"Political parties exist to secure responsible government and to execute the will of the people. From these great staffs, both of the old parties have ganged aside. Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare they have become the tools of corrupt interests which use them in martialling [sic] to serve their selfish purposes. Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people." -- Theodore Roosevelt

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President Biden used campaign donations to help pay his legal bills last year during the special counsel's probe into his handling of classified documents, according to two people familiar with the matter and an Axios review of campaign finance records.

Why it matters: The payments, made through the Democratic National Committee, are at odds with the Biden campaign's recent attacks on Donald Trump for spending his campaign funds on legal fees.

Driving the news: The DNC — which has been collecting the biggest donations to Biden's re-election effort — paid more than $1.5 million to lawyers or firms representing Biden during the probe, according to the committee's financial filings.

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By Tyler Durden

Q1 earnings season officially opened moments ago when JPM became the first mega bank to reports results, and even though JPM beat on across the board - and even unexpectedly released reserves instead of setting money aside for yet another quarter - the stock is lower by ~3% after Jamie Dimon had some gloomy words about the bank's net interest income (which dropped in Q1) and the bank's NII outlook for 2024 missed estimates. But before we get to all that, let's start with the Q1 historicals which were solid across the board:

  • Q1 Net Income of $13.4 billion, up 6% from $12.6 billion a year ago and stronger than the median estimate, which translated into EPS of $4.44 (and $4.21 ex the impact of First Republic), beating estimates of $4.15; JPM clarified that “excluding a $725 million increase to the FDIC special assessment," net income would have been $14 billion or $4.63 a share.

  • The EPS of $4.44 would be the second highest in the company's history, and the highest in three years, going back to Q1 2021 when JPM reported a record $4.50.

  • Q1 Adjusted revenue $42.55 billion, +8.2% y/y, and beating the estimate of $41.64 billion
    • FICC sales & trading revenue $5.30 billion
    • Equities sales & trading revenue $2.69 billion
    • Investment banking revenue $1.99 billion
    • CIB Markets total net revenue $7.98 billion, estimate $7.71 billion
      • Advisory revenue $598 million
      • Equity underwriting rev. $355 million
      • Debt underwriting rev. $1.05 billion
      • Corporate & investment bank IB fees $2.00 billion
  • Net charge-offs $1.96 billion, up from $1.1 billion a year ago, but below the estimate $2.2 billion
  • Provision for credit losses $1.88 billion, lower by 17% y/y, and far below the estimate $2.78 billion, thanks to a reserve release of $72 million, vs a $1.1 billion reserve build in Q1 2023.

Needless to say, the reserve release was a very favorable swing factor in the company's bottom line: a year ago, the reserve build was substantially higher, and rightfully so: charge offs have nearly doubled since then, rising from $1.1BN to $2.0BN.

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Via Middle East Eye

Turkey’s decision to halt the export of 54 products to Israel in response to its war on Gaza isn’t likely to have far-reaching results, since both countries' economies are complementary in nature rather than central to each other.

The Turkish trade ministry announced earlier this week that Ankara would continue to implement the restrictions as long as Israel denies uninterrupted flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza Strip, citing UN Security Council decisions and an International Court of Justice (ICJ) preliminary judgment against Israel’s conduct in the coastal enclave. The export restrictions encompass items such as aluminium wire, steel, cement, construction materials, granite, chemicals, pesticides, engine oils, jet fuel and bricks.

Israel's Haifa commercial shipping port in the Mediterranean Sea, NurPhoto

Before the war, Turkish-Israeli ties had been steadier than they had been for years. After years of tensions over Palestine, the two normalized relations in 2022. Yet, while Turkey and Israel quarreled over the past decade, and even stopped cooperating with each other, trade had never been interrupted. In fact, it flourished over time.

The Turkish public has been outraged at Israel’s actions in Gaza, where reportedly more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in six months. Lists of ships carrying goods to Israel circulated on social media as Israel's onslaught grew. People also highlighted companies close to the Turkish government that continued commercial relations with Israel during the war.

Even though there is no evidence to back claims that Turkey sold weapons to Israel, the controversy was stoked by a small quantity of hunting gear or hunting equipment parts being found among the exports. They were broadly classified by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK) as “weaponry”

In response to this domestic pressure and serious setbacks for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in local elections last month, the government decided to act against Israel.

Ties have been cut on the Israeli side, too. In October, several Israeli supermarket chains halted imports from Turkey in response to Ankara’s critical stance on the Gaza war. Israeli food company Strauss in December changed the packaging for one of its most well-known products, Elite Turkish coffee, adding an Israeli flag and patriotic slogans.

An important market

But is the trade between the two countries vital? Many say no, but Israel is nonetheless an important export market for Ankara. Turkey’s exports to Israel were worth $5.4bn in 2023, or 2.1 percent of its total exports, according to official data.

Although bilateral trade has dropped by 33 percent since the October 7 Hamas-led attack, it has nonetheless continued and exports to Israel have increased each month in 2024 so far. Both countries have had a free trade deal in place since 1996 and there have been no tariffs on certain products since 2000, which has enabled major increases in bilateral trade, largely favouring Turkey.

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Actor and television personality Whoopi Goldberg accused Republicans of doing their best to “bring slavery back.”

During Wednesday’s broadcast of the ABC midday talk show “The View,” Goldberg criticized an Arizona Supreme Court ruling that upheld a law banning most abortions. She then tied the high court’s ruling to what she believes is the goal of Republicans.

“Take a look at the things that they’re rolling back. Remember I said ages ago, you know, in their minds, they want to bring slavery back. They’re okay with it. Because, you see, things change. You know, one of the good things about the Supreme Court is you can fight to make sure you make stuff better. You don’t generally fight to make stuff worse,” she stated.

Webmaster addition: 

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Since purchasing Twitter, the social media platform he subsequently renamed X, in 2022, billionaire Elon Musk has come under fire for his endorsement of expanded free speech protections by users.

A number of U.S. lawmakers and regulators have complained that X has become a bastion of hate speech and misinformation, though Musk has rejected such allegations at every turn.

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Following a path blazed by the once and future Republic of Texas, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday signed into law a measure making it a state crime to enter the Hawkeye State after being deported or denied entry into the country. As an "aggravated misdemeanor," it would subject illegal immigrants to imprisonment for up to two years. 

Reynolds raced to sign the bill just one day after it cleared the state legislature. In a statement issued after the signing, she said President Biden's neglect of border security made it imperative for Iowa to step up and fill the void: 

“The Biden Administration has failed to enforce our nation’s immigration laws, putting the protection and safety of Iowans at risk. Those who come into our country illegally have broken the law, yet Biden refuses to deport them. This bill gives Iowa law enforcement the power to do what he is unwilling to do: enforce immigration laws already on the books.”

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The United States general in command of the Middle East headed to Israel on Thursday to coordinate with Israeli defense officials after Iran threatened retaliation against the country for an attack in Syria. 

General Michael 'Erik' Kurilla's expected meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and other senior Israel Defense Forces officials was first reported by Axios. Kurilla is commander of U.S. Central Command.

It comes after an Israeli strike on an embassy complex in Damascus killed Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi and several others last week. 

Zahedi was the most senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officer killed since the assassination of Qasem Soleimani in 2020.

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“The office district is empty, with boarded up towers, copper thieves, and failing retail,” reports the Wall Street Journal of Democrat-run St. Louis, Missouri. “[E]ven the Panera outlet shut down. The city is desperately trying to reverse the ‘doom loop.’”

Let’s look at the mayoral history of the doom-looping St. Louis, shall we?

Oh, look, there hasn’t been a Republican mayor in St. Louis since — not a typo — 1949. For 75 years, the people of St. Louis have voted for More of the Same, so excuse me if I don’t whip out a violin over all this unavoidable doom looping.

“Cities such as San Francisco and Chicago are trying to save their downtown office districts from spiraling into a doom loop,” writes the Wall Street Journal. “St. Louis is already trapped in one.”

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