New York City
Public corruption, based on all the evidence, appears rampant. And the ranks of those convicted in office have swelled to absolutely unacceptable levels. State Senators as well as State Assemblymen; elected officials as well as party leaders; city council members as well as town mayors; Democrats as well as Republicans.
- Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
It’s no surprise that New York is exceedingly corrupt. It’s a huge city, with a ton of wealth and massive income inequality. That’s basically the primary breeding ground for wide-scale corruption. However, it also comes as no surprise that the situation has gotten a lot worse in recent years. After all, NYC is the headquarters of some of the largest financial institutions in the world. As such, some of the worst actors in the recent financial collapse call the city home. The whole world watched as these criminals and shysters not only evaded criminal charges, but were also rewarded trillions of dollars of public support for their efforts. The example was set. Crime pays, and now the entire city seems to be following their lead.
In what is the most remarkable news of the day, which has so far passed very quietly under the radar, Fosun International, China's largest private-owned conglomerate which invests in commodities, properties and pharmaceuticals also known as "Shanghai's Hutchison Whampoa", announced in a statement filed just as quietly with the Hong Kong stock exchange, that it had purchased JPM's iconic former headquarters, the tower built by none other than David Rockefeller, at 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza for a measly $725 million. None of this is particularly newsworthy What is, however, is what Zero Hedge exclusively reported back in March, namely that the very same former JPM HQ at 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza is also the building that houses the firm's commercial gold vault: incidentally, the largest in the world. Why? We don't know. We do know that China's gross gold imports from Hong Kong alone have amounted to over 2000 tons in the past two years. This excludes imports from other sources, and certainly internal gold mining and production. One guess: China has decided it has its fill of domestically held gold and is starting to acquire gold warehouses in the banking capitals of the world. For now the reason why is unclear but we are confident the answer will present itself shortly.
Bonus: Did the Saudi Intelligence Chief and Other High-Ranking Officials Trade on Inside Information Regarding 9/11?
Quick: which BRIC nation has the highest consumer loan default rate?
If you said China, India or Russia, you are wrong. Actually, if you said China you are probably right, but since absolutely all economic "data" in China is worthless, manipulated propaganda, only a retrospective post-mortem after the Chinese credit, housing, commodity, consumption bubbles have all burst will we know the answer. So excluding China, which country's consumers after a multi-year shopping spree funded entirely on credit, are suddenly suffering the epic hangover of soaring non-performing loans as they suddenly find themselves unable to even pay the interest on the debt? Just ask former billionaire Eike Batista whose OGX oil corporation is days away from filing bankruptcy. The answer, with 5.6% of all loans in default, above Russia, South Africa, Mexico, Turkey and India, is Brazil.
Just in case you thought the surreality of the US political debacle we are witnessing was too much, the NYPD releases a statement that stokes the fire of confusion. The New York Police Department is looking for two unidentified people who may (or may not) have parachuted on to a lower Manhattan Street. Private security guards reported seeing the skydivers land in front of the Goldman Sachs HQ at around 3am (which we could not help but note was the highs of the European session for Gold). The police noted it was unclear if they jumped from a plane or from a high-rise building (or from Bernanke's helicopter).
Don't Blame Free Market Capitalism ... We Haven't Had It for a While
"In every city and state I have visited, the jails have become the de facto mental institutions," warns the president of the American Jail Association as the WSJ notes, America's lockups have become its new asylums. After scores of state mental institutions were closed beginning in the 1970s, few alternatives materialized. Many of the afflicted wound up on the streets, where, untreated, they became more vulnerable to joblessness, drug abuse and crime. Stunningly, the number of mentally ill prisoners the country's three biggest jail systems - Cook County, IL; Los Angeles County; and New York City - handle daily is equal to 28% of all beds in the nation's 213 state psychiatric hospitals. "We're finding sicker and sicker people all the time" who have to be treated for their mental illnesses. Prisons "can't say no to the mentally ill. They have to solve the problem."
The last time the State Department issued a comparable worldwide terror alert, the majority of US embassies in the Muslim world were promptly evacuated and a few weeks later the Syrian false flag affair was unleashed upon the world. One wonders just what provocation John Kerry has in mind this time.
STATE DEPT ISSUES NEW WORLWIDE CAUTION ON TERRORIST THREATS; STATE DEPT DETAILS POSSIBLE THREATS IN EUROPE, ASIA, AFRICA
At least the evil terrorizers have not infiltrated the Arctic circle yet. As for the always convenient scapegoat:
STATE DEPT SAYS AL-QAEDA PLOTTING IN MULTIPLE REGIONS
They sure are: mostly in Syria, but luckily they are now armed with US weapons.
Amid the media furore over 'lines' of people outside Apple Stores in New York City, we thought this 3-minute clip was a useful reflection of just who it is that feels the need to do this. As Jim Quinn notes, it is "three minutes that will crush any illusions you might have of the masses rising up." ... "we are, like, just, like, everyone, waiting on, like, line for Apple phone 5, like."
Even as JPMorgan seems set to put its London Whale troubles behind it with a nearly $1 billion imminent settlement, while at the same time throwing two mid-level traders at NY prosecutors and washing its hands of the whole tempest in a teapot affair, a curious snag has appeared. The CFTC, which in the past has never had a problem with promptly settling any market manipulation abuse with any bank in exchange for a small cash-greased slap on the hand, is suddenly a sticking point in JPM's ability to just walk away from the biggest prop trading Snafu in history. As WSJ reports, "the CFTC is focusing on the bank's increasingly aggressive trades made over several months early last year, when it added tens of billions of dollars to its derivatives positions—contracts tied to investment-grade corporate bonds, these people say. The CFTC is likely to use new powers granted by the Dodd-Frank law that allow it to charge firms for recklessly manipulating markets, say people familiar with the agency's thinking."
As more details emerge about today's suspected Washington Naval Base shooter, we find something else curious. AFP reports that Aaron Alexis had been working as a defense IT subcontractor for computer giant Hewlett Packard, according company officials said. Aaron Alexis, a former naval reservist, had been employed by a firm working on an HP contract to upgrade equipment used by the US Navy and Marine Corps, HP spokesman Michael Thacker said in an email. "Aaron Alexis was an employee of a company called 'The Experts,' a subcontractor to an HP Enterprise Services contract to refresh equipment used on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) network."
As the AFL-CIO blows off Obamacare, it seems unions have been hard at work in recent days. In a ruling on Tuesday, current and former 'dancers' from the tastefully decorated (from what we hear) Midtown Manhattan Rick's Cabaret have won a class-action suit that protects them under labor laws and entitles them to minimum wage at least. The club, having argued unsuccessfully that the strippers were independent contractors, plans to appeal the Judge's ruling that the dancers are 'the main attraction" and integral to it success (though personally we would only go there to read the articles). Whether this will raise (or lower) the price per dance, VIP room access fees, mark-ups on beer and bottles of vodka, or acceptance (or not) of EBT cards has yet to be made clear.
In August 2012, when isolating one of the various reasons for the latest housing bubble, we suggested that a primary catalyst for the price surge in the ultra-luxury housing segment and the seemingly endless supply of "all cash" buyers (standing at an unprecedented 60% of all buyers lately as reported by Goldman) is a very simple one: crime. Or rather, the use of US real estate as a means to launder illegal offshore-procured money. We also identified the one key permissive feature which allowed this: the National Association of Realtors' exemption from Anti-Money Laundering provisions. In other words, all a foreign oligarch - who may or may not have used chemical weapons in their past: all depends on how recently they took their picture with the Secretary of State - had to do to buy a $47 million Florida house, was to get the actual cash to the US. Well good thing there are private jets whose cargo is never checked. It appears that a year later this too hypothesis has been proven. Earlier today the Post reported that "U.S. authorities announced Tuesday that they are seeking forfeiture of pricey Manhattan real estate linked to a fraud they say was uncovered by a whistleblowing Russian lawyer before he died behind bars. A civil forfeiture complaint filed against the assets of a Cyprus-based real estate corporation and other holding companies alleges that some of the proceeds from the $230 million tax fraud in Russia were laundered through the purchase of four luxury condominiums located in a Wall Street doorman building and two commercial spaces in prime locations in midtown and Chelsea."
It is somewhat ironic that none other than CNBC is reporting the news (which was suggested here months ago in "Will JPMorgan's "Enron" Be The End Of Blythe Masters?") that as part of its divestment of its physical commodities unit announced previously, JPMorgan may also seek to cover up any trace of market manipulation in the division recently embroiled in the aluminum cartel scandal (which we reported on in June 2011 and which story recently rose to prominence as a result of follow up reporting by the NYT) by getting rid of none other than Blythe Masters.
The South Texas city of Harlingen is the cheapest place in the U.S. to live, according to the sixth annual cost of living index, a study conducted by the Council for Community and Economic Research. By contrast, the cost of living in Manhattan, one of the most expensive places to live in the world, is almost three times that of Harlingen. If someone with an annual income of $60,000 in Manhattan moved to Harlingen, she’d need to make just $21,768 a year to maintain her standard of living.