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"It's Been Grim": Kamala Harris Debate Performance Fails To Impress Major Donors

Kamala Harris' obviously scripted and generally bizarre performance at the September 12th debate has her major donors on the fence about her future and whether or not they can dedicate themselves to her cause alone, according to CNBC. 



Her close supporters had acknowledged that if Harris didn't "come out swinging" against her opponents and "clearly

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define her policies", that wealthy donors could begin to shy away from her. Now, that's looking like exactly what has happened.



After desiring to see Harris continue attacking her opponents, as she did against Joe Biden in the first debate, supporters and uncommitted contributors are now "not convinced" that they can support her.



Harris opened the third debate by suggesting President Trump would have been indicted if DOJ guidelines were different. “The only reason you were not indicted is because there was a memo in the Department of Justice that says a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime,” Harris said at the opening of the debate.



From there, Harris' debate was a mix of odd lines, weird laughter and clearly scripted one-liners. 





Her Presidential campaign has relied on contributors willing to give up to $2,800 to fund itself. Harris has raised over $14 million since January, most from large individual contributors. This is more than half of the total $24 million she has raised, after a $12 million push in the second quarter. At least 45% of her contributors have come from her home state of California.  



Harris had another take on her performance at the debate, telling people in a mass email on Friday that she had “won over a lot of new supporters in this fight” and that she was “focusing our resources on capturing last night’s momentum.”



The reality is different.





You will find more infographics at Statista



But one source told CNBC that major California fundraisers were having trouble getting donors to back Harris prior to the debate - and that this opinion didn't change after the debate. 



The source said:




 “I don’t think anything has changed, and it’s been grim. Donors believe that on the debate stage Harris is still unclear about her message and strategy. They liked the Trump focus, but there was too much odd laughter and canned lines.”






The source continued, stating that most of their donors would rather help either Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg. 



One New York banking executive said: "You need to get into these debates and score some points or there is not going to be any money for her. She didn’t score any points."



A Harris contributor from Los Angeles said: “She’s now tacked back and self-corrected. Now it looks like she’s been schooled and directionless.”




Tyler Durden

Sun, 09/15/2019 - 12:00
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China Slaps Britain: You Can't Afford Hostility

Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation,



China gave Britain a stern warning this week that any naval maneuvers conducted with the US near its declared territories in the South China Sea will be met with a military response.





Beijing rapped London further, telling it to dump its “colonial attitude” with

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regard to Hong Kong. However, the ultimate leverage, was the caustic reminder to Britain that if it wants to trade with China in the future, then it better mind its manners.



Given the deepening turmoil over Brexit and the uncertain economic prospects once Britain quits the European Union, the British government is going to need every trading opportunity around the world it can muster. Keeping on good terms with China, the globe’s second-biggest national economy, will therefore be crucial for Britain’s post-Brexit survival.



Since taking office in July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been quick to talk up a future golden era of bilateral trade relations with Beijing. He has expressed an interest in China’s Belt and Road Initiative for global trade, and he has even dared to ruffle US President Donald Trump by calling for an end to the tariffs and trade war with Beijing, thus implying the White House’s hardball policy is wrongheaded.



But here’s the tricky balancing act facing Britain. In trying to ingratiate itself with both Washington and Beijing for future trade deals, London is caught in an awkward contradiction. To do Washington’s bidding, Britain will be obliged to join forces for fomenting aggression against China.



China this week preempted that development by telling Britain in no uncertain terms that it can’t afford to antagonize Beijing without foregoing future trade and investment. In short, London has to make a decision: does it want war, or peace and prosperity with China?



The rebuke from Beijing followed a visit to London last week by US Secretary of State Mike Esper. During a major set-piece speech, Esper called on Britain and other European states to focus on confronting China and Russia, whom he accused of posing as aggressors.




“It is increasingly clear that Russia and China want to disrupt the international order by gaining a veto over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions,” Esper said, seemingly unaware of the absurd hypocrisy of his words.




There have also been suggestions that Britain’s warships will be joining with US forces in so-called “freedom of navigation” patrols in the South China Sea. The recently launched super aircraft carrier, Queen Elizabeth, is designed to be capable of hosting up to 70 US F-35 fighter jets. The temptation for London will be to join Esper’s rallying call because of the need to pander to Washington for future trade favors.



China’s ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, told media that if Britain embarks on such missions anywhere near islands claimed as Chinese territory, especially if the British are seen to be liaising with the Americans, then it will be viewed as “hostile”. The diplomat said such a development will be met with a military response.



He warned London not do America’s “dirty work” and rebuffed claims about “freedom of navigation” concerns as a cynical pretext for provocation.



Ambassador Liu said: “The South China Sea is a vast ocean, it is three million square kilometers wide. We have no objection to people sailing around there but do not enter Chinese territorial waters within twelve nautical miles. If you don’t do that, there shouldn’t be a problem. The South China Sea is wide enough to have free navigation of shipping.”



Major General Su Guanghui, the Chinese defense attaché in London, said that his country will continue to take a combative stance in what it considers to be incursions into its territories: “If the US and UK join hands in a challenge or violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, that would be hostile action.”



Last year, Britain sent a warship HMS Albion near Chinese-claimed territory in the South China Sea, which led to a naval confrontation and break down in bilateral relations. That maneuver was under the watch of former Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson who habitually used bellicose rhetoric describing China (and Russia) as global threats.



China’s ambassador to Britain categorically stated that there can be no repeat of this British naval conduct near Chinese-claimed territory. Don’t even think about it, was the tone.



Nevertheless, the diplomat said that China wants to develop cooperative relations with Britain to boost trade and investment. He said that Britain would lose out massively from new telecoms infrastructure development if a proposed partnership with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei is jettisoned – under American pressure.



Thus, Britain has a simple choice really. It can either continue to serve as a henchman for Washington by offending China’s sovereign rights, or London can wise up and ditch its pretensions of colonial-era gunboat diplomacy. That means treating Beijing with the basic respect consistent with international norms.



It seems the days of British subterfuge and aggression on behalf of Uncle Sam are over. It’s totally unacceptable for such presumed privilege to wield aggression with impunity. And it is especially unviable when post-Brexit Britain is shaping up to be scuttling around the globe with a begging bowl for trade deals.




Tyler Durden

Sun, 09/15/2019 - 09:20


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We're Ready For "Full-Fledged" War: Iran Responds To US Accusation It Launched Saudi Oil Attack

After the United States was quick to point the finger at Iran for the early Saturday explosions that rocked Abqaiq facility and the Khurais field — forcing production to be shut and with it 5.7 million barrels a day of oil production lost — Iran has warned it stands ready for a "full-fledged" war.



Ir

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anian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi slammed Washington for a "maximum pressure" strategy that has turned to "maximum lies," saying that because of the former's "failure [the US] is leaning toward maximum lies". FM Javad Zarif also said these were a continuation of efforts to pressure and shame into compliance under US hegemony.


Screengrab from video showing fires raging at Abqaiq facility on Saturday.

Iran denied the accusations, which followed photos circulating online which appeared to show cruise missile debris scattered in the Saudi desert outside the incapacitated oil facilities. Yemen's Houthi forces had claimed responsibility, saying it deployed ten drones in the successful targeting of the facilities. 



And separately an IRGC commander is reported to have reaffirmed that American military bases and aircraft carriers are crucially up to 2,000km around Iran and thus "within range" of Iranian missiles.



The senior commander, Amirali Hajizadeh, said his country stands ready for a "full-fledged" war but he stopped short of directly mentioning the attacks. As quoted in regional and state media:




On Sunday, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Force, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying: “Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000 kilometers around Iran are within the range of our missiles,” according to Reuters.



“Iran has always been ready for a ‘full-fledged’ war,” Hajizadeh added, without directly mentioning the attacks in Saudi Arabia.




Photos of parts resembling pieces of cruise missiles seen outside attacked Saudi oil facility have been circulating, with a number of analysts saying it's 'proof' Iran was behind it:




Soon after the raging fires at the key oil facilities grabbed headlines early Saturday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran was likely behind the "unprecedented" attack, writing on Twitter: "Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while [Iran's president and foreign minister] Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy."



"Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply," he added.



He asserted, but without offering evidence, “there is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”




Iranian FM Zarif hit back, pointing to the American military's deep involvement in Yemen: "US & its clients are stuck in Yemen because of illusion that weapon superiority will lead to military victory," he said "Blaming Iran won't end disaster. Accepting our April '15 proposal to end war & begin talks may."



Despite Saudi officials and media claiming just hours after the attacks that fires were "under control" widely circulating photographs appeared to show the opposite:




In spite of the Houthis claiming responsibility, a US-Saudi led investigation is apparently already focused on pinning blame on Tehran for a direct missile attack.



An investigation is also reportedly focused on questions over whether Iranian proxies may have launched missiles from Iraqi soil, as a WSJ report details, citing the US investigation underway:




Saudi and American officials are investigating the possibility that attacks on Saudi oil facilities Saturday involved cruise missiles launched from Iraq or Iran, questioning Yemeni rebel claims of responsibility, people familiar with the matter said.





Meanwhile, the world waits for a potential shock in energy prices as markets open at the start of this week.




Tyler Durden

Sun, 09/15/2019 - 09:48


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Meet The Revolutionary Swiss House Built Entirely By Robots

A group of Swiss researchers have set out to find an answer to the problem of CO2 in the building and construction industry. After all, putting up new buildings ranks as one of the most polluting activities that humans partake in, according to Quartz. 



The researchers believe that robots could very well be the answer that the industry needs. And now, they have their pro

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of of concept in the DFAB House, described as "the first habitable building designed and planned using a choreography of digital fabrication methods."





The DFAB House is 3 levels and features 3D printed ceilings, energy efficient walls, timber beams assembled by robots and an intelligent home system. The house is near Zurich and was developed by a team of experts at ETH Zurich University with help from thirty industry partners. It took four years to develop and build the house, which measures 2,370 square feet and required 60% less cement than a traditional building. The DFAB House also passed stringent Swiss building codes. 





Matthias Kohler, a member of DFAB’s research team said: “This is a new way of seeing architecture. Suddenly how we use resources to build our habitats is at the center of architecture. How you build matters.”



Kohler continued: “Of course we’re interested in gaining breakthroughs in speed and economy, but we tried to hold to the idea of quality first. You can do things very, very fast but that doesn’t mean that it’s actually sustainable.”



He believes that embracing technology could augment human creativity and foster a revival of craftsmanship, as opposed to costing humans construction jobs. “Like a craftsman may have an iPhone in his pocket, I think that future machines will be less separated from human,” he says. 





This isn't the first digital fabrication project to come about, either. Chinese company WinSun demonstrated 3D printing for architectural purposes in 2014 by manufacturing 10 single story houses in one day. The next year, it printed an entire apartment building and a neoclassical mansion. The projects remain in development stages. 



Kohler says that partnering with robots just means allowing machine processes to inform the design. He believes there are whole new aesthetics that will come from digital fabrication. For example, he cites the DFAB House's ornamental ceiling, which was created with a large scale 3D sand printer:





Benjamin Dillenburger, the 3D printing specialist on DFAB’s team, said: “One should not romanticize the jobs on the construction sites. [It] really makes sense to have this kind of collaborative setups where robots and human work together.”



Kohler and Dillenburger have said they are interested in fostering a dialogue with global architecture and construction sectors. They even have a traveling exhibition titled “How to Build a House: Architectural Research in the Digital Age,” that will open in New York this week. 





The Cooper Union Dean of Architecture, Nader Tehrani, hopes the exhibition will attract a large audience. He said:  “We had imagined that it would be of interest not only to architects, but also to engineers, artists, and builders. At once sober, rational, and thoughtful, the research in this project is also projective, unprecedented, and speculative.”



Dillenburger concluded:  “Architecture is always a public project. It’s for anyone curious about how we’re building for the future.”




Tyler Durden

Sun, 09/15/2019 - 07:35


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Turkey Exposes Central Bank Incompetence

Authored by Tom Luongo,



Last year I asked whether Turkey would be “City Zero in Global Contagion.” That question was based on the crisis unfolding in the Turkish lira which materially threatened a number of major European banks, especially those in Italy.





This week highlighted something really interesting for me that, I think, sets in motion a similar thesis a

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bout Turkey but for much different reasons. The sovereign debt crisis will come about purely because of a failure of confidence in institutions.



Competence is the key to staying at the top of human dominance hierarchies, not force. Those built on competence tend to last and those built on force are, at best, meta-stable for a specific period of time.



The difference between what’s happening in Turkey with President Erdogan taking control of the Turkish central bank and the end of Mario Draghi’s term heading the ECB cuts to the heart of this issue of competence versus force.



The Draghi Put-on

Draghi has projected this aura of the ever-in-control competent manager of Europe’s finances while steadfastly holding to policy ideas which have done nothing but destroy capital formation within the Eurozone.



His last statement and policy decision this week are emblematic of his inflexibility both intellectually and politically. And it’s clear that he’s trapped at whatever negative-bound he’s got in his head, handing off a Europe on the verge of collapse to his sister-in-tyranny, Christine Lagarde.




Draghi just fired his “Cheap Money Bazooka” on his way out the door to kick the can down the road another few months.



He’s setting the stage for the full-blown monetization and collapse of the European banking system under his successor, former IMF chief Christine Lagarde. What hasn’t worked for Europe for the past 11 years was just introduced again as the only way to save the situation.



Draghi’s bazooka will be a dud and expose the European bond markets as the massively over-bought time bombs they are. We’re seeing big moves to the upside in European rates since his press conference yesterday morning.



When you project fear onto the markets, don’t be surprised when the market picks up on that and the momentum players who have been front-running Draghi’s last policy announcement abandon those markets and look for new waters to chum.




The proof of this was the unexpected reaction to the upside in the euro and the huge sell-off in Euro-bonds that began on Wednesday and gathered steam after Thursday’s policy unveil.



German Bunds are in danger of throwing massive reversal signals across the yield curve, I think is the biggest tell.



What’s important to see here is that




  1. August’s big move down in rates is likely the market getting way out of balance.




  2. September is quickly reversing this.




  3. Traders were completely off-side front-running Draghi’s Debt Bazooka.



Martin Armstrong consistently, and rightly, makes the point that for a turn to occur in a market you have to get a majority of people on the wrong side of the trade. In this case too many longs crowded into over-priced German debt.



Once there are no more greater fools to sell to, the shorts take over, the longs get routed and the market reverses quickly.



What leverage giveth on the way up, takes away just as fast on the way down.



And yet, all Draghi could do at his presser is tell us the same policies that have not worked for more than ten years (!!) to stimulate growth in Europe is what is needed to stimulate growth next year.



People say gold bugs are like stopped clocks.



The willingness to believe such inane drivel boggles the rational mind, to be frank.



Turkey’s Reversal

But this is how markets reverse. This is how crises develop, slowly and then all at once. Because meta-stable systems based on force don’t last.



And the euro has been held together for the past year through very public political machinations to betray sovereign governments, like Italy and the U.K.



Now, back to Turkey.



Last year, with the formation of the now erstwhile Euroskeptic alliance between The League and Five Star Movement in Italy, the huge dollar-debt problem and currency crisis in Turkey, Italy seemed ripe for a potentially explosive blow-out of sovereign debt yields, because of it’s exposure.



That, obviously, has not occurred as the European Central Bank and the markets likely conspired to find new ways to keep Italian debt yields at manageable levels, mostly by getting the Japanese to buy Italy’s junk.



And deteriorating economic and political conditions have created the Mother of all safe haven trades, which euro-debt benefited from greatly.



They did this while plotting out an opportunity for a coup against Salvini to consolidate power in Rome and take Italy’s nascent revolt against Brussels off the table.



But it was Erdogan’s commandeering the Bank of Turkey and immediately lowered rates from 40% to 24%, going against the IMF recommendations (while also telling Lagarde to go pound sand), which stabilized the lira.



It didn’t hurt that he got a lot of help from his new friends in China, Russia, Iran and Qatar. But, the main point is that Erdogan called bullshit on the whole IMF austerity business to get Turkey onto its version of debt slavery.



So on the same day that Draghi doubled down on NIRP/QE/BBQSAUCE, throwing more savers down the rabbit hole of wealth destruction, Erdogan continued lowering rates, this time 3.5% to 16.50%. He simply following inflation down and projecting strength and confidence in the Turkish people’s ability to weather this and get things moving forward quickly.



What men like Draghi fear the most is everyone finding out he’s an evil man hellbent on subjugating Europe to perpetual rule by their betters. It’s that fear that animates Remainers in the U.K. and on the European Council in Brussels.



What if the U.K. thrives after a No-Deal Brexit? What happens to confidence and where do you think capital flows?



The Night Sweats

These are the things that keep these people up at night. And it looks to me that when someone as unsophisticated as Erdogan can do a better job of steering his country through a currency crisis than the people we pay fealty to their wisdom and insouciance, you have the makings of a real crisis of faith.



This is not about teaching us plebes and muppets this lesson. We already get that these people are incompetent, that’s why gold and Bitcoin are trading where they are. That’s why Brexit, Hungary, The League, AfD, Trump and Catalonia are even things.



But, ultimately, we don’t move markets. We get trapped at the tops and sell the bottoms because we get sucked into the fantasy we can beat them at their own game.



It’s about moving the opinions of fund managers, family office heads and pension fund boards. They are the ones that swim in these waters. We retail folks are their playthings, unfortunately.



And when that happens, when we see that revolt occur (sell off in German Bunds anyone?) that’s when things get real.



And we know how the EU responds when things get real. They lie.



A lot. All day.



And that ties right back into Brexit negotiations, what their plans are for dealing with their debt problem and what their plans are for what comes next, which is right in front of your nose.



The end of cash, a crypto-version of the SDR, and a social credit system to unperson anyone who steps out of line.



It will be the countries that remove themselves from this system that best survive that last attempts to buck a trend whose time has come.





*  *  *



Join My Patreon if you want to know how to navigate this garbage



Install Brave if you want to continue being able to talk about it.




Tyler Durden

Sun, 09/15/2019 - 08:10
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De-Dollarization: Europe Joins The Party

Authored by Ronald-Peter Stoferle via The Mises Institute,



The ongoing “World War of Currencies”, as the German journalist Daniel D. Eckert called it, the battle for the future of the world monetary system is not a shallow action film but more like Game of Thrones – a complex series with hundreds of actors and locations, stretch

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ing over decades and demanding full concentration from the viewer.





The bottom line is that what has been true for decades still applies. The US dollar continues to enjoy the confidence of markets, governments, and central banks. But faith in the US dollar weakens a little every year. Europe, China, Russia and many small countries set new initiatives every year to make themselves independent. And gold, too, plays a major role in this slow departure from the US dollar. But for the world financial system, none of their currencies offer a viable, fully-fledged alternative to the US dollar yet, which is why any news of the death of the US dollar is definitely exaggerated.



Europe’s Small Uprising

Since the Greek crisis of 2012, the American media have often given the impression that the EU and the euro have already broken up or are about to break up. This is not the case. Twenty years after its creation in 1999, the euro area is larger than ever. Of course, nothing is perfect in the EU. The debt problems of the southern states have hardly improved. The structure of the euro zone itself is also often criticized and described as being in need of renovation.



Against this backdrop, the celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the euro were not particularly large and pompous. But there was a lot of talking going on. In his “State of the Union” speech in September 2018, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called for a stronger role for the euro in the international monetary system – and he did bring facts: “[The euro] is now the second most used currency in the world with 60 countries linking their currencies to the euro in one way or another. But we must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.”



The euro currently accounts for around 20% of global currency reserves. This amount exceeds the euro zone’s share of global economic output. Around 36% of global payments are already made in the euro. The US dollar is at 40%. The EU imports oil and gas worth around EUR 300bn annually. But 80% of these are still invoiced in US dollars today. In view of the fact that only 2% of energy imports come from the USA, Juncker commented: “It is also absurd that European companies buy European planes in dollars instead of euros." Despite all the economic, political and structural problems within the euro area, this is a statement full of self-confidence.



The US Dollar as a Weapon

Why Europe, China, and Russia are speeding up the process of de-dollarization can be understood only if the significance of the Iran deal is properly understood. Iran is, above all, a case study in what Washington can do to you if you expose yourself to the US dollar for better or for worse.



Tehran would not, of course, be considered particularly US-friendly. But in order to participate in international trade, the Iranians had to rely on the US dollar and the SWIFT system, which handles international payments. SWIFT belongs to an international banking consortium and is even based in Belgium – within the EU. Nevertheless, the USA was able to build up enough pressure to exclude Iran from SWIFT. That’s what the governor of the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB), Ewald Nowotny, means when he says: “The United States is massively using the dollar as a weapon. […] And with every transaction in dollars one is obliged to follow the American sanctions against Iran, for example. Even if the USA is not directly involved in a trade. For example, when it comes to oil exports to a European country."



With the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed this phase was believed to be over. But Donald Trump withdrew from JCPOA in May 2018. What’s more, he has managed to get SWIFT to expel Iran again. That was a shock to the other signers of the deal. Suddenly the EU took action. For the first time since the introduction of the euro, the idea of a separate payment agency was put forward. INSTEX is this agency. The abbreviation stands for “Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges”. The fact that China and Russia have promised INSTEX support should come as no surprise.



Central Banks Turn to Gold

For a long time, the gold purchases of the international central banks were rarely an issue for the mainstream media. But when it became known at the beginning of this year that the central banks had recently bought more gold in 2018 than they had since 1971, that revelation was worth some headlines. In 2018 alone they bought 651 tonnes of gold. This figure corresponds to an increase of 74% over the previous year.5 Analysts of the World Gold Council expect purchases of around 750 tonnes again this year.



Gold holdings of central banks, in tonnes, Q4/2000-Q4/2018





Source: World Gold Council, Incrementum AG



But the numbers alone only tell half the story. You also have to ask yourself why the central banks are such hard-working gold buyers.



The answer is de-dollarization. Gold, which many central banks now include in their balance sheets at market value,6 offers an alternative. It is indeed the only truly neutral asset available to governments and central banks. Around a third of the world’s gold holdings are held in the vaults of central banks. Nobody describes the banks’ rationale better than DNB, the central bank of the Netherlands: “Shares, bonds and other securities are not without risk, and prices can go down. But a bar of gold retains its value, even in times of crisis. […] Gold is the perfect piggy bank – it’s the anchor of trust for the financial system. If the system collapses, the gold stock can serve as a basis to build it up again. Gold bolsters confidence in the stability of the central bank’s balance sheet and creates a sense of security.”



Conclusion

There is one thing one should not forget. The US still hasn’t lost the confidence of the markets despite all the actions of Donald Trump. The US dollar markets are still by far the largest and most important in the world.



Only the next major crisis will show whether the euro, the yuan, or gold will really be able to do any harm to the leading currency status of the US dollar – or whether the US dollar still has enough life left in it to prevail. Until then, the creeping loss of confidence in the dominant currency of the past seven decades is likely to continue.




Tyler Durden

Sun, 09/15/2019 - 07:00
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Retail Carnage Continues: Forever 21 Bankruptcy Expected By Sunday

The collapse of the brick and mortar retail space is continuing at a breakneck pace in 2019. The latest victim, Forever 21, is expected to file for bankruptcy as soon as Sunday, according to the Wall Street Journal. JP Morgan is the company's most senior lender and has agreed to roll over its loan to the retailer into a bankruptcy financing package, according to the report. 

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r />

But despite "people familiar with the matter" claiming that bankruptcy is imminent, the company has come out and said that it doesn’t have any plans to file for bankruptcy. 



It said: "Our stores are open and it is our intention to continue to operate the vast majority of U.S. stores, as well as a smaller amount of international stores, providing customers with great service and the curated assortment of merchandise that they love and expect from Forever 21. Please visit our store locator to find the most up to date store list."



Let’s revisit that statement early next week.



This bankruptcy marks the latest in what has been nothing short of carnage so far this year for the retail industry. Between January and June in 2019, more than 7,000 retail stores closed. This amounts to more than all of the stores that closed throughout the entire year of 2018. Many were hurt by a lackluster holiday shopping season at the end of 2018.




Robert Feinstein, a bankruptcy lawyer who represents creditors in major retail bankruptcies, including Payless and Gymboree said: "The headwinds for retail are gaining hurricane force."



Forever 21's biggest misstep came when it expanded by opening large stores at a time younger consumers were making a shift online to shop. The company gambled by moving into stores that were sometimes double or triple the size of its previous locations. It pushed into new categories like menswear, footwear, lingerie and plus sizes to help fill the new space. The result were stores that felt too "cavernous" and merchandise that felt repetitive.



Its struggles prompted the company to enter into talks with its landlords about shrinking its retail space and renegotiating leases. The company has also been in the midst of a months long search for a loan and is currently facing a cash crunch. One of the sources told the Journal that the chain is planning to shut down more than 700 stores in bankruptcy.





Some retailers have adapted quicker than others to "the Amazon effect".



For instance, both Walmart and Target posted rising sales in the second quarter, as a promising mix of physical stores and online sales has paid off for both of them. At the same time, overall retail sales continue to remain solid as a result of a relatively "strong economy" and low unemployment.



But that doesn’t mean that the challenges are over, according to Jeffrey Gennette, CEO of Macy's. He said: “The competition is fierce. Retail is certainly not for the faint of heart.”



In the first six months of 2019, companies like Payless, Gymboree and Charlotte Russe all filed for bankruptcy. Fourteen total retailers with at least twenty stores each have filed for bankruptcy this year, according to BDO. The list also includes Charming Charlie Holdings Inc., Barneys New York, A’Gaci and Avenue Stores.





Many of these companies have closed down stores as a result of their respective bankruptcies. Some retailers are dropping their well-known flagship stores and instead opting for smaller locations in urban areas.



During the first half of 2019, 19 retailers said that they would close a combined 7200 stores. Payless, Gymboree and Charlotte Russe accounted for about 3,700 of these on their own.



For comparison, last year, there weren’t even 6,000 total store closings announced. There were 6,600 closings in 2017. Recall, we reported in mid 2019 that 12,000 stores were forecasted to close this year. 



Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at NPD Group, says the U.S. simply has too many stores per capita. He said: “We don’t need as many stores as we have. Bankruptcies used to be a dirty word. Bankruptcies is a way to clean up your challenged business.”




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 19:40


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Business Finance

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U.S. Poverty Levels Fall To Pre-Recession Low

The U.S. Census Bureau has published a report into income and poverty levels across the United States, finding that median household income in 2018 was $63,179 while median earnings for all workers was $40,247.



Additionally, as Statista's Niall McCarthy notes, poverty has now fallen for the fourth consecutive year, thanks to the healthy state of the economy and it has hit pre

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-recession lows.





You will find more infographics at Statista



In 2018, the official U.S. poverty rate was 11.8 percent, a reduction of 0.5 percentage points from the 12.3 percent recorded a year previously. Poverty levels are now significantly lower than in 2007, just before the financial crisis and the most recent U.S. recession.



The 2018 data shows that poverty rates for children fell 1.2 percentage points to 16.2 percent while it remained at a steady 9.7 percent among over 65s. Back in 1959, the national poverty rate was 22.4 percent and it has decreased significantly in the years, although there was some notable fluctuation in the mid-1980s and 1990s. Even though the return to the pre-recession low is positive, 11.8 percent means that some 38.1 million Americans are still living in poverty.



Amid warnings of a fresh U.S. recession lying just around the corner, the current downward tend might only be temporary.




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 21:30


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Social Issues

239
100 Views
Mind-Reading AI Could Mean The End Of Humanity

Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,



Artificial intelligence that can read the human mind may spell out disaster for humanity as we know it. Technologies linking human consciousness to any sort of a cloud computing service could not just open the way for totalitarian mind control, but destroy the very essence of human relations, philosopher Slavoj Zizek says.


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Totalitarian mind control sounds daunting and horrific. And a computer that can read the thoughts of several people at the same time would make normal human life impossible, the Slovenian cultural philosopher told RT in the wake of the World Artificial Intelligence (AI) Conference in Shanghai. The same conference also saw Alibaba’s chairman Jack Ma and Tesla CEO Elon Musk clashing over the future of AI.




While Ma and Musk, the technopreneurs, engaged in a heated discussion over the possibility of humans being controlled by machines in the future, the senior researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Ljubljanashared his thoughts on the issue with RT.




“What I am studying now is the so-called phenomenon of wired brains, a possibility of our brains being connected with strong digital machines. And that is not a utopia. In the media lab at MIT, Massachusetts, they already have simple machines like that. It is like a helmet, nothing intrusive, they put it on your head.



And then something horrible happens – I saw the video – you think certain thoughts, you do not say anything, and the machine reproduces them either in writing or with artificial voice.” –Slavoj Zizek, via RT




The video Zizek referenced is by 60 Minutes:




What happens when AI begins to read minds without your permission?



That’s when complete enslavement can take hold.



“Now, there is a serious option to read our thoughts, not just our emotional attitudes like being angry or sad but even the line of our thoughts in our mind. The next step in this “utopia” will be a computer that can read my thoughts and your thoughts that can connect us so that we can share our thoughts. If you and I are connected through the same computer, I can literally participate in your thinking directly without any external communication like word typing,” said Zizek.




“We as human beings are precisely what we are, free individuals as far as we can be sure that you do not know what I am thinking. I think what I think, I am free in my mind. What happens if I cannot be sure even of this?” Slavoj Zizek, via RT





Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 22:00
244
57 Views
These Are The Safest Cities In The World

During a time when crime rates in the US - particularly violent crime - are steadily creeping higher once again after declining for roughly a quarter-century, readers may wonder: What are the safest cities in the world?



Well, it shouldn't come as a surprise that few of them are in the US. In fact, when it comes to urban security the Asia-Pacific region is the world leader. In the Economist Intelligence U

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nit's latest ranking of the world's safest cities, Tokyo has once again taken the top spot. Singapore and Osaka (Japan's second-largest city), came in at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.





Amsterdam came in at No. 4, making it the safest city in Europe. Notably, the Dutch capital confines most non-violent crime to its infamous red-light districts, havens for prostitution and drugs.



Sydney, Australia's second-largest city, took the No. 5 spot, followed by Toronto, Canada's largest city and the safest city in North America.



Making a "surprise" appearance in the top 10 for the first time, US capital Washington DC took the No. 7 spot, making it by and away the safest US city. This marks a massive stride for Washington DC, which was once riddled with AIDS and other signs of urban decay.



Copenhagen, Seoul and Melbourne round out the top 10.





Source: Bloomberg



Ranking 60 cities on five continents, the index takes into account factors including digital, health, infrastructure and personal security as components of overall urban safety.



The cities that led the index offer easy access to high-quality health-care, strong cybersecurity and community-based policing, according to Bloomberg.



As one analyst noted, wealth is an important factor in determining safety, though it's not the only factor.




"Overall, while wealth is among the most important determinants of safety, the levels of transparency - and governance - correlate as closely as income with index scores," said Naka Kondo, the editor of the latest Safe Cities report. "The research also highlights how different types of safety are thoroughly intertwined - that it is rare to find a city with very good results in one safety pillar and lagging in others."




While AsiaPac is home to many of the world's safest cities and countries, there are also many low-scoring cities. These include Myanmar's Yangon, Pakistan's Karachi, Bangladesh's Dhaka and India's New Delhi. All four of these cities ranked in the bottom ten.




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 22:30
218
72 Views
Why Is The US Army Buying Mock Kalashnikov Assault Rifles?

America's military budget is set to increase for a fifth consecutive year. President Trump is now asking for +$700 billion for the 2020 military spending bill, a record-setting number, to fund the national-security state. The money has been used for rapid modernization efforts ahead of a potential war with Russia and or China. This year, we've reported several instances where the

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US military has been buying mock weapons, and or taking existing weapons and transforming them into Russian look-alikes.



The latest war preparation comes from the US Army, where they want to buy five models of the Kalashnikov assault rifle that are considered mock weapons, used mostly in war training exercises.





The application for the weapons was first reviewed by RT and also reported by Fort Russ News. The document states that the request was made as part of the supply of training equipment.




"Five sets of simulations of AK-47 shooting assault rifles with small oxygen and propane cylinders to simulate small arms," the document said.




Each weapon will include an external cylinder that will be secured by a backpack. Every time the weapon's operator pulls the trigger, a blast of propane is ignited in the Kalashnikov's barrel and shot out, simulating the noise of a 7.62x39 round.





The document states the need for cartridges for the Soviet-era PK machine gun, DShK heavy machine gun, and Yak-B 12.7mm machine gun.



It also says devices that simulate explosions are needed, along with the need for smoke bombs.



While US defense firms don't generally produce mock Russian weapons - the document said the Army would likely have to review the international market for sourcing.



The Army's intention of using mock Russian weapons will likely be for field training exercises to familiarize American troops with enemy Russian soldiers.



The extent of conditioning American soldiers to identify and kill Russian troops is also occurring in another domain of warfare, that is in the air and space.



In March, we reported how the Nellis Air Force Base's Facebook page published a video of a General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon belonging to the 64th Aggressor Squadron in a new paint scheme that resembles Russia's fifth-generation stealth fighter.





The Aggressors Squadrons F-16 copied paint schemes, markings, and insignias of the Sukhoi Su-57, a single-seat, twin-engine multirole fifth-generation stealth jet, flown by the Russian Air Force.





Photos also emerged on a Turkish website earlier this year of a McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet belonging to Fighter Squadron Composite Twelve (VFC-12), a US Navy Reserve fighter squadron based in Virginia Beach, sporting the same Russian Su-57 color scheme.



From fake Russian weapons to US fighter jets painted in Russian color schemes, the Pentagon has been conditioning combat troops and fighter pilots through simulation for the next war.




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 23:30


Tags

War Conflict
Politics

250
54 Views
Nuclear War With Russia "Winnable" Said Trump's Incoming National Security Advisor

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk,



Questioning “mutual assured destruction,” Charles Kupperman called nuclear conflict “in large part a physics problem.”





Incoming National Security Advisor, Charles Kupperman, made the claim Nuclear War With USSR Was Winnable.



He made those statem

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ents in the 1980s. I do not know his views today, but let's review what he said then.




President Donald Trump’s acting national security adviser, former Reagan administration official Charles Kupperman, made an extraordinary and controversial claim in the early 1980s: nuclear conflict with the USSR was winnable and that “nuclear war is a destructive thing but still in large part a physics problem.”



Kupperman, appointed to his new post on Tuesday after Trump fired his John Bolton from the job, argued it was possible to win a nuclear war “in the classical sense,” and that the notion of total destruction stemming from such a superpower conflict was inaccurate. He said that in a scenario in which 20 million people died in the U.S. as opposed to 150 million, the nation could then emerge as the stronger side and prevail in its objectives.



His argument was that with enough planning and civil defense measures, such as “a certain layer of dirt and some reinforced construction materials,” the effects of a nuclear war could be limited and that U.S. would be able to fairly quickly rebuild itself after an all-out conflict with the then-Soviet Union.



At the time, Kupperman was executive director of President Ronald Reagan’s General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament. He made the comments during an interview with Robert Scheer for the journalist’s 1982 book, “With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush, and Nuclear War.”



The National Security Council did not immediately respond to questions on whether Kupperman, 68, still holds the same views of nuclear conflict as he did in the early 1980s. Kupperman’s seemingly cavalier attitude toward the potential death of millions of people was criticized at the time both by Democratic politicians and arms control experts.




The article posts excerpts so let's look at a couple of precise statements.



Kupperman Statements


  • If the objective in a war is to try to destroy as many Soviet civilians and as many American civilians as is feasible, and the casualty levels approached 150 million on each side, then it’s going to be tough to say you have a surviving nation after that. But depending on how the nuclear war is fought, it could mean the difference between 150 casualties and 20 million casualties. I think that is a significant difference, and if the country loses 20 million people, you may have a chance of surviving after that.




  • I think it is possible to win, in the classical sense. It means that it is clear after the war that one side is stronger than the other side, the weaker side is going to accede to the demands of the stronger side.



Winning in the Classical Sense

We lost 20 million, they lost 150 million.



Let's call that "winning in the "classical sense".



It's precisely how one "wins" trade wars, but on a much larger scale.




Tyler Durden

Sun, 09/15/2019 - 00:00


Tags

Politics

238
33 Views
Will McCabe Bring The FBI Down With Him?

Authored by Daniel John Sobieski via The American Thinker blog,



The DoJ’s rejection of a last-ditch appeal by the legal team representing fired FBI Director Andrew McCabe and the recommendation by federal prosecutors that charges actually be filed against the documented liar, leaker, and co-conspirator in the attempted coup against duly elected President Donald Trump puts the deep state in a face

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-to-face confrontation with a potential legal Armageddon. An indictment will leave McCabe with no excuse for not carrying out his threat to bring them all down with him.





Before his firing, McCabe sent a shot across  the bow of his co-conspirators in the plots to keep Hillary Clinton out of prison and Donald Trump out of the White House, according to Fox News correspondent Adam Housely in a series of tweets reported by Gateway Pundit at the time of the firing:




Fox News reporter Adam Housley reported on Twitter tonight about the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, stating his sources were telling him that in the past few days McCabe threatened to “take people down with him” if he was fired...



8:31 p.m. PDT: “I am told yesterday McCabe felt the heat and went to try and save his last two days and even told some he would take people down with him if he was fired. So…let’s see what comes of this. I know this…a ton of agents…a ton…were watching this very closely.”




Investigative journalist Sara Carter confirmed McCabe’s threat on the March 16, 2018 episode of "The Ingraham Angle":




CARTER: He lied. Plain and simple he lied. A lot of former FBI agents that I spoke to say I hope he's fired. Is he going to get fired today? That's all I kept hearing all day because they realize if they had done this, they would have been fired too.



And there's a lot of ongoing investigations right now. This is not just about Michael Horowitz at the DOJ right now. Remember, there's a prosecutor looking into the unmasking, the FISA abuse that has been taking place with Carter Page in particular. So, we have a number of investigations and McCabe is worried. He's said over and over again, if I go down, I'm taking everybody else with me.




McCabe was at the heart of all the criminal activity and knows where the bodies are buried. His silence until now may be traced to the fact that to date no one has actually been held accountable. An easy indictment of his boss, book tour veteran James Comey, was bypassed and newly minted CNN analyst McCabe, filling the chair vacated by creepy porn lawyer Michael Avenatti, got to join his fellow liar and leaker, John Brennan, at the poster child for fake news.





“Lack of candor” about leaking to the press is the least of McCabe’s worries. McCabe is a signatory to at least one of the FISA applications requesting surveillance of American citizens, namely Team Trump. His signature was his affirmation that the information in it, based largely on the Steele dossier paid for by Team Hillary and the DNC and compiled from Russian sources by a British agent, was accurate and verified. The FISA warrant he signed was a fraud committed on the court.



The Steele dossier, despite McCabe’s prior obfuscations, was acquired illegally. Money was laundered through a law firm to a dirt-gathering opposition research firm, Fusion GPS, to a foreign agent, Christopher Steele, to Russian sources making most of the stuff up. The fact that the transaction went through multiple hands does not make it any more legal. It just makes the coming indictment longer.



McCabe, the man he worked for, James Comey, and the people who worked under McCabe, such as Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, then took this fruit of foreign interference in our election and used it to commit a fraud upon the FISA court to trigger the illegal surveillance of one political campaign by another with the aid of co-conspirators at the DoJ and FBI.





That McCabe himself was a key architect of this coup is found in the texts of FBI Agent Peter Strozk, who speaks of the plan hatched in “Andy’s office” to stop Trump at all costs, with this end justifying any and all means:




Out of all the damning, politically charged anti-Trump text messages released, one text from Strzok to (Lisa) Page on August 15, 2016, raised the most suspicion. It referred to a conversation and a meeting that had just taken place in "Andy's" (widely believed to be Deputy FBI Dir. Andrew McCabe's) office. According to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Strzok had texted this: "I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy's office [break]... that there's no way he gets elected. I want to believe that... But I'm afraid we can't take that risk... We have to do something about it."



In another text, Page said: "maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace." Strzok replied: "I can protect our country at many levels, not sure if that helps."



"This goes to intent," Jordan said. "We can't take the risk that the people of this great country might elect Donald Trump. We can't take this risk. This is Peter Strzok, head of counterintelligence at the FBI. This is Peter Strzok, who I think had a hand in that dossier that was all dressed up and taken to the FISA court. He's saying, 'we can't take the risk, we have to do something about it.'"




McCabe himself said under oath he could not verify the accuracy of virtually anything in the dossier and has acknowledged that without the “salacious and unverified” document, as James Comey once described it, no investigation of Team Trump would have occurred.



Then there’s the case of Michael Flynn.  The unmasking of Flynn in the Russia probe may indeed be retaliation against Flynn for perceived political sins, but not for what and by whom you might think if reports from investigative watchdog site Circa News are correct.



As I noted here on June 30, 2017, Michael Flynn and Andrew McCabe have a past that predates the Trump presidency, one that provides ample motivation for the perjury trap that McCabe and Comey set up after Flynn’s illegal unmasking. McCabe had a personal grudge against Flynn and the perjury trap was his revenge.



It explains why McCabe would entrap Flynn in a seemingly harmless interview about contacts with Flynn’s Russian counterparts, advising Flynn he didn’t need to bring a lawyer along to complicate things.



As Sara A. Carter and John Solomon of Circa News reported:




The FBI launched a criminal probe against former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn two years after the retired Army general roiled the bureau’s leadership by intervening on behalf of a decorated counterterrorism agent who accused now-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and other top officials of sexual discrimination, according to documents and interviews.



Flynn’s intervention on behalf of Supervisory Special Agent Robyn Gritz was highly unusual, and included a letter in 2014 on his official Pentagon stationary, a public interview in 2015 supporting Gritz’s case and an offer to testify on her behalf. His offer put him as a hostile witness in a case against McCabe, who was soaring through the bureau’s leadership ranks.



The FBI sought to block Flynn’s support for the agent, asking a federal administrative law judge in May 2014 to keep Flynn and others from becoming a witness in her Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) case, memos obtained by Circa show. Two years later, the FBI opened its inquiry of Flynn…



McCabe eventually became the bureau’s No. 2 executive and emerged as a central player in the FBI’s Russia election tampering investigation, putting him in a position to impact the criminal inquiry against Flynn.



Three FBI employees told Circa they personally witnessed McCabe make disparaging remarks about Flynn before and during the time the retired Army general emerged as a figure in the Russia case.




Andrew McCabe should not be a national pundit on CNN calling for Trump’s impeachment. He should be preparing his legal defense against indictments that can’t come a moment too soon. And we should be prepared for McCabe carrying out his threat to bring them all down. We may yet find out what really happened in “Andy’s office”.




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 23:00


Tags

Law Crime

248
36 Views
Man Brings "Emotional Support Clown" To Meeting Where He Was Laid Off

In one of the strangest stories we've seen recently, a New Zealand advertising executive hired a "support clown" to accompany him to a meeting where he was laid off by their company, the Auckland-based advertising firm FCB.



An image sent to the New Zealand Herald showed the clown sitting in on the meeting, where he reportedly made balloon animals and engaged in other clown-li

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ke hijinx while the HR staff went through the details of the employee's severance package.





When the redundancy paperwork was handed over to the staffer, the clown reportedly mimed crying.



Over the past few years, the media has been rife with stories about strange 'support animals' accompanying people in public places and on flights. Some of the stranger 'support' animals have included squirrels, peacocks and goats.



A spokesperson for the firm told the Herald that the agency has a policy of not commenting on employment matters. However, in an email titled "Coulrophobia" - a term for the pathological fear of clowns - the spokesperson admitted that it was one of the weirdest stories she had ever been asked to comment on.



Fortunately for the staffer, who was laid off after the agency lost a major Vodafone ad account, he has reportedly landed on his feet: he got a new job at DDB alongside his creative partner. They will reportedly start their new roles next week.




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 20:30


Tags

Human Interest

205
19 Views
American Privilege

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com,



American liberals and progressives talk a bit about white privilege, male privilege, straight privilege etc, but one thing I never hear them talk about is American privilege: the ability their nationality gives them to have a relationship with this world that the rest of us do not have.





American privilege is reassuring

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yourself that there are problems enough at home without worrying about the trillions your government’s war machine is spending terrorizing the world and encircling the planet with military bases.



American privilege is reluctantly allowing the potential Commanders-in-Chief have an eight-minute conversation about foreign policy in your presidential primary debates, when your country’s military policy functionally dictates the affairs of rest of the world.



American privilege is arguing against the legality of assault weapons on the basis that they are “weapons of war”, implying that they’re fine as long as they’re used to kill some foreigner’s kids.



American privilege is being able to masturbate your outrage addiction over a racist joke while ignoring the way your military murders black and brown people by the tens of thousands every year.



American privilege is being able to lose your mind over someone using the wrong pronouns while paying no attention to the fact that your government pours your tax money and resources into governments and groups who hang gay people in the town square.



American privilege is believing your propaganda is the truth, and everyone else’s understanding of the world is fake news.




American privilege is assuming your prudish Puritanical brand of sexuality is healthy and normal so it’s no big deal that you insist that all English-speaking social media adheres to your creepy nipple-hating norms.



American privilege is telling foreigners to butt out of your politics when your politics are literally killing them.



American privilege is having a shit fit over election meddling in one social media post, while cheerleading regime change in the next.



American privilege is starting a war on a lie without being charged with a war crime.



American privilege is committing war crimes with impunity while jailing the whistleblowers and journalists who reveal them and still getting to call yourselves the good guys.



American privilege is being able to spend all day arguing online about domestic policy while the rest of the world, completely incapable of influencing your government’s behavior, prays you don’t get us all killed.



American privilege is only having a robust antiwar movement when your own citizens are at risk of being drafted, then completely forgetting about peace for decades while an increasingly robotic military force gives you even more peace of mind.



American privilege is being able to relax about war because your soldiers are being replaced with drones and proxy militias in US-driven conflicts, even though those kill people just as dead as manually operated killing machines.



American privilege is being hush-hush about the egregious imperialist stances of progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders because they have some decent domestic policies.



American privilege is black bloc protests against public appearances by figures like Milo Yiannopoulos and the Proud Boys while murderous war pigs like Bill Kristol, Henry Kissinger, John Bolton, David Frum and arms industry executives go from appearance to appearance completely unbothered.




American privilege is benefiting from cheap goods and oil and a strong dollar and never wondering how many innocent foreigners lost their lives and homes in the wars your government starts to make that so.



American privilege is living in a nation whose government can murder an entire family one day with explosives dropped from the sky, and yet you never hearing about it because that isn’t considered a newsworthy occurrence.



American privilege is being one of the worst-travelled populations in the world while having military bases in countries that most Americans wouldn’t recognize the name of, let alone have been to.



American privilege is having your insane culture normalized around the world via Hollywood and other media so that nobody stops and wonders why we’re letting this bat shit crazy nation rule our planet, and so no one makes you feel bad about your American privilege.



American privilege is living in a nation that uses its military and economic might to terrorize, murder, imprison, starve and impoverish anyone who doesn’t go along with its interests, and feeling no urgent need to bring a stop to this.



American privilege is being fine with being the world leader, but not being too bothered about what exactly that means.



*  *  *



Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for my website, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, checking out my podcast in either video or audio format, throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypalpurchasing some of my sweet merchandise, buying my new book Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone, or my previous book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish or use any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.



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Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 21:00


Tags

Politics

200
34 Views
Only In Illinois: Wife Of Indicted Political Boss Will Hold Highest Judicial Post In State

Authored by Austin Berg via IllinoisPolicy.org,



Illinois Supreme Court Justices chose Anne Burke as their chief on Sept. 10. One could almost hear the gears turning on the Chicago machine, a hobbled but still functioning apparatus now in the sights of federal investigators.





Burke’s appointment to the hi

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ghest judicial post in the state is a shameless act in a state sorely lacking trust in its government.



Anne Burke is an accomplished lawyer. She helped start the Special Olympics. These facts should not prevent criticism arising from her 50-plus year marriage to a 50-year Chicago political boss: Ed Burke.



Anne’s husband is among the last of a dying breed. As a young Irish upstart in the Daley Democratic machine, Ed Burke married Anne in 1968. The next year, he was elected to his late father’s aldermanic seat on Chicago’s Southwest Side.



He would go on to become the Mike Madigan of City Council, amassing near-total power over what legislation passed and failed. And like Madigan, he cashed in on his political clout as a property tax attorney on the side. Burke controlled slating for Cook County judges as a Democratic Party don and wielded a patronage army out of City Hall.



Until this year, Burke’s 14th Ward organization was one of the only pure political machines in the country. The other is Madigan’s 13th Ward.



But the king of the 14th now faces 14 federal counts of corruption. Federal prosecutors earlier this year accused Burke of extorting the owners of a Burger King, allegedly withholding a remodeling permit in order to pressure them to hire his private law firm to handle their property tax appeals.



With Ed Burke facing prison time, Anne will be chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.



No one deserves blame for the actions of their spouse. But in this case, it’s impossible to separate them. Chicago politics, City Council and the state’s judicial branch often intersect.



One example helped put Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in office.



Ed Burke’s extortion charges included an allegation that he illegally solicited campaign donations to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s mayoral campaign. So when news broke that Ed Burke held a fundraiser at his home for Preckwinkle, she quickly pivoted and said it was Anne, not Ed, who hosted. She returned the $116,000 she raised at the event.



That was a bad excuse. The Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct bans judges from raising funds for political candidates. Political consultant Jeffrey Orr filed a complaint and the Illinois Judiciary Board opened an investigation. The board cleared Anne Burke of all wrongdoing, but refused to offer any explanation. Nothing to see here.



Notably, Preckwinkle hired Burke’s son to a nearly $100,000 county position in 2014.



In April, Anne Burke wrote the majority opinion in a decision awarding a former union employee eligibility to receive a decade’s worth of teacher pension benefits despite having worked only a single day in the classroom as a substitute teacher. That union, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and its affiliate the Chicago Teachers Union, are major players in Chicago politics – long giving money and political muscle to Cook County Democrats.



In another problematic example, Anne Burke wrote the unanimous opinion defending Chicago’s burdensome food truck regulations, which Ald. Ed Burke supported as a member of City Council.



What would appear to many Illinoisans as glaring conflicts of interest over the years have not appeared to raise red flags for the new chief justice.



They deserve better.




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 20:05


Tags

Law Crime
Politics
Labor

242
37 Views
"You're Being Tracked" - Massive 30 State, Real-Time License Plate Database Revealed

Via MassPrivateI blog,



Our worst fears about automatic license plate readers (ALPR) are much worse than we could have imagined.





Two months ago, I warned everyone that police in Arizona were using ALPR's to "grid" entire neighborhoods. But this story brings public surveillance to a wh

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ole new level.



Last month, Rekor Systems announced that they had launched the Rekor Public Safety Network (RPSN) which gives law enforcement real-time access to license plates.




"Any state or local law enforcement agency participating in the RPSN will be able to access real-time data from any part of the network at no cost. The Company is initially launching the network by aggregating vehicle data from customers in over 30 states. With thousands of automatic license plate reading cameras currently in service that capture approximately 150 million plate reads per month, the network is expected to be live by the first quarter of 2020."




RPSN is a 30 state real-time law enforcement license plate database of more than 150 million people. 



And the scary thing about it is; it is free.




"We don’t think our participants should be charged for accessing information from a network they contribute to, especially when it provides information that has proven its value in solving crimes and closing cases quickly,” said Robert A. Berman, President and CEO, Rekor.




Want to encourage law enforcement to spy on everyone? Give them free access to a massive license plate database.





RPSN's AI software uses machine learning to predict when and where a hotlisted person or a person of interest will be.




"Rekor’s software, powered by artificial intelligence (“AI”) and machine learning, can also be added to existing law enforcement security camera networks to search for law enforcement related hotlists as well as Amber Alerts and registered sex offender motor vehicles."




Rekor admits that police in thirty states are probably spying on more than 150 million license plates each month.



The Westchester County New York Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center alone, collects "more than 25 million license plates each month."



An article in Traffic Technology Today revealed that Rekor will go to great lengths to convince police departments to track millions of motorists.




"In 2020, the RPSN will be fully compliant with the federal 2019 NDAA law, which bans the use of certain foreign manufactured cameras used in critical infrastructure."




Rekor's 2019 NDAA sales pitch, is both disturbing and despicable. It reveals just where they and law enforcement stand when it comes to using ALPR's to spy on millions of motorists.



Police use license plate readers to track motorists in real-time

An article in The Newspaper revealed how police in Louisiana use license plate readers to track motorists in real-time.



Eric J. Richard had been driving his white Buick LaCrosse on Interstate 10, when he was stopped by Louisiana State Police Trooper Luke Leger for allegedly following a truck too closely. During the roadside interrogation, the trooper asked where Richard was coming from.




"I was coming from my job right there in Vinton," Richard replied. The trooper had already looked up the travel records for Richard's car and already knew it had crossed into Louisiana from Texas earlier in the day. Based on this "apparent lie," the trooper extended the traffic stop by asking more questions and calling in a drug dog.




The article goes on to say that police had no reason to track Mr. Richard, but they did so because they could. And that should frighten everyone.



Rekor lets law enforcement know where your friends and family are, where your doctor's office is, where you worship and where you buy groceries.



How is that for Orwellian?



It is time to face the facts: ALPR's are not about public safety, they are a massive surveillance system designed to let Big Brother track our every movement.




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 17:35


Tags

Law Crime

232
71 Views
Wall Street Ignores Cyclical Jobs Growth Downturn As Employment Indicator Hits Great Recession Levels

The Economic Cycle Research Institute's (ECRI) Lakshman Achuthan recently sat down with CNBC's Michael Santoli to discuss the jobs growth downturn. Keep in mind, this conversation was held on Wednesday, several days before Friday's disappointing jobs report.



Achuthan told Santoli there's a "very clear cyclical downturn in jobs growth, th

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ere's really no debating that, and it looks set to continue."





Achuthan said January 2019 marked the cyclical peak in jobs growth, has been moving lower ever since, and the trend is far from over. Both nonfarm payrolls and the household survey year-over-year growth are in cyclical downturns, he said. 





While the economic narratives via the mainstream financial press continue to cheerlead that the consumer will lift all tides thanks to the supposedly strong jobs market, Achuthan believes the downturn in jobs growth will start to "undermine consumer confidence." And it's the loss in consumer confidence that could tilt the economy into recession.   



He also said when examining cyclically sensitive sectors of the economy, there are already "questionable jobs numbers," such as a significant surge in the construction unemployment rate. 



Achuthan said nonfarm payroll growth has plunged to a 17-month low, and the household survey is even weaker. He said the top nonfarm payroll line would be revised down by half a million jobs in the coming months, which would underline the weakness in employment. 



Achuthan emphasized to Santoli that ECRI's recession call won't be "taken off the table. We've been talking about a growth rate cycle slowdown. We're slow-walking toward -- some recessionary window of vulnerability -- we're not there today -- but this piece of the puzzle [jobs growth downturn] is looking a bit wobbly. This is the main message that Wall Street is missing." 





As Wall Street bids stocks to near-record highs on "trade optimism" and the belief that the consumer will save the day, in large part because of solid jobs growth. ECRI's Leading Employment Index, which correctly anticipated this downturn in jobs growth, is at its worst reading since the Great Recession.



And Wall Street's bet today is that the Fed can achieve a soft landing – as in 1995-96 – when it started the rate cut cycle the same month the inflation downturn was signaled by the U.S. Future Inflation Gauge (USFIG) turning lower.



However, this time around, the inflation downturn signal arrived in September 2018, the moment when the Fed should have started the cut cycle. With a ten-month lag in the cut cycle, belated rate cuts have always been associated with recession.





And now it should become increasingly clear to readers why President Trump has sounded the alarm about the need for 100bps rate cuts, quantitative easing, and emergency payroll tax cuts - it's because he's been briefed about the economic downturn that has already started. 




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 18:00


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Business Finance
Labor

238
64 Views
"National Emergency" - US Business Formation Goes Negative 

Applications to start new businesses that would eventually hire employees plunged 16% between 2007 and 1H19. The pace of applications did tick up in 2012 but fell again in 2019 despite President Trump's constant promotion that his tax cuts, deregulatory actions, record-high stock market, and a trade war against China would allow American companies to prosper. Applications dropped 2.6% in

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1H19 YoY.



Business formation has been one of the top drivers in wealth creation for millions of Americans. When fewer companies are created, this means fewer Americans will prosper and could heavily weigh on consumer sentiment.





Smaller to medium-sized firms account for at least 85% of all hiring, making them a gateway for most workers into the workforce.



With an unemployment rate at record low levels, a drop in new business formation could result in fewer firms looking for skilled workers, an environment that will often slow pay growth.




"What you see is reduced social and economic mobility," said Steve Strongin, head of global investment research at Goldman Sachs. "It means that most of the growth is occurring in the corporate sphere, which keeps wage growth down and improves profits."




Goldman Sachs published a survey of business owners who participated in its "10,000 Small Businesses" program.



The survey recognized that entrepreneurs are having a hard time obtaining skilled workers and had even more difficulty navigating complex regulations. Both factors have decreased the rate of new company creation.



According to an online survey of 2,285 alumni of the Goldman program, only 20% of business owners said they felt that President Trump's 2017 debt-fuelled tax cut would increase their companies' growth.



Other factors include social and demographic crosscurrents that are limiting opportunities for entrepreneurs and smaller companies.



Millennials will take over the workforce in the next four to six years, but their economic mobility is somewhat limited in creating new businesses because they don't have the money, due to high amounts of student loans and no savings.



There were also several sectors of the economy where business creation was somewhat muted. That was seen with 116,459 fewer construction companies than it did in 2007, a 15% decline in a little more than a decade.



Fifty-four thousand fewer retailers employing less than 20 people were seen in the last decade, and more than 26,000 small manufacturers have closed up shop.



With construction and retail sectors in the dumps, many entrepreneurs went to other industries for economic opportunity. This led to less construction and retail jobs across America; many of these jobs are what support the middle class, explains why homeownership continues to collapse.



Even though the number of tech startups has jumped 20% since 2007, the sector only represents 6 million companies or just about 2% of all companies.



And according to John Dearie, founder of the Center for American Entrepreneurship, the decline in business formation "amounts to nothing less than a national emergency."




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 15:30


Tags

Business Finance
Labor
Social Issues

214
105 Views
Pod People - The Future Of Housing In America's 'Sharing' Economy

Urban millennials are shelling out half their income to inhabit pods in decaying mega cities.





For the low-low price of $1400/month, you can live in Venice Beach at a PodShare...





Away from the glossy PR, it doesn't look so great...





No privacy, no pets, no f

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amily.





Cheek by jowel with other pod-dwellers on prison-style bunk beds.





Forced to live like ants in colonies because none of them can afford to buy a home anymore.





As Paul Joseph Watson explains in his inimitable way, millennials are "living the dream!"





My voice is being silenced by free speech-hating Silicon Valley behemoths who want me disappeared forever. It is CRUCIAL that you support me. Please sign up for the free newsletter here. Donate to me on SubscribeStar here. Support my sponsor – Turbo Force – a supercharged boost of clean energy without the comedown.



*  *  *



Of course, the images of the 'pod people' sparked a large response from the twitterati as the scenes reminded them of horrors from the past...




Although it beats this...






Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 15:55
215
56 Views
People Are Already Getting Arrested For Trying To "Storm Area 51"

Authored by John Vibes via The Mind Unleashed blog,



The viral campaign to “storm Area 51” was scheduled for September 20th, and after months of controversy, the organizers decided instead to set up a festival called “Alien Stock” in the middle of the desert, where all of the Area 51 enthusiasts could gather in a safe and legal way. Unfortunately, locals i

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n the small town of Rachel, Nevada were not very happy about the idea of thousands of curiosity seekers descending on their neighborhood.



After the festival was announced, a warning was posted on the town’s website in response to the news, stating that local residents would defend their property by force if they had to, saying that “the situation could get ugly.”



The website voiced concerns that such an event would attract crooks who sought to “capitalize on the chaos.”



Since the event was canceled, the town’s website was updated with a celebratory post saying that the party was being moved to Las Vegas, and that it was canceled due to poor organization. The website called the event Fyre Fest 2.0, a reference to the now-notorious festival hosted by rapper Jah Rule and con artist Billy McFarland, which ended in a disaster when the organizers weren’t prepared for the event that they advertised.



There have been many other spin-off events as well, and while it is not clear if they will be moving to Las Vegas along with Alien Stock, they were not initially planned to take place in Rachel, but in locations farther from the actual Area 51 site.



While the official plan to storm the secret military base located in the desert was just a joke, it seems that not everyone got the memo.



Two men have already been arrested for trespassing on the Nevada National Security Site, which is a government nuclear facility located 10 miles away from Area 51. The two men, 21-year-old Wilhelmus Jacob Sweep and 20-year-old Ties Granzie, are Dutch YouTubers who had flown all the way to the United States to attend the event.





The Nye County Sheriff’s Office found the pair’s vehicle parked three blocks inside the nuclear site. In the car, police found a camera, a laptop, and a drone. It was also noted that the YouTubers had already captured footage from inside the facility.



Police said that, while Granzier and Sweep do not understand English perfectly, they should have been able to recognize the threatening “No Trespassing” signs all over the property.



If convicted, they could face a maximum sentence of six months in prison, a $500 fine, or both, according to the US Department of Justice.




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 15:05
206
130 Views
Matt Taibbi Blasts The Smolenkov Saga As "Latest Pile Of BS Dumped On Us By Intel Agencies"

Authored by Matt Taibbi via Untitledgate blog,



The latest Russian spy story looks like another elaborate media deception...





When I was 20, I studied at the Leningrad Polytechnical Institute, in the waning days of the Soviet empire. Most of the Russians I met were amusingly free of str

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ess caused by following news. Why would they bother? Bull-factories like Rossiskaya Gazeta and Leningradsaya Pravda were basically collections of dreary government news releases rewritten to sound like news reports.



I saw newspapers in Leningrad shredded into slivers of toilet paper, used in place of curtains in dorm rooms, even stuffed into overcoat linings as insulation. But I can’t recall a Russian person actually reading a Soviet newspaper for the content. That’s how useless its “news” was.



We’re headed to a similar place. The cable networks, along with the New York Times and Washington Post increasingly act like house organs of the government, and in particular the intelligence agencies.



An episode this week involving a tale of a would-be American spy “exfiltrated” from Russia solidifies this impression. Seldom has a news story been more transparently fraudulent.



The story was broken by CNN Monday, September 9th, under the headline, “Exclusive: US extracted top spy from inside Russia in 2017”:




In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN.




CNN’s lede relayed multiple key pieces of information, not one of which was really emphasized in the main of its unconfirmable story:




  • America not only had a spy inside Russia’s government, it had multiple spies, with the subject of this particular piece being merely one of America’s “highest level” sources




  • The “extraction” was completed “successfully”




  • The sources are “multiple Trump administration officials”



The story told us our spy agencies successfully penetrated Russian government at the highest levels (although apparently not well enough to foresee or forestall the election interference campaign the same agencies spent the last three years howling about).



We were also told the agencies saved an invaluable human source back in 2017, and that the story came from inside the Trump administration. But the big sell came in the second and third paragraphs (emphasis mine):




The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.



The disclosure to the Russians by the President, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure…




So great was this spy of ours, we were told, that he had “access to Putin” and “could even provide images of documents on the Russian leader’s desk.” This was “according to CNN’s sources,” an interesting attribution given passages like this:




The source was considered the highest-level source for the US inside the Kremlin, high up in the national security infrastructure, according to the source familiar with the matter and a former senior intelligence official.




It’s a characteristic of third world countries to have the intelligence world and the media be intertwined enough that it’s not always clear whether the reporters and the reported-about are the same people. When you turn on the TV in Banana Republics, you’re never sure which group is talking to you.



We’re now in that same paradigm in America. CNN has hired nearly a dozen former intelligence or counterintelligence officials as analysts in the last few years. Their big get was former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, but they also now have former deputy FBI chief Andrew McCabe, former FBI counsel James Baker, and multiple former CIA, NSA, and NSC officials.



Meanwhile, former CIA director John Brennan has an MSNBC/NBC gig, as does former CIA and DOD chief of staff Jeremy Bash, and several other ex-spooks. The Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, who doubles as the CEO of one of America’s largest intelligence contractors.



This odious situation is similar to 2003-2004, when cable networks were tossing contributor deals to every ex-general and ex-spook they could find while they were reporting on the Iraq invasion. At one point, FAIR.org found that 52 percent of the sources in network newscasts were current or former government officials.



The numbers now aren’t quite that skewed, but CNN and MSNBC both employ former senior intelligence officials who comment upon stories in which they had direct involvement, especially the Russia investigation.



The CNN piece about the exfiltrated spy quotes a “former senior intelligence official,” a ubiquitous character that has become modern America’s version of the Guy Fawkes mask. I asked the network what their position was on whether or not they felt obligated to make a disclosure when (or if) a source was one of their own employees. They haven’t responded. 



Within hours after the CNN report broke, the New York Times had a triple-bylined piece out entitled, “C.I.A. Informant Extracted From Russia Had Sent Secrets to U.S. for Decades.” Written by three of their top national security writers, Adam Goldman, Julian Barnes and David Sanger, the story repeated the CNN information, but with a crucial difference:




C.I.A. officials worried about safety made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia. The situation grew more tense when the informant at first refused, citing family concerns…




CNN reported (and continues to report) that the “decision” to remove the spy came “soon after a May 2017 meeting.” The Times, based on interviews with its own batch of “current and former officials,” insisted the “arduous decision” came in “late 2016.” The Times noted the source “at first refused” to be extracted, explaining the delay in his removal.



How to understand all of this? Washington Post story by Shane Harris and Ellen Nakashima released at 6:06 the next morning, “U.S. got key asset out of Russia following election hacking,” came up with the final formula. To see the complex, absurd rhetorical construction in full, one unfortunately has to quote at length:




In 2017, the United States extracted from Russia an important CIA source…



The exfiltration took place sometime after an Oval Office meeting in May 2017, when President Trump revealed highly classified counterterrorism information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador...



That disclosure alarmed U.S. national security officials, but it was not the reason for the decision to remove the CIA asset, who had provided information to the United States for more than a decade, according to the current and former officials.




The old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials used the tagline, “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter.” This Post story is, “You got your 2016 decision in my 2017 exfiltration!”



The paper brazenly fuses two unconnected narratives, telling us that a spy who had provided valuable information in 2016 was extracted in early 2017, after the Trump-Lavrov meeting. While that sequence may be chronologically correct, the story’s own authors say the Trump-Lavrov meeting was “not the reason” for the exfiltration. So why mention it? Moreover, who was this person, and what was the real reason his removal from Russia was necessary?



On Tuesday, September 10th, the Russian newspaper Kommersant* disclosed the name of the spy. They identified him as a mid-level Foreign Ministry official named Oleg Smolenkov.



Was Smolenkov a “very valuable agent”? Maybe, but Kommersant – amusingly, playing the same role as transparent mouthpiece for security organs – said no. They quoted a Russian foreign ministry official saying, “Let the CIA prove this.” As to Trump disclosing secrets to Lavrov in that meeting, the official told the Russian paper, “CNN never before thought up such nonsense,” adding that it was “pure paranoia.”



Kommersant further related that Russians instituted a murder case over the disappearance of Smolenkov and his family in 2017.



Disappear, however, Smolenkov did not. He went from Russia to Montenegro in 2017, then ended up in Virginia, where he and his family bought a house in Stafford, Virginia in January of 2019, in his own name! This is the same person about whom the Times this past Monday wrote:




The person’s life remains in danger, current and former officials said, pointing to Moscow’s attempts last year to assassinate Sergei V. Skripal, a former Russian intelligence official who moved to Britain as part of a high-profile spy exchange in 2010…




Smolenkov was so afraid for his safety, he put his family in a house the FSB could see by clicking on Realtor.com! That’s “tradecraft” for you.



To recap:




U.S. officials decided to exfiltrate a spy capable of transmitting pictures from Vladimir Putin’s desk (why are we telling audiences this, by the way?) because… why? Although all three of the initial major American news stories about this referenced Trump’s May 2017 meeting with Sergei Lavrov, the actual reason was buried in the text of all three pieces:




In the Times:




But former intelligence officials said there was no public evidence that Mr. Trump directly endangered the source, and other current American officials insisted that media scrutiny of the agency’s sources alone was the impetus for the extraction.




The Post:




In January 2017, the Obama administration published a detailed assessment that unambiguously laid the blame on the Kremlin…



“It’s quite likely,” the official continued, “that the U.S. intelligence community would already be taking a hard look at extracting any U.S. assets who would have been subject to increased levels of scrutiny” after the assessment’s publication.




CNN:




A US official said before the secret operation there was media speculation about the existence of such a covert source, and such coverage or public speculation poses risks to the safety of anyone a foreign government suspects may be involved. This official did not identify any public reporting to that effect at the time of this decision and CNN could not find any related reference in media reports.




That last passage by CNN, in which the network claimed it could not find “any related reference” to a secret source in media reports, is laughable.



Unnamed “senior intelligence officials” spent much of the early months of the Trump administration bragging their faces off about their supposed penetration of the Kremlin. Many of their leaks were designed to throw shade on the new pompadour-in-chief, casting him as a Putin puppet. A January 5, 2017 piece in the Washington Post is a classic example:




Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.




We’re constantly told the intelligence agencies can’t reveal classified details out of fear of disclosing “sources and methods,” but this story revealed a very specific capability. If that “Russians celebrating Trump’s win” tale came from a person, it wouldn’t be long before the source’s head would be found in Park Sokolniki.



A more revealing Washington Post piece came in June, 2017. It was called “Obama’s Secret Struggle to Punish Russia for Putin’s Election Assault.” In that article, we’re told at length about how Brennan secured a “feat of espionage,” obtaining sourcing “deep within the Russian government” that provided him, Brennan, with insights into Russian’s electoral interference campaign.



Brennan, the Post said, considered the source’s intel so valuable that he reportedly hand-delivered its “eyes only” bombshell contents directly to Barack Obama in summer of 2016. This was before the story was told to the whole world less than a year later.



In that Post article, it was revealed that the October 2016 assessment of Russia’s role in an electoral interference campaign initially was directly tied to Putin, but Putin’s name was removed because it might “endanger intelligence sources and methods.”



Taken in sum, all of these facts suggest it wasn’t at all Donald Trump’s meeting with Sergei Lavrov that necessitated the “exfiltration.



(Side note: many of these spy stories are larded with Tom Clancy-style verbiage to make the reader feel sexier and more in the know. The CNN story, for instance, ludicrously told us that a covert source was also “known as an asset.” Derp – thanks!).



What is this all really about? We have an idea only because Brennan and Clapper aren’t the only ex-spooks pipelining info to friendlies in the media.



As noted by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and others, Attorney General William Barr earlier this year directed the Justice Department and former Connecticut Attorney General John Durham to investigate the intelligence agencies. In June, the New York Times wrote:




Mr. Barr has been interested in how the C.I.A. drew its conclusions about Russia’s election sabotage, particularly the judgment that Mr. Putin ordered that operatives help Mr. Trump by discrediting his opponent, Hillary Clinton, according to current and former American officials.




The Times quoted former CIA officials who expressed “anxiety” about this inquiry:




While the Justice Department review is not a criminal inquiry, it has provoked anxiety in the ranks of the C.I.A., according to former officials. Senior agency officials have questioned why the C.I.A.’s analytical work should be subjected to a federal prosecutor’s scrutiny. 




We know, because it was bragged about at length in hagiographic portrayals in papers like the Washington Post, that John Brennan was the source of the conclusion that Putin directed the interference. We were even told that the determination of Putin’s involvement was too dangerous to publish in late 2016, because it would compromise Brennan’s magical Kremlin mole.



Now, suddenly, we’re treated to a series of stories that try to assert that the mole was removed either completely or in part because of Trump.



Maybe there’s an element of truth there. But it’s astonishing that none of the major news outlets bothered, even as an insincere gesture to convention, to address this story’s obvious counter-narrative.



If the mole was even that important, which I’m not convinced of – as McGovern told me this week, “They make stuff up all the time” – it seems more than possible we lost this “asset” because our intelligence chiefs felt it necessary to spend late 2016 and early 2017 spilling details about our capabilities in the news media.



This story wasn’t leaked to tell the public an important story about a lost source in the Kremlin, but more likely as damage control, to work the refs as investigators examine the origins of the election interference tale.



In 2017-2018, the likes of Brennan and Clapper were regularly feeding bombshell news stories to major papers and TV stations, usually as unnamed sources. The ostensible subject of these tales was usually Russian interference or collusion, but the subtext was a squalid power struggle between the enforcement bureaucracy and its loathed new executive, Trump.



After this “exfiltration story” broke, Esquire columnist Charlie Pierce, a colleague with whom I’ve sadly disagreed about this Russia business, wrote a poignant piece called “The Spies Are Acting as a Check on Our Elected Leaders. This Is Neither Healthy Nor Sustainable.”



In it, Charlie said something out loud that few have been willing to say out loud:




My guess is that the leak of this remarkable story came from somewhere in the bowels of the intelligence community…



The intelligence community is engaged in a cold war of information against the elected political leadership of the country, and a lot of us are finding ourselves on its side. This is neither healthy nor sustainable.




I personally don’t see myself as being on either side of this Cold War, but his point is true. He’s thinking about the country, but there’s the more immediate question of our business. A situation where the newspapers and airwaves are not for relaying facts but for firing sorties in an internecine power struggle really is unsustainable.



It won’t be long before audiences realize they’re not reading true news stories but what the Russians call versii, or “versions.” Whether it’s the pro-Trump wasteland of Fox or the Brennan-Clapper government-in-exile we see on MSNBC and CNN and in the Washington Post, the news has become two different nations, both intensely self-interested, neither honest. If this continues, it won’t be long before we’re filling overcoats and bird cages with things we used to read.




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 14:15
233
98 Views
The Price Of Gold Just Hit A Record High...

Authored by Simon Black via SovereignMan.com,



48 hours ago, the European Central Bank announced a bonanza stimulus package: interest rate cuts, money printing, quantitative easing, the whole nine yards.



Europe’s economic growth has ground to a halt. The German economy actually shrank last quarter, according to official statistics.



So the Eur

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opean Central Bank is throwing everything including the kitchen sink at this problem. Their stimulus package is like a monetary defibrillator trying to shock Europe’s economies back to growth.



It’s pretty amazing when you think about it: interest rates in Europe are already NEGATIVE. They’ve been cutting rates for years, and it hasn’t worked.



Back in July 2008, the European Central Bank’s main interest rate was 3.25%.



By the end of 2008, it was clear the global economy was slowing down, and the central bank had slashed interest rates to just 1%.



But they kept going.



By 2013, the ECB had reduced its primary interest rate all the way to zero.



And in 2014, they took the unprecedented step of cutting rates even further– to NEGATIVE 0.10%.



European rates have been negative now for FIVE YEARS. Yet Europe’s economies are still in the dog house.





These results completely defy prevailing economic wisdom.



According to the ridiculous playbook that nearly all central bankers use, cutting interest rates is supposed to stimulate economic growth.



If interest rates are lower, it makes it easier and cheaper for people to borrow money. If it’s cheaper to borrow money, people buy more stuff… which creates more economic growth.



But that’s not happening.



They’ve been cutting rates, even below zero, to the point that you can actually get PAID to BORROW money in Europe. Yet those economies are still stagnating.



So the central bank’s solution? If what you’re doing isn’t working, do more of the same!



It’s astonishing how these economists cling their ridiculous theories…



Unsurprisingly, the European prices of both gold and silver shot up this morning.



Gold is now selling in Europe for nearly 1,400 euros as I write this letter— an ALL-TIME high.





That’s because precious metals are a refuge from keeping your savings held hostage by unelected central bankers who can slash interest rates to negative levels and conjure unlimited quantities of paper currency out of thin air.



It’s not just Europe either.



Across the water in the United States, the central bank has already indicated that they’re going to start cutting rates as well… plus they’re facing pressure from the Tweeter-in-Chief to make interest rates negative, just like in Europe.



That’s a big reason why precious metals prices have been climbing so rapidly; in the past two months alone, the silver price is up 22%.





I’ve been talking about this for months, encouraging you to buy gold and silver. But this isn’t over. There’s a lot more monetary insanity to come from the United States and Europe… so gold and silver prices likely still have a lot of room to rise.



(Silver could actually triple in price, and it still wouldn’t beat its previous record high.)



One big driver of gold demand is actually coming from foreign central banks and governments. They can see what’s happening to the US dollar and euro, and they’re keen to diversify their reserve assets away from negative interest rates.



Russia has been on a gold-buying spree lately, gobbling up more than 18 metric tons of gold in the month of June alone, and nearly 100 metric tons since the beginning of 2019.



China has also added 100 metric tons of gold to its foreign reserves since the beginning of 2019.



Even the central bank of Poland has acquired 100 metric tons of gold this year, nearly doubling its gold holdings from last year.



This is a powerful trend that could continue sending prices higher. So it’s still a reasonable time to buy physical gold and silver.




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 11:45


Tags

Business Finance

204
25 Views
US Car Ownership Costs Surge To Record Highs, Delinquencies Soar, Trouble Ahead

A new report by the American Automobile Association (AAA) indicates new car ownership costs have reached its highest levels since the automobile travel firm began tracking costs in 1950. 



A new car will have an annual average cost of about $9,282, or $773.50 per month, based on owners driving about 15,000 miles per year. 



AAA suggests rising costs a

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re mostly associated with increased borrowing costs as higher rates and longer term loans are overburdening consumers. The second highest costs are fuel then maintenance. 



The Autoblog said, "the finance portion of the annual vehicle cost rose 24% this year compared to 2018." 





While the average cost per year is $9,282, the amount of money a consumer could spend will significantly depend on the type of car. 



The report said small gas-powered cars cost about $7,114 per year. Pickup trucks and SUVs average well over $10,000. A breakdown of the costs are seen below:



  • Small Sedan: $7,114

  • Hybrid: $7,736

  • EV: $8,320

  • Small SUV: $8,394

  • Medium Sedan: $8,643

  • Medium SUV: $10,265

  • Large Sedan: $10,403

  • Pickup Truck: $10,839

Small sedans appear to be the real winner for affordable transportation, meaning that fuel costs and debt servicing payments are somewhat manageable for the bottom 90% of Americans.



Hybrids and electric vehicles also have reduced fuel costs but suffer from high upfront costs and the highest depreciation costs across all automobiles, something we outlined last month. 





As cars get more complicated, like the addition of batteries, costs rocket higher and values depreciate quicker. Even without batteries, consumers are gravitating towards SUVs and trucks, more than 70% of new vehicle purchases today have been larger size vehicles thanks to low borrowing costs. 




"It’s definitely pulled (the average) up because those vehicles are more expensive to own and operate," said Mike Calkins, principal author of the study for AAA. "Pickup trucks are really big right now, and those are the most expensive vehicle to own and operate by a good margin."




Consumers on average are spent $32,590 in Aug., up 5.2% YoY, according to car-buying advice site Edmunds. The average interest rate was 5.8%, the same as a year earlier, but the average loan terms are being pushed out to almost 70 months!



And with Americans paying the most ever to have their vehicles on the road, if that is through debt servicing payments or maintenance costs or even fuel costs, it seems that many could be on the path to financial ruin as subprime auto loan delinquencies – 90 days or more past due - in 2Q19, have just had "the biggest 12-month surge since 2010." 





Couple record high transportation costs and skyrocketing subprime auto loan delinquencies with an economic slowdown that is materially getting worse -- this could suggest that pain is about to be inflicted on the consumer, at a time when sentiment is already starting to shift lower. 




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 12:10


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Business Finance

201
38 Views
European Carmakers Face Perfect Storm

Authored by Irina Slav via OilPrice.com,



European carmakers are facing what could turn out to be a major crisis cooked up by EU regulators, and it’s all about EVs and emissions. The former are supposed to help solve the problem with the latter, but the likelihood of success is uncertain because there are literally millions of variables: car buyers.

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>

The EU has been enforcing emission caps on cars since 2012. Until this year, this cap has been an average of 130 grams of CO2 per kilometer for all new passenger cars. Beginning next year, however, this would be reduced further to 95 grams of CO per km. In fuel consumption, the 130 g/km cap corresponds to an average 5.6 liters of gasoline per 100 km while the 95 g/km cap corresponds to 4.1 liters per 100 km.





Europe’s big carmakers are lining up the EVs. Volkswagen alone is planning four new EV models for 2020, after earlier this month it unveiled its first mass production affordable EV, the ID3. More models should be coming from the top carmaker in the next few years and its rivals will not be sitting idly by. Everyone who makes cars in Europe has an electric lineup… but there are no guarantees that people will want to buy those cars.




“You have cars that cost an extra 10,000 euros to build, fleet-emissions targets requiring a certain sales volume and consumers who may or may not want them,” one executive from PSA Group (the company that makes Citroen and Peugeot) told Reuters at this week’s Frankfurt Motor Show.




It’s not like the industry hasn’t tried to make EVs attractive. It’s enough, at least in some parts of the EU, to say they are the greener alternative, and there will be people to buy them. Unfortunately, the majority seems to like big cars over green cars.



A report by Automotive News Europe revealed in March this year that while total car sales in 2018 had stayed flat on 2017, sales of SUVs and crossovers in the EU had posted a healthy growth of 18 percent. That’s 800,000 more SUVs and crossovers sold in the EU last year, with the total reaching 5.3 million.



Greenpeace had more bad news for Europe’s carmakers. In a report titled Crashing the Climate: How the Car Industry is Driving the Climate Crisis, the environmental organization said the total carbon emissions of what Greenpeace calls “the dirty dozen” carmakers had exceeded the EU’s carbon emissions in 2018. Fun fact: Volkswagen was the worst offender, probably because it sells the most cars.



Greenpeace went on to add that sales of SUVs in Europe had risen more than four times since 2008, with their market share reaching 32 percent, from just 8 percent in 2008. Sure enough, in recent years, some of these SUVs are hybrid, but the great majority are not.



According to a German engineering consultancy cited by Reuters, based on the EU’s emission targets, sales of EVs would need to increase three times to reach a 6-percent market share by 2021, in order to make a difference. Hybrid vehicle sales, FEV Consulting says, would need to accumulate a 5-percent market share.



That’s quite a rise in EV sales in countries that are not as small and green as Norway. Given the buying trends from recent years, carmakers have every reason to worry about their EV plans not working out. Unfortunately, there is little they can do to tame the wild cards that are SUV-loving customers.




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 09:20


Tags

Environment
Business Finance

229
37 Views
Massive Fires Erupt After Drone Strike Hits World's Largest Oil Processing Facility In Saudi Arabia

What appears to be the most devastating Yemen Houthi rebel attack on Saudi Arabia to date, took place overnight on the world's largest oil processing facility as stunning videos emerged of massive

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explosions rocking the major Aramco Buqyaq facility.





Fires burned into the morning daylight hours, with explosions also reported at the Khurais oil field, in what the Houthis said was a successful attack involving ten drones. "These attacks are our right, and we warn the Saudis that our targets will keep expanding," a rebel military spokesman said on Houthi-operated Al Masirah TV.


Satellite images shows extent of fires following the attacks in eastern Saudi Arabia: NASA Worldview/AP

Saudi authorities — initially slow or reluctant to identify the cause of the major blaze on Saturday issued a confirmation via the Saudi Press Agency: "At 4.00am (01:00 GMT) the industrial security teams of Aramco started dealing with fires at two of its facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais as a result of... drones," an interior ministry statement said, which further claimed the fires were "under control".




However, the Saudis have stopped short of acknowledging the Houthis were behind the attack, which Riyadh is also likely to blame on Iran, which has lately promised that if it can't export its oil then "no one will". 



It remains unclear according to early statements whether there were injuries or casualties in the twin oil facility attacks.




In some of the video captured by onlookers outside the Buqayq facility, gunfire in or around the complex was apparent. 




The impact on global oil markets - closed for the weekend - could be significant given the Khurais field produces about 1% of all the world's oil (estimated at over 1M bpd and reserves of over 20BN bpd) and more importantly Abqaiq, which based on the stunning local footage bore the brunt of the drone attacks, remains the most crucial of the kingdom's processing plants.



Located 37 miles southwest of Aramco’s Dhahran headquarters, it controls all the flows from fields like the giant Ghawar field to coastal export terminals like Ras Tanura. Saudi Aramco describes the Buqyaq facility as "the largest crude oil stabilization plant in the world." 



Meanwhile, the United States was quick to "strongly condemn" the attack amid already soaring tensions in the gulf after a summer of "tanker wars" and Iranian threats of walking away altogether from the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA).



The U.S. envoy to Saudi Arabia issued a statement saying, “The U.S. strongly condemns today’s drone attacks against oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais. These attacks against critical infrastructure endanger civilians, are unacceptable, and sooner or later will result in innocent lives being lost.”



According to Reuters reports the drone attacks will impact up to 5 million bpd of oil production, which suggests that the price of oil - already severely depressed by the recent news that John Bolton is out, making de-escalation with Iran far more likely - is set to soar when trading reopens late on Sunday, just what the upcoming Aramco IPO desperately needs, which in turn has prompted some to wonder if the "Yemen" attack on Saudi Arabia wasn't in fact orchestrated by Saudi interests. 18 years after Sept 11, this shouldn't sound all that outlandish...   




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 09:41


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War Conflict

213
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IMF Estimates $15 Trillion Of World's Foreign Direct Investments Are "Phantom Capital"

A new study published by the International Monetary Fund has found that $15 trillion of the world's foreign direct investments are "phantom capital" - a term used to describe capital that is designed to minimize tax bills of multinational firms. 



This total makes up 40% of the world's foreign direct investments, and is the equivalent to the co

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mbined GDP of China and Germany, according to Bloomberg. 



These types of investments have risen about 10% over the past decade despite global efforts to curb tax avoidance, according to the IMF study. The capital makes its way through corporate shells that generally have no operations or real business activity. 



The study stated:




“FDI (foreign direct investment) is often an important driver for genuine international economic integration, stimulating growth and job creation and boosting productivity. But phantom capital is financial and tax engineering that blurs traditional FDI statistics and makes it difficult to understand genuine economic integration.”






It continued:




"Luxembourg, a country of 600,000 people, hosts as much FDI as the U.S. and much more than China. FDI of this size hardly reflects brick-and-mortar investments in the minuscule Luxembourg economy, whose $4 trillion in FDI comes to $6.6 million a person. Unsurprisingly, an economy’s exposure to phantom FDI increases with the corporate tax rate."




About half of the world's "phantom capital" is hosted by Luxembourg and the Netherlands, with just 10 economies globally holding more than 85% of such investments. 



The study concluded that "international cooperation" was vital to solving the issue: "Indeed, this year the IMF put forward various alternatives for a revised international tax architecture, ranging from minimum taxes to allocation of taxing rights to destination economies. No matter which road policymakers choose, one fact remains clear: international cooperation is the key to dealing with taxation in today’s globalized economic environment."



The full IMF study can be found here. 




Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 07:35


Tags

Business Finance

249
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Poll: Majority Of Brits (Including A Third Of Remainers) Want Brexit Vote Respected

Authored by Steve Watson via Summit News,



By ratio of 2:1, voters think it’s "fundamentally undemocratic" for some MPs to try and prevent Brexit





A new survey conducted by research experts ComRes, finds that the majority of British people want the Brexit vote

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to be respected and want the country to leave the EU without any more delays.



Despite calls for delaying and even canceling Brexit from both members of the Labour Party and the entirety of the Liberal Democrat party, the survey finds that a majority of British people categorically do not want that to happen.





More than half of British adults, 54 percent, believe the result of the 2016 referendum should be respected, and Brexit delivered, the poll found.



Only 25 percent disagreed, and 21 percent said they didn’t know.




Even among those who voted Remain in 2016, more than a third, 35 per cent, said they now wanted Brexit delivered.




Only 29 per cent of voters said they want the process further delayed in the hope of securing a deal with the EU.






The survey noted that By ratio of 2:1, voters think it’s ‘fundamentally undemocratic’ for some MPs to try and prevent Brexit.




If Brexit were to be revoked, it is clear from these figures that there would be a massive uprising.




The poll also found that 40 percent disagree with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call for a general election.



Thirty percent said they do not want an election, with the remaining 30 percent saying they do not know.



The poll also found that almost half of British voters would rather leave the EU with No Deal than have Corbyn as Prime Minister. Only 22 percent thought this was a good idea.




The survey also found that more voters agreed than disagreed that Boris Johnson should make a pact with the Brexit Party.




Here are some more findings from the survey:










Tyler Durden

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 08:10


Tags

Politics

245
105 Views
A Third Of Democrats Favor Declaring NRA 'Terrorist Orgnization'; 28% Say It Should Be Illegal To Join

A new Rasmussen poll reveals that almost one-third (32%) of likely Democratic voters favor declaring the National Rifle Association a terrorist organization, after officials in San Francisco did just that. 





Meanwhile, 28% of Democrats say Americans should be banned from joining pro-gun rights organiza

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tions like the NRA - a view surprisingly shared by 15% of Republicans and 10% of unaffiliated voters. 



Just 13% of likely voters believe NRA members are more likely to commit a crime with a gun - and in fact 47% believe that members are less likely to commit such a crime. 28% think NRA membership makes no difference vs. the general population. 



The poll also revealed that 50% of voters have a favorable impression of the NRA, while 44% do not. Of that, 30% have a Very Favorable view of the group, while 33% have a Very Unfavorable one - virtually the same opinion as those polled held in March of last year. 




Republicans (78%) are far more likely to have a favorable opinion of the NRA than Democrats (32%) and unaffiliated voters (42%). But even among Democrats, only 17% think NRA members are more likely to commit a crime with a gun.



Voters under 40 are far more supportive than their elders of making it illegal to belong to gun rights groups like the NRA.



While Americans argue over the availability of guns, most of those with a gun in their house continue to say it makes them feel safer.



Seventy percent (70%) agree with President Trump when he said, “It’s not the gun that pulls the trigger; it’s the person that pulls the trigger.”



Attorney General William Barr hopes to make it easier and quicker to sentence mass shooters to death, and most Americans think that’s a good idea. Interestingly, however, these findings come at a time when support for the death penalty in general has fallen to a new low. -Rasmussen




As we noted on Tuesday, the NRA has sued the city and county of San Francisco after its Board of Supervisors declared it a "domestic terrorist organization.



Filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, the suit accuses city officials of violating the group's free speech rights for political purposes, and claims the city is attempting to create a blacklist to prevent NRA-associated individuals from doing business there, according to Fox News



The lawsuit asks the court "to instruct elected officials that freedom of speech means you cannot silence or punish those with whom you disagree."




Tyler Durden

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 21:05


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Politics
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Law Crime

216
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The Establishment Is Changing Its Tune On Russia

Authored by Patrick Lawrence via ConsortiumNews.com,



Russophobic rhetoric persists in Washington, but a counter-argument is emerging.





Are Western democracies, the U.S. and France in the lead, rethinking the hostility toward Russia they conjured out of nothing since Moscow responded to the

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coup Washington cultivated in Ukraine five years ago? Will Trump eventually succeed in putting ties with Russia on a more productive path — triumphing over the hawks hovering around him? Have the Europeans at last grown weary of following the U.S. lead on Russia even as it is against their interests to do so?



In desultory fashion over the past month or so, we have had indications that the policy cliques in Washington are indeed reconsidering the Cold War II they set in motion during the Obama administration’s final years. And President Donald Trump, persistent in his effort to reconstruct relations with Russia, now finds an unlikely ally in Emmanuel Macron. This suggests a nascent momentum in a new direction.



“Pushing Russia away from Europe is a profound strategic mistake,” the French president asserted in a stunning series of remarks to European diplomats immediately after the Group of 7 summit in Biarritz late last month.



This alone is a bold if implicit attack on the hawkish Russophobes Trump now battles in Washington. Macron then outdid himself: “We are living the end of Western hegemony,” he told the assembled envoys.



It is difficult to recall when a Western leader last spoke so truthfully and insightfully of our 21stcentury realities, chief among them the inevitable rise of non–Western nations to positions of parity with the Atlantic world. You have nonetheless read no word of this occasion in our corporate media: Macron’s startling observations run entirely counter to the frayed triumphalism and nostalgia that grip Washington as its era of preeminence fades.





President Donald J. Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron in joint press conference in Biarritz, France, site of the G7 Summit, Aug. 26, 2019. (White House/ Andrea Hanks)



There is much to indicate that the West’s aggressively hostile posture toward Russia remains unchanged. The Russophobic rhetoric emanating from Washington and featured daily in our corporate television broadcasts continues unabated. Last month Washington formally abandoned the bilateral treaty limiting deployment of intermediate-range ballistic missiles, signed with Moscow in 1987. As anyone could have predicted, NATO now suggests it will upgrade its missile defense systems in Poland and Romania. This amounts to an engraved invitation to the Russian Federation to begin a new arms race.



But a counter-argument favoring a constructive relationship with Russia is now evident. This is not unlike the abrupt volte-face in Washington’s thinking on North Korea: It is now broadly accepted that the Korean crisis can be resolved only at the negotiating table.



The Times Are Changing

The New York Times seems to be on board with this this sharp turn in foreign policy. It reported the new consensus on North Korea in a news analysis on July 11. Ten days later it published another arguing that it’s time to put down the spear and make amends with Moscow. Here is the astonishing pith of the piece: “China, not Russia, represents by far the greater challenge to American objectives over the long term. That means President Trump is correct to try to establish a sounder relationship with Russia and peel it away from China.”



It is encouraging that the Times has at last discovered the well-elaborated alliance between Moscow and Beijing. It took the one-time newspaper of record long enough. But there is another feature of this article that is important to note: It was published as a lead editorial. This is not insignificant.



It is essential, when reading the Times, to understand the close — not to say corrupt — relations it has maintained with political power in Washington over many generations. This is well-documented in histories of the paper and of institutions such as the CIA. An editorial advancing a policy shift of this magnitude almost certainly reflects the paper’s close consultations, at senior levels of management, with policy-setting officials at the National Security Council, the State Department, or at the Pentagon. The editorial is wholly in keeping with Washington’s pronounced new campaign to designate China as America’s most dangerous threat.



It is impossible to say whether Trump is emboldened by an inchoate shift of opinion on Russia, but he flew his banner high at the Biarritz G–7. Prior to his departure for the summit in southwest France he asserted that Russia should be readmitted to the group when it convenes in the U.S. next year. Russia was excluded in 2014, following its annexation of Crimea in response to the coup in Kiev.



Trump repeated the thought in Biarritz, claiming there was support among other members for the restoration of the G–8. “I think it’s a work in progress,” he said. “We have a number of people that would like to see Russia back.”



Macron is plainly one of those people. It was just after Trump sounded his theme amid Biarritz’s faded grandeur — and what an excellent choice for a convention of the Western powers — that the French president made his own plea for repairing ties with Russia and for Europe to escape its fate as “a theater for strategic struggle between the U.S. and Russia.”





Biarritz from the Pointe Saint-Martin, 1999. (Wikimedia Commons)



“The European continent will never be stable, will never be secure, if we don’t pacify and clarify our relations with Russia,” Macron said in his address to Western diplomats. Then came his flourish on the imminent end of the Atlantic world’s preeminence.




“The world order is being shaken like never before. It’s being shaken because of errors made by the West in certain crises, but also by the choices made by the United States in the past few years— and not just by the current administration.”




Macron is an opportunistic main-chancer in European politics, and it is not at all certain how far he can or will attempt to advance his new vision of either the West or Europe in the Continent’s councils of state. But as evidence of a new current in Western thinking about Russia, the non–West in general, and Europe’s long-nursed desire for greater independence from Washington, the importance of his comments is beyond dispute.



The question now is whether or how soon better ties with Moscow will translate into practical realities. At present, Trump and Macron share a good idea without much substance to it.



Better US-Russia Ties May Be in Pipeline

But Trump may have taken a step in the right direction. Within days of his return from Biarritz, he put a hold on the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, a military aid program that was to provide Kiev with $250 million in assistance during the 2019 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1 and runs to Sept. 30, 2020. The funds are designated for weaponry, training and intelligence support.



Trump has asked his national security advisers to review the commitment. The delay, coming hard on his proposal to readmit Russia to a reconstituted G–8, cannot possibly be read as a coincidence.



There will be other things to watch for in months to come. High among these is Trump’s policy toward the Nord Stream 2 pipeline linking Russian gas fields to terminals in Western Europe, thereby cutting Ukraine out of the loop. Trump, his desire to improve ties with Moscow notwithstanding, has vigorously opposed this project. The Treasury Department has threatened sanctions against European contractors working on it. If Trump is serious about bringing Russia back into the fold, this policy will have to go. This may mean going up against the energy lobby in Washington and Ukraine’s many advocates on Capitol Hill.



To date, U.S. threats to retaliate against construction of Nord Stream 2 have done nothing but irritate Europeans, who have ignored them, while furthering the Continent’s desire to escape Washington’s suffocating embrace. This is precisely the kind of contradiction Macron addressed when he protested that Europeans need to begin acting in their own interests rather than acquiesce as Washington force-marches them on a never-ending anti–Russia crusade.



Macron may prove a pushover, or a would-be Gaullist who fails to make the grade. Or he may have just announced a long-awaited inflection point in trans–Atlantic ties. Either way, he has put highly significant questions on the table. It will be interesting to see what responses they may elicit, not least from the Trump White House.




Tyler Durden

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 21:25


Tags

Politics

244
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The Sisyphean Exercise Of Afghanistan In One Shocking Map

President Trump announced Monday that his controversial Afghan peace talks and the entire process is “dead” — explaining the Taliban had continued its terror offensive targeting US personnel and allies amid talks, specifically an American soldier in a car bombing last week. 



"They are dead, they are dead," Trump told reporters on the White House 

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lawn. "As far as I'm concerned, they are dead." 



He further described that Taliban officials had been spreading the word that they’d made a “big mistake” in crossing him.


Via Outlook Afghanistan

"They thought they had to kill people in order to put themselves in a little better negotiating position," Trump said.



"When I heard, very simply, that they killed one of our soldiers and 12 other innocent people, I said 'There is no way I'm meeting on that basis. There is no way I’m meeting.' They did a mistake. And by the way they are telling people they made a big mistake. They are saying it loud and clear that they made a big mistake."



Soon after Trump first announced Saturday that direct peace talks were effectively ended, also acknowledging Taliban leaders were set to "secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday," the administration immediately starting painting a rosy picture of how things are going in America's longest war - now approaching two decades.




Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promptly claimed the US had killed over 1,000 Taliban in just the last 10 days



“Well a lot of them are in their graves, and so make no mistake about it. We will continue to punish, we will continue to pound, we will continue to fight. We will continue to protect the American people,” he told CNN's Jake Tapper while making the rounds on multiple Sunday shows. 



* * *



The Map


But what's the end game here?



The map below shows the shocking reality that a little less than half of the entire country's population is actually firmly under the US-backed national government's control (just 48%) after over eighteen years of war and countless American sacrifice in blood and treasure. 



And a majority the territory across Afghanistan is still considered "contested" (in red below) according to an interactive map maintained by FDD's Long War Journal (see full-sized interactive map here).





This led one former Green Beret and current journalist, Jack Murphy, to say it's past time to just skip right to the end game: get out and get out now.



He said, "instead of all of this navel gazing, teeth gnashing, and handwringing, let's just skip right to the end game?"




Trump's instincts to withdraw from the Afghan quagmire are correct (as they were on Syria as well before an avalanche of deep state push back). 



Indeed let's just skip right to the end game, assuming the end result will be the same no matter what. At least no more Americans would have to die, and no more tax dollars drained, on what in the end is a futile Sisyphean exercise. 



* * *


Via "The Myth of Sisyphus and Man’s Search for Meaning"/Medium.com


The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.




Albert Camus, THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS




Tyler Durden

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 22:25
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Why Gen-Z'ers And Millennials Support Socialism

Authored by Jacob Hornberger via The Future of Freedom Foundation,



Public-opinion polls reflect that large numbers of Americans in their 20s and 30s (i.e., Gen Z and millennials) support socialism. When one considers the indoctrination to which these young Americans have been subjected in their state-run educational systems, their preference for socialism actually makes se

Read More
nse.





From the first grade, American students are indoctrinated with the notion that they live in a free country, one that has a free-enterprise economic system. By the time they graduate from high school, students have no doubts that this is true. The notion is refortified in those students who go on to college. By the time Americans start their careers, their mindsets are set in concrete: They are grateful that they live in a free country. Many of them continue reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, which they learned in school and which they were expected to recite every day, a pledge that confirms that in America there is “liberty for all.”



Now, look around you. Examine the society in which you live. There are crises, chaos, and mayhem everywhere. Social Security. Health care. Immigration. Federal spending and debt. Monetary. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Korea. Russia. China. Drug war. Forever wars. Secret surveillance. Assassinations. Death. Destruction. Bombings. Terrorism. Mass killings. Tribunals. Torture. Indefinite detention. Militarism. Invasions. Occupations. Coups. Regime-change operations. Trade wars. Sanctions. Embargoes. Police states. Alcoholism. Drug addiction. Homelessness. Poverty. Suicides.



It’s not a pretty picture, is it? It’s a picture of a quite dysfunctional society.



In the mind of the Gen Zer and the millennial, that is what comes with freedom and free enterprise. Given such, it’s perfectly logical to want something else, and that something else happens to be socialism. It even makes sense that so many young people decide to check out of life early through suicide. They’re thinking, “If this is freedom — if this is the best there is — no, thanks. I’m leaving and hopefully going on to something better.”



Conservatives and liberals

Moreover, it’s not just people in their 20s and 30s who believe this. Conservatives and progressives (i.e., liberals or leftists) believe the same thing. They all fervently believe in the words of the Lee Greenwood song, “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.” That’s why whenever they see a U.S. soldier, they go out of their way to thank him for “his service” in keeping America free. They have absolutely no doubts that they live in a free country, one that has a free-enterprise economic system.



Ironically, however, conservatives and liberals divide into two camps: Conservatives decry socialism and defend what they are convinced is America’s free-enterprise system. Liberals decry what they too are convinced is America’s free-enterprise system and want it replaced with a socialist system.



It’s all one great big confused mindset, one that is the direct result of state indoctrination.



The libertarian breakthrough

What distinguishes us libertarians from non-libertarians is that we have succeeded in breaking through the state’s system of indoctrination.



The truth is that Americans are not free and they don’t live in a free-enterprise system. What the state ingrained in during those long years in the state’s education system was a lie from the start. Americans lives their lives as serfs on a giant government plantation, one that is based on the statist principles of socialism, interventionism, militarism, and imperialism.



America’s system is based on massive mandatory charity. Through such programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, farm subsidies, foreign aid, and thousands of others, Americas are forced to be good, caring, and compassionate.  There is no way to reconcile that type of system with freedom. Freedom necessarily entails the right to make charitable decisions on a purely voluntary basis.



America’s system is also based on control, regulation, and management of peaceful activity. The drug war is a good example. President Trump’s trade wars and unilateral impositions of tariffs, sanctions, and embargoes is another. America’s system of immigration controls is another. There is no way to reconcile such a system with the principles of a genuinely free society. A free society necessarily entails ingesting whatever you want, no matter how harmful, traveling wherever you want, and doing whatever you want with your own money.



America’s system is also based on a national-security state, a type of totalitarian government structure, one that comes with assassination, torture, coups, invasions, bombings, sanctions, embargoes, wars of aggression, occupations, indefinite detention, military tribunals, death, suffering, and destruction. There is no way that such things can be reconciled with the principles of genuinely free society. A free society necessarily entails a limited-government republic type of governmental system.



Thus, we libertarians lament the dysfunctional state of American society, just as many Gen Xers, millennials, and leftists do. The difference is that they think that the dysfunctionality is the result of freedom and free enterprise and, therefore, want socialism to replace it. We libertarians, on the other hand, realize that the dysfunctionality in American society is owing to the socialist, interventionist, militarist, and imperialist system under which we live, which is why we favor a genuinely free society, a genuine free-enterprise system, and the restoration of a limited-government republic.



The hope for America

Given the popularity of statism among Gen Zers, millennials, conservatives, and liberals, is there much hope for putting American back on the right track? Of course there is! Since we libertarians have succeeded in breaking through the indoctrination to which the state subjected us in its educational system, so can others. We libertarians just need to keep speaking the truth and sticking to our principles. That’s the best way to help others achieve the same breakthrough that we libertarians have achieved.




Tyler Durden

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 22:45


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