Michael Cohen taped Trump discussing payment to a Playboy model, report says

President Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen recorded a conversation in which he and Trump discussed payments to a former Playboy model who claimed to have had an affair with Trump,The New York Times reported Friday.

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Michael Cohen, an ex-attorney for President Donald Trump, exits the Federal Court House at 500 Pearl Street in Manhattan on April 26, 2018.
SUSAN WATTS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS/TNS

The Times said that the FBI.seized the tape – which had been secretly recorded by Cohen two months before the 2016 presidential election – during an April raid on Cohen’s office.

Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani confirmed in an interview with the paper that Trump discussed the payments with Cohen on the tape, but he said no payment was ever made and Trump did not engage in any wrongdoing.

“Nothing in that conversation suggests he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Giuliani said.

The revelation, however, casts a fresh spotlight on efforts before the presidential campaign to put the lid on damaging disclosures about Trump. Prosecutors have been investigating whether Cohen’s actions, including a payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, violated campaign-finance laws.

Daniels, who said she had sex with Trump in 2006, received $130,000 from Cohen days before the election in exchange for her silence.

The taped conversation now in the FBI’s possession involves Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump that began in 2006. McDougal received a $150,000 payment in August 2016 from the parent company of the National Enquirer. But the tabloid did not publish the story, keeping it out of public view.

Trump has denied the affairs.

Alisson joins list of Liverpool’s most expensive signings

Alisson’s arrival means seven of the top 10 have also arrived during Jurgen Klopp’s reign at Liverpool.

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Alisson played in all of Brazil’s matches at the World Cup in Russia

Liverpool’s £65million capture of Alisson makes him Liverpool’s second most expensive signing, pushing Adam Lallana out of the club’s top 10 splashes.

This comes in the same summer Fabinho arrived for £39.3million and Naby Keita’s near £53million move was finally made official.

The trio’s arrivals see them shoot towards the upper echelons of the club’s biggest ever signings, easily entering the all-time top 10.

Indeed, both Alisson and Van Dijk are now the most expensive players in their respective positions.

What should be noted, perhaps, is how the top six have all arrived at Anfield over the past 12 months – hinting at a real shift in intent from owners FSG.

Alisson’s arrival means seven of the top 10 have also arrived during Jurgen Klopp’s reign.

Here are the club’s most expensive signings.

Virgil Van Dijk (Southampton, £75million)

Liverpool’s record signing was finally confirmed on December 27, 2017, with Liverpool agreeing to pay Southampton £75million for the Dutch defender.

The deal put an end to a transfer saga that had raged on for months with Southampton refusing to budge during the 2017 summer window.

Since arriving at Anfield, Van Dijk has been a complete success. He has been integral in helping Liverpool shore up a previously suspect defence. A great physique, calm demeanour and great ability to play it out from the back ensure that Van Dijk is a perfect modern day centre-half and has been one of the high points of Jurgen Klopp’s career at Liverpool so far.

Alisson after signing for Liverpool
Alisson after signing for Liverpool (Image: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC

Alisson (Roma, £65million)

A true transfer saga unfolded but ended with Liverpool possessing the world’s most expensive goalkeeper to join the costliest defender in football.

Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards moved decisively to secure Alisson’s services after Roma’s asking price dropped and the 25-year-old made it clear that his heart was set on signing for the club.

The Reds had initially walked away after being quoted £90million by Roma sporting director Monchi in May and then £75million in June.

However, Roma significantly reduced those demands and as Chelsea sat waiting for Thibaut Courtois to be sold to Real Madrid, Liverpool acted swiftly to beat the Londoners to Allison’s signature.

The Brazilian no.1 has caught the eye during his time in Italy, despite shipping seven goals against the Reds in the Champions League semi-final last season.

(Image: Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Naby Keita (RB Leipzig, £52.75million)

At £52.75million, the second most expensive player to walk through the doors at Anfield will certainly have a lot of pressure on his shoulders.

Based on his displays for RB Leipzig over the past two years, Liverpool fans have nothing to worry about. Keita has boundless excesses of energy, pace to burn allows him to cover right across the middle of midfield and he possesses a genuine talent on the ball that holding midfielders often lack.

Often likened to Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante, if Keita can achieve even a fraction of what Kante has in the Premier League then the Reds will have found themselves one of the top midfield talents in world football. Expect him to deliver and then some.

(Image: Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Fabinho (Monaco, £39.3million)

Another big splash into the central midfield department, Fabinho may well partner Naby Keita in the Liverpool engine room this season.

Similarly energetic and strong in the tackle, Liverpool look to be building a side that is equipped to take on any style of play and make an assault on the Premier League crown.

At 24 years old, Fabinho will soon be hitting his prime years and, with international caps for Brazil and a host of Champions League appearances under his belt for Monaco, won’t be concerned by the prospect of signing for such a big club.

(Image: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Mohamed Salah (Roma, £36.9million)

An argument for THE success story of this list, Mohamed Salah comes in as Liverpool’s fourth most expensive signing. The fee could rise in the future and move him up this list but the current £36.9million outlay spent last summer to bring the Egyptian to Anfield now seems like an absolute snip.

Forty four goals in all competitions for the Reds last season, a Premier League Player of the Year award and coming runner-up in the Egyptian election all mean that Salah has had a year to remember.

A heartbreaking early exit from the Champions League final due to injury only endeared him to the fans more, and he’ll be ready to bounce back following a disappointing summer with his country at the World Cup.

(Image: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal, £35million)

The £35million spent to bring Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal to Liverpool last summer was viewed as a big risk in certain sections of the media and amongst many Liverpool fans.

Proving the doubters wrong, the midfielder has proved great value for money, putting in stand-out performances such as the one against Manchester City in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

A terribly cruel injury ruled him out of the final in Kiev, and subsequently the entirety of next season, in all likelihood.

(Image: Action Images / Paul Thomas)

Andy Carroll (Newcastle, £35million)

The first on this list that Liverpool fans would rather forget is joint-fifth. Andy Carroll.

Signed for £35million and unveiled alongside Luis Suarez, who cost £22.8million, it isn’t hard for Reds to decide which was the success story. Carroll’s short stay on Merseyside was dogged with injury and poor form. He only managed 11 goals in 58 appearances for Liverpool and was eventually loaned out to West Ham where he remains permanently.

Two of those 11 goals did, however, come against Everton.

Christian Benteke (Aston Villa, £32.5million)

The second disappointment on this list, it is dumbfounding to know that £32.5million Christian Benteke was more expensive than names such as Luis Suarez, Fernando Torres and Sadio Mane.

Signed in July 2015 as the man to fill the void left by Suarez, Christian Benteke came to the club with the reputation of a striker who could score goals and bully defences into submission.

What Liverpool received was 10 goals in 42 games for the club before departing for Crystal Palace. A wonder strike at Old Trafford aside, Benteke’s Anfield career was very much a non-event.

Sadio Mane (Southampton, £30million)

Another big spend that now looks to be an absolute bargain, Sadio Mane cost Liverpool £30million when arriving from Southampton in the summer of 2016. Scoring 33 goals in 73 games so far, Mane has been a huge success and is a key part of Liverpool’s three-pronged attack that also features Salah and Roberto Firmino.

Full of pace, tenacity and skill, Mane also has the knack of scoring in big games. He and Liverpool fans alike will be expecting another strong campaign this season as Liverpool look to challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title.

Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim, £29million)

Roberto Firmino arrived from Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim in July 2015 for £29million after an impressive four-and-a-half-year spell in Germany.

‘Bobby’s’ first two seasons at Anfield saw him play very well, working incredibly hard for his teammates and providing an effective foil for the other attacking players in the side.

Last season saw Firmino reach a new level. A career best 27 goals has seen him silence the critics that claimed he can’t deliver the goals to be the central striker at a top club. In doing this, he has also managed to maintain his workrate and team ethic.

Land: The people speak – We are all Africans, Rustenburg residents say

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South Africa’s controversial Expropriation Bill, which will enable the state to make compulsory purchases of land to redress racial disparities in land distribution

Members of the Rustenburg community and those in surrounding areas have had their turn to share their views on the highly-emotive land issue, and most of them support an amendment to the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation.

Only a handful were against the move.

Stories about life in the villages, on the farms and under traditional leaders in the platinum-rich province formed the basis of the opinions shared by residents, who spoke for three minutes each.

“Who will protect you next time?” Cheryl Phillips asked in a packed Rustenburg Civic Centre.

She said currently, black people were saying that land should be expropriated from white people but wondered what would happen in the future.

Phillips, who was one of the few people against the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution, said there was nothing wrong with the Constitution. Instead, the ANC government had failed the people, she said.

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Illegal land grab on the increase in South Africa

She also argued that, as a white person, she deserved to be called an African.

LAND OVERVIEW: Section 25, to amend or not – the people continue to speak

“We want ownership of land. We don’t want to be tenants on anybody’s land… How far back do you want to go to draw the line? We can go as far back as the cradle of humankind which showed that we are all Africans,” she told the hall.

Although the Rustenburg sitting was less heated than the one in Mahikeng the previous day, some members of the public booed and made their voices heard when views they did not agree with were expressed.

Nkateko Mabunda, who agreed with Phillips, said expropriating land without compensation was “not empowerment but enslavement”.

Mabunda said her parents already had land and she would never accept it being expropriated from them.

“Le palelwa ke King Zwelithini ko KwaZulu-Natal (You are struggling to deal with King Goodwill Zwelithini in KwaZulu Natal),” Mabunda said to the ANC and EFF members in the house.

Her comment comes after the ANC and the government took swift action to allay the fears of both King Zwelithini and several traditional leaders over tribal land that might be expropriated.

Their view was also reiterated by Simon Aphane, who said he and his family had benefited from Section 25.

“It is just the ANC that is lazy. Even its former president was called a constitutional delinquent, which shows that they didn’t know what they were talking about,” Aphane said to the room.

Aphane mentioned chair of the National Council of Provinces Thandi Modise’s farm where animals were neglected.

“Thandi Modise inherited the people’s land, a farm and pigs, which died. She would just give land to her people,” he claimed.

Resident Deon Geldenhuys insisted that the land debate was merely a legal issue and was racist.

“Racism in the Constitution is outlawed. Taking land from white people is racist, it’s illegal,” said Geldenhuys.

He asked the hall if people were truly comfortable with the idea of changing Section 25, adding that people would have land but not really own it.

However, people like Rabosweni Malele who agreed with land expropriation without compensation expressed some concern over how this would be achieved.

ALSO READ: Smith gives CRC an 8 out of 10 for public hearings

“I want to agree with expropriation without compensation but because of this province’s corruption, I have a problem,” Malele told members of the public.

“If they can take people who are not traditional leaders and make them traditional leaders [so they benefit], that opens a gap for corruption in the process,” he said.

Malele said he wanted the government to establish ways to ensure the process was not corrupted in order to make sure land was returned to its rightful owners.

Read more on:    land expropriation  |  land

Still enough time to negotiate a Brexit deal with Brussels before Britain leaves the EU in March 2019; Prime Minister Theresa May

Boris Johnson accuses PM May of ‘dithering’ on Brexit in resignation speech. Johnson is known to have designs on leading the party, but it’s unclear how far his allies will go to see this happen.

Boris Johnson leaves his residence near Buckingham Palace in London en route to making his first speech after resigning from government last week. He said the government has ceded too much control to the EU in its Brexit plan. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson, in his first public comments since resigning last week as Britain’s foreign secretary, urged his party in the House of Commons on Wednesday to not abandon a hard Brexit approach while there’s still time.

“We have changed tack once, and we can change again,” said Johnson.

“We must try now, because we will not get another chance to get it right.”

Johnson said he was fully supportive of Prime Minister Theresa May in January 2017 when she laid out in an ambitious speech a desire to strike the right deal for Britain with the European Union after a majority of the public supported the break in a referendum months earlier.

But, Johnson said, “in the 18 months that have followed, it is though a fog of self-doubt has descended” on the government.

He referred to a “miserable permanent limbo of Chequers,” a reference to the country residence of the prime minister, where she emerged earlier this month with a plan to go forward that sought to strike a balance of the desires from both the pro-Brexit and pro-EU wings of her party.

Within three days of that party retreat, Johnson and the minister responsible for Brexit negotiations with the EU, David Davis, resigned from their cabinet posts. It brought the total of resignations from the May government in the last seven months, for various reasons, to seven.

May said Wednesday that talks had already started with Brussels based on the proposal set down in a white paper policy document earlier this month.

“The Chequers agreement, the white paper are the basis for our negotiation with the European Union and we have already started those negotiations,” she told Parliament.

May said her government has begun negotiations with the European Union based on her hard-won Brexit plan and that there was still enough time to negotiate a Brexit deal with Brussels before Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.

In Johnson’s view, the government has ceded too much authority to Brussels, pointing specifically to a €40 billion ($61.6 billion Cdn) exit bill Britain agreed to with the EU.

“We dithered and burned through our negotiating capital,” he said.

Asked by the head of a parliamentary committee whether she would warn the public about the consequences of a “no deal” Brexit, May answered: “You have based your question on an assumption that said we were getting closer to a no deal scenario. I don’t believe that is the case. We have put forward a proposal for what the future relationship should be … and we are in negotiations on the basis of that.”

Could China turn a trade war into a currency war?

As Donald Trump continues to escalate his slap-happy approach to tariffs on Chinese goods, China is running out of US goods on which to to levy duties in retaliation. But if China wants to keep going tit-for-tat, it has other options.china

Unlike the US government, the People’s Bank of China—China’s government-run central bank—directly manages the value of its currency. The Chinese government let the yuan weaken around 4% against the US dollar in the last month, among the sharpest one-month drops in value in its history. The yuan’s slide has sparked fears that China could “turn a trade war into a currency war,” as Brad Setser, economist at the Council on Foreign Relations, phrased it.

If antagonizing Trump is the goal, depreciation has double-whammy appeal. Since it makes China’s exports cheaper—and therefore more competitive against US manufacturers—allowing the yuan to weaken will soften the blow of Trump’s tariffs on the Chinese economy, all other things being equal, and possibly eliminate the impact altogether. Conversely, it will also make the American products China buys more expensive, reinforcing the effects of China’s tariffs on US-made goods.

But this strategy is not as easy to implement as it might seem.

“The hard part is weakening the currency by a bit without leading the market to expect a big depreciation,” writes CFR’s Setser. “It is, in my judgment, doable given the state of China’s balance of payments—but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be risky.”

The yuan isn’t freely traded in a global market the way many currencies are. As with any managed currency, one big problem the yuan’s custodians face is the possibility of inciting herd behavior that could dangerously destabilize China’s financial system.

Since Chinese exporters earn dollars (and other foreign exchange) when they sell their goods, their choice of what to do with that foreign cash depends in large part on what’s happening with the yuan. When a gradual drop in the yuan signals that it’s overvalued—that is, that market is demanding fewer yuan per dollarthan the current exchange rate reflects—the sensible thing for Chinese exporters to do is to keep their cash in dollars. As this momentum builds, it triggers capital outflows that can endanger the economy as a whole.

Capital flight is particularly devastating for countries that have borrowed heavily in foreign currencies and that lack the foreign-exchange reserves to defend their currencies’ value against speculators—as the 1997 Asian financial crisis demonstrated. China doesn’t have these worries; its foreign debt is under control, and it boasts a little more than $3.1 trillion in official reserves (with probably a good deal more squirreled away elsewhere in China’s state-dominated financial system).

But particularly when growth is looking shaky—as it is these days in China—capital outflow can still be perilously disruptive. And thanks to the larger scale of foreign investment flows into Chinese stocks and bonds, it’s more vulnerable than it was the last time capital flight was a worry, back in 2015.

One way to foil the herd dynamic is with a big, one-off revaluation that brings the currency in line with the market value. But even that’s not foolproof. Especially at a time of growing economic uncertainty, a sharp devaluation still risks signaling a loss in confidence in the economy, setting off a chain reaction of panic not just in China but, potentially, across global markets too.

It’s worth noting that the Chinese government doesn’t seem eager to let the yuan fall markedly. It has consistently favored preserving stability—buying and selling dollars to offset market moves, preventing the yuan from making big swings in either direction. A big, intentional devaluation would shatter the stable currency regime that the PBoC has worked hard to construct, noted Chen Long, economist at the research firm Gavekal, in a recent conference call. However, the PBoC only has so much control over the yuan’s value. If the market expects China to suffer more from the trade war than the US, depreciation pressures could build, said Chen.

In that event, the US could face a bigger threat than simply cheaper Chinese goods. A sharp drop in the yuan against the dollar could set off a chain reaction among other countries that export to the US. For instance, a Chinese depreciation would put pressure on other export-driven Asian countries to let their currencies weaken too, lest they lose market share to Chinese companies. Fortunately for the US, many of these countries have plenty of reserves with which to battle back those market forces. The question, though, is whether the US could persuade them to spend those.

“The impact on any such Chinese depreciation on the United States would be limited if the U.S. could convince its allies in Asia to take action to avoid following China’s currency down,” notes Setser. “But they aren’t likely to do that if they think the US brought on the Chinese devaluation through reckless trade action.”

Trump and Putin one-on-one summit – Helsinki

Seven months post-Mugabe error, President Mnangagwa’s government bureaucracy frustrates investors; despite the mantra ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’

A European investor’s phone rings in a Harare restaurant and it’s good news: an $80 million construction deal has been agreed with the Zimbabwean government. All that’s needed now is a central bank guarantee letter. It never arrives.

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Chamisa, Mnangagwa face-off at July 30 poll

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took power when Robert Mugabe was removed in a de facto coup last November, has been trying to woo investors ahead of an election on July 30, a contest in which he is the narrow favourite.

Mnangagwa, a 75-year-old former ally of Mugabe, says he has already secured $15 billion of foreign investment, including from foreign multinationals, although these are mostly non-binding commitments, according to analysts from local financial advisory firms who reviewed the agreements.

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South African President Cyril Ramphosa and Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa scarfing around

In May, General Electric said it would look at healthcare, power and transport in Zimbabwe, while Coca Cola said it planned to make the country an export hub for juice and other products, and a source of raw materials.

Most big companies however are waiting until after the election to make their move although already the atmosphere has changed since the fall of Mugabe, whose nearly four decades in power brought a promising economy to its knees.

Harare taxi drivers say they are hearing more foreign languages in their cabs, businessmen gather around laptops at restaurants, and the often sleepy international airport is buzzing with newcomers.

But, so far, most are leaving frustrated and empty-handed.

“It’s like the Wild West,” the European businessman said, paying his bill in crisp U.S. dollars to the delight of a waiter more used to the dreaded quasi-currency ‘bond notes’ introduced in November 2016.

After three days rushing between government ministries to get the deal done, the signed contract in his briefcase is useless since it lacks a guarantee from the central bank that he can access the dollars he needs to import equipment.

“Right, I better go deliver the bad news,” he said, rising to catch a taxi to the airport.

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After jumping in and out of the other cities in the world, the right place to be is HARARE!! All the most happening parties and fascinating city life is in .

Reuters spoke to more than 20 investors, ranging from multinationals to entrepreneurs, who are interested in entering Zimbabwe for the first time or in expanding their businesses there since Mnangagwa was sworn in.

All expressed optimism about new opportunities in sectors from mining to telecoms, and financial services to construction, after a decade when China was the only big outside investor.

“When these political changes happened, immediately there was positiveness returning to the economy,” said Adriaan de Lange, managing director at Omnia, a chemicals firm operating in Zimbabwe.

“The potential exists for Zimbabwe to really turn the needle.”

But investors also raised concerns about the election and infighting over facilitating investment between factions linked to Mnangagwa and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, the army general who led the coup against Mugabe.

The biggest obstacle is the chronic cash shortages that prevent businesses from importing the goods they need or repatriating the profits they hope to make, while portfolio investors can’t get their money out of the stock market.

After raging hyperinflation, Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2009 in favour of the U.S. dollar, but a widening trade deficit and lack of foreign investment have led to currency shortages.

For ordinary Zimbabweans this means winter nights sleeping outside banks in the hope of withdrawing the few dollars that are left, sometimes $20 in coins, often nothing.

The crunch wasn’t solved by the introduction of the “bond notes” which officially trade at parity with the U.S. dollar but have already depreciated to 1.60 to the dollar.

Banking sources say the central bank has a backlog of $600 million in unpaid imports but less than $200 million cash, and the situation is getting worse.

Hundreds of firms are waiting for the central bank to release their money, banking sources said.

London-listed Fastjet, the low-cost Africa airline backed by easyJet’s Stelios Haji-Ioannou, said it may go bust if it doesn’t recoup some of the $7 million it is owed by the Zimbabwean central bank.

“It’s all at risk because of cashflow,” Chief Commercial Officer Sylvain Bosc told Reuters.

“The demand is there, the opportunities are there. We actually want to expand in Zimbabwe.”

Mnangagwa’s team acknowledges the challenges.

“For 37 years we have been living under one man. It doesn’t change just like that but we are getting there,” said presidential advisor Chris Mutsvangwa.

“For investors it is a question of risk and reward.”

The only way to convince foreign lenders and investors to provide the funds needed to end the currency crisis is if a financing programme can be agreed with the International Monetary Fund, and that will come with painful terms.

A source at the IMF said in order to get funding Zimbabwe will need to overhaul its public sector, including a crackdown on rampant corruption and mass layoffs, which has led to demonstrations in the past.

A deal to compensate white farmers who were evicted from their land also needs to be reached, the IMF source said.

If the ruling ZANU-PF wins the election, Mnangagwa has said he will strike a deal with the IMF and introduce a new Zimbabwean currency within 3-5 years.

But the leader known as “The Crocodile” hasn’t shown any signs of prudence yet, handing civil servants a 17.5 percent pay rise in May and passing a 2018 budget with a bigger deficit.

Even before the IMF will engage in talks, it will want to see a free and fair election. The opposition protested this week, saying the electoral process was being rigged, with ballot papers being printed without their participation.

Mnangagwa is slightly ahead in opinion polls, which are unreliable, but his challenger, Nelson Chamisa, 40, is gathering momentum and the vote may provide no clear winner, meaning a messy coalition may have to be formed.

Even if Mnangagwa wins, he does not have a firm grip on ZANU-PF, with his powerful deputy Chiwenga intent on imposing his authority after taking a massive risk in leading the coup to oust Mugabe, political and diplomatic sources say.

Middlemen from both camps want to be the gateway for investment and are obstructing deals that don’t pass through their offices, making it difficult for businesses to know who they should work with, several investors said.

A party divided with the military on one side and Mnangagwa on the other is not a conducive environment for investment.

“Everyone wants a slice of the pie,” said the owner of an energy firm who has a deal in limbo due to a dispute between factions aligned to Mnangagwa and Chiwenga.

“They must be careful. The experience ‘small boys’ like me are having sets the tone for how ‘big boys’ view the risks.”

Mnangagwa and Chiwenga did not respond to requests for comment.

Whoever wins the election won’t have long to take the difficult decisions needed to get Zimbabwe’s economy back on track before the public optimism built on the back of Mugabe’s removal disappears.

“Do you think this is what I want to do with my life?” said black market currency trader Charity Kambarami, waving a wad of bond notes in the air.

“I would also love to go to work and get paid at the end of the month but there are no jobs. The politicians have promised a lot. We have suffered enough.”