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Perils for Pentagon as Trump threatens to militarize response to civil unrest

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – “Battlespace” was the word U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper used to describe protest sites in the United States. The top U.S. general then reinforced that image by appearing in downtown Washington in camouflage during a Monday evening crackdown.

FILE PHOTO: DC National Guard military police officers look on as demonstrators rally near the White House against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 1, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

Helicopters that could easily be mistaken for active duty U.S. military ones staged show-of-force maneuvers in Washington above people protesting the killing of an unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.

As President Donald Trump increasingly turns to militaristic rhetoric at a time of national upheaval, the U.S. military appears to be playing a supporting role – alarming current and former officials who see danger to the institution of the U.S. armed forces, one of America’s most revered and well funded.

“America is not a battleground. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy,” Martin Dempsey, the retired four-star general who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote on Twitter.

A current military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, voiced concern about the lasting damage that would come from using the military as a “political prop.”

“Presidents come and go … the uniform has to be maintained,” the official said.

For Trump’s critics, the Republican president’s reliance on the military in domestic endeavors risks making the armed forces, which are meant to be apolitical, appear aligned with Trump’s political agenda. He has previously employed the military to help stem illegal immigration and used defense funding to build his border wall.

But drawing the military into his response here to the sometimes violent civil unrest that broke out in Minneapolis last week and spread to dozens of cities, is particularly problematic.

At the core of the discomfort is a single idea: The U.S. military was designed to protect the United States from foreign adversaries and uphold a constitution that explicitly protects the rights of citizens to peacefully protest.

Even the head of the National Guard acknowledged that responding to domestic crises makes his troops uneasy. So far, more than 20,000 National Guard members have been called up to assist local law enforcement with protests around the country.

“This mission is an uncomfortable mission. They don’t like doing it, but we can do it,” said General Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

UNWITTING SUPPORT?

Esper and General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accompanied Trump on Monday as he posed at a church near the White House after law enforcement officers used teargas and rubber bullets to clear the area of peaceful protesters.

Trump had just delivered a speech condemning “acts of domestic terror,” and saying the United States was in the grips of professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals and others.

But a senior defense official suggested neither Esper nor Milley knew about the photo-op and had been at the White House to give Trump an update on response efforts.

“As that meeting concluded, the President indicated an interest in viewing the troops that were outside and the secretary and the chairman went with him to do so. That’s the extent of what was taking place,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Kori Schake at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and an expert on U.S. civilian-military relations said Esper and Milley need to be held to account for their “shocking” decision to appear in that setting.

“They made choices. They could have said, Mr. President, I think it would send a bad signal for me to do this,” Schake said.

Alice Friend, a former Pentagon official, said Esper and Milley – by using terms like battlespace – were also blurring the lines between American citizens in the United States and enemies in warzones.

“To divide and conquer at home, using the United States military, is an incredible escalation of the government’s coercive power,” said Friend, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

A senior defense official, asked about such criticism, said Esper was simply using the terminology he’s accustomed to using as the leader of America’s military.

But the Pentagon’s role in the civil unrest could soon dramatically deepen if Trump decides to deploy active duty forces, something the U.S. military has been reluctant so far to do.

Trump on Monday threatened to send active duty U.S. troops to stamp out the civil unrest gripping several U.S. cities.

To deploy the U.S. military for law enforcement purposes, Trump would need to invoke the Insurrection Act here — something last done in 1992 in response to the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles.

To that end, the U.S. military has pre-positioned active duty forces, largely military police and engineers, on the outskirts of the Washington D.C.-area to potentially deploy, if needed.

The top Republican on the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee said discussions about the Insurrection Act could easily make U.S. troops “political pawns.”

“I am concerned that in the current environment, it would be all too easy to put our men and women in uniform in the middle of a domestic political and cultural crisis,” said Representative Mac Thornberry.

Slideshow (2 Images)

His Democratic counterpart and chair of the committee, Adam Smith, said he called on Esper and Milley to testify.

“I remain gravely concerned about President Trump’s seemingly autocratic rule and how it affects the judgment of our military leadership,” he said.

“The fate of our democracy depends on how we navigate this time of crisis.”

Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool

Source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/topNews/~3/1eafPhQmi9c/perils-for-pentagon-as-trump-threatens-to-militarize-response-to-civil-unrest-idUSKBN239324

Blockchain

India to have a ‘window’ for Bitcoin, says minister amid crypto ban FUD

The Ministry of Finance of India continues to form a careful position on private cryptocurrencies.

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The minister of finance of India, Nirmala Sitharaman, has given a ray of hope for the Indian cryptocurrency community as more fear, uncertainty and doubt circulate regarding a supposedly impending ban on digital assets. 

In a Saturday interview with India Today, Sitharaman emphasized that the ministry does not plan to shut off Indian innovations associated with Bitcoin (BTC) and its underlying blockchain technology.

“From our side, we are very clear that we are not shutting all options off. We will allow certain windows for people use, so that experiments on the blockchain, Bitcoins or cryptocurrency […] and fintech, which depend on such experiments, will have that window available for them. We are not going to shut it off,” she said.

Sitharaman said that the ministry is finalizing a cabinet note on crypto as India continues formulating its official stance on the asset class. “It is nearing completion, and then it will be taken to the cabinet. The Supreme Court had commented on cryptocurrency. We are very clear that the Reserve Bank of India will take a call on an official cryptocurrency,” she said.

After India’s supreme court lifted a crypto banking ban one year ago, reports of a new ban started circulating in early 2021. In February, another anonymous Indian official claimed that the government was about to introduce a complete ban on crypto, giving investors up to six months to liquidate their holdings.

On Sunday, Reuters published a report citing an anonymous senior government official who claimed that India is preparing to enforce a blanket ban on crypto and impose major penalties on rule-breakers. As part of an alleged bill, India is planning to criminalize “possession, issuance, mining, trading and transferring crypto-assets,” the source claimed.

Despite reports of a ban from anonymous sources continuing to surface, Sitharaman said in early March that the ministry wants to form a “calibrated” stance on digital assets. 

Nischal Shetty, founder of local crypto exchange WazirX, seemed optimistic about Sitharaman’s comments in a tweet, stating that it is time for the Indian crypto community to build. 

The RBI and the Ministry of Finance did not immediately respond to Cointelegraph’s request for comment.

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Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/india-to-have-a-window-for-bitcoin-says-minister-amid-crypto-ban-fud

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Reuters

Fintech banker McLaughlin hunts bigger deal after upsized SPAC IPO

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – The blank check firm co-founded by one of the most prominent U.S. financial technology investment bankers will broaden its search for merger partners to companies worth up to $10 billion after pricing a larger initial public offering (IPO).

Steve McLaughlin started FT Partners in 2001 and since then, the fintech-focused investment bank has worked on mergers and acquisitions and public and private fundraising for the likes of BlackRock Inc, StoneCo Ltd and GreenSky Inc.

An alumnus of Goldman Sachs, McLaughlin and FT Partners have also been involved in advising a half-dozen firms in mergers with so-called special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), most recently mobile bank MoneyLion’s $2.9 billion combination with Fusion Acquisition Corp.

Alongside Gene Yoon, founder of technology-focused investment firm Bregal Sagemount, McLaughlin is now sponsoring his own SPAC. Independence Holdings Corp. priced a $435 million IPO on Monday, having increased the number of units sold due to investor demand.

SPACs are shell companies that raise funds from investors to take a private company public.

Pulling in extra cash and fully exercising the greenshoe, a share allotment potentially sold in the days after an IPO prices, McLaughlin told Reuters on Tuesday, will allow Independence to target larger fintech companies, beyond the $5 billion maximum size previously considered.

He added a deal involving a company that processes payments between businesses, or one providing financial management services, would be likely for Independence.

“We provide an incredibly attractive option for a company as we’ve successfully taken many companies through this complex process, so we can give comfort to founders and investors along the way,” McLaughlin said.

Despite heightened investor interest in cryptocurrencies, McLaughlin said Independence wouldn’t be investing in a firm in that industry because most businesses are still too early in their development.

He added it was highly unlikely that Independence would end up merging with a client of his investment bank.

Source: Reuters – Fintech banker McLaughlin hunts bigger deal after upsized SPAC IPO

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Reuters

Former Disney executives Mayer and Staggs plan new SPAC – source

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(Reuters) – Former Walt Disney Co executives Kevin Mayer and Thomas Staggs plan to raise $300 million in an initial public offering for a new special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The duo’s first SPAC, Forest Road Acquisition Corp, agreed a three-way merger last week with fitness companies Beachbody LLC and Myx Fitness LLC that was valued at around $2.9 billion.

Former basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, who is also on the board of directors at pizza chain Papa John’s International Inc, and Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, are working for Forest Road II as a strategic advisor and a director, respectively, the source said.

Mayer and Staggs will serve as co-chief executives and co-chairmen of the new SPAC, the source said. They had worked with the first Forest Road SPAC as a strategic advisor and director, respectively.

The source requested anonymity ahead of a regulatory disclosure on the SPAC IPO.

Mayer was Disney’s top streaming executive before he left the media giant last year to become the chief executive of popular video app TikTok. He departed the company three months after joining. Staggs worked at Disney for 26 years and held various roles including chief operating officer.

SPACs are shell companies that raise funds to take a private company public. They have gained immense popularity since last year, as they allow companies to go public by eschewing traditional IPOs.

A string of high-profile SPACs have been raised in the last 12 months, including by financial investors William Ackman and Barry Sternlicht, former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and ex-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Source: Reuters – Former Disney executives Mayer and Staggs plan new SPAC-source

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Reuters

Global firms raise $546 billion in January as SPAC frenzy continues

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(Reuters) – Companies raised $546 billion from new bond and share issues in January, as a flood of central bank money-printing and recovering stock markets brought record numbers of new listings, SPAC deals and share sales, Refinitiv data showed on Wednesday.

The numbers included $106.15 billion in initial public offerings (IPOs), SPACs and secondary offerings, with the amount of money raised by SPACs alone soaring 20 times to $24.26 billion from a year earlier, the data showed.

Companies also raised nearly $439.9 billion in corporate debt in January, a 5% fall since the same period last year, but still the second largest January in 25 years.

A SPAC, a shell company that raises money in an IPO before later merging with a privately held company to take the latter public, has become many investors structure of choice over the past year.

January’s haul was already 30% of a total $79 billion raised by SPACs in the whole of 2020.

Traditional IPO volumes in the United States, however, remained higher than SPACs in January, hitting a 25-year high of $33.9 billion.

Some 47% new bond and share issues were U.S. offerings in January this year, with China second with $23.96 billion.

Nasdaq was the clear winner among exchanges, with 167 issues raising $41.12 billion, followed by the New York Stock Exchange and the Hong Kong Exchange a close third, with both raking in a little more than $18 billion respectively.

That was in stark contrast to European financial hubs London and Frankfurt, which raised $4.29 billion and $1.72 billion respectively.

Chinese online video company Kuaishou Technology is the biggest IPO globally so far this year, raising $5.42 billion in Hong Kong, followed by Polish parcel locker business InPost SA which raised $3.40 billion in Amsterdam.

Source: Reuters – Global firms raise $546 billion in January as SPAC frenzy continues

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