Was the Trump Summit with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un a Success?

Mark Berookim did not write this blog post and the content within this article does not express his views on the topic.

As a matter of opinion, private citizens and news commentators have different opinions on how well the summit in Singapore went between the USA and North Korea’s leaders. In the first summit between the two countries which took place last week on June 12, 2018, allegedly some concessions were made by both sides of the aisle. First, the USA agreed to halt its joint military exercises with South Korea calling them “provocative” but reserving the right to reinstate them at any time, based upon the future actions of North Korea. Many commentators disliked this concession- calling it foolish and playing straight into the hands of the North Koreans. In exchange, Trump has gotten the North Korean leader to agree to return up to 200 sets of the remains of USA war veterans from the Korean War which is set to be planned in the upcoming days. He also claims that part of this deal included the release of three American hostages, which preceded the Summit.

As a diplomatic measure, it seems to have appeased the North Korean dictator in some sense. According to President Trump, Kim Jong Un also agreed to destroy another nuclear facility at the conclusion of their meeting as a bonus. The documents signed by both leaders indicate that North Korea is to begin denuclearization but there is no clear timeline or timetable set out.

Critics believe nothing significant was accomplished at the Singapore Summit, while others give a more favorable opinion in recent polling. Some believe the North Korean nuclear threat has been eliminated, some people that this is a step in the right direction, while others claim the USA gave up too much and received nothing in return. According to a new CNN poll, more than half, approximately 52% of Americans are satisfied with the outcome of the Summit– and the historic meeting that took place.

Trump Pardons Non-Violent Offender Alice Johnson

Mark Berookim did not write this blog post and the content within this article does not express his views on the topic.

Yesterday, after being lobbied by celebrity Kim Kardashian West, President Donald Trump commuted the sentence for Alice Johnson who was supposed to serve life in prison for a non-violent drug trafficking charges. The 63-year-old woman was released happily after serving approximately 20 years of her sentence in prison. She appeared grateful to both Kim Kardashian for her lobbying efforts, and to President Trump for granting the pardon (which was something that was reviewed and denied under the Obama administration). Commentators are speculating as to whether there is a process being followed by the President and his team and whether he is exclusively granting pardons that are celebrity pushed or related. Just recently, the president pardoned Martha Stewart as well.

The pardoning power of the President is pretty broad under the Constitution. Some commentators and news broadcasters keep weighing in as to whether Donald Trump would potentially pardon himself if wrongdoing is found in the Russia investigation into his campaign.

British Royal Wedding

Mark Berookim did not write this blog post and the content within this article does not express his views on the topic.

The British Royal wedding of American actress Meghan Markle and Prince Harry was held this past Saturday on May 19, 2018, in the UK. They were wed at a smaller church, St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The Queen of England attended the wedding this past weekend. There was much speculation as to whether she was pleased and approved of the wedding although most media coverage indicates the Queen gave her blessing and approval. The Queen’s husband, Prince Phillip, was also in attendance. Much commentary was made on the bride Meghan’s past as a divorcee and the fact that the Queen did not attend the re-marriage and wedding of her son Prince Charles to Camilla Parker Bowles. Meghan breaks typical British royal tradition on several grounds but her devotion and love for Prince Harry is apparent. For example, other royals like Prince William do not show affection in public or hold hands which is something Prince Harry and Meghan are often seen doing. Click here to explore photographs and more about the royal family’s special day.

Iran’s Nuclear Program

Mark Berookim did not write this blog post and the content within this article does not express his views on the topic.

The recent presentation by Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu regarding the Iran Nuclearization program has caused many people on both sides of the issue to present their opinions and views regarding Iran’s honesty regarding its plans to nuclearize. In an operation by Mossad, thousands of pages of Iranian nuclear ideas, sketches, drawings, documents and CD-ROMs which were locked in safes in a warehouse in Iran were stolen and captured by the Israeli government.

Many people are saying that nothing new was revealed by the Prime Minister’s speech regarding Iran’s plans and that everyone knew all along that Iran was up to proliferating its nuclear program. This is something Iran’s government flatly denies and claims does not match with their religious or moral beliefs.

The revelation by Bibi comes in timing with President Trump’s deadline is May 12th to decide if he wants to pull out of the deal and re-negotiate a new one and continue waiving sanctions on Iran. Iran’s government representative indicated they are prepared to go back to the previous status quo and will not negotiate a new deal. The whole world is waiting to see what will happen.

Toronto Attack Killed 10 Pedestrians and Injured Many More

Mark Berookim did not write this blog post and the content within this article does not express his views on the topic.

An attack in Toronto, Canada occurred on Monday by a 25-year-old by the name of Alek Minassian. He was charged with 13 counts of attempted murder on Tuesday. 10 people were killed and 14 people were injured when the attacker drove into pedestrians intentionally and systematically, allegedly targeting women. For now, authorities are claiming it is not a terrorist attack. The reasons for this crime are not yet known as well as Minassian’s motives.

Authorities are investigating his social media posts to understand why he did this. The police officer who also was able to detain and handcuff Minassian showed much restraint when he did not fire a single shot although Minassian repeatedly taunted the officer by appearing to draw a weapon. It was later learned that the item was not a weapon although at the time of the confrontation with the officer, Minassian claimed he was holding a gun in his hands.

Other observers to the incident (including two vehicles) tried to block off Minassian’s access to the pedestrians, but he was able to circumvent them– showing this to be a tragic yet intentional act of murder on his part.

Impact of Potential Steel Tariffs

Mark Berookim did not write this blog post and the content within this article does not express his views on the topic.

From car plants to bourbon distilleries and farmers to factory workers, the steel tariff announced by President Donald Trump may affect people across many different industries and in various locations throughout the country. States that voted for Trump may be among those that feel the effects most acutely.

Trump’s proposed tariffs are 10 percent on aluminum and 25 percent on imported steel. While he says the tariffs will be good for domestic steel and aluminum production, other industries say the higher prices that are likely to result will harm the economy or might otherwise start a trade war. An analysis by Goldman Sachs concurs, finding that both General Motors and Ford might lose $1 billion annually if steel prices increase. According to the American International Automobile Dealers Association, car prices might go up. Furthermore, other countries, including China and the countries in the European Union, might retaliate with tariffs of their own, resulting in an increase in the price of many goods throughout the country.

Imported aluminum and steel is used to make an enormous variety of products besides cars and planes including medical equipment and kitchen appliances. While the tariffs may benefit steel and aluminum industries and increase foreign investment, that may be offset by the higher costs faced by manufacturers. Consumers in other countries may tend to buy cars that are not from the United States since costs will be lower. Nearly one-third of the jobs in South Carolina, a state that supported Trump, are in the manufacturing and trade industries. Foreign companies may be more inclined to invest if they still wish to sell in the United States but exporting is too costly. This would be to South Carolina’s benefit.

However, retaliation could wipe out any of those benefits. In South Carolina, Boeing employs more than 7,000 workers, and it gets more than 50 percent of its revenue from other countries. China and Canada, two of the top foreign markets for Boeing, have already pledged retaliation. Governments and companies might also turn to European manufacturers. Furthermore, there are four seaports in South Carolina, around 187,000 jobs dependent on trading and 9,000 workers at the world’s largest BMW plant are dependent on the company’s ability to export cars.

Bank Deregulation Under S. 2155

Mark Berookim did not write this blog post and the content within this article does not express his views on the topic.

In 2010, President Barack Obama signed into effect the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The purpose of Dodd-Frank was to offer protection to American families from predatory lending practices at banks. Now, a new bill, S. 2155, threatens to roll back those protections and hand banks a big gift in the form of deregulation. The bill’s opponents have begun referring to it as “The Bank Lobbyist Act” in reference to the fact that it is lobbyists and not constituents who are responsible for pushing the bill forward.

The global financial crisis of a decade ago began with the collapse of Bear Stearns, an enormous investment bank in March 2008. Debts from bad mortgages brought the bank down and led to a $29 billion government bailout. Countrywide was one of the many banks that received some of this bailout money.

Dodd-Frank required banks to make sure that people had the means to pay back loans before giving them home mortgages. Under the terms of the new bill, banks that have up to $10 billion in assets will be permitted to give borrowers predatory mortgage loans similar to the ones that ultimately harmed both homeowners and financial institutions prior to the passage of Dodd-Frank. Under the new law, more than 97 percent of banks will be exempt from verifying assets, debts and income of potential borrowers. Homeowners would only be required to demonstrate the ability to pay an initial rate instead of one that is fully amortized. Homeowners who cannot keep up with the long-term payments risk foreclosure and financial institutions will be at risk once again as borrowers default on their loans.

Under the new bill, the threshold above which banks will face additional supervision from the Federal Reserve will increase to $250 billion from $50 billion. This essentially has the effect of deregulating around two-thirds of the country’s 38 largest banks. In 2008, before bailout funding became available, the FDIC deposit insurance fund spent around $9 billion bailing out IndyMac. The passage of S. 2155 means that customer deposits, backed by the FDIC, will be placed at risk once more.

Passage of the bill will require 60 votes. This means that it needs to be a bipartisan effort, but already, 11 Democrats have agreed to co-sponsor it.

Real Estate Housing Market

Mark Berookim did not write this blog post and the content within this article does not express his views on the topic.

After the recent U.S. government shutdown, individuals looking to buy or sell a home are wondering what will happen to the real estate market if a budget agreement cannot be reached before the current continuing resolution expires on February 9th, forcing the government to shut down yet again.

A government shutdown will not prevent banks and private mortgage lenders from conducting business. Even Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which are government-sponsored, would not be affected. The process of getting approved for a mortgage, however, may be delayed. This is because lenders rely on tax and other information from the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration, which would have to furlough large numbers of employees for the duration of the shutdown. Borrowers applying for mortgages through the Federal Housing Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs would also see significant delays. The activities of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees housing for low-income individuals and enforces the Fair Housing Act, would also come to a halt.

While a government shutdown may be an inconvenience to borrowers and sellers, the National Association of Realtors and economists with Redfin do not believe that a relatively short government shutdown will have any long-term impact on the housing market. They point to the fact that even though sales numbers declined modestly during the 2013 government shutdown, they did start to rebound quickly once the government reopened.

We will have to wait to see the extent of the influence the government shutdown will have in the long run on the real estate housing market.