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Business Insider – Politics

  • Macy's is now dumping Donald Trump
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 2:28 PM:)

    macy's donald trump

    Macy's has reportedly cut ties with real-estate mogul and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump after 700,000 people have signed a petition.

    CNN's MJ Lee reports that the company will remove Trump's merchandise from its stores.

    "We are disappointed and distressed by recent remarks about immigrants from Mexico. We do not believe the disparaging characterizations portray an accurate picture of the many Mexicans, Mexican Americans and Latinos who have made so many valuable contributions to the success of our nation," the company said in a statement.

    We've reached out to Macy's and Trump's representatives for comment and will update if we hear back. 

    NBC cut ties with Trump for calling Mexican immigrants rapists and drug runners. Those comments stemmed from a speech in which he announced his intention to run for president. 

    Now, some consumers argue Macy's should follow suit and dump the businessman. 

    "Macy's has a special deal with Donald Trump. Trump is their de facto spokesperson," according to the petition on MoveOn.org that has more than 700,000 signatures. "They invest in developing Trump's brand, promote him in advertising, and sell his clothing line and fragrance at their locations. In the past, they have held major Trump-focused events at Macy's Herald Square."

    Trump's clothing collection, which features primarily business clothing, is sold through Macy's. Items include $70 dress shirts and $65 ties.

    Macy's also sells Trump's fragrance, which is called "Success." 

    Trump has also been featured in a Macy's commercial. 

    Two years ago, people petitioned Macy's to fire Trump after he made comments that were allegedly sexist and denied the existence of climate change.

    At the time, Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren defended Trump, saying "ours is a free society compromised [sic] of a wide range of viewpoints," according to The Huffington Post

    Other retailers who carry Trump's merchandise include Overstock.com and Amazon.

    SEE ALSO: The top 50 brands for millennials

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  • Greece's former tax collection chief just told us why the country has such a massive tax evasion problem
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 1:43 PM:)

    Harry Theoharis

    ATHENS, Greece — Being the person ultimately in charge of collecting taxes and cracking down on evasion in Greece is not an enviable task.

    It was a job given to a man called Harry Theoharis, who was the head of the country's tax collection agency until last year. He tried to focus on reforming the country's revenue system, so that Greece could better deal with its crippling fiscal crisis.

    But in June 2014, after just 17 months, Theoharis resigned.

    In an interview with the Telegraph at the start of the year, Theoharis said people were so angry about his attempts that they threatened to "break his legs" during his tenure.

    Theoharis is also now an MP for To Potami, a centrist and pro-euro political party that sprung up and performed particularly well at the last election. We met at his party's busy headquarters on Monday in Athens.

    The size of the tax evasion problem facing Greece is worth "roughly about 6% of GDP compared to the average of other countries," he said.

    The issue has been exaggerated in media, he added, but "the kind of changes that are required are really underestimated."

    An extra 6% of Greek GDP may not sound like a lot, but it would amount to more than €10 billion in taxes collected — a figure that makes Greece's immediate debt repayment needs look like a less pressing issue.

    Greece hourglass graffiti time

    Theoharis says that tax dodging is more common among Greece's self-employed and small companies.

    "Greece has a lot of self-employed, who are much better at tax evading than employees, which is common in every country," he said. "But we have two to two and half times more self-employed than other countries. So even if we were on par for tax evasion with other countries, we would have two to two and a half times more just because of that facts."

    He added: "Out of the 6% of GDP that explains about 3% of tax evasion, about half. Not just self-employed but small companies as well, they can tax evade more easily with lax accounting."

    I've read about these astonishing statistics before. Self-employment is surprisingly prevalent among the professional middle-classes in Greece, people who might well be employees in other countries.

    Self-employed Greeks spend 82% of their (reported) monthly income on debt servicing, according to a 2012 University of Chicago paper. That's an absurdly high number, and suggests that most had little left to live on after the repayment.

    For "lawyers, doctors, financial services, and accountants," the authors found that over 100% of their reported income supposedly goes on debt repayment — if the figures were correct, those well-paid, middle class professionals would literally have nothing (less than nothing) to live on.

    Demonstrators during a rally in Athens, Greece, 29 June 2015. Greek voters will decide in a referendum next Sunday on whether their government should accept an economic reform package put forth by Greece's creditor. Greece has imposed capital controls with the banks being closed untill the referendum. (Photo by )

    Theoharis went on:

    The second thing is the fact that the numbers are skewed because of the shipping industry in Greece. The shipping industry is taxed less in every country... Both for the ethical basis of taxing it — imagine shipping something from Germany to China, and it's the company's in Greece, it's not easy. In all countries they tax shipping less.

    The fact that the Greek shipping industry is so big compared to the rest of the economy skews the numbers, that's another 0.5% to 1% of GDP.

    And the rest, 2 to 2.5% of GDP is really down to tax administration.

    I pressed him about Syriza's mooted plan to clamp down on tax evasion with "undercover tax inspectors," including tourists, who could be wired up and sent round to retail businesses, building up evidence of improper practices.

    He wasn't thrilled:

    It's the wrong problem... The problem isn't finding the shops or corporations evading tax. It's really doing something about it and having the will, for example, to close them for a month.

    If you can't do that for social or political reasons, because it's unacceptable, it makes no difference if you've found them.

    A slightly grumpy guy at the desk didn't want me taking pictures around the office, but he let me take this picture of a poster featuring Stavros Theodorakis, To Potami's leader:

    To Potami

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  • Hillary Clinton's campaign is attacking the email controversy 'charade'
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 1:40 PM:)


    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign released a new video Wednesday attacking the House Republicans investigating her.

    The video mocks Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), who heads the House committee investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the US ambassador there and three other Americans.

    Many Republicans believe Clinton's State Department covered up aspects of the attack at the time, but the Clinton campaign said the House investigation is only trying to dig up dirt to harm her White House ambitions. 

    "How long will Republicans keep spending tax dollars on this political charade?" the video asks.

    According to Politico's Mike Allen, the video represents a Clinton camp "prebuttal" to expected criticism over the latest batch of her State Department emails released late Tuesday night. The emails, which include her struggling to operate a fax machine, don't appear to contain any bombshells. 

    Watch below:

    SEE ALSO: Here are the funniest emails from the State Department's massive Hillary Clinton email archive

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  • GOP presidential candidate slams Donald Trump as 'disrespectful'
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 1:22 PM:)

    George Pataki

    Former New York Gov. George Pataki (R) on Tuesday slammed fellow Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who he said has been "disrespectful" toward Latinos with recent disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants.

    "Yes, clearly, they're disrespectful," Pataki told Business Insider of Trump's comments in a brief interview before the annual New York Republican Party's gala.

    Trump characterized Mexican immigrants in his campaign launch speech as "rapists" and drug runners when talking about how he'd focus as president on reducing illegal immigration.

    "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best; they're not sending you," Trump said in his announcement speech. "They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

    The comments have produced a furious backlash: NBC severed business ties with him on Monday and Univision said last week that it would no longer carry Trump's Miss USA pageant. At least one other candidate, US Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), defended Trump after the controversy.

    Pataki told Business Insider that he understood the focus on securing the nation's borders, but said Trump's comments crossed far over the line.

    "I mean, I'm as frustrated as anyone that we don't enforce the laws and control our borders," the former governor said. "But the vast majority of people who come here from Mexico want to build a better life for their future, for their family, for their kids. That's what America's always been about. We have to make sure it's being done legally, but you don't, don't, don't attack the character of those who are trying to build a better future."

    donald trump you're fired

    Pataki spoke to a crowd of Republicans who had gathered before the gala's dinner, highlighting his record as governor and his electability, pointing to the fact that he had won election three times as a Republican governor in a reliably blue state.

    Part of that success, he said, came from building a coalition of Latino voters. In 2002, it's estimated that he won one-third or more of the Latino vote, something that worried state Democrats at the time.

    "I got a plurality of the Latino vote — Dominicans and Puerto Ricans — who are not traditionally Republican voters in New York State," Pataki told Business Insider.

    "But I did it because I respect their work ethic, their communities, their integrity, their strong families and faith, and what they have brought to make our communities stronger and better and our state stronger and better. And I think it's important that we stress that." 

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  • Emails show top officials were aware of Clinton's private address
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 1:05 PM:)

    Hillary ClintonSenior Obama administration officials, including the White House chief of staff, knew as early as 2009 that Hillary Rodham Clinton was using a private email address for her government correspondence, according to some 3,000 pages of correspondence released by the State Department late Tuesday night

    The chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, requested Clinton's email address on Sept. 5, 2009, according to one email.

    His request came three months after top Obama strategist David Axelrod asked the same question of one of Clinton's top aides.

    It's unclear whether the officials realized Clinton, now the leading Democratic presidential candidate, was running her email from a server located in her home in Chappaqua, New York _ a potential security risk and violation of administration policy.

    The emails ranged from the mundane details of high-level public service _ scheduling secure lines for calls, commenting on memos and dealing with travel logistics _ to an email exchange with former President Jimmy Carter and a phone call with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

    clinton emails
    The emails also reflect the vast scope of Clinton's network, after several decades in Washington. She asks aides for restaurant recommendations for a meal with California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein (whom she refers to as DiFi), advises her future 2016campaign chairman John Podesta to wear socks to bed, and passes on advice from former campaign strategist Mark Penn with the note "overlook the source.''

    Clinton's emails have become an issue in her early 2016 campaign, as Republicans accuse her of using a private account rather than the standard government address to avoid public scrutiny of her correspondence. As the controversy has continued, Clinton has seen ratings of her character and trustworthiness drop in polling.

    The emails, covering March through December 2009, were posted online as part of a court order that the agency release batches of Clinton's private correspondence from her time as secretary of state every 30 days starting June 30.

    The newly released emails show Clinton sent or received at least 12 messages in 2009 on her private email server that were later classified "confidential'' by the U.S. government because officials said they contained activities relating to the intelligence community.

    Hillary ClintonThe White House counsel's office was not aware at the time Clinton was secretary of state that she relied solely on personal email and only found out as part of the congressional investigation into the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, attacks, according to a person familiar with the matter.

    Once the State Department turned over some of her messages in connection with the Benghazi investigation after she left office, making it apparent she had not followed government guidance, the White House counsel's office asked the department to ensure that her email records were properly archived, according to the person, who was not authorized to speak on the record and requested anonymity.

    Separately, the State Department on Tuesday provided more than 3,600 pages of documents to the Republican-led House committee investigating the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, including emails of Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the time, and former Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan.

    The regular releases of Clinton's correspondence all but guarantee a slow drip of revelations from the emails throughout her primary campaign, complicating her efforts to put the issue to rest. The goal is for the department to publicly unveil 55,000 pages of her emails by Jan. 29, 2016 _ three days before Iowa caucus-goers will cast the first votes in the Democratic primary contest. Clinton has said she wants the department to release the emails as soon as possible.

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  • 2 epic front pages capture the feud between New York's top Democrats
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 12:37 PM:)

    The New York Post and Daily News had fantastic front pages on Wednesday.

    The two tabloids both devoted their covers to the feud between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), which exploded into public view Tuesday afternoon. In two aggressive interviews, de Blasio said Cuomo snubbed his city in this year's state legislative session.

    De Blasio shocked the New York political world with his bluntness. Among other things, de Blasio also accused Cuomo of practicing "vendetta" politics and of using the powers of the state government against New York City. De Blasio also snarked on Cuomo for allegedly trashing him as an anonymous Cuomo "official" in an interview last week.

    The Post depicted the two Democrats as boxers:

    new york post bill de blasio

    While the News showed de Blasio as a prohibition-era gangster firing a machine gun:

    daily news bill de blasio

    SEE ALSO: Everyone thinks the governor of New York secretly trashed Bill de Blasio in a newspaper interview

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  • Jeb Bush is surging in a new GOP poll
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 12:20 PM:)


    A new CNN poll of the 2016 presidential race has former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) "rising nationally," the news station reported Wednesday

    Bush holds 19% of the vote among Republican voters — which is up 13% from May, according to CNN.

    Though 19% isn't a huge number, it's a solid showing considering that roughly 15 major GOP candidates are in the race. Only Bush and real estate developer Donald Trump, with 12%, have double-digit showings in the poll.

    "The findings suggest Bush is making progress toward being seen as the frontrunner in a field that has long lacked a clear leader," wrote CNN's polling director, Jennifer Agiesta. 

    "He holds a significant lead over the second-place candidate Trump, is seen as the candidate who could best handle illegal immigration and social issues, and runs about even with Trump and well ahead of the other candidates when Republicans are asked which candidate can best handle the economy."

    Brianna Keilar, a CNN political correspondent, further called Bush "the humble front-runner." 


    Bush and Trump weren't the only White House contenders to lead a poll Wednesday morning, however. A new Quinnipiac survey of Iowa found Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who hasn't announced his candidacy yet, still in first place in the early primary state. 

    Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll, noted in a statement that Walker's support slightly dropped compared to the university's previous survey. 

    "Iowa front-runner Scott Walker, the governor of neighboring Wisconsin, remains in front, but his support continues to drop," he said. "Meanwhile, behind Walker are a half-dozen wannabes who are fighting for second place."

    SEE ALSO: The Republican Party has a massive 2016 debate problem — and no one seems to know the solution

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  • Why a flummoxed Hillary Clinton missed a Cabinet meeting she found out about on the radio
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 12:10 PM:)

    One email from the State Department's dump of Hillary Clinton files Tuesday night caught the eye of Twitter.

    "I heard on the radio that there is a Cabinet mtg this am. Is there? Can I go? If not, who are we sending?" Clinton, the former of secretary of state, emailed aides Lona Valmoro and Huma Abedin on Monday, June 8, 2009.

    Yes, Hillary Clinton found out about a Cabinet meeting on the radio, and appeared to freak out and worry she wasn't invited. 

    Photos from the White House's Flickr account also appear to show that she's absent from the discussion:


    But as the photos and subsequent emails showed, there was a reason neither she nor someone else from the State Department attended the meeting. The Cabinet gathered to discuss President Barack Obama's stimulus program — the "Roadmap to Recovery."

    As Valmoro explained in a reply to Clinton, only agencies that received money to appropriate through the stimulus act were invited.

    She told Clinton, however, that the State Department was welcome to send someone if she wished. Clinton said to ask either then-Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Jack Lew (now the Treasury Secretary) or Pat Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management.

    Here's the full chain of emails:

    Screen Shot 2015 06 30 at 11.32.08 PM

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  • TRUMP: The US shouldn’t worry about Greece because if Germany doesn’t save it, Russia will
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 12:07 PM:)


    Real estate developer and presidential candidate Donald Trump thinks the US needs to stay out of Greece's problems.

    Greece has been making headlines lately due to its inability to make debt payments. The fear among economists, investors and traders is that Greece's economic problems could spill into the rest of Europe and perhaps the rest of the world.

    However, Trump argued Wednesday morning that Germany will take care of the embattled European country. 

    "I'd stay back a little bit. I wouldn't get too involved," Trump said in an interview with Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo. "Don't forget that the whole Euro situation was created to compete against the United States. They put together a group of countries to beat the United States. Now Germany's very powerful, very strong. I'd let Germany handle it."

    Trump added that if Germany doesn't fix  the Greek debt situation, Russian President Vladimir Putin would step in.

    "We have enough problems," he said. "Germany will ... take care of it. Frankly, Putin probably comes in to save the day if Germany doesn't."

    Trump added, "So I think that Greece is going to be in better shape than people think."

    SEE ALSO: Donald Trump: Here's the Obama official I'd fire first

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  • The tragically powerful story behind the lone German who refused to give Hitler the Nazi salute
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 11:23 AM:)

    not a nazi bless it

    Adopted by the Nazi Party in the 1930s, Hitler's infamous "sieg heil" (meaning "hail victory") salute was mandatory for all German citizens as a demonstration of loyalty to the Führer, his party, and his nation.

    August Landmesser, the lone German refusing to raise a stiff right arm amid Hitler's presence at a 1936 rally, had been a loyal Nazi.

    Landmesser joined the Nazi Party in 1931 and began to work his way up the ranks of what would become the only legal political affiliation in the country.

    irmaTwo years later, Landmesser fell madly in love with Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman, and proposed marriage to her in 1935.

    After his engagement to a Jewish woman was discovered, Landmesser was expelled from the Nazi Party.

    Landmesser and Eckler decided to file a marriage application in Hamburg, but the union was denied under the newly enacted Nuremberg Laws.

    The couple welcomed their first daughter, Ingrid, in October 1935.

    And then on June 13, 1936, Landmesser gave a crossed-arm stance during Hitler's christening of a new German navy vessel.

    The act of defiance stands out amid the throngs of Nazi salutes.

    nazi salute olympic gamesIn 1937, fed up, Landmesser attempted to flee Nazi Germany to Denmark with his family. But he was detained at the border and charged with "dishonoring the race," or "racial infamy," under the Nuremberg Laws.

    A year later, Landmesser was acquitted for a lack of evidence and was instructed to not have a relationship with Eckler.

    Refusing to abandon the mother of his child, Landmesser ignored Nazi wishes and was arrested again in 1938 and sentenced to nearly three years in a concentration camp.

    He would never see the woman he loved or his child again.

    The secret state police also arrested Eckler, who was several months pregnant with the couple's second daughter. She gave birth to Irene in prison and was sent to an all-women's concentration camp soon after her delivery.

    Eckler is believed to have been transferred to a Nazi euthanasia center in 1942, where she died with 14,000 others.

    SEE ALSO: This is the last known photo of Hitler

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  • Putin had an abysmal record in Russia’s second-largest city — here's why he rose the ranks anyway
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 11:09 AM:)

    Mr Putin book cover

    In this excerpt from Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin, Brookings experts Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy describe why Vladimir Putin likely came to power in Moscow after a seemingly unsuccessfully role in St.Petersburg.

    For some six years (1990–96), Vladimir Putin played a key role in the economy of Russia’s second-largest city.

    But in stark contrast with the performance of the Russian economy that he later oversaw, St. Petersburg’s performance was very poor in this period.

    Every city and town in Russia suffered in the 1990s, but few places had lost as much in relative status as St. Petersburg.

    When the Soviet Union collapsed, St. Petersburg was nearly on a par with Moscow in terms of per capita measures of economic performance.

    Six years later, it was far behind in incomes, households, corporate sector, profits, and investment. St. Petersburg’s per capita gross regional product (GRP) was only 60 percent of Moscow’s, while its per capita income was only 35 percent of the capital city’s.

    St. Petersburg outpaced Moscow primarily on negative indices. Its unemployment rate was 23 percent higher; the out migration rate was 86 percent higher; and suicides among working-age males were 70 percent higher.

    The area of the economy that was Vladimir Putin’s specific responsibility—trade and investment—was one where it had been expected that the transition to a market economy would benefit St. Petersburg because of its proximity to Western Europe.

    putinBut, again, by the end of Putin’s tenure, this was also a terrible failure. On a per capita basis, foreign trade was 26 percent of Moscow’s, foreign investment was 55 percent, the number of small businesses set up with foreign participation was 38 percent, and the number of people employed by foreign-owned small businesses was 30 percent of the capital’s.

    In short, judging by the abysmal economic record of St. Petersburg, Putin’s credentials as an economic policymaker were not good. His credentials as a political manager, especially in light of the food scandal, were equally poor.

    putinYet, in August 1996, Putin was given a job in the administration of the president of the Russian Federation, by people who had worked closely with him and knew how questionable his performance had been.

    On what basis did they appoint him if it was not on the balance of his record as deputy mayor in St. Petersburg? Why was Putin brought into Moscow in 1996?

    The people who brought Vladimir Putin from St. Petersburg to Moscow never cared about his credentials as a specialist in developing business. For them he was an expert in controlling business.

    putinAll the time Putin worked in St. Petersburg, he played an official role as deputy mayor and chairman of the Committee for External Relations, but behind the scenes, Mr. Putin operated in his most important identity— the Case Officer.

    In St. Petersburg, Vladimir Putin was an “operative.” Businessmen were not partners but targets.

    Once he came to Moscow, Putin eventually began to target another set of businessmen, the Russian oligarchs. His goal was to make sure that Russia’s own new class of capitalists did not predate on each other and on the Russian state.

    He was to try to harness them to be “bigger and better” and make more money in the service of Russia—not just for themselves.

    Excerpted from the book Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin. Copyright 2015 by The Brookings Institution. Reprinted by permission of Brookings Institution Press, Washington, D.C. All rights reserved.

    SEE ALSO: A man who used to be the 'Kremlin's banker' is changing the story behind Putin's rise

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  • This letter shows Greece is willing to accept nearly all creditors' demands
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 10:24 AM:)


    A letter from Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that is circulating the internet just revealed what the country asked its creditors for, just before it defaulted on its payments.

    This is in addition to the separate request for a two-year bailout programme from the European Stability Mechanism which was an attempt to avoid a default. However, in the end, Greece failed to make the €1.6 billion ($1.8 billion) payment to the International Monetary Fund on June 30.

    In the letter, as hosted here by Bloomberg's Businessweek and originally reported in the Financial Times,  Tsipras asked for two main creditor demands to be amended:

    • A 30% VAT discount to Greek islands to be maintained
    • The process of raising the retirement age to 67 should not start immediately but in October.

    Eurozone stocks and peripheral bonds rallied on Wednesday following the circulation of the letter and that the Greek government is actually willing to accept a bulk of the conditions.

    You can read the full letter here too:





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  • The 'NO' campaign to reject Greece's bailout is in the lead — and that could mean Greece leaving the euro
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 7:04 AM:)

    A giant banner protesting Greece's austerity measures hangs near the Parthenon on Acropolis hill in Athens early May 4, 2010. A group of demonstrators from Greece's communist party, KKE, staged the protest atop the Acropolis as Athens braced for a 48-hour nationwide strike by civil servants which would also include the shutdown of travel services.

    ATHENS, Greece — Greece is on course to vote "no" in its referendum on Sunday, rejecting the bailout deal proposed by the country's creditors, according to polls Wednesday morning.

    The survey, conducted between Saturday and Tuesday, showed 54% of people planning to vote "no" and 33% planning to vote "yes," according to Reuters.

    That would be a healthy majority in favour of rejecting the bailout (it would be more like 62% voting "no" if the "don't know" option were stripped out of the poll).

    But there's a catch: People who expressed an opinion before the banks shuttered were more certain, with 57% saying they would have voted "no" against just 30% who would have voted "yes."

    People who were surveyed after banks closed were still in favour of a "no" vote, but by only 46% to 37%.

    That result would still hand a win to the "no" side, but with 17% of people not expressing an opinion, there would be enough undecided voters to swing it.

    Significant majorities of Greek voters are both anti-austerity and pro-euro, but the referendum will force many people to choose between the two. Voting "yes" means the country is more likely to keep the euro but must accept the painful austerity and economic reforms favoured by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB), and other eurozone countries.

    Voting "no" means not accepting the unpopular austerity — but it may also mean abandoning the euro.

    Two things happened overnight: Greece went into arrears on a debt repayment to the IMF, missing a Tuesday deadline and joining a small club with Somalia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. And secondly, the country's bailout programme ended.

    Samples of a sour vodka schnapps called "Grexit", labelled with the caricatures of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (R) and Finance Minister Yannis Varoufakis happily raising their glasses under a miserable-looking German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are displayed at the home of German entrepreneur Uwe Dahlhoff in Hamm, western Germany, June 30, 2015. Dahlhoff is tapping into the bittersweet relations between Germany and Greece by patenting the name "Grexit" for a lemon vodka schnapps. The schnapps, available in 2cl and 100ml bottles, will be on sale soon at the price of from about 0.59 Euro cents. Words on label reads : 'even sour makes you happy'

    A huge amount of confusion surrounds the deal on the table. On Tuesday there were rumours that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would fly to Brussels to negotiate a deal with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, but that never happened. Since Greece's bailout programme has expired, it's not even clear whether the bailout deal exists as an offer anymore.

    According to a report from Bloomberg on Tuesday, German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble thinks Greece could stay in the euro even if it votes "no." Though Schaeuble is usually seen as one of the Greek government's biggest opponents, reassurance that Greece will remain in the currency union either way may help support the campaign for a "no" vote.

    Jonathan Loynes at Capital Economics took a gloomy view of the possibilities from the referendum (emphasis his):

    It would be wrong to conclude that even a Yes vote would bring the Greek crisis to an end and guarantee the country's future inside the euro-zone. Aside from the political upheaval such an outcome is likely to trigger, it is not clear exactly what sort of deal it would ultimately lead to. It is possible that the creditors will try to punish Greece for not accepting their proposals before by withdrawing some recent concessions, in which case negotiations might yet break down again.

    Both sides have held massive rallies already, the anti-bailout side on Monday and the pro-bailout side on Tuesday. The only thing that seems guaranteed at the moment is that there will be a lot more drama to come.

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  • Britain's Heathrow airport just got 'unanimous' official backing for a third runway
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 7:00 AM:)

    A passenger plane comes into land over a field containing horses at Heathrow Airport on August 11, 2014 in London, England. Heathrow is the busiest airport in the United Kingdom and the third busiest in the world. The airport's operator BAA wants to build a third runway to cope with increased demand. (Photo by )

    Heathrow airport just scored a big win in its quest to build a third runway.

    A government-commissioned report released today backed the west London airport's plans for expansion over Gatwick, which has also lobbied for a new runway over the past few years.

    The Airport Commission "unanimously" backed expanding Heathrow over any other proposals, saying it could create £147 billion ($231 billion) worth of economic growth in the UK and 70,000 new jobs by 2050.

    While the report says Gatwick's proposals are "plausible", the commission is firmly in the Heathrow camp — a big blow for Gatwick and a big win for Heathrow.

    Sir Howard Davies, who chaired the inquiry, says: "Over the past 2 and a half years, the Airports Commission has reviewed the evidence without preconceptions, consulted widely, and followed an inclusive and integrated process.

    "At the end of this extensive work programme our conclusions are clear and unanimous: the best answer is to expand Heathrow’s capacity through a new northwest runway."

    Sir Davies says Heathrow is the best option for "business passengers, freight operators and the broader economy." In its report the Airport Commission also said that the "majority of airlines" preferred expanding Heathrow over Gatwick.

    Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said in response this morning: "This debate has never been about a runway, it's been about the future we want for Britain. Expanding Heathrow will keep Britain as one of the world's great trading nations, right at the heart of the global economy. 

    "The Commission has backed a positive and ambitious vision for Britain.  We will now work with Government to deliver it."

    London's airports are at capacity, and Heathrow and Gatwick have fought tooth and nail between each other to have their expansion plans approved. While Sir Howard's report is not binding to the government, it's a huge blow for Gatwick.

    The government is not expected to respond to the report until later this year and the BBC reports that the Prime Minister's office is saying it won't make a "snap judgement."

    But David Cameron faces pressure to do something about London's airports, whether it's approving a new Heathrow runway or not. The Airport Commission says in its report: "Further delay will be increasingly costly and will be seen, nationally and internationally, as a sign that the UK is unwilling or unable to take the steps needed to maintain its position as a well-connected open trading economy in the twenty first century."

    Local residents at both airports have opposed expansion plans by the Airport Commission's report recommends several measures to lessen the impact of a new runway at Heathrow, such as banning night flights and an aviation noise fine.

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  • Germans are donating the most to this Londoner's crowdfunded Greek bailout
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 6:52 AM:)

    thom feeney

    Londoner Thom Feeney has so far raised a massive €568,555 (£402,700, $632,081) for a Greek bailout via the crowdfunding website Indiegogo — and Germans are the biggest donors.

    Feeney, a 29-year-old marketing manager from Bethnal Green in the City, started the crowdfunding page late Monday, and when Business Insider reported on his venture early Tuesday, he had raised over €20,000 (£14,000, $22,000) from 1,419 people.

    Since then the number is way above half a million euros after 34,762 people donated over the past two days — and the donations are still coming in thick and fast.

    On Twitter on Wednesday morning, Feeney revealed that Germans were giving the most money, while British people were the second-most generous.

    €547,772 folks, fantastic. Pic shows detail of where most funders are from (last updated 19 hrs ago) #crowdfundgreece pic.twitter.com/dSjmBZWMk8

    — Thom Feeney (@ThomFeeney) July 1, 2015

    On the crowdfunding site, Feeney says all the money "will go to the Greek people" and promises various rewards for people's donations (though it is unclear where these will come from). Here are the rewards:

    • Pledge €3 and get a postcard sent from Greece of Alex Tsipras, the Greek Prime Minister. We'll get them made and posted in Greece and give a boost to some local printers and post offices.
    • Pledge €6 and get a Greek Feta and Olive salad.
    • Pledge €10 and get a small bottle of Ouzo sent to you.
    • Pledge €25 and get a bottle of Greek wine.

    "All this dithering over Greece is getting boring," Feeney said on the crowdfunding page. "European ministers flexing their muscles and posturing over whether they can help the Greek people of not. Why don't we the people just sort it instead?

    "The European Union is home to 503 million people, if we all just chip in a few Euro, then we can get Greece sorted and hopefully get them back on track soon. Easy."

    He said, however, that the money would be given to the Greeks only if the campaign met its €1.6 billion target ($1.8 billion), which Greece defaulted on paying Tuesday night. If Feeney doesn't hit the target, he said he would return all the money.

    On his Facebook page, he sounded cautiously optimistic.

    "Wow, my crowdfunding campaign to solve the Greek debt crisis has been reported on by The Independent, Mashable, Huffington Post, and City AM. Shit, imagine if I did actually sort it out."

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  • The 10 most important things in the world right now
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 4:48 AM:)


    Hello! Here's what you need to know for Wednesday.

    1. Greece missed its €1.6 billion (£1.14 billion, $1.79 billion) loan payment due to the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday, and the country is no longer receiving bailout funding for the first time since 2010.

    2. More than 100 people may have been killed after a military transport plane crashed into a residential area shortly after takeoff in northern Indonesia. It is unclear what caused the crash.

    3. Tunisian officials said the gunman who killed 38 people in the resort town of Sousse last week trained at a Jihadist camp in Libya last year and was there at the same time as the two gunmen who attacked the Tunis Bardo museum in March, killing 21 people.

    4. The deadline for an interim nuclear deal between Western powers and Iran has been extended to at least Tuesday, as negotiations continue over an agreement that would curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions.

    5. About 1,200 prisoners, including Al Qaeda suspects, escaped from a prison in central Yemen after it came under attack from Al Qaeda supporters.

    6. The US and Cuba are expected to announce on Wednesday an agreement to restore diplomatic relations by reopening embassies after more than 50 years of severed ties.

    7. Tens of thousands of people in Hong Kong are expected to rally for free elections on Wednesday on the 18th anniversary of its handover from Britain to China.

    8. The World Bank on Wednesday warned China that its 30-year economic boom was at risk if it failed to reform the "distorted role of the state" in its financial sector, which has led to "wasteful investment, overindebtedness, and a weakly regulated shadow-banking system."

    9. Ukraine suspended all Russian gas purchases on Tuesday after price talks collapsed, marking the second time in under a year that gas supplies from the Russian state energy company Gazprom to Ukraine have been halted.

    10. Apple on Tuesday officially launched its new music service, Apple Music, available to users for a free three-month trial period.

    And finally ...

    After 10 years together, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner announced Tuesday that they were getting divorced.

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  • Iran's nuclear program may have cost the country $500 billion or more
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 3:18 AM:)


    The Iranian nuclear program has been astronomically costly for the Islamic Republic.

    A 2013 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report authored by Iran analyst Karim Sadjapour estimated that the total cost of construction, operation, research, and nuclear-related international sanctions totaled around $100 billion.

    In a June 29th conference call, Sadjapour said that bill may really be as much as $500 billion.

    The dollar cost belies other, less quantifiable repercussions of the nuclear program. For example, nuclear-related sanctions have cut Iran off from foreign markets, leading to a demoralizing long-term economic trough.

    Nevertheless, the social and economic costs of the sanctions has not convinced Iran's revolutionary regime to scale down its costly support for foreign proxies, or to give up on its nuclear ambitions.

    But it fed into a popular discontent that led Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to give his tacit support to negotiating a final nuclear agreement with the regime's chief enemy.

    Khamenei Meets Rouhani Iran

    Worth it?

    There are a few ways of answering whether the cost has been worth it.

    From one perspective, Iran's nuclear ambitions have paid off handsomely, with President Barack Obama holding out the possibility of Iran becoming "a very successful regional power" as an inducement for a final deal.

    Iran's theocratic regime has used its nuclear program to leverage its way into the international mainstream while retaining one of the world's most complete nuclear fuel cycles in the process.

    Furthermore, Tehran will most likely retain a future capability to create a nuclear weapon in a short span of time 10-15 years from now, when the upcoming agreement's most onerous restrictions are set to expire.

    And from a political and strategic perspective, the nuclear program has been a triumph for Iran's revolutionary regime.

    But from another perspective, it's been a terrible deal for Iran and its people.

    Iran Nuclear Map

    Cost/benefit analysis

    Thanks to a new feature from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, it's possible to determine just how wasteful the Iranian nuclear program has been — assuming one believes the program is entirely for peaceful energy production, rather than diplomatic blackmail or nuclear weaponization.

    Earlier this year, the Bulletin debuted its remarkable nuclear fuel cycle cost calculator. This tool allows users to determine how much a single kilowatt hour of electricity would cost based on the input, startup, maintenance, and financing costs of three different configurations of the nuclear fuel cycle.

    The "fuel cycle" is the technical term for the full range of technologies and processes related to the procurement, enrichment, storage, reprocessing, and eventual disposal of unstable materials used for nuclear energy.

    The tool shows which parts of the fuel cycle most dramatically effect the overall price of nuclear energy. It gives a hands-on look at the components of the fuel cycle, and gives an idea of just how astoundingly complex nuclear energy production really is.

    Though some of the variables can be obscure even for armchair nuclear energy enthusiasts, a helpful glossary for the various parts of the fuel cycle can be found here.

    iran nuclear

    Iran's fuel cycle

    While it's impossible to input the exact parameters of Iran's nuclear program, it is at least possible to eyeball certain numbers, and to put in more exact figures for the current international market price of uranium enrichment (price per separative working unit) and raw uranium.

    It's also possible to set the parts of the fuel cycle that Iran has not yet developed down to zero. Some figures related to the program are publicly knowable: Iran has a single 1,000 megawatt reactor, built over a period of more than 30 years.

    In attempting to vaguely duplicate the conditions of the Iranian nuclear program, a user can glimpse whether the country got a good deal on its enormous investment from an energy production standpoint.

    The answer is a resounding no.

    For one thing, it turns out that raw uranium and uranium enrichment — the latter of which can be used for nuclear weaponization and is thus the cause of much of Iran's nuclear-related sanctions — don't have a terribly dramatic biggest impact on cost.

    If Iran wanted to build a nuclear infrastructure, it could have done so by purchasing the entirety of its fuel from a foreign seller.

    But one of the factors with the biggest influence on price is also the one most vulnerable to the political climate: interest payments on the financing of the construction of a nuclear reactor.

    Here's the kilowatt price for hour at a 5% interest rate for nuclear-related projects when using the cost calculator's default parameters:

    Screen Shot 2015 06 30 at 10.26.12 AM

    And how much it is at 10%:

    Screen Shot 2015 06 30 at 10.26.29 AMThat's quite a leap.

    Iran is under international sanctions and has a reputation for secrecy in how it conducts its nuclear policy — two things sure to scare off any investor.

    A 10% interest rate is probably optimistic for a cash-strapped, diplomatically isolated, and somewhat unpredictable Islamic Republic — especially in light of how it's handled its nuclear affairs over the past several years.

    The cost calculator finds that a country with domestic uranium enrichment capabilities, high interest rates, low energy output (a single 1,000-watt reactor), low efficiency, extremely slow reactor construction, and no reprocessing will pay around 68 cents per kilowatt hour (this assumes a price of $140 per separative working unit and of $40 per kilogram of uranium):

    Screen Shot 2015 06 30 at 10.35.43 AM

    The default is 8.42 cents per kilowatt hour, while nuclear power in the US costs a little over 10 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

    Consequently, operating a single 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor just doesn't make any practical sense for an isolated state, especially when it has the world's fourth-largest oil reserves.

    Not worth it, unless ...

    Still, Iran could have theoretically bought about 1.4 trillion kilowatt hours at this inflated cost, assuming it only spent $100 billion on its nuclear program.

    But it could have bought even more if the fuel assemblies were purchased on the international market, eliminating costs connected to domestic enrichment, facilities maintenance, and international sanctions (the US and Japan, which have scores of civilian nuclear plants, also have relatively little domestic enrichment).

    The country's one nuclear reactor, at Bushehr, only came into commercial operation in 2013. And the costs related to the reactor's operation and construction would have to be distributed far into the future for the country to even hope to reach the 68 cents per kilowatt hour plateau.

    Stuxnet Bushehr nuclear power plant

    Basically, the Iranian nuclear program simply doesn't make sense from any kind of a pragmatic economic perspective.

    Nuclear power is far less expensive than the potentially half a trillion Iran has forfeited in building its program. And one of the costliest factors in establishing mastery over the fuel cycle — interest on the financing for nuclear infrastructure — is hugely sensitive to the kind of political risks that Iran's regime is fond of taking.

    The fuel cycle cost calculator offers a possible insight into Iran's true intentions for its nuclear program as well as how it might behave after a deal is signed.

    It's possible that for Iran's leaders, the recognition of what it interprets as the country's "rights" under the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty is a diplomatic victory that justifies the outrageous expense of the nuclear program.

    Once a final deal is signed, Iran's longstanding argument that all nations are entitled to uranium enrichment under the NPT will have been vindicated, radically re-casting the treaty as a greenlight for the proliferation of dual-use nuclear technologies in spite of its name.

    Having pocketed this accomplishment, Iran's regime will have the international prestige that comes with having a legally recognized, industrial scale nuclear program.

    kerry zarif

    The big question

    After 30 years of isolation, and after major threats to the regime's stability during the Iran-Iraq war, the 1999 student protest movement, and the 2009 Green Revolution, the Islamic Republic will have parlayed that program into an unprecedented degree of international acceptance.

    And it will remain on the nuclear threshold, somewhere between 8 months and a year away from a bomb even before the deal's restrictions on enrichment, research, and centrifuge configuration expire.

    The question is whether that will have been enough to justify the program's astonishing cost for its architects in Tehran. If the answer is yes, the world may be heading for a manageable but less than ideal status quo regarding Iran's program.

    And if the answer's no — if the regime isn't satisfied with the gains in prestige the nuclear program has bought, of if it ever feels that its existence or hold on power is threatened — Iran may well become the next country to acquire nuclear weapons.

    SEE ALSO: Here's what Putin was likely doing as a KGB spy in Germany

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  • Here are the funniest emails from the State Department's massive Hillary Clinton email archive
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 2:50 AM:)


    Late Tuesday night, the State Department released a slew of new emails between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, her staff, and other contacts.

    The Department released approximately 3,000 pages of correspondence late Tuesday night. Some were mundane. Others revealed that Obama administration officials knew she was using a private email address. 

    There wasn't a proverbial "smoking gun" contained in the release, but there were a few bright spots.

    Like the time Clinton's staff tried to figure out who was "twittering."

    CIy0i 8WIAAj ar clinton emails

    Or Clinton's fax machine fail.

    CIysjHYW8AAovz8 clinton emails

     Clinton likes apples for 'personal use.'

    'CIy1nnRWwAAbHke clinton emails

    Would someone please get the Secretary some iced tea?screen_shot_2015 06 30_at_11.02.12_pm

    The White House stood Clinton up.CIys cvWEAAqLFN clinton emails

    And didn't tell her about a cabinet meeting.CIy3SgTWwAAkhvZ clinton emails

    This email from US Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) is a gem.CIyv0fnWEAEMxTH hillary clinton

    Clinton wore a 77% favorable coat in Kabul. 

    CIypv4fUAAA4ZB6 clinton emails

    She works frequently with the media.

    CIy47NRUwAA9wqg clinton emails

    She is not a fan of President Nixon.CIy2BdyWgAAAfBf clinton emails

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  • Wall Street's deep-pocketed donors aren't throwing money behind Chris Christie and it's becoming a big problem
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 1:24 AM:)

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

    Gov. Chris Christie, the tough-talking conservative from New Jersey, has finally made his candidacy for president official.

    Unfortunately for him, he has a Wall Street problem he never expected.

    It's not the same Wall Street problem most candidates have — that they are a little too cozy with Wall Street.

    Christie's problem is that even though the New Jersey governor is designed for Wall Street — he has moderate social views, he's from the Northeast, and his wife worked at hedge fund Angelo Gordon before leaving to join his campaign — super-deep-pocketed donors from Wall Street just aren't committing.

    Not even the ones who have shown him support before.

    The money's just not there

    Sources within Christie's camp told Politico they expected the campaign to raise about $30 million by year's end. That pales in comparison with former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, who is believed to have raised about $100 million already through various campaign vehicles.

    Closing that gap is a task for the people who have that kind of money: Wall Street's billionaires. Some who were once vocal supporters of Christie have decided to back one of the other 13 candidates in the GOP race or the other two likely candidates.

    The most high profile of these defectors is Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets. He supported Christie for governor but will be supporting Bush for the presidency.

    Billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer threw a lunch for Christie last month, but he also threw one for Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who is expected to enter the field in late July. Singer has yet to declare his support for anyone. This from a donor who has given over $1 million to the Republican Governors Association (RGA), an organization that Christie once chaired and that was instrumental in helping Christie win his campaign in 2009.

    Daniel Loeb, the founder of the hedge fund Third Point Partners, said in 2011 that he would back Christie for president because "you never have a question about where he stands on anything." Loeb, however, is also yet to declare his support.

    Why Wall Street left Camp Christie

    woody johnson jets nflChristie's support base has been hollowed out by scandal.

    First and foremost is Bridgegate. This spring, a former Christie ally pleaded guilty to closing lanes to the George Washington Bridge as punishment to the mayor of Fort Lee for refusing to back Christie for re-election as governor. Two former Christie aides were also indicted in connection to the scheme.

    Bridgegate has contributed to dismal poll numbers both within and outside Christie's state — another reason supporters have defected. Christie's claims that he balanced New Jersey's budget while underfunding pensions have also been a contributing factor.

    And some on Wall Street are turned off of Christie for the same reason others like him: his mouth. As governor he is known to tell people to "sit down and shut up." That doesn't sit well with more cool-headed, pragmatic Wall Streeters, Politico reported in November.

    According to Matt Katz, a New Jersey Public Radio journalist who wrote a book about Christie called "American Governor: Chris Christie's Bridge to Redemption," Christie was the candidate who was supposed to run on a technocratic, straight-talking platform.

    Now, thanks to Bridgegate, he will have to veer to the right on social issues such as abortion in order to widen his base of support.

    There will always be loyalists

    Of course, Christie still has some supporters in the billionaire set, the most vocal being Home Depot founder Ken Langone.

    ken langone, anthony scaramucci, gary kaminsky, wall street week"The guy every day confirms in my mind why I think he'd make a great president," Langone said on television's "Wall Street Week." "He tells it like it is. Three weeks ago he talked about entitlements ... the third rail of politics. Now Jeb Bush is talking about entitlements."

    Of course, later in that the same segment Langone said he would vote for Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin "like that if he was nominated." Langone also said he was confident the party would coalesce under one candidate when the time came.

    He also told National Journal he wouldn't write a large check for Christie's super PAC. He planned to raise money for Christie the old-fashioned Wall Street way: calling everyone who owes you a favor.

    "Would I write a check for $10 million? No, no I wouldn't," Langone said. "But I do something better than that. I go out and get a lot people to write checks and get them to get people to write checks, and hopefully result in a helluva lot more than $10 million."

    Both Langone and fellow billionaire Christie supporter Stanley Druckenmiller have made entitlements a central issue for them in the campaign. Both of these men have been incredibly successful on Wall Street, and there are people all over the industry who owe them their careers.

    That means Langone and Druckenmiller are in a position to ask people to write checks.

    Christie's problem, with such a crowded field and his popularity on the decline, is that those Wall Street checks will not add up to what his campaign had anticipated before Bridgegate.

    If there's anything people can't stand in New York and New Jersey — places where Wall Streeters live, work, and commute — it's bad traffic.

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  • New Jersey's biggest paper slams Christie: 'Don't believe a word the man says'
    (Politics - July 01 2015 - 1:23 AM:)


    Chris Christie's local newspaper really doesn't like him.

    The Star Ledger, the biggest paper in New Jersey, has been blasting the state's governor left and right.

    A few weeks ago it warned the country Christie's blustering ways would lead to World War III if he were elected president. On Monday it blasted him for his "failure to lead" on public transit, which is important for New Jersey's economic health.

    And now, Tom Moran, who covered Christie for 14 years, nukes him in a column. Moran says Christie is a liar:

    Most Americans don't know Chris Christie like I do, so it's only natural to wonder what testimony I might offer after covering his every move for the last 14 years.

    Is it his raw political talent? No, they can see that.

    Is it his measurable failure to fix the economy, solve the budget crisis or even repair the crumbling bridges? No, his opponents will cover that if he ever gets traction.

    My testimony amounts to a warning: Don't believe a word the man says.

    Don't misunderstand me. They all lie, and I get that. But Christie does it with such audacity, and such frequency, that he stands out.

    Moran goes on to detail a number of what he calls Christie's lies. Read his full column here.

    Christie has a 30% approval rating as governor. Part of his appeal as a Republican candidate is that he won in New Jersey, a left-leaning state. But the state is not happy with him, and the reporters there have the knives out for him.

    Maybe the national media and general populace won't care, but this isn't the best sign for his fledgling campaign to be the next leader of the US.

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