Dollar near 3-1/2 week lows; commodity currencies stand tall

2017 12 27T092938Z 1 LYNXMPEDBQ0ER RTROPTP 0 GLOBAL FOREX 1 150x150 - Dollar near 3-1/2 week lows; commodity currencies stand tall

FILE PHOTO:  A packet  of Lincoln five dollar bills is inspected at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington
FILE PHOTO: A packet of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln five-dollar bill currency is inspected at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington March 26, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

December 28, 2017

By Masayuki Kitano

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The dollar was on the defensive on Thursday, facing headwinds from a dip in U.S. 10-year bond yields, while commodity-linked currencies were bolstered by this week’s rally in metal and oil prices.

The dollar’s index against a basket of six major currencies last stood at 92.980 <.DXY>, languishing near Wednesday’s trough of 92.956, its weakest level since Dec. 1.

“Bond yields have pulled back from their peaks and the dollar is trading with a soft tone,” said Satoshi Okagawa, senior global markets analyst at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in Singapore, referring to a pullback in U.S. 10-year Treasury yields.

The U.S. 10-year Treasury yield stood near 2.42 percent <US10YT=RR>, having come off a nine-month high of 2.504 percent set last week. The U.S. 10-year yield had slipped on Wednesday as investors rebalanced portfolios before year-end.

The euro edged up 0.1 percent to $1.1902 <EUR=>, having set a 3-1/2 week high of $1.1911 on Wednesday.

Against the yen, the dollar eased 0.2 percent to 113.19 yen <JPY=>, staying below a four-week high of 113.75 yen touched on Dec. 12.

Currencies of commodities exporters remained firm, in the wake of this week’s rise in oil prices <LCOc1> to 2-1/2 year highs and a surge in copper prices <CMCU3> to four-year peaks.

The Australian dollar touched a fresh two-month high of $0.7780 <AUD=D3> on Thursday, having gained 0.8 percent so far this week.

The Canadian dollar <CAD=D3> last stood at C$1.2639. On Wednesday, the loonie had touched a three-week high of C$1.2627.

A rise to levels beyond its early December high of C$1.2624 would send the Canadian dollar to its highest since late October.

(Reporting by Masayuki Kitano; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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Creditors seek bankruptcy for U.S. media entrepreneur Sillerman

December 27, 2017

By Tom Hals

WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – Creditors of American media entrepreneur Robert F.X. Sillerman are seeking to force the onetime billionaire into bankruptcy to try and collect on a $7.36 million judgment against him, according to court documents.

Two Chicago-based concert promoters on Wednesday filed an involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition against Sillerman in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.

They are seeking to collect a judgment they won last month against Sillerman over a promissory note he guaranteed on behalf of SFX Entertainment Inc.

Sillerman founded the company in 2012 to promote electronic dance music festivals, and in 2014 acquired React Presents Inc and Clubtix Inc from Jeffery Callahan and Lucas King. Part of the payment for the deal was in the form of a $10 million promissory note.

SFX Entertainment acquired festivals such as TomorrowWorld but had trouble bringing them together in one corporate family and filed for bankruptcy in February 2016. A month later, King and Callahan and the their two companies sued Sillerman in Chicago federal court to collect on the promissory note.

The creditors are represented by Michael Edelman of Vedder Price in New York, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sillerman could not be reached for comment.

Forbes Magazine in 2008 included Sillerman on its list of “poor billionaires,” or those who failed to crack the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. He appeared on the list in 2005.

Sillerman built his fortune over decades of well-timed deals consolidating the entertainment industry, involving radio stations, concert promoters and even Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion.

Sillerman can respond to the creditors’ involuntary bankruptcy petition by seeking to have the case dismissed or converting the filing to a voluntary bankruptcy, which would give him greater control over the case.

The involuntary bankruptcy is the latest legal headache facing Sillerman.

In September, ESFX Holdings LLC asked a New York state judge to issue an order permitting the forced sale of a property owned by Sillerman and his wife on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to satisfy a $14.6 million judgment.

ESFX obtained the judgment after a default on a promissory note that had been guaranteed by Sillerman.

Sillerman has asked the court to dismiss the case and said the filing was an attempt to pressure him by threatening him and his wife with the loss of their home.

A hearing is scheduled for March in the case.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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NYT Columnist Warns Of Liberal Hysteria

GettyImages 112774802 e1506109292427 150x150 - NYT Columnist Warns Of Liberal Hysteria

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni seems to have gotten the message that the way for Democrats to win in 2018 isn’t by acting like the end is nigh, but instead through more measured critiques of the president.

When it comes to the tax bill, Americans might think House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s screams of “Armageddon,” particularly when “millions of voters…notice withholdings from their paychecks and more money in their pockets,” according to Bruni in his Tuesday column.

Indeed, with wages set to increase in 2018 thanks to the GOP tax bill, how will readers square Bruni’s pleads for calm with his colleague Paul Krugman’s predictions that Trump would bring a “global recession?”

After The Times’ columnist’s predictions end up looking silly, “Some…Americans,” according to Bruni, “may decide that the prophets aren’t to be trusted — and that the president isn’t quite the pestilence they make him out to be.”

To be clear, Bruni hasn’t seen the light and is engaging in some left-to-right conversion. He doesn’t want to minimize “Trump’s capriciousness or cupidity,” but he is certainly scoffing at his fellow liberal’s predictions of the end of times. Bruni writes:

But the end of the world? Come on. That’s not par-for-the-course hyperbole. It’s peculiar-to-Trump hyperventilation, an understandable response to such an indecent president but quite possibly a tactical mistake. It could weaken the odds of hobbling him next fall, in the midterm elections, and of putting him far behind us in November 2020. And that’s where I, for one, want him: in the rearview mirror, growing tinier and tinier as we zoom, pedal to the metal, toward a saner, more dignified horizon.

Shortly after Trump’s election, the left seemed certain that hollering about collusion was one of the sure ways to bring down his presidency. Fast-forward to the end of 2017, and liberals like Bruno are asking others not to obsess over “clear ‘collusion’ and insisting on invisible puppet strings by which Vladimir Putin controlled Trump.”

Such a demand for temperance in rhetoric also contrasts with Bruni’s own rhetoric. Back in August of 2017, the restaurant-critic-turned-columnist said Trump “needs a soul.”

Looks like Bruni finally took some of his own advice.


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THE OVAL meeting on immigration — PRINCE HARRY talks to OBAMA — RYAN vs. MCCONNELL on entitlement reform — JANESVILLE newspaper begs RYAN to stick around — B’DAY: Savannah Guthrie

politico 150x150 - THE OVAL meeting on immigration -- PRINCE HARRY talks to OBAMA -- RYAN vs. MCCONNELL on entitlement reform -- JANESVILLE newspaper begs RYAN to stick around -- B’DAY: Savannah Guthrie

A BIT OF NEWS … A group of House Republicans key in the immigration debate quietly went to the White House last week for an Oval Office meeting with PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP about a fix for DACA — a program that prevented the deportation of children who came to the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own. House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul of Texas, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho and Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona were all in attendance for the Dec. 19 meeting. It was a glove-touching session before the December break, sources told us.

Needless to say, the fix for DACA will be a huge congressional priority in the first quarter of 2018. We hear some Republicans want the GOP Congress to take up the issue in the first few weeks of January. Why? Republicans say doing it earlier allows them to handle the issue on their terms. If the GOP lets it slip close to Jan. 19, Republicans fear Democrats could use the government-funding deadline to extract more. Ideally, Republicans hope to get border security money in the package that fixes DACA. GIVE HIM CREDIT: The president is working the right channels, at the moment. ANOTHER PIECE: Democrats, who weren’t at this meeting, will also be crucial.

Story Continued Below

HOLIDAY-WEEK CLICKERS — BBC RADIO 4: “Prince Harry interviews Barack Obama”: “Our guest editor today, Prince Harry, met President Obama, in Toronto in September during the Invictus Games to talk about his memories of the day he left office, his post-presidential work with the Obama Foundation and his hopes for the future.” 39 minutes

— BOSTON MAGAZINE: “Michael Dukakis’s Last Stand,” by Robert Huber.

–“2017: The nation’s cartoonists on the year in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 37 keepers

SPOTTED: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Frank Luntz yesterday eating a bite at Smashburger right outside Staples Center before the Clippers v. Kings basketball game … former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) in the express line yesterday for the Harry Potter “Escape From Gringotts” ride at Universal Studios Orlando. He brought two of his five kids to Universal. … Robert Kraft having a drink at Buccan last night in Palm Beach.

Good Wednesday morning. WHAT’S NEXT ON THE AGENDA — EVEN REPUBLICANS DON’T AGREE! — “It’s Ryan vs. McConnell on entitlement reform,” by Seung Min Kim and Rachael Bade: “Speaker Paul Ryan’s dream of overhauling the nation’s entitlement programs in 2018 will soon run into a harsh reality: His own party isn’t on board. The Wisconsin Republican has detailed an ambitious effort to dramatically reshape Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs that the GOP has long targeted as ripe for reforms. But bring it up with key Senate Republicans and House GOP moderates and they blanch — seeing a legislative battle that may not be winnable and that may not be worth it in an election year where control of Congress is up for grabs.

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has all but ruled out the idea, saying publicly that he doesn’t expect to see welfare and entitlement changes on the agenda next year, particularly if it’s done in a party-line manner. ‘The sensitivity of entitlements is such that you almost have to have a bipartisan agreement in order to achieve a result,’ McConnell told reporters at a news conference last week.

“Other key Republicans are clearly loath to turn to such a sharply partisan pursuit after grueling fights over Obamacare and taxes. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a swing vote during the Obamacare repeal fight this summer, quickly changed the subject when asked about Ryan’s entitlement reform push.

“‘Well, I’d like to see us pivot to infrastructure. We’ve talked it all year, the president talked about it,’ Capito said. ‘I think it could be a bipartisan exercise. I would certainly hope so.’ The clash illustrates the dilemma that congressional GOP leaders face early next year: How to sketch out an election-year agenda that unifies House and Senate Republicans and satisfies the conservative base without further risking their already-imperiled majorities.”

MEANWHILE, IN JANESVILLE … JANESVILLE GAZETTE EDITORIAL: “Our Views: Please don’t go, Paul”: “Rumors about House Speaker Paul Ryan possibly leaving Congress next year dampened excitement over passage of the nation’s first tax overhaul since the Ronald Reagan era. Some athletes try to retire at the top of their games, and maybe Ryan is having similar thoughts as he contemplates this major legislative victory. …

“[R]yan has refused to debase himself by hurling insults at his critics. He reminds the Beltway of what life used to be like before Twitter, and he’s an example of how a leader should behave. It’s not fair to blame Ryan for the antics of a president with little self-control. Congress would lose a great deal — namely integrity — if Ryan were to leave. Paul, please don’t go.”

AP TICK TOCK — JONATHAN LEMIRE and ZEKE MILLER “13 Days in July: The Trump White House’s crucible”: “The two-week span laid bare the splintering of Trump’s relationships with two influential Cabinet members, foreshadowed the reach of the Russia probe into the interior of his orbit; saw the dramatic, last-minute defeat of one of the president’s signature campaign promises; and featured a senior staff shakeup that reset the rhythms of this presidency. From the outside, it was an unruly stretch that threatened to turn the White House into a sideshow. Inside the West Wing, the chaotic days between July 19-31 stand as a panicked memory but also one that also paved the way for future successes, according to nearly two dozen administration officials, outside advisers and lawmakers. …

“‘That was the extreme,’ said former press secretary Sean Spicer. … Several advisers deemed Kelly’s hire a turning point for the administration, a move that cut down on internal fights, restored order to the West Wing and laid the groundwork for wins down the road. ‘Once myself, Reince and Steve were out of the picture, I think that moved the target off — it got people back to focus,’ Spicer recalled.”

OBAMA LEGACY WATCH — NYT’S ROBERT PEAR — “Years of Attack Leave Obamacare a More Government-Focused Health Law”: “The Affordable Care Act was conceived as a mix of publicly funded health care and privately purchased insurance, but Republican attacks, culminating this month in the death of a mandate that most Americans have insurance, are shifting the balance, giving the government a larger role than Democrats ever anticipated. And while President Trump insisted again on Tuesday that the health law was ‘essentially’ being repealed, what remains of it appears relatively stable and increasingly government-funded.

“In short, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement is becoming more like what conservatives despise — government-run health care — thanks in part to Republican efforts that are raising premiums for people without government assistance and allowing them to skirt coverage. By ending the tax penalty for people who do not have coverage, beginning in 2019, Republicans may hasten the flight of customers who now pay the full cost of their insurance. Among those left behind under the umbrella of the Affordable Care Act would be people of modest means who qualify for Medicaid or receive sizable subsidies for private insurance.”

PLAYBOOK YEAR IN REVIEW: Today’s audio briefing features a bonus episode of Anna, Jake and Zach talking about being journalists in the era of fake news and what impact it has had in coverage Check out yesterday’s bonus briefing about the recent wave of sexual misconduct allegations against prominent D.C. figures and how the political world is reacting to them

WHAT’S ON PRESIDENT TRUMP’S MIND — @realDonaldTrump at 5:17 p.m.: “All signs are that business is looking really good for next year, only to be helped further by our Tax Cut Bill. Will be a great year for Companies and JOBS! Stock Market is poised for another year of SUCCESS!”

****** A message from Google Year in Search 2017: In 2017, the world asked “how…?” From “how to move forward” to “how to make a difference,” the questions we asked showed our shared desire to understand our experiences. Watch the film and see top trending lists from around the world at ******

ANNIE KARNI, “What happens when Trump targets you on Twitter: Five Americans named by the president on social media talk about the unexpected fallout in their real lives”: “The [‘facelift’] tweet … hit [Mika] Brzezinski at the tail end of 24 months of back-to-back personal traumas, blunting its effect, she said. ‘In the past two years, I’ve lost my best friend to pancreatic cancer, I’ve gotten divorced, my oldest daughter had this harrowing day on her college campus, and we thought she had been kidnapped. My father went into the hospital and died, and right after my dad died, my mother had two heart attacks — and a month later the president tweeted.’” Also featuring Kathy Griffin, Alan Dershowitz, John Podesta and Kirsten Gillibrand:

WHAT TRUMP LIKES TO SEE — “In the heart of Trump Country, his base’s faith is unshaken,” by AP’s Claire Galofaro in Sandy Hook, Kentucky: “Despite the president’s dismal approval ratings and lethargic legislative achievements, he remains profoundly popular here in these mountains, a region so badly battered by the collapse of the coal industry it became the symbolic heart of Trump’s white working-class base. The frenetic churn of the national news, the ceaseless Twitter taunts, the daily declarations of outrage scroll soundlessly across the bottom of the diner’s television screen, rarely registering. When they do, Trump doesn’t shoulder the blame — because the allegiance of those here is as emotional as it is economic.

“It means God, guns, patriotism, saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and not Happy Holidays. It means validation of their indignation about a changing nation: gay marriage and immigration and factories moving overseas. It means tearing down the political system that neglected them again and again in favor of the big cities that feel a world away. On those counts, they believe Trump has delivered, even if his promised blue-collar renaissance has not yet materialized. He’s punching at all the people who let them down for so long — the presidential embodiment of their own discontent.”

SOMETHING TO WATCH — “Military poised to accept transgender troops, despite Trump tweets, as courts block ban,” by L.A. Times’ David Savage: “Barring last-minute intervention by the Supreme Court, the military’s ban on enlisting transgender troops is set to fall next week, despite President Trump’s tweets. If so, it would be the rare instance of a major change in U.S. military policy that takes place despite the opposition of the commander in chief.”

FOR YOUR RADAR — AP: “Treasury issues sanctions against 2 North Korean officials”: “The U.S. Treasury Department issued sanctions Tuesday against two officials it describes as ‘key leaders of North Korea’s unlawful weapons programs.’ The sanctions against Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol block them from any property or interests in property within U.S. jurisdiction, and prohibit them from transactions with American citizens. Treasury said the men are senior officials in North Korea’s Munitions Industry Department.”

— “Homeland Security Increasingly Means Putting Agents Outside the Homeland,” by NYT’s Ron Nixon aboard a P-3 Orion, over the Pacific Ocean: “The Department of Homeland Security is increasingly going global. An estimated 2,000 Homeland Security employees — from Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents to Transportation Security Administration officials — now are deployed to more than 70 countries around the world. Hundreds more are either at sea for weeks at a time aboard Coast Guard ships, or patrolling the skies in surveillance planes above the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

“The expansion has created tensions with some European countrieswho say that the United States is trying to export its immigration laws to their territory. But other allies agree with the United States’ argument that its longer reach strengthens international security while preventing a terrorist attack, drug shipment, or human smuggling ring from reaching American soil.”

SEXUAL HARASSMENT FILES — “Inspector general says mishandling of sexual harassment complaints at Justice Department is a ‘systemic’ problem,” by WaPo’s Sari Horwitz: “The Justice Department has ‘systemic’ problems in how it handles sexual harassment complaints, with those found to have acted improperly often not receiving appropriate punishment, and the issue requires ‘high level action,’ according to the department’s inspector general.

“Justice supervisors have mishandled complaints, the IG said, and some perpetrators were given little discipline or even later rewarded with bonuses or performance awards. At the same time, the number of allegations of sexual misconduct has been increasing over the past five years and the complaints have involved senior Justice Department officials across the country.

“The cases examined by the IG’s office include a U.S. attorney who had a sexual relationship with a subordinate and sent harassing texts and emails when it ended; a Civil Division lawyer who groped the breasts and buttocks of two female trial attorneys; and a chief deputy U.S. marshal who had sex with ‘approximately’ nine women on multiple occasions in his U.S. Marshals Service office, according to investigative reports obtained by The Washington Post under a Freedom of Information Act request.”

RUSSIA UPDATE — “U.S. lawmakers question businessman at 2016 Trump Tower meeting: sources,” by Reuters’ Mark Hosenball and Jonathan Landay: “A Georgian-American businessman who met then-Miss Universe pageant owner Donald Trump in 2013, has been questioned by congressional investigators about whether he helped organize a meeting between Russians and Trump’s eldest son during the 2016 election campaign, four sources familiar with the matter said. … The Senate and House of Representatives intelligence committees recently questioned behind closed doors Irakly Kaveladze, a U.S. citizen born in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, the sources said. He is a U.S.-based representative of Azerbaijani oligarch Aras Agalarov’s real estate firm, the Crocus Group.”

— A MESSAGE TO TRUMP: “Trump Should Pardon Michael Flynn, Who Took ‘The Biggest Fall,’ Family Says,” by Newsweek’s Max Kutner: “‘About time you pardoned General Flynn who has taken the biggest fall for all of you given the illegitimacy of this confessed crime in the wake of all this corruption,’ Joseph Flynn [Michael Flynn’s brother] tweeted, though the post was deleted after about 15 minutes.”

THE RESISTANCE — STEYER WATCH EDITION: “‘We have tapped into something.’ Impeachment drive builds digital army to take on Trump,” by California Playbookers Carla Marinucci and David Siders in San Francisco: “When billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer launched a digital petition drive to impeach President Donald Trump two months ago, some Democratic Party leaders dismissed it as an unhelpful vanity project — and even Steyer thought he’d top out at a million signatures.

“But nearly four million digital signatures later, the philanthropist and environmental activist’s unlikely campaign has seized on an issue — impeaching Trump — that could become part of the Democratic mainstream in 2018. It’s placed at his fingertips a potentially powerful tool: an email list of millions of motivated activists who he can reach instantly for organizing and fundraising and that could become the hottest trove of data in Democratic politics since the email list that Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign against Hillary Clinton collected in 2016.

“Steyer’s digital success is fueling intense curiosity about what he’ll do with that tool in the future — and whether he’ll use it beyond his California base, for a White House bid of his own. ‘That’s how you build a grassroots operations for a presidential campaign. And if you are that guy who started this, that’s certainly a leg up in organizing a 50-state strategy,’ said Mike Madrid, a Republican consultant in California who is advising former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat, in his gubernatorial campaign. ‘That’s what he’s building, and it’s probably second only to Bernie Sanders’ list, and may be eclipsing it. Every election cycle has its own dynamics, and whoever is tapping into the sentiments of their own base usually has an advantage.’”

ONE BIG HURDLE FOR DEMS — “Democrats Struggle to Convert Voter Enthusiasm Into Cash Contributions,” by WSJ’s Julie Bykowicz: “Democrats want to win back control of Congress and build up their presence in state capitals during next year’s elections, but they begin this ambitious mission with precious little cash to finance it.

“The [DNC] had $6.3 million in the bank on Dec. 1, while the [RNC] had six times as much, at $40 million, according to documents the parties filed with the [FEC]. In November, the DNC posted its worst fundraising amount for the month in a decade.

“Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a former DNC chairman who hosted a party fundraiser at his home Dec. 14, is among the party stalwarts stepping in to try to reverse the course. ‘I have heard a lot of donors say they need to take a break,’ said Mr. McAuliffe. ‘The party’s job is to convince them they can’t.’”

— THIS SHORTFALL for Dems is a big problem. They have been touting their recent electoral victories and growing enthusiasm as evidence that they will win a congressional majority in the midterm election. Democrats will need to find a way to make up the difference in order to have a shot at taking advantage of Trump’s low poll numbers.

CLICKER — “The Worst Political Predictions of 2017”

BEN WHITE talks about Bitcoin with PETER VAN VALKENBURGH, director of research at nonprofit group Coin Center, in the latest “POLITICO Money” podcast: “Bitcoin could be on a rocket ride to over $1 million per coin. Or it could be headed to zero. One of the many mysteries surrounding the buzzy virtual currency is that nobody knows what it’s actually worth. Even true believers in Bitcoin and its underlying technology — the blockchain record-keeping function — acknowledge that the currency, which traded around $16,000 per coin on Tuesday, could be in a massive bubble.” to the full podcast

— “Bitcoin’s boom is a boon for extremist groups,” by WaPo’s Craig Timberg:

HMM — “Many Comments Critical of ‘Fiduciary’ Rule Are Fake,”by WSJ’s James V. Grimaldi and Paul Overberg: “A significant number of fake comments appear among thousands criticizing a proposed federal rule meant to prevent conflicts of interest in retirement advice, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. … Consider the experience of Robert Schubert, a Devon, Pa., salesperson. A comment posted in his name on the Labor Department website opposed the rule, saying: ‘I do not need, do not want and object to any federal interference in my retirement planning.’

“In an interview, Mr. Schubert said the comment was a fraud. He didn’t post it and doesn’t agree with it. ‘I am disgusted that people can post comments using my name,’ Mr. Schubert said. Mr. Schubert is among 50 people who responded to a survey last week conducted by research firm Mercury Analytics for The Journal—40%, or 20 of whom said they didn’t post the comment listed under their name, address, phone number and email.”

THE REGULATORY ROLLBACK — “Trump Administration Eases Nursing Home Fines in Victory for Industry,” by Jordan Rau in NYT: “The Trump administration is scaling back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of injury, part of a broader relaxation of regulations under the president. … Since 2013, nearly 6,500 nursing homes — four of every 10 — have been cited at least once for a serious violation, federal records show. Medicare has fined two-thirds of those homes. Common citations include failing to protect residents from avoidable accidents, neglect, mistreatment and bedsores.”

–“Trump administration eases rule against killing birds,” by WaPo’s Juliet Eilperin:

****** A message from Google Year in Search 2017: As this year draws to a close, Google analyzed Search Trends data to see what the world was searching for. The data showed that 2017 was the year we asked “how…?” How do wildfires start? How to calm a dog during a storm? How to make a protest sign? These questions show our shared desire to understand our experiences and come to each other’s aid. Watch the Year in Search 2017 and see top trending lists from around the world at ******

COMING ATTRACTIONS — “Conservatives’ culture wars come to Silicon Valley,” by Nancy Scola: “Conservatives have found the latest mark in their long-running assault on cultural elites: Silicon Valley. From Steve Bannon railing against the ‘lords of technology’ to Donald Trump Jr. using Twitter’s ‘blue checkmark’ as an insult, anti-tech tropes are ricocheting around the right, painting the internet industry as an unaccountable monolith that looks down on so-called mainstream Americans.

“For tech companies, flush with cash and facing little risk of regulation from Republicans, the intensifying rhetoric poses minimal short-term danger in Washington. But a sustained assault could, over time, turn the tech industry into the same kind of conservative punching bag as Hollywood or the news media. And that threatens to alienate parts of tech’s vast user base that spans the ideological spectrum.

“Conservatives say their disdain stems from suspicions that tech companies are biased against their views — as well as the industry’s utility as a symbol of the establishment amid the populist backlash unleashed by President Trump. ‘They’re looking out for themselves, and building technologies for themselves, while giving the short end of the stick to the rest of the country,’ said Garrett Johnson, co-founder of the right-of-center tech group Lincoln Network, adding that many fellow conservatives are eager to ‘pick a fight’ with Silicon Valley.”

ON THE WHITE HOUSE GROUNDS — “Iconic White House tree to be cut down,” by CNN’s Kate Bennett: “The south facade of the White House will undergo a dramatic change this week: the historic Jackson Magnolia, a tree that has been in place since the 1800s, is scheduled to be cut down and removed. The enormous magnolia [is] one of three on the west side of the White House and the oldest on the White House grounds … The tree has had a long and storied life, yet has now been deemed too damaged and decayed to remain in place. … The decision to remove the tree was ultimately made by first lady Melania Trump after she assessed all of the professional information and accompanying historical documents. … Trump has requested that the wood from the tree be preserved.”

PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION – “What’s a Wendy’s doing there? The story of Washington’s weirdest traffic circle,” by WaPo’s Dan Zak: “First things first. There’s a Wendy’s in the middle of the intersection. Hard to get around that. It’s been there since the mid-’80s, on a wedge of land bordered by First Street NE and Florida and New York avenues, at a major gateway to Washington, D.C. Surrounding the Wendy’s is a ‘virtual traffic circle,’ a polite way to refer to this urban aneurysm — a pair of triangles, really, with a roundabout movement forced upon them. … [L]ocals call it: Dave Thomas Circle, in honor of the jovial, short-sleeved founder of the fast-food chain at the center of this mess.”

DESSERT – “Variety Critics Name the 20 Most Anticipated Movies of 2018”:

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Karen Hughes, worldwide vice chair of Burson-Marsteller, celebrating in New Mexico with Jerry. How she got her start in politics: “I covered politics as a television reporter in Texas and when Sen. John Tower was named co-chair of the Reagan-Bush ‘84 re-election campaign in Texas, he and his co-chair Martha Weisend hired me as their Texas press coordinator (historical footnote — the campaign had co-chairs to try to mend an ongoing rift in the party from the ‘76 election — Sen. Tower had supported President Ford and Martha was an early Ronald Reagan supporter).” Read her Playbook Plus Q&A:

BIRTHDAYS: Savannah Guthrie … Mercedes Schlapp … Cokie Roberts … Arthur Kent is 64 … Max Band … Kurt Volker, executive director of the McCain Institute and the special representative to Ukraine … Brennan Bilberry, VP and head of public affairs of the Messina Group … Trygve Olson, president of Viking Strategies … Christina Glenn, adviser at Corporate Communications in Oslo and SKDK alum … Bloomberg’s Glen Carey … Tim Ball, creative director at Politico Europe … Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) is 57 … former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) is 56 … Ben Lazarus, JD candidate at NYU Law … Alex Baren … Bill Connor of Oratorio Media & Presentation Training (h/t Cynthia Hacinli) … Andi Lipstein Fristedt, deputy health policy director for the Democratic minority on the Senate HELP committee … Osaremen Okolo …

… Jessica McCreight, VP at SKDKnickerbocker and an Obama WH alum … Kamau Marshall, communications director for Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) … Reuters alum Jessica Bachman … Jacob Levy … Joseph Grieboski … Hemanshu Nigam … Mike Thomas … Jacqueline Policastro, Gray Television’s D.C. bureau chief … Emily Hytha, comms director for Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) … Sheri Treadwell … TPM’s Tierney Sneed … Jill Meadows Hoppin … Barclay Palmer … Joseph Collins … Sarah Guinan Nixon … Joe Harris … Andrew Chesley … Susie Weinrauch Leach … Edelman’s Alex Milwee and Holli Holsan … Phil Reisen … Josh Litten … Catherine Marx … Moyer Brandon McCoy … Geri Palast … Yael Belkind (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)

****** A message from Google Year in Search 2017: As this year draws to a close, Google analyzed Search Trends data to see what the world was searching for. The data showed that 2017 was the year we asked “how…?” How do wildfires start? How to calm a dog during a storm? How to make a protest sign? All of the “how” searches featured in the Year in Search film were searched at least 10 times more this year than ever before. These questions show our shared desire to understand our experiences and come to each other’s aid.

From “how to watch the eclipse” and “how to shoot like Curry,” to “how to move forward” and “how to make a difference,” here’s to this Year in Search. Watch the film and see top trending lists from around the world at ******

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A One And Done This Week! – Daily Pfennig

Chuck Butler’s: A Pfennig For Your Thoughts

December 27, 2017

* All Three Anti-dollar assets rally!

* Kicking the can down the road again… 

* Tax Bill is ready to put in place… 

Good Day…  And a Wonderful Wednesday to you! I hope your Christmas celebration was grand, mine was! And yesterday was Kathy’s birthday. We were celebrated out, and spent a quiet night at home. Alex has been here with us for the weekend, for now, it’s nice that he’s here. Gerry & the Pacemakers greet me this morning with their 60’s hit song: Ferry Cross the Mersey… I used to sing that song to Alex when he was a baby to help him fall asleep…  That was 22 years ago, and the song was old then! HA!

Well, remember when we came back from the Thanksgiving holiday and I talked about how nice it was that the NY traders were out for a few days, as the currencies and meals rallied in their absence?  Well, so far this week, this is a rinse and repeat of those days after Thanksgiving.

The currencies, led by the Big Dog euro, have all gotten off the porch to chase the dollar down the street. Yesterday, the first day back from the Christmas holiday, saw widespread dollar selling. The euro is knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door, no wait! The euro is knocking on the 1.19 handle this morning, and Gold found a way to carve out an $8.50 gain yesterday…

Friday, last week, I sent out a tweet, regarding the lawmakers once again, kicking the can down the road. They still don’t have a budget, and they are still playing around with a possible government shutdown. I told you when they “extended” the negotiations the last time for two weeks, that it was ridiculous to think that these guys and gals could come up with a budget in two week’s time, given they had all year up to that time to do it!

And, they didn’t! So, now we’re looking at the deadline being in two weeks… But what says that the negotiations will be finished by then? I just shake my head and wonder what it will take to bring the two sides together to make a budget? It’s a sad, sad state of affairs, if you ask me!

And this morning I came across an article on the Bloomberg that was titled: Subprime Auto Defaults Are Soaring…  Not that these Subprime Auto loans are any near the size of the problem with the subprime Home Loans back in 2007, when that meltdown began.

But yet, Consumer Confidence is soaring higher and higher with every new print… Man, this reminds me of 2000 all over again… The stock market led by the Tech stocks, was soaring, but there were all these problems going on that should have affected the stock market, but it didn’t, and Consumer Confidence was soaring back then like it is now…  And then we drove our Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry… And all the King’s horses and all the King’s Men couldn’t put the stock market back together again until all the excesses were cleaned out…

Can you imagine h9w nasty this correction will be given how high the stock market has run? OUCH! Now that’s going to leave a mark!  But a lot of pundits are waking around with egg on their faces right now, because they’ve been calling for this correction in the stock market for months now and it just hasn’t come to fruition…  I’m not putting any timeline on this thought, instead, I’m just saying that it will be nasty when it happens…

I’m already on the hook for saying that I thought the Fed’s rate hikes were over, and by now they would be talking about the reversal of their previous rate hikes… I still think it’s coming… sort of like the old 3 Dog Night song. Eli’s coming…  And as usual I’m out in front on this call, and my timing is ahead of the crowd…  I wouldn’t be a good comedian, because my timing has shown that it needs a lot of work!

The price of Oil hasn’t taken any passes on all this dollar selling, and has moved to the $49 handle. Last week’s supplies numbers were lower than expected, and that got the price of Oil moving in the right direction, and the momentum is moving in Oil’s favor right now…

So, all the anti-dollar assets, Gold, euros, Oil, are kicking some dollar tail this morning, and taking names later. It’s been awhile since I could talk about all three anti-dollar assets moving against the dollar at the same time.  As I said above, Gold carved out an $8.50 gain yesterday, and is looking ready to move past $1,300 to end the year…

I gave my grandkids some Silver coins for Christmas… Of course the coins didn’t match their legos and American Dolls, but one day… maybe when they’re going off to college, and need some dough, they’ll ask their parents for those coins, and find out that the present from me all those years ago, was something special…

Last week I was reading an article from Ted Butler (no relation that I know of) the Silver Guru, and he was talking about how JP Morgan got into the short paper trades in Silver… They inherited the business from Bear Stearns, when they bought the failing company back in 2007… Ted Butler’s thought was that the agreement to take on the short paper trades was a 10-year deal that would be expiring soon. And guess who probably has the largest holdings of physical Silver?  That’s right, JP Morgan…  Do, you see the reason they not only took over the short paper trades in Silver business but enhanced it?   Ah, said the blind man as he spit into the wind, “it’s all coming back to me now”…

Of course that’s Ted Butler’s opinion, of which I agree with wholeheartedly…  What do you think?

Well, the Tax Reform Bill did get sent to the President who signed it before Christmas.. I was shocked that it got done that quickly or so it seemed.  I’ve dived deep into the tax bill, and I just don’t see it turning around the economy like it’s billed to be… And it certainly isn’t revenue/ spending neutral like it was supposed to be. $1.8 Trillion and probably more once they get going, will be added to the National Debt in the coming years…  So, much for it being neutral, eh?  

So, it’s all finished, signed, sealed, delivered it’s yours…  Happy Days are here again, the… no wait! Let’s see what this does for us first, eh?  

There’s not much in the Data Cupboard this week for us to look forward to seeing. We will see the Consumer Confidence for the first two weeks of this month today, but besides that, it’s all non-market moving data, which is a good thing, because I’m convinced that the major players in NYC are still away, and we don’t need any wild swings going into the end of the year.  

We will see book squaring, and positions close outs going into the end of the year, but those shouldn’t cause too much volatility. So, it’s all about the currencies, Gold and Oil this week as far as I can tell, as the major players are still opening presents and filling their stomachs with pumpkin pie. 

And with that thought, it’s a good week to end early for me… Tomorrow morning is an infusion morning, so no Pfennig Tomorrow or Friday…  But check your Tweets, for you never know when I’m going to send out a Tweet! 

To recap… The U.S. lawmakers had to kick the can down the road again on Friday, as they avoided a Gov’t shutdown, but still couldn’t agree on a budget. This got the currencies and metals moving and yesterday they really took a pound of flesh from the dollar, and Chuck thinks this will be the theme for the week. All three anti-dollar assets, Gold, Oil and currencies are moving against the dollar for the first time in a while..   

For What It’s Worth… Longtime dear reader Bob, sent me this since I’ve been talking about China’s moves against the dollar for a long time he thought it played nicely in the sandbox with my previous thoughts… It’s about China’s petrol-renminbi move and can be found here:   

Or, here’s your snippet: “Petrodollars have dominated the global energy markets for more than 40 years. But now, China is looking to change that by replacing the word dollars for yuan.

Nations, of course, have tried this before since the system was set up by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in tandem with the House of Saud back in 1974

Vast populations across the Middle East and Northern Africa quickly felt the consequences when Iraq’s Saddam Hussein decided to sell oil in euros. Then there was Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi’s pan-African gold dinar blueprint, which failed to create a splash in an oil barrel.

Fast forward 25 years and China is making a move to break the United States petrodollar stranglehold. The plan is to set up oil-futures trading in the yuan, which will be fully convertible into gold on the Shanghai and Hong Kong foreign exchange markets. ”  

Chuck again… nothing new to regular Pfennig Readers, but a good recap of what’s going on… 

Currencies today 12/27/17… American Style: A$ .7770, kiwi .7075, C$ .7917, euro 1.1894, sterling 1.3410, Swiss $1.0111, … European Style: rand 12.4303, krone 8.2926, SEK 8.2993, forint 261.41, zloty 3.5221, koruna 21.7173, RUB 57.82, yen 113.23, sing 1.3394, HKD 7.8146, INR 63.98, China 6.5448, peso 19.78, BRL 3.3248, Dollar Index 93.04, Oil $59.45, 10-year 2.47%, Silver $16.66, Platinum $922.75, Palladium $1,057.90, and Gold… $1,289.10  

That’s it for today, this week, and this year! Yes, when I come back next week it will be 2018! I’m getting around much better these days and the pain has, not gone away, but has weakened… YAHOO!  I heard from some longtime friends over the weekend.. Ed, and Jack, and Lauren, and Suzanne, and I can’t forget about Kathy G! Now, please be careful this weekend going out and about… Kathy’s dad used to call New Year’s Eve, “amateur’s night”…  And let’s all think a lot about how to make 2018, a better year…  I’m so ready for 2017 to end, I had some major steps backward with my health in 2017, and 2018 had better be better or I’ll not be here next year at this time! I’m just saying…  Steely Dan takes us to the finish line today with their song: Aja…  from my fave Steely Dan album of the same name…  I hope you have a Wonderful Wednesday, and fun filled New Year’s Eve, and Be Good To Yourself!  

Chuck Butler



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Oil falls from 2015 highs as rally runs out of steam

2017 12 27T021739Z 2 LYNXMPEDBQ025 RTROPTP 0 GLOBAL PETROLEUM 1 150x150 - Oil falls from 2015 highs as rally runs out of steam

A oil storage tank is pictured on the site of Canadian group Vermilion Energy in Parentis-en-Born
A storage tank is pictured on the site of Canadian group Vermilion Energy in Parentis-en-Born, France, October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

December 27, 2017

By Dmitry Zhdannikov

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices fell on Wednesday after hitting a near two-and-a-half year high in the previous session as analysts said the rally was gradually running out of steam despite supply outages in Libya and the North Sea.

Brent crude futures dropped to $66.27 a barrel, down 1.15 percent, or 75 cents, at 1321 GMT after breaking through $67 for the first time since May 2015 the previous day.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $59.53 a barrel, down 44 cents from their last settlement. WTI broke through $60 a barrel for the first time since June 2015 in the previous session.

“This could now be the fourth year in a row when the period around the turn of the year offers a good opportunity to start fading the market,” JBC Energy said in a note.

JBC said it believed the market will gradually realize it had overshot: “We would have to argue that sometime over the course of January we will see a major turnaround.”

It said prices could fall below $60 a barrel sometime in February and could even test $55 a barrel.

On Tuesday, Libya lost around 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil supplies from a blast on a pipeline feeding Es Sider port.

Repair of the pipeline could take about one week but will not have a major impact on exports, the head of Libyan state oil firm NOC told Reuters on Wednesday.

The Libyan outage added to supply disruptions of recent weeks, which also included the closure of Britain’s largest Forties pipeline.

On Wednesday, Forties was pumping at half its normal capacity and its operator was pledging to resume full flows in early January.

The Forties and Libyan outages, which together amount to around 500,000 bpd, are relatively small in a global context of both production and demand approaching 100 million bpd.

“The net global impact of the (Libyan) pipeline explosion is relatively small and we will not blow out of proportion the impact of the incident on the supply and demand picture,” said Olivier Jakob from Swiss-based Petromatrix.

He said the market could be supported by a U.S. cold spell and expectations of greater heating oil consumption.

Oil markets have tightened significantly over the past year thanks to voluntary supply restraint led the Middle East-dominated Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC Russia.

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that following rampant oversupply in 2015, global oil markets gradually came into balance by 2016 and started to show a slight supply deficit this year.

EIA data implies a slight supply shortfall of 180,000 bpd for the first quarter of 2018.

A major factor countering efforts by OPEC and Russia efforts to prop up prices is U.S. oil production, which has soared more than 16 percent since mid-2016 and is fast approaching 10 million bpd.

Only OPEC king-pin Saudi Arabia and Russia produce more.

The latest U.S. production figures are due to be published by the EIA on Thursday.

For a graphic on global oil supply and demand, click: link

(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and David Evans)

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‘Comfort women’ row with Japan unresolved despite 2015 deal, South Korea says

2017 12 27T063023Z 1 LYNXMPEDBQ08R RTROPTP 0 SOUTHKOREA JAPAN COMFORTWOMEN 1 150x150 - ‘Comfort women’ row with Japan unresolved despite 2015 deal, South Korea says

Students hold portraits of deceased former South Korean
FILE PHOTO: Students hold portraits of deceased former South Korean “comfort women” during a weekly anti-Japan rally in front of Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

December 27, 2017

SEOUL (Reuters) – A 2015 agreement with Japan over South Korean women who were forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels failed to meet the needs of victims, South Korea’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Kang Kyung-wha apologized for the controversial deal as a public-private panel appointed by her unveiled results of an investigation into it.

The investigation concluded that the dispute over the “comfort women”, a Japanese euphemism for the women forced to work in wartime brothels, could not be “fundamentally resolved” because the victims’ demand for Japan’s legal compensation had not been met.

The South Korean government will review the result of the investigation and translate it into policy after consulting victims and civic groups that support them, Kang told a news conference.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Joy Villa Files Sexual Assault Complaint

GettyImages 634957942 1 e1506109204351 150x150 - Joy Villa Files Sexual Assault Complaint

Joy Villa said she will speak with Washington detectives next week after filing a sexual assault complaint against Corey Lewandowski for an alleged incident at a party last month in D.C.

“I didn’t know him [Lewandowski] at all. I only knew him by reputation. He broke my trust,” the 26-year-old singer told the Associated Press Tuesday. (RELATED: Joy Villa: I’m Here To Help Carry President Trump’s Message)

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Singer Joy Villa attends The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 12: Singer Joy Villa attends The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Villa explained how she saw Lewandowski at a gathering at the Trump International Hotel the day after Thanksgiving, and that’s when she alleged that he hit her two times “extremely hard” on the buttocks even after she asked him to stop, calling the incident “disgusting and shocking and demeaning.”

She added that she wasn’t going to say anything about it fearing a backlash. However, she changed her mind and called the Washington Metropolitan Police Department on Christmas Eve, after a friend who allegedly saw the incident spoke about it and others encouraged her to come forward. Lewandowski was for a time Trump’s campaign manager during the election.

“I was initially fearful to come forward with this,” Villa explained, sharing that she hoped to avoid bringing any shame or embarrassment to either of their families.

“I did nothing wrong,” she added. “I realized if he’s not going to respond or apologize to me, I think it’s the right thing to do.”

“Here’s the photo of @CLewandowski_ seconds before he slapped my ass, I told him to stop, and then he did it again. I was shocked and embarrassed by his behavior,” Villa tweeted about the alleged incident along with a photo.

Earlier this month, the singer who wore a “Make America Great Again” dress to the 2017 Grammy Awards and has been an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump. She’s also launched an exploratory committee for a possible “congressional run for the state of Florida.”

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Oil soars, U.S. crude hits $60/bbl for first time since mid-2015

2017 12 26T070342Z 2 LYNXMPEDBP09U RTROPTP 0 CANADA OIL OFFSHORE 1 150x150 - Oil soars, U.S. crude hits $60/bbl for first time since mid-2015

Handout photo of ExxonMobil’s Hebron oil platform is shown off the coast of Canada’s Newfoundland & Labrador
ExxonMobil’s Hebron oil platform is shown off the coast of Canada’s Newfoundland & Labrador, in this June 13, 2017 handout photo. Courtesy ExxonMobil Canada/Handout via REUTERS

December 27, 2017

By Devika Krishna Kumar

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices surged to 2-1/2-year highs and U.S. crude touched $60 a barrel in light trading volume on Tuesday, boosted by news of an explosion on a Libyan crude pipeline as well as voluntary OPEC-led supply cuts.

Armed assailants blew up a pipeline pumping crude oil to the port of Es Sider on Tuesday, cutting Libya’s output by up to 100,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to military and energy sources.

The state-run National Oil Corporation (NOC) said in a statement that output had been reduced by 70,000 to 100,000 bpd. The cause of the blast was unclear, it added.

The North African country’s output had been recovering in recent months after being held down for years amid armed conflict and unrest.

Brent crude <LCOc1>, the international benchmark for oil prices, settled at $67.02 a barrel, up by $1.77, or 2.71 percent. During the session, front-month prices touched a high of $67.10 a barrel, their highest since mid-May 2015.

U.S. crude <CLc1> climbed $1.50, or 2.6 percent, to end the session at $59.97 a barrel after touching a session high of $60.01, the highest since late-June 2015.

The impending restart of Forties, a key North Sea pipeline, limited the extent of the rally. Oil and gas flows through the pipeline will be increased gradually, its operator Ineos said on Tuesday, adding that the Kinneil processing plant was partially restarted.

“Keep in mind that the field and pipeline are old and it may have issues and it’s probably why the market isn’t selling off,” said Scott Shelton, a broker at ICAP in Durham, North Carolina.

Trading activity was thin following the Christmas holiday and London trading was muted during Boxing Day. About 72,000 contracts of front-month Brent futures changed hands on Tuesday, well below the typical daily average of more than 250,000 contracts.

In the United States, the energy complex was led higher by heating oil futures. Prices <HOc1> rose as much as 3.6 percent to a session high of $2.0410, the highest since early June 2015 on forecasts for cold weather.

Brent has risen 17 percent in the year to date while U.S. crude has rallied about 11 percent so far in 2017.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, plus Russia and other non-members, have been withholding some output since Jan. 1 to relieve a glut. The producers have extended the supply cut agreement to cover all of 2018.

Iraq’s oil minister said on Monday there would be a balance between supply and demand by the first quarter, leading to a boost in prices. Global oil inventories have decreased to an acceptable level, he added.

That outlook is earlier than predicted in OPEC’s latest official forecast, which calls for a balanced market by late 2018. [OPEC/M]

U.S. shipments to China, one of the world’s biggest oil consumers, have benefited from the OPEC-led output cuts. Russia, however, was China’s largest crude oil supplier for the ninth month in a row in November, topping Saudi Arabia for the year so far, China’s customs data showed on Tuesday.

While the OPEC action has lent support to prices all year, market participants have said the unplanned shutdown of the Forties pipeline on Dec. 11 is what helped push Brent to its 2-1/2-year high.

Forties is the biggest of the five North Sea crude streams underpinning Brent, the benchmark for oil trading in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Still, rising production in the United States is offsetting some of the OPEC-led cuts.

The U.S. rig count <RIG-OL-USA-BHI>, an early indicator of future output, held steady at 747 in the week to Dec. 22, according to the latest weekly report by Baker Hughes.

U.S. crude oil inventories were likely down for a sixth straight week, while gasoline stockpiles saw a probable build last week, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by Alex Lawler in London and Henning Gloystein; editing by G Crosse and Tom Brown)

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U.K. GOV’T pleads with Prince Harry: Don’t invite Obama to your wedding, because Trump will be upset — TRUMP’s hidden Cabinet — IMPEACHMENT debate divides Dems — DAVID BROOKS’ Sidney Awards

politico 150x150 - U.K. GOV’T pleads with Prince Harry: Don’t invite Obama to your wedding, because Trump will be upset -- TRUMP’s hidden Cabinet -- IMPEACHMENT debate divides Dems -- DAVID BROOKS’ Sidney Awards

TOP TALKER — HEADLINE IN U.K.’S THE SUN: “TRUMP SNUB FEAR:Government pleads with Prince Harry not to invite Barack Obama to his wedding,” by Tom Newton Dunn: “GOVERNMENT mandarins are urging Prince Harry not to invite the Obamas to his wedding for fear of infuriating Donald Trump. Harry and fiancée Meghan Markle have told aides they want the former U.S. president and wife Michelle at their big day on May 19.

“The 33-year-old prince has become good friends with the Obamas since bonding with them during the Invictus Games. But Britain’s relations with Trump’s White House have sunk to their lowest ebb since his election last year. The property billionaire does not hide his loathing of Mr. Obama and is expected to be enraged if his predecessor gets the coveted call up when he won’t. The young Royal couple’s dislike of the new president is well known. …

Story Continued Below

“There are deep fears among senior Foreign Office and No10 officials that another perceived national snub will make it impossible for Theresa May to meaningfully engage with Trump. A senior government source said: ‘Harry has made it clear he wants the Obamas at the wedding, so it’s causing a lot of nervousness. Trump could react very badly if the Obamas get to a Royal wedding before he has had a chance to meet the Queen.’”

Happy Tuesday. PLAYBOOK YEAR IN REVIEW: Today’s audio briefing features a bonus episode of Anna, Jake and Zach talking about the recent wave of sexual misconduct allegations against prominent D.C. figures and how the political world is reacting to them On Monday, we talked about how the investigation of Russia’s influence in the 2016 election has unfolded and how the White House has responded


— “Retailers Feel Shoppers’ Christmas Cheer,” by WSJ’s Suzanne Kapner: “Fueled by high consumer confidence and a robust job market, U.S. retail sales in the holiday period rose at their best pace since 2011, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks both online and in-store spending. Sales, excluding automobiles, rose 4.9% from Nov. 1 through Christmas Eve, compared with a 3.7% gain in the same period last year, according to the Mastercard Inc. unit, which tracks all forms of payment. E-commerce continued to drive the gains, rising 18.1%.”

— AP: “U.S. says it negotiated $285M cut in United Nations budget”: “The U.S. Mission to the United Nations said on Sunday that the U.N.’s 2018-2019 budget would be slashed by over $285 million. The mission said reductions would also be made to the U.N.’s management and support functions.”

LIVE FROM MAR-A-LAGO … @realDonaldTrump at 6:58 a.m.: “Based on the fact that the very unfair and unpopular Individual Mandate has been terminated as part of our Tax Cut Bill, which essentially Repeals (over time) ObamaCare, the Democrats & Republicans will eventually come together and develop a great new HealthCare plan!” … at 6:33 p.m.: “I hope everyone is having a great Christmas, then tomorrow it’s back to work in order to Make America Great Again (which is happening faster than anyone anticipated)!”

THE PRESIDENT has nothing on his public schedule today.

TIP OF THE SPEAR — NYT’S DANNY HAKIM and WILLIAM RASHBAUM: “New York’s Attorney General in Battle With Trump”: “By moving to sue the Federal Communications Commission over net neutrality this month, [New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s] office took its 100th legal or administrative action against the Trump administration and congressional Republicans. His lawyers have challenged Mr. Trump’s first, second and third travel bans and sued over such diverse matters as a rollback in birth control coverage and a weakening of pollution standards. They have also unleashed a flurry of amicus briefs and formal letters, often with other Democratic attorneys general, assailing legislation they see as gutting consumer finance protections or civil rights.

“In Mr. Schneiderman’s seventh year as attorney general, the office has been transformed into a bulwark of resistance amid an unusually expansive level of confrontation with the federal government. Other Democratic state attorneys general are undertaking similar efforts, often in concert, like Xavier Becerra in California, where extra money was set aside in the budget for the attorney general to battle the Trump administration.

“How far Mr. Schneiderman is willing to go in taking on Mr. Trump could define his political career, particularly in a blue state where disapproval of the president is high. The attorney general’s office potential for troublemaking and generating national headlines was redefined in the early 2000s by Eliot Spitzer. Mr. Schneiderman is a less combative man who was often the target of Mr. Trump’s Twitter wrath amid a three-year civil investigation into Trump University. In the end, Mr. Schneiderman’s office extracted a $25 million settlement in the case.”


— “President Trump Spent Nearly One-Third of First Year in Office at Trump-Owned Properties,” by WSJ’s Rebecca Ballhaus: “President Donald Trump, who is currently spending a 10-day Christmas vacation at the Florida luxury resort he owns, has visited one of his company’s properties on nearly one-third of the days he has been in office, according to a Wall Street Journal review of the president’s travel.

“Of the more than 100 days Mr. Trump has visited one of his properties, he spent nearly 40 at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., which he visited for much of his two-week August vacation. And he spent 40 days at Mar-a-Lago, his luxury resort in Palm Beach, Fla., where he arrived Friday. … ‘George W. Bush went to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, a lot, but it’s not like you could rent the bedroom next to his,’ said Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for the transparency advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.”

— “Republicans knock holes in Affordable Care Act but don’t demolish the law,” by WaPo’s Amy Goldstein: “Before Congress left Washington for the year, Republicans finally made good on their determination to knock big holes in the Affordable Care Act, crippling its requirement that most Americans carry health insurance and leaving insurers without billions of dollars in promised federal payments. At the same time, public support for the perennially controversial law has inched up to around its highest point in a half-dozen years.

“Nearly 9 million people so far have signed up for ACA health plans for 2018 during a foreshortened enrollment season, far surpassing expectations. This dual reality puts the sprawling ACA — prized domestic legacy of the Obama era, whipping post of the Trump administration — at a new precipice, with its long-term fate hinging on the November midterm elections certain to consume Washington once the new year begins. If Democrats win a majority in either chamber of Congress, the law would be protected; a GOP sweep could further embolden repeal attempts.”

— “Where’s the party? No state dinner in Trump’s first year,” by AP’s Darlene Superville: “Trump … [is] the first president in almost a century to close his first year in office without welcoming a visiting counterpart to the U.S. with similar trappings. … Not since Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s has a president ended his first year in office without hosting a foreign leader for a state visit, according to the White House Historical Association. … Lyndon Johnson held 12 in 1964, his first full year in office after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.”

— BOSTON GLOBE INTERACTIVE: “11 months, 1 president, 2,417 tweets”

****** A message from Google Year in Search 2017: In 2017, the world asked “how…?” From “how to move forward” to “how to make a difference,” the questions we asked showed our shared desire to understand our experiences. Watch the film and see top trending lists from around the world at ******

THE HIDDEN CABINET — “Where is Trump’s Cabinet? It’s anybody’s guess,” by Emily Holden with contributions from 23 POLITICO colleagues: “The Cabinet members carrying out President Donald Trump’s orders to shake up the federal government are doing so under an unusual layer of secrecy — often shielding their schedules from public view, keeping their travels under wraps and refusing to identify the people and groups they’re meeting.

“A POLITICO review of the practices of 17 Cabinet heads found that at least seven routinely decline to release information on their planned schedules or travels — information that was more widely available during the Obama and George W. Bush administrations. Three other departments — Agriculture, Labor, Homeland Security and Education — provide the secretaries’ schedules only sporadically or with few details. The Treasury Department began releasing weekly schedules for Secretary Steven Mnuchin only in November.

“In addition, at least seven Cabinet departments don’t release appointment calendars that would show, after the fact, who their leaders had met with, what they discussed and where they traveled — a potential violation of the Freedom of Information Act, which says agencies must make their records ‘promptly available to any person.’ At least two departments — Education and the Environmental Protection Agency — have released some of those details after activist groups sued them.”

INSIDE THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY — THE DEBATE ON THE HORIZON — “Impeachment debate divides Democrats as 2018 wave builds,” by Kyle Cheney and Heather Caygle: “A tidal wave of liberal disdain for President Donald Trump may help deliver the House to Democrats in 2018. And if it does, the new majority will face an immediate, fateful choice: to pursue Trump’s impeachment as the base demands, or to coax their allies away from the doomsday button.

“[L]awmakers who recall the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton are wary of sparking a political backlash for appearing too eager to remove a president without buy-in from independents and even some Republicans. Their tallest task may be persuading fellow Democrats to cool their jets. How the party handles the explosive question of impeachment could determine whether its new majority is still standing two years later. ‘Impeachment, it’s not something you ought to welcome. It’s not something you ought to be ready to — it’s not something you want,’ said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who was elected by his colleagues last week to be the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, the panel that handles impeachment matters. …

“‘I think a lot of the base would push strongly for impeachment. I think many of us feel like the lines have been crossed,’ said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who supports impeaching Trump.”

2018 WATCH — L.A. TIMES — “White college grads’ distaste for Trump hurt GOP in 2017. Will it flip control of Congress to Democrats in 2018?” by Michael Finnegan in Summerlin, Nevada: “White college graduates in America’s suburbs have turned hard against Republicans in elections around the country and threaten to upend the party’s control of Congress in the 2018 midterm elections. Put off by Donald Trump’s presidency, they have been shunning Republicans in congressional and state legislative contests. Their support was crucial in electing Democrats as governor in Virginia and U.S. senator in conservative Alabama.

“Republican hopes for keeping control of the U.S. Senate next year will hinge on affluent, mainly white suburbs like Summerlin, Nev., where Trump’s unpopularity is weighing on GOP Sen. Dean Heller in his run for reelection. It’s an open question whether the Republican Party — encumbered by Trump’s often racially charged cultural appeals to blue-collar voters — has repelled well-educated whites for the long term.”

SALT LAKE TRIBUNE EDITORIAL BOARD TO HATCH: CALL IT QUITS — “[P]erhaps the most significant move of Hatch’s career is the one that should, if there is any justice, end it.

“The last time the senator was up for re-election, in 2012, he promised that it would be his last campaign. That was enough for many likely successors, of both parties, to stand down, to let the elder statesman have his victory tour and to prepare to run for an open seat in 2018. Clearly, it was a lie. Over the years, Hatch stared down a generation or two of highly qualified political leaders who were fully qualified to take his place, Hatch is now moving to run for another term — it would be his eighth — in the Senate.

“Once again, Hatch has moved to freeze the field to make it nigh unto impossible for any number of would-be senators to so much as mount a credible challenge. That’s not only not fair to all of those who were passed over. It is basically a theft from the Utah electorate. …

“Common is the repetition of the catchphrase that Hatch successfully used to push aside three-term Sen. Frank Moss in this first election in, egad, 1976. ‘What do you call a senator who’s served in office for 18 years? You call him home.’ Less well known is a bit of advice Hatch gave to Capitol Hill interns in 1983. ‘You should not fall in love with D.C.’ he admonished them. ‘Elected politicians shouldn’t stay here too long.’ If only he had listened to his own advice.”

DEPT. OF NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT — NEW ISAAC DOVERE “OFF MESSAGE”: “Dovere speaks to Bill de Blasio in Des Moines for the latest ‘Off Message’ on the paradox of just being reelected easily as the mayor of the biggest city in America, but still not being taken seriously by progressives and Democrats as he tries for a national role. Is he running for president? ‘No.’ ‘There’s a lot of people in the political media and the political class who can only think through the prism of elections and only the very next elections, rather than understanding that social change is made in a variety of fashions. It’s the electoral process. It’s what happens at the local level as well as the national level. It is through issue-organizing,’ de Blasio argued.

“On people who dismiss his latest effort because he’s flopped before: ‘banal and simplistic’: ‘I want to talk to anyone who thinks that and tell them they need to start thinking more. I mean, give me a break. So every time someone tries something and it doesn’t work, it invalidates anything else they might do going forward? Tell Thomas Edison that, and Henry Ford, tell Mahatma Gandhi. How many people fell on their faces along the way trying things, experimenting with things, had setbacks? There’s no leader who hasn’t had setbacks.’ On saying Hillary Clinton had a problem with her base: ‘But I was right!’ Plus, his assessment on whether Andrew Cuomo and Kirsten Gillibrand have progressive credentials to satisfy him.”

HAPPENING ONLINE — “Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options,” by WaPo’s Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Jaffe: “[H.R.] McMaster and Tom Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser, both laid claim to controlling the cyber-portfolio and would sometimes issue conflicting instructions that left policymakers and intelligence officials confused about whose direction to follow.

“Obama’s 11th-hour actions had cleared the way for spy agencies to conduct cyber-operations to counter the Russian threat. But the CIA still had to finalize the plans, and the Trump White House wanted to review them. Bossert was more cautious than McMaster about using cyber-tools offensively. His message to the National Security Council staff, a senior White House official said, was: ‘We have to do our homework. Everybody needs to slow down.’”

CLICKER – “POLITICO’s Best Photos of 2017: POLITICO photographers M. Scott Mahaskey and John Shinkle pick their best of the year, from California to Capitol Hill.” 20 keepers

WHAT SHKRELI IS READING — “Cancer Drug Price Rises 1,400% With No Generic to Challenge It,” by WSJ’s Peter Loftus: “Since 2013, the price of a 40-year-old, off-patent cancer drug in the U.S. has risen 1,400%, putting the life-extending medicine out of reach for some patients.

“Introduced in 1976 to treat brain tumors and Hodgkin lymphoma, lomustine has no generic competition, giving seller NextSource Biotechnology LLC significant pricing power. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is seeking to encourage more competition for drugs like lomustine, one of at least 319 drugs for which U.S. patents have expired but which have no generic copies, according to a list the agency published earlier this month. The FDA says it will speed up review of any applications to market generic copies of the drugs on its list.”

THE NEXT FRONTIER — “Universities fear a violent 2018,” by Kimberly Hefling: “After a year marked by campus confrontations between white nationalists and anti-fascist extremists, university administrators are preparing for a combative and potentially violent 2018 by beefing up security and examining the boundaries of their own commitment to free speech. Administrators at many campuses told POLITICO that they are struggling to balance their commitment to free speech — which has been challenged by alt-right supporters of President Donald Trump — with campus safety, as both white nationalists and left-wing provocateurs vowed to continue the types of confrontations that led to violence in Berkeley, California, and Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Meanwhile, Richard Spencer, the white-nationalist leader who organized free-speech rallies on many other campuses, told POLITICO that he plans to take his movement to more universities in 2018. He said he knows of efforts underway on at least seven campuses to get him to speak, and that he will use the full extent of the law to fight back against any universities that try to block him.” essay by M. Scott Mahaskey

SEVEN YEARS LATER … “Regulators Propose Rollbacks to Offshore Drilling Safety Measures,” by WSJ’s Ted Mann: “Regulators in the Trump administration are proposing to roll back safety measures put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a revision that would reduce the role of government in offshore oil production and return more responsibility to private companies. … While industry would get much of what it has sought, BSEE is proposing leaving in place a standard for how much pressure drillers must be maintain atop a well to prevent a blowout. At the same time, the word ‘safe’ would be deleted from that section of the rule, on the basis that regulators could exceed their authority in interpreting the term in a way to withhold certain drilling permits.”

BUSINESS BURST — “Goodbye, George Bailey: Decline of Rural Lending Crimps Small-Town Business: Banks are closing branches and paring credit in rural America, focusing instead on booming urban markets; it’s ‘like a death sentence,’” by WSJ’s Ruth Simon and Coulter Jones in Roxobel, N.C.: “In-person banking, crucial to many small businesses, is disappearing as banks consolidate and close rural branches. Bigger banks have been swallowing community banks and gravitating toward the business of making larger loans. … Of America’s 1,980 rural counties, 625 don’t have a locally owned community bank — double the number in 1994, federal data show. At least 35 counties have no bank, while about 115 are now served by just one branch.”

PLAYBOOK TRAVEL SECTION — “Airlines’ Rising Costs Threaten to Drag on Their Profit Margins,” by WSJ’s Susan Carey: “Airlines are paying more for fuel, labor and maintenance, drawing scrutiny from investors who fear the industry’s rising costs threaten margins during a record stretch of profitability. Expenses at the nine largest airlines rose 8.1% in the first nine months of 2017 compared with the prior-year period, according to the Airlines for America trade group, while revenue rose 3.8%. The run-up in expenses is well above the overall U.S. inflation rate of 2.2%. The imbalance caused the pretax margins of the nine carriers to slide to 12% in the nine-month period from 15.5% the year before.”

****** A message from Google Year in Search 2017: As this year draws to a close, Google analyzed Search Trends data to see what the world was searching for. The data showed that 2017 was the year we asked “how…?” How do wildfires start? How to calm a dog during a storm? How to make a protest sign? These questions show our shared desire to understand our experiences and come to each other’s aid. Watch the Year in Search 2017 and see top trending lists from around the world at ******

MEDIAWATCH – PAGE SIX: “NBC tightens sexual harassment rules following Matt Lauer mess”: “NBC has issued strict new anti-sexual harassment rules to employees — including that staffers must snitch on any misbehaving colleagues — in the wake of the firing of disgraced ‘Today’ show ex-host Matt Lauer. A source tells Page Six that NBC employees have been ordered to report any inappropriate relationships in the workplace — and if they fail to do so, they could be fired for covering up for colleagues. Detailed rules also have been issued about conduct in the office, including how to socialize and even how to hug colleagues.

“A source says, ‘… Staffers have been told that if they find out about any affairs, romances, inappropriate relationships or behavior in the office, they have to report it to human resources, their superior or the company anti-harassment phone line. Staffers are shocked that they are now expected to snitch on their friends. Plus, there’s been a series of ridiculous rules issued on other office conduct. One rule relates to hugging. If you wish to hug a colleague, you have to do a quick hug, then an immediate release, and step away to avoid body contact. Also there’s strict rules about socializing, including [not] sharing taxis home and [not] taking vegans to steakhouses.’”

DAVID BROOKS, “The 2017 Sidney Awards, Part I”: “[T]he first Sidney goes to Thomas Golianopoulos’s essay ‘[Expletive] That Gator’ from BuzzFeed … is really an engaging description of a slice of American life that, when it is described at all, is usually done so in a patronizing anthropological manner. … Christopher Caldwell’s essay ‘American Carnage’ in First Things [is] … one of the most comprehensive depictions of the opioid crisis. … Alex Tizon’s ‘My Family’s Slave’ in The Atlantic occupied readers’ time more than any other piece of English-language journalism on the internet this year. …

“The other monster essay is Ronan Farrow’s portrait of Harvey Weinstein’s victims in The New Yorker that, together with Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s work for The Times, sparked this national re-norming. … I can’t stop telling people about the factoids I learned from Amia Srinivasan’s book review essay ‘The Sucker, the Sucker!’ in The London Review of Books about the personality of octopuses. … Lastly, Gary Saul Morson’s essay ‘Solzhenitsyn’s Cathedrals’ in The New Criterion takes us back to one of the greatest minds of the 20th century.”

BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Amanda Munger (DeGroff), senior account executive at Melwood Global and an Obama DHS and Interior alum

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and a Biden alum. A trend he thinks deserves more attention: “I think neither U.S. nor European economies are even close to ready to offset the next recession, especially if it’s of any significant depth. To be clear, neither I nor anyone else knows when it’s coming, but I fear that advanced economies will have too little fiscal and monetary space for fight it when it arrives. Relatedly, here in the U.S. we’re quietly over-deregulating financial markets, which always leads to nasty asset bubbles.” Read his Playbook Plus Q&A:

BIRTHDAYS: Candy Crowley … Jonathan Rath Hoffman, DHS assistant secretary of public affairs and the pride of Greenville, South Carolina (hat tips: Lauren Claffey, filing from Breckenridge and Ed Cash, filing from Winthrop, Massachusetts) … Mary Blanche Hankey, chief of staff for DOJ’s office of legislative affairs (h/t Stephen Boyd) … Katie Fallon, Hilton’s global head of corporate affairs … Mike Hammer, career diplomat currently serving as acting SVP of the National Defense University, former Ambassador to Chile, former Special Assistant to the President at the NSC, and Hoya for life (hat tip: Ben Chang) … Noelle Clemente, VP at S-3 Public Affairs (h/t Amos Snead) … Eloy Martinez, senior director of gov’t relations at the American Gaming Association … Andrew Weber … Noa Meyer … former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) is 62 … David Sedaris is 61 … Kristin Davison … Scott Shepard … former California Gov. Gray Davis is 75 (h/t Dan Harrison) … Ed Greelegs … Alex Zuckerman, associate producer at CBSN …

… Joe Maloney, partner at Locust Street Group, is 38 (h/ts Ben Jenkins and Allison Schneider) … Alison Moore … Emily Cyr, producer for “The Five” on Fox News, celebrating in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania (h/t Eileen Dombrowski) … Edelman’s Peter Segall, Synim Rivers and William Gordon … Amelia Colton … Sally Fox, press secretary for Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), is 23 (h/ts Kyle Egan and Laura Wiley) … Jeff Quinton … Matt Neufeld is 56 … Jeremy Broggi … Cole Henry is 31 … Charlie Summers is 58 … Politico Europe’s Clémence Vatier … Rob Pyron …Georgiana Cavendish, who works for the Deputy Secretary of State and got married in the Roman Forum in Italy this September — pic (hubby tip: Jason Meininger) … Joe Mosby … Jane Song … Ellen Field … Natasha Walsh … Will Heyniger is 55 … Dave Nieuwstraten … Jennifer Duck, Democratic staff director for Senate Judiciary … Sarada Peri … Matthew Verghese … Scott Lear … Joe Deoudes … Jill Cooper Udall … Holly Shannon … Jon Henke … Bishop Garrison of Sentinel Strategy & Policy Consulting … Dillan Siegler … Ian Duncan … Ashley Dominguez … Kate Hunter … Courtney Carrow … Caroll Spinney … Ron Parker (h/t Teresa Vilmain)

****** A message from Google Year in Search 2017: As this year draws to a close, Google analyzed Search Trends data to see what the world was searching for. The data showed that 2017 was the year we asked “how…?” How do wildfires start? How to calm a dog during a storm? How to make a protest sign? All of the “how” searches featured in the Year in Search film were searched at least 10 times more this year than ever before. These questions show our shared desire to understand our experiences and come to each other’s aid.

From “how to watch the eclipse” and “how to shoot like Curry,” to “how to move forward” and “how to make a difference,” here’s to this Year in Search. Watch the film and see top trending lists from around the world at ******

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Posted in news | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on U.K. GOV’T pleads with Prince Harry: Don’t invite Obama to your wedding, because Trump will be upset — TRUMP’s hidden Cabinet — IMPEACHMENT debate divides Dems — DAVID BROOKS’ Sidney Awards