Posted at 4:19 PM (CST) by & filed under In The News.

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Four dead after gun battle in eastern Ukraine
First deaths since signing of Geneva accord raise tensions in eastern Ukraine and dash hopes of a truce for Easter
By David Blair, Donetsk
11:58AM BST 20 Apr 2014

A gun battle in eastern Ukraine claimed up to four lives on Sunday when fighting erupted near a stronghold of pro-Russian separatists.

The shootings occurred at a checkpoint outside Slavyansk, a town of 100,000 people which is under the de facto control of pro-Russian gunmen.

Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the newly installed pro-Russian mayor, blamed the incident on Right Sector, an armed Ukrainian nationalist movement. He claimed that Right Sector gunmen attacked a checkpoint manned by separatists in the early hours of the morning, killing three people.

The pro-Russian gunmen returned fire and killed one of the attackers, said the mayor. Later, the corpses of two men were visible at the checkpoint, although the circumstances and timing of their killing was unclear.

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Ukraine crisis: Geneva deal hangs by a thread after deaths in Slavyansk
Pro-Russian militants and unidentified assailants are reported killed in gun battle in eastern Ukrainian town
Luke Harding in Donetsk and agencies
theguardian.com, Sunday 20 April 2014 05.38 EDT

The tentative Geneva deal to resolve the Ukraine crisis is hanging by a thread after as many as five people were killed in a gun battle near the volatile eastern town of Slavyansk early on Sunday.

An Easter truce declared by the authorities in Kiev was rudely shattered after two groups opened fire on each other overnight. Three pro-Russian militants were reported killed, along with two of the assailants, whose identity has not been ascertained. A Reuters cameraman reported that he saw the bodies of two local fighters.

Slavyansk is one of several towns and cities that have been taken over by pro-Russian units of men, whose allegiance is clear but whose provenance remains a mystery. Under a deal signed in Geneva on Thursday by the EU, Russia, Ukraine and the US, the units were supposed to retire, but they have thus far shown no signs of desisting.

A team of mediators is heading to eastern Ukraine to try to persuade the pro-Russian groups to disband, but it appears to be facing an unenviable challenge. Attempts by the Guardian to enter Slavyansk were brusquely repelled by armed men. The situation for non-Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine has become increasingly precarious in recent days.

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US Gas Will Never Replace Russian Gas For Europe
Economically & energetically implausible
by Chris Martenson
Friday, April 18, 2014, 4:10 PM

Recent entreaties by various US politicians to help wean Europe off of Russian gas are simply preposterous.  The numbers don’t add up, and they never will.

Let’s begin with the facts:

16% of natural gas consumed in Europe flows through Ukraine

Mar 14, 2014

Europe, including all EU members plus Turkey, Norway, Switzerland, and the non-EU Balkan states, consumed 18.7 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas in 2013. Russia supplied 30% (5.7 Tcf) of this volume, with a significant amount flowing through Ukraine. EIA estimates that 16% (3.0 Tcf) of the total natural gas consumed in Europe passed through Ukraine’s pipeline network, based on data reported by Gazprom and Eastern Bloc Energy.

(Source)

If the US wants Europe entirely off of Russian natural gas (NG), it will have to immediately replace 5.7 trillion cubic feet per year, or 15 billion cubic feet per day.

The entire set of US shale gas plays, which consist of 8 major plays and a slew of minor ones, cumulatively provide the US with 27 billion cubic feet per day.  That is, just over half of the entire current US shale gas play would have to be dedicated to the European cause of eliminating Russian natural gas dependency. 

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Ukraine shootout threatens to bury Geneva peace deal
Kiev ridicules claims by Russians that violence at Slavyansk checkpoint was caused by far-right Ukrainian nationalists
Luke Harding in Slavyansk
The Guardian, Sunday 20 April 2014 19.28 BST

An international agreement to defuse the crisis in Ukraine was all but shredded on Sunday after a shootout in the separatist town of Slavyansk.

Three days after the Geneva deal brought modest hopes for a resolution to the gravest east-west stand-off since the end of the cold war, the midnight incident at a checkpoint – in which reports said as many as five people were killed – unleashed a torrent of accusations and counter-accusations that bodes ill for international peacemakers.

Russia claimed that far-right Ukrainian nationalists opened fire at the checkpoint just outside the town, seized by an armed pro-Russian militia two weeks ago. The foreign ministry in Moscow accused Kiev of failing to disarm "extremists and terrorists" and blamed the clash on the Right Sector, a nationalist Ukrainian group that has supported the pro-Western interim government in Ukraine.

The new self-proclaimed mayor of Slavyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, said Russian troops were urgently needed to protect the civilian population. He threatened to "personally shoot" Ukraine’s interior minister Arsen Avakov if he could.

The authorities in Kiev described the incident in the early hours of Sunday as a "crude provocation", made for Russian TV. They said some of the details of the shootout were so implausible as to be ridiculous.

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Posted at 4:12 PM (CST) by & filed under Jim's Mailbox.

Jim,

We thought the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act and the National Defense Authorization Act were bad, but this has got those topped. While it appears to only apply currently to income tax issues,  it is easy to see that it will soon seep into all other areas of the attorney-client relationship.  From Simon Black at Sovereign Man.

CIGA Shelly

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April 18, 2014
Sovereign Valley Farm, Chile

In the Land of the Free, people grow up hearing a lot of things about their freedom.

You’re told that you live in the freest country on the planet. You’re told that other nations ‘hate you’ for your freedom.

And you’re told that you have the most open and fair justice system in the world.

This justice system is supposedly founded on bedrock principles– things like a defendant being presumed innocent until proven guilty. The right to due process and an impartial hearing. The right to counsel and attorney-client privilege.

Yet each of these core pillars has been systematically dismantled over the years:

1. So that it can operate with impunity outside of the law, the federal government has set up its own secret FISA courts to rubber stamp NSA surveillance.

According to data obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, of the nearly 34,000 surveillance requests made to FISA courts in the last 35-years, only ELEVEN have been rejected.

Unsurprising given that FISA courts only hear the case from the government’s perspective. It is literally a one-sided argument in FISA courts. Hardly an impartial hearing, no?

2. The concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ may officially exist in courts, but administratively it was thrown out long ago.

These days there are hundreds of local, state, and federal agencies that can confiscate your assets, levy your bank account, and freeze you out of your life’s savings. None of this requires a court order.

By the time a case goes to court, you have been deprived of the resources you need to defend yourself. You might technically be presumed innocent, but you have been treated and punished like a criminal from day one.

3. Attorney-Client privilege is a long-standing legal concept which ensures that communication between an attorney and his/her client is completely private.

In Upjohn vs. the United States, the Supreme Court itself upheld attorney-client privilege as necessary "to encourage full and frank communication between attorneys and their clients and thereby promote broader public interests in the observance of law. . ."

It doesn’t matter what you’re accused of– theft. treason. triple homicide. Withvery limited exceptions, an attorney cannot be compelled to testify against a client, nor can their communications be subpoenaed for evidence.

Yet in a United States Tax Court decision announced on Wednesday, the court dismissed attorney client privilege, stating that:

"When a person puts into issue his subjective intent in deciding how to comply with the law, he may forfeit the privilege afforded attorney-client communications."

In other words, if a person works with legal counsel within the confines of the tax code to legitimately minimize the amount of taxes owed, that communication is no longer protected by attorney-client privilege.

Furthermore, the ruling states that if the individuals do not submit attorney-client documentation as required, then the court would prohibit them from introducing any evidence to demonstrate their innocence.

Unbelievable.

While it’s true that attorney-client privilege has long been assailed in numerous court cases (especially with regards to tax matters), this decision sets the most dangerous precedent yet.

With this ruling, government now has carte blanche to set aside long-standing legal protections and even deny a human being even the chance to defend himself.

Naturally, you won’t hear a word about this in the mainstream media.
But it certainly begs the question, what’s the point of even having a trial? Or a constitution?

When every right and protection you have can be disregarded in their sole discretion, one really has to wonder how anyone can call it a ‘free country’ any more.

Until next week,
Simon Black

Posted at 2:48 PM (CST) by & filed under In The News.

 

U.S. ground troops going to Poland, defense minister says
By Fred Hiatt
April 18 at 3:53 pm

Poland and the United States will announce next week the deployment of U.S. ground forces to Poland as part of an expansion of NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe in response to events in Ukraine. That was the word from Poland’s defense minister, Tomasz Siemoniak, who visited The Post Friday after meeting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon on Thursday.

Siemoniak said the decision has been made on a political level and that military planners are working out details. There will also be intensified cooperation in air defense, special forces, cyberdefense and other areas. Poland will play a leading regional role, “under U.S. patronage,” he said.

But the defense minister also said that any immediate NATO response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, while important, matter less than a long-term shift in the defense postures of Europe and America. The United States, having announced a “pivot” to Asia, needs to “re-pivot” to Europe, he said, and European countries that have cut back on defense spending need to reverse the trends.

“The idea until recently was that there were no more threats in Europe and no need for a U.S. presence in Europe any more,” Siemoniak said, speaking through an interpreter. “Events show that what is needed is a re-pivot, and that Europe was safe and secure because America was in Europe.”

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Ukraine Accord Doubts Grow as Protesters Refuse to Disarm
By Jake Rudnitsky, Stepan Kravchenko and Volodymyr Verbyany Apr 19, 2014 8:45 AM ET

Pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine refused to lay down their arms even as the government in Kiev pledged to abide by an accord reached in Geneva, testing anew Russia’s willingness to help defuse the crisis.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s government suspended anti-terrorist operations in eastern Ukraine and said it was ready to pursue constitutional revisions. A protest leader in Donetsk refused to disarm and vacate seized property until Yatsenyuk’s administration steps down.

The discord adds to skepticism about whether Ukraine, the U.S., and the European Union will be able to use the Geneva accord to hold Vladimir Putin accountable for damping tensions the Russian president says he’s had no role in creating. Yatsenyuk said today Ukraine would act against extremists after anti-Semitic fliers were distributed in Donetsk this week.

“The current authorities see some protesters as legitimate, and others as separatists who must be disarmed,” Mykhaylo Dobkin, the presidential candidate from ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, said today in an interview in Kharkiv. Protesters in the southeast “won’t accept that. They won’t put down their weapons unilaterally.”

U.S. and EU officials emphasized their readiness to deepen sanctions against Russia, which they say has massed troops near Ukraine’s border and is fomenting unrest after annexing Crimea last month.

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Ukraine crisis: Pro-Russian separatists snub Geneva deal
Leader of self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ say they won’t leave occupied buildings unless new leaders in Kiev also withdraw
By David Blair, Donetsk
12:59PM BST 18 Apr 2014

Pro-Russian separatists promised to keep their grip on government buildings and “fight to the end” on Friday, dampening hopes that an agreement reached in Geneva might defuse Ukraine’s crisis.

Denis Pushilin, the self-styled prime minister of the “Donetsk People’s Republic”, sat beneath the red and blue flag of this new “state” and declared that he was not bound by the deal struck in Switzerland late on Thursday.

This provided for all political factions to leave occupied public buildings in return for an amnesty. But the revolution which brought a pro-Western government to power in Kiev has caused fury in regions of eastern Ukraine. Here, millions of people are bound to Russia by ties of blood and language.

Mr Pushilin and his followers in the Donetsk region have proclaimed the birth of their own “People’s Republic”, seizing the regional administrative headquarters a fortnight ago.

They have now occupied official buildings in nine other towns and cities, seizing de facto control over Donetsk region, where 10 per cent of Ukraine’s 45 million people live.

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Pro-Russian separatists defiant as Ukraine peace moves flounder
Occupations of public buildings across eastern Ukraine continue as separatists accuse Kiev of violating Geneva deal
The Guardian, Friday 18 April 2014 15.07 EDT

International attempts to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine were floundering on Friday as separatist groups in the east declared that they had no intention of leaving occupied buildings and accused Kiev of violating an agreement reached in Geneva on Thursday.

Russia, Ukraine, the EU and the United States struck a diplomatic deal in the Swiss city, following seven hours of talks, that was supposed to see illegal groups withdraw from municipal buildings and hand in their weapons.

Twenty-four hours later there were no signs that any of the anti-government groups were preparing to budge. Instead, protest leaders said they would continue their occupations until their demands were met. A rebel militia seized an administration building in Seversk, a small town outside the regional capital Donetsk.

At a press conference on Friday Denis Pushilin, the self-styled leader of the "Donetsk People’s Republic", said his supporters would stay put until a referendum on the region’s future status was held. He dismissed the current pro-western government in Kiev as illegitimate. "We will continue our activity," he declared.

Pushilin said no meaningful de-escalation was possible while Ukraine’s interim prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and president Olexsandr Turchynov were still in their jobs. "We understand that everyone has to leave buildings or nobody does. Yatsenyuk and Turchynov should vacate theirs first," he said.

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Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

A great economic recovery.

Family Dollar to Close Stores as Shoppers Pinched
NEW YORK April 10, 2014 (AP)
By ANNE D’INNOCENZIO AP Retail Writer

Dollar stores are feeling the pinch from mounting financial pressures on low-income shoppers.

Family Dollar said Thursday that will cut jobs and close about 370 underperforming stores as it tries to reverse sagging sales and earnings. The discount store operator will also permanently lower prices on about 1,000 basic items.

Family Dollar Inc., which operates 8,100 stores, did not provide details on how many jobs it would cut.

The retail chain follows competitors in highlighting the split between shoppers who are enjoying an improving economy and those being left behind.

Dollar General, the nation’s largest dollar-store chain with about 11,100 locations, offered a weak profit outlook last month after reporting weak fourth-quarter sales. And Dollar Tree, which operates nearly 5,000 locations, missed profit expectations for the holiday quarter in February.

Family Dollar has stumbled even more than its rivals because it has made mistakes in pricing, merchandising and the locations of its stores, analysts say. Still, the industry’s problems are a big departure from a few years ago, when Family Dollar and other chains packed in customers and expanded rapidly by catering to cash-strapped people during the Great Recession.

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Putin asserts right to use force in east Ukraine
President says he hopes he does not have to exercise military force as he points out eastern Ukraine was once part of Russia
theguardian.com, Thursday 17 April 2014 10.37 EDT

Vladimir Putin has sought to mobilise history in support of Russia’s designs on Ukraine, reminding the world that the east of the country was once part of Russia, and warning that his parliament had given him the right to intervene militarily if confrontation escalates.

In a four-hour, meticulously stagecrafted question and answer session with Russian citizens on live television, Putin denied that Russian forces are on the ground in the towns and cities of eastern Ukraine, parts of which have been taken over in recent days by armed men, but pointedly did not rule out sending in troops in future.

Accusing the Kiev authorities of pulling the country into an "abyss", he called on Ukraine to pull back its heavy artillery from the east of the country, asking: "Who are you going to use it against? Have you completely lost your marbles?"

"The Federation Council granted the president the right to use military force in Ukraine," he said, referring to the upper house of parliament. "I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right and that we are able to solve all today’s pressing issues via political and diplomatic means," Putin said.

Putin referred to the region in question by its tsarist name "Novorossiya", or "New Russia", as it was referred to in the 19th century under tsarist rule, and suggested it was a historical mistake to hand it over to Ukraine.

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Posted at 1:52 PM (CST) by & filed under Jim's Mailbox.

Jim,

Per your recent post on bail ins, many people either don’t realize or just simply cannot do the math. They read the headlines of only having two absorbent 8% losses which too many does not seem like a big deal. However if they read it closely it’s enough to completely collapse their entire savings. Imagine just a one percent loss of total derivatives outstanding globally and equate that amount to liquidity needed of the banks. Even a mere 1% realization of losses on the bank’s books would be the largest sucking sound you have ever heard of money evaporating out of the system.

If they are even publishing this for people to read imagine what else they have up their sleeve that is already in the works and probably in the ninth inning.

Got gold??
CIGA Craig S.

 

Jim,

Another Russian pipeline deal is soon to be crowned by the Russia-China deal in May. I wonder when the EU will wake up and realize Ukraine was a trap and that they will have to pay more for their NG. EU’s only alternative is Iran and they keep blowing that option.

CIGA Craig

Russia writes off 90 percent of North Korea debt, eyes gas pipeline
MOSCOW Sat Apr 19, 2014 6:33am EDT

(Reuters) – Russia’s parliament has agreed to write off almost $10 billion of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt, in a deal expected to facilitate the building of a gas pipeline to South Korea across the reclusive state.

Russia has written off debts to a number of impoverished Soviet-era allies, including Cuba. North Korea’s struggling communist economy is just 2 percent of the size of neighbouring South Korea’s.

The State Duma lower house on Friday ratified a 2012 agreement to write off the bulk of North Korea’s debt. It said the total debt stood at $10.96 billion as of Sept. 17, 2012.

The rest of the debt, $1.09 billion, would be redeemed during the next 20 years, to be paid in equal instalments every six months. The outstanding debt owed by North Korea will be managed by Russia’s state development bank, Vnesheconombank.

Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak told Russian media that the money could be used to fund mutual projects in North Korea, including a proposed gas pipeline and a railway to South Korea.

More…

Posted at 1:46 PM (CST) by & filed under In The News.

GEAB N°84 is available! Europe dragged into a division of the world between debtors and creditors: the United States’ desperate solutions for not sinking alone
- Public announcement GEAB N°84 (April 17, 2014) –

In the present confrontation between Russia and the West over the Ukrainian crisis, the image of the Cold War inevitably comes to mind and the media are obviously fond of it. However, contrary to what it gives us to understand, it’s not Russia that seeks the return of an iron curtain but really the US. An iron curtain separating the old powers and emerging nations; the world before and the world afterwards; debtors and creditors. And this in the crazy hope of preserving the American way of life and the US’ influence over “its” camp in the absence of being able to impose it on the whole world. In other words, go down with as many companions as possible to give the impression of not sinking.

For the US, these are the current stakes in fact: drag along the whole Western camp with them to be able to continue dominating and trading with enough countries. So, we are witnessing a formidable operation of turning round opinion and leaders in Europe to ensure docile and understanding rulers vis-à-vis the American boss, supported by a blitzkrieg to link them permanently with the TTIP and to cut them off from what could be their lifeline, namely the BRICS, their huge markets, their vibrant future, their link with developing countries, etc. We are analyzing all these aspects in this GEAB issue, as well as the subtle use of the fear of deflation to convince Europeans to adopt US methods.

In the light of the extreme danger of these methods used by the US, it goes without saying that leaving the US ship wouldn’t be an act of betrayal by Europe, but really a major step forward for the world as we have already extensively analyzed in previous GEAB issues (1).

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Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

Bail in for depositors is set at 8% of the total loss the institution takes. Now think of the size of the derivative positions of international banks.

"One of the laws, a bank recovery and resolution directive, gives the 28 states in the union a common rule book for handling failing banks. It would also oblige creditors like bondholders to take losses of up to 8 percent of a bank’s total liabilities before state funds were used."

European Parliament Approves Laws on Banking Overhaul
By JAMES KANTERAPRIL 15, 2014

BRUSSELS — After countless late-night meetings and political skirmishes, the European Union on Tuesday put in place the final pieces of a landmark plan for managing a banking system whose troubles have done so much to dent the bloc’s economy.

The creation of structures that officials have grandly dubbed a “banking union” is one of the biggest steps toward European financial integration since the introduction of the euro more than a decade ago. The negotiations pitted prosperous northern countries like Germany and Finland against France and struggling southern countries like Greece over the issue of how much liability to share for bank failures.

“The E.U. has lived up to its commitments,” said Michel Barnier, the bloc’s commissioner for financial affairs, who originally proposed the three chunks of legislation passed on Tuesday.

But even as the union establishes new structures for assessing the health of banks and for rescuing some, and shuttering others that cannot be salvaged — even introducing an element of burden sharing — critics say the plan still is checkered with uncertainties and weaknesses.

Lawmakers meeting at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, for their last plenary session before May elections, overwhelmingly approved the package, which is subject to final approval by the bloc’s Council of Ministers. That is seen as a formality because representatives from the governments have already given their consent to harmonizing the patchwork of banking laws in Europe.

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Ukraine crisis: US, Russia announce agreement in Geneva – live updates
Tom McCarthy in New York and Mark Tran in London
theguardian.com, Thursday 17 April 2014 14.48 EDT

Summary

We’re going to wrap up our live coverage for the day. Here’s a summary of where things stand:

• Both the United States and Russia took a wait-and-see approach to a deal struck in Geneva Thursday to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine. The US gave the deal "several days" to produce results.

• The deal provides for a disarmament of "illegal" militias, a withdrawal by protesters from government buildings in the east and "public places" including in Kiev, and a general amnesty. An OSCE observer mission would grow.

• The deal pledged "additional support" for the Ukrainian economy. Russia has said Kiev owes more than $2bn in gas payments. The European commission warned Russia not to roil gas markets.

• US president Barack Obama echoed secretary of state John Kerry’s praise for a plan for establishing a reinvented, autonomous Ukraine laid out in Geneva by Ukrainian foreign minister Andrii Deshchytsia.

• Deep mistrust remained. Russia accused Kiev of taking up arms against its own people and Obama called the Russian mobilization on the Ukrainian border a "gesture of intimidation."

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Monetary policy can’t save long-term unemployed: Economist
Jeff Morganteen | @jmorganteen
Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 | 10:07 AM ET

Jobless claims may have dropped to pre-recession lows, but that doesn’t mean the job market is healthy, the chief economist for Sterne Agee told CNBC on Thursday.

What’s more, another top economist believes monetary policy alone cannot help the long-term unemployed.

During an appearance on CNBC’s "Squawk Box," John Ryding, the chief economist for RDQ Economics, questioned whether monetary policy can spur more hiring. Large numbers of open positions, coupled with the long-term jobless dropping out of the labor market, has been a huge drag on the labor market. That comes even as the unemployment rate edges closer to 6.0 percent.

"I’m not saying we should write them off, but I don’t think monetary policy can help them and that’s the key difference," Ryding said. "What we have is a low hiring rate and a lot of job openings given where the unemployment rate is."

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The Elites Fear What Will Crash The Global Financial System

Today one of the legends in the business spoke with King World News about what the elites fear is going to crash the American economy and the global financial system.  Keith Barron, who consults with major companies around the world and is responsible for one of the largest gold discoveries in the last quarter century, also discussed the massive demand for gold from China as well as what to expect from the gold market in the future.

Barron:  “The flow of gold into China is massive and it hasn’t abated.  If anything, it has picked up speed.  If you look at the growth in Chinese gold demand over the past few years, it won’t be long before we see almost the entire annual gold production in the world going to China….

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Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

Gold is all that is left when a currency fails or falters.

GOLD IN UKRAINE CURRENCY SURGES ANOTHER 7% THIS WEEK – COLLAPSE CONTINUES

This is particularly evident in Ukraine where the economy is nearing collapse and the currency is in free fall. The Hryvnia has been the world’s worst performing currency in 2014.

The charts below gives an indication as to the terrifying magnitude and speed of the recent decline in the value of the currency. This week alone the currency has fallen by 7% against gold or gold per ounce has risen from 15,669 hryvnia per ounce at open on Monday to 16,880 hryvnia per ounce today.

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Gold in Ukrainian Hryvnia (Sharelynx.com)

Year to date, gold in hryvnia has surged by 69% from 9,992 per ounce to 16,880 per ounce or to put it more correctly, Ukraine’s national currency has collapsed by 69% against gold in less than four months.

This has resulted in the cost of food, fuel and basic staples surging for ordinary people in Ukraine.

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Weekly News Wrap-Up 4.18.14
By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com

A deal has been reached over the Ukraine crisis, and that will supposedly “de-escalate tensions and restore security.”  This deal is between the EU, U.S., Russia and Ukraine.  I guess this is good news, but I would call it extremely temporary.  This is supposed to lead to disarming the pro-Russian militia and returning control of government buildings in Eastern Ukraine.  Loyal Ukrainians and pro-Russian factions have been going at it, and I am not sure this deal is going to “de-escalate tensions.” Even President Obama is skeptical.  He said that the U.S. has to be ready to “respond to what continue to be interference by the Russians.”   The military option is off the table according to the White House.  So, that leaves sanctions that nobody wants, especially in the EU.  Massive amounts of business are done between Russia and the EU.  The global economy is weak at best, and in some places in Europe, you can call it a depression.  Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has, “the right to use military force in Ukraine.”  Russia is going to end up with much of Ukraine, and I do not think there is much anyone is going to do about it. 

I don’t think the Russians are worried about sanctions over the Ukraine.  I think they and many other countries are trying to halt the use of the U.S. dollar as fast as they can.  The latest evidence of that is news of the BRICS making great strides in developing alternatives to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.  There is no doubt that the use of the dollar is being used less and less to settle international trade.  That is the dominate trend, and I see no reversal in sight.  The rest of the world is going to stop depending on the U.S. dollar, and my prediction is that will be much sooner than many can imagine.  The inflation this will bring is going to be stunning as there are $16 trillion liquid dollar assets held outside the country.

The Intelligence Minister of Israel is not happy about the negotiations with Iran over curtailing its nuclear program.  Yuval Steinitz said the U.S. negotiations were a “surrender” to Iran.  Israel is not happy that Iran could enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon in a matter of months.  This is a big indication on how the negotiations are going.  Iran maintains that its nuclear program is for the peaceful production of energy, and the West does not buy it.  More negotiations are happening next month. 

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Germany has no alternative to Russian gas

More than 70 percent of Germany’s energy supply depends on imports. Russia alone accounts for a quarter of Germany’s gas, oil and coal imports. And real alternatives are not yet in sight.

Germany faces a renewed debate on energy in the wake of the ongoing Ukraine crisis. To a large extent, the country depends on Russian oil and natural gas imports. Just recently Chancellor Angela Merkel made it clear that "all of Germany’s energy policies must be reconsidered." According to Germany’s Energy Balances Group (AGEB), imported rose to 71 percent of all sources of energy last year.

The most important energy supplier is Russia: It provides 38 percent of Germany’s natural gas imports, 35 percent of all oil imports and 25 percent of coal imports, covering a quarter of the country’s entire energy needs. There are no suitable alternatives in sight that could cover shortfalls of this magnitude.

Germany can supply only 15 percent of its gas needs using its own resources, the Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) says. Most of its gas is supplied by Norway and the Netherlands. Both countries could increase their short-term shipments via pipelines, but not in the long run, because experts believe North Sea gas reserves are slowly being used up.

More…

Ukraine disbands army unit after fiasco push into east
April 17, 2014 10:49 AM

Kiev (AFP) – Ukraine on Thursday disbanded an army unit that lost six armoured vehicles to pro-Russian militants, as Kiev’s military reeled from a disastrous attempt to oust separatists in its eastern regions.

"The 25th parachute brigade, members of which showed cowardice and gave up their weapons, will be demobilised and the guilty servicemen brought before court," acting President Oleksandr Turchynov told parliament.

Ukraine’s enfeebled army suffered a major embarrassment Wednesday as a much-hyped "anti-terrorist" operation to force pro-Moscow protesters out of a string of eastern towns descended into humiliating farce when separatists seized six armoured personnel carriers and forced another mechanised column of troops to disarm.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said in a statement Thursday that the column of armoured vehicles and soldiers blockaded a day earlier by pro-Russian activists in the town of Kramatorsk was returning to base after the tense stand-off.

The capitulation represents a serious blow to the fragile morale of Ukraine’s embattled armed forces and Kiev’s hopes of reimposing its authority over its industrial heartland.

More…

Three points of assent for de-escalation at Ukraine talks
DEBKAfile April 17, 2014, 8:28 PM (IDT)

The statements made first by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, then by US Secretary of State John Kerry, highlighted the broad points of assent reached at the Geneva conference Thursday for de-escalating the Ukraine conflict. The EU and Ukraine were also present.

Agreements covered three main points: An amnesty for all protesters; their disarming and their return of all buildings, towns and squares to their “legitimate owners;” and a broad national dialogue on constitutional reform with all the regions and political constituencies taking part. The OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) was entrusted with the key mission of monitoring he immediate implementation of these decisions in a concrete, transparent and answerable fashion.

Kerry called the meeting a good day’s work, but added if no progress is made, “we will have no choice but to impose further costs on Russia.” He said al sides had agreed there must be no more violence, intimidation and provocative actions.

President Barack Obama was more skeptical about the Russian follow-through in his remarks later, he said it would take a few days to determine whether the agreement was working. In the meantime, he was consulting with allies about consequences.

DEBKAfile adds: Kerry said differences between the two sides were narrowed, not overcome. Notably, neither statement by Lavrov or Kerry mentioned “federalization” – a key Moscow demand or Ukraine joining NATO, which Vladimir Putin has emphatically refused to accept; nor was any demand registered for Russia to move its troop concentrations back from the Ukrainian border.

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Russia-China ties to alter global equations: Putin
April 18, 2014, 7:37 am

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow’s ties with Beijing are expected to be a considerable factor in global politics.

Russia-China ties “will significantly affect the contemporary architecture of international relations,” said the president.

“It is absolutely clear that we will be expanding collaboration with China. Our trade with the United States is 27.5 [billion], but trade with China is 87 billion, and it is growing. And experts will agree that China is gradually becoming the number one economic power. The question is when it will happen: in 15, 20 or 25 years. But everybody understands that it is inevitable,” asserted Putin.

“We’ll develop relations with China. We’ve never had such trusted relations,” Putin said.

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Putin Hopes Italian EU Presidency Will Boost Russia-Europe Ties

MOSCOW, April 17 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed hope Thursday that Italy’s upcoming position as the rotating head of the European Union will help spur cooperation between Russia and Europe.

Italy, which has recently seen a new leadership come to power, will hold the EU presidency from July until December.

“We note that despite the cabinet change and the internal political processes, which is natural for any modern civilized country, Italy has retained warm and comradely attitudes toward Russia,” Putin told reporters after a televised question and answer session with the Russian public.

“We have high hopes that Italy will give a new impetus to the development of relations between Russia and the European Union,” Putin said.

“Italy is one of Russia’s closest partners in Europe. The two countries are enjoying intensive cooperation in almost all spheres and share common views on many international political issues,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Italy is Russia’s fourth largest trading partner and investment between the two countries is continually advancing. In recent years, Russian investments in Italy have grown to $500 million. Italian investments in Russia are estimated at around $1 billion.

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Posted at 12:31 PM (CST) by & filed under In The News.

The test for whether one is living in a police state is that those who are charged with enforcing the law are allowed to break the laws with impunity.
– Jon Roland  (1944-) founder of the Constitution Society

 

I do believe that historians of the future will come to see the "too big to fail" phrasing from the first decade of the 21st century as similar to the quote attributed to Marie Antoinette at the end of the 18th century, to wit, "Let them eat cake." Both utterances come from the upper class to the lower class and both are intended as a reasonable and logical suggestion as to how to deal with a crisis that does not affect the party uttering the words. And both are completely insensitive, bordering on ignorant, as to the true causes of the crisis and how the crisis impacts the common people, the majority, the masses. In early 2014 one of the Fed governors revealed candidly that the actions taken by that body post-2006 dramatically increased the wealth of the rich, but may not have done much for anyone else. This is data verifiable. Even at the turn of the 20th century the divide between the two classes was never as great as it is now. There is one difference however. In France, this attitude led to reform. In the US it led to food stamps. Plus ca change…
–Dr. M. Buckman

Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

Mr. Williams shares his observations with us.

- First-Quarter 2014 Housing Starts Contracted at Annualized Pace of 30%, Down by 4% Year-to-Year
- February-March Production Jump Ran Counter to Weak Durable Goods Orders
- Fair Shot at First-Quarter 2014 GDP Contraction

"No. 621: March Housing Starts, Industrial Production"
Web-page:
http://www.shadowstats.com

Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

A closer tie with China can be read into this.

Saudi king replaces intelligence chief Bandar
By Associated Press, Published: April 15

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s king has appointed a new intelligence chief, Youssef al-Idrisi, replacing Bandar bin Sultan in the key post, which oversees the kingdom’s support for Syrian rebels.

The Saudi Press Agency carried the royal decree Tuesday saying Bandar had requested to be relieved of the post. Al-Idrisi was Bandar’s deputy.

The news comes after security officials told The Associated Press that 65-year-old Bandar was returning to the kingdom after around two months abroad for surgery on his shoulder.

Bandar’s responsibilities as head of intelligence included executing Saudi policy in the Levant, including policies toward Syrian rebels seeking to oust President Bashar Assad.

Bandar was ambassador to the U.S. for 22 years before becoming director general of Saudi Intelligence Agency in July 2012.

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Dozens of Ukrainian troops surrender APCs, withdraw from Slavyansk (PHOTO, VIDEO)
Published time: April 16, 2014 14:21 
Edited time: April 16, 2014 18:45

Reports from Slavyansk say that the army troops sent to the eastern Ukrainian city for an “anti-terrorist operation” are leaving en masse. Some troops are openly voicing support for the eastern Ukrainians, while others are speaking out against a war.

According to Interfax, citing local self-defense activists, some 300 Ukrainian troops agreed to lay down their weapons and “go home” following negotiations in Slavyansk.

“We managed to negotiate with them. About 300 military – only some of those who closed around the city – decided to lay down their arms and go home,” a self-defense activist was quoted as saying.

Reports from the scene said that the locals would not allow the soldiers to take back the APCs, but they were allowed to keep their rifles. The people were cheering the troops.

Meanwhile, the anti-government activists guarding the armored vehicles have said that they did not“seize” them as the media claimed, and that the troops “switched sides” peacefully.

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Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

The view from Europe is different from the view from Washington.

EU spy chief rules out Russian military presence in Ukraine
Published time: April 16, 2014 13:27

There is no large Russian military presence in East Ukraine, head of EU intelligence, Commodore Georgij Alafuzoff, has said. The spy chief has dismissed multiple accusations from the West alleging Russian involvement in the unrest in the region.

In an interview with Finnish national news broadcaster, Yle, Alafuzoff said the Russian military had nothing to do with the seizing of government buildings in eastern Ukraine.

“In my opinion, it’s mostly people who live in the region who are not satisfied with the current state of affairs,” said Alafuzoff, referring to the situation in East Ukraine. He went on to say that the people are worried for the welfare of those who speak Russian as their first language in the region.

Alafuzoff echoed the words of the Russian government which has categorically denied interfering in the ongoing unrest. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a press conference on Monday that Moscow is not interested in destabilizing Ukraine and wants the country to remain united.

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Paul Craig Roberts – Is Belgium Part Of A U.S. Scheme?

Today former US Treasury official, Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, spoke with King World News about the unusual purchases being made by Belgium in the U.S. Treasury market.  Dr. Roberts also discussed how other countries may be asked to get involved in this scheme.  Below is what Dr. Roberts had to say in this powerful interview.

Eric King:  “Dr. Roberts, we have seen the little country of Belgium add to its purchases of U.S. debt to another all-time record level.  Belgium now holds $341 billion of U.S. Treasury debt.  This is a country that at one point went over 530 days without a fully functioning government.”

Dr. Roberts:  “Keep two things in mind:  One, there isn’t anywhere where investors can get any yield.  I saw the other day where Greek junk bonds were only paying 4.7%.  So the excuse they will use is to say, ‘We don’t want to experience any significant losses, which could happen if we buy the Greek bonds.’….

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US offers Ukraine non-lethal military aid but urges Kiev to act responsibly
Offer comes after low morale among country’s soldiers became evident in confrontations with pro-Moscow separatists
Julian Borger in Geneva
theguardian.com, Thursday 17 April 2014 07.18 EDT

The US has promised Ukraine non-lethal military aid but urged Kiev to act in a "measured and responsible way" in responding to unrest in the east.

The American offer came before Thursday’s talks over the fate of eastern Ukraine and as low morale among the country’s soldiers became evident in confrontations with pro-Moscow separatists.

Negotiations between Russia, Ukraine, the EU and US began in Geneva amid low expectations and battling narratives over what is going on the ground, where at least one separatists was killed during a reported attempt to storm a Ukrainian base in the south-eastern town of Mariupol.

Asked if he was expecting any progress, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, simply shrugged. He held separate meetings on Thursday morning at the Intercontinental Hotel with the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, the Ukrainian foreign minister, Andrii Deshchytisa, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, before all four began a plenary session.

Deshchytisa said he had come with "optimism and goodwill" but Lavrov did not hold a separate meeting with him. The ballroom set aside for the closing press conference has been decked out with the US stars and stripes but no other flags. Asked if Lavrov would also be speaking there, a US diplomat said: "All I know is we hired this hall. If he wants to come, he can hire it from the hotel after we’re finished."

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Putin asserts right to use force in east Ukraine
President says he hopes he does not have to exercise military force as he points out eastern Ukraine was once part of Russia
Amelia Gentleman
theguardian.com, Thursday 17 April 2014 10.37 EDT

Vladimir Putin has sought to mobilise history in support of Russia’s designs on Ukraine, reminding the world that the east of the country was once part of Russia, and warning that his parliament had given him the right to intervene militarily if confrontation escalates.

In a four-hour, meticulously stagecrafted question and answer session with Russian citizens on live television, Putin denied that Russian forces are on the ground in the towns and cities of eastern Ukraine, parts of which have been taken over in recent days by armed men, but pointedly did not rule out sending in troops in future.

Accusing the Kiev authorities of pulling the country into an "abyss", he called on Ukraine to pull back its heavy artillery from the east of the country, asking: "Who are you going to use it against? Have you completely lost your marbles?"

"The Federation Council granted the president the right to use military force in Ukraine," he said, referring to the upper house of parliament. "I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right and that we are able to solve all today’s pressing issues via political and diplomatic means," Putin said.

Putin referred to the region in question by its tsarist name "Novorossiya", or "New Russia", as it was referred to in the 19th century under tsarist rule, and suggested it was a historical mistake to hand it over to Ukraine.

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EU sanctions push on Russia falters amid big business lobbying
By Christian Oliver and James Fontanella-Khan in Brussels, George Parker in London and Stefan Wagstyl in Berlin

Europe’s resolve to impose tough sanctions on Moscow is cracking under corporate lobbying, as companies warn governments that any retaliation from the Kremlin could cost them dearly.

Diplomats fear that talks in Geneva on Thursday between the US, Russia, Ukraine and the EU will prove fruitless in tackling the crisis over the occupation of local government buildings in eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian militants. If the talks fail, EU leaders are expected to meet next week to discuss broad economic sanctions against Moscow.

But even before such a meeting, the fissures between countries are evident. “Are the member states united on this? No. Are they willing to die for Ukraine? I don’t think so,” a senior European official said, noting that sanctions would demand a consensus from the 28-member bloc.

In Germany, the chemical group BASF has been among leading companies advocating caution. In Italy, the energy company Eni is arguing that Europe, which imports 30 per cent of its gas from Russia’s Gazprom, is no position to impose energy sanctions on Moscow.

BP is at the forefront of a group of companies who have told British MPs and ministers they are at risk if EU governments decide over the next few days to impose economic sanctions on Russia.

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Home price slowdown leaves millions underwater
John W. Schoen

For millions of Americans still stuck in homes with mortgages bigger that the house is worth, the long slog back to dry land is getting longer.

Nationwide, plummeting prices from the housing collapse in 2007 left more than a quarter of all homeowners with a mortgage owing more than their home was worth. Now, the recovery in home prices in many parts of the country has helped lift some underwater homeowners back above water.

But as the rebound in home prices has slowed in recent months, so has the recovery process for those still submerged with negative equity, according to the latest data from RealtyTrac.

"I’d expect to see this process of digging out of the hole slow down in 2014 because we expect home price appreciation to slow down in 2014," said RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist. "We’re already seeing that in the smaller decrease in underwater homeowners over the last quarter."

The pool of underwater borrowers peaked at 12.8 million, or 29 percent of all properties with a mortgage, in the second quarter of 2012, according to RealtyTrac. Rising prices have lifted millions back above water. As of the first quarter of this year, some 9.1 million homes (or 17 percent of homes with mortgages) were "seriously" underwater, owing at least 25 percent more than property’s estimated market value.

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Posted at 12:28 PM (CST) by & filed under Jim's Mailbox.

Jim,

It looks like the EU/IMF will swallow their pride and pay Ukraine’s bill for Gazprom. Since neither Ukraine nor Bulgaria are part of the EU, I am not sure why South Stream is considered a breach of EU law. South Stream makes a lot of sense for Russia.

CIGA Craig

UPDATE 2-EU agrees to Putin’s call for gas security talks
Thu Apr 17, 2014 6:40pm IST
By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS, April 17 (Reuters) – The European Union told Russian President Vladimir Putin it is willing to hold talks with Moscow and Kiev on gas security as the bloc scrambles to defuse a deep political crisis over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, replying to a letter Putin sent last week to 18 EU countries, accepted Putin’s proposal for three-way talks.

"The European Union agrees on your proposal for consultations with the Russian Federation and Ukraine with regard to security of gas supply and transit," Barroso said in his reply, released by the European Commission on Thursday.

Putin warned EU leaders a week ago that Russia would cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine if it did not pay its more than $2 billion gas debt and said this could lead to a reduction of onward deliveries to Europe.

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Jim,

The US appears not to have learned the Iranian lesson on sanctions which almost caused the collapse of the SWIFT system. So, Russia and China must work harder to price NG and oil in non-dollar currencies to avoid the Anglo-American banking system. The collapse of the petro dollar is accelerating.

CIGA Craig

Forcing Russia Out of Markets Seen as Ukraine Leverage
By Kasia Klimasinska Apr 16, 2014 10:00 PM MT

Forcing Russia out of global financial markets is the strongest tool at U.S. President Barack Obama’s disposal if he wants to stop Vladimir Putin’s territorial ambitions, according to former government officials and sanctions specialists.

Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with Russian, Ukrainian and European Union officials in Geneva today to discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine.

An administration official warned yesterday that if the talks fail, the U.S. is ready to take further steps, targeting people in the Russian president’s inner circle and entities they oversee. Industry-specific sanctions are also an option, according to the official, who spoke about private talks on condition of anonymity. Experts say these may produce more significant results.

“The biggest weapon in terms of sanctions would be similar sanctions to what we did in Iran and basically try to exclude Russia from international financial markets,” said William Pomeranz, deputy director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. “The Russians fear that, and that is what the Russians want to avoid.”

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Jim,

I did not know that the USSR in the 1920s had put four Russian Western provinces into what is now Eastern Ukraine.

CIGA Craig

Ukraine Talks End With Accord on Steps to De-Escalate Conflict
By Henry Meyer, Nicole Gaouette and Olga Tanas Apr 17, 2014 11:26 AM MT

Four-way talks on the crisis in Ukraine ended with an accord aimed at taking the first steps toward de-escalating the conflict after President Vladimir Putin said he hopes he won’t have to send troops.

Talks in Geneva today between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, his Ukrainian counterpart, Andriy Deshchytsia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, went on for more than six hours, longer than scheduled. Kerry said Russia must start implementing the deal within the next few days.

“The Geneva meeting on the situation in Ukraine agreed on initial concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and restore security for all citizens,” the four said in a joint statement. “All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions.”

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Posted at 9:02 AM (CST) by & filed under In The News.

Putin expects UN to condemn Kiev’s use of force in E. Ukraine 
DEBKAfile April 15, 2014, 9:30 PM (IDT)

Russian president Vladimir Putin told UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon Tuesday that the UN and international community must condemn the use of force by the Ukrainian authorities in eastern Ukraine and its  “anti-constitutional actions.” The Kremlin press office reported on the phone call that the “crisis situation in Ukraine had escalated rapidly due to the forceful operation initiated by the Kyiv authorities in the country’s southeast.” DEBKAfile: Putin did not specify what action Moscow would take if the UN failed to condemn Kiev, but left the threat of intervention unspoken. Earlier, Ukrainian forces captured the key Kramatorsk airfield from pro-Russian protesters’ control and tanks entered some cities.

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From 4 to 11 dead reported in Ukraine army’s recapture of key airfield 
DEBKAfile April 15, 2014, 6:42 PM (IDT)

Several shots were heard Monday evening from the key East Ukraine airfield of Kramatorsk which Kiev said has been retaken from pro-Russian separatists in what it calls a “anti-terrorist operation” around Donetsk. The casualties are not confirmed by the separatists. Ukrainian Air Force jets were seen over the airfield. Pro-Russian activists have seized police buildings in nearly a dozen towns. Kiev also claims its operation is going on in Slaviansk. Moscow has warned Kiev not to go through with armed action against the pro-Russian regions of the east. Both Moscow and Washington have urged restraint in the crisis with a quadrilateral conference in Geneva scheduled for Thursday between the US, Russia, the EU and Ukrainians. A pro-Russian source in Donetsk said Kramatorsk airfield was not taken by Ukrainian army or air force but a faction called the “Right Sector" and foreign mercenaries.

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NATO to deploy ships, intensify Baltic & Mediterranean patrols ‘due to Ukraine crisis’
Published time: April 16, 2014 11:15 
Edited time: April 16, 2014 12:49

NATO is strengthening its military presence in the Baltic and Mediterranean due to the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis. The organization is to deploy ships and intensified aerial patrols in the region.

At a meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in Brussels, NATO approved a number of measures to strengthen security in Eastern Europe in connection with the growing crisis in Ukraine.

“Our defense plans will be revised and strengthened,” said Anders Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO, to press in Brussels.

He added that NATO had not yet reached a decision about the possible deployment of troops in Eastern Europe.

“Today we agreed on a number of measures that can be implemented quickly. But more work needs to be done,” said Rasmussen. Elaborating on the measures that are to be taken, Rasmussen said that air policing aircraft will fly more sorties over the Baltic region and NATO ships would be deployed in the Baltic Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean.

“We all agree that a political solution is the only way forward,” Rasmussen told press. “We call on Russia to be part of the solution.”

In addition, he accused Russia of destabilizing Ukraine and amassing its troops along the country’s borders. He called on Moscow to “make clear” it does not support the violent actions of armed militia and pro-Russian separatists.

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Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

The inviting conclusion is that Belgium is a beard for the US Federal Reserve.

Bershidsky on Europe: Belgium Among Top 3 U.S. Creditors
1 Apr 16, 2014 3:43 AM EDT
By Leonid Bershidsky

Bloomberg.com – Belgium Among Top 3 U.S. Creditors Since last August, Belgium’s holdings of U.S. Treasury debt increased to $484 billion from $160 billion, putting the small country of 11 million in third place after China and Japan among the United States’ biggest creditors. It is, of course, not Belgium itself that is buying up U.S. bonds, but traders and economists can only guess at the real sources of the investment. The bonds are held at Euroclear, the market-owned central securities depository located in Brussels, but their actual ownership is non-transparent. Some of them could be Russian: Moscow is apparently moving its assets away from the U.S. to avoid possible sanctions. U.S. Treasurys are also used as collateral for derivatives trades, in which Euroclear is widely used. In any case, it is getting harder for the U.S. to track who owns its $12 trillion debt, a development that should be alarming for Treasury officials because it creates the risk of unexpected sell-offs and other turbulence in U.S. debt markets.

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