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US Congress cuts pension benefits to ex-presidents

The United States took a hard line on the pension policy. It seems that the country’s economy cannot afford to spare no expense so the US government decided to cut pension payments to the former presidents.
The US Congress unanimously voted for a reduction in the size of the pension benefits for the former presidents to $200 thousand annually. Probably, the Congressmen think that these citizens do not need extra funding resources. They are vigorous enough to earn their living themselves, writing memoirs and delivering lectures. Interestingly, the Russian authorities have the same attitude towards pensioners. Russia’s finance minister Anton Siluanov said that they work to amuse themselves but not to earn their living. However, the Russian government does not hurry to cut pension benefits.
The US Government took such a measure, intending to reduce public spending. According to John Hayes, one of the authors of the bill, in 2017 pensions of five ex-presidents cost the government $2.84 million.

World's preparations for 2018 Olympics
Just under 90 days remained before the start of the XXIII Winter Olympic Games. The honor to host athletes and spectators went to South Korea, which "fought" for the right to hold the Games three times. Not only the hosts actively prepare for the event but also all participating teams. Olympic medals and talismans, sports facilities and equipment teams are in our photo gallery.

The Olympic torch relay is held before the main start of sports competitions. The torch for the Pyeongchang 2018 winter Olympics was lit in ancient Olympia on October 24, 2017. The Olympic Torch Relay began on November 1, 2017. The torch will travel over 100 days and 2,018 km to 17 metropolitan cities and provinces nationwide with the participation of 7.5 thousand torchbearers. The torch was designed in such a way that the flame will not extinguish under any weather conditions.

The Olympic Winter Games 2018 medals have been unveiled at a ceremony held in Seoul on September 21, 2017. These consonants stretch across the face of the medals to the edge, where they come together to spell “Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018”. As a result, they create dynamic diagonal lines that reflect both the history of the Olympic Games and the determination of the competitors vying for a place on the podium. The ribbon from which the medal hangs is an equally important part of the design, and has been created using Gapsa, a traditional Korean fabric.

  • Some teams have alreadypresented an Olympic uniform. In the photo, there are U.S. freeskiing team. The presentation of the uniform for adult athletes for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang will be held in December.

    Uniforms for athletes of the Russian national team will be unveiled in December. The company ZA SPORT, which replaced Bosco, is engaged in outfitting. Suitcases became an innovation for Russian athletes. Before that, they had to be content only with bags.

    The official mascots for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games were launched on 2 June. An Asiatic black bear named “Bandabi” and a white tiger named “Soohorang” will each represent the Paralympic and Olympic Winter Games. Both animals appear in South Korea's foundation mythology and are closely associated with Korean culture and folklore. The bear is symbolic of strong will and courage.

    Ice sculptures in the shape and color of the Olympic rings at the Winter Festival in Pyeongchang, during which the symbols and mascots of the Olympics were presented.

    Preparatory and construction work is now being conducted at several other Olympic venues. The Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, the venue for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of next year's Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, was set to be completed by September, but at the end of October they were still going on. Olympic Plaza is a temporary stadium. Its cost, according to various sources, is estimated at $75-80 million. After the Games, the 35,000 temporary seats and buildings will be removed. The site will be turned into an Olympic Memorial Hall and a sports facility.

    Athletes will make themselves comfortable during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in the Olympic Village in Gangneung-si City, Gangwon-do Province. The construction began in July 2015 and was complete in September 2017. The Olympic Village is divided into an operational section and the residential section.

    • In the operational section are the welcome center, where athlete receptions will be offered, a main entry for visitors, a main dining hall where meals for the athletes will be served, and a transport mall, the gateway to the game venues.

      The residential section has two types of units, one sized 75 square meters (807 square feet) and one sized 85 square meters (915 square feet). A total of 2,717 people can stay at the Olympic Village.

      The nine buildings, ranging from 22- to 25-stories and with one or two basements, have 922 housing units.

      The heart and soul of the games will be the Alpensia resort, finished in 2009, which will serve as the Olympic Village. The Olympic Park, a zone for racing and biathlon, a park for jumping from a springboard, a complex of sled sports were prepared for the world event.

      The 2018 Winter Olympic Games will undoubtedly attract many tourists. In early 2016, six buses began to run on 6 routes. Those who wish can easily get from Seoul to other provinces of the country. The bus network covers the provinces of Gangwon-do and Gyeongsangbuk-do, Daegu city, and Tongariro National Park.

Tajani says EU budget should double

President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani demanded to double the EU budget. The official justified his proposal on the grounds of pressing problems that the EU faces.
However, from the whole list of these important problems, Tajani mentioned only huge flows of migrants, who most likely do not know anything about the problems of the EU and do their best to get into this "troubled" region. On the other hand, if the situation in the European Union is really so bad that it is necessary to double the budget, there is a question that remained unanswered: where does the money come from? If there is an opportunity to increase spending, then what’s the matter? It looks like a catch-22 situation. Currently, the annual EU budget is 140 billion euros. If the proposal of the European Parliament President is adopted, the amount will increase to 280 billion euros.
As additional funding sources, officials mentioned not only additional contributions from the EU states but also the introduction of new taxes, including the commission on currency transactions.

Top 6 statements about Bitcoin being a "bubble"
Along with the growing popularity of Bitcoin, the number of those who call it a "bubble" also increases. We offer you to learn about the most vivid statements on this matter.

"It's an absolute bubble – there's no question in my mind that it's in a bubble. Sure you can make money in bubbles any time but you have to get out. Let's not forget that the total market value of these cryptocurrencies is $180 billion or so, maybe a little less now -that's tiny compared to gold," said John Hathaway of Tocqueville Asset Management.

Bitcoin is the best example of speculative bubble. And I think that has to do with the motivating quality of the bitcoin story. And I've seen it in my students at Yale. You start talking about bitcoin and they're excited! And I think, what's so exciting?," noted Robert Shiller, the Yale economics professor and author of a seminal book on speculative manias, Irrational Exuberance.

"Bitcoin is a highly speculative market. Bitcoin is a bubble. It's a shame, it could be a currency. It could work conceptually, but the amount of speculation that is going on and the lack of transactions hurts it," stressed Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Associates founder.

"This is going to be the largest bubble of our lifetimes. Prices are going to get way ahead of where they should be. You can make a whole lot of money on the way up, and we plan on it," believes Mike Novogratz, ex-manager at Fortress Investment Group LLC.

"I think Bitcoin is a bubble. I just don't know when or how much it corrects. When everyone is bragging about how easy they are making then it is a bubble," said the billionaire Mark Cuban.

"From what we can identify, the only reason today to buy or sell bitcoin is to make money, which is the very definition of speculation and the very definition of a bubble. The history of finance shows that this kind of phenomenon rarely ends well," think Tidjane Thiam, Credit Suisse CEO.

British pound suffers ordeal while UK and EU try to strike a deal

It’s blindingly obvious for those who closely watch the dynamics of the pound sterling that the success of the Brexit negotiations may be the main driver for strengthening of the British national currency next year. 
Most experts agree that any developments in this crucial event – both positive and negative - have an immediate impact on the pound sterling.  Any challenges to the UK’s exit from the European Union dent the pound’s rise. So far, there have been quite a lot of troubles. Prime Minister Theresa May ran into serious political opposition in the Parliament concerning demands from the EU. Nonetheless, the sides of these divorce proceedings want to reach an understanding in some key issues, for example, the amount of the money compensation. There are optimists who hope for the best.  “Brexit has been the main bearish driver for sterling and we would expect a significant appreciation of the pound derived from a ‘soft Brexit’,” Roberto Cobo Garcia at BBVA said. However, there are also pessimists who fear the worst. Since June 2016 the British pound has lost almost 10 percent against the US dollar.
A hard Brexit, at which the UK fails to come to an agreement with the EU, would be the most damaging outcome for the economy and the national currency, according to the Reuters polls. Thus, traders have a very clear barometer at their disposal. While the Brexit talks proceed smoothly, the pound sterling rises, but if there are some problems, it falls.

Three options for investors: Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash or Bitcoin Gold?
Most investors are at a crossroads, faced with the choice of leading cryptocurrency - Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold. In such situation, the help of experts who analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each of them is important.

At present, the attention of cryptocurrency traders is aimed at bitcoin and its varieties. The excitement around digital money does not subside, so analysts advise to take a closer look at the most popular ones, such as Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold. The choice is rather complicated: if Bitcoin almost always had a high volume of trade, Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold are only gaining momentum. Experts tried to answer the question: whatt currency is the best one to choose for trading? Let's consider the main advantages of each of them.

  • Bitcoin

      Bitcoin is considered the basic cryptocurrency, the alternative of which does not exist yet, despite the controversy about its reliability and volatility. Experts note that the correction of bitcoin gives an excellent opportunity for purchases. According to experts, the immediate goal will be the level of the previous high - $7,800. According to forecasts, the level of $10,000 is quite achievable for Bitcoin.

      • Bitcoin Cash

        Bitcoin Cash occurred on August 1, 2017. This cryptocurrency was developed in order to optimize the calculations. According to Vadim Kravchuk, an expert of the AMarkets regulated broker, the benefit of Bitcoin Cash is huge, as transactions in conventional bitcoins become not very convenient, and many companies, working with cryptocurrency, transfer to Bitcoin Cash. This currency is suitable for the "aggressive" part of the portfolio of cryptocurrencies, as well as for regular money transfers.

        • Bitcoin Gold

          Speaking of the Bitcoin Gold cryptocurrency, the situation is not as smooth as with other digital money. The project was launched later than planned. Developers also had to cope with a cascade of cyber attacks, preventing the launch. The purpose of creating Bitcoin Gold is to ensure equal mining conditions for all project participants. For now, you can get Bitcoin Gold only using GPU graphics cards. Experts believe that the rate of Bitcoin Gold can jump at any time. This cryptocurrency is great for miners, as competition in this network is still low.

    Bitcoin recovers after plummeting
    On Monday, the bitcoin price recovered after a significant fall below $6,000. On the Bitfinex exchange, the cryptocurrency rose by 7.28% to $6,229.
    Meanwhile, Bitcoin Cash declined by 9.57% to $1,229. The rise of the bitcoin price and the fall of Bitcoin Cash were due to correction after the weekend, when bitcoin lost 10% of its value. 
    At the same time, bitcoin fell by 30% during the past week. Over the weekend, bitcoin fell by 9.5%, and over the past four days it nosedived by 29%. Analysts say that such dynamics of the bitcoin rate is explained by the fact that investors and traders switched to Bitcoin Cash.
    As for Bitcoin Cash, it grew by 40% in the last three days, hitting a record level of $2,478. However, the cryptocurrency was trading at $1,325 on Monday.

    Watch for six million francs: watch auction's records

    On November 11, 52 unique watches went up for auction by Christie's Auction House in Geneva. The watches were part of the only pure-charity watch auction held every other year, called Only Watch. This year, the auction totaled CHF 10.776 million - with three watches comprising the lion's share of the event.

    For the second time in a row at Only Watch, a Patek Phlippe watch was the top star. The unique titanium Minute Repeater Chronograph Perpetual Calendar Patek Philippe 5208T watch made for the 2017 Only Watch, took the top bid, with a hammer price of CHF 6.2 million, with the experts' estimation of from 900,000 to 1.1 million. This difference was compensated by a visit to the workshop and the museum of the brand, as well as a personal meeting with Patek President Philippe Thierry Stern. History does not record what they discussed.

    Ranking as the most expensive F.P. Journe watch sold at auction to date, the F.P. Journe Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante watch achieved a hammer price of CHF 1.15 million. It was sold for three times its estimated price, which was expected to be between CHF 200,000 and 400,000 CHF.

    Coming in third with a hammer price of $800,000, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Only Watch has a unique color combination. The Royal Oak case, bezel and bracelet are all created in black ceramic. The watch was expected to fetch between CHF 80,000 and 100,00, so it achieved at least eight times its expected estimate.

    One important result is the new world record for a Tudor wristwatch. The previous record was set at Only Watch 2015, when the unique Black Bay One sold for CHF 375,000, more than 100 times is low estimate. It was the first and only unique-piece watch made by Tudor. The second unique-piece watch by Tudor, the Black Bay Bronze One with left-handed crown, sold today at Only Watch 2017 for a whopping CHF 350,000, once again destroying its estimate.

    This year, the Russian actor Konstantin Chaykin took part in the auction for the first time. His "Joker" watch was bought for CHF 45,000, exceeding the initial cost (10,000-15,000) by three times. The watch changes its "mood" every minute, "Joker" manages to make thousands of different grimaces for 24 hours. On the rim of the case, there is a symbol of luck - a "big five" poker hand.

    An MB&F Horological Machine No. 8, in white gold with titanium and a sapphire crystal engraved with a drawing created by a 15-year-old artist, sold for $210,907 (CHF 210,000). Inspired by the Canadian-American Challenge Cup (Can-Am)—a turbo-charged car racing series that began in 1966 and ran for two decades—the HM8 evokes the silhouettes of the Porsche, McLaren, and BRM sports cars that dominated the competition. The model, which boasts a 42-hour power reserve, pays homage to the series with two distinctive features: a fully visible movement that has been flipped around so the rotor sits on top(calling to mind the cars' giant, exposed engines), and polished roll bars (milled from a solid block of grade 5 titanium) that taper at the back for a sleek and memorable aesthetic. To read the time, simply look to the vertical displays on the “dashboard” of the watch, where optical prisms reveal the bi-directional jumping hours and trailing minutes.

    Hublot prepared the Big Bang Unico Sapphire Usain Bolt watch for the Only Watch auction. The case is made of sapphire crystal with gold details. Gold was used to cover the marks and arrows, in addition, screws on transparent whitish are also made of this material. The clock was named after the athlete Usain Bolt, who won three gold medals at the Olympics in Rio. His portrait can be seen at 9 o'clock. The watch was estimated at CHF 50,000-80,000 but went under the hummer for 150,000.

    The next unusual lot was WESTEP Watch Reference 100. It was created by the graduates of the watchmaking school WOSTEP in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. The watch with the W-01 caliber with manual winding in a 54 mm steel case is decorated with 16 signatures of the school graduates. Its final cost, CHF 50,000, exceeded the initial, 10,000-22,000, by half.

    Both prominent names in independent watchmaking but with drastically different styles, Urwerk and Laurent Ferrier have come together to create the Arpal One, a unique wristwatch for charity auction Only Watch 2017. Their joint product - The Arpal One - became one of the most expensive at the last auction. It was sold for CHF 100,000 with the estimated price of 50,000-70,000. The watch case is made of Arpal + material, which was designed specifically for novelty. It contains 75% of precious metals and, compared to white gold or steel, is more resistant to wear and scratches.

    The price of Breguet Classique Quantique Perpéturel En Ligne Only Watch 2017 exceeded the mark of CHF 100,000 by 10,000. The initial cost was CHF 80,000-100,000. The watch is presented in a case of yellow gold and equipped with a linear perpetual calendar, the self-winding movement is decorated with hand-made engraving. The owner of the watch had the opportunity to visit the workshop of the brand, accompanied by a guide.

    Russian rating agency to cooperate with leading Chinese research firm

    When the leading rating agencies assign low ratings to a country, some begin to work hard on corrections of the mistakes, and some establish their own agency. Why focus on someone else's professional opinion, when you can create your own agency and carry out your own assessment.
    That is what Russia had in mind creating the Analytical Credit Rating Agency (ACRA). Since very few people considered the assessments by the ACRA experts seriously for the years of its existence, the Russian agency decided to establish partnership with Golden Credit Rating International based in China. The two agencies have already signed the memorandum on cooperation. However, it is still difficult to say what is the purpose of this partnership and who will use these ratings. The memorandum says only about "the development of technological and informational cooperation between the two countries". In addition, it can take several years from the signing of memorandum to the establishment of a full partnership. However, the Russian officials are full of optimism.
    "This will be the world’s largest bilateral rating partnership in terms of coverage, market size, and the size of the agencies involved," ACRA CEO Ekaterina Trofimova said. So, very soon such industry giants as Moody's, Fitch Ratings, and Standard & Poor's can pale into insignificance.

    Bitcoin after futures: Three plausible outcomes

    After the announcement of the program providing opportunity to work with bitcoin futures, experts forecasted three plausible outcomes.

    CME Group announced plans to offer a bitcoin futures contract this year. This brings it in line with Cboe Global Markets, which announced similar plans in August, and LedgerX, which began trading in bitcoin options and day-ahead swaps two weeks ago. These contracts are important steps toward integrating bitcoin with the global financial system. All three exchanges are regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Experts see three possible scenarios in this situation.

    The first option entails that the SEC digs in its heels and institutional money stays leery of bitcoin. In some ways this makes bitcoin more valuable, but only to a subset of people, says analysts. The cryptocurrency will likely remain illiquid and volatile.

    According to the second scenario, the SEC relents and global regulators start treating bitcoin like a commodity, but there isn't interest from long-term, passive investors. As the result, Bitcoin becomes like a penny stock, subject to pumps and dumps. CME and Cboe would lose interest.

    The third option, as the first one, implies that the SEC relents. There will be $50 billion flows in from long-term, passive investors over the course of 2018. Bitcoin prices might go up or down as a result, but the new prices would be real in a way the current prices are not. Stability and liquidity lead to more use, which leads to more stability and liquidity. Bitcoin becomes a standard financial commodity, and a useful part of the global financial system.


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