker Ryan Adams engaged in sexually explicit chats with a 14-year-old fan and exposed himself to her via Skype. The claims were reported by the New York Times.

In a bombshell report on Wednesday, the Times said that the 44-year-old singer-songwriter preyed on young women who hoped to fire up their musical careers. After luring aspiring female artists with promises of a bright future, the artist would reportedly turn manipulative and sometimes demand sex in exchange for his patronage. When rejected, Adams would allegedly become vindictive and subject his victims to emotional or verbal abuse.

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According to the New York Times, at least one such young female talent, identified by her middle name Ava, was underage when she became romantically involved with Adams through Twitter and Skype. The two met online when she was 14. While their initial correspondence revolved around music, it quickly escalated to graphic texting or ‘sexting.’ Ava told the publication that the pair were having Skype sessions, during which Adams exposed himself to her. The relationship allegedly lasted until she turned 16.

A day after the report came out, the FBI has reportedly taken up the case, according to an anonymous law enforcement official.

The young woman, who is now in her 20s, admitted that Adams may have been in the dark about her real age, since she would sometimes lie to him about being older. At the same time, she said that the rocker did not take her claims at face value and was well aware that their relationship might land him in hot water.

The newspaper said that its report was based on accounts provided by seven women and “more than a dozen associates,” as well as being corroborated “by family members or friends” who witnessed the events.

Adams has denied all the allegations, tweeting that he “would never have inappropriate interactions with someone I thought was underage.”

The Grammy-nominated singer lashed out at the New York Times for painting an “upsettingly inaccurate” picture of his interactions with women.

“Some of its details are misrepresented; some are exaggerated; some are outright false,” he claimed, while apologizing “deeply and unreservedly” to anyone he might have hurt “however unintentionally.”

Also on rt.com US gets into 10 most dangerous countries for women due to #metoo – survey

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No way back for Nord Stream 2 pipeline project – Germany

By ethan / February 15, 2019

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, controlled by Russian energy giant Gazprom, is unlikely to be cancelled, according to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the new leader of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

“Nord Stream 2 is not the project that I support with all my heart… But key decisions were made earlier. The project just can’t be turned back,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said in an interview with political science magazine Internationale Politik.

“Moreover, we have quite legitimate economic interests in energy supply… It’s realistic to say that the construction of the gas pipeline cannot be prevented,” the politician added, citing already-signed contracts and permits.

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Ditching Russian gas will be economic suicide for Europe – analyst to RT

Angela Merkel’s successor stressed that Germany had managed to keep stable economic relations with Russia even during the Cold War.

“So it’s about balancing between interests of the Germans and those of Ukraine and Eastern Europe,” she said, adding that the US was also pursuing their own economic interests when it comes to the European energy market.

“The question of whether Germany is too dependent on Russian gas is legitimate. But right now we are building LNG terminals for American gas. So, I think, the danger of dependency is exaggerated.”

The interview comes days after EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Canete confirmed that the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament agreed on amendments to the EU gas directive that is set to deal with sea sections of gas pipelines and, therefore, the Nord Stream 2 project.

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is set to run from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. The pipeline, a joint venture of Russia’s Gazprom and five European energy majors, is currently one third complete. It is expected to double the existing pipeline’s capacity of 55 billion cubic meters annually, and is supposed to come into operation by the end of the current year.

The project has been sharply criticized by US President Donald Trump, who accused Berlin of being a “captive to Russia.” In an effort to push American LNG to German consumers, Washington threatened to sanction European companies for participating in the Gazprom-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

Earlier this week, a group of US senators introduced a bill suggesting a wide range of fresh sanctions against Russia. If approved, the new package will target Russia’s banking and energy industry, including the controversial pipeline.

Russian-led Nord Stream 2 will definitely be included in the new list of US sanctions, but it’s not likely that European consumers would recede from their position towards the pipeline, according to Anton Pokatovich, chief analyst at investment bank BKS Premier.

“The major risk posed by the US pressure is seen in potential attempts to prevent the third parties from providing new technologies to the companies that participate in the Nord Stream pipeline project,” the expert told RT.

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Migrant rights groups sue as US starts sending families back to Mexico

By ethan / February 15, 2019

Civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration as authorities have begun shipping asylum-seeking families across the border to wait for their claims to be processed, insisting the policy endangers lives.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center sued on behalf of 11 anonymous asylum seekers and six migrants’ rights groups, demanding an end to the Trump administration’s “Migrant Protection Protocols” policy, which requires asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for their cases to be processed, and requesting the migrants be allowed to return to the US to wait.

Read more

‘A machine with no compassion’: Mexico’s former president on Trump’s divisive ‘f*** you’ politics

The asylum-seekers in question were returned to Mexico on January 30 and now “fear for their lives,” the suit says. They reportedly include 10 men and one woman from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, according to a source close to the case. The woman is reportedly a lesbian who claims she was raped because of her sexual orientation and her partner was threatened with death in their home country of Honduras. 

The suit – officially titled Innovation Law Lab et al. v. Nielsen et al., and filed in the migrant-friendly Northern District of California Court on Thursday – takes aim at the Department of Homeland Security, its head Kirstjen Nielsen, and other US agencies involved in the program, which was instituted in December to address the administration’s concerns that asylum-seekers fail to show up for their court dates when allowed to roam the interior of the US with an ankle monitor.

The Migrant Protection Protocols program expanded this week beyond single adults, removing its first five families – 16 people, including children, originally from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala – to Tijuana on Wednesday, according to Mexican immigration authorities. Migrants’ rights groups have protested that keeping families in the border area – currently experiencing epidemic levels of violence – endangers the lives of asylum-seekers.

Both the US and Mexican governments know that the border area is unsafe for women and children,” said Migrants’ Rights and Justice Program Director Michelle Brane at the Women’s Refugee Commission.

Also on rt.com ‘Several thousand’ more troops headed for US-Mexico border – Pentagon

While Mexican authorities initially protested against the Migrant Protocols Policy as well, insisting they did not have the “operational or legal capacity” to handle the outflow of asylum seekers, they announced they would comply with the policy last month. The program has been implemented at the Tijuana and San Diego border crossings, with an eye toward rolling it out along all checkpoints later this year. Only “aliens arriving in the US on land from Mexico… who are not clearly admissible and who are placed in removal proceedings” are eligible.

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