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China Confiscates Billions In "Ugliest Corruption Scandal" In History





With Chinese authorities increasingly looking like they are sticking to their reform promises, fighting moral hazard and allowing defaults to occur (in a completely 'contained' way, of course); the continued crackdown on graft and government corruption has hit a new high (or low). As Reuters reports, Chinese authorities have seized assets worth at least 90 billion yuan ($14.5 billion) from family members and associates of retired domestic security tsar Zhou Yongkang, who is at the center of China's biggest corruption scandal in more than six decades. 71-year-old Zhou has been under house arrest since first being investigated late last year but the size and scale of the corruption is unprecedented including 300 apartments, 60 vehicles, bonds, stocks, and gold - "it's the ugliest in the history of the New China."

 
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Guest Post: The Limited Economic Impact Of The US Shale Gas Boom





Analysis suggests that commentators and policymakers need to better distinguish between the ways in which the US shale gas boom constitutes a ‘revolution’ and the ways in which it does not. The US unconventional energy boom has reversed the decline of domestic production, significantly lowered oil and gas imports, reduced gas costs for consumers, and created a political space for tougher regulations on coal-fired power plants. But it is not a panacea. Even if current estimates of production turn out to be accurate, the benefits to the US economy in the long run are relatively small, and the benefits to manufacturing competitiveness in most sectors are even smaller.

 
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Double Data Whammy For Japan As PMI Tumbles & Industrial Production Misses By Most Since Abenomics





"It's always darkest before the dawn," we are sure will be the next idiotic (and wholly unsupported) bullshit line from various Japanese leaders about yet another round of disastrous Japanese data. Aside from June 2013, this is the biggest monthly drop in Industrial Production since the Tsunami - and biggest miss since Abenomics began. Good news right? More stimulus right? Not with inflation surging thanks to the collapsed currency. But wait, there's more 'great' news, Markit PMI just had its biggest 2-month drop in 20 months and is at its lowest in 6 months. For now, JPY is confused (and so is the Nikkei) but US futures aren't, they are rallying; because, well - why not, the casino is still open for now.

 
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German Executives Denounce EU/US Leaders Over Russia Confrontation





With at least 300,000 German jobs dependent on business relations with Russia, it is hardly surprising that, as Reuters reports, several top German executives have criticized the strategy of the U.S. and Europe in dealing with Russia fearing the consequences for their businesses. On the heels of Siemens CEO's comments (as we noted here) that "you don’t want to sanction anyone you depend on,” a number of other senior German executives have commented that that great change could be achieved if the West cooperated with Russia rather than being confrontational. Deutsche Post's Appel summed it up, "Since we don't have major sources of raw materials in Europe, we will always be dependent on others... and it seems questionable to me whether dependence on the Middle East or Venezuela would be better than that on Russia."

 
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"They Never Learn" - Russia's Take On The "West" And The Shifting Geopolitical Balance Of Power





Over the past month, there has been a lot of "Hilsenrathing", or the biased media urgently "explaining" to the Western world, just what Russia's actions mean both tactically in response to Ukraine developments, and strategically as part of Putin's global perspective. So instead of relying on the broken media narrative which serves merely to perpetuate US corporate interests and rally the public behind this or that company's geopolitical interests, here, straight from the horse's mouth, in this case Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, how Russia sees itself in a world in which it is allegedly "isolated", and "threatening Ukraine" with further invasion but more importantly, how the Russians view the rapidly changing global balance of power, in which post-USSR Russia has emerged from the backwood of slighted nations and stormed to the stage of nations who dare defy the former global hegemon, the US.

 
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The Obamacare Comedy Of Errors... In Cartoons





There are just hours left until the formal March 31 deadline (although at this point so many deadlines have been extended it is not quite clear just which deadline this is) to sign up for Obamacare. Or rather, to put Obamacare in your check out basket with the intention of paying... at some indefinite time in the future. So instead of rehashing and repeating all the things that have already been said countless times about Obamacare, below we show some of the best cartoons laying out the tragicomedy that is Obamacare by Politico's Matt Wuerker.

 
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For Stocks, April Is The Least Cruel Month





Both the entire month of March, and its last full week, particularly for biotech investors and especially hedge funds, is a time that many would rather forget and continue pretending that the saying "as January goes, so goes the year" is no longer applicable. Luckily, for all those bulls who have forgotten that in a normal market there is both return and risk, at least in pre-New Normal times, there may be some good news. As Bank of America's chief technician MacNeil Curry reminds us, April is the least cruel month for stocks, posting the highest monthly average return since 1950, returning just over 2.0%.

 
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Have We Reached Peak Putin?





No tree grows to the sky. Once extremes are reached, trends reverse, often with symmetry: the decline often matches the ascent. Which leads to an interesting question: have we reached Peak Putin? The capture of a few pawns has cleared the chessboard, but the strategic choices already made have greatly reduced Putin's room to maneuver.

 
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Far-Right Gains In French Election As Hollande's Socialists Admit "Unquestionably A Defeat"





A week after initial votes showed the far-right anti-Euro National Front party gaining ground in French municipal elections, it appears the ongoing disappointment in the ruling Socialists is increasing (amid record joblessness).

  • *FAR RIGHT MAKES FURTHER GAINS IN FRENCH MUNI ELECTIONS
  • *MOSCOVICI SAYS TODAY'S  ELECTIONS 'UNQUESTIONABLY A DEFEAT'
  • *MOSCOVICI SAYS IT'S 'DIFFICULT TO REFORM FRANCE'

These are the first nationwide elections in France since Hollande took office and point to rather concerning lack of support for his party and his policies (and the core of the EU); but a record high 38.5% of votes abstained suggesting major apathy as the country's north-south divide grows.

 
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Hedge Funds Slammed: "Smart Money" Has One Of Worst Weekly Losses Since 2001





Last week in the markets was all about what was happening below the calm surface waters, which saw the DJIA post a tiny increase and the S&P dip just a fraction. If one was going off merely by the two main indices, one would certainly have missed the drubbing that tech and specifically biotech stocks suffered. However, nowhere was it worse than in the "hedge fund hotel" basket of names most near and dear to the hearts of hedge funds, and respectively those most hated, one which Goldman defines as the long Very Important Positions <GSTHHVIP> vs. short Very Important Shorts <GSTHVISP>. It was here that P&Ls saw one of the worst weekly losses for hedge fund positions since 2001.

 
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2014: A Brave New Dystopian "1984" World





While many have pointed out that the Middle-East/Far-East are drifting to a more "Orwellian" world and the West is a more "Huxleyan" environ, the merger of the two dystopias is seemingly growing each day. As The Guardian previously noted, Huxley's dystopia is a totalitarian society, ruled by a supposedly benevolent dictatorship whose subjects have been programmed to enjoy their subjugation through conditioning and the use of a narcotic drug - the rulers of Brave New World have solved the problem of making people love their servitude. On the Orwellian front, we are doing rather well – as the revelations of Edward Snowden have recently underlined. We have constructed an architecture of state surveillance that would make Orwell gasp. The most striking parallel of course is that both men foresaw the future as totalitarian rather than democratic and free. Both Big Brother’s world and the Brave New World are ruled by authoritarian elites of a basically socialist/communist nature, whose only real purpose is the maintenance of their own power and privileges.

 
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Initial "Results" From Turkish Municipal Elections Show Resounding Victory For Erdogan's Ruling Party





IIn a country which has banned the free flow of information via social networks and other venues in order to preserve the corrupt government, why one would believe any official data is unclear, but for those who are curious, here are the early results from today's municipal elections (where eight people have already died as fights broke out between rival candidates in two villages near the southeastern border with Syria): with 12.4% of ballots counted, the ruling AKP party appears to be a blowout victory, with 48.1% of the vote, while CHP has 24% and MHP is at 13.8%, based on CNNTurk reporting. And, as expected, there are huge discrepancies between the numbers provided by the state run news agencies, and the pro-Gulen, Cihan, news agency.

 
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Exceptionalism As A Foreign Policy Justification





American exceptionalism is a common theme in any policy debate surrounding the United States. We have to protect American manufacturing, protectionists ignorant of economics argue, because America is exceptional. We have to pass expansive welfare programs to care for the poor, because America is exceptional. Most recently, we have to intervene in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, because America is exceptional. Why the imputed exceptionalism requires one country to police the world and meddle in matters that do not concern them remains unexplained.

 
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Paul Craig Roberts: Pushing Toward The Final War





Does Obama realize that he is leading the US and its puppet states to war with Russia and China, or is Obama being manipulated into this disaster by his neoconservative speech writers and government officials? World War 1 (and World War 2) was the result of the ambitions and mistakes of a very small number of people. We are again on the road to World War. One hundred years ago the creation of a world war by a few had to be done under the cover of deception. Germany had to be caught off guard. The British had to be manipulated and, of course, people in all the countries involved had to be propagandized and brainwashed. Today the drive to war is blatantly obvious. The lies are obvious, and the entire West is participating, both media and governments.

 
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The US Is #1 (In Global Income Inequality)





Widening income disparity has been a feature of many advanced and developing economies for the past few years and has myriad investment implications. As we noted yesterday, the USA is at levels of income disparity not seen since the roaring 20s (and by some counts worse) but how does that stack up to the rest of the world? Fed fans will be proud to say that once again USA in Number 1... in global income inequality.

 
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