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"Russian Asset" Is A Meaningless Noise War-Pigs Make With Their Face-Holes

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com,

Both Tulsi Gabbard and the Green Party of the United States have issued scorching rebukes of Hillary Clinton for baseless accusations the former Secretary of State made during a recent interview claiming that both Gabbard and former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein are aligned with the Ru

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ssian government.

“I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate,” Clinton said in a transparent reference to Gabbard.

“She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far. And that’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she’s also a Russian asset.”

Clinton provided no evidence for her outlandish claims, because she does not have any. Gabbard has repeatedly denied centrist conspiracy theories that she intends to run as a third-party candidate, a claim which establishment pundits have been making more and more often because they know there will never be any consequences when their claims are disproven. There is no evidence of any kind connecting either Jill Stein or Tulsi Gabbard to the Russian government.

Of course, this total lack of evidence hasn’t dissuaded Clintonites from falling all over themselves trying to justify Mommy’s claims anyway.

“Russian ‘assets’ are not formal relationships in the USIC [US Intelligence Community] sense of the word,” CNN analyst and former FBI agent Asha Rangappa explained via Twitter.

“If you are parroting Russian talking points and furthering their interests, you’re a source who is too dumb to know you’re being played to ask for money.”

“It’s important to point out here that a Russian ‘asset’ is not the same thing as a Russian ‘agent’,” tweeted virulent establishment narrative manager Caroline Orr. “An asset can be witting or unwitting; it’s any person or org who can be used to advance Russia’s interests. It’s pretty clear that Tulsi satisfies that criteria.”

“One doesn’t have to be on the Kremlin’s payroll to be a Russian asset. One doesn’t even have to know they are a Russian asset to be a Russian asset. Have you not heard the term ‘useful idiot’ before?” tweeted writer Kara Calavera.

Yep, yeah, that makes perfect sense. One doesn’t have to actually have any formal relationship with the Kremlin to be a Kremlin asset. One doesn’t have to know they’re a Kremlin asset to be a Kremlin asset. The Kremlin doesn’t even need to know one is a Kremlin asset for them to be a Kremlin asset. Nothing has to have happened except the accusation of being a Kremlin asset. It’s just kind of a vague, shapeless nothing thing that doesn’t necessarily have any actual meaning to it at all besides the way it makes people feel inside. It’s more like a religious belief, really.

Isn’t it interesting how that works? Establishment loyalists get a damaging and incendiary tag that they can pin on anyone who disagrees with them, with the sole evidentiary requirement being that disagreement itself.

Author and antiwar activist David Swanson noticed this bizarre intellectual contortion as well, tweeting, “Notice that they carefully define ‘Russian asset’ to mean not necessarily an asset and not necessarily with any connection to Russia.”

Establishment narrative managers have been performing this obnoxious trick for years; this is just the most publicly it’s been brought into the spotlight. They claim someone is a Russian asset, then when asked to provide proof that the person is working for Russia, they say they might be an “unwitting” Russian asset, or a “useful idiot”, who does the Kremlin’s bidding without realizing it by sharing ideas and information which the Russian government agrees with. Which is just another way of saying that they hold positions which diverge from the microscopic Overton window of establishment-authorized opinion.

Such positions typically consist of some form of opposition to longstanding US military agendas, such as America’s failed policy of regime change interventionism. Both Jill Stein and Tulsi Gabbard have inserted skepticism of US military policy into mainstream political discourse, which is tremendously inconvenient for the people whose job it is to manufacture consent for new wars and endless military expansionism.

The “Russian asset” smear has given the establishment narrative managers the ability to make incredibly inflammatory and scandalous accusations about anyone who opposes the US establishment foreign policy consensus, without ever having to back them up with facts. It’s no obstacle for me if I can’t prove that you have any connection to the Russian government, because I can still smear you as a Russian asset by saying your views align with Moscow’s interests, or by noting that Russian news media has done news reporting on you as our friend Neera Tanden does here:

Never mind the fact that there are many, many reasons to oppose the US establishment foreign policy consensus which have nothing to do with Russia. Never mind the fact that the US establishment foreign policy consensus has been an unmitigated disaster that has only made the world worse and is pushing the US-centralized power alliance toward a point where a direct military confrontation with Russia, China and their allies becomes inescapable. Never mind the fact that Russia is far from the only country in the world that wishes America would scale back its aggressive military expansionism. It has been firmly established beyond any doubt that it is now literally impossible for an American political figure to vocally oppose US warmongering without being labeled a Russian asset.

In reality, “Russian asset” is nothing more than a completely meaningless noise that war pigs make with their face holes, no more coherent and communicative than the barking of a dog or the chattering of a squirrel. If we were to come up with a definition for that term which reflects the way it is actually being used in modern political discourse, that definition would be something like, “An incantation which magically makes political dissent look like something treasonous and Machiavellian.”

Establishment narrative managers are getting more and more aggressive with the psychological bullying tactics they are using against political dissidents. Applying a ridiculous, meaningless pejorative to anyone who disagrees with mainstream US foreign policy views is just one more ugly tool in their infernal toolbox. It is not normal, healthy or acceptable to accuse someone of being a Russian asset just because they disagree with the authorized commentators of the American political/media class, and when they make such accusations they should be publicly shamed for it.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 22:05
Democrats Have No Answer For Trump's Anti-War Posture

Authored by Danny Sjursen via TruthDig.com,

I hate to say I told you so, but well... as predicted, in the wake of Trump’s commanded military withdrawal from northeast Syria, the once U.S.-backed Kurds cut a deal with the Assad regime. (And Vice President Mike Pence has now brokered a five-day cease-fire.) Admittedly, Trump the “dealmaker” ought to have brokered somet

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hing similar before pulling out and before the Turkish Army—and its Sunni Arab Islamist proxies—invaded the region and inflicted significant civilian casualties.

One must admit that a single phone call between Trump and President Erdogan of Turkey has turned the situation in Syria upside down in just over a week. The Kurds have requested protection from Assad’s army, Russian troops are now patrolling between the Kurds and invading Turks, and the U.S. is (for once) watching from the sidelines.

The execution has been sloppy, of course—a Trumpian trademark—and the human cost potentially heavy. Nonetheless, the U.S. withdrawal represents a significant instance of the president actually following through on campaign promises to end an endless American war in the Mideast. The situation isn’t simple, of course, and for the Kurds it is yet another fatalistic event in that people’s tragic history.

Still, while the situation in Northeast Syria constitutes a byzantine mess, it’s increasingly unclear that a continued U.S. military role there would be productive or strategic in the long term. After all, if Washington’s endgame wasn’t to establish a lasting, U.S.-guaranteed Kurdish nation-state of Rojava, and it hardly appeared that it ever was, then what exactly could America expect to accomplish through an all-risk, no-reward continued stalemate in Syria?

What’s truly striking, though, and increasingly apparent, is that President Trump possesses - as a foreign policy autocrat, of sorts - the power to derail the Democrats and place 2020 hopefuls in an awkward position of defending U.S. forever wars. It’s already happening, at least among mainstream “liberal” media and political personalities who’ve flooded the networks with anti-Trump vitriol since the Syria withdrawal.

Lest we confuse Donald Trump with a consistent antiwar dove, it’s important to remember that his behavior is erratic and often turns on a dime. Take, for example, his decision to impose sanctions on Turkey right after greenlighting the very invasion he now seeks to punish. He’s also prone to contradictory moves. Also, just as he pulled troops from Syria, he added an even larger number to Saudi Arabia, justifying the move on the grounds that the Saudis will foot the entire bill, making rather official the U.S. military’s gradual transformation into a mercenary force ready to serve the highest bidder. Trump has also surpassed, in his first two years, the number of drone strikes his predecessor Barack Obama launched overseas during the same phase of Obama’s presidency.

Nonetheless, Trump’s Democratic opponents have bet big on using Syria to attack the president without providing any real alternatives to withdrawal. In doing so, they might just hand Trump a winning hand for 2020. In fact, I haven’t seen so much foreign policy coverage of a U.S. war by the establishment media for over a decade, at least since Democrats finally turned against Bush’s failing war in Iraq as a tool for midterm electoral success.

The attention suddenly focused on Syria is rather cynical, of course, with the country’s civil war only receiving notice now because it’s a cudgel used to reflexively attack Trump. It’s not about Kurdish ethnic rights or women’s, rights—and it never was. No, this is all about partisan political advantage. And it might just backfire on the Dems.

Trump isn’t all that scared of criticism on Syria, even from the establishment wing of his own party. Firing back at critics this week, Trump tweeted: “Others may want to come in and fight for one side or the other [in Syria]. Let them!”

See, this president knows what many congressional Republicans do not appear to realize: that the old conservative coalition—which included a powerful hawkish national security wing—is breaking down. The Republican base, well, they’re just about as sick of endless war as is Trump himself. Consider this remarkable turnaround: In recent polls, 56% of Republicans supported Trump’s Syria withdrawal, while 60% of Democrats opposed it.

Which brings us back to the mainstream Democratic machine and the potentially awkward position of even the most progressive of the 2020 presidential hopefuls on the “left.” By flipping the script and demonstrating that Trump and his conservative backers constitute the only serious antiwar coalition, he could expose that establishment Dems—who’ve almost all stood tall with the neocon retreads against Trump’s move—represent little more than Sen. Lindsey Graham lite. He could show that they’re hawks too, opportunistic hawks at that, figures mired in the Washington swamp. Disgust with that bipartisan beltway elite is exactly what got Mr. Trump elected in 2016 (along with a peculiar outdated Electoral College, of course), which is exactly why responding to Trump’s (tentative) war-ending propensity will be sensitive and awkward for Democratic leaders and presidential candidates.

Look, even America’s usually conservative, if (purportedly) apolitical, soldiers and veterans are now against these forever wars that Trump ostensibly seeks to end. A series of polls this summer indicated that nearly two-thirds of post-9/11 vets say they believe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the military engagement in Syria “were not worth it.” This should have been an alarm bell for both major parties, but expect the Democrats to once again squander the opportunity presented by these frustrated, alienated troopers.

By ignoring foreign policy—generally having ceded that political territory to the Republicans since midway through the Cold War—the Dems have ensured that most of these antiwar veterans won’t find a home, or land in the Democratic Party.

I personally know dozens of these sorts of exhausted veterans. Almost none have followed my own journey toward the left. In fact, the vast majority tell me they trust Trump, warts and all, over figures like Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden or any of the other Democratic elites that they find even more corrupt than the reality-TV-star-in-chief. My friends and colleagues may be wrong, may be off-base, but most truly believe it, which ought to worry Democrats. Only it won’t, or at least not in enough time.

So, while I’m cautious about giving sensible advice to Trump (luckily, he doesn’t read Truthdig, or read much at all), I think there’s potential for him to craft a winning strategy for 2020.

Here’s a modest proposal on just how it might go: He could end one of America’s illegal wars, particularly those clearly not covered by the post-9/11 AUMFs [Authorization for Use of Military Force], every three months. Little-to-no warning, ignoring the complaints of senior generals and national security officials; just pick an ill-advised military intervention (there’re plenty to choose from) and announce its end.

Not only would this distract from impeachment, but it would force Trump’s potential 2020 opponents to perform some awkward intellectual gymnastics. They’d be obliged to double-down and promise to end even more wars, even more quickly, than Trump. Or, more likely, they could join the bipartisan swampy establishment and half-heartedly (and disingenuously) defend continuing the very unwinnable wars with which the American people have grown so tired.

I know all of that’s unlikely, but it’s not unthinkable. Trump could even wrap himself in a new brand of patriotism and emphasize his concern for America’s beloved troops. Now, this president isn’t known for his sincerity, but he has previously claimed that signing condolence letters for the families of fallen servicemen “is the hardest thing he does.” So in my fantasy, Trump would address the nation in prime time, and, noting that 18-year-olds have begun to deploy to Afghanistan, assure the people that he intends to end these wars before a kid born after 9/11 dies in one of them.

*  *  *

Danny Sjursen is a retired U.S. Army Major and regular contributor to Truthdig. His work has also appeared in Harper’s, The LA Times, The Nation, Tom Dispatch, The Huffington Post and The Hill. He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, “Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge.” He co-hosts the progressive veterans’ podcast “Fortress on a Hill.” Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 19:35


War Conflict

Americans Need To Earn $500,000 A Year To Qualify For The '1%'

If you're an American, and you want that precious membership card to the '1%' (in terms of annual income, that is, not overall wealth, but we'll get more into that later) you're going to need to work a little bit harder, and earn a little bit more.

According to Bloomberg's wealth team, the income needed to enter the top 1% of taxpayers was $515,371 in 2017, accordin

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g to IRS data released this week. That’s up 7.2% from a year earlier.

Remember, 'the 1%' became our modern capitalist boogeyman back in 2011 during the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement, when thousands of college students joined forces with criminals and the chronically unemployed to camp out in Lower Manhattan's Zucotti Park. The park remained the epicenter of the movement for weeks, until Mike Bloomberg finally ordered police to clear the encampment.

Thousands of solidarity rallies were held around the country, and even a few other 'occupations' emerged, as dedicated members of the movement gathered in other public grounds in a show of solidarity with their comrades in Zucotti Park (Remember all that news footage of bedraggled-looking young people in beanies carrying signs and shouting slogans like "We are the 99%"?).

The phrase 'the 1%' remained embedded in our popular culture long after Occupy fizzled out. Bernie Sanders embraced the term in 2015 as he launched his long-shot campaign for president. Eventually, the lingering class resentments that helped inspire 'Occupy' brought about a revival of interest in 'Democratic' Socialism' and hatred for the "1%" who were, according to Sanders, constantly finding strategies to avoid paying their "fair share" in Texas.

A fat lot of good that all did. Because, since the zenith of Occupy in 2011, income inequality has intensified. Now, the threshold to qualify for 'the 1%' - that is, the 1% of earners who report the largest amount of taxable income - has itself increased by a staggering 33%.

What's worse? To join the top 0.1%, you would need have needed to earn $2.4 million in 2017 (the most recent year for which data are available), an increase of 38% since 2011. To join the top 0.01%, the threshold has jumped 46%. Again, this goes by annual earnings,  so men like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, two of the  wealthiest men in the world, could stop qualifying for these labels if they decided to stop pulling salaries and started relying solely on their savings.

Meanwhile, the top 0.001%, an elite group of 1,433 taxpayers, pulled in at least $63.4 million each in 2017, up 51% since the Occupy protests. Of course, members of this group - many of whom are wealthy hedge fund billionaires like Ray Dalio - fluctuate often depending on the market, and whether they're having a good year, or a bad year. Ray Dalio, the Bridgewater Associates founder who earned more than $1 billion last year (that is, in 2018, not 2017) because his firm's funds were up double-digits, might not make the list some years if his firm loses money (his personal earnings are closely tied with the performance of his firm).

By comparison, the median taxpayer, at the 50th percentile, has seen income rise 20% since 2011.

Finally, since BBG is looking at IRS data, the reporters saw fit to remind us that rich people actually do shoulder the largest percentage of the federal government's tax burden (though they often do pay a lower rate than their working-class...employees). The 1% earned 21% of the total income last year (remember, this doesn't factor in existing wealth), but paid out 38.5% of their earnings in taxes. The 1% shouldered a larger tax burden than the bottom 90% combined (though remember, as Mitt Romney once said, the bottom 47% of Americans effectively pay $0 in federal income tax).

Though Romney's made-in-private remark has been widely blamed for him losing to Obama in 2012, as the above data show, he wasn't wrong: The wealthiest Americans foot most of the bill for financing all of the social welfare programs on which the poor rely.

Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 20:00
Trump Allies Said To Plan Mick Mulvaney Replacement

After Thursday's slow-motion disaster of a press conference by Trump's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, in which he said that the White House had withheld nearly $400 million in funds to Ukraine, some of Donald Trump’s "closest associates" are said to be assembling a list of possible replacements if the president decides to replace Mulvaney, Bloomberg reported citing three sources.


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al replacement candidates include Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and veteran political operative Wayne Berman, now a senior managing director for government relations at Blackstone.

While Trump has yet to disclose whether he found Mulvaney's comments last week - which boosted the case for impeachment as they confirmed the scenario proposed by Democrats - unacceptable, some White House aides have voiced their displeasure with Mulvaney’s performance at Thursday's presser, in which Mulvaney said "I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy." The press conference was to announce that Trump’s Doral golf resort had been chosen to host the 2020 Group of Seven summit of world leaders, a decision the president reversed in a tweet late Saturday night following a torrent of criticism.

If the Doral decision hadn’t been made when it was, “we wouldn’t have had the press conference on Thursday regarding -- regarding everything else,” Mulvaney said on Fox. “But that’s fine.”

Indeed "it was made", and Mulvaney's Thursday comment sparked a firestorm of criticism, and he was forced to not only issue a follow-up statement explaining he did not say mean what he, in fact, said, but the chief of staff had to defend himself repeatedly during the weekend's media circuit.

Yet while Trump has been largely silent on the latest fiasco, Mulvaney may be on his way out on general principle as Trump has "recently been unhappy with Mulvaney for other reasons" including the White House’s slow response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Sept. 24 announcement of an impeachment inquiry into the president, according to Bloomberg.

Or maybe not: the same Bloomberg sources said Mulvaney has various allies in and close to the White House who may rally around him, including Russ Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget; Joe Grogan of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council; and Patrick Pizzella, a former Deputy Secretary of Labor. Some Mulvaney boosters pin blame for a flat-footed impeachment strategy on White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. They said that Cipollone has a bunker mentality and has kept the White House on lock down, preventing allies from going out to fight for the president.

One thing we know for sure is that Mulvaney won't be resigning on his own: on Sunday, he said he hasn’t offered his resignation to Trump over Thursday’s press briefing.

“Did I have the perfect press conference, no,” Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I still think I’m doing a pretty good job as the chief of staff, and I think the president agrees.”

Mulvaney became Trump’s third chief of staff after the departure in January of General John Kelly. The position doesn’t require Congressional approval, yet Trump has never elevated Mulvaney beyond an “acting” role. Trump fired his first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, via Twitter in July 2017.

Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 17:47



Civil Unrest Is Erupting All Over The World, But Just Wait Until America Joins The Party...

Authored by Michael Snyder via The End of The American Dream blog,

All over the globe, the mood is turning sour.  Anger and frustration are bubbling over, and protests are becoming violent in major cities all across the planet.  In some cases economic pain is driving the protests and in other cases political matters are motivatin

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g the protesters, and it has been a very long time since we have seen so many angry protests happening all over the world simultaneously.  Unfortunately, many believe that what we have seen so far is just the beginning.  Global economic conditions are rapidly deteriorating, and as economic pain intensifies that is only going to make everyone more frustrated. 

And here in the United States, the drama surrounding the potential impeachment of Donald Trump is going to greatly escalate the political tensions that are already deeply dividing this country.  No matter how things turn out, a large percentage of the population is likely to be deeply frustrated with the result, and that could very easily lead to tremendous civil unrest.

But before we get to Trump, let’s take a look at what has been going on around the rest of the world first.  In Chile, we are witnessing violent protests unlike anything that we have seen in decades…

Three people died in a fire in a supermarket being ransacked in the Chilean capital early Sunday, as protests sparked by anger over social and economic conditions rocked one of Latin America’s most stable countries.

Santiago’s Mayor Karla Rubilar told reporters two people burned to death in the blaze and another later died in hospital, after the huge store controlled by US retail chain Walmart was looted.

Economic conditions are tough in Chile and rapidly getting tougher, and it is very unusual to hear of “looting” in a country that is normally so stable.

Meanwhile, political corruption appears to be the main motivation for the violent protests in Lebanon…

Thousands of demonstrators poured into downtown Beirut for a third day on Saturday, hours after overnight clashes erupted between security forces and protesters leading to large-scale arrests and several injuries.

Demonstrations have engulfed various parts of Lebanon for three days. Many protesters called for the resignation of the government and demanded the “downfall” of a political class that has ruled the country since the start of its 15-year civil war in 1975.

When people lose hope that things are ever going to get any better, they tend to take to the streets.

Unfortunately, corruption appears to be a way of life over in Lebanon at this point, and there seems to be little hope of major reforms any time soon.

In the UK, the drama surrounding the Brexit saga drew “hundreds of thousands of people” into the streets of London this weekend…

Hundreds of thousands of people have marched in central London to demand a new referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union, as parliament voted to delay a decision on whether to back Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s revised Brexit withdrawal deal.

The march organised by the People’s Vote campaign is thought to be the largest yet, drawing anti-Brexit supporters from across the country as parliament sat on a Saturday for the first time since the Falklands conflict in the 1980s.

Yet another Brexit agreement appears to have failed, and many are wondering if it will ever be possible to get one through Parliament.

Many of those favoring Brexit are hoping for a “no deal” exit from the European Union at this point, and meanwhile many of the “remainers” are holding out hope that there will somehow be a second referendum.

Over in Spain, violent protests have erupted night after night in the aftermath of the arrest of nine key pro-independence leaders in Catalonia…

Barcelona saw its fifth consecutive night of violence on Friday, in the wake of Monday’s Supreme Court ruling that jailed nine pro-independence leaders for their role in the 2017 secessionist drive. The disturbances last night were particularly virulent, in terms of their duration, intensity and use of violence on the part of protestors, who were very aggressive toward the police.

Violent groups surrounded the central headquarters of the National Police in the Catalan capital, throwing objects, putting up barricades and setting fire to trash containers. As the sun set, the protests moved to the center of the city, where the regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, used an armored vehicle with a water cannon. At least three police officers were injured in the rioting.

These protests may fade after a while, but they are not going away.  Those involved in the pro-independence movement in Catalonia are very passionate, and it has widespread public support.

Of course the protests that have made the biggest splash on the global stage have been the relentless pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.  Despite the brutality of the police, the protesters just keep coming back again and again, and “tens of thousands” of protesters were in the streets once again on Sunday…

Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters took to Hong Kong’s streets on Sunday, once again defying a police ban on the assembly and undeterred by a brutal attack against a leader of the organization that called for the march.

The huge turnout, which included families, children and the elderly, demonstrated how the movement now in its fifth month continues to have widespread support, despite the increasingly violent tactics used by protesters and escalating use of force by police.

Here in the United States, we don’t have protests like this going on right now.

But we could very soon.

The impeachment process is bringing a focal point to the deep anger that has been building on both sides of the political spectrum for many years.  Now that this process has begun, there is no going back, and both sides believe that there is only one result that will bring justice.

For the left, any result that does remove Donald Trump from office will be a bitter disappointment.  The Democrats in the House of Representatives are going to draft articles of impeachment, and they believe that they already have the votes they need to send those articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate.

If the Republican-controlled Senate does not vote to convict Trump and remove him from office, this will greatly upset the left, and could result in an explosion of anger in our city streets.

On the other hand, if the Republican-controlled Senate does vote to convict Trump and remove him from office, tens of millions of hardcore Trump supporters are going to be absolutely livid.  There would be an explosion of righteous anger on the right, and it would almost certainly spill into our city streets.

Of course it is likely that both sides will start protesting well before there is a final result, but once the final vote in the Senate happens that is when things are likely to get very interesting.

The Democrats should have never gone down this road, because one way or another this process is going to tear us apart.

If our founders could see us today they would be rolling over in their graves, because this is not what they intended.

Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 17:55


War Conflict

Pound Opens 0.4% Lower With EU Set To Grant 3-Month Brexit Extension; Goldman Says BTFD

After a tumultuous, historic Saturday session in parliament, which saw UK lawmakers vote to delay Brexit once again, and culminated with PM Boris Johnson sending a bunch of letters to Brussels minutes before the deadline, notifying the EU that Parliament had voted to request another Brexit extension even with the Prime Minister saying in a separate letter not to grant that ext

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ension, the pound opened for trading around 0.4% lower, trading in a range between 1.2910 and 1.2940.

This happens as The Sunday Times reports that the European Union will delay Brexit, which as a reminder was vote on in the summer of 2016, well into 2020. An extension will be granted until February if Boris Johnson is unable to get his deal past MPs this week.

Diplomatic sources said that the delay would be “fungible” meaning that Britain could leave earlier, on the 1st or 15th of November, December or January, if his deal is ratified before the extension ends.

No decision will be taken until EU governments can assess the chances of the withdrawal treaty getting through parliament, not before Tuesday this week.

Separately, the Times reports that if BoJO runs into serious trouble or MPs force a second referendum then countries led by Germany will push for a longer extension, possibly until June next year. At that point, it will be 4 years after the Brexit vote took place, with extension after extension clearly the name of the game until the British population just gets fed up and votes to undo the outcome of the first Brexit vote.

Needless to say, another extension is merely a continuation of the status quo, and despite the vocal opposition and frenzied activity by Boris Johnson to change said status quo, Goldman Sachs sees the outcome of the weekend's events as favorable for sterling.

As Goldman's FX strategist, Zach Pandl, writes on Sunday afternoon, Goldman's expectation is that "this week (most likely on Monday or Tuesday), the PM’s deal will be voted on and pass through parliament, with sufficient support from the ERG and a small minority of Labour MPs." As a side note, it wouldn't be the first time an overly optimistic Goldman assessment is railroaded by fantastically unpredictable UK lawmakers. But we digress: as Goldman adds, "the EU will likely defer any decision on extension until after votes on the deal and surrounding legislation have been held. In our view, it would be very unlikely for the EU to deny the extension request in extremis, although injecting some ambiguity into the process this week may be a helpful device to funnel MPs towards the PM’s deal."

At the same time, Goldman's economists have turned even more optimistic on a favorable outcome, and in a separate note they write that "just as Parliament’s desire for insurance is best served by deferring a decision on the deal proposed, it may well be that the EU-27’s desire for resolution is best served by deferring a decision on the extension requested. We think the Johnson administration will use that space to prove that it has the numbers for its new Withdrawal Agreement. After all, only by passing the legislation required to implement the deal will the government convince concerned MPs that it has permanently ruled out the prospect of “no deal.”

While developments over the weekend certainly puncture some of the Prime Minister’s political momentum, we think they also reveal that the PM can command a stable cross-party majority in favour of his Brexit deal. In our view, the decisive test of that deal has been postponed by a few days; the deal has not been defeated.

As a result, Goldman now sees the odds of a "no deal" dropping from 10% to just 5%:

As for our baseline path, we maintain the view that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October. On terminal outcomes, we lower our “no deal” probability from 10% to 5%, we leave our “no Brexit” probability unchanged at 25%, and we revise up the probability we attach to a ratified deal from 65% to 70%.

What does this mean for Sterling according to Goldman?

According to the bank whose FX trading desk has been one of the worst on Wall Street in recent years, "GBP has further to rally on a 'deal' outcome, and we maintain our long GBPUSD recommendation. We revise up our initial target of 1.30 to 1.35." While that may be just the kiss of death sterling needed, here is how Goldman justifies its bullish take:

We think ‘no deal’ risks have diminished as a result of the extension request, and at this week’s open, we expect any initial fall in GBP as a result of disappointment that the deal has not passed this weekend to fade as the deal has been deferred, not denied. As a result, any fall in GBPUSD this evening will be limited to 1.27-1.28, which should be bought.

Even so, Goldman concedes that risks remain, even if it now sees these as more palatable for GBP than a ‘no deal’ outcome.

  • First, the deal may fail to pass in which case GBPUSD will likely retrace to around 1.26. We do not expect a return to the low 1.20s given the high likelihood of an extension.

  • Second, MPs may amend the deal and surrounding legislation to include either a second referendum, membership of a customs union, or fresh elections. Our base case is that neither amendments would succeed, however successful passage of each would impact GBP. A successful second referendum or customs union amendment would see GBP higher, although the precise response of the UK government is unclear and would introduce additional uncertainty.

For those who are not convinced by Goldman's bullish take, this is what the bank sees as the main downside risk for cable: a successful amendment for an election, although as Goldman notes even this risk is diluted with both sides "likely to be offering equivalent or softer forms of Brexit."

Goldman's conclusion: "no deal' risk is unlikely to increase meaningfully, capping the downside for the Pound."

Check back in a few weeks to see if Goldman finally got one right...

Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 15:50



A US-China Trade Deal Will Likely Be A Zero-Sum Game

Authored by Daniel Lacalle,

As I explained on CNBC:

Even the most optimistic assumptions are unlikely to change the trend of weak global growth.

There is a problem of diagnosis. The current economic slowdown is not entirely due to the trade tensions between the United States and China, but mostly

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due to a combination of debt saturation and end-of-cycle signals. These were quite evident in China months before any tariffs were announced.

The diminishing returns of the Chinese and eurozone stimulus plans have been clear since the end of 2016 and 2017, respectively. In the case of emerging economies, the 2018 weakness was just the result of years of building fiscal and trade imbalances betting on a constantly weakening dollar and low rates.

The main reason why economies are slowing down is fundamentally the result of the debt excess of the past years, not trade wars. With global debt rising above 300 percent of gross domestic product, according to the Institute of International Finance, and very low productivity growth in developed countries, it’s not surprising that additional units of debt fail to deliver the expected growth, while excess capacity hinders investment and trade.

Low interest rates and high liquidity have also generated collateral damages. A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes that aggressive monetary policies lead to “rising market concentration, reduced dynamism, a widening productivity-gap between industry leaders and followers, and slower productivity growth.”

Another negative side effect is the rise of zombie companies, those that cannot cover interest expenses with operating profits for an extended period of time. According to Ryan Banerjee, an economist at the Bank of International Settlements, the percentage of zombie firms has risen to multi-year highs.

We must also understand that the concerns about liquidity created a large impact on global markets, as investors worried about central banks normalizing policy. 2018 was the first year in which the global money supply fell after years of exceptionally high growth. Central banks have changed their communication to a more dovish tone, but this is not necessarily going to prevent a change of economic cycle, rather the opposite. Failure to normalize sends a message of deteriorating economic signals.

These issues are unlikely to end due to a trade deal. Cycles change. China’s slowdown was inevitable and a reduction in U.S. growth estimates is logical after the longest expansion in history.

Remember that the same reason why tariffs had a relatively small impact on the global economy shows why a new trade agreement is unlikely to change the current trend. Those tariffs affected a relatively small proportion of the global economy.

A new trade deal will probably have a marginal effect on the Chinese and U.S. economies.

Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 16:15


Business Finance

Goldman Sachs Banker Arrested For Insider Trading Scheme

Goldman Sachs has avoided staying out of the insider trading spotlight for about a year. But on Friday, new court documents reveal that an investment banker at the firm's New York branch was arrested for his alleged involvement in an insider trading scheme that generated $2.6 million in illicit profits, according to Bloomberg. 

Bryan Cohen, a vice president at Goldman, was arrested Friday

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by the Feds for leaking "nonpublic information concerning impending corporate transactions" over a three year period in exchange for cash and gifts, stated the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in a formal complaint via the US District Court Southern District of New York. 

The insider trading scheme realized $2.6 million in illicit gains were tied to at least two different companies, including a possible takeover deal that sent Syngenta soaring in 2015, and Arby's 2017 takeover of Buffalo Wild Wings. 

"Throughout that period, Cohen, who was employed at a large international bank ("Investment Bank A") carried out the scheme by misappropriating from his employer material nonpublic information concerning impending corporate transactions," court documents read. 

The SEC alleges that Cohen shared the nonpublic information with George Nikas, an NYC restaurateur who owns GRK Fresh with three locations in Manhattan, was also charged by federal prosecutors for making the trades.

In exchange for making the trades, the SEC alleges that Nikas paid out Cohen "a share of the profits and/or other benefits."

News of the insider trading scheme at Goldman broke on Saturday morning. The investment bank also saw two employees in 2018 charged by the SEC for similar schemes.

Last May, Woojae "Steve" Jung, a Goldman TMT Vice President, was charged with securities fraud for using inside information about the investment bank's clients to make $140,000 in illicit profits on 12 deals, while using a co-conspirator in South Korea to execute the trades.

In August last year, a former Goldman analyst leaked nonpublic information about upcoming mergers to NFL star Mychal Kendricks. The SEC has since charged them both.

Cohen's LinkedIn profile shows he worked as an analyst at ABN AMRO and RBS, then transitioned to the investment bank side in the last seven years at Barclays (2013 to 2014) and Goldman Sachs (since 2014). 

There's no indication via LinkedIn that Cohen has been fired from Goldman. Bloomberg notes that he's been placed on leave, which means he'll be fired in the coming weeks.

Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 15:00


Business Finance

Here Is The Real Reason The Fed Restarted QE

In the past month, a feud has erupted in the financial media and across capital markets between defenders of the Fed, who praise the return of its unprecedented easing in the form of $60BN in monthly T-Bill purchases, by refusing to call it by its real name, and instead the Fed's fanclub calls it "not QE" (just so it doesn't appear that ten years after the Fed first launched QE, we are back to square one), and

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those who happen to be intellectually honest, and call the largest permanent expansion in the Fed's balance sheet, meant to ease financial conditions and boost liquidity across the financial sector, for what it is: QE.

It is this same "not QE" that has boosted the Fed's balance sheet by $200BN in one month, the fastest rate of increase since the financial crisis.

Yet while the Fed's desire to purchase Bills instead of coupon Treasuries was dictated by its superficial desire to distinguish the current "Not QE" from previous "True QEs", even though both tends to inject the same amount of liquidity into the system, which as a reminder is what the Fed's bailout role in the past 11 years has all been about, and only true Fed sycophants are unable to call a spade a spade, the Fed's choice raises a rather thorny question of where the Fed will source those T-bills, because as JPMorgan calculates, the net supply of Bills in 4Q19 and 1Q20 is around $115-$130bn while JPM's economists estimate that at least $200-$250bn of purchases could be required to return reserves to around $1.5tr where they were in early September this year.

That means the Fed might need to source purchases from money-market funds and foreign central banks - which paradoxically would serve to further drain liquidity out of the system. As such, given the limited alternatives, JPM's Nikolas Panagirtzoglou believes that the Fed may be reluctant to do so and if they do, some may chose to leave cash in the Fed’s ON RRP facility which would represent a drain on reserves and make T-bills a less efficient vehicle for reserve creation.

Another key question: what if just returning to the previous reserve baseline is not sufficient, and the Fed needs to return reserves to a higher level than $1.5tr? Indeed, with close to $200bn of reserves injected via overnight and term repos for much of this week...

... helping to return reserves to around $1.5tr on a temporary basis from less than $1.4tr in mid-September, money markets appear especially vulnerable to volatility.

Indeed, in a week when the Treasury’s General Account with the Fed increased by $60bn, depleting reserves, both Fed Funds and the broader OBFR rates median rates rose again to 10bp above IOER on Tuesday Oct 15th after having settled at around 3bp above IOER and at IOER respectively after the quarter-end hurdle had been cleared. And the SOFR median rate rose to 20bp above IOER after having settled at 2-5bp above IOER after the quarter-end effects had settled.

There is another reason why the Fed's stated intention to only buy Bills will soon have to be adjusted to incorporate short-maturity (at first) Treasury bonds, and it has to do with the total open market purchases planned by the Fed. If the Fed would need to return reserves to a higher level, say to around the $1.7tr level in Dec 2018 when the 75th percentile of the Fed funds market began to persistently print above IOER, this could imply a further $200bn of purchases. JPM finds that "in principle" this could be completed in 2Q20 if the Fed were to sustain T-bill purchases at a pace of $60bn per month, which it set as the initial pace, but it would still imply a longer period of reserves being at a relatively tight level than if $1.5tr would be a sustainable level. But that would assume purchases at a continuous (rather than initial) pace of $60bn/m pace are sustainable, and ignores the prospect that purchases from MMFs and foreign central banks could prompt them leaving cash in the Fed’s ON RRP facility thereby draining some of the intended reserve injection.

Currently, close to $300bn of cash has been deposited with the Fed via the ON RRP facility, primarily by foreign RRP counterparties for whom the nearly $300bn is close to its recent highs. By contrast, other, largely domestic,  counterparties’ use of the ON RRP facility has collapsed to just $2bn, well below a high of nearly $450bn in late 2015, as institutions have a far more pressing needs for cash (liquidity) than collateral securities ("collateral shortage" was the big story in 2014-2017, just ask Zoltan Pozsar).

If T-bill purchases start to put upward pressure on ON RRP facility use, the Fed may eventually need to extend purchases to shorter-maturity Treasury bonds.

How and when the Fed shifts the composition of its purchases, however, is of secondary importance; a far more important question is why precisely did the Fed feel compelled to start monetizing debt, whether one calls it QE or not. The simple answer is that in a world in which all central bank-sourced liquidity is now fungible, JPM has found that without the Fed buying Treasuries across the curve, the ECB’s QE on its own would be unlikely to offset the negative G4 central bank duration absorption impulse from the BoJ’s efforts to re-steepen its domestic yield curve.

And that, in one sentence, is what really matters: not whether the Fed's monetization of debt is called QE or 'not QE' (spoiler alert: it is QE as it injects liquidity, impacts rates, eases financial conditions and supports risk assets), but that without the Fed's intervention, the global central bank balance sheet would shrink again, which if left unchecked would promptly lead to a market crash, the same way the markets crashed in late 2018 when QT was on "autopilot."

JPM's Nikolas Panagirtzoglou reaches that stark conclusion by revisiting his previous analysis that estimated the proportion duration that central banks removed from the market by adjusting both central bank holdings and outstanding government bonds to 10-year equivalent terms; back then, he assumed that instead of Bills, the Fed would purchase short-dated Treasuries. So, now that we know that the Fed will, for at least a few months, be buying Bills (before eventually shifting to shorter maturity bonds), the updated projections for the Fed is shown with the dashed lines (while the original one is the solid line).

In other words, rather than rising gradually to reverse some of the reduction in duration absorption in recent years, the duration absorption would merely stabilize around current levels.

Of course, the Fed's asset holdings impact the global central bank balance shee: the dashed red line shows the impact of the Fed going down the path of T-bill purchases on aggregate G4 central bank duration absorption, which suggests G4 duration absorption is set to continue declining roughly in line with its pace thus far this year. In other words, the ECB’s net QE purchases alone look set to be insufficient to offset the impact of the BoJ’s effort to steepen its domestic curve. It is also the reason why the Fed has initially started monetizing Bills, and why in the very near future, the Fed will be compelled to expanding the universe of eligible assets to regular Treasuries.

What are the conclusions? First, the Fed's choice of Bills to monetize leaves questions over whether the Fed will be able to source sufficient T-bills to facilitate a permanent increase in its reserves, particularly if it has to increase them significantly above current levels, and whether trying to do so would risk offsetting reserve drainage through increased use of its ON RRP facility.

But the top finding is that as a result of the BOJ's quiet tapering of its own QE...

... as Japan struggles to re-steepen its yield curve and which on October 1 caused a marketwide margin call, and sent shockwaves around the globe, the ECB’s QE on its own would be unlikely to offset the negative G4 central bank duration

absorption impulse from the BoJ. As such, the Fed had to step in, if only to keep the G4 central bank balance sheet from shrinking. And that - not whether it's called QE or something else - is what matters, as that's the real reason the Fed had to step in. As a result, as Bank of America's Michael Hartnett recently noted, the fix is in again, and after going nowhere for 2 years, the central banks' balance sheet is back to $16.1 trillion and is expected to hit $18 trillion in roughly two years.

Whatever you do, though, just don't call the coming surge in the global central bank balance sheet to a new all time highs, QE.

Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 14:10


Business Finance

What We've Lost

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

This is only a partial list of what we've lost to globalism, cheap credit and the Tyranny of Price which generates the Landfill Economy.

A documentary on the decline of small farms and the rural economy in France highlights what we've lost in the decades-long rush to globalize and financialize everything on the plane

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t-- what we call Neoliberalism, the ideology of turning everything into a global market controlled by The Tyranny of Price and cheap credit issued to corporations and banks by central banks.

After Winter, Spring (2012) was made by an American who moved to a small village in the Dordogne region of France to recover something of her childhood on a small Pennsylvania farm.

The farmers--self-described as paysanspeasants in English, (a translation I don't consider entirely accurate, for reasons too complex to go into here)-- describe the financial difficulties of earning enough to survive without outside jobs.

One young farmer who is taking over the family dairy from his aging parents encapsulates the economic reality of small farms: in the 1960s, they had 3 or 4 cows, now they have 100, but their income is the same.

Corporate mega-farms can produce huge quantities of agricultural products of questionable quality because they have the scale, access to cheap credit and expertise to deal with the voluminous bureaucratic paperwork imposed by the EU and the French government. (One slip-up on a form and you're sunk if you're a one- or two-person operation.)

Artisanal producers can't compete, and will never be able to compete in a global marketplace where there is always a cheaper source. (Up to half a small farmer's income comes from EU subsidies, which the EU is trying to cut.)

Financial survival requires one spouse have an outside job, or the farmers must operate farm tours, an onsite auberge (restaurant) or equivalent higher-margin business, all of which increases the capital they must borrow to fund the expansion and the risk of bankruptcy should the venture fail to cover its costs.

The documentary echoes the themes of an earlier French documentary, Profils Paysans, a three-part series of which only the third film Modern Life (2008) has English Subtitles.

The financial uncertainties and endless hard work are running up against generational realities: relatively few young people have the necessary passion for farming and the appetite for risk and hard work. Across the developed world, from Japan to the U.S. to France, there are few (if any) successors in line to take over the small family farms.

The small family farm--and the knowledge of how to grow food and raise animals--is dying away with the passing of our elderly farmers. The average age of farmers in many nations is well above 60. Many of the paysans (male and female) profiled in these documentaries are in their 80s.

The land is sold for residential development (i.e. exurb sprawl, overwhelming infrastructure such as roads, water systems, etc. designed for much small populations) or abandoned.

These documentaries only partially capture the enormous distance between "modern life" and the human-Nature relationship required to make land sustainably productive.

It's important to preserve wilderness, but we don't eat what grows or roams in wilderness. Wildlife can't survive solely on isolated preserves, either; Corporate Big Ag monoculture fields offer little to no habitat for wildlife.

Corporate Big Ag doesn't maintain the polycultures needed to support insects, birds and other wildlife; small farms provide niches and habitats for all sorts of life that doesn't serve a direct financial interest of the owners.

The widening divide between the modern lifestyle--completely ignorant and dismissive of rural productive polyculture--and those who still hold knowledge of artisanal, small-scale, localized production of high quality food--is already unbridgeable.

One elderly farmer described how his non-French neighbor complained about the cowbells on his few cattle. This resident's dogs could bark freely, but the cowbells were an annoyance beyond tolerance?

This is a manifestation of the complete alienation of "modern life" from the production of food. The modern urban/exurb resident doesn't want to smell hay (hay fever!) or manure (oh my, all animal poop should vanish instantly or I can't bear it) or any other exposure to the realities of raising livestock, killing animals so we can eat them or any other reality of food. All of these processes should be done thousands of miles away, and the food shipped by air in nice plastic containers to our supermarkets.

Neoliberal economists insist nothing has been lost; the plastic food in the plastic containers is "market efficiency" (never mind the dependence on cheap credit and cheap jet fuel). As for all the intangible economic, social and cultural capital that's been lost--it has no value in globalized Neoliberal economies.

One almost hopes that Corporate Big Ag disappears due to mono-crop plagues and people start going hungry to the point that they begin to take an interest in relearning all that's been cavalierly tossed away in favor of plastic food in plastic packaging and endless hours slumped on sofas "consuming" videos and "engaging" social media.

We've lost so much in the conquest of localized, small-scale polycultural farming by Neoliberal globalism and the dominance of cheap-credit-fueled Corporate Big Ag, yet we're only dimly aware of what's been lost because it isn't measured or valued in Neoliberal economies.

We've lost the knowledge of even partial self-sufficiency; we've lost a diversified local economy that can feed itself; we've lost "food security," the resilience provided by food grown locally rather than being flown in from thousands of miles away; we've lost the cultural habits of helping neighbors bring in their harvest, of celebrating the shared work around a communal table; we've lost any Nature-based cultural identity; we've lost the cultural and economic capital of interwoven small farms; we've lost the habitats for wildlife that are unique to polyculture farming, and we've lost any meaningful connection to the land and Nature.

It's not just small farms that are being lost--it's the entire rural economy of villages and towns that are supported by farm income and products.

This is only a partial list of what we've lost to globalism, cheap credit and the Tyranny of Price which generates the Landfill Economy: always buy the cheapest corporate product-- price is all that matters, even if the quality is appalling. Just throw the low-quality items and food in the Landfill and buy new stuff on credit.)

These documentaries link directly to a 1,180 page two-volume work by historian Fernand Braudel, his last work:

The Identity of France: Volume One: History and Environment

The Identity of France: Volume Two: People and Production

I realize relatively few other readers would tackle a 1,200 page series with the same relish I have, or feel the same regret that I've finished the books, for my understanding of France, the history of agriculture, modern capitalism and prosperous rural economies is immeasurably richer.

What we've lost is a localized, resilient, diverse rural economy with a wealth of cultural and practical skills and wisdom. We only have a few years to save this immense wealth from complete and irretrievable loss.

What we've lost, whether we measure it or not is the subject my new book, Will You Be Richer or Poorer? Profit, Power and A.I. in a Traumatized World; (Read the first section for free (PDF). The book explores all the forms of wealth that we've lost or squandered. This applies not just to rural life and the rural, localized economy, but to our urban life, our society, our culture and our economy.

*  *  *

Will You Be Richer or Poorer? Profit, Power and A.I. in a Traumatized World (15% discount in October, Kindle $5.95, print $10.95) Read the first section for free (PDF).  Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 (Kindle), $12 (print), $13.08 ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).  The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF).  Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF). If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 11:30
Hong Kong Chaos: Shops Trashed, Banks Targeted, And Petrol Bombs Tossed At Police

After several weeks of peace in Hong Kong, tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets over the weekend and participated in an illegal march that led to hundreds of stores trashed, Chinese banks targeted, and several metro stations firebombed, reported Reuters.

At the start of the weekend, Hong Kong Police denied pro-democracy protestors the right to march

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through an upscale shopping district.

Then by Sunday, thousands of black-clothed protesters clashed with police, exchanging tear gas and petrol bombs that sent the city into chaos once more. 

Protests firebombed the Tsim Sha Tsui police station on the Kowloon peninsula. 

There were several other reports that protestors used petrol bombs and targeted metro stations in the city. 

Protestors targeted hundreds of shops and even damaged Chinese banks. 

This weekend's violence is due to pro-democracy leader Jimmy Sham, who was attacked earlier in the week, which left him in critical condition in the hospital. 

As protestors continue to battle police into the overnight, road barriers have been set on fire, and stores are being trashed in several Kowloon districts, said police. 

Reuters spoke with a protestor who said the government is now denying demonstration permits to prevent demonstrations from growing in size.

 "The government pretends we just want to destroy the city. We'll be out for as long as it takes to let the world know it is them who are destroying it," a demonstrator named Ray told Reuters. 

Violent protests began over the summer when Hong Kong proposed a new law that would allow Beijing to extradited criminals to mainland China. 

Hongkongers take pride in their legal system and personal freedoms, which is dramatically different than communist China. 

China has shown in recent years that it seeks greater control over Hong Kong.

The extradition bill was scrapped in early September, but that hasn't stopped violent demonstrations into fall. 

Protesters view Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam as an agent of Beijing and will likely not stop protesting until she is removed from power.

And to make things more complicated in the days ahead, US lawmakers late last week sent a clear message to Beijing that it will support protestors via a new bill. 

While Hong Kong burns this weekend, so is Santiago, Chile; so is Barcelona, Spain, and there are even climate change protests that are starting to get out of control throughout Europe.

Populism is sweeping across the world, and a lot of this anger and frustration with young people is due to flawed monetary policy by central banks that have produced the widest wealth gap in the history of the world. 

It's only a matter of time before US millennials figure this out, they too will be marching in the streets once they know the truth as to why they only have a shitty gig-economy job, no savings, and insurmountable student debt.

Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 12:00
Luongo: A New Middle East Thanks To Putin

Authored by Tom Luongo via Gold, Goats, 'n Guns blog,

Peace in the Middle East is coming at us fast and we’re going to have Russian President Vladimir Putin to thank for it.

The howls of agony coming from U.S. and European foreign policy centers are deafening. Pat Buchanan lists them in his latest article which asks

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if Putin is now the new king of the Middle East.

“Donald Trump Has Handed Putin the Middle East on a Plate” was the title of a Telegraph column. “Putin Seizes on Trump’s Syria Retreat to Cement Middle East Role,” said the Financial Times.

The U.S. press parroted the British: Putin is now the new master of the Mideast. And woe is us.

Remember that the epicenter of virulent anti-Russian, pro-Israeli sentiment doesn’t begin with the Neocons along K-Street. It begins with the remnants of the British imperial class which still holds tremendous sway over British politics.

Think I’m wrong about that. Just look at Brexit.

As I pointed out the minute Trump defended his initial pullout of 50 U.S. troops to allow Turkey to cross into northern Syria, Putin has the situation mostly under control by laying the groundwork to craft win/win/win/win possibilities for everyone in the region.

Buchanan remains skeptical of this, saying that if Putin is the new king of the Middle East, will the crown lie heavy on his head?

It’s a fair question but I think it betrays Pat’s biases as an old Cold Warrior.

Pat makes a series of comparisons between Russia’s military presence in the region and the size of the economies backing them to make his point. I think, frankly, that’s outdated analysis.

It is based on the premise that Russia has imperial aspirations in the region, similar to that of the U.S. At his core, Buchanan is still a ‘great powers theory’ kind of guy.

From the moment Putin began his intervention into Syria the U.S.’s punditocracy said he would get bogged down in a quagmire. That he couldn’t afford the coming war with entrenched ISIS fighters.

This was based on the fact that the U.S. couldn’t defeat ISIS. But that logic only held if you believed the U.S. was actually fighting ISIS which I never did. Once Russia moved into Syria it exposed the lie of ISIS’s strength.

Within days of Russian air operations beginning the Syrian Arab Army began taking large chunks of territory from U.S. and Turkish-backed rebels and from ISIS.

The turnaround was striking. And the U.S. was stunned into fumbling silence, complaining that Putin was bombing the wrong people. The efficiency of the Russian air crews was off the charts and the results on the ground spoke for themselves.

This isn’t revisionist history or Putin shilling here. These are facts. The Russians were turning their planes over three to four times a day at that point.

It’s clear from the way that Putin has built Russia’s military that it is designed around defense of Russia’s borders not invading or maintaining an Empire.

And that’s why Buchanan’s criticisms of Putin’s victories here ring hollow. Pat rightly points out that if Putin does craft a network of deals that bring regional peace he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

But I suspect Pat doesn’t believe that to be happening.

My read, however, is the opposite. Peace is exactly what is happening.

From the beginning of my return to blogging in 2017 I speculated about the Grand Bargain in the Middle East built around Putin guaranteeing the behavior of his allies — Israel, Hezbollah, Syria, Iraqi Shi’ites — and President Trump guaranteeing the good behavior of his — Israel, the Saudis and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

That vision of the Grand Bargain never materialized because the influence of those allies within Trump’s government were too strong for him to resist politically.

Putin was smart to remain skeptical of Trump’s ability to deliver on his promises. And Trump, for his part, was sent down a path which would define his first term as a shambolic mess thanks to his inability to grasp the enormity of the problem confronting him.

He pushed U.S. policy too far in the pro-Israel, pro-Saudi direction to sell his version of Middle East peace, lobbied for intensely by Benjamin Netanyahu, Jared Kushner and their backers who helped install arch neocons around Trump like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Fiona Hill and Gina Haspel.

These folks were put in place to keep Trump ignorant of the dangers of his policy while Secretary of State James Mattis was there to stoke the hard-line militarily on Iran. Add to that General Joseph Dunford’s role as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to suppress strategic conclusions about our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now with the passing of the Dunford regime as Joint Chief in September, General Milley steps in, with significant changes to public policy already on display. For example, Milley’s commissioned study of the Iraq war — long awaited and delayed by military pressure to prevent release of a largely negative report — was publicly released by Milley in January of 2019. The report states, “that coalition warfare (in Iraq) was ‘largely unsuccessful’ for several reasons, that failing to account for a lack of understanding of the inner workings of Iraqi politics and group struggles’ in part led to failure there. That’s an account that Dunford was unlikely to approve, and may have caused him to delay. So, with the departure of Dunford and Mattis as we shall see, the way forward for US disengagement from Syria’s northeast was made possible.

I don’t think U.S. disengagement is just possible. I think it’s happening right in front of our eyes.

Any thought that Putin is not up to the task here isn’t reading the tea leaves.

Everyone who has been fronting strength has been bluffing. Hard.

Israel is weak. Saudi Arabia weak. Turkey weak.

The U.S. weaker than anyone wants to admit.

Pat’s right that Russia isn’t strong, but no one here is. Everyone’s been drained by the refusal to give up the dream of atomizing the region in the service of the outdated Brzezinski/Wolfowitz doctrine of sowing discord in Central Asia.

The EU has drained itself in the service of a political union no one except The Davos Crowd wants. The U.K. is drained from decades of the EU vacuuming their wealth from the core economy, hollowing it out to a financial shell centered around City of London.

The Russia/China/Iran axis has simply played the ultimate game of attrition, reading the economic and political tea leaves perfectly while executing a pan-Eurasian strategy of integration through disengagement from U.S. and U.K. financial institutions.

Russia is the only country with the unique mix of resources, geography and financial stability, thanks to its policy of de-dollarization and prudent fiscal management, that can make good on any of the promises it makes to its potential partners on the other side of the negotiating table.

Trump is following Putin’s lead in his dealings with Turkey. By leaving places like Manbij to the Syrians and the Russians it makes it clear to all that this is a bargain that can work for everyone directly involved.

Syria gets its territory back, Turkey gets the Kurdish SDF off its border in an important town and the U.S. alerts the world that the old game is over and a new one is starting.

Both of them made moves to stabilize Saudi Arabia — Trump with troops to keep Iran honest and Putin with major deals to assist the Saudi financial position through investment. Trump has worked with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to act as his proxy in Saudi/Iranian peace talks.

Putin is limiting Turkey’s Erdogan’s adventurism in Syria by fully supporting Assad and the restoration of Syrian territorial integrity through diplomacy with the YPG Kurds.

Putin and Trump are both waiting to see who takes power in Israel. But at this point it’s clear that whoever does will finally be order-takers and no longer order-makers unless Trump is impeached and convicted.

At this point that’s the biggest wild card. And regardless of that outcome, the rest of Putin’s deft use of diplomacy and his efficient military have created a different reality for Israel, that even with a full neocon restoration post-Trump, won’t be favorable to them.

And yes, you can thank Vladimir Putin for that.

*  *  *

Join My Patreon if you want to support narrative destruction of global elites. Install the Brave Browser if you want to undermine Google’s ability to control information.

Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 09:20



Christine Lagarde Criticizes Trump's "Tweet Here, Or Tweet There" Fed Bashing

If the stock market is down or bad economic data prints, one can always assume President Trump will make time out of his day to bash the Federal Reserve on Twitter.

President Trump's Fed bashing, sometimes a daily occurrence, if not at least several times a week, has irritated incoming European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde, who says in an upcoming 60

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Minutes interview, expected to air on Sunday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CBS, that "Market stability should not be the subject of a tweet here or a tweet there. It requires consideration, thinking, quiet and measured, and rational decisions."

Lagarde told 60 Minutes correspondent John Dickerson that central banking is like "navigating a plane" with policymakers keeping a very close eye on the instrument panel, i.e., economic trends.

Dickerson asks Lagarde if it's okay if a leader [refering to President Trump] was actively criticizing a central bank head in public. Dickerson pulled a quote from President Trump's Sept. 11 tweet, where he called Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell a "bonehead" for not cutting "interest rates down to ZERO."

Lagarde responds by saying, "a central bank governor does best his job if he is independent."

According to CBS, the interview took place last month at Lagarde's home in Normandy and the IMF headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Lagarde also criticized President Trump's Twitter practices as a whole and his trade war with China that has sent the global economy into one of its most vulnerable periods since the last financial crisis.

She said world leaders need to find a resolution to trade disputes: "My very, very strong message to all policymakers is please sit down like big men, many men in those rooms and put everything on the table, and try to deal bit by bit, piece by piece, so that we have certainty."

Lagarde will replace outgoing ECB Chief Mario Draghi on Nov. 01. She's entering the position as Europe's manufacturing complex is sliding into a technical recession along with the rest of the world.

Lagarde calling out President Trump in an upcoming 60-Minutes interview indicates that central bankers across the world are panicking to control an economic narrative that they have lost thanks to President Trump's tweeting.

60-Minutes has an average viewership of 8 million Americans, which means central banks, led by the upcoming Lagarde interview, want to convince as many people as possible that President Trump is wrong for criticizing Federal Reserve policy, but also want to persuade millions of people that the next recession should be blamed on the president -- not central banks.

For those who don't know, Lagarde was convicted for a massive bribery scheme as French finance minister, and her latest stunt in suggesting President Trump is interfering and influencing Powell to lower rates to zero is humorous.

Largard's absolutely disastrous tenure at the IMF, most recently the failed $57 billion bailout of Argentina through an IMF loan, has left the country of 45 million, essentially bankrupt, but more importantly, it shows that she will destroy the Eurozone as ECB head.

President Trump might get the last laugh.

Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 09:55


Business Finance

Erdogan Vows To 'Crush Heads' Of Kurds If They Don't Withdraw 

We noted previously that chances are high that by the time Trump and Erdogan meet for their planned summit in Washington on Nov. 13, the ceasefire deal in northern Syria brokered by Pence and Pompeo on behalf of the White House is likely to be in complete tatters and all but dead.

With already the Syrian Kurds and Turkish forces accusing the other of violating the truce, including ch

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arges of chemical and banned weapons use, President Erdogan over the weekend said he's ready to order a resumed offensive if all Kurdish don't withdraw by this coming Tuesday night, which marks the close of the initial 120-hour truce agreement. A further or permanent ceasefire was conditioned on the 5-day "pause" being observed. 

“The 120-hour pause on operations will end Tuesday night, we will continue crushing heads of terrorists if they don’t withdraw by then,” Erdogan told a political rally in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri on Saturday, according to Bloomberg

Turkish tank along the border with Syria, via Reuters. 

This after one of Turkey's soldiers was reported killed during a breach of the ceasefire, according to Turkish official sources.

Kurdish YPG forces charged Turkey with blocking the evacuation of their dead and wounded, while Turkish troops claimed to have come under fire some 20 times in what would be a violation of the agreement. 

Following Thursday's deal, the result of some four hours of meetings between the US vice president and Turkey's leader, the White House cautioned that the reality of a complete pause in fighting could take a little time to implement. 

But perhaps the more important deal-making is set to occur with Moscow, as Erdogan and Putin are set to meet this upcoming week to discuss the rapidly developing events in Syria. Currently Russian troops have filled the power vacuum left in the wake of the rapid Pentagon draw down from border towns in northeast Syria. 

“There are regime forces under Russian protection in parts of our operation area. We will discuss it with Putin. We’ve to find a solution,” Erdogan said Saturday.

Indeed whatever comes out of meeting with Putin is likely to set the final trajectory which could bring the fighting to a close. 

Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 07:35


War Conflict

UK Police Investigate Transgender Being Turned Down For Porn Role As A "Hate Crime"

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

UK police are investigating the potential “hate crime” of a transgender woman being turned down for a porn role because she still has a penis.

Yes, really.

25-year-old Ria Cooper, who became the UK’s youngest transgender person 10 years

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ago, received messages on WhatsApp from on anonymous photographer who wanted to have sex on camera and sell the tape.

However, when the photographer found out that Cooper still had male reproductive organs, he said he couldn’t work with her because she “has a cock.”

This prompted Cooper to alert Humberside Police to this “transphobic behavior” and authorities are now investigating whether a hate crime was committed.

A spokeswoman for Humberside Police said:

“We received a report of a hate incident yesterday, on Wednesday, October 16. The report has been logged and will be investigated.”

The UK’s violent crime rate has risen by 19% in the last year. Fatal stabbings are becoming commonplace in major cities.

But thank God police resources are being wasted on the urgent issue of transgenders being offended over words.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 08:10


Social Issues
Law Crime

"There Is A Global Crisis" - Israel Diamond Industry Collapses Amid Faltering Demand 

Macroeconomic headwinds are developing across the world. At least 90% of all countries are experiencing a slowdown in growth that has stumped central bankers and policymakers. No one at the moment can figure out how to restart the global economy. With the risk of a worldwide trade recession soaring for 2020, if not has already arrived, consumers are pulling back on spe

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nding, which has contributed to a collapse in the global diamond industry, something that we've been documenting this year. 

The latest stress in the global diamond industry is emanating from Israel. Ynetnews is saying the country's diamond exports have plunged 22%, a sign that consumer demand from Asia is faltering. 

Trade data showed for the first three quarters of 2019, Israeli exports of diamonds were $2.62 billion, down from $3.32 billion during the same period last year.

In 3Q19, imports and exports of diamonds by Israel plunged 28% YoY. 

The Times of Israel blamed the downturn on the trade war and social unrest in Hong Kong. 

Yoram Dvash, president of the Israel Diamond Exchange, told Ynetnews:

"There is a global crisis. The government needs to help out the industry. Everywhere people are helping because they understand that there are difficulties now. Trump's trade war with China and the Hong Kong protests really influence the industry. Hong Kong accounts for about 30% of our exports. The Hong Kong government said that in recent times, the sector that's been damaged the most there has been the jewelry industry."

Dvash said Hong Kong jewelry shops, which import hundreds of millions of dollars of diamonds from Israel per year, have noticed collapsing demand from mainland China because of the social unrest and economic downturn in the region. 

"Right now, the Chinese government isn't granting visas to Chinese to go to Hong Kong in order to put pressure on business people there and hurt the economy. It's paralyzing the number 2 diamond market in the world," Dvash said.

A source told Ynetnews that a credit crisis in India involving Indian diamond companies has negatively impacted the global industry.

Earlier this month, De Beers', one of the largest diamond exploration, diamond mining, and diamond retailing companies in the world, saw a 39% YoY drop in September sales. 

A diamond analyst last month said markets remained oversupplied, resulting in weak global sales.

"The current malaise in the market is due to oversupply," said Paul Zimnisky, an analyst in New York, who said diamond buyers had too much inventory.

Spot diamond prices on the IDEX Diamond Index shows how oversupplied conditions have weighed down prices in the last 8 months.

Source: Bloomberg

And while diamonds are supposed to "a girl's best friend", recent months have seen gold the preferred shiny thing of choice...

Source: Bloomberg

Shares in Signet, the world's largest retailer of diamond jewelry, have crashed 89% in the last four years.

It appears a diamond crisis is unfolding, and this is what usually happens right before a global recession, a sign that the consumer can no longer power the global economy. Turmoil is ahead.

Tyler Durden

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 20:30


Business Finance

China Buying Boatloads Of Soybeans From Brazil After US Trade Talks

China ramped up Soybean purchases from Brazil last week, despite President Trump showboating a potential $50 billion agriculture deal with Beijing.

Multiple traders told Reuters that Brazilian soybeans are more appealing to commercial importers, especially ones from China, who are looking for deep discounts. 

As of last week, Beijing hasn't lifted 25% tariffs o

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n US soybeans nor granted new waivers to state-owned businesses, indicating that China isn't ready to buy US agriculture products, as of late October. 

China typically sources most of its soybeans from the US between October and January, then from South American countries in early 1Q. But this year, according to traders, as the trade war continues to escalate to the point of return, China is abandoning US markets despite positive sentiment from President Trump's tweets.

Since Monday, traders said China purchased eight bulk carrier cargoes of soybeans from Brazil, or about 480,000 tons, worth $173 million.  

Brazil is China's top soybean supplier, and Reuters made an interesting point, "large purchases from South America are unusual at this time of year with the US harvest coming in." Translation: China isn't buying US soybeans, so President Trump's tweets about agriculture purchases are meaningless at the moment and are only used to calm fears of Midwest/Central US farmers. 

President Trump and his administration spent several weeks pumping headlines through different wirehouses and even on Twitter, about a breakthrough deal and massive agriculture purchases China was performing. 

Three US soybean exporters told Reuters that China logged zero sales with the US last week, along with no transactions at the USDA.  

"I've not had any inquiries at all for US (shipments)," said one of the US soybean exporters. "There were a few November boats bought from Brazil and several new-crop South American boats for March forward but nothing here."

Another US exporter said a drop in Brazilian soybean prices triggered boatloads of new purchases by China last week.

Chinese state-owned firms COFCO and Sinograin, which are exempt from US tariffs, have no intention of purchasing US soybeans unless spot prices drop, said one of the exporters.

After the Trump administration spent several weeks pumping the stock market on headlines describing China repurchasing soybeans, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Thursday finally admitted that for China to buy $50 billion worth of US agriculture good, it would depend on spot prices.

On Tuesday, China said that it would struggle to buy $50 billion of US agriculture products if the Trump administration doesn't remove retaliatory tariffs on some products. Something that President Trump cannot afford to do because it would allow China to continue its ascension as a global superpower. 

Tyler Durden

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 22:30


Business Finance

Trump Scraps Plan To Hold 2020 G-7 Summit At His Doral Golf Resort After "Irrational Hostility"

Any journalists who thought that 10:00pm on Saturday may mercifully be devoid of breaking news, were shocked, and furious to discover that that was Donald Trump's preferred time to tweet, following an intense backlash by both Democrats and Republicans over his trampling of the Emoluments clause, that he would scrap plans to hold next year's G-7 summit at his

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Doral golf resort in Miami due to "both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility."

Instead, Trump said he would "begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately."

According to Trump's late Saturday tweetstorm, the president "thought I was doing something very good for our Country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting the G-7 Leaders." The tweet then trailed off into an ad for the (struggling) Doral golf resort, laying out all its positive aspects:

It is big, grand, on hundreds of acres, next to MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, has tremendous ballrooms & meeting rooms, and each delegation would have its own 50 to 70 unit building. Would set up better than other alternatives.

Trump, confused why it would appear a conflict of interest to host the most important people in the world at his property, then explained the he "would be willing to do it at NO PROFIT or, if legally permissible, at ZERO COST to the USA." But, he added "as usual, the Hostile Media & their Democrat Partners went CRAZY!"

"Therefore", Trump concluded, "based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility, we will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020. We will begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately."

That said, if Trump was hoping that with this decision the media's outrage would be diminished - if anything it will only validate that complaints and criticisms of Trump's decision were justified. On the other hand, the media may have moved on: after all, the latest scandal involving Hillary Clinton, Tulsi Gabbard and the rest of the democrats in the primary race, all of whom appear to have picked a side in this bizarre catfight, just may allow the press to forget about Trump for a day or two, as Hillary Clinton decides whether she has enough public and media support to officially enter the race for president. Again.

Tyler Durden

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 22:32



Navy Patents UFO-Like Compact Nuclear Fusion Reactor And Hybrid Space/Sea Crafts

Authored by Jake Anderson via TheMindUnleashed.com,

A mysterious set of patents filed recently by a U.S Navy researcher has caught the eyes of technologists and conspiracy theorists alike.

These patents describe exotic technologies that do not exist in the commercial or military spheres—as far a

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s we know—and that usually only surface in UFO lore, including high-energy electromagnetic force fields, revolutionary propulsion systems, and a “hybrid aerospace-underwater craft.”

The newest patent is for a practical fusion reactor that could be stored in aircraft to help achieve unimaginable speeds and maneuverability.

The mystery around these patents continues to grow during a time in which the Navy and State Department have stunningly reversed their decades-old policy of not acknowledging UFO sightings. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division is the home of the high-level Navy researcher, the equally mysterious Salvatore Cezar Pais, who in recent years has filed patents for supposedly operable revolutionary technologies such as  room temperature superconductor (RTSC) and the high-energy electromagnetic field generator (HEEMFG).

Perhaps the most surprising patent concerns the “hybrid aerospace-underwater craft,” which can supposedly navigate with equal precision through space, air, and water with no heat signature and “engineer the fabric of our reality at the most fundamental level.”

In the patents filed, Pais has revealed that Chinese scientists are already way ahead of the United States in such fields. The reason this is a shocking admission is because military personnel, Navy officers, and air pilots have for years reported USOs (unidentified submerged objects) that seem to fly in and out of the sea at incomphrensible speeds.

The newest patent teases the discovery of the “Holy Grail” of energy production, the long sought nuclear fusion reactor, which could revolutionize life on Earth by creating a sustainable long-term fuel source and reduce radioactive waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, scientists do not know how to manage systems that utilize high-pressure plasma in the range of hundreds of millions of degrees Fahrenheit and can only create split second controlled nuclear fusion reactions.

However, the patent for Pais’ “Plasma Compression Fusion Device,” which was only disclosed September 26, 2019 states:

“At present there are few envisioned fusion reactors/devices that come in a small, compact package (ranging from 0.3 to 2 meters in diameter) and typically they use different versions of plasma magnetic confinement. Three such devices are the Lockheed Martin (LM) Skunk Works Compact Fusion Reactor (LM-CFR) , the EMC2 Polywell fusion concept, and the Princeton Field-Reversed Configuration (PFRC) machine. […] These devices feature short plasma confinement times, possible plasma instabilities with the scaling of size, and it is questionable whether they have the ability of achieving the break – even fusion condition, let alone a self-sustained plasma burn leading to ignition.” 

Pais states that this technology would be capable of producing as much as a terawatt (1 trillion watts) of power, which vastly surpasses America’s largest current nuclear power plant. While it’s not known whether such technology is possible at all, much less in a compact structure, we do know that the U.S. military and private firms like Lockheed Martin are competing with the government run-Chinese Academy of Sciences to create the world’s first compact nuclear reactor. 

Tyler Durden

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 23:00


Technology Internet

These Are The Most (And Least) Generous Countries In The World

The Charities Aid Foundation has released the 2019 edition of the World Giving Index which surveyed 1.3 million people in 128 countries to determine generosity levels.

Unfortunately, as Statista's Niall McCarthy notes, generosity simply isn't possible in some countries due to unrest or high poverty levels.

As in previous years,

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rong> Myanmar had the highest share of people most likely to donate to charity with 81 percent. It consistently tops studies about charitable giving, mainly because of the strong influence of Theravada Buddhists practising Sangha Dana where many people believe that doing good in this life improves their chances of their next life being a better one.

You will find more infographics at Statista

At the other end of the spectrum, the lowest scoring countries in the index were Georgia and Yemen with 6 percent of people stating that they made a charitable donation in the past month.

You will find more infographics at Statista

Charity is more than likely one of the last things on people's minds in Yemen which has been ravaged by years of war.

Tyler Durden

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 23:30


Social Issues

Escobar: Syria May Be The Biggest Defeat For The CIA Since Vietnam

Authored by Pepe Escobar via ConsortiumNews.com,

What is happening in Syria, following yet another Russia-brokered deal, is a massive geopolitical game-changer.

I’ve tried to summarize it in a single paragraph this way:

It’s a quadruple win. The U.S. perfor

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ms a face saving withdrawal, which Trump can sell as avoiding a conflict with NATO ally Turkey. Turkey has the guarantee – by the Russians – that the Syrian Army will be in control of the Turkish-Syrian border. Russia prevents a war escalation and keeps the Russia-Iran-Turkey peace process alive.  And Syria will eventually regain control of the entire northeast.”

Syria may be the biggest defeat for the CIA since Vietnam.

Yet that hardly begins to tell the whole story.

Allow me to briefly sketch in broad historical strokes how we got here.

It began with an intuition I felt last month at the tri-border point of Lebanon, Syria and Occupied Palestine; followed by a subsequent series of conversations in Beirut with first-class Lebanese, Syrian, Iranian, Russian, French and Italian analysts; all resting on my travels in Syria since the 1990s; with a mix of selected bibliography in French available at Antoine’s in Beirut thrown in.

The Vilayets

Let’s start in the 19thcentury when Syria consisted of six vilayets Ottoman provinces — without counting Mount Lebanon, which had a special status since 1861 to the benefit of Maronite Christians and Jerusalem, which was a sanjak (administrative division) of Istanbul.

The vilayets did not define the extremely complex Syrian identity: for instance, Armenians were the majority in the vilayet of Maras, Kurds in Diyarbakir – both now part of Turkey in southern Anatolia – and the vilayets of Aleppo and Damascus were both Sunni Arab.

Nineteenth century Ottoman Syria was the epitome of cosmopolitanism. There were no interior borders or walls. Everything was inter-dependent.

Ethnic groups in the Balkans and Asia Minor, early 20th Century, Historical Atlas, 1911.

Then the Europeans, profiting from World War I, intervened. France got the Syrian-Lebanese littoral, and later the vilayets of Maras and Mosul (today in Iraq). Palestine was separated from Cham (the “Levant”), to be internationalized. The vilayet of Damascus was cut in half: France got the north, the Brits got the south. Separation between Syria and the mostly Christian Lebanese lands came later.

There was always the complex question of the Syria-Iraq border. Since antiquity, the Euphrates acted as a barrier, for instance between the Cham of the Umayyads and their fierce competitors on the other side of the river, the Mesopotamian Abbasids.

James Barr, in his splendid “A Line in the Sand,” notes, correctly, that the Sykes-Picot agreement imposed on the Middle East the European conception of territory: their “line in the sand” codified a delimited separation between nation-states. The problem is, there were no nation-states in region in the early 20thcentury.

The birth of Syria as we know it was a work in progress, involving the Europeans, the Hashemite dynasty, nationalist Syrians invested in building a Greater Syria including Lebanon, and the Maronites of Mount Lebanon. An important factor is that few in the region lamented losing dependence on Hashemite Medina, and except the Turks, the loss of the vilayet of Mosul in what became Iraq after World War I.

In 1925, Sunnis became the de facto prominent power in Syria, as the French unified Aleppo and Damascus. During the 1920s France also established the borders of eastern Syria. And the Treaty of Lausanne, in 1923, forced the Turks to give up all Ottoman holdings but didn’t keep them out of the game.

Turkish borders according to the Treaty of Lausanne, 1923.

The Turks soon started to encroach on the French mandate, and began blocking the dream of Kurdish autonomy. France in the end gave in: the Turkish-Syrian border would parallel the route of the fabledBagdadbahn — the Berlin-Baghdad railway.

In the 1930s France gave in even more: the sanjak of Alexandretta (today’s Iskenderun, in Hatay province, Turkey), was finally annexed by Turkey in 1939 when only 40 percent of the population was Turkish.

The annexation led to the exile of tens of thousands of Armenians. It was a tremendous blow for Syrian nationalists. And it was a disaster for Aleppo, which lost its corridor to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish forces under entered Alexandretta on July 5, 1938.

This emergent Syria — out of conflicting Turkish, French, British and myriad local interests —obviously could not, and did not, please any community. Still, the heart of the nation configured what was described as “useful Syria.” No less than 60 percent of the nation was — and remains — practically void.Yet, geopolitically, that translates into “strategic depth” — the heart of the matter in the current war.To the eastern steppes, Syria was all about Bedouin tribes. To the north, it was all about the Turkish-Kurdish clash. And to the south, the border was a mirage in the desert, only drawn with the advent of Transjordan. Only the western front, with Lebanon, was established, and consolidated after WWII.

From Hafez to Bashar

Starting in 1963, the Baath party, secular and nationalist, took over Syria, finally consolidating its power in 1970 with Hafez al-Assad, who instead of just relying on his Alawite minority, built a humongous, hyper-centralized state machinery mixed with a police state. The key actors who refused to play the game were the Muslim Brotherhood, all the way to being massacred during the hardcore 1982 Hama repression.

Secularism and a police state: that’s how the fragile Syrian mosaic was preserved. But already in the 1970s major fractures were emerging: between major cities and a very poor periphery; between the “useful” west and the Bedouin east; between Arabs and Kurds. But the urban elites never repudiated the iron will of Damascus: cronyism, after all, was quite profitable.

Damascus interfered heavily with the Lebanese civil war since 1976 at the invitation of the Arab League as a “peacekeeping force.” In Hafez al-Assad’s logic, stressing the Arab identity of Lebanon was essential to recover Greater Syria. But Syrian control over Lebanon started to unravel in 2005, after the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, very close to Saudi Arabia, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) eventually left.

Bashar al-Assad had taken power in 2000. Unlike his father, he bet on the Alawites to run the state machinery, preventing the possibility of a coup but completely alienating himself from the poor, Syrian on the street.

What the West defined as the Arab Spring, began in Syria in March 2011; it was a revolt against the Alawites as much  as a revolt against Damascus. Totally instrumentalized by the foreign interests, the revolt sprang up in extremely poor, dejected Sunni peripheries: Deraa in the south, the deserted east, and the suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo.

Protest in Damascus, April 24, 2011. (syriana2011/Flickr)

What was not understood in the West is that this “beggars banquet” was not against the Syrian nation, but against a “regime.” Jabhat al-Nusra, in a P.R. exercise, even broke its official link with al-Qaeda and changed its denomination to Fatah al-Cham and then Hayat Tahrir al-Cham (“Organization for the Liberation of the Levant”). Only ISIS/Daesh said they were fighting for the end of Sykes-Picot.

By 2014, the perpetually moving battlefield was more or less established: Damascus against both Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS/Daesh, with a wobbly role for the Kurds in the northeast, obsessed in preserving the cantons of Afrin, Kobane and Qamichli.

But the key point is that each katiba (“combat group”), each neighborhood, each village, and in fact each combatant was in-and-out of allegiances non-stop. That yielded a dizzying nebulae of jihadis, criminals, mercenaries, some linked to al-Qaeda, some to Daesh, some trained by the Americans, some just making a quick buck.

For instance Salafis — lavishly financed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait — especially Jaish al-Islam, even struck alliances with the PYD Kurds in Syria and the jihadis of Hayat Tahrir al-Cham (the remixed, 30,000-strong  al-Qaeda in Syria). Meanwhile, the PYD Kurds (an emanation of the Turkish Kurds’ PKK, which Ankara consider “terrorists”) profited from this unholy mess — plus a deliberate ambiguity by Damascus – to try to create their autonomous Rojava.

A demonstration in the city of Afrin in support of the YPG against the Turkish invasion of Afrin, Jan. 19, 2018. (Voice of America Kurdish, Wikimedia Commons)

That Turkish Strategic Depth

Turkey was all in. Turbo-charged by the neo-Ottoman politics of former Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the logic was to reconquer parts of the Ottoman empire, and get rid of Assad because he had helped PKK Kurdish rebels in Turkey.

Davutoglu’s Strategik Derinlik (“Strategic Depth’), published in 2001, had been a smash hit in Turkey, reclaiming the glory of eight centuries of an sprawling empire, compared to puny 911 kilometers of borders fixed by the French and the Kemalists. Bilad al Cham, the Ottoman province congregating Lebanon, historical Palestine, Jordan and Syria, remained a powerful magnet in both the Syrian and Turkish unconscious.

No wonder Turkey’s Recep Erdogan was fired up: in 2012 he even boasted he was getting ready to pray in the Umayyad mosque in Damascus, post-regime change, of course. He has been gunning for a safe zone inside the Syrian border — actually a Turkish enclave — since 2014. To get it, he has used a whole bag of nasty players — from militias close to the Muslim Brotherhood to hardcore Turkmen gangs.

With the establishment of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), for the first time Turkey allowed foreign weaponized groups to operate on its own territory. A training camp was set up in 2011 in the sanjakof Alexandretta. The Syrian National Council was also created in Istanbul – a bunch of non-entities from the diaspora who had not been in Syria for decades.

Ankara enabled a de facto Jihad Highway — with people from Central Asia, Caucasus, Maghreb, Pakistan, Xinjiang, all points north in Europe being smuggled back and forth at will. In 2015, Ankara, Riyadh and Doha set up the dreaded Jaish al-Fath (“Army of Conquest”), which included Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda).

At the same time, Ankara maintained an extremely ambiguous relationship with ISIS/Daesh, buying its smuggled oil, treating jihadis in Turkish hospitals, and paying zero attention to jihad intel collected and developed on Turkish territory. For at least five years, the MIT — Turkish intelligence – provided political and logistic background to the Syrian opposition while weaponizing a galaxy of Salafis. After all, Ankara believed that ISIS/Daesh only existed because of the “evil” deployed by the Assad regime.

The Russian Factor

Russian President Vladiimir Putin meeting with President of Turkey Recep Erdogan; Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov standing in background, Ankara, Dec. 1, 2014 Ankara. (Kremlin)

The first major game-changer was the spectacular Russian entrance in the summer of 2015. Vladimir Putin had asked the U.S. to join in the fight against the Islamic State as the Soviet Union allied against Hitler, negating the American idea that this was Russia’s bid to restore its imperial glory. But the American plan instead, under Barack Obama, was single-minded: betting on a rag-tag Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a mix of Kurds and Sunni Arabs, supported by air power and U.S. Special Forces, north of the Euphrates, to smash ISIS/Daesh all the way to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.

Raqqa, bombed to rubble by the Pentagon, may have been taken by the SDF, but Deir ez-Zor was taken by Damascus’s Syrian Arab Army. The ultimate American aim was to consistently keep the north of the Euphrates under U.S. power, via their proxies, the SDF and the Kurdish PYD/YPG. That American dream is now over, lamented by imperial Democrats and Republicans alike.

The CIA will be after Trump’s scalp till Kingdom Come.

Kurdish Dream Over

Talk about a cultural misunderstanding. As much as the Syrian Kurds believed U.S. protection amounted to an endorsement of their independence dreams, Americans never seemed to understand that throughout the “Greater Middle East” you cannot buy a tribe. At best, you can rent them. And they use you according to their interests. I’ve seen it from Afghanistan to Iraq’s Anbar province.

The Kurdish dream of a contiguous, autonomous territory from Qamichli to Manbij is over. Sunni Arabs living in this perimeter will resist any Kurdish attempt at dominance.

The Syrian PYD was founded in 2005 by PKK militants. In 2011, Syrians from the PKK came from Qandil – the PKK base in northern Iraq – to build the YPG militia for the PYD. In predominantly Arab zones, Syrian Kurds are in charge of governing because for them Arabs are seen as a bunch of barbarians, incapable of building their “democratic, socialist, ecological and multi-communitarian” society.

Kurdish PKK guerillas In Kirkuk, Iraq. (Kurdishstruggle via Flickr)

One can imagine how conservative Sunni Arab tribal leaders hate their guts. There’s no way these tribal leaders will ever support the Kurds against the SAA or the Turkish army; after all these Arab tribal leaders spent a lot of time in Damascus seeking support from Bashar al-Assad.  And now the Kurds themselves have accepted that support in the face of the Trukish incursion, greenlighted by Trump.

East of Deir ez-Zor, the PYD/YPG already had to say goodbye to the region that is responsible for 50 percent of Syria’s oil production. Damascus and the SAA now have the upper hand. What’s left for the PYD/YPG is to resign themselves to Damascus’s and Russian protection against Turkey, and the chance of exercising sovereignty in exclusively Kurdish territories.

Ignorance of the West

The West, with typical Orientalist haughtiness, never understood that Alawites, Christians, Ismailis and Druze in Syria would always privilege Damascus for protection compared to an “opposition” monopolized by hardcore Islamists, if not jihadis.  The West also did not understand that the government in Damascus, for survival, could always count on formidable Baath party networks plus the dreaded mukhabarat — the intel services.

Rebuilding Syria

The reconstruction of Syria may cost as much as $200 billion. Damascus has already made it very clear that the U.S. and the EU are not welcome. China will be in the forefront, along with Russia and Iran; this will be a project strictly following the Eurasia integration playbook — with the Chinese aiming to revive Syria’s strategic positioning in the Ancient Silk Road.

As for Erdogan, distrusted by virtually everyone, and a tad less neo-Ottoman than in the recent past, he now seems to have finally understood that Bashar al-Assad “won’t go,” and he must live with it. Ankara is bound to remain imvolved with Tehran and Moscow, in finding a comprehensive, constitutional solution for the Syrian tragedy through the former “Astana process”, later developed in Ankara.

The war may not have been totally won, of course. But against all odds, it’s clear a unified, sovereign Syrian nation is bound to prevail over every perverted strand of geopolitical molotov cocktails concocted in sinister NATO/GCC labs. History will eventually tell us that, as an example to the whole Global South, this will remain the ultimate game-changer.

Tyler Durden

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 00:00



"Get Over It": Trump Campaign Mocks Outrage Over Mulvaney Comments With T-Shirts

The Trump campaign's latest trolling (after selling plastic straws and "Where's Hunter?" T-shirts) comes after acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters last week that there's "going to be political influence in foreign policy," suggesting that the media "get over it.

In response, the Trump campaign turned Mulvaney's comment i

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nto yet another T-shirt, as the rest of the media foused on his seeming admission that there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine

"Did he also mention to me in past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely," Mulvaney told reporters. "No question about that. But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money.

This was quickly seized on by White House reporters, who said Mulvaney described a quid pro quo for holding up security assistance to Ukraine unless the country's alleged involvement with the DNC server was investigated. 

Mulvaney, later retracted his statement - saying "Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election. The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server."

Tyler Durden

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 21:30



55 Ways To 'Starve The Beast'

Authored by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

A term coined in 1985 by an unnamed staffer of the Reagan administration was “Starve the Beast”.  This referred to a fiscally conservative political strategy to cut government spending by paying less in taxes.  So, in the original sense, “the Beast” was the government, and people were to starve said beast by spending less and using loopholes to pay less

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in taxes.

Now the Beast is a whole lot bigger.

These days the Beast has a lot more tentacles than just the government.

The system now consists of the government and all aspects of corporatism.  Big Agri, Big Pharma, Big Tech, Big Food, Big Banking, and Big Oil, to name a few.  It seems that now it’s the Beast that’s doing the starving, as small businesses close because they can’t compete with WalMart, bigger chains are run out of existence by Amazon, the family farm is on its way out because it can’t compete with the huge, subsidized mega-farms, and people are going bankrupt because they can’t pay the outrageous medical bills…

These mega-corporations aren’t there to make our lives better or easier. They’re there to make as much money as possible and they’ll run you over if you get in their way.

(Please note that there are Amazon links in this article to show you the books I recommend. You may be able to find these books from local sellers.)

When I first wrote this article in 2013, Big Tech wasn’t quite as prevalent. I’ve added some recommendations from the comments over the years to expand this list.

Perhaps more of us need to starve the beast.

Is it convenient to starve the beast and avoid doing business with mega-corporations or to work around funding endless wars that kill and maim our young people while enriching the Military-Industrial Complex?

No, but it’s time.

It’s time for another financial revolution – one where people group together and use the power of the pocketbook to starve all the arms of this Beast that would swallow us whole.  If we vote with our dollars, eventually there will, of necessity, be a paradigm shift that returns us to simpler days, when families who were willing to work hard could make a living without selling their souls to the corporate monoliths.

Every penny you spend with small local businesses is a penny that the big box stores won’t have.  Everything that you buy secondhand or barter for is an item on which you won’t pay sales tax.  Disassociate yourself completely with “the system” that is making Western civilization broke, overweight and unhealthy.

Here are 55 ways to starve the Beast.

Starve the Beast by taking as many of these steps as possible…

  1. Grow your own food.

  2. Shop at local businesses with no corporate ties.

  3. Use natural remedies instead of pharmaceuticals whenever possible.

  4. Homeschool your children. If you can’t homeschool, at the very least, spend time undoing the indoctrination by giving them the tools to think critically.

  5. Walk or bike instead of driving when you can.

  6. When possible, get care from naturopaths and healers instead of doctors.

  7. Make paper logs from scraps for free heat if you have a wood-burning fireplace or stove.

  8. Boycott all processed foods.

  9. Shop at local farmer’s markets or buy directly from the farms themselves.

  10. Don’t buy from corporate stores: Wal-Mart, Costco, Best Buy, Home Depot. Instead, pay a few extra dollars and buy from local vendors.

  11. Give vouchers as gifts for an evening of babysitting, a homemade meal, walking the dog, doing a repair, or cleaning

  12. Join a CSA or farm co-op

  13. Ditch television (and all the propaganda and commercials). If you want to view programs, enroll in a streaming service without commercials like Netflix.

  14. Participate in the barter system – although remember that even if no money changes hands, the government would like for you to let them know so you can be duly taxed.

  15. Buy secondhand from yard sales, Craigslist, and thrift stores

  16. Sell your own unwanted goods by having a yard sale or putting an ad on Craigslist

  17. Repair things instead of replacing them

  18. Avoid fast-food restaurants and chain restaurants

  19. Dine at locally owned establishments if you eat out.

  20. Brew your own beer and wine.

  21. Cook from scratch to avoid all those Big Food chemicals and additives.

  22. Grow or gather medicinal herbs.

  23. Give homemade gifts.

  24. Attend free local activities: lectures, concerts, play days at the park, library events.

  25. Dumpster dive and pick up things from the curb.

  26. Play outside: hike, bike, picnic.

  27. Mend clothing.

  28. Invite someone over for dinner instead of meeting at a chain restaurant.

  29. Throw creative birthday parties at home for your kids instead of renting a venue.

  30. Travel to other countries and note how most are not filled with mega-corporations, and local businesses still thrive.

  31. Bring your coffee with you in a travel mug.

  32. Do all of your Christmas shopping with small local businesses and artisans.

  33. Reduce your electricity usage with candles, solar power, and non-tech entertainment.

  34. Drop the thermostat and put on a sweater.

  35. Bring your snacks and drinks in a cooler when you go on a road trip.

  36. Stay home – it’s way easier to avoid temptations that way. Shopping should not be a form of entertainment.

  37. Pack lunches for work and school.

  38. Make delicious homemade treats as a hostess gift.

  39. Close your bank account or at the very least, strictly limit your balance.

  40. Visit u-pick berry patches and orchards, then preserve your harvest for the winter.

  41. Use precious metals stored at home as your savings account.

  42. Raise backyard chickens for your own eggs.

  43. If you are a smoker, roll your own cigarettes – if possible go one step further and grow tobacco.

  44. Brew your own beer, wine, and liquor.

  45. Use solar power for lighting or cooking.

  46. Collect rainwater for use in the garden

  47. Learn to forage.

  48. Buy heavy, solid, handmade furniture instead of the flimsy imported stuff

  49. At the holidays, focus on activities and traditions instead of gifts.

  50. Make your own bath and body products using pure ingredients like coconut oil, essential oils, and herbal extracts

  51. Use alternative social media.

  52. Get an old-fashioned flip phone while you still can.

  53. Drive an older car without GPS tracking.

  54. Use a VPN like ExpressVPN to keep your location information masked on your electronic devices.

  55. Avoid adding surveillance technology such as Ring or Nest to your home.

Will these activities save America from corporatism and government overreach? Maybe not, but at least you’ll be doing your small part to rebel. Like David fighting Goliath, we are small but we are mighty enemies.

Tyler Durden

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 22:00
California Is (Again) Teetering On The Edge Of Financial Ruin

For years, it had been speculated that California's state-wide model of heavy regulation, expensive education, high taxes and bloated spending would eventually drive the state into financial ruin, according to a new Bloomberg Opinion piece. Over the last 15 years, the state also has had to deal with widespread blackouts and an unemployment rate that ballooned to 12% after the financial crisis.

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After deficits exploded under Governor Schwarzenegger, the state eventually got back on track. Under Governor Jerry Brown, the state raised taxes again (surprise) and bumped up its sales tax. These tax hikes, combined with a recovery in housing and in the stock market, helped swing the state's budget back into the black.

But now, the symptoms of larger problems in California are bubbling to the surface yet again. For instance, the recent "planned blackouts" by power provider PG&E to try and prevent wildfires are indicative of a crumbling energy infrastructure across the state.

Losses from recent wildfires in California have been "staggering", totaling upwards of $400 billion in 2018. This figure represents about 1/7th of the state's total GDP and is comprised of health costs, lost property, lost jobs and asset prices falling. It also takes into account migration out of the state. 

PG&E has said that the "safety" blackouts will continue, which means that the state isn't going to have reliable year-round electricity. This will inevitably take its toll on property values and slow migration inflows into the state. 

While wildfires rage across the state, another issue is plaguing California: homelessness. The state's homeless population has increased by 5.3% from 2010 to 2018. California is already home to almost half of the country's homeless. We have documented, at length, the homelessness issues in areas like San Francisco, where the epidemic is reaching a fever pitch. 

At the same time, government pension costs are rising across the state; faster in California than in the rest of the nation. The cost saving measures being put in place to offset this problem are degrading the state's education system. 

And so, the inevitable has happened: people are leaving the state.

In fact, a recent paper by economists Joshua Rauh and Ryan Shyu found that out-migration of top-bracket taxpayers accelerated after the state's 2012 income tax hike. 

"Among top-bracket California taxpayers, outward migration and behavioral responses by stayers together eroded 45.2% of the windfall tax revenues from the reform," the paper's abstract says. 

With Democrats back in the saddle, holding a supermajority in the state, California seems doomed to repeat its dysfunctional history from the early 2000's. Making matters worse, an initiative called Proposition 13 is making it difficult for California to alleviate its burdens by raising property taxes, the op-ed notes:

But California’s political system is making it hard to respond to these pressures. Thanks to a 1978 ballot initiative called Proposition 13, California cities have stringent limits on raising revenue from local property taxes. That forces the state to provide many services, financing them with hefty income taxes. Those are inherently more unreliable than property taxes, since wealthy taxpayers can move away (while property can’t move), and since California’s income taxes fluctuate a lot because they depend so much on the profits residents earn on volatile stock prices.

"Proposition 13 must be repealed, and property taxes raised," the piece continues, in order for the state to avoid what it calls another "dark path". It also suggests that the state legislature pass bills to allow greater housing density and more construction throughout the state. 

Only time will tell whether these proposed solutions, if implemented, would even work. But one thing is for sure: if California doesn't do something soon, the state could become (further) living proof that creating a liberal utopia by hiking taxes and adding regulation is nothing more than a pipe dream, if not a full blown recipe for exactly how to drive an economy into the ground. 

Tyler Durden

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 19:30
The 10 Most Dangerous Foods In The World

Authored by Vikas Shukla via ValueWalk.com,

It’s no secret that hot dogs are one of the biggest choking hazards in the United States and many other countries. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, they are the biggest cause of choking injuries in children. But many other food items out there are far more dangerous than hot dogs. They could make you sick or even kill you if not prepared properly. H

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ere we take a look at the top 10 most dangerous foods in the world. If you are a big foodie, eat them at your own risk.

Some of them are mouth-watering. But they could prove fatal if they are not prepared correctly.

10- Raw cashews

People who don’t have nut allergies don’t mind eating cashew nuts from the tree. But few people know that the raw cashews contain urushiol, which could be fatal if eaten in large quantities. The cashews you buy at stores are safe because they undergo heat treatment to remove toxins.

9- Cassava

Cassava is a popular delicacy in South America and Africa. The root vegetable is primarily cultivated in South America. It must be cooked correctly before being eaten. If you chew it raw or cook it incorrectly, cassava releases a harmful enzyme called linamarase that turns a compound in the root into hydrogen cyanide. The sweet variety of cassava is not as deadly as the bitter one, but it still contains 20mg of cyanide per root.

8- Blood clams

Blood clams are harvested in the Chinese waters, the Atlantic, the Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. These bivalves carry a number of diseases such as Hepatitis A, dysentery, and typhoid because they live in lower oxygen environments. Blood clams have even been responsible for massive hepatitis outbreaks.

7- Sannakji

If you are one of the adventurous foodies, you might want to try this Korean delicacy made with raw baby octopus. The octopus is chopped up and seasoned before it’s brought to the table. But their suction cups remain active with some gripping power. Unless you chew carefully and thoroughly, the suction cups could stick to your throat and suffocate you.

6- Rhubarb

Rhubarb is the primary ingredient in the rhubarb pie, but you should avoid leaves of this vegetable at all costs. Both raw and cooked leaves of Rhubarb contain a toxin called oxalic acid, which could cause kidney failure and even kill you. The symptoms include eye pain, trouble breathing, diarrhea, and red urine. An estimated 15-30 grams of oxalic acid is enough to kill an adult.

5- Elderberries

Elderberries are not cultivated in the United States, but their ripened flesh is used in jam and jelly that you buy from the grocery stores. Homeopathic experts use elderberries to treat various ailments such as the flu, cold, and skin wounds. But raw elderberries, their leaves, seeds, and twigs could be toxic.  According to the CDC, they contain a toxin that causes cramps, nausea, vomiting, weakness, and even death.

4- Cherry seeds

Cherry seeds or pits contain a compound called amygdalin, which converts into the deadly hydrogen cyanide when you ingest them. Fortunately, an adult will do just fine even after consuming 703mg of hydrogen cyanide a day. Unless you are consuming hundreds of cherry seeds, you don’t have to worry much.

3- Casu Marzu

Casu marzu is a traditional Sardinian sheep milk cheese. It contains live insect larvae for extra fermentation. The larvae partially decompose the sheep milk cheese. Stay as far away from it as you can because the larvae can survive being ingested and cause trouble in your intestine. Thankfully, casu marzu is banned in the United States and European Union for hygienic reasons.

2- Ackee

Ackee is a Jamaican fruit. You should consider eating it only when it’s fully ripe and properly prepared. If you eat it when it’s still yellow (raw), you could suffer from hypoglycemia, vomiting, and even death. If you want to eat the yellow part, make sure it’s cooked properly. The fruit contains a toxin called Hypoglycin A, which makes it one of the most dangerous foods in the world.

1- Fugu (Pufferfish)

Fugu aka pufferfish is the most dangerous food in the world. Pufferfish is banned in the United States, and for good reasons. It’s 1,200 times more toxic than cyanide. It contains a concentrated amount of Tetrodotoxin, which is a neurotoxin. The delicacy could prove lethal if you don’t prepare it correctly – you have to carefully and completely remove the organs containing the toxin. It kills several dozen people in Japan every year. Even a tiny dose of the toxin stops the nerve conduction between the victim’s body and the brain by blocking sodium channels.

Tyler Durden

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 20:00


Health Medical Pharma

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Goldman: These Are The Two Huge Risks Facing Traders Right Now

Back on September 8, just hours before September's notorious "quant crash" that sent "momentum" and "growth" stocks tumbling and "value" and "most-shorted" names surging...

... alongside a sharp spike in interest rates which crashed the "market-neutral" momentum index...

... and which also crippled Long/Short hedge funds who had

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ridden the growth vs momentum divergence to unprecedented extremes only to suffer in the fallout of the trade's reversal, sending Goldman's Hedge Fund VIP basket tumbling as stock with a high hedge fund ownership concentration hit a 1+ year low...

... Morgan Stanley made an prescient warning, one which we discussed in "Morgan Stanley Spots A Major Challenge Facing Today’s Market: What If Things Get Better?"  As the bank's cross-asset strategist Andrew Sheets wrote that "this week’s rally shined a light on the market’s bull case, and the importance of a better economy to that story. Given our cautious views on growth, trade progress and central bank action relative to consensus, we maintain our cautious stance. But this week was a shot across the bow: if we’re wrong and growth is set to reaccelerate, the market isn’t positioned for it. The moves could be large."

Ever since then, traders have been obsessed by the threat that the world is shifting away from a decelerating growth trajectory and re-entering growth, albeit week; more specifically, traders have been extremely cautious in identifying key inflection points which transform the "bad news is good news" regime to a "bad news is bad news" again.

Well, as Goldman writes on Friday, after being mostly negative YTD, macro surprises have turned positive for the first time since April 2019, if only marginally, as Goldman's "global CAI Innovations index" has turned sharply higher in recent weeks, even if it remains negative.

A less subjective interpretation of incoming data, if one coming sentiment surveys, confirms that an inflection point was recently reached, as the global manufacturing depression appears to be finally bottoming out; to wit, after the longest slowdown in global manufacturing PMIs on record, PMI prints have finally posted an increase in the last 2 months.

Of course, with some $15 trillion in debt still trading at negative yields and traders still predominantly positioned for continued downside in yields, what the above observations of a potential inflection point to global growth - and inflation - imply, is that yields could go sharply higher from here as a waterfall liquidation, coupled with the occasional VaR shock, results in a furious selloff in duration as inflation expectations reprice higher.

This, as Morgan Stanley first hinted over a month ago, and as the quant crash from mid-September showed vividly, is a major problem, because as Goldman's Christian Mueller-Glissman explains, "a sustained increase in real yields due to better growth could also drive a violent procyclical rotation across and within assets, similar to 2H 2016. This could hit a lot of the popular rotation trades YTD as the combination of structural and cyclical growth concerns and lower real yields has led to concentrated positioning."

To dramatically underscore this point, the Goldman strategist also brings attention to the "sharp (albeit temporary) rotation in September", which served as a "preview" of what is to come should growth return to the global economy. More importantly, as the chart below - which plots the 3-month correlation of popular rotation trades with real yields - shows,  the extreme negative correlation, or "asymmetry" between real yields and "consensus trades"  has never been greater!

In other words, whereas the S&P500 is up roughly 20% YTD, not only are most traders lagging - as we showed recently in our latest hedge fund performance report - the broadest benchmark, but they all appear to be pursuing the same consensus trades.

Intuitively this makes sense: after all, the worse the news, the most likely central banks are to engage in further easing and unroll even more accommodative policies. And sure enough, as Goldman notes, support from monetary policy is already fading:

Initially this came alongside a sharp steepening of US yield curves and an increase in US 10-year TIPS yields - a reversal of the ‘risk off’ move in August - as PC1 ‘ Global growth’ recovered at the same time. But since October PC2 has declined further, even as PC1 fell sharply at the beginning of the month.

In short, as Goldman concludes, in the near-term it seems increasingly difficult for G3 central banks to surprise in a dovish direction without weaker growth first.

What the above means, said simply, is that the biggest risk traders face, is not some geopolitical shock, Impeachment inquiry, trade war, or economic slowdown, but - paradoxically - the threat that things are getting better again. Or as Morgan Stanley warned more than a month ago, "if growth is set to reaccelerate, the market isn’t positioned for it. The moves could be large."

Ok... so if growth is the biggest risk then the playbook is simple: hope for even more bad news, and more easy policies. Simple, right?

Well, not quite, because as Goldman admits, whereas "good news" is the biggest near-term risk to consensus trades, more bad news could end up being just as bad. Or, as Glissman writes, "until a meaningful growth pick-up comes, markets remain vulnerable to negative shocks, and as a result the range could get 'fatter.' With the fading search for yield, the correlation of the VIX with US 10-year TIPS yields has turned sharply negative.

This is notable, because a similar extreme correlation between the VIX and TIPS yields was observed during the Tech Bubble Burst (2001/02), the GFC (2008), the Euro area crisis (2011) and the EM/Oil crisis (2015/16).

Intuitively, this too makes sense, as lower real yields from here "could signal increased recession risks, e.g., a spillover from weak global manufacturing to services and the labor markets, and thus higher risk premia across assets would outweigh lower discount rates."

Of course, since there is now at least one generation of traders who has never appreciated that bad economic news actually means bad news for stocks, Goldman points out that - at least in theory, and in a world where central banks don't manipulate all signals - "S&P 500 volatility tends to increase with weaker US growth" yet since this is anything but a normal world, as Goldman's US Current Activity Indicator has declined YTD, the VIX has barely budged.

This will change, because as Glissman writes next, "shocks from policy, politics and geopolitics could quickly drive more volatility: there is a growing gap between the VIX and global/US economic policy uncertainty indices given increased concerns around geopolitical developments in the Middle East and Hong Kong, as well as domestic politics in the US."

In other words, after years in which both good and bad news was interpreted as good news for stocks by traders, we are now entering a rather unpleasant phase for market, one where any "good news" could spark an unprecedented collapse in consensus trades, wiping out years of gains, on one hand and where continued economic slowdown could in turn spark a VIX shockwave, similar to the one seen just as the tech bubble burst and global financial crisis erupted.

In short, after years in which every idiot trader made money regardless of how they were positioned, mean reversion is finally coming... and it will be a bitch.

Tyler Durden

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 15:22


Business Finance

Impeachment Becomes A Psychodrama Of The Press

Authored by Conrad Black via The New York Sun,

We are living through a phantasmagoric psychodrama generated by the dishonest national political press. This is the press whose Joe Scarborough of MSNBC did not show some of President Trump’s responses to his enemies because of “concern” for the president’s family, as he “seems to have lost his mind.”

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This is a new frontier in American journalism, where a television news commentator who hates the president wishes to spare the president’s family a rerun of his entirely rational denunciations of his enemies.

The House of Representatives began considering impeachment because an anonymous Democrat and former political associate of Vice President Biden received a hearsay account of a conversation between President Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, in which Mr. Trump encouraged the newly elected leader to find out if Mr. Biden and his son had done anything inappropriate in Ukraine. The president quickly made the transcript of the conversation public.

Partisan Democrats and formerly sensible commentators have portrayed Mr. Trump’s request as a demand for incriminating evidence on Mr. Biden, failing which he would not resume U.S. aid to Ukraine. In other words, this was a solicitation for a benefit of value to Mr. Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. The reference to a resumption of aid was 500 words earlier in the transcript, and not connected at all to the Biden question.

When Mr.Biden was mentioned, it was to request to know what happened — a neutral request for the facts. Yes, Mr. Trump said the appearance of the former vice president’s son $50,000-a-month sinecure as a director of a Ukrainian gas company, along with the elder Biden’s boast of having a Ukrainian prosecutor fired, was “horrible.” And so it was. But there may be uncontroversial explanations. If the Biden allegations are unfounded, Americans will want to know. If the facts are corrupt in themselves, Americans — and Democrats especially — will want to know that, too.

In reality, the whole episode is nonsense, a farce. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t hold a vote on a formal impeachment inquiry because she couldn’t win the vote. If there were such an inquiry, where the Republicans called and examined witnesses and subpoenaed documents, it would collapse as quickly as the Russian collusion fraud did when former special counsel Robert Mueller stumbled through his congressional inquiry.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff — who is usually lying when his lips aren’t moving and always is when they are — says we will not be hearing from a non-whistleblowing leaker, to give his hearsay evidence of a conversation that any person in the world can read and see has no legal implications whatever. But the investigation indomitably continues. It is like the last government of the German Third Reich, meeting in the week following the death of Hitler on the few thousand acres they still governed on the Danish border, discussing agriculture and immigration.

With no evidence of wrongdoing by the president, the Trump-hating press is now scrambling after Rudolph Giuliani, formerly one of the nation’s toughest prosecutors, as if they can pin something on him while he acted as the president’s private attorney. With Hunter Biden in hiding, this ludicrous mockery must end. Pompous commentators who don’t like Mr. Trump but have learned to live with their underestimation of him cannot go on indefinitely with wagging heads and furrowed foreheads, discussing the president’s “crisis.”

Fox News, which is generally well-disposed to the president, published a poll last week that 51% of Americans believe the president should be impeached and removed from office.

Fox’s polls aren’t very accurate, though their news coverage and comment are quite professional. But this one is bunk. Between 40% and 50% of Americans may wish there were a reason to remove Mr. Trump, or hope that he won’t be reelected. That figure is insufficient to change congressional votes on an impeachment resolution, given that about 45% of the country is militantly pro-Trump and probably 10 million others will hold their noses and vote for his substantive performance despite his stylistic foibles.

But a substantial part of the anti-Trump vote is a levitation, sustained by the unprecedented hostility and dishonesty of almost all the national political press, which has been confirmed in independent studies by Harvard University and the Pew Research Center and others.

Not all the hostile press is shrill. My rational and moderate friend of many years, Fareed Zakaria of CNN, wrote in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on October 11 that he now favors “an impeachment inquiry” because Mr.Trump’s “efforts to pressure the new Ukrainian government, including his phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky, were profoundly wrong;” and because of Trump’s “far more troubling . . . refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.”

Implicit in this explanation is the retreat away from the Trump-Zelensky telephone call, which is effectively conceded not to be probative evidence of any impropriety. Instead, Democrats are returning to the justification that impeachment is warranted based upon unspecified, unimaginable, and surely nonexistent evidence of presidential misconduct. The pitiful squeak that is meant to be a clinching argument is Mr. Trump’s refusal to cooperate with an impeachment inquiry based on an illusion.

The Democrats are stuck with this clunker. Maybe Speaker Pelosi wanted to humiliate the young Marxist congresswomen and Mr. Schiff and the porcine Jerry Nadler, who chairs the House judiciary committee. Maybe she wanted to get this out of the way now before it caused the Democrats more embarrassment, and before the long-awaited indictments of a number of prominent members of the previous administration for its unconstitutional confection and promotion of the Trump-Russian collusion fraud.

It is not for me to read Mrs. Pelosi’s mind, but she must have had some reason to let this anemic, spavined cat out of the bag. But this cat can’t purr and has no whiskers, let alone claws. In Monty Pythonese, “It’s a dead Cat!” (and it won’t even bounce).

The Democrats’ presidential nomination candidates are a rag-tag of extremists, kooks, dolts, and bumbling geriatrics, (Hillary Clinton was back last week with her autocue squib that Mr. Trump’s “an illegitimate president”). But it is a national party because it has tens of millions of traditional supporters who are reasonable people. Their aversion to Trump enabled most of them to endure the bone-crushing defeat over the Russian fiction.

The allegation a few weeks ago of a 30-year-old act of sexual misconduct by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which had most of the candidates screaming for his impeachment in the 24 hours before it was exposed as a completely unfounded charge, must have caused unease to many thoughtful Democrats.

But when this stinker implodes, after they have got the faithful to the edges of their chairs and exhumed John Dean and Carl Bernstein, the bloodless assassins of Richard Nixon, and the full gallery of their unctuous homelists and pietists who demean the occupation of commentator, sensible Democrats will disembark. The best way Democrats can serve their party now is to try to get a plausible semi-moderate like Senator Klobuchar of Minnesota, no world-beater but Walter Mondale in drag-she can lose with honor and dignity, and turn off the CNN-MSNBC-main network hate machine.

Mr. Trump can’t be removed from his office; he deserves and will gain reelection on his record; the Democrats will be back — both parties always are. But the sooner the country tunes out this dishonest, evil press putschism, the better for the whole country, especially the national political news outlets themselves.

Tyler Durden

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 16:00



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Von Greyerz: The Problem Is The Economy, Stupid! Not The Climate

From Egon von Greyerz at goldswitzerland.com:

The earth is about to get much cooler and so too is the earth’s economy.

“Sic Transit Gloria Mundi” (Thus passes the glory of the world). This phrase was used at the papal coronations between the early 1400s and 1963. It was meant to indicate the t

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ransitory or ephemeral nature of life and cycles.

As we are now facing the end of a major economic, political and cultural cycle, the world is likely to experience a dramatic change which very few are prepared for. Interestingly, the peak of economic cycles often coincide with the peaks in climate cycles. At the height of the Roman Empire, which was when Christ was born, the climate in Rome was tropical. Then the earth got cooler until the Viking era which coincided with the dark ages.


Yes, of course global warming has taken place recently as the effect of climate cycles. But the cycle has just peaked again which means that all the global warming activists will gradually cool down with the falling temperatures in the next few decades. The sun and the planets determine climate cycles and temperatures, like they have for many millions of years, and not human beings.

The climate activists are spending their efforts on the wrong issue. The big disaster looming for the world is not climate change but “the economy stupid” (phrase coined by Clinton).

So let’s instead look at the real coming disaster that the world needs to focus on and a number of facts that are self-evident even though very few are aware of them.

Instead of worrying about global warming, which we humans cannot effect, we should instead issue a GLOBAL WARNING about the coming economic cataclysm so that the world can be prepared for the extremely serious problems that will hit us all in the next few years.

Below I outline a potential scenario for the next 5-10 years:


    The world is heading for an economic disaster of a magnitude that is much greater than the 1930s depression. There is really nothing to compare with in history since the world has never been in a similar situation before when every single major economy is at risk.


    Never before in history have all major countries lived above their means for such an extended period. And never before has global debt been almost 4X global GDP.


    In addition, unfunded liabilities, like medical care and pensions, are at least $300 trillion globally. If we add gross derivatives of $1.5 quadrillion, which are likely to turn into real debt as counterparties fail, the total debt and liabilities are above $2 quadrillion.


    $2 quadrillion is almost 30X global GDP. Who is going to repay this debt? Certainly not the current generation which has incurred most of it. And certainly not future generations which will neither have the means, nor the inclination to pay for the sins of the previous generation.


    Most major economies are continuing to spend money they haven’t got and thus to print money and expand credit at an ever faster rate. The US for example has increased debt by $800 billion since June. As the US economy falters, annual deficits of $1-2 trillion will increase manifold in the coming years. And when the banking system comes under pressure, which is happening right now, money printing will accelerate at an ever faster pace. As the global economy falters, most major countries will see deficits and debts rising quickly.


    Negative rates are a disaster for the world. Over $17 trillion debt now carries negative interest. Firstly, it kills the incentive to save. A fundamental economic principle is that savings equal investments. The world cannot grow soundly with investments financed solely by debt or printed money. With no savings, most banks do not have funds to lend to businesses. Thus investments will slow down dramatically. Negative rates also lead to investors chasing ever riskier investments to get a higher return. Also, pension funds will not achieve adequate returns to cover outstanding liabilities.


    Like the climate virtually all asset classes are overheated. The bubbles that the credit expansion has created will implode in the next few years together with the debt that created the bubbles. Central banks around the world will make a desperate attempt to save the world economy by printing unlimited amounts of money.


    As money printing accelerates, paper money will become worthless and a depressionary hyperinflation will hit the world. Hyperinflationary periods on average last for around 1-3 years and are followed by a deflationary implosion of all asset values in real terms. At that point substantial parts of the financial system will cease to function properly or go bankrupt.


    Before new financial and political systems emerge, there will be social upheaval and unrest. Criminality will be widespread as desperate and hungry people will do what they can to feed themselves and their children. In many countries, immigrants will be blamed for the misery of the people. Right and left wing radicals will fight immigrants. There are likely to be periods of anarchy as governments lose control. I do not believe that an elite will control the world at that point. The disorderly unwinding of asset bubbles and the world economy will be uncontrollable.


The above scenario could start at any time. In many respects it has already started. The world will only be aware of the next phase when global markets start the first severe phase of the coming secular downtrend. We could see this already in October which is a notorious crash month. Or it could start as late as in early 2020. We will also start to see increased pressures in the financial system including problems in many European banks as well as US banks.

Once bubbles burst, the course of events could be very rapid. The above scenario could all happen over a few years and probably not more than five. This doesn’t mean that the economy will start recovering rapidly in five year’s time. It just means that markets and the worst problems reach a bottom. But after that the world will crawl along that bottom for many, many years.

There is no absolute protection against this scenario since it will hit all aspects of life and virtually all people. Obviously, people living off the land in remote areas will suffer less whilst people in industrial and urban areas will suffer considerably.

The best financial protection is without hesitation physical gold and some silver. These metals are critical life insurance. But there are clearly many other important areas of protection to plan for. A circle of friends and family is absolutely essential.

Tyler Durden

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 14:00



China's Top Trade Negotiator Sides With Trump: We "Have Made Substantial Progress" In Trade Deal 

Confirming a late Friday leak from Global Times' editor Hu Xijin...

... on Saturday, China's Vice Premier and top trade negotiator, Liu He, spoke to a technology conference audience and for the first time adopted the position represented by the Trump administration for over a week, namely that last Friday's "Phase 1" of the deal represented "substantial progress in many fields" and laid "an important foundation for the signing of a phased agreement."

"Stopping the escalation of the trade war benefits China, the U.S., and the whole world. It's what producers and consumers alike are hoping for," he added.

For China, which has been radio silent in its interpretation of last Friday's trade announcement, this represented the first formal admission that trade talks are, in fact, going well.

China and the U.S. reached some form of understanding in meetings last week that could end a trade war that has roiled the global economy in the previous 15 months. 

President Trump has frequently touted how China will start buying $50 billion worth of U.S. agriculture products, though, we reported on Saturday morning that traders had seen no such purchases yet. 

As described previously, the "phase one" deal isn't a trade deal, it's akin more to a "farm package." Furthermore, "phase one" doesn't address more significant issues such as forced technology transfers and industrial subsidies.

That said, as Bloomberg noted, Liu didn't address specifics about the trade talks in his speech. Instead, the vice premier said China would expand investments in core technologies to ensure the economic restructuring of the economy was stable, adding that economic activity in the year ahead is "very bright." 

"We're not worried about short-term economic volatility. We have every confidence in our ability to meet macroeconomic targets for the year," he said.

As reported on Friday, ahead of the latest round of talks, President Trump's top economic advisors and industry experts warned him of an economic downturn if a further escalation in the trade war is seen by 2020. As such, it is likely that a  lite trade deal could be on the table next month.

But as our readers have recently learned, the trade war didn't start the synchronized global downturn, which has been almost entirely a function of China's clogged up credit impulse...

... so any deal - lite or otherwise - won't result in an immediate acceleration of global growth; indeed, as some speculate, failure to observe a substantial economic rebound following a "deal" could well mark the point when central banks and governments finally throw in the towel, as they finally usher in the final lap in the global race to debase destroy fiat currencies and hyperinflate away the debt: MMT and Helicopter Money.

Tyler Durden

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 11:29


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