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Putin may offer a cease-fire after taking all of Donbas, says analyst

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With the Luhansk region under Russian control, President Vladimir Putin may now focus on seizing all of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine before offering a cease-fire, a defense policy analyst told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Tuesday.

“Putin [may] offer the potential for a cease-fire if only to give him[self] an opportunity to fortify the gains that he’s managed to achieve so far,” said Victor Abramowicz, principal of Ostoya Consulting, which advises firms in the defense industry.

Putin on Monday congratulated his troops for “liberating” the Luhansk province after several weeks of bloody fighting that took a toll on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides. A huge proportion of the area’s infrastructure, including residential buildings, has been razed to the ground. Numerous deaths have been reported.

Ukrainian servicemen riding a tank toward the Siversk front line in Donetsk on July 4, 2022. Russian forces are now focused on capturing the Donetsk region of the Donbas, with the province coming under heavy shelling on Sunday, according to local officials.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian forces are now focused on capturing the neighboring Donetsk region of the Donbas, with the province coming under heavy shelling on Sunday, according to local officials.

Tough choice for Zelenskyy

Though the campaign has not gone Moscow’s way, Abramowicz said, Russia seems “almost certainly” able to achieve its more limited objectives in the Donbas. If Putin subsequently offers a cease-fire, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would be in a tough spot, Abramowicz said.

“There is no particular reason to believe that … acceptance of a Russian cease-fire will actually lead to an enduring peace,” he said, adding that this would give Russia the potential to fortify its troops and attack again in the future.

On the other hand, if Zelenskyy doesn’t accept a cease-fire, he raises “the risk of losing, potentially, in due course, some of the Western support he relies on,” Abramowicz said, adding that the choice may be forced upon him by Western leaders.

And whether Zelenskyy would accept such a cease-fire depends on how much military and financial support he feels he can receive from the West, he added.

Future of Western support

He said there would be continued Western support for Ukraine for at least another six months to a year.

The November midterm elections in the United States, which is by far the largest contributor of military and financial aid to Ukraine, would have a bearing on American support for Ukraine, Abramowicz said.

“You have to keep in mind that there is a great deal of war fatigue in America but Americans [also] have vast resources they can commit for decades,” he said, adding France, the U.K. and Germany all have differing calculations on the length of time they’re willing to support Ukraine.



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Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather crypto scam lawsuit dismissed

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A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a proposed class action lawsuit by investors against the founders of the cryptocurrency EthereumMax, as well as celebrity endorsers including Kim Kardashian and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. over their promotion of the cryptocurrency on social media.

Investors who bought EMAX tokens alleged they had suffered losses after taking the word of the celebrity influencers about the value of the crypto. The suit claims the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to artificially inflate the value of the EMAX tokens.

Judge Michael Fitzgerald wrote that he recognized that the lawsuit’s claims raised legitimate worries about “celebrities’ ability to readily persuade millions of undiscerning followers to buy snake oil with unprecedented ease and reach.”

“But, while the law certainly places limits on those advertisers, it also expects investors to act reasonably before basing their bets on the zeitgeist of the moment,” wrote Fitzgerald, of the Central District of California.

The judge found that the plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficiently backed, especially “given the heightened pleading standards” for fraud claims, according to his ruling in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

In addition to Kardashian, Mayweather and former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce, the defendants in the case included Steve Gentile and Giovanni Perone, the co-founders of EthereumMax, and Justin French, a consultant and developer for the cryptocurrency, court documents state.

Fitzgerald in his ruling said he would allow lawyers for the plaintiffs to refile their suit after amending some of their claims under a number of the statutes cited in the original complaint, which included the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO.

“We’re pleased with the court’s well-reasoned decision on the case,” Michael Rhodes, a lawyer for Kardashian, told CNBC.

The dismissal came weeks after investors in fallen crypto exchange FTX filed a class-action lawsuit against former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and celebrity advertisers for the company, among them NFL superstar Tom Brady, for allegedly overstating the value of the crypto tokens in promotional messaging.

And the ruling came two months after Kardashian agreed to pay $1.26 million, and not to promote cryptocurrency for three years, to settle claims by the SEC for her failure to disclose a $250,000 payment touting EthereumMax on her Instagram account.

Fitzgerald in his ruling Wednesday said the EthereumMax lawsuit reflects a broader conflict surrounding celebrity and influencer promotional schemes.

“This action demonstrates that just about anyone with the technical skills and/or connections can mint a new currency and create their own digital market overnight,” Fitzgerald wrote in his dismissal.

Investors sued EthereumMax and its celebrity advertisers in January after a slew of influencers started snagging sponsorships to promote cryptocurrencies to their millions of social media followers.

Kardashian’s Instagram post in June 2021 had written, “Are you guys into crypto??? This is not financial advice but sharing what my friends told me about the Ethereum Max token.”

Her post included “#ad” at the bottom, indicating she had been sponsored. But it did not disclose her $250,000 payment from EthereumMax.

Mayweather promoted EMAX at a boxing match and a large Miami bitcoin conference in June 2021.

But by January, the cryptocurrency had lost 97% of its value.

Fitzgerald at a hearing last month indicated he was inclined to dismiss the case.

Bloomberg News, in an article about that hearing, said that an attorney for the plaintiffs in the suit asked the judge to allow him to revise the suit’s racketeering claims to show how the statements by the celebrity defendants harmed the investors.

“If plaintiffs had known the true facts related to the promoters’ financial interest in the tokens, and that they were being paid to shill these tokens, they wouldn’t have paid as much for the tokens as they did,” the attorney, John Jasnoch, told Fitzgerald, according to a transcript cited by Bloomberg.



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Cathie Wood says the Fed is making a serious mistake as bond market flashes worst signal since 1980s

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How the U.S. became a global corn superpower

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The United States has just about 90 million planted acres of corn, and there’s a reason people refer to the crop as yellow gold.

In 2021, U.S. corn was worth over $86 billion, according to calculations from FarmDoc and the United States Department of Agriculture.

According to the USDA, the U.S. is largest consumer, producer and exporter of corn in the world.

“We’re really good at [corn production],” Seth Meyer, chief economist at the USDA, told CNBC. “And that’s why you see big acres, big demand, export competitiveness.”

It’s not just what we eat.

“We turbocharged the value of corn through the application of science,” Scott Irwin, agricultural economist and professor at the University of Illinois, told CNBC.

Corn is in what we buy, including medications and textiles, and corn is turned into ethanol, which helps to fuel cars across the nation.

The rest of the world relies on U.S. corn, too. 

At $2.2 billion in 2019, corn is the most heavily subsidized of all crops in the country.

“A lot of these subsidies … do get embedded into the cost of farmland and they essentially bid up the price of farmland marginally,” Joseph Glauber, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and former USDA chief economist, told CNBC. “So the benefits accrue largely to those who own land.”

The federal crop insurance program’s net spending is forecast to increase to nearly $40 billion from 2021 through 2025, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

At the same time, farmland values have reached all-time record highs.

“Do we get the corn acres because we’ve got the support, or do we have the support because we have the corn acres?” Meyer said, posing the chicken-and-egg question about the nation’s grain superpower.

Watch the video above to learn more about how corn fuels the U.S. economy from its people to its vehicles, the power of the corn belt states, the role of subsidies and where government policy for the industry may go from here.



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