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Comer reveals new Biden family member has emerged in GOP-led probe: 'We've got a problem here'

joe and hunter biden deboard
© AP Photo / Patrick Semansky
President Joe Biden, left, and his son, Hunter Biden, step off Air Force One, Feb. 4, 2023, at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, New York.
House Oversight Committee reviews 14 years of financial records related to Hunter Biden's foreign business dealings.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., has revealed that a new Biden family member has emerged in the investigation into Hunter Biden's overseas business dealings - Hunter Biden is the son of President Joe Biden.

Comer, who is spearheading the investigation into the matter, declined to reveal the identity of the family member Tuesday but said the revelation raises more national security concerns about foreign "influence peddling."

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Zimbabwe poised to ditch dollar in trade with Russia - official

Zimbabwe Dollar
© Getty Images / Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg
Settlements between the countries could be arranged in local currencies or gold, a senior lawmaker has suggested.

The central banks of Russia and Zimbabwe should establish settlements in local currencies and look at opportunities for securing trade in gold reserves, the speaker of the Zimbabwean ruling party ZANU-PF, Christopher Mutsvangwa, told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.

The southern African country has been under Western sanctions for 22 years, the official noted, adding that curbs imposed on Russia should not handicap trade between the two countries.

Earlier this year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that Russia and countries in Africa were developing a cooperation strategy to replace the US dollar and the euro in settlements, adding that the parties were preparing documents on rearranging the mechanism of cooperation under Western sanctions.

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Assad meets with Putin in Moscow, reiterates support to Russia in fight against 'old and new Nazis'

Putin Bashar al-Assad
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 15, 2023.
Syrian President Bashar Assad on Wednesday reiterated his support to Russia in the fight with "old and new Nazis."

"I want to take advantage of the moment, as this is my first visit since the [start of the] special operation in Ukraine, and reiterate the Syrian position in support of the special operation against the old and new Nazis. I'm saying they are old and new Nazis because the West accepted old Nazis on its soil, and now it supports them again," the Syrian leader said at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Assad arrived in Moscow on Tuesday evening. He was met at the airport by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who is also the presidential special envoy for the Middle East and Africa, Syrian Ambassador to Russia Bashar Jaafari and Russian Ambassador to Syria Alexander Yefimov. В последний раз Putin and Assad last met in September 2021 when the Syrian president came to Moscow.

Comment: Video excerpt of the above statement:

PressTV reports:
Syria's Assad says his visit to Moscow heralds 'new stage' in bilateral relations

"We are satisfied with the performance of the Russian-Syrian [intergovernmental] commission. My visit today will open up a new stage in relations between our countries in all areas," TASS quoted Assad as saying in a meeting with Vladimir Putin.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Assad also thanked Russia for providing Damascus with humanitarian aid following the recent quakes in the Arab country.

"I would like to thank ministries and agencies of the Russian Federation that helped in elimination of the aftermath of the earthquakes. Thanks to their involvement, we were able to significantly reduce the number of victims and the scale of damage," the Syrian leader said.

Meanwhile US sanctions blocked aid, and Israel continued to attack the country with airstrikes.

Putin, for his part, said the two countries are in constant contact, lauding their relations as "developing."

The Russian leader also hailed the two countries' anti-terror cooperation and its "significant results" in the fight against international terrorism.

"Thanks to our joint efforts and the decisive contribution of the Russian Armed Forces in Syria, significant results have been achieved in the fight against international terrorism," Putin said.

The Russian president noted that those results had provided "an opportunity for stabilizing the socio-economic and domestic political situation."

Putin also expressed sympathy with the Syrian nation over the recent devastating quakes that rocked the country, describing it as a "catastrophe."

"The Syrian people faced another very serious problem, a catastrophe, an earthquake... As true friends, we are trying to support you," Putin said.

Last month's earthquakes has killed some 6,000 people in Syria, mostly in northwest areas near the Turkish border.

According to the UN, some five million people need basic shelter and non-food assistance in the quake-hit part of Syria.

The Syrian president arrived in Moscow on an official visit on Tuesday, accompanied by a large delegation of ministers.

The two leaders last met in September 2021, when the Syrian president paid a visit to Moscow.

Moscow is a staunch ally of Damascus, providing air support for Syrian forces fighting foreign-backed militants and terrorists in the Arab country.

Together with Iran and Turkey, Russia has also served as one of the guarantors of negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition.


Fears of banking crisis stoked amidst falling stocks in Europe & US, troubled Credit Suisse loses 30% of share price

Credit Suisse
© Seth Wenig/AP
Shares in global investment bank Credit Suisse fell sharply on Wednesday sending shares plunging in other European banks.
A record drop in shares at Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse on Wednesday has fanned fears of a possible banking crisis.

US-listed shares at the global investment bank plummeted by more than a quarter after the banks largest shareholder — the Saudi National Bank — said it would not inject in more cash into the bank.

The Financial Times reported that Credit Suisse had appealed to the Swiss National Bank for a public show of support, citing people familiar with the matter.

At the close of trade in Europe on Wednesday, Credit Suisse's stock price was down 24%, having recovered slightly from its lowest ebb during the day. It was trading at around €1.84 — compared to almost €3 per share last week and more than €7.50 per share late last March.

Comment: So Switzerland claims it will be fine because it has stricter requirements, but at the same time it admits that it will bail out any of its banks that need it?...

More on the situation from The Guardian:
The suggestion of a limit to support for Credit Suisse, which has reported a 7.3bn Swiss francs (£6.6bn) loss for 2022, sent its shares down more than 30% during the day.

The bank, Europe's 17th largest lender, has been struggling to keep customers after a string of scandals in recent years. Credit Suisse strengthened its balance sheet with a 4bn Swiss francs (£3.6bn) fundraising in November designed to finance a restructuring plan.

Credit Suisse isn't alone in being mired by scandal, many of the big banks have been, including Deutsche Bank, Danske Bank, J P Morgan, Barclays, and HSBC - but, as powerful tools of the establishment, they're essentially all at it.

In a statement on Wednesday, the chairman, Axel Lehmann tried to reassure customers and investors, saying: "We have strong capital ratios, a strong balance sheet. We already took the medicine."

Investors are worried about potential unrealised losses lurking in the portfolios of other European banks. As traders dumped stocks, more than £75bn was wiped off London's blue chip index. The FTSE 100 was down 3.83%, marking its sharpest one-day drop since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year. UK-headquartered Standard Chartered fell 7.7% and HSBC, which bought the UK operations of Silicon Valley Bank in a government-brokered deal on Monday, dropped 5%. Barclays fell 9%.

Credit Suisse shares recovered slightly but still ended the day down 24.5%. The cost of insuring against Credit Suisse defaulting on its bonds also hit a record high on Wednesday.

Shares in other big European banks slumped on the news, with the gyrations triggering stock market circuit breakers that briefly halted trading in Société Générale, BNP Paribas, Monte dei Paschi di Siena and UniCredit. The Swiss lender UBS dropped 8.7% and Germany's Deutsche Bank slipped 9.2%.

Regulators in the US and UK were monitoring the situation as stocks continued to slide.

The Bank of England said the UK banking system was not at risk. The central bank, which is in charge of monitoring financial stability, referred to its statement released earlier this week, which said: "The wider UK banking system remains safe, sound, and well capitalised."

Echoes of the crash of 2007-8 abound.

Credit Suisse's problems - which have led to a leadership overhaul and sparked a wide-ranging turnaround plan in recent months - are relatively unique and should not come as a surprise to investors, according to some analysts.

The lender has been trying to draw a line under multiple scandals over the past decade involving corporate espionage, alleged misconduct, sanctions busting, money laundering and tax evasion.

In the past two years alone, Credit Suisse has admitted to defrauding investors as part of the Mozambique "tuna bonds" loan scandal, resulting in a fine worth more than £350m; and been embroiled in the collapse of the lender Greensill Capital and the US hedge fund Archegos Capital in 2021. It also came under fire after the Guardian and other media outlets revealed the bank had been serving clients involved in torture, drug trafficking, money laundering, corruption and other serious crimes over decades.

The bank has since suffered an exodus of clients, who have continued to pull their cash, contributing to ballooning losses that grew to 7.3bn Swiss francs in 2022. It has since been abandoned by its former top shareholder, Harris Associates, which revealed earlier this year that it had dumped its entire stake amid frustration over Credit Suisse's strategy and failure to stem losses.

However, Andrew Kenningham, the chief European economist at Capital Economics, said there are still questions about potential weaknesses across the financial system. "The problems in Credit Suisse once more raise the question whether this is the beginning of a global crisis or just another "idiosyncratic case", he said. Credit Suisse was widely seen as the weakest link among Europe's large banks, but it is not the only one to have struggled with weak profitability in recent years.

The high-profile economist Nouriel Roubini, known as Dr Doom for having predicted the 2008 financial crisis, warned that while Sillicon Valley Bank's collapse had a "ripple effect" on the financial sector, any potential failure by Credit Suisse could prove to be a "Lehman moment", referring to the collapse of the US investment bank Lehman Brothers in August 2007 that sparked the global banking crunch.

The 'crunch' that resulted in hundreds of billions being robbed from the tax payer to (temporarily) prop up criminal banks.

Markets are now expecting that central banks including the Bank of England may hold back from raising interest rates further, amid fears that further hikes could increase pressure on investment portfolios.

Silicon Valley Bank collapsed shortly after revealing it had a hole in its finances, caused by a drop in the value of bonds that it tried to sell to make up for a drop in its tech customers' deposits. Those bonds had dropped in value due to recent interest rate hikes. The shortfall spooked investors, led to a share sell-off and a run on its deposits, before authorities stepped in last week.

The Bank of England had been given an almost 100% probability by traders in financial markets of raising rates by 0.25 percentage points at its next meeting on 23 March. However, that has since fallen to 40%.

Saudi National Bank gained its 9.9% stake in Credit Suisse this past autumn, after investing 1.5bn Swiss francs as part of a 4bn Swiss franc capital fundraising to support Credit Suisse's turnaround plan, which is meant to cut the size of it
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If SVB is insolvent, so is everyone else

© Intelligencer/Getty Images
Fed Chair Jerome Powell
On Sunday afternoon, September 14, 2008, hundreds of employees of the financial giant Lehman Brothers walked into the bank's headquarters at 745 Seventh Avenue in New York City to clear out their offices and desks.

Lehman was hours away from declaring bankruptcy. And its collapse the next day triggered the worst economic and financial devastation since the Great Depression. The S&P 500 fell by roughly 50%. Unemployment soared. And more than 100 other banks failed over the subsequent 12 months. It was a total disaster.

These banks, it turned out, had been using their depositors' money to buy up special mortgage bonds. But these bonds were so risky that they eventually became known as "toxic securities" or "toxic assets".

These toxic assets were bundles of risky, no-money-down mortgages given to sub-prime "NINJAs", i.e. borrowers with No Income, No Job, no Assets who had a history of NOT paying their bills.

When the economy was doing well in 2006 and 2007, banks earned record profits from their toxic assets. But when economic conditions started to worsen in 2008, those toxic assets plunged in value... and dozens of banks got wiped out.

Now here we go again.

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Light Sabers

West setting Asia up for years of conflict - Russia

© Sputnik/Murad Orujov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
Pushing blocs like AUKUS and NATO into the region will cause confrontation, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned...

The West's expansion of its military presence in Asia risks causing a prolonged conflict because people in the region will not accept the move, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

At a gathering in Moscow on Tuesday, he said:
"By pushing "bloc structures, such as AUKUS and NATO infrastructure into Asia, Western leaders are making a serious bid for a confrontation lasting for many, long years. I cannot imagine the great Asian civilizations toeing the line the way the EU unfortunately did, and obediently delivering Washington's agenda."
AUKUS - a military alliance comprising the UK, US and Australia - was touted as a mechanism to counter China's influence in the Asia-Pacific region when it was founded in 2021.

Beijing this week reiterated its criticism of AUKUS and Canberra's plan to procure US-made nuclear-propelled submarines, citing the risk of nuclear proliferation posed by the technology used in the boats.

Comment: Former Australian PM Paul Keating denounces AUKUS and the implications of this alliance:
Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating has fired a broadside against the current government for its endorsement of the AUKUS security bloc and the purchase of American submarines. It doesn't help protect the country and drags it into the US attempt to preserve its hegemony by containing China, he has argued.

Keating, who chaired the Australian government in the 1990s, reiterated his negative view of the purchase of Virginia-class nuclear-powered boats in a lengthy rebuke this week. He branded it the "worst international decision" by an Australian Labor government since conscription in World War I. "It must be the worst deal in all history."

The Australian Royal Navy is buying up to five attack submarines from the US and possibly building three more with the UK's help. The deal is estimated to cost 360 billion Australian dollars ($240bn).

With that investment, Australia could have 40 to 50 domestically-built Collins-class diesel-electric submarines instead, Keating suggested.

A larger fleet would be far better at protecting Australia from a possible invasion, which would require an "armada of troops ships" reaching its coast, he believes. Meanwhile, the nuclear subs would be sent to the Chinese coast to potentially take part in a US-Chinese conflict, the former prime minister suggested.
"It's a strange way to defend Australia to have your submarines sunk on the Chinese continental shelf chasing Chinese submarines. We are part of a [US] containment policy against China. It's about one matter only: the maintenance of US strategic hegemony in Southeast Asia."
The politician dismissed as "rubbish" the idea that China poses a military threat to Australia in the first place and shamed national journalists peddling it.
China warns the sub agreement could trigger a regional arms race:
The trilateral bloc has "gone further down a wrong and dangerous road," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said commenting on US President Joe Biden's decision to supply the military hardware to Australia.

Wang warned that the deal could have broader implications towards peace in the Indo-Pacific region, and might "stimulate an arms race, undermine the international nuclear non-proliferation system and damage regional peace and stability."

When asked on Monday if Beijing was justified in considering the nuclear submarines deal as a security threat or an act of aggression, Biden responded: "No."

A joint statement released by Biden, Sunak, and Albanese on Monday said that the "historic" deal indicated the three nations sought to "sustain peace, stability and prosperity around the world."

Stock Down

Biden holds press conference — blames Trump for banks collapsing — refuses to take questions

joe biden
President Joe Biden patted himself on the back Monday morning as multiple banks have collapsed in recent days, claiming that the "quick action" of his administration has stabilized the banking industry.

"Your deposits will be there when you need them. Small businesses across the country that deposit accounts at these banks can breathe easier knowing they'll be able to pay their workers and pay their bills," Biden said. "And their hardworking employees can breathe easier as well."

Biden said he was focused on reducing the risk of other financial institutions collapsing. "During the Obama-Biden administration, we put in place tough requirements on banks like Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, including the Dodd-Frank law to make sure the crisis we saw in 2008 would not happen again," he said. "Unfortunately, the last administration rolled back some of these requirements."

Comment: See also:


Trump publishing private letters from high-profile figures including Kim Jong Un, Hillary Clinton, Oprah

trump cpac
© Alex Wong/Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump arrives to address the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., on March 4, 2023.
Former President Donald Trump is set to release 150 private letters sent to him from an array of high-profile political figures and celebrities including former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and Oprah Winfrey.

The letters will be published in Trump's new book, titled "Letters to Trump," which will be released on April 25, according to the book's publisher, Winning Team Publishing.

The publisher describes it as "a colorful photo book" that captures the "incredible, and oftentimes private correspondence, between President Donald J. Trump and some of the biggest names in history throughout the past 40 years."


US taxpayers were double-billed tens of millions of dollars in grants to Wuhan labs: report

francis collins fauci wuhan pandemic covid NIH

Fauci and then-NIH director Francis Collins “prompted” a scientific study to debunk the lab leak theory
The US government may have paid twice for grants it doled out to fund research at labs in Wuhan, China, according to a newly launched federal probe that found tens of millions of dollars in potentially fraudulent payments.

The "risky" projects bankrolled by the National Institutes of Health and the US Agency for International Development would have helped pay for medical supplies, equipment, travel expenses, and salaries at the Wuhan labs, according to CBS News, which broke the story Monday.

Among them was the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where taxpayers funded controversial gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses that federal officials now admit Among them was the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where taxpayers funded controversial gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses that federal officials now admit may have led to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Russia to expand 'fake news' laws

russian soldiers ukraine transport
© Twitter
Russian army troops
A bill introducing stricter punishment for disinformation about the nation's military operations has been passed by the State Duma

Russian laws protecting military service members from slander and "fake news" are to be expanded. Amendments were approved by the State Duma on Tuesday, which are intended to protect the country's military from disinformation attacks amid the ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine.

Russia already has laws which prohibit knowingly publishing false information about its military forces or slander against service members. The two linked bills passed by the lower house of parliament will apply the same rules in respect of volunteer units, organizations and individuals assisting the armed forces.

Comment: A fine line to walk. Pregozhin has made a good point. There is a difference between criticism of questionable decisions on the part of the military leadership, and propaganda meant to undermine a nation's unity. One need only look at the state America is in to see the difference.