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Stock Down

U.S. stock markets are rigged, sez author Michael Lewis

© REUTERS/CARLO ALLEGRI
A Wall Street sign is pictured outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York, October 28, 2013.
The U.S. stock market is rigged in favor of high-speed electronic trading firms, which use their advantages to extract billions from investors, according to Michael Lewis, author of a new book on the topic, "Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt."

High-frequency trading (HFT) is a practice carried out by many banks and proprietary trading firms using sophisticated computer programs to send gobs of orders into the market, executing a small portion of them when opportunities arise to capitalize on price imbalances, or to make markets. HFT makes up more than half of all U.S. trading volume.

The trading methods and technology that make HFT possible are all legal, and the stock exchanges HFT firms trade on are highly regulated. But Lewis said these firms are using their speed advantage to profit at the expense of other market participants to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.

"They are able to identify your desire to buy shares in Microsoft and buy them in front of you and sell them back to you at a higher price," Lewis, whose book is available on Monday, said on the television program "60 Minutes" on Sunday.
Cookies

Marijuana possession decriminalized in Washington DC

© Reuters/Anthony Bolante
Marijuana plants are displayed for sale at Canna Pi medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle, Washington, November 27, 2012.
District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray on Monday signed a bill that decriminalizes possession of up to an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana in the U.S. capital.

The law makes possession a civil violation with a penalty of $25, lower than most city parking tickets. Possession had been a misdemeanor carrying up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

"He did sign it this morning," said spokeswoman Doxie McCoy. Gray is facing a tight race in the Democratic primary on Tuesday after being tarnished by links to a campaign finance scandal.

Proponents had backed the marijuana measure as an issue of fairness. A study by the American Civil Liberties Union had shown that blacks in Washington were eight times more likely to be arrested for pot than people of other races.

Comment: Reefer madness will spread - if it works

Safe

Paul Craig Roberts: The Federal Reserve's lack of integrity speaks volumes about corrupt U.S. government

© Coinweek
As we documented in previous articles, the gold price is driven down in the paper futures market by naked short selling by the Fed's dependent bullion banks. Some people have a hard time accepting this fact even though it is known that the big banks have manipulated the LIBOR (London Interbank Overnight Rate - London's equivalent of the Fed Funds rate) interest rate and the twice-daily London gold price fix.

Almost every week it is possible to illustrate the appearance of a large number of contracts shorting gold at times of day when trading is thin. The short-selling triggers stop-loss orders and margin calls and hammers down the gold price.

The Fed has resorted to this practice in order to protect the value of the US dollar from Quantitative Easing.

In order for the Fed to effectively support the reserve status of the U.S. dollar by pushing it higher when it starts to drop, the Fed has also to prevent the price of gold from rising. Intervention in the gold market has been occurring for a long time. However, in the last several years the intervention has become blatant and desperate, as rising concerns about the dollar are causing countries such as China and Russia to accumulate fewer dollars and more gold.
Eye 1

John Kerry calls off meeting with Palestinian President Abbas

© Voice of Russia
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday called off a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah for last-minute talks on extending peace talks with Israel, a senior State Department official said. That's according to Reuters.

"We are no longer travelling tomorrow. We are in close touch with the team on the ground," the official said.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas signed a request to join several UN agencies on Tuesday, in a move that could derail a US push to revive faltering peace talks with Israel. The demands for membership will be sent immediately to the relevant agencies, he said.

"The Palestinian leadership has unanimously approved a decision to seek membership of 15 UN agencies and international treaties, beginning with the Fourth Geneva Convention," Abbas made a statement after signing the demand during a meeting at his Ramallah headquarters.

Comment: Coincidence?
From March 31, 2014: Kerry makes unscheduled trip to Israel after Paris talks with Russia's Sergei Lavrov

War Whore

Dick Cheney talks about bombing Iran and calls NSA spying 'hogwash' in leaked speech

Dick Cheney
© Rose Palmisano/The Orange County Register/ZUMA
What do former Vice President Dick Cheney, billionaire megadonor Sheldon Adelson, and Republican activists and funders talk about - and applaud - when they're behind closed doors at a Las Vegas hotel? Bombing Iran.

This past weekend, the Republican Jewish Coalition held its spring leadership meeting at Adelson's Venetian hotel, where several possible 2016 contenders, including ex-Gov. Jeb Bush and current Govs. Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and John Kasich, showed up to kiss the ring of the casino magnate, who's looking to bankroll a viable Republican presidential candidate. Though the heavy-on-Israel speeches of the White House wannabes were open to the press, the keynote address delivered by Cheney on Saturday night was off-limits to reporters and the public. But Mother Jones has obtained a recording of Cheney's talk, during which he once again derided President Barack Obama on foreign policy, blasted the isolationists within his own party, assailed critics of the National Security Agency, and seemingly endorsed the idea of an Israeli strike against Iran.
Arrow Down

Saudi Arabia declares all atheists are terrorists in new law to crack down on political dissidents

King Abdullah
© The Independent, UK
Atheists, peaceful protesters and those who go to fight abroad have all been brought under the auspices of new "anti-terror" laws.
Saudi Arabia has introduced a series of new laws which define atheists as terrorists, according to a report from Human Rights Watch.

In a string of royal decrees and an overarching new piece of legislation to deal with terrorism generally, the Saudi King Abdullah has clamped down on all forms of political dissent and protests that could "harm public order".

The new laws have largely been brought in to combat the growing number of Saudis travelling to take part in the civil war in Syria, who have previously returned with newfound training and ideas about overthrowing the monarchy.

To that end, King Abdullah issued Royal Decree 44, which criminalises "participating in hostilities outside the kingdom" with prison sentences of between three and 20 years, Human Rights Watch said.

Yet last month further regulations were issued by the Saudi interior ministry, identifying a broad list of groups which the government considers to be terrorist organisations - including the Muslim Brotherhood.
Dollars

Engine-maker Caterpillar accused of hiding $8 billion in Swiss tax havens

© AFP Photo
U.S. Senate investigators have accused heavy equipment giant Caterpillar of hiding $8 billion in profits offshore in Switzerland to avoid U.S. taxes.

In a report released late Monday, investigators said the company took advantage of a special corporate tax deal negotiated with Swiss authorities that allowed it to defer or avoid paying $2.4 billion in US taxes.

The report, released by Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said the company instead only had to pay Swiss authorities $55 million under the strategy.

"That tax strategy depends on the company making the case that its parts business is run out of Switzerland instead of the U.S. so it can justify sending 85 percent or more of the parts profits to Geneva," Levin said in a statement.
Smoking

U.S. Defense Secretary favors ban of tobacco sales on all military bases and ships

© AP
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is "looking" at banning the sale of tobacco at military installations. According to one military publication, Hagel appears to support it.

"As the Navy considers banning tobacco sales on all bases and ships, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gave a strong endorsement of the review Monday, and suggested that he would be in favor of a ban," reports Stars and Stripes.

"I don't know if there's anybody in America who still thinks that tobacco is good for you," Stars and Stripes quotes Hagel as saying. "We don't allow smoking in any of our government buildings. Restaurants, states, [and] municipalities have pretty clear regulations on this. I think in reviewing any options that we have as to whether we in the military through commissaries [or] PXs sell or continue to sell tobacco is something we need to look at. And we are looking at it. And I think we owe it to our people."

Comment: Smoking is healthier than fascism, so Let's All Light Up!

Satellite

Russian lawmakers: Draft legislation endorsed for satellite navigation hub in Nicaragua

© RIA Novosti/Sergey Pyatakov
Russian lawmakers have endorsed draft legislation to allow the country to set up a satellite navigation monitoring system in Nicaragua, a Cabinet committee said Tuesday.

"The agreement is aimed at creating an organizational and legal framework for mutually beneficial partnership between Russia and Nicaragua in terms of exploring and using space for peaceful purposes," the official statement explained.

Under the agreement, Russia would set up a network of land-based control stations in the Latin American country to monitor and augment the accuracy of navigation satellites in Earth orbit.

It is hoped the system will boost Russia's GLONASS satellite navigation system, the only current alternative to the US's Global Positioning System (GPS) to feature global coverage and comparable accuracy.
Arrow Down

Delaware judge excuses wealthy child-rapist from prison because "he would not fare well"

Jan
© The News Journal / Jennifer Corbett
Judge Jan Jurden lets the rich and famous rape children without consequence.
A member of a billionaire family who received a felony for raping a child is dodging prison time because a judge says "he would not fare well" behind bars. The judge's preferential treatment exposes a glaring crack in the justice system.

Robert H. Richards IV admitted to both molesting his infant son and raping his daughter between the ages of 3-5. He ultimately plead guilty to a single count of fourth-degree rape in a deal struck with prosecutors. Richards is legally a rapist and is listed on the sex-offender registry.

He also happens to be fabulously wealthy, and apparently impervious to punishment. His family owns the du Pont chemical company and has a net worth in the billions. Richards is heir to the du Pont fortune. When not sexually-abusing innocent children, Richards lives in a multi-million dollar mansion, surviving off of the wealth amassed by his forebearers.

The Class C felony of which he was plead guilty to could have brought him up to 15 years in prison. Instead he will face zero years in prison, thanks to the suspicious leniency of his judge, Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden.

In her sentencing order, Judge Jurden wrote, "Defendant will not fare well in Level 5 setting." In Delaware, Level 5 refers to prison.
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