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U.S. GDP growth

U.S. GDP growth will slow to 2.3 percent in 2019 from 3 percent in 2018. It will be 2 percent in 2020, and 1.8 percent in 2021. That’s according to the most recent forecast released at the Federal Open Market Committee meeting on December 19, 2018. The projected slowdown in 2019 and beyond is a side effect of the trade war, a key component of Trump’s economic policies.
The unemployment rate ends the year at 3.7 percent in 2018. It will fall to 3.5 percent in 2019, and rise slightly to 3.6 percent in 2020, and 3.8 percent in 2021. That’s lower than the Fed’s 6.7 percent target. But former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen noted a lot of workers are part-time and would prefer full-time work. Also, most job growth is in low-paying retail and food service industries. Some people have been out of work for so long that they’ll never be able to return to the high-paying jobs they used to have.

Foreigners, led by the Chinese and Japanese, owned $6.21 trillion. Those two countries have cut their stakes since 2015, but each country still owns more than $1 trillion worth of Treasury bonds and notes.
The Chinese government or Chinese investors likely own even more U.S. debt purchased through entities in other countries such as Hong Kong, Luxembourg or the Cayman Islands, all of which are havens for tax shelters.
Notably, Russia has slashed its Treasury holdings to a mere $15 billion from a peak of $153 billion in mid-2013 amid worsening tensions with the U.S.
So far there’s little evidence that other countries will follow suit to strike back at the U.S. amid ongoing trade disputes. Many need or want Treasury bonds and notes as a safe place to park their savings.

Posted in economic, federal, Federal Reserve, forecast, percent, policies, World Cultures | Leave a comment


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Crocus sativus, commonly known as saffron crocus, or autumn crocus, is a species of flowering plant of the Crocus genus in the Iridaceae family. It is best known for producing the spice saffron from the filaments that grow inside the flower Sativus flower to produce each pound of the world’s most expensive spice.
A small cluster of slender red threads in a tiny glass bottle, sell a gram of superior grade saffron for $6.79, and an even finer version, known as coupé grade, for $8.29.

The vivid crimson stigmas and styles, called threads, are collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and coloring agent in food.
Iran is the largest exporter of saffron and accounts for over 70 percent of the spice of the world production. Spain is also a producer, but the country has been accused of re-branding Iranian produce.

Saffron pickers in Masshad, Iran, the hub of the global industry. Around 200,000 red strands must be plucked from Crocus.
If you do it yourself, when you plant your saffron crocus bulbs, place them in the ground at about 3 to 5 inches deep and at least 6 inches apart. About 50 to 60 saffron flowers will produce about 1 tablespoon of saffron spice, so keep this in mind when figuring how many to plant.
Lachha saffron, Mongra saffron, Zarda saffron and Kashmiri saffron is well known for its exotic aroma and as a flavor in culinary preparation.

Jammu and Kashmir is a state in northern India, Kashmiri saffron has deep dark maroonish-purple hue. While Persian saffron has about 70% of total world production, in case of quality Kashmiri saffron is the best and finest.

Saffron crocus cultivation has long centered on a broad belt of Eurasia bounded by the Mediterranean Sea in the southwest to India and China in the northeast. The major producers of antiquity—Iran, Spain, India, and Greece—continue to dominate the world trade.
The domesticated saffron crocus, Crocus sativus, is an autumn-flowering perennial plant unknown in the wild. It probably descends from the eastern Mediterranean autumn-flowering Crocus cartwrightianus which is also known as “wild saffron” and originated in Crete or mainland Greece.
Also, it emerged by human cultivators selectively breeding plants for unusually long stigmas in late Bronze Age Crete.

The family name is based on the genus Iris, the largest and best-known genus in Europe. The genus Iris dates from 1753 when it was coined by Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus. Its name derives from the Greek goddess, Iris, who carried messages from Olympus to earth along a rainbow, whose colors were seen by Linnaeus in the multi-hued petals of many of the species.
The family is currently divided into four subfamilies but the results from DNA analysis suggest that several more should be recognized:

Posted in bulbs, flower, flowering plant, Global, Greece, Mediterranean Sea, perennial plant, saffron, Swedish botanist, World Cultures | Leave a comment

Marguerite Porete

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Marguerite Porete 1250-1310 age 60
Mairie de Paris, Paris, France was found guilty and sentenced to be burnt at the stake as a relapsed heretic.

Porete died on 1 June 1310 in Paris at the Place de Grève a French-speaking principality in the Holy Roman Empire though this is uncertain. Her high level of education means she is likely to have had upper-class origins.

She is associated with the beguine movement (which was a Christian lay religious order that was active in Northern Europe, particularly in the Low Countries in the 13th–16th centuries. Their members lived in semi-monastic communities but did not take formal religious vows. That is, although they promised not to marry “as long as they lived as Beguines,” to quote one of the early Rules, they were free to leave at any time. Beguines were part of a larger spiritual revival movement of the thirteenth century that stressed imitation of Christ’s life through voluntary poverty, care of the poor and sick, and religious devotion) and was, therefore, able to travel fairly freely.

The feudal system defined strict rules for class and gender and there were few options for women. She could live under her father’s roof until Wed, then live with a husband until widowed, then with a son. The only other choice for an “honest” unmarried woman was to become a nun. The biggest difference between them and nuns was beguines could leave the community to get married with no ill repercussions, but a nun did so only at the risk of excommunication and death.

Marguerite appears to have written the first version of her book in the 1290s. Sometime between 1296 and 1306, it was deemed heretical, and the Bishop of Cambrai condemned it to be publicly burned in her presence at Valenciennes. One of the taboos Porete had broken was writing the book in Old French rather than in Latin and she was ordered not to circulate her ideas or the book again. Nevertheless, she continued to do so. It has recently been suggested that she was caught in Châlons-en-Champagne in 1308 after she gave her book to the local bishop.
She was then handed to the Inquisitor of France, the Dominican William of Paris, also known as William of Humbert on grounds of heresy, in spite of claims in the book that she had consulted three church authorities about her writings, including the highly respected Master of Theology Godfrey of Fontaines and gained their approval.

Marguerite refused to speak to William of Paris or any of her inquisitors during her imprisonment and trial.
In 1310 a commission of twenty-one theologians investigated a series of fifteen propositions drawn from the book and only three of which are securely identifiable today,
judging them heretical. Among those who condemned the book was the ecclesiastical textual scholar, Nicholas of Lyra. In the end, she was to die which was ordered by three Bishops passed final judgment upon her.

Transmitting the Memory of a Medieval Heretic
Early Modern French Historians on Marguerite Porete
Excerpts Danielle C. Dubois Medieval religious History French Historians on Marguerite Porete Public Domain RB Private library

Posted in Europe, feudal system, France, French, Labor, Northern, Paris, Quotes, Roman Empire, Travel, World Cultures | Leave a comment

Mehman Huseynov

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Mehman Huseynov 1992 (age 26 years), Baku, Azerbaijan

He is an Azerbaijani journalist and human rights, activist. He was arrested in central Baku at around 8 pm local time on Monday 9 January 2017. He had recently posted pictures on the internet of luxury properties, which he claimed were owned by government officials.

An Inconvenient Truth In Azerbaijan
Mehman Huseynov, a young Azerbaijani video blogger reporting on corruption in his country and beyond was sentenced to two years in prison in March 2017. Just two months before his release on December 26, 2018. New criminal charges were brought against him and he can be sentenced to seven more years in prison if convicted.
A day later Mehman declared a hunger strike. The Council of Europe says Huseynov is in a critical condition. “Reporters Without Borders” claim in a statement that Huseynov was then very weak and could not walk without help when his lawyers visited him in solitary confinement on December 28, 2018.
Since President Ilham Aliyev came to power in 2003, his regime has acted aggressively to silence its critics. Azerbaijan has one of the world’s worst records on press freedom, ranked 163rd out of 180 countries on 2018 RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.

The charges against Huseynov represent a renewed assault on free expression in an already repressive atmosphere, the PEN Club of America said.
“The escalation of legal harassment against Mehman Huseynov—over the holiday period, and just months before his release—is an inhumane step that perfectly embodies the calculated crackdown against dissenting voices in Azerbaijan,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America.
Journalists and activists are routinely imprisoned, with defamation lawsuits used to silence and punish them.
Mehman Huseynov has been targeted for his critical journalism,” Rebecca Vincent, UK Bureau Director for Reporters Without Borders and a former US diplomat who served in Azerbaijan, said via email.

“This charge is nothing short of absurd, and in fact, Mehman himself has reported being subjected to torture during a prior period of detention, for which no one was ever held to account.
“The new charge seems intended to continue to silence Mehman and to send a message to others about the serious consequences of speaking out against corruption and human rights abuses in Azerbaijan,” Vincent says.
As long as Western governments continue with business as usual with the Aliyev regime, courageous individuals like Mehman will only continue to pay the price,” Vincent says.

Corruption in high places
Emin Huseynov, brother of Mehman and head of IRFS, a media freedom organization, living in exile in the US, said via email that Mehman before his 2017 arrest and imprisonment had been investigating and reporting on the luxury real estate of high Azerbaijani officials, which was purchased with money gained through corruption.
It was particularly about the Minister of Emergency Situations Kamaladdin Heydarov, the Minister for Labor and Social Protection Salim Muslumov and several MPs who are abusing their power and are engaged in corruption activities,” Emin says.

Silence is golden
In 2016, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and partners exposed a secret $2.9bn slush fund that Azerbaijan had used to pay European officials to support and “paint a positive image of the authoritarian regime,” while operating an international money laundering scheme.
In May 2018, the project released new information about the scandal that had become known as the Azerbaijani Laundromat and how it was used to finance lobbying and reputation laundering in the US.

Out of the 18 countries affected, according to Transparency International, in 12 “there has been no official follow-up by law enforcement, while investigations are pending in four.” Azerbaijan and Hungary were two countries which refused to open any investigations.

On May 29, 2018, Aliyev inaugurated the first phase of the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) project thanks to a $480 million loan from the EBRD. In July 2018 another EBRD loan of $600 million was approved for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline.
Over the past three years, several networks of companies appear to have used a private bank in Malta for secret investments in the UK, Spain, France, Georgia, and Montenegro, Emin says.

“A writer and reporter based in both Warsaw and Cologne authored a recent book on foreign media coverage of Polish politics and contribute to the BBC, Politico and Deutsche Welle among others mainly on Polish issues.
Jo Harper Contributor.

Posted in Bureau Director for Reporters, Corruption, countries, Europe, Government, journalism, Labor, Organization, President, records, US diplomat, World, World Cultures, World Press Freedom Index | Leave a comment

Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev

Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev 1961 (age 57 years), Baku, Azerbaijan

He is an Azerbaijani politician and currently the fourth President of Azerbaijan, in office since 2003. He also functions as the Chairman of the New Azerbaijan Party and the head of the National Olympic Committee.
Relations with America
On April 28, 2006, a meeting of Ilham Aliyev and President of the United States of America George W. Bush took place in the White House in Washington. At the meeting, the parties discussed the implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan project, as well as the situation in the region and on the international scene.
On May 29, 2013, the Azerbaijani-American forum “A Look into the Future” in Baku. Ilham Aliyev attended the opening ceremony.
In April 2016, Ilham Aliyev attended the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, in the framework of which the President met with the US Secretary of State John Kerry. The parties discussed the importance of the fight against terrorism, and John Kerry mentioned Azerbaijan’s participation in the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. The day before, Ilham Aliyev met with US Vice President Joe Biden. Prospects for further expansion of bilateral relations in all areas as well as in the economic sphere discussed at the meeting.
On September 21, 2017, Ilham Aliyev met with US President Donald Trump in New York, in the framework of the 72nd Assembly of the United Nations

Posted in America, Committee, International, National, Nuclear, Olympic, Politician, presidential, United States, World Cultures | Leave a comment

How AI is transforming the fight against money laundering in Four Segments

How AI is transforming the fight against money laundering in Four Segments

AI – the basics
There are two kinds of AI and machine learning – supervised and unsupervised. Each has its own particular strengths. With supervised learning, a model is trained using already categorized data to identify potentially suspicious transactions.
With unsupervised learning, computer scientists expose the system to raw uncategorized data. Through interactions with the data, the computer system identifies patterns that might signal money laundering – and also suggests new ways to organize and analyzed data.

This article is part of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

As Kai-Fu Lee explains in his recent book, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have moved from the age of discovery to the application and implementation stage.
Data scientists have made major leaps in the past decade to get us here. The complex algorithms have been written, the keys to manipulating massive data sets are known, and the technology is universal enough to be applied to different problems.
One such problem is the cost of fighting financial crime. In the US alone, the cost of anti-money laundering (“AML”) compliance is estimated at $23.5 billion per year. European banks come close with $20 billion spent annually.
Even more shocking is that despite this high level of spending, it does not appear to be working. Over the last decade, 90% of European banks have been fined for AML-related offenses; globally, banks have been fined approximately $26 billion over the last 10 years.
Now it is up to financial institutions to take the leap and use AI and machine learning to detect human traffickers, narcotics and arms sales, terrorist payments, and the money laundering that fuels these activities.
Indeed, regulators are now encouraging financial institutions to experiment and to use the power of AI and machine learning to detect suspicious activity. To implement these AI solutions successfully, subject matter experts must be integral to the process to translate the problem, identify the challenges to solving it and find the best solution to address the issues in this area.

AI and machine learning can detect money laundering that fuels criminal activity
Image (REUTERS/Jason.Lee
Excerpts Kai-Fu Lee

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