Iran’s moderate leader Rouhani secured a second term with a landslide victory in Friday’s presidential election, winning 57% of the vote and giving a decisive victory to pro-reform groups eager to open up the Islamic republic and re-engage with the outside world, Reuters reported. Rouhani’s hardline opponent, senior cleric Ebrahim Raisi who was running for office for the first time, a protege of Iran’s Supreme Leader and the custodian of a religious charity worth tens of billions, came in second with 38.5% said Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, Iran’s interior minister.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised Iranians for their big turnout, with some 73% said to have voted. The vast turnout prompted Iran to extend the voting deadline by two hours on Friday. Many voters said they came out to block the rise of Raisi, one of four judges who sentenced thousands of political prisoners to death in the 1980s, regarded by reformers as “a symbol of the security state at its most fearsome.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani casts his vote during the presidential election in Tehran
Apparently not, because the same plot line is being re-run all over again.
Two of the world’s largest anti-virus companies said they are “looking into clues” that suggest a North Korea-linked group may be behind last week’s cyberattack. According to Reuters, Symantec and Kaspersky are investigating whether hackers from the Lazarus Group were responsible for infecting an estimated 300,000 machines in 150 countries. The two companies have said that “some code in an earlier version of the WannaCry ransomware had also appeared in programs used by the Lazarus Group, which researchers from many companies said is run by North Korea.”
While we reserve judgment at the amusing possibility that North Korea could have brought a substantial portion of the world’s computer infrastructure to a halt until there is some actual evidence, it is worth noting that said inquiries emerged shortly after the White House said that paying ransom money to unlock files encrypted by the global cyberattack does not work. It was not clear how North Korean hackers planned to convert bitcoin into any practical currency in a nation whose major banks have been barred from SWIFT.
In any case, speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon, Homeland security adviser Tom Bossett told reporters he is not aware of a case where transferring $300 in Bitcoin – the amount demanded from victims of last week’s attack – has “led to any data recovery”. The Trump administration estimated that less than $70,000 has been paid to the criminals behind the ransomware so far.
During the White House briefing, Bossert also said no federal systems in the US had been affected by the malicious software, known as WannaCry. He told reporters that he had spoken with his British counterparts, who said they now had a “feeling of control” after the attack struck 47 NHS organisations.
As pressure mounts on Trump to post some victories within the totally arbitrary window of the “First 100 Days” of his administration, the President is expected to join Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin later this afternoon to sign a combination of executive orders and memos targeting the reduction of tax regulations and certain components of Dodd-Frank.
Per a statement from the White House, one of Trump’s new executive orders will seek to undo tax rules put in place in the last year of Obama’s presidency that were designed to limit so-called ‘corporate inversions’ which allows U.S. traded companies to recognize income in lower cost countries like Ireland. Per Bloomberg:
Under President Barack Obama, Treasury sought to rein in U.S. companies’ attempts to shift their profit offshore by proposing rules that would curb so-called “earnings stripping” and inversions — mergers in which U.S. companies transfer their tax address overseas to low-tax countries like Ireland to cut their tax bills.
Some of those rules, first proposed in April 2016, sought to restrict lending among subsidiaries of the same corporate parent, a technique that can create income in low-tax countries and tax-deductible interest payments in the U.S. The proposed rules met a barrage of criticism from corporations and tax lawyers, who complained that they went too far by banning common, everyday cash-management practices that have nothing to do with tax avoidance.
Amid the criticism, Treasury last October softened the proposed rules to allow cash pooling, a common corporate money-management technique in which excess cash in subsidiaries is swept daily into a single pool. It also delayed a related proposal, which would require companies to extensively document their related-party lending, until Jan. 1, 2018.
A NORTH Korean missile “blew up almost immediately” on its test launch on Sunday, the US Pacific Command said, hours before US Vice President Mike Pence was due in the South for talks on the North’s increasingly defiant arms program.
The failed launch from the east coast came a day after North Korea held a military parade in its capital, marking the birth anniversary of the state founder, in which what appeared to be new long-range ballistic missiles were on display.
Pence is due in Seoul at the start of a 10-day trip to Asia in what his aides said was a sign of the US commitment to its ally in the face of rising tension over North Korea.
A US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier strike group is also heading for the region
The North has warned of a nuclear strike against the United States if provoked. It has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the mainland United States but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the necessary technology.
One day after NBC reported that the National Security Council had presented Trump with three options vis-a-vis North Korea, namely i) put American nukes in South Korea , ii) kill Kim Jong-un or iii) use the CIA to infiltrate North Korea to sabotage or take out key infrastructure, a US carrier group has departed Singapore and is headed for North Korea.
According to Reuters, a U.S. Navy strike group will be moving toward the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula, a U.S. official told Reuters on Saturday, as concerns grow about North Korea’s advancing weapons program. The strike group, called Carl Vinson, includes an aircraft carrier and will make its way from Singapore toward the Korean peninsula.
The move of the USS Carl Vinson “is in response to recent North Korean provocations”, an official told CNN. “We feel the increased presence is necessary,” the official said, citing North Korea’s worrisome behavior.”
Harry Harris, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, directed the USS Carl Vinson strike group to sail north to the Western Pacific after departing Singapore on Saturday, Pacific Command announced.
The Vinson strike group will operate in the Western Pacific rather than executing previously planned port visits to Australia, Pacific Command said. The group will remain under the operational control of the Third Fleet.
This year North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, have repeatedly indicated an intercontinental ballistic missile test or something similar could be coming, possibly as soon as April 15, the 105th birthday of North Korea’s founding president and celebrated annually as “the Day of the Sun.”
According to NBC News, the National Security Council has presented the suddenly ragingly bellicose President Trump with several options to respond to North Korea’s nuclear program: put American nukes in South Korea or kill dictator Kim Jong-un.
The scenarios were prepared in advance of Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week. The White House has expressed hopes the Chinese will do more to influence Pyongyang through diplomacy and enhanced sanctions, but if that fails, and North Korea continues its development of nuclear weapons, there are other options on the table that would significantly alter U.S. policy.
While Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, maintained on Wednesday that “any solution to the North Korea problem has to involve China” a senior intel official told NBC he doubted U.S. and China could find a diplomatic solution to the crisis. “We have 20 years of diplomacy and sanctions under our belt that has failed to stop the North Korean program,” said the official involved in the review. “I’m not advocating pre-emptive war, nor do I think that the deployment of nuclear weapons buys more for us than it costs,” but he stressed that the U.S. was dealing with a “war today” situation.
The “nuclear” option would mark the first overseas nuclear deployment since the end of the Cold War, a move that would promptly provoke global condemnation, not least of all by China. It was not immediately clear if South Korea’s regime – in turmoil recently following the recent impeachment and arrest of ex-president Park – had been consulted with the proposed strategy. The U.S. withdrew all nuclear weapons from South Korea 25 years ago.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday urged U.S. President Donald Trump to insist on greater Chinese cooperation in the face of threats from North Korea, which tested yet another missile the previous day.
Japan requested the call, which lasted 35 minutes, just ahead of Trump’s scheduled summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida. Trump assured Abe that the North Korean issue would feature prominently on the agenda when he meets with Xi on Thursday and Friday, U.S. time, according to a Japanese government official.
Trump and Abe agreed that China has a key role to play in moderating Pyongyang’s behavior, and that a Beijing clampdown needs to go beyond the current suspension of coal imports from the North.
“All options” for dealing with the threat remain on the table, the U.S. president said.
In an earlier interview with the Financial Times, Trump had declared, “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.”
But while Trump’s White House is taking a harder line — going so far as to hint at the possibility of military action — China is reluctant to crank up the pressure.
A deafening wail blared out in Oga, Akita Prefecture, in the northern part of Honshu, Japan’s main island, at 9:33 a.m. on March 17. It was a siren meant to warn of an impending attack on the country.
But it was only a test. The high-pitched metallic sound was part of an evacuation drill conducted on the assumption that a missile had been fired and landed in Japanese territorial waters off the Oga Peninsula. The siren was followed by a male voice that warned: “Attention. Evacuation alert. Immediately take shelter as a missile may have been fired. Go inside, as parts of the missile may fall.” Some 110 participants in the drill, including 44 students at Hokuyou Elementary School, fled to the municipal school’s gymnasium and the local community hall in about 90 seconds.
Earthquake, tsunami, fire and other disaster drills have been conducted in various parts of Japan since the end of World War II. But it was the first time a drill has been held assuming an attack by a foreign country. The warning siren was also used for the first time.
As we noted first thing this morning, and as we, and others, have been warning since December, the passage of Trump’s tax plan is conditional on the effective repeal (and/or replace) of Obamacare, which is set for a vote on Thursday. And yet, it was only today that the market, and the press, appeared to notice that the biggest threat for the market – a market which has long ago priced in the successful passage of Trump’s tax cuts – is that Trumpcare may not pass not only the Senate, but also the House, which in turn would stall Trump’s tax plan schedule well into fiscal 2018 (if not later) as the following Reuters headlines confirms: “Worries about Trump tax plan sink stocks.”
And, unfortunately for Trump and bulls, despite the president’s trip to the Capitol this morning, he failed to whip holdout Republicans. In fact, according to the latest NBC News roll call, there are at least 26 Republicans who as of this moment, 48 hours before the House vote to repeal Obamacare, are either opposed, or lean “strongly against” the health bill despite its recent revisions.
So, for all those who are looking for someone – or someones – to blame for today’s selloff, which is shaping up as the worst of 2017, here is the list of 26 Republican house members who are jeopardizing Trump’s entire domestic agenda. As a reminder, the GOP can only afford to lose 21. If the list below holds, Trump’s biggest legislative push will be a failure on Thursday.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy on Wednesday argued in 2G Court that apart from CBI, the Enforcement Directorate should also be directed to probe the covert financing of Rs 1700 crore by Tata Group to Unitech to acquire telecom licenses during 2G Scam. Producing CBI’s communication to him before the Court, Swamy said the investigating agency confirmed that they are still probing the matter, found by the Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO).
Swamy argued that for the past three years CBI is taking the stand that they are probing the matter, hence, the Court should seek a status report. Judge OP Saini, however, did not oblige Swamy asking him to provide more info or documents, if any on the next hearing May 31.
The BJP leader said the manner of the illegal money transfer of Rs.1700 from Tata group companies to Unitech was nothing but money laundering and a case under PMLA should be registered. In his petition, Swamy said that apart from Ratan Tata, Unitech’s Sanjay Chandra and controversial lobbyist Nira Radia should be prosecuted.
“The issue pertaining to certain land deal investments by Tata Group in Unitech, as reflected in the Report of SFIO, has been examined by CBI and findings thereof have been reported to Supreme Court vide progress reports/affidavits filed in sealed cover including progress report dated July 6, 2011. “Further investigation on some aspects relating to the role of Tata in 2G Spectrum case is continuing under due intimation to Supreme Court vide progress report dated Jun 12, 2014.