Corrupt newspaper "the huddersfield examiner" supporting the grooming gang - click here to learn more.

216
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Boeing Tumbles After Reports Of Further 787 Production Cuts

After an exuberant opening - because coronavirus is 'contained' or some such bullshit - Boeing shares have tumbled back into the red after reports that the company is considering another cut to production of its marquee 787 Dreamliner.





Bloomberg reports, citing people familiar with the matter, that executives are studying whether to trim monthly output by two

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planes to 10 a month from a pace that was already reduced in October.




“We maintain a disciplined rate-management process, taking into account a host of risks and opportunities,” Boeing spokesman Chaz Bickers said when asked about a possible output cut for the Dreamliner.



“We will continue to assess the demand environment and make adjustments as appropriate in the future.”




As Bloomberg notes, slowing output of the carbon-composite Dreamliner, with a list price that starts at about $250 million, would crimp a critical source of cash for Boeing as it attempts to recover from a global grounding of the 737 Max following two fatal crashes. The 787 accounted for about 40% of Boeing’s jetliner deliveries in 2019 as the company was barred most of the year from shipping the best-selling Max.



And don't hold your breath for any improvement post-trade-deal...





In October, Boeing executives cited an extended order drought from China when they said the company would slow production to 12 Dreamliners a month from its peak rate of 14.



As goes Boeing, so goes the US equity market?!




Tyler Durden

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 11:55
232
6 Views

If Facebook had the evidence that Tommy called for his followers to "behead" Muslims, they'd produce it.



 


0
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Soros Speaks Live From Davos, Slams "Conman, Narcisist" Trump



 



 



To say that it is virtually impossible to understand what the almost 90-year-old George Soros is saying during his traditionally anticipated speech in Davos, is an understatement, so we will leave it to Bloomberg to summarize the key points from the speech so far, which as one can expect, emphasize Soros' less than warm feelings vis-a-vis Donald Trump:



 



 



 



 




  • *SOROS SAYS PRESIDENT TRUMP IS A `CO
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N MAN'


  • *SOROS SAYS PRESIDENT TRUMP IS THE `ULTIMATE NARCISSIST'





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    Post-Brexit Britain Eyes New Forceful Role In Asia

    Authored by David Hutt via AsiaTimes.com,



    When Britain leaves the European Union (EU) later this month, it will be free to chart its own independent course in foreign affairs and fulfill years of promises to build a truly “global Britain.”





    That will likely entail a historic realignment of its foreign policy interests from the

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    Middle East and Africa to the “Indo-Pacific,” one of the three “primary centers of the global economy and political influence”, after North America and Europe, according to the United Kingdom’s last National Security Capability Review published in March 2018.



    The Indo-Pacific is currently home to most of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies, as well as the center of US-China geopolitical competition, which isn’t likely to dampen down anytime soon.



    Where and how a refocused UK will fit into the Indo-Pacific isn’t immediately clear. Australia and Japan are two of the UK’s closest security allies, while London is also apparently keen to raise its profile among Southeast Asia’s ascendant nations, some of which are former British colonies.



    Britain opened its new mission to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta on January 15, and hopes to become an independent dialogue party to the 10-member bloc after it leaves the EU.



    Unrestrained by the EU, London can soon design its own trade deals on its own terms with Indo-Pacific countries, and chart an independent foreign policy that isn’t constrained by the EU’s other 27 members.



    At the same time, however, an independent Britain will be desperate for new trade deals, for which London might be forced to sacrifice some of its foreign policy goals and values.





    Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a speech at the vote count center in Uxbridge, west London, December 13. Photo: AFP/Oli Scarff



    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a resounding victory at December’s general election and his majority in Parliament should give him the political support needed to refashion the nation’s foreign policy.



    His chief special adviser, Dominic Cummings, has promised to lead a monumental shakeup of the Defense Department, while the Conservative Party-led government announced in December that it will oversee the largest Defense Review of Britain’s foreign policy since 1989.




    “The very nature of the UK’s future profile as an international leading actor is likely to be defined in the Asia-Pacific as a result of the country’s choices on how to engage with its complex security landscape,” wrote Alessio Patalano, an East Asian security specialist at King’s College London, in a report last year.



    “As the region continues to ascend to prominence in international affairs, the UK faces a hard choice. It has to decide whether it intends to actively shape the regional security landscape, or merely to contribute in managing its transformation,” he added.




    There is clearly interest in an Indo-Pacific concept within Whitehall.



    The aforementioned National Security Capability Review noted that “the Asia-Pacific region is likely to become more important to us in the years ahead,” while stressing that closer attention must be paid to Japan, with which the UK signed a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation in 2017.



    A policy paper published in December 2018 by the Ministry of Defense, Mobilising, Modernising & Transforming Defence, stated that “the Pacific region is becoming ever more important to the UK, with growing trade links and regional security issues that have global implications.”



    Such is the interest in a new “Indo-Pacific” strategy that a Commons Defense Committee inquiry on “UK Defense and the Far East” was held in June of last year.





    A British Royal Marine looks out to sea. Photo: Crown Copyright 2019 / AFP



    Patalano, who spoke at the inquiry, has advised London to formally change its terminology from the outdated “Far East” to the newer “Indo-Pacific”, just as the US has done since 2017.



    Such a shift in focus wouldn’t be revolutionary. Britain still maintains a garrison of Gurkha troops in Brunei and a logistics station in Singapore, while there was talk last year of building a new base in Asia.



    It is a member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing organization, and also part of the Five Power Defense Arrangements (FDPA) with Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Singapore.



    It is also “the sole formal multilateral defense arrangement in the region… [and] the cornerstone of our security partnership in Southeast Asia,” according to a Ministry of Defense statement from last year.



    Indeed, British personnel are stationed at the FPDA’s Integrated Area Defense Headquarters in Malaysia, and conduct regular exercises with Malaysian and Singaporean troops.



    With that presence, Britain has not been shy to flex its military muscles.



    In 2018, it deployed warships to the region for the first time in five years, when the HMS Albion took part in a freedom of navigation operation near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, a maneuver which Beijing labeled as a “provocative action.”



    But building trade ties will be just as important as flexing military muscles. Asian states already account for roughly a fifth of Britain’s annual trade, according to UK data.





    The HMS Albion sailing into a port in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City in a file photo. Photo: British Royal Navy



    Almost half of Japanese investment in Europe goes to the UK, while Britain is also a major export destination for many smaller Indo-Pacific states which are keen not to see trade dip after Brexit.



    But negotiating new free trade deals won’t be easy, and suggestions that Britain can simply copy-and-paste existing deals the EU has completed with other nations, such as with Japan, are optimistic at best.



    Shifting Britain’s strategic focus towards Asia, at the expense of other parts of the world, won’t be easy or cheap, and will likely face some pushback within Whitehall.



    A more active Indo-Pacific strategy might require a new military base in the area, perhaps in Australia, which appears keen on the idea. Australia’s defense chief suggested last year that Britain should be “more militarily engaged” in the region.



    Nick Carter, head of the British armed forces, said last month that the government must be bold and prepared to “shatter some Shibboleths…[as] we have returned to an era of great power competition, even constant conflict.”



    Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has promised to lead a major defense review (“the biggest review… since the end of the Cold War,” according to Johnson) to “reassess the nation’s place in the world, covering all aspects of international policy from defense to diplomacy and development.”



    It remains to be seen whether Johnson will also bring the Department for International Development, in charge of managing Britain’s international aid, under the management of the underfunded Foreign Office.



    Some experts warn that by merging the two departments, Britain’s recently successful aid program will become just another facet of its foreign policy, potentially replacing long-term ambitions for short-term geopolitical gains.



    Still, Johnson says any changes won’t affect London’s commitment to spend 0.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) on overseas aid.



    But reorienting Britain’s foreign policy to the Indo-Pacific won’t be easy, to be sure, even with the government’s large majority in parliament.





    New British Prime Minister during a visit to China in 2013. Photo: Facebook



    Any new and muscular Indo-Pacific strategy will have to deal with the issue of a rising China, one big reason why the US re-focused its interest in the region since 2012.



    For years, London has spoken about the need for international law to be followed in the Indo-Pacific, an unsubtle nod to China’s expansionist occupation of parts of the South China Sea.



    As the Indo-Pacific is slowly but surely carved into two competing spheres of influence between the US and

    China, having a third option of Britain – especially given its close alliance with Japan, another moderator in regional geopolitics – could be desirable for the region’s smaller states.



    Much will depend on whether Britain engages or repels China.



    Britain remains one of the largest recipients of Chinese investment in Europe, yet China only accounts for 3.5% of British exports, according to UK data. London, no doubt, will be eager to push ahead with a free-trade agreement (FTA) with China.



    But China only tends to sign FTAs with countries that have products, like minerals or specialist machinery, which it needs to import. Britain doesn’t offer many such goods, so Beijing will be in no rush to conclude a deal, Rana Mitter, director of the University of Oxford China Centre, noted this week.



    Moreover, London is desperate to sign a FTA with the US, but Washington could demand that it include a “poison pill” clause, like that in the new US-Canada-Mexico trade agreement, which allows the US to pull out if the UK signs a trade deal with China, Mitter postulated.



    Washington is also demanding that the UK pull out of any contracts with Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei due to spying concerns, a demand the Johnson government has so far tried to fudge.




    Tyler Durden

    Fri, 01/24/2020 - 05:00


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    Turkey Demands Greece "Demilitarize" 16 Aegean Islands Amid Gas Drilling Dispute

    At a moment tensions are soaring over Turkey's expansive East Mediterranean claims, and after starting early last summer it began sending oil and gas exploration and drilling ships off Cyprus' coast, Ankara is demanding that Greece “demilitarize” its islands in the Aegean Sea, reports Bloomberg. 



    The demand from Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who form

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    ally requested Greece move to withdraw armed forces and weaponry from 16 Aegean islands near Turkey on Wednesday, is rich given it's Turkey that's been provocatively sending warships and military jets to accompany illegal gas drilling in the area, something lately condemned by the EU.


    Greek islands file image (Lemnos)

    “Greece, arming 16 out of 23 islands with non-military status, in violation of agreements in the Aegean sea, should act in accordance with international law,” said Defense Minister Akar, cited in state-run Anadolu Agency. “We expect Greece to act in line with international law and the agreements it has signed,” he added. 



    Though becoming increasingly internationally isolated over the drilling issue in EU-member Cyrpus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Turkey has remained unmoved and at times is positively boastful about it. 



    Not shying away from admitting Turkish maritime claims now stretch from Cypriot waters all the way to Libya (based on a controversial recent maritime boundary 'deal' signed with the Tripoli Government of National Accord), Akar further had this to say according to state media: 




    In addition to the fight against terrorism, Turkey's activities are ongoing in the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean, off Cyprus, and Libya, Akar said, adding that they are carried out in accordance with international law and the territorial integrity of the countries.



    Turkey is a guarantor country for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and is committed to fulfilling its responsibilities, he said.




    "The Cyprus issue is our national issue. Whatever we need to do there, we've done so far and will continue to do so. We will continue to protect the rights of both our own and Cypriot brothers," he added.


    Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, via Anadolu Agency

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has for the past half-year been sending warships near Cypriot waters in order to ward off foreign competition to oil and gas research, according to Cypriot officials, also seeking to bar Cypriot ships and planes from freely traversing its own European recognized waters. 



    But Erdogan is also bumping up against other Mediterranean countries' plans in the region — notably Israel and Egypt as well, at a moment he's engaged in multiple crises both domestic and related to the West  even as Turkey has long sought EU membership.





    Greece's recognized waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (above) vs. Turkey's proposed and expansive maritime claims (blue, below), with areas it now demands Athens must "demilitarized" in red.





    And the above has since extended out to here via deal signed with Tripoli's GNA:





    Turkey has in the past demanded that Cyprus formally recognize the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (since 1974) and allow it to share revenues from Cypriot gas exploration. 



    Furthermore Turkey has laid claim to a waters extending a whopping 200 miles from its coast, brazenly asserting ownership over a swathe of the Mediterranean that even cuts into Greece's exclusive economic zone.




    Tyler Durden

    Fri, 01/24/2020 - 01:00


    Tags

    Environment
    Politics

    248
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    Merkel: Libya Becoming 'New Syria Proxy War' With "Enormous Floods Of Migrants"

    The continuing crisis in Libya has apparently been a central topic of discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel warning the gathering of world business and political leaders that Libya could become the new Syria. This following the Berlin peace conference of last weekend which failed to produced a promised

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    ceasefire. 



    Libya is setting up to be ground zero for the region's next devastating proxy war, and it's even lately seen Syrian jihadists themselves pour in via flights from Turkey. Europe is also bracing for the next potential refugee and migrant wave due to the fighting. Merkel put world leaders on notice in her comments Thursday, saying “We have to be vigilant.” She warned: “And now if we look at Libya we have to be very careful that the same doesn’t happen there again.”



    “We made a first attempt and that’s only a first attempt to find a solution for Libya, before Libya itself also falls into this trap of proxy war as we have seen it in Syria,” Merkel said. “Let us all get together when those countries ask us to fight terrorism in their part of the world as we have done this with the overall coalition in Syria,” Merkel added before the Davos audience, though not mentioning the West itself had a major part to play in orchestrating a war of regime change against Assad. 


    German Chancellor Angela Merkel with Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the Berlin conference on Libya peace last Sunday, via Getty/BBC.

    Though the war in Syria which has raged since 2011 is widely acknowledged to have for the most part ended with Assad and the Syrian Army victorious, in reality it's still grinding on in places like Idlib, occupied by al-Qaeda (HTS), and the north and northeast, with Turkey and American forces occupying Syrian Kurdish areas.



    Most estimates put the Syria death toll from eight years of fighting at between 400,000 and nearly 600,000 people. And the world's most notorious terrorist organizations have arisen in that time, especially the Islamic State, which previously flooded into welcoming Syrian 'rebel' territories from neighboring Iraq. Some six million Syrians fled the country over the course of the conflict. In the case of Libya, after years of internecine fighting since Gaddafi's death, the cumulative death toll is currently not more than in the tens of thousands.  



    Merkel referenced the potential for a new explosion of refugees on Europe's shores due to the Libya crisis:




    “We have to do more preemptively, do good for those countries in order to prevent these enormous floods of migrants,” she said.  




    It must be remembered that to Germany's credit, it was perhaps the lone major European power that refused to support the US-French-NATO led military intervention which toppled Gaddafi in 2011. At the time German leaders actually argued that external intervention would destabilize the region further.




    German foreign minister at the time, Guido Westerwelle, warned a full eight years ago: "Your own instinct is to say 'We have to do something.' But military intervention is to take part in a civil war that could go on for a long time." He had pledged with the full backing of Berlin: "Germany has a strong friendship with our European partners. But we won't take part in any military operation and I will not send German troops to Libya."



    Following through on the pledge, Germany had joined Russia, China and others in abstaining on the UN vote authorizing military action in Libya, which then imposed a NATO-led 'no fly zone' on the country. The resulting chaos of the Gaddafi government's collapse (with the longtime Libyan leader himself tortured and summarily executed by US-backed jihadist 'rebels' outside of Sirte), has led to over eight years of anarchy and renewed war, now with two main governments and opposing militaries vying for control — not to mention all oil exports have ceased within the last week. 




    Tyler Durden

    Fri, 01/24/2020 - 02:45


    Tags

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    War Conflict

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    53 Views
    Putin Calls For A New System Guided By UN Charter... But Is It Possible?

    Authored by Matthew Ehret via The Strategic Culture Foundation,



    Anyone looking with sober eyes upon today’s world and the feeble economic and geopolitical underpinnings holding the system together must accept the fact that a new system WILL be created.





    This is not an opinion, but a fact.

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    > We are moving towards eight billion lives on this globe and the means of productive powers to sustain that growing population (at least in the west) has been permitted to decay terribly over the recent half century while monetary values have grown like a hyperinflationary cancer to unimaginable proportions. Derivatives speculation alone under the deregulated “too big to fail” banking system has resulted in over $1.5 quadrillion in nominal values which have ZERO connection to the real world (GDP globally barely accounts for $80 trillion). Over the past 5 months $415 billion of QE bailouts have been released into the bankrupt banks to prevent a collapse. So, economically it’s foundation of sand.



    Militarily, the west has followed the earlier Roman empire of yesteryear by overextending itself beyond capacity creating situations of global turmoil, death and unbounded resentment at the dominant Anglo American powers controlling NATO and the Military industrial complex. The recent near-war with Iran at the start of 2020 put the world on a fast track towards a nuclear war with Iran’s allies Russia and China.



    Culturally, the disconnection from the traditional values that gave western civilization it’s moral fitness to survive and grow has resulted in a post-truth age now spanning over three generations (from the baby boomers to today’s young adults) who have become the most confused class of people in modern history losing all discrimination of “needs” vs “wants”, “right” vs “wrong”, “beauty” vs “ugliness” or even “male” and “female”.



    Without ranting on anymore, it suffices to say that this thing is not sustainable.



    So the question is not “will we get a new system?” but rather “whom will this new system serve?”



    Will this new system serve an oligarchical agenda at the expense of the nations and people of the earth or will it serve the interests of the nations and people of the earth at the expense of the oligarchy?



    Putin Revives a Forgotten Vision

    President Putin’s January 15 State of the Union was a breath of fresh air for this reason, as the world leader who has closely allied his nation’s destiny to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, laid out a call for a new system to be created by the five largest nuclear powers as common allies under a multi-polar paradigm.



    After speaking about Russia’s vision for internal improvements, Putin shifted towards the international arena saying:




    “I am convinced that it is high time for a serious and direct discussion about the basic principles of a stable world order and the most acute problems that humanity is facing. It is necessary to show political will, wisdom and courage. The time demands an awareness of our shared responsibility and real actions.”




    Calling for Russia, the USA, UK, China and France to organize a new architecture that goes far beyond merely military affairs, Putin stated:




    “The founding countries of the United Nations should set an example. It is the five nuclear powers that bear a special responsibility for the conservation and sustainable development of humankind. These five nations should first of all start with measures to remove the prerequisites for a global war and develop updated approaches to ensuring stability on the planet that would fully take into account the political, economic and military aspects of modern international relations.”




    Putin’s emphasis that “the United Nations should set an example” is not naïve fantasy, nor “crypto globalist rhetoric” as some of his critics have stated.



    Putin knows that the UN has been misused by anti-nation state ideologues for a very long time. He also knows his history better than his critics and is aware that the original mandate of the United Nations was premised upon the defense of the sovereign nation state. Article 2.1 of the charter clearly says: “The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.”



    For readers who are perhaps rightfully cynical that such organizations as the UN could ever play a truly positive role in world affairs, it is important to recall that the UN was never intended to have any unilateral authority over nation states, or military power unto itself when was created in 1945. Its purpose was intended to provide a platform for dialogue where sovereign nation states could harmonize their policies and overcome misunderstanding with the aim of protecting the general welfare of the people of the earth. Articles 1.3-4 state clearly that the UN’s is designed “to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.”



    If the United Nations principles as enunciated in its pre-amble and core articles were to ever be followed (just like America’s own admirable constitution): then wars of aggression and regime change would not be possible. Article 2.4 directly addresses this saying: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.



    These principles stand in stark contrast to the earlier 1919 Round Table/RIIA-orchestrated attempt at a post-national world order under the failed League of Nations which was rightfully put out of its misery by nationalists of the 1920s. FDR’s 1944 vision, as Putin is well aware, was based not on “world government”, but rather upon the concept of a community of sovereign nations collaborating on vast development and infrastructure projects which were intended to be the effect of an “internationalization” of the New Deal that transformed America in the years following the Great Depression. The closest approximation to this spirit in practice in our modern age is found in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.



    Thousands of Asian, African and South American engineers and statesmen were invited to visit the USA during the 1930s and early 1940s to study the Tennessee Valley Authority and other great New Deal water, agriculture and energy projects in order to bring those ideas back to their countries as a driver to break out of the shackles of colonialism both politically, culturally and economically. In opposition to FDR, Churchill the unrepentant racist was okay with offering political independence, but never the cultural or economic means to achieve it.



    Although the world devolved into an Anglo-American alliance with FDR’s death in 1945, the other Bretton Woods Institutions which were meant to provide international productive credit to those large scale infrastructure projects to end colonialism were taken over by FDR’s enemies who purged the IMF and World Bank of all loyalists to FDR’s international New Deal vision throughout the years of the red scare. Whether these corrupt financing institutions can be brought back to their original intention or whether they must simply be replaced with new lending mechanisms such as the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, BRICS New Development Bank or Silk Road Investment Fund remains to be seen.



    What is vital to keep in mind is that Putin (just like FDR before him) knows that neither Britain nor Britain’s Deep State loyalists in America can be trusted. Yet, in spite of their mistrust, they both knew that a durable world order could only be accomplished if these forces were reined in under a higher law imposed by the authority of truly sovereign nations, and this is why FDR’s post-war plans involved a USA-Russia-China-UK partnership to provide the impetus to global development initiatives and achieve the goals of the Atlantic Charter. This partnership was sabotaged over FDR’s dead body as the Cold War and Truman Doctrine broke that alliance. The goal of ending colonialism had to wait another 80 years.



    At the 2007 Munich Security Conference, Putin had already laid his insight into history clearly on the table when he said:




    “This universal, indivisible character of security is expressed as the basic principle that “security for one is security for all”. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said during the first few days that the Second World War was breaking out: “When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries everywhere is in danger… I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. And this is not only because if there was individual leadership in today’s – and precisely in today’s – world, then the military, political and economic resources would not suffice. What is even more important is that the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilisation.”




    Putin is not naïve to call for the United Nations charter to serve as the guiding light of a new military, political, economic architecture. Nor is he naïve to think that such untrustworthy nations as the USA, UK and France should serve in partnership with Russia and China since Putin knows that it will be Russia and China shaping the terms of the new system and not the collapsing basket-cases of the west whose excess bluff and bluster betrays a losing hand, which is why certain forces have been so desperate to overthrow the poker table over the past few years. The fact that Putin, Xi and their growing allies have not permitted this chaos agenda to unfold has not only driven “end of history” imperialists into rage fits but also gives FDR’s vision for a community of sovereign nation states a second chance at life.




    Tyler Durden

    Fri, 01/24/2020 - 02:00
    233
    36 Views
    The Future We Deserve: Your App-Enabled Dildo Or Butt Plug Could Be Spying On You

    Modern times come with modern problems, undoubtedly. 



    And look no further for proof of that than a recent C|Net write up detailing how some internet enabled sex toy manufacturers may not be taking privacy as seriously as one might like - especially given the sensitive nature of the types of data it is collecting.



    And enabled sex

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    toys are big business. In November of last year, we highlighted how one Nevada brothel was using sex robots and internet-enabled toys to help "satisfy" its customers. 



    Sex was on full display at the CES in Las Vegas last week, with all types of internet enabled toys on display. Almost all of these toys connect to apps, which then, in turn, collect data. There are apps that monitor orgasms, save vibration patterns and let you connect with your long-distance partner's toy. 



    And while some in the industry are taking security seriously, the rest of the products are "all over the map", according to Nicole Schwartz, a researcher for Internet of Dongs (yes, that is actually her company's name). 





    She said: "Two out of three of these companies are not conscientious about security. The ones you are going to see at CES are obviously a little more tech-minded, so you're seeing a particularly biased section of the market." 



    Back in 2016, when the industry was still budding, Brad Haines founded Internet of Dongs after discovering just how bad security was for sex-toy apps. "It was rather terrifying at the beginning, just how bad it was, This was an industry that never had to deal with connectivity before. There's no one around to say, 'That doesn't seem like a good idea,'" he said.



    The device isn't so much the issue - the app software is where compromises are "more likely" to happen, he notes.



    And it isn't just software that can be compromised that users have to worry about, it's companies' misuse of their data. One company, Hong Kong-based Hytto, was accused of "secretly stor[ing] and monitor[ing] the personal data of users of its Lush vibrator -- including the time and date of use -- without their consent."





    The company's chief marketing officer responded: "We don't sell our users' data, and we only use it for customer service issues, and we wipe those logs regularly."



    We bet you do. 



    Soum Rakshit, CEO of another internet enabled sex toy company, MysteryVibe said: "We have no profiles, because we strongly believe nothing is unhackable. A lot of people spend months debating the color of a product. If we can give security the same level of design importance, then we won't have to worry about it later. The biggest selling point is it saves you time and money if you do it in the beginning." 



    Internet of Dongs researcher Schwartz offered several things you can do if you're in the market for a toy and want to do your research: "Check their website and see -- do they require you to create an account? Do they talk about security? Are they specific at all -- do they say things like 'We encrypt everything'?" 





    The consequences of playing it fast and loose (no pun intended) with data are real. They led sex tech company We-Vibe into a lawsuit that ultimately cost them $3.75 million in 2016. 



    And this isn't the only risk that internet-enabled sex toy owners take on. Last September, we also wrote about criminals were hacking these devices and sexually assaulting people using them.



    Welcome to the future we all deserve. 




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 23:25


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    212
    35 Views
    They Killed King For The Same Reason They Killed Kennedy

    Authored by Jacob Hornberger via The Future of Freedom Foundation,



    Amidst all the anti-Russia brouhaha that has enveloped our nation, we shouldn’t forget that the U.S. national-security establishment — specifically the Pentagon, CIA, and FBI — was convinced that Martin Luther King Jr. was a communist agent who was spearheading a communist takeover

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    of the United States.



    This occurred during the Cold War, when Americans were made to believe that there was a gigantic international communist conspiracy to take over the United States and the rest of the world.





    The conspiracy, they said, was centered in Moscow, Russia — yes, that Russia!



    That was, in fact, the justification for converting the federal government to a national-security state type of governmental structure after the end of World War II. The argument was that a limited-government republic type of governmental structure, which was the nation’s founding governmental system, was insufficient to prevent a communist takeover of the United States. To prevail over the communists in what was being called a “Cold War,” it would be necessary for the federal government, they said, to become a national-security state so that it could wield the same type of sordid, dark-side, totalitarian-like practices that the communists themselves wielded and exercised.



    The conviction that the communists were coming to get us became so predominant, primarily through official propaganda and indoctrination, especially in the nation’s public (i.e., government) schools, that the matter evolved into mass paranoia. Millions of Americans became convinced that there were communists everywhere. Americans were exhorted to keep a careful watch on everyone else, including their neighbors, and report any suspicious activity, much as Americans today are exhorted to do the same thing with respect to terrorists.



    Some Americans would even look under their beds for communists. Others searched for communists in Congress and within the federal bureaucracies, even the Army, and Hollywood as well. One rightwing group became convinced that even President Eisenhower was an agent of the Soviet government.



    In the midst of all this national paranoia, the FBI, the Pentagon, and the CIA became convinced that King was a communist agent. When King began criticizing U.S. interventionism in Vietnam, that solidified their belief that he was a communist agent. After all, they maintained, wouldn’t any true-blue American patriot rally to his government in time of war, not criticize or condemn it? Only a communist, they believed, would oppose his government when it was committed to killing communists in Vietnam.



    Moreover, when King began advocating for civil rights, especially in the South, that constituted additional evidence, as far as the FBI, CIA, and Pentagon were concerned, that he was, in fact, a communist agent, one whose mission was to foment civil strife in America as a prelude to a communist takeover of America. How else to explain why a black man would be fighting for equal rights for blacks in nation that purported to be free?



    The website kingcenter.org points out:




    After four weeks of testimony and over 70 witnesses in a civil trial in Memphis, Tennessee, twelve jurors reached a unanimous verdict on December 8, 1999 after about an hour of deliberations that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. Mrs. Coretta Scott King welcomed the verdict saying, “There is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband Martin Luther King Jr…. The jury was clearly convinced by the extensive evidence that was presented during the trial that, in addition to Mr. Jowers, the conspiracy of the Mafia, local, state and federal governments were deeply involved in the assassination of my husband.”




    And why not? Isn’t it the duty of the U.S. national-security state to eradicate threats to national security? What bigger threat to national security than a person who is supposedly serving as an agent for the communists and also as a spearhead for an international communist conspiracy to take over the United States?



    State-sponsored assassinations to protect national security were among the dark-side practices that began to be utilized after the federal government was converted into a national-security state. As early as 1953, the CIA was developing a formal assassination manual that trained its agents in the art of assassination and, equally important, in the art of concealing the CIA’s role in state-sponsored assassinations.



    In 1954, the CIA targeted the democratically elected president of Guatemala for assassination because he was reaching out to Russia in a spirt of peace, friendship, and mutual co-existence. In 1960-61, the CIA conspired to assassinate Patrice Lumumba, the head of the Congo because he was perceived to be a threat to U.S. national security. In the early 1960s, the CIA , in partnership with the Mafia, the world’s premier criminal organization, conspired to assassinate Fidel Castro, the leader of Cuba, a country that never attacked or invaded the United States. In 1973, the U.S. national-security state orchestrated a coup in Chile, where its counterparts in the Chilean national-security establishment conspired to assassinate the democratically elected president of the country, Salvador Allende, by firing missiles at his position in the national palace.



    The mountain of circumstantial evidence that has accumulated since November 1963 has established that foreign officials weren’t the only ones who got targeted as threats to national security. As James W. Douglas documents so well in his remarkable and profound book JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, the U.S. national-security establishment also targeted President John F. Kennedy for a state-sponsored assassination as well.



    Why did they target Kennedy?



    For the same reason they targeted all those other people for assassination — they concluded that Kennedy had become a grave threat to national security and, they believed, it was their job to eliminate threats to national security.



    After the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy achieved a breakthrough that enabled him to recognize that the Cold War was just one great big racket for the national-security establishment and its army of “defense” contractors and sub-contractors.



    That’s when JFK announced an end to the Cold War and began reaching out to the Soviets and the Cubans in a spirit of peace, friendship, and mutual coexistence. Kennedy’s Peace Speech at American University on June 10, 1963, where he announced his intent to end the Cold War and normalize relations with the communist world, sealed President Kennedy’s fate. That’s also what had sealed the fate of President Arbenz in Guatemala and what would seal the fate of President Allende in Chile. (See FFF’s bestselling book JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas P. Horne, who served on the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s. Also see FFF’s bestselling book The Kennedy Autopsy by Jacob Hornberger and his recently published The Kennedy Autopsy 2.”)



    But what many people often forget is that one day after his Peace Speech at American University, Kennedy delivered a major televised address to the nation defending the civil rights movement, the movement that King was leading.



    What better proof of a threat to national security than that — reaching out to the communist world in peace and friendship and then, one day later, defending a movement that the U.S. national-security establishment was convinced was a spearhead for the communist takeover of the United States?



    The loss of both Kennedy and King constituted conclusive confirmation that the worst mistake in U.S. history was to abandon a limited-government republic type of governmental system in favor of a totalitarian governmental structure known as a national-security state. A free nation does not fight communism with communist tactics and an omnipotent government. A free nation fights communism with freedom and limited government.





    There is no doubt what both John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. would have thought about a type of totalitarian-like governmental structure that has led our nation in the direction of state-sponsored assassinations, torture, invasions, occupations, wars of aggression, coups, alliances with dictatorial regimes, sanctions, embargoes, regime-change operations, and massive death, suffering, and destruction, not to mention the loss of liberty and privacy here at home.




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 23:45


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    The American Chaos Machine - Mad Policies For A Mad World

    Authored by US Army Major (ret.) Danny Sjursen, via TomDispatch.com,



    In March 1906, on the heels of the U.S. Army’s massacre of some 1,000 men, women, and children in the crater of a volcano in the American-occupied Philippines, humorist Mark Twain took his criticism public. A long-time anti-imperialist, he flippantly suggested that Old Glory should be redesigned “with th

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    e white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones.”



    I got to thinking about that recently, five years after I became an antiwar dissenter (while still a major in the U.S. Army), and in the wake of another near-war, this time with Iran. I was struck yet again by the way every single U.S. military intervention in the Greater Middle East since 9/11 has backfired in wildly counterproductive ways, destabilizing a vast expanse of the planet stretching from West Africa to South Asia.



    Chaos, it seems, is now Washington’s stock-in-trade. Perhaps, then, it’s time to resurrect Twain’s comment - only today maybe those stars on our flag should be replaced with the universal symbol for chaos.





    After all, our present administration, however unhinged, hardly launched this madness. President Trump’s rash, risky, and repugnant decision to assassinate Iranian Major General Qassem Suleimani on the sovereign soil of Iraq was only the latest version of what has proven to be a pervasive state of affairs. Still, that and Trump’s other recent escalations in the region do illustrate an American chaos machine that’s gone off the rails. And the very manner -- I’m loathe to call it a “process” -- by which it’s happened just demonstrates the way this president has taken American chaos to its dark but logical conclusion.



    The Goldilocks Method

    Any military officer worth his salt knows full well the importance of understanding the basic psychology of your commander. President George W. Bush liked to call himself “the decider,” an apt term for any commander. Senior leaders don’t, as a rule, actually do that much work in the traditional sense. Rather, they hobnob with superiors, buck up unit morale, evaluate and mentor subordinates, and above all make key decisions. It’s the operations staff officers who analyze problems, present options, and do the detailed planning once the boss blesses or signs off on a particular course of action. 



    Though they may toil thanklessly in the shadows, however, those staffers possess immense power to potentially circumscribe the range of available options and so influence the future mission. In other words, to be a deft operations officer, you need to know your commander’s mind, be able translate his sparse guidance, and frame his eventual choice in such a manner that the boss leaves a “decision briefing” convinced the plan was his own. Believe me, this is the actual language military lifers use to describe the tortured process of decision-making.



    In 2009, as a young captain, fresh out of Baghdad, Iraq, I spent two unfulfilling, if instructive, years enmeshed in exactly this sort of planning system. As a battalion-level planner, then assistant, and finally a primary operations officer, I observed this cycle countless times. So allow me to take you “under the hood” for some inside baseball. I -- and just about every new staff officer -- was taught to always provide the boss with three plans, but to suss out ahead of time which one he’d choose (and, above all, which one you wanted him to choose). 



    Confident in your ability to frame his choices persuasively, you’d often even direct your staffers to begin writing up the full operations order before the boss’s briefing took place. The key to success was what some labeled the Goldilocks method. You’d always present your commander with a too-cautious option, a too-risky option, and a “just-right” course of action. It nearly always worked. 



    I did this under the command of two very different lieutenant colonels. The first was rational, ethical, empathetic, and tactically competent. He made mission planning easy on his staff. He knew the game as well as we did and only pretended to be fooled. He built relationships with his senior operations officers over the course of months, thereby revealing his preferred methods, tactical predilections, and even personal learning style. Then he’d give just enough initial guidance -- far more than most commanders -- to set his staff going in a reasonably focused fashion.



    Unfortunately, that consummate professional moved on to bigger things and his replacement was a sociopath who gave vague, often conflicting guidance, oozed insecurity in briefings, and had a disturbing penchant for choosing the most radical (read: foolhardy) option around. Sound familiar? It should! 



    Still, military professionals are coached to adapt and improvise and so we did. As a staff we worked to limit his range of options by reverse-ordering the choices we presented him or even lying about nonexistent logistical limitations to stop him from doing the truly horrific. 



    And as recent events remind us, such exercises play out remarkably similarly, no matter whether you’re dealing at a battalion level (perhaps 400 to 700 troops) or that of this country’s commander-in-chief (more than two million uniformed service personnel). The behind-the-scenes war-gaming of the boss, the entire calculus, remains the same, whether the options are ultimately presented by a captain (me, then) or -- as in the recent decision to assassinate Iranian Major General Suleimani -- Mark Milley, the four-star general at the helm of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.



    Soon after President Trump’s egregious, a-strategic, dubiously legal, unilateral execution of a uniformed leader of a sovereign country, reports surfaced describing his convoluted decision-making process. Perhaps predictably, it appears that The Donald took his military staff by surprise and chose the most extreme measure they presented him with -- assassinating a foreign military figure. Honestly, that this president did so should have surprised no one. That, according to a report in the New York Times, his generals were indeed surprised strikes me as basic dereliction of duty (especially given that, seven months earlier, Trump had essentially given the green light to such a future assassination -- the deepest desire, by the way, of both his secretary of state and his then-national security advisor, John Bolton). 



    At this point in their careers, having played out such processes at every possible level for at least 30 years, his generals ought to have known their boss better, toiled valiantly to temper his worst instincts, assumed he might choose the most extreme measure offered and, when he did so, publicly resigned before potentially relegating their soldiers to a hopeless new conflict. That they didn’t, particularly that the lead briefer Milley didn’t, is just further proof that, 18-plus years after our latest round of wars began, such senior leaders lack both competence and integrity.



    Bush, Obama, and the Chaos Machine’s Tragic Foundations

    The current commander-in-chief could never have expanded America’s wars in the Greater Middle East (contra his campaign promises) or unilaterally drone-assassinated a foreign leader, without the militaristic foundations laid down for him by George W. Bush and Barack Obama. So it’s vital to review, however briefly, the chaotic precedents to the rule of Donald Trump. 



    Guided by a coterie of neoconservative zealots, Bush the Younger committed the nation to the “original sin" of expansive, largely unsanctioned wars as his chosen response to the 9/11 attacks. It was his team that would write the playbook on selling an ill-advised, illegal invasion of Iraq based on bad intelligence and false pretenses. He also escalated tensions with Iran to the brink of war by including the Islamic Republic in an imaginary “axis of evil” (with Iraq and North Korea) after invading first one of its neighbors, Afghanistan, and then the other, Iraq, while imposing sanctions, which froze the assets of Iranians allegedly connected to that country’s nuclear program. He ushered in the use of torture, indefinite detention, extraordinary rendition, illegal domestic mass surveillance, and drone attacks over the sovereign airspace of other countries -- then lied about it all. That neither Congress, nor the courts, nor his successor held him (or anyone else) accountable for such decisions set a dangerous new standard for foreign policy.



    Barack Obama promised “hope and change,” a refreshing (if vague) alternative to the sins of the Bush years. The very abstraction of that slogan, however, allowed his supporters to project their own wants, needs, and preferred policies onto the future Obama experiment. So perhaps none of us ought to have been as surprised as many of us were when, despite slowly pulling troops out of Iraq, he only escalated the Afghan War, continued the forever wars in general (even returning to Iraq in 2014), and set his own perilous precedents along the way.



    It was, after all, Obama who, as an alternative to large-scale military occupations, took Bush’s drone program and ran with it. He would be the first president to truly earn the sobriquet “assassin-in-chief." He made selecting individuals for assassination in “Terror Tuesday" meetings at the White House banal and put his stamp of approval on the drone campaigns across significant parts of the planet that followed -- even killing American citizens without due process. Encouraged by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he also launched a new regime-change war in Libya, turning that land into a failed state filled with terror groups, a decision which, he later admitted, added up to a “shit show." After vacillating for a couple years, he also mired the U.S., however indirectly, in the Syrian civil war, empowering Islamist factions there and worsening that already staggering humanitarian catastrophe.



    In response to the sudden explosion of the Islamic State -- an al-Qaeda offshoot first catalyzed by the Bush invasion of Iraq and actually formed in an American prison in that country -- its taking of key Iraqi cities and smashing of the American-trained Iraqi army, Obama loosed U.S. air power on them and sent American troops back into that country. He also greatly expanded his predecessor’s nascent military interventions across the African continent. There, too, the results were largely tragic and counterproductive as ethnic militias and Islamic terror groups have spread widely and civil warfare has exploded. 



    Finally, it was Obama who first sanctioned, supported, and enabled the Saudi terror bombing of Yemen, which, even now, remains perhaps the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. So it is that, from Mali to Libya, Syria to Afghanistan, every one of Bush’s and Obama’s military forays has sowed further chaos, startling body counts, and increased rates of terrorism. It’s those policies, those results, and the military toolbox that went with them that Donald J. Trump inherited in January 2017.



    The Trumpian Perfect Storm

    During the climax to the American phase of a 30-year war in Vietnam, newly elected President Richard Nixon, a well-established Republican cold warrior, developed what he dubbed the “madman theory" for bringing the intractable U.S. intervention there to a face-saving conclusion. The president’s chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, recalled Nixon telling him:




    “I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I've reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We'll just slip the word to them that, ‘for God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can't restrain him when he's angry—and he has his hand on the nuclear button’ and [North Vietnamese leader] Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.”




    It didn't work, of course. Nixon escalated and expanded the war. He briefly invaded neighboring Cambodia and Laos, secretly (and illegally) bombed both countries, and ramped up air strikes on North Vietnam. Apart from slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocents, however, none of this had a notable effect on the ultimate outcome. The North Vietnamese called his bluff, extending the war long enough to force an outright American withdrawal less than four years later. Washington lost in Southeast Asia, just as today it’s losing in the Greater Middle East.



    So it was, with the necessary foundations of militarism and hyper-interventionism in place, that Donald Trump entered the White House, at times seemingly intent on testing out his own personal “fire and fury” version of the madman theory. Indeed, his more irrational and provocative foreign policy incitements, including pulling out of the Paris climate accords, spiking a working nuclear deal with Iran, existentially threatening North Korea, seizing Syrian oil fields, sending yet more military personnel into the Persian Gulf region, and most recently assassinating a foreign leader seem right out of some madman instruction manual. And just like Nixon’s stillborn escalations, Trump’s most absurd moves also seem bound to fail.



    Take the Suleimani execution as a case in point. An outright regional war has (so far) been avoided, thanks not to the “deal-making” skills of that self-styled “stable genius" in the White House but to Iran’s long history of restraint. As retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a former top aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell, recently put it: “The leadership in Tehran is far more rational than the leadership in Washington.” 



    In fact, Trump’s unprecedented assassination order backfired at every level. He even managed briefly to unite a divided Iranian nation, caused the Iraqi government to demand a full U.S. troop withdrawal from that country, convinced Iran to end its commitment to restrain its enrichment of uranium, and undoubtedly incentivized both Tehran and Pyongyang not to commit to, or abide by, any future nuclear deals with Washington.



    If George W. Bush and Barack Obama sowed the seeds of the American chaos machine, Donald Trump represents the first true madman at the wheel of state, thanks to his volatile temperament, profound ignorance, and crippling insecurity.



    The Rapture as Foreign Policy

    All of which raises another disturbing question: What if this administration’s chaos-sowing proves an end in itself, one that coheres with the millenarian fantasies of sections of the Republican Christian Right? After all, several key figures on the Trump team -- notably Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence -- explicitly view the Middle East as evangelical Christians. Like a disturbing 73% of evangelicals (or 20% of the U.S. population), Pompeo and Pence believe that the Rapture (that is, the prophesied Christian end of the world) is likely to unfold in this generation and that a contemporary conflict in Israel and an impending war with Iran might actually be trigger events ushering in just such an apocalypse.  



    Donald Trump is, by all indications, far too self-serving, self-absorbed, and cynical to adhere to the eschatological blind-faith of the two Mikes. He clearly believes only in Donald Trump. And yet what a terrible irony it would be if, due to his perfect-storm disposition, he unwittingly ends up playing the role of the very Antichrist those evangelicals believe necessary to usher in end-times.



    Given the foundations set in place for Trump by George W. Bush and Barack Obama and his capacity to throw caution to the wind, it’s hard to imagine a better candidate to play that role.



    *  *  *



    Danny Sjursen, a TomDispatch regular, is a retired U.S. Army major and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now lives in Lawrence, Kansas. He has written a memoir of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet and check out his podcast “Fortress on a Hill,” co-hosted with fellow vets Chris Henriksen and Keegan Ryan Miller. 




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 23:05


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    Pharma Founder Gets 66 Months For Bribing Doctors To Overprescribe Deadly Opioids

    Millions of Americans who lived through the financial crisis probably recall that not a single executive of a major investment bank was jailed in the aftermath, despite running organizations seemingly dedicated to perpetuating a criminal fraud on nearly every counterparty and client.



    But when Americans look back at the opioid crisis, they'll remember that at least

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    one executive of a major opioid manufacturer and distributor was sentenced to a fairly weighty sentence - five-and-a-half years (66 months) in federal prison - for an illegal kickback scheme that effectively involved bribing doctors to prescribe potentially lethal doses of fentanyl. That's right: Packaged under the name brand Subsys, Insys sold a painkiller made from the same ultra-powerful synthetic opioid responsible for tens of thousands of deaths across America.



    According to the FT, which, in partnership with PBS's Frontline, is producing a documentary on the opioid crisis, John Kapoor, the founder of Insys, was sentenced to prison time on Thursday after being prosecuted under the RICO act - a law adopted decades ago to help the DoJ prosecute the mafia.





    Kapoor



    Kapoor joins seven other Insys executives who have already received jail time for their role in the company's illegal shenanigans, which included uses "ruthless" sales tactics to encourage doctors to prescribe more of their drug. Several doctors who took money from the company in exchange for kickbacks transparently disguised as speaking fees are also either being prosecuted, or have already been sentenced to jail time.



    Earlier on Thursday, Alec Burlakoff, Insys's former head of sales and one of the government's key cooperating witnesses accepted a sentence of 26 months in prison. The jail sentences were handed down despite a long tradition of allowing big pharma to skate by with fines that often amounted to a slap on the wrist.



    Subsys was approved by the FDA to target so-called "breakthrough pain", something experienced by many patients with advanced cancer. But most of the doctors Insys targeted weren't oncologists. The company encouraged them to prescribe the drug "off label" - meaning not for its approved purpose - to treat normal chronic pain.



    Kapoor is a serial entrepreneur who immigrated to the US from India in his early 20s. The fentanyl spray that was the company's main product was approved in 2012.



    Under the company's kick-back scheme, doctors who prescribed large quantities of the drug could earn up to $125,000 a year in speaking fees.



    The company depended on sales associates whom Kapoor described as "PHD" - "poor, hungry and desperate" or "poor, hungry and dumb." One of the sales reps who got mixed up in the prosecution was a former stripper, a detail from the investigation that was widely covered in the press.



    Kapoor's insistence that the company meticulously track the ROI from its illegal kickback scheme is what eventually did him in. Prosecutors managed to get their hands on a spreadsheet calculating the return on investment for every dollar spent on doctor "honorariums". Kapoor insisted that, for every dollar a doctor received, they must bring in at least $2 in sales for Insys.



    Kapoor's legal team insisted that their client was unfairly portrayed as a "caricature of a mob boss" by the prosecution. But the firm's "callous culture" was exemplified by a sales video featuring a "rapping bottle of Subsys" encouraging doctors to raise the dose for their patient's - effectively encouraging them to accidentally overdose and kill their own patients.



    Burlakoff, who played the rapping Subsys bottle in the video, told the press that the video was a big part of the incriminating evidence against him. He now regrets participating in it, even though he thought it was 'cool' at the time.



    Fred Wyshak, the prosecutor who handled the Insys case, gained notoriety for prosecuting the mob, and having a hand in the conviction of Whitey Bulger, the former Boston crime boss who was murdered while serving a life sentence last year




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 20:45
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    China's Cultural "Group-Think" Is Worth Exploring

    Authored by Bruce Wilds via Advancing Time blog,



    For decades China has been pushing its people towards a more "homogeneous way of thinking." This article is focused on exploring some of the cultural "group-think" countries tend to breed into their population. This is especially true in a country like China where the controlling party assumes the role of plotting society's course "for the

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    greater good." I'm very concerned that governments across the world will up their game when it comes to shaping public opinion. Across the world, all the new technology available is rapidly tightening the noose around the neck of individual thought.





    China's Cultural And "Group Think"



    Reducing political descent was a core principle of the cultural revolution led by Mao Tse-tung. The Red Guards formed by his youthful followers conducted a mass purge of the "undesirables." They then went on to send the young intellectuals living in the cities into the countryside to be "re-educated" through hard manual labor. This is an example of how propaganda can turn a population to a single focus and direction which causes its members can march in lockstep. With this in mind, it has only been in the last couple of  years that the narrative of China being a threat to America has been bantered about. Before that America was busy patting itself on its back for bringing a backward China into the modern world.



    Recently a person commenting on another article wrote;




    I have worked in China several times over the years and the rate of change has been incredible. In 1976, state store shelves were nearly empty, later, huge multistory department stores were packed with Western-style goods and customers. But, the people were not totally happy. The Chinese have been described as bandits with a thin patina of civilization.  They are as greedy as the West used to be for social progress.



    Younger Americans seem to seek after this Chinese 'miracle,' thinking that Communism is responsible for the wealth increase.  In reality, it is Communism with a capitalist bent. When this slows down we will be "equal."  Then America will follow China back to individualism and populism as was common in an earlier China and the West.




    This person may or may not have a good grasp of where things are headed. With this in mind, trying to understand and learn about different cultures is important. The world is at a place in its development where individuals may soon lose their ability to influence the path forward. This means our future is becoming more concentrated in the hands of a few. These elite have assumed the role of leading and shaping society. The problem with this is these so-called leaders will most likely be quick to place their best interest solidly in front of those they govern.



    We get a rather different view of China and its people from these videos posted online from two young well-grounded fellas that have lived there for a while. It is a bit different from what has been portrayed over the last few decades by mainstream media. Below are a slew of their videos currently on YouTube. In their videos, they give their take on the area from a boots on the ground perspective rather than an economist view from an ivory tower. This means they seem to look at the Chinese and its current culture from the bottom up rather than the top down. I highly recommend this "ADVChina" series. It is more or less an Adventure Travel show on motorbikes, while it may not be super polished, it is real.



    * This video gives their take on China's lack of interest and sensitivity to other cultures. 





    * China has a phrase, and it's "mei ban fa". You will hear this everywhere you go. Can you fix this? This is very important in understanding the Chinese "no solution I don't care attitude."





    * In this video, the guys give their take on China's "Belt and Road" initiative which they see as problematic and declare it will be a failure.





    * Ghost City-Inside The China Housing Bubble (very important-7 minutes in) they explain this deck of cards. If you listen closely you can almost hear the empty buildings deteriorating in the distance.





    * Living in Japan versus China





    * The secrets of Chinese HOTELS





    * Collectivism vs. Individualism is a major mental block for people in different countries. They discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both and why China will beat America





    * The fellas talk about China's dystopian social credit system which we have heard so much about.





    Without a doubt, China is far less polarized and divided than America where people seem unable to agree on much of anything. The Chinese people, however, appear far more accepting and less willing to take responsibility for much of anything. Individuality runs strong in the human animal, there are pros and cons about the fact we can agree on so little. This is why so many people desire to create a homogeneous society. This is perhaps the most ancient, universal, and subconscious goal that leaders have sought to achieve. This idea stands as a utopian goal where humanity can flourish without strife and conflict.





    Forced group-think is evident in how China treats the millions of its citizens that do not make an effort to march in step. It is also why many Americans recoil at the thought of it happening here. The ruling Communist Party in China has built "re-education camps" in an attempt to bring these people into the “modern, civilized” world promote what the government calls “ethnic unity” but in simpler terms, the apparent goal is to force detainees to embrace the Chinese communist party and an effort to fully control the hearts and minds of its population. Much of this is aimed at the ethnic minorities of Uighurs in the western region of Xinjiang.



    China’s Great Fire Wall which is considered the largest, most extensive and most advanced Internet censorship regime in the world censors content critical of the Chinese government or contrary to Communist Party policy is key to this suppression. Another is that people simply "disappear" in China and their families are left with little or no information as to where they have gone. The term "group-think" is sometimes associated with George Orwell. He wrote about how the power of groupthink tends to be infectious. Shades of this are exposed in the videos.  I contend that China's culture suffers from a kind of deteriorating mental efficiency. This includes a reduced ability to deal with reality and moral judgments due to in-group pressures to think as one.



    It is becoming clear the desire for achieving harmony, conformity, and cohesiveness through group-think comes at a cost. The advantage of allowing diversity is that it increases the competition of ideas and brings out the best in people. If you don't want every place and every person to be exactly alike it means learning to accept that humanity is by nature fragmented and rejecting the idea we would be drastically better off is society was one homogeneous group. We do not need to be indoctrinated into thinking alike but must learn to be more tolerant.



    The overriding advantage of a fragmented world is that it offers a competitive environment for economic, social, and judicial systems. All of these play huge roles in our culture and have been the driving force of human progress. Circling back to the issue of the above videos, if you take a gander at one or more, you might find they give you a bit more hope that things here in America are not nearly as bad as we are often led to believe.




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 21:05
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    Libya's Haftar Threatens To Target Civilian Planes, Declares Blanket 'No Fly Zone'

    With the world's attention focused on the Coronavirus outbreak and to a lesser extent on Trump's impeachment trial, the war in Libya just got a lot more scary in terms of the potential for mass civilian death.



    Incredibly, Gen. Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) just threatened to shoot down civilian planes after days ago declaring a 'no fly zone'

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    over Tripoli following increased Turkish intervention. The BBC reports the unambiguous and shocking declaration as follows: 




    Gen Haftar's spokesman, Ahmad al-Mesmari, said in a statement on Wednesday that "any military or civilian aircraft, regardless of its affiliation, flying over the capital will be destroyed".



    File image via Middle East Monitor 

    In the past days Haftar has accused Turkey, which has lately openly transferred both Turkish national army troops as well as Syrian FSA mercenaries into Tripoli to fight on behalf of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, of using the Libyan capital's only functioning international airport as a military base. 



    It appears the LNA is saying it will consider even commercial flights as 'fair game' because it's alleging Turkey and the GNA are using civilian aviation in a 'human shield' capacity




    The BBC has further details as follows:




    The GNA branded the strikes a "flagrant threat" to the safety of air traffic and a "new violation" of a ceasefire agreed earlier this month.



    Gen Haftar's forces did not immediately respond to the accusations, but did say they had shot down a Turkish drone after it took off from the airport.



    Mitiga is a former military airbase which has been used by civilian planes since Tripoli's international airport was damaged in fighting in 2014.




    Pro-Haftar officials have also charged that Mitiga international airport has become a drone headquarters, and further that foreign troops are disembarking there. 



    On Wednesday Mitiga airport was forced to suspend all flights for hours after it was rocked by six surface-fired missiles by LNA militia which for months has been laying siege to Tripoli. The LNA said it was targeting foreign drones (operated by Turkey) which have been used to attack its own troops.




    The AFP reported Thursday that after announcing indefinite closure of the airport, the GNA "decided to restore air traffic at Mitiga Airport" according to a statement published on Facebook. However, the status remains anything but clear. 



    The GNA said it plans to notify the UN Security Council of the Haftar military statement, which constitutes threat of a war crime. 



    Needless to say this is a major escalation which won't help Haftar's bid to curry favor within international bodies like the UN, which currently backs the Tripoli GNA.



    Haftar has rejected recent international attempts for a ceasefire, recently at summits in Moscow and Berlin. 




    Should his forces actually do the unthinkable and down a civilian airplane, his own backers (like the UAE, Egypt, and Russia) would be forced to cut all political and military support.



    And likely more external assistance would pour in to the Tripoli GNA, alongside Turkey's already substantial and growing military help. 




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 20:05


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    Politics

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    The Majority Of Virginia Homicides Come From Only Two Metro Areas

    Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,



    In most times and places, crime tends to be a highly localized phenomenon. I have covered this for Mises.org at the national level, pointing out that homicide rates in, say, the Mountain West and New England are far lower than homicide rates in the Great Lakes region or the South. Gun-control laws

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    clearly don't explain these differences, since many places with rock-bottom homicide rates such as Idaho and Maine also have few controls on private gun ownership.



    Thus, discussion of the "US homicide rate" tells us precious little about general trends since US homicide rates are kept relatively high by only a small number of cities. Baltimore city, for example, has a homicide ten times higher than the nation overall, and seventeen times larger than the Baltimore suburbs. In 2018, Baltimore reported more than three hundred homicides while similarly sized Denver reported about 67. These are huge differences.



    Clearly, speaking generally of homicides as a problem in the United States or even in the State of Maryland tells us little about conditions experienced by most of the population in these places.



    Given the very low homicide rates that prevail throughout most of the US, it is clear that enormous swaths of the US population are able to obtain, own, and use firearms freely without turning their cities and towns into war zones.



    Given the recent drive for more gun control in the state of Virginia, it may be helpful to look and see whether homicides are a general problem for Virginians or limited to only certain parts of the state.



    Regional Differences in Homicides in Virginia

    In 2018, the homicide rate in Virginia was 4.6 per 100,000. That's below the national rate of 5 per 100,000, but is well above that of many states such as Iowa, Utah, and Minnesota.



    But, of course, homicides are not spread evenly across Virginia. As with many other states, homicide rates are far higher in some cities and metro areas than in others.



    For example, according to the FBI's 2018 crime statistics, the homicide rate in the city of Richmond (i.e.not the overall Richmond metro area) was nearly five times higher, with 22.9 homicides per 100,000 people. But among cities with more than 10,000 people, the highest rate was found in Petersburg, which in 2018 had a homicide rate nearly ten times that of the state overall, with 45 homicides per 100,000. Other especially violent cities (proportionally speaking) were Danville, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Newport News, and Hampton. These can be contrasted with some large cities with very few homicides, including Charlottesville and Virginia Beach.





    Source: Table 8, Offenses Known to Law Enforcement, by City (2018)



    And, of course, the FBI report lists more than one hundred Virginia cities—ranging in size from 300 to 44,000 residents—with zero homicides.



    What would homicide rates look like in Virginia without some of these cities?



    Well, according to the FBI's report, there were 391 total homicides in Virginia in 2018. Of those, 122 were in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk metro area, and 100 were in the Richmond metro area. These two metros alone contributed more than half (57 percent) of all the state's homicides. Combined, these two metros (which amount to only 2.9 million of the state's 8.5 million residents) had more homicides than all the rest of the state.





    Source: Table 6, Crime in the US by Metropolitan Statistical Area (2018)



    By removing just these two metro areas from Virginia, the homicide rate for the remainder of the state would be reduced from 4.6 per 100,000 to 3 per 100,000.



    Political Implications

    Since Democrats won a majority in both houses of the state legislature last election day, legislators have begun to push through new restrictions on gun ownership in Virginia. Proposals include limiting the number of guns bought per month, a ban on "assault" weapons, and so-called red flag laws.





    Supporters insist the laws are necessary for the safety of residents statewide. But it is unclear that the issue of homicides in Virginia ought to be addressed by statewide policies.



    The new push for gun control in the state has been pushed largely by advocates claiming the new measures are necessary to prevent shootings like the 2019 Virginia Beach mass shooting. It is unclear why any of the proposed rules would address the factors behind the Virginia Beach shooting given that the shooter had no criminal record. Moreover, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of homicides in the state are ordinary homicides tied to specific areas and municipalities—and the conditions therein.



    If policymakers wish to address these issues, it is not at all clear why general statewide legislation would provide any solutions. After all, as we have discovered in a great many local governments, policies tends to focus on nonviolent crime, with most resources devoted to petty drug enforcement or similar infractions. In Baltimore, for example, the police department assigns less than three percent of its police force to homicide investigations. Yet, this sort of neglect by city personnel has been shown to be a key factor in fostering an environment of lawlessness.



    Moreover, since we have no data on how often firearms are used to deter crime, it is impossible to know what the likely effect of additional prohibitions on legal gun ownership will be.



    Not surprisingly, however, state lawmakers have taken the easy way out. Rather than address the serious and unexciting steps necessary to truly address violence at the local level, policymakers have opted to do the politically expedient thing and pass statewide laws designed to pander to specific interest groups. Whether or not these laws have the desired effect, of course, is politically unimportant. Some politicians have decided that it is "worth it" to burden much of the state's population—millions of whom own firearms without ever using them for violent ends—with a wide array of new regulations that could render many residents criminals for owning devices which had been purchased legally in the recent past.




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 17:45
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    DOJ: Surveillance Of Carter Page Based On Insufficient Evidence, No Probable Cause

    The Department of Justice has concluded that the Obama-era FBI should have discontinued its surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page far earlier than they did, and that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court was shown insufficient evidence to show that Page was a foreign spy, according to the Wall Street Journal.



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    >



    The DOJ delivered its conclusion to the FISA court in December filing unsealed on Thursday.




    The Justice Department now appears to have concluded that there was “”insufficient predication to establish probable cause” in the last two renewals in 2017. Probable cause is the legal standard to obtain a secret warrant against suspected agents of a foreign power. The letter is classified, but is referenced in a new order declassified by a judge on Thursday. The Justice Department said it would sequester all the material it collected against Mr. Page pending further internal review of the matter. -Wall Street Journal




    "The court understands the government to have concluded, in view of the material misstatements and omissions, that the court's authorizations in (two applications) were not valid," wrote Judge James Emanuel Boasberg, a federal district judge in Washington who also sits on the FISA court.



    As The Federalist notes, this could have far-reaching consequences for special counsel Robert Mueller's findings.



    "The final warrant against Page overlapped with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The final three-month authorization to spy on Page was signed nearly six weeks after Mueller was appointed, meaning that Mueller may have had real-time access to and utilized nearly five months worth of surveillance of Page during the course of Mueller’s investigation. If his office used any of the information in subsequent cases, the declaration that the final two spy warrants against Page were invalid could potentially nullify previous or future convictions sought by Mueller’s office."





    Judge Boasberg set a Jan. 28 deadline for the government to show the court what steps they have taken to avoid similar abuses in the future.




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 18:05
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    Two Different Americas

    Authored by Jacob Hornberger via The Future of Freedom Foundation,



    There have been two completely different Americas in U.S. history.





    Let’s examine twelve ways in which they differ.



    1. For more than a century after the United States came into existence, there was no income taxation or IRS. People were free to keep everything

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    they earned and decide for themselves what to do with it.



    Today, income taxation and the IRS are a core feature of American life. The government essentially owns everyone’s income and decides how much people will be permitted to keep, much as a parent permits his children to have an allowance.



    2. No Social Security. Earlier Americans rejected the concept of mandatory charity. People were left free to decide for themselves whether to help out their parents and others.



    Today, Social Security is a core feature of American life. The federal government forces younger people to help out seniors by forcibly taking their money from them and giving it to seniors. Social Security is a classic example of a socialist program, one in which the government forcibly takes money from people to whom it belongs and gives it to people to whom it does not belong.



    3. No Medicare and Medicaid. Americans had a free-market healthcare system, one in which there was no government involvement. The result was the finest healthcare system in the world, one in which healthcare prices were low and stable, innovations were soaring, doctors loved what they did in life, and the poor were receiving free healthcare services from doctors and hospitals.



    Today, seniors and the poor are dependent on Medicare, another socialist program that is characterized by massive dysfunction, soaring prices, perpetual crisis, and physicians who hate what they do in life.



    4. No centrally managed economy. Americans believed that people should be free to manage their own economic activities.



    Today, whoever happens to be president assumes the role of centrally managing the economy, taking credit when the economy is going well and blaming the Federal Reserve when the inevitable crashes come. Central planning is, of course, a socialist principle.



    5. No Federal Reserve or paper money. The official money of the country consisted of gold coins and silver coins. There was no central bank (i.e., Federal Reserve) to inflate or debase the currency.



    Today, the Federal Reserve continues to destroy people’s money through monetary central planning, inflation, and debasement. The official money is now paper Federal Reserve notes, which promise to pay nothing. 



    6. Very few economic regulations, including minimum-wage laws. Americans favored a free-enterprise economic system, one in which economic enterprise was free of government control and management.



    Today, economic regulation, including minimum-wage laws, form a core feature of American economic life.



    7. No immigration controls. Americans believed in the right of people to freely cross borders in the pursuit of happiness.



    Today, Americans maintain an enormous apparatus that centrally plans the movements of people into the United States. To enforce the system, the federal government has brought a brutal police state into existence in the American Southwest. This socialist immigration system is characterized by death, suffering, and perpetual crisis.



    8. No drug laws. Americans believed that people have the right to ingest whatever they want, no matter how harmful or destructive.



    Today’s Americans believe that it is a rightful role of government to punish people for ingesting harmful substances, much as a parent punishes a child for putting bad things into his mouth.



    9. No national-security state, including a Pentagon, military-industrial complex, empire of domestic and foreign military bases, CIA, NSA, or FBI. Our ancestors used the Constitution to call into existence a governmental structure known as a limited-government republic.



    Today, the centerpiece of American life is the national-security state, along with its sordid, dark-side practices of state-sponsored assassinations, torture, indefinite detention, kangaroo military tribunals, and mass secret surveillance.



    10. No empire, foreign interventionism, or foreign wars.



    Today, military empire, foreign interventionism, coups, foreign aid, alliances with dictatorial regimes, regime-change operations, sanctions, embargoes, invasions, and occupations are an ongoing central part of American life.



    11. No public-schooling systems. Education was, by and large, based on free-market principles.



    Today, Americans are required to subject their children to a state-approved education. There are compulsory school-attendance laws, government schoolteachers, government-approved textbooks, government-established curricula, and compulsory taxation to fund it all. Public schooling is another example of a socialist, centrally planned program.



    12. No gun control. Americans believed that the right to keep and bear arms is a natural, God-given right that cannot be controlled and regulated, much like such other rights as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.



    Today, the right to keep and bear arms is controlled, regulated, and even nullified in certain areas of the country.



    These twelve major differences naturally give rise to an important question: Was the abandonment of America’s sound founding principles the reason for the massive chaos, crises, and dysfunction that riddle our society today?




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 17:05


    Tags

    Social Issues
    Politics

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    Scenes From China's Holiday Viral Outbreak

    Communist Party authorities in Beijing are moving to quarantine essentially the entire province of Hubei after the deadly coronavirus that has swept across the globe over the past week originated in Wuhan, its capital city, and China's seventh-largest metropolis - larger than any American city, and roughly five times the size of London.



    But before the barricades went up, the New York Times apparently m

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    anaged to sneak a few photographers into Wuhan. The result: one of the best photographic records to appear in the Western press.



    A series of photos taken in Wuhan and elsewhere around China illustrate the Communist Party's heavy-handed effort to suppress the spread of the virus, even as global health experts warn that the "horse is already out of the barn."



    Photos show victims being transported between hospitals by health-care workers wearing full-body protection.





    Chinese authorities have come down hard on the virus, though some claim that efforts like public spraying won't do much to stop the virus.



    But the sight of health-care workers out in the public spraying is probably helping to shore up public confidence.





    On the streets and in the supermarket, people in Wuhan won't go anywhere without face masks.





    Police surround the entrance to a public transit station in Wuhan. Rail travel has been temporarily suspended as part of the effort to contain the virus.





    On a train from Shanghai to Wuhan carries precious few passengers brave enough to make the journey. With the New Year holiday approaching, the train is usually packed this time of year.





    Across China, the sight of officials carrying infrared thermometers has become commonplace.





    The number of confirmed cases of Wuhan coronavirus is rapidly approaching 650 as new cases have been confirmed in Singapore and Saudi Arabia, while three suspected cases have been identified in Scotland.




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 15:05
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    The Real Umbrella Corp: Wuhan Ultra Biohazard Lab Was Studying "The World's Most Dangerous Pathogens"

    Now that not one but seven Chinese cities - including Wuhan, ground zero of the coronavirus epidemic - and collectively housing some 23 million people, are under quarantine...





    ... comparisons to the infamous Raccoon City from Resident Evil are coming in hot and heavy. And, since reality often tends to imitate if not a

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    rt then certainly Hollywood, earlier today we jokingly asked if the Medical Research Institute at Wuhan University would end up being China's version of Umbrella Corp.




    As it turns out, it wasn't a joke, because moments ago it was brought to our attention that in February 2017, Nature penned an extensive profile of what it called the "Chinese lab poised to study world's most dangerous pathogens." The location of this BSL-4 rated lab? Why, Wuhan.



    A quick read of what this lab was meant to do, prompts the immediate question whether the coronavirus epidemic isn't a weaponized virus that just happened to escape the lab:




    The Wuhan lab cost 300 million yuan (US$44 million), and to allay safety concerns it was built far above the flood plain and with the capacity to withstand a magnitude-7 earthquake, although the area has no history of strong earthquakes. It will focus on the control of emerging diseases, store purified viruses and act as a World Health Organization ‘reference laboratory’ linked to similar labs around the world. “It will be a key node in the global biosafety-lab network,” says lab director Yuan Zhiming.



    The Chinese Academy of Sciences approved the construction of a BSL-4 laboratory in 2003, and the epidemic of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) around the same time lent the project momentum. The lab was designed and constructed with French assistance as part of a 2004 cooperative agreement on the prevention and control of emerging infectious diseases. But the complexity of the project, China’s lack of experience, difficulty in maintaining funding and long government approval procedures meant that construction wasn’t finished until the end of 2014.



    The lab’s first project will be to study the BSL-3 pathogen that causes Crimean–Congo haemorrhagic fever: a deadly tick-borne virus that affects livestock across the world, including in northwest China, and that can jump to people.



    Future plans include studying the pathogen that causes SARS, which also doesn’t require a BSL-4 lab, before moving on to Ebola and the West African Lassa virus,




    What does BSL-4 mean?




    BSL-4 is the highest level of biocontainment: its criteria include filtering air and treating water and waste before they leave the laboratory, and stipulating that researchers change clothes and shower before and after using lab facilities. Such labs are often controversial. The first BSL-4 lab in Japan was built in 1981, but operated with lower-risk pathogens until 2015, when safety concerns were finally overcome.




    And here's why all this is an issue:



    Worries surround the Chinese lab. The SARS virus has escaped from high-level containment facilities in Beijing multiple times, notes Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey.



    Below we repost the full Nature article because it strongly hints, without evidence for now, that the coronavirus epidemic may well have been a weaponized virus which "accidentally" escaped the Wuhan biohazard facility.




    Inside the Chinese lab poised to study world's most dangerous pathogens



    A laboratory in Wuhan is on the cusp of being cleared to work with the world’s most dangerous pathogens. The move is part of a plan to build between five and seven biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) labs across the Chinese mainland by 2025, and has generated much excitement, as well as some concerns.


    Hazard suits hang at the National Bio-safety Laboratory, Wuhan, the first lab on the Chinese mainland equipped for the highest level of biocontainment.

    Some scientists outside China worry about pathogens escaping, and the addition of a biological dimension to geopolitical tensions between China and other nations. But Chinese microbiologists are celebrating their entrance to the elite cadre empowered to wrestle with the world’s greatest biological threats.



    “It will offer more opportunities for Chinese researchers, and our contribution on the BSL‑4-level pathogens will benefit the world,” says George Gao, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Key Laboratory of Pathogenic Microbiology and Immunology in Beijing. There are already two BSL-4 labs in Taiwan, but the National Bio-safety Laboratory, Wuhan, would be the first on the Chinese mainland.



    The lab was certified as meeting the standards and criteria of BSL-4 by the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment (CNAS) in January. The CNAS examined the lab’s infrastructure, equipment and management, says a CNAS representative, paving the way for the Ministry of Health to give its approval. A representative from the ministry says it will move slowly and cautiously; if the assessment goes smoothly, it could approve the laboratory by the end of June.



    BSL-4 is the highest level of biocontainment: its criteria include filtering air and treating water and waste before they leave the laboratory, and stipulating that researchers change clothes and shower before and after using lab facilities. Such labs are often controversial. The first BSL-4 lab in Japan was built in 1981, but operated with lower-risk pathogens until 2015, when safety concerns were finally overcome.



    The expansion of BSL-4-lab networks in the United States and Europe over the past 15 years — with more than a dozen now in operation or under construction in each region — also met with resistance, including questions about the need for so many facilities.



    The Wuhan lab cost 300 million yuan (US$44 million), and to allay safety concerns it was built far above the flood plain and with the capacity to withstand a magnitude-7 earthquake, although the area has no history of strong earthquakes. It will focus on the control of emerging diseases, store purified viruses and act as a World Health Organization ‘reference laboratory’ linked to similar labs around the world. “It will be a key node in the global biosafety-lab network,” says lab director Yuan Zhiming.



    The Chinese Academy of Sciences approved the construction of a BSL-4 laboratory in 2003, and the epidemic of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) around the same time lent the project momentum. The lab was designed and constructed with French assistance as part of a 2004 cooperative agreement on the prevention and control of emerging infectious diseases. But the complexity of the project, China’s lack of experience, difficulty in maintaining funding and long government approval procedures meant that construction wasn’t finished until the end of 2014.



    The lab’s first project will be to study the BSL-3 pathogen that causes Crimean–Congo haemorrhagic fever: a deadly tick-borne virus that affects livestock across the world, including in northwest China, and that can jump to people.



    Future plans include studying the pathogen that causes SARS, which also doesn’t require a BSL-4 lab, before moving on to Ebola and the West African Lassa virus, which do. Some one million Chinese people work in Africa; the country needs to be ready for any eventuality, says Yuan. “Viruses don’t know borders.”



    Gao travelled to Sierra Leone during the recent Ebola outbreak, allowing his team to report the speed with which the virus mutated into new strains. The Wuhan lab will give his group a chance to study how such viruses cause disease, and to develop treatments based on antibodies and small molecules, he says.



    The opportunities for international collaboration, meanwhile, will aid the genetic analysis and epidemiology of emergent diseases. “The world is facing more new emerging viruses, and we need more contribution from China,” says Gao. In particular, the emergence of zoonotic viruses — those that jump to humans from animals, such as SARS or Ebola — is a concern, says Bruno Lina, director of the VirPath virology lab in Lyon, France.



    Many staff from the Wuhan lab have been training at a BSL-4 lab in Lyon, which some scientists find reassuring. And the facility has already carried out a test-run using a low-risk virus.



    But worries surround the Chinese lab, too. The SARS virus has escaped from high-level containment facilities in Beijing multiple times, notes Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. Tim Trevan, founder of CHROME Biosafety and Biosecurity Consulting in Damascus, Maryland, says that an open culture is important to keeping BSL-4 labs safe, and he questions how easy this will be in China, where society emphasizes hierarchy. “Diversity of viewpoint, flat structures where everyone feels free to speak up and openness of information are important,” he says.



    Yuan says that he has worked to address this issue with staff. “We tell them the most important thing is that they report what they have or haven’t done,” he says. And the lab’s inter­national collaborations will increase openness. “Transparency is the basis of the lab,” he adds.



    The plan to expand into a network heightens such concerns. One BSL-4 lab in Harbin is already awaiting accreditation; the next two are expected to be in Beijing and Kunming, the latter focused on using monkey models to study disease.



    Lina says that China’s size justifies this scale, and that the opportunity to combine BSL-4 research with an abundance of research monkeys — Chinese researchers face less red tape than those in the West when it comes to research on primates — could be powerful. “If you want to test vaccines or antivirals, you need a non-human primate model,” says Lina.



    But Ebright is not convinced of the need for more than one BSL-4 lab in mainland China. He suspects that the expansion there is a reaction to the networks in the United States and Europe, which he says are also unwarranted. He adds that governments will assume that such excess capacity is for the potential development of bioweapons.



    “These facilities are inherently dual use,” he says. The prospect of ramping up opportunities to inject monkeys with pathogens also worries, rather than excites, him: “They can run, they can scratch, they can bite.”


    The central monitor room at China’s National Bio-safety Laboratory


    If that wasn't enough, here is January 2018 press release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, announcing the launch of the "top-level biosafety lab."




    China has put its first level-four biosafety laboratory into operation, capable of conducting experiments with highly pathogenic microorganisms that can cause fatal diseases, according to the national health authority. Level four is the highest biosafety level, used for diagnostic work and research on easily transmitted pathogens that can cause fatal diseases, including the Ebola virus.



    The Wuhan national level-four biosafety lab recently passed an assessment organized by the National Health and Family Planning Commission, according to a news release on Friday from the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


    Virologists read data on a container for viral samples at China's first level-four biosafety lab at the Institute of Virology in Wuhan

    After evaluating such things as the lab's management of personnel, facilities, animals, disposals and viruses, experts believed the lab is qualified to carry out experiments on highly pathogenic microorganisms that can cause fatal diseases, such as Marburg, Variola, Nipah and Ebola.



    "The lab provides a complete, world-leading biosafety system. This means Chinese scientists can study the most dangerous pathogenic microorganisms in their own lab," the Wuhan institute said.



    It will serve as the country's research and development center on prevention and control of infectious diseases, as a pathogen collection center and as the United Nations' reference laboratory for infectious diseases, the institute said.



    Previous media reports said the Wuhan P4 lab will be open to scientists from home and abroad. Scientists can conduct research on anti-virus drugs and vaccines in the lab.



    The lab is part of Sino-French cooperation in the prevention and control of emerging infectious diseases, according to the news release.



    The central government approved the P4 laboratory in 2003 when the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome spread alarm across the country. In October 2004, China signed a cooperation agreement with France on the prevention and control of emerging infectious diseases. This was followed by a succession of supplementary agreements.



    With French assistance in laboratory design, biosafety standards establishment and personnel training, construction began in 2011 and lasted for three years. In 2015, the lab was put into trial operation.




    Finally, this is what the real Umbrella Corp looks like from space:






    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 14:10


    Tags

    Environment

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    41 Views
    US Urges Americans To "Reconsider" China Travel As New Cases Emerge From Scotland To Singapore

    Update (1150ET): If you haven't cancelled those tickets to Wuhan yet, you might want to hold off: The State Department has just reverted its safety warning on travel to China to "exercise caution" from "reconsider your travel plans".



    Clearly, somebody in the Chinese government complained, and with US stocks deep in the red, it seems th

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    e Trump Administration was perceptive.



    After all, the point is to convince the public not to panic.



    * * *



    Update (1130ET): As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases nears 650 (the latest count put the number at 647), the US State Department has decided to reassure Americans that they are 'safe' from the virus.





    China has nearly competed its quarantine of four cities in Hubei, even as experts warn it won't be enough. As millions prepared to travel, George Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, warned the Chinese public to stay home during the holiday season, warning that this was a "crucial time" to stop the virus. 



    With 444 confirmed cases, Wuhan remains the epicenter of the epidemic. Reports about another virus-related death are circulating on social media, along with a terrifying video of first-responders in full-body gear treating an individual who had seemingly collapsed in the middle of the road.




    That's not exactly reassuring.



    Meanwhile, in Wuhan, shortages of medical supplies and facemasks are already prompting hospitals, universities and charities to reach out to the surrounding area for donations.



    But sure - everything is under control.



    * * *



    Update (1045ET): Just in case you had plans to celebrate LNY at a fish market in Wuhan, the US government has published a travel warning advising Americans to 'reconsider traveling to China' amid the latest viral outbreak.



    • U.S. URGES TRAVELERS TO RECONSIDER CHINA VISITS DUE TO VIRUS

    Even if you made it to Wuhan at this point, one might encounter difficulties trying to enter the city, especially as a foreigner.



    * * *



    Update (0950ET): The BBC is reporting that a suspected case of coronavirus has been detected in Scotland.



    Note: These are only suspected cases - not yet confirmed.




    If confirmed, this would be the first case of the virus in the UK, and would indicate another intrusion into the developed world, this time in Europe.



    The UK Health Secretary said Friday morning that the coronavirus is "increasingly likely" to hit Britain, the Times of London reports.



    According to CNN, the number of coronavirus cases confirmed around the world has climbed to 622 (once again, the graphic below is ever-so-slightly out of date):





    And the scramble for facemasks continues, with Hong Kong stores swiftly running out of stock, and black-market sellers engaging in widespread gouging of terrified customers.




    * * *



    Update (0935ET): India's foreign office said Thursday that an Indian nurse in Saudi Arabia has been diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus.



    "About 100 Indian nurses mostly from Kerala working at Al-Hayat hospital have been tested and none except one nurse was found infected by Corona virus," tweeted Vellamvelly Muraleedharan, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, on Thursday.






    Cases have also been reported in Russia, Hong Kong and Macau, in addition to all of the countries listed below:




    Saudi Arabia's economy depends on millions of migrant workers, a group that includes many Indians.



    * * *



    Update (0841ET): Beijing says the number of confirmed Wuhan cases in China has climbed to 634, bringing the global total to 641.





    Here's a breakdown of cases by region (though it might be slightly out of date, it gets the point across):





    In keeping with China's insistence that the Wuhan virus is far less deadly than the 2003 SARS outbreak, the SCMP reports that almost half of the 17 people who have succumbed to the virus so far were aged 80 or older, and most of them had pre-existing health conditions. All of those who died, 13 men and four women so far, were from the central province of Hubei, and were treated in hospitals in its capital, Wuhan, epicenter of the outbreak. Chinese authorities have quarantined most of the biggest sources in the province.



    Here's some more information on the victims, including the types of illnesses they faced:




    At least nine of those who died had pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, coronary artery disease and Parkinson’s disease. Eight were in their eighties, two in their seventies, five in their sixties and one man was in his fifties. The youngest woman was 48 and had a pre-existing condition.



    One 89-year-old man, surnamed Chen, had a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease and other conditions. He began experiencing symptoms on January 13, including difficulty breathing but not fever. Five days later, he was admitted to the Wuhan Union Hospital with severe breathing difficulties, and tested positive for pneumonia. He died the following evening.



    The 48-year-old woman, surnamed Yin, had suffered from diabetes and had also had a stroke. She first had a fever, aches and pains on December 10 and her condition slowly deteriorated. She was treated at two hospitals in Wuhan before she died on Monday.



    Officials in Beijing have been cautious about making definitive statements about the origins and characteristics of the disease, including its incubation period, saying more investigation was needed.



    "There’s still a need for further study of the virus over time," said Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, at a press briefing on Wednesday.



    "As for the impact on younger people, according to current epidemiology and what we know right now, they really aren't susceptible," he said.



    Patients as young as 15 have been infected with the pneumonia-like virus, according to Wuhan health officials. There are now more than 570 confirmed cases, including some reported in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, the United States, Japan, South Korea and Thailand.




     



    * * *



    Update (0800ET): CNA, an English-language news website based across Asia, has just reported that Singapore has confirmed the first case of the Wuhan coronavirus.





    In a media briefing on Thursday evening, the Ministry of Health said the carrier is a 66-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan. The man arrived in Singapore with his family on Jan. 20 after flying in from Guangzhou via China Southern. The man reported having a soar throat on the flight, but no fever.





    Earlier, St. Petersburg reportedly confirmed its third case of the Wuhan virus.



    The man traveled to Singapore General on Wednesday, and was immediately placed in isolation. He tested positive for the virus at 6 pm local time on Thursday. Singaporean authorities have already begun a contact tree, and are isolating all those with whom the suspect had contact.



    The diagnosis is just the latest indication that, even as more Chinese cities cancel LNY celebrations, too many Chinese, including Chinese from Wuhan, have already traveled abroad. And the week-long holiday doesn't even start until Saturday.



    This live NYT map of confirmed Wuhan cases appears to be out-of-date, despite having just been updated.





    The number of confirmed cases is closer to 600. Still, it gets the point across.



    * * *



    Update (0700ET): Beijing is reportedly planning to quarantine a third city in Hubei Province, where the coronavirus outbreak originated, while a fourth city in the province is planning to shut down train travel.



    Media reports claim that Chibi, a city with half a million Chinese, will be quarantined like Wuhan and Huanggang. Meanwhile, Ezhou, a city with 1 million people in Hubei, is seeing some transportation shut down.



    Meanwhile, officials in Beijing have joined several other Chinese cities in cancelling Chinese New Year celebrations.





    Conflicting report are alternatively claiming that Ezhou and Chibi will be the third Chinese city to face a quarantine. Does that mean officials are planning to quarantine the entire province?





    There have also been reports about a third patient being identified in St. Petersburg, while other cities, including Hong Kong, stock up on facemask supplies.



    * * *



    As cases of the new coronavirus popped up around the globe, Chinese health officials managed to assuage the worries of the public, and the market, by insisting that the new, deadly coronavirus that emerged late last month in Wuhan had been 'contained' and that the outbreak would swiftly die down.



    Despite imposing some draconian travel bans, it's becoming increasingly clear that this isn't going to happen. Even after quarantining an entire city of 11 million people - Wuhan is the 7th largest city in China and larger than any US city - experts are warning that it's too late: The cat is already out of the bag.



    But that won't stop Beijing from trying: Now that Wuhan has been effectively cut off, Chinese officials announced another city-wide quarantine on Thursday: Huanggang city, which is in Hubei province and situated close to Wuhan, will suspend outbound train and bus services, as well as all bus services within the city effective Friday. All public places, including movie theaters, have been ordered to close until further notice, practically guaranteeing that the quarantine will take a bite out of GDP. Though even after authorities cut off all flights, Reuters reports that a few airlines were still running flights out of Wuhan.





    As the SCMP pointed out, Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak, is five times larger than London.





    The decision comes as more than 600 cases of the virus have now been confirmed. The death toll has been steady since yesterday at 17, as the WHO ponders whether to label the outbreak as a global pandemic risk.



    Chinese state broadcasters shared images of Wuhan’s ghostly transport hubs, including the Hankou rail station, with all gates barred or blocked. Highway toll booths were shutting down as guards patrolled major highways. Inside the city, residents crowded into hospitals and rushed to buy up essential supplies from supermarkets and gas stations.



    Interestingly, at least one Western journalist is reporting from Wuhan. We imagine Beijing allowed ABC access to the city to try and calm the growing panic in the West.




    As more barriers rise, one well-known public health expert known for his work on the SARS outbreak warned that the quarantines likely wouldn't be enough to stop the virus from becoming a global pandemic, according to the New York Times.




    Dr. Guan Yi, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Hong Kong who visited Wuhan earlier this week, warned there was a potential for the virus to spread rapidly despite the controls put in place Thursday morning.



    "We have a chance to have a pandemic outbreak," said Dr. Guan, who was part of the team that identified the coronavirus that caused the deadly SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003. SARS infected more than 8,000 people and killed nearly 800.



    Dr. Guan also told Caixin, an influential Chinese magazine known for investigative reports, that he had traveled to Wuhan earlier in the week hoping to help track the virus’s animal source and control the epidemic. But he left, he said, feeling "powerless, very angry."



    Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, an epidemiologist at Columbia University who advised the Chinese government and the World Health Organization during the SARS outbreak, said that infected people outside Wuhan would continue to spread the disease.



    "The horse is already out of the barn," he said.




    Another expert warned that there could already be as many as 4,000 cases of coronavirus in Wuhan, meaning that the vast majority of infections likely haven't yet been reported.



    Meanwhile, regulators around the world are scrambling to cut off flights from Wuhan (even though Beijing has supposedly cut off all rail and plane travel out of the city): The Philippines is the latest country to cut off flights from the city. The country's Civil Aeronautics Board added that flights from elsewhere in China would be placed under 'strict monitoring', according to CNN Philippines. Manila, the Philippines' crowded capital city, has started handing out 100,000 face masks.





    The director of the country's Civil Aeronautics Board explained that, even though Beijing is quarantining entire cities, it's up to the Philippines to take their own steps to curb the outbreak.




    "When you look at the seriousness of the outbreak, Wuhan should be the focus of attention," CAB Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla told reporters.



    "Even if they lift it, we have to look at our side first and make our own assessment. So our assessment is different from theirs, I mean, even their decision is different from ours," Arcilla said.




    Experts have warned that quarantining an entire city of 11 million would be virtually impossible. But the nabobs in Beijing refuse to be deterred: Videos circulating on social media show Chinese police setting up barricades across roads leading out of the city. Anybody in Wuhan who had New Year's travel plans should probably cancel them and ask for a refund.




    After a suspected case of coronavirus was discovered in Macau yesterday, officials in the special autonomous region warned that they might close all casinos in the territory, a move that would spoil the vacation plans of millions of Chinese planning to travel to Macau for the Chinese New Year. A second case was reportedly discovered on Thursday.



    Across the world, a mildly risk-off mood is once again dominating markets. That means US stocks are one outbreak headline away from deeper declines.




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 11:38
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    Not Ready For Economic Collapse: Only 41% Of Americans Have $1000 To Cover An Emergency

    Authored by Michael Snyder via TheMostImportantNews.com,



    We better hope that the U.S. economy holds together in 2020, because if there is any sort of major economic crisis much of the country is going to be broke almost immediately. Today, close to half of all Americans are living on the edge financially. For many, it is out of neces

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    sity, but for others it is a conscious choice. Way too many people out there see no need to build up a substantial financial cushion because they have a tremendous amount of faith in the system. They don’t think that things will ever get too bad in this country, and so there is no urgency to put funds away for a rainy day. But even if authorities could somehow prevent an economic downturn from ever happening again, individual emergencies are taking place all around us on a constant basis. Cars break down, people get sick, and accidents happen. Unfortunately, most Americans are completely unprepared for some sort of an emergency to strike.





    In fact, a brand new survey has discovered that just 41 percent of Americans could cover a $1,000 emergency expense using their current savings…




    Bankrate’s January Financial Security Index survey reveals that just four in 10 U.S. adults (41 percent) would cover the cost of a $1,000 car repair or emergency room visit using savings. The findings echo what previous Bankrate studies and others — including the Federal Reserve and the Pew Charitable Trusts — have found about Americans’ lack of rainy-day savings.




    So where would everyone else get the money for an emergency?



    Well, most of them would either borrow the money or get it from a relative.



    And usually an emergency costs a lot more than $1,000. Here is more from the Bankrate survey…




    Emergencies often aren’t cheap. Among survey respondents who said they or their family members dealt with an unexpected expense in the past 12 months, the median amount of the largest expense was $1,750.



    Three in 10 adults (29 percent) said they or their family members spent at least $5,000 in the past year to cover an unanticipated cost.




    The bottom line is that most of the country is living paycheck to paycheck, and most Americans are just one small step away from financial disaster.



    Back in 2008, millions of Americans suddenly lost their jobs, and because so many of them were living on the edge financially a lot of them suddenly couldn’t pay their mortgages.



    You would think that we would have learned something from that very painful experience, but we didn’t.



    So we better hope that the U.S. economy remains relatively stable, because a serious downturn would be very ugly.



    Unfortunately, an increasing number of experts are warning that our luck is about to run out. In fact, the head of the IMF recently warned that we could potentially be facing another “Great Depression”…




    The head of the International Monetary Fund has warned that the global economy risks a return of the Great Depression, driven by inequality and financial sector instability.



    Speaking at the Peterson Institute of International Economics in Washington, Kristalina Georgieva said new IMF research, which compares the current economy to the “roaring 1920s” that culminated in the great market crash of 1929, revealed that a similar trend was already under way.




    That certainly doesn’t sound good at all.



    Here in the United States, most people have been choosing to ignore all the signs that the economy is starting to really slow down.



    But as stores and businesses continue to close down all over the nation, it is going to become very difficult to ignore all of the empty buildings.



    For example, Macy’s just announced that they will be closing nearly 30 stores…




    Macy’s is closing roughly more than two dozen stores as troubles mount for the storied retailer.



    The company confirmed to CNN Business that it’s shuttering 28 Macy’s locations and one Bloomingdale’s location in the coming months. Closures affect locations in several states, including Florida, California and Georgia, according to lists compiled from various media reports.




    And one of the most prominent mall retailers in the entire country has just announced that they will be closing 91 stores…




    Fashion retailer Express plans to close 91 stores as part of a “fleet rationalization” after a sales slump during the holidays.



    The move comes amid a rash of store closures following the holiday shopping season.




    Of course I could go on and on all day. Here are just a couple more examples of major retailers that are closing down stores…




    Bed Bath & Beyond is closing 60 locations, with the list being revealed Tuesday. And Schurman Retail Group plans to close its Papyrus and American Greetings stores, totaling about 254 locations, within the next four to six weeks.




    But despite all of the evidence to the contrary, the irrational optimists would still have us believe that America has entered a new era of tremendous economic prosperity.



    I actually wish that was true.



    Sadly, decades of exceedingly bad decisions are catching up with us in a major way, and instead of changing course we continue to steamroll toward a date with destiny.



    Right now I am going to share with you the number one piece of advice that I give to everyone who asks about preparing for the great storm that is ahead.



    Build up a financial cushion.



    When things get bad, you are going to need money.



    I know that sounds exceedingly simple, but obviously most of the country is choosing not to do this.



    Instead, most of the country is surviving from month to month with barely any money in their bank accounts, and so when disaster strikes they are going to be looking for someone else to rescue them.



    We have had more than a decade since the crisis of 2008 to prepare for the next one, but most people are acting as if the next one will never arrive.



    Unfortunately, the truth is that the next crisis has already started, and businesses all over the nation are going bankrupt.



    But most Americans won’t realize what is happening until things really start getting out of hand, and by then it will be far too late to make any sort of preparations.




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 12:04


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    Snakes, Bats, Badgers & Rats: Scientists Suspect New Coronavirus Originated In Animals

    As the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases nears 650, scientists inside and outside China have speculated that the Wuhan coronavirus was first passed to humans via snakes, badgers, bats or rats.



    Some preliminary research that has been picked up by the Western press, including CNN, claims the virus may have been passed to humans by snakes, with

    Read More
    the Chinese krait and the Chinese cobra the primary suspects. The many-banded krait, also known as the Taiwanese krait, and the Chinese krait, is a highly venomous species that dwells across central and southern China, and across Southeast Asia more broadly.



    It's also apparently among the species of snakes that are sometimes consumed by humans.





    Moreover, scientists have now studied the genetic code of the virus using samples gleaned from patients. Using microscopes and photographs, they determined that the pathogen responsible for this pandemic has been confirmed to be in the same family of viruses that caused SARS and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) - the coronavirus family. Viruses in this family have killed hundreds of people across Asia in the past 17 years. Though it hasn't yet ruled on whether the virus is a global pandemic, the WHO has an official name for the new coronavirus: 2019-nCoV.



    And most of those viruses have been traced back to animals in a process known as 'Zoonotic transmission'. This happens when viruses undergo a series of mutations while inside their animal hosts, allowing them to infect humans, and then travel from person to person.



    Some 'Zoonotic' viruses, like AIDS, are relatively difficult to transmit. Others, like the coronaviruses, are known for spreading easily through the air - though airborne transmission of 2019-nCoV has yet to be confirmed.



    Snakes aren't the only suspects. A team of scientists who recently published a paper in the China Science Bulletin hypothesized that the virus may have been transmitted to humans via bats. After this revelation, the Daily Star, a British tabloid, claimed that the "unknown link" between bats and humans may have been the Chinese delicacy 'bat soup'.



    As evidence, the tabloid reported that footage of Wuhan residents eating the strange soup had emerged on social media over the past week. In on clip, a girl can be seen eating a bat with a pair of chopsticks during a dinner with friends.





    It's unclear exactly how reliable this is, but it's worth mentioning that a grocery store identified as the source of the virus sold many strange animal products, including snakes and possibly bats.



    It's also possible that the virus may have originated in the bats before being transferred to snakes, and then on to humans. A reading of the protein codes favored by the new coronavirus found that it was similar to viruses found in birds, snakes, marmots, hedgehogs, manis, bats and humans. Snakes often hunt for bats in the wild, and it's possible that a snake sold in the local seafood market in Wuhan had acquired the virus from its prey, before passing it on to a hungry human.



    But those aren't the only theories. According to Reuters, Chinese government medical adviser Zhong Nanshan has also identified badgers and rats as possible culprits.



    Symptoms of the pneumonia-like illness include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. So far, there is no vaccine.



    Regardless of where it came from, it's becoming increasingly clear that it will be impossible for Chinese health authorities to stop its spread, especially as millions of Chinese are determined to travel during the Lunar New Year holiday.



    You will find more infographics at Statista



    It's the largest regular human migration, dwarfing the Haff in the number of people who travel every year.



    You will find more infographics at Statista



    Despite China's attempts to literally seal off the biggest cities in the province where the Wuhan virus was first detected, Global health authorities fear the rate of transmission will explode as millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, which is set to begin on Saturday.




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 09:55
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    Texas Instruments To Close Two Dallas-Area Chip Factories Amid Slowdown

    Texas Instruments announced Wednesday that it would close two chip plants in North Texas over the next three to five years, reported Dallas News. 



    Texas Instruments' Public Relations manager Nicole Bernard said a factory in Dallas at its north campus would be shuttered, along with a chip facility in Sherman. 



    Bernard said both sites would be wound down no e

    Read More
    arlier than 2023 and no later than 2025. 



    "Employees at these factories have been an important part of TI's overall success and will continue to be critical to help to ensure a successful transition," Bernard said. "As we get closer to the end of the transition, we expect to offer many (of the) employees jobs in our other Dallas-area manufacturing sites. For individuals without roles at that time, we will offer severance packages and other transition assistance."



    Plans to close both chip plants reflect a shift in the way the company produces chips for a range of devices, from smartphones to automotive to industrial machinery. 



    The company is concentrating on making 300-millimeter wafers, rather than 150-millimeter wafer production seen at Dallas and Sherman plants.



    The announcement was made during earnings call on Wednesday when the company reported revenue of $3.35 billion in the fourth quarter, a decline of 10%. However, a slight improvement from an 11% drop in the third quarter. 



    The company has been grappling with crosscurrents in the global economy that have slowed the overall industry since 2018, CEO Rich Templeton said, "most markets weakened further."



    "Most markets showed signs of stabilizing," Templeton said in the prepared statement.



    While semiconductor markets have stabilized, we noted that hedge funds have already bet big on chipmakers and hardware firms, pricing in one of the most robust recoveries in years, despite a slowing economy. 





    The move higher in SOX has been nothing shy of astonishing.





    Even though the SOX index has nearly doubled over the past year, yet what is bizarre is that this move certainly was not on the back of earnings, which are now lower than where they were when the index was over 40% lower!





    It was due to Huawei and other Chinese technology companies stockpiling chips ahead of a widely expected toughening of U.S. technology sanctions that may come as soon as next month. 



    Teddy Vallee, CIO of Pervalle Global, tweeted, $TXN revs YoY vs. Global PMI. The guide exactly in-line with our leads for stabilization in ROW but no material pickup." 





    World Economic Forum President Borge Brende warned earlier this week that the world is "faced with a synchronized slowdown in the global economy. And we're also faced with a situation where the ammunition that we have to fight a potential global recession is more limited."



    What could go wrong with asset managers and leveraged funds pricing in a recovery that might not be the expected V-shape but rather more of a U-shape, if not further deceleration. 






    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 10:15


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    US Army Begins Largest War Exercise In Europe In Decades 

    According to the U.S. Army Public Affairs, one of the most massive war drills across Europe is about to being, called DEFENDER-Europe 20. 



    The war exercise is the largest in 25-years, will begin Thursday with over “37,000 U.S., allied and partner-nation service members are expected to participate, with roughly 20,000 soldiers and 20,000 pieces of equipment deploying from the United States

    Read More
    ,” the Army said. 




    More than ten different nations will be participating in the exercise with much of the action across Germany and Poland.





    “Readiness is not only about having the right forces and capabilities in place throughout the theater, but it’s also about exercising our ability to quickly receive and integrate forces with our own and those of our allies and partners,” Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, U.S. Army Europe commanding general, told Stars and Stripes in a statement. “This ability is critical in projecting force at a moment’s notice.”



    During the Cold War, similar mobility exercises were seen as a preparation for a potential conflict with the Soviet Union. The drills allow U.S. and NATO allies to move combat troops and equipment across the European Union to quickly respond to a potential crisis. 





    The Pentagon has shifted its focus in the last five years from Middle East wars to large-scale conflicts between Russia and or China. 



    The exercise will involve more than a dozen air and seaports in eight European countries: Belgium, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, and Poland.



    Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Kramer, who leads EUCOM exercise programs, said DEFENDER-Europe 20 is the most massive exercise since the Cold War. 




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 04:15


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    "I Don't See Her In Beijing Or Delhi" - Niall Ferguson Slams Davos' "Virtue Signaling" Greta Fanboys

    Climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed the world's elite face-to-face at the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday, admonishing the grown-ups in the room for their lack of panic:




    "We don't want these things done in 2050, 2030, or even 2021," Thunberg said. "We want this done now."


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    />

    The 17-year-old demanded participants "from all the companies, banks, institutions, and governments" in attendance to immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, end fossil fuel subsidies, and divest from all fossil fuels.




    "I've been warned that telling people to panic about the climate crisis is a very dangerous thing to do, but don't worry—it's fine—I've done this before and I can assure you: it doesn't lead to anything."



    "Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour. We are still telling you to panic, and to act as if you loved your children above all else."




    Quite a speech, and the billionaire crowd at Davos soaked it all up, proudly patting themselves on the back and supporting Greta and her 'movement'.





    However, as Niall Ferguson, Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, explained during a brief (and uncomfortable) interview on CNBC, it's all bullshit.






    "...remember there's a cognitive dissonance at the heart of Davos."



    "Publicly, you have to agree with Greta Thunberg and you have to be part of the virtue-signaling community on climate change, on ESG."



    "Privately, you're quietly agreeing with Trump."




    For the ultra wealthy, Ferguson said Trump remains the obvious favorite if faced with a choice between Trump and Democratic front-runners Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. 




    “The dirty little secret of Davos 2020 is they all need him to get re-elected,”  told Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christophorus, when asked if wealthy attendees are begrudgingly rooting for President Donald Trump. “Nobody wants to say that out loud.”




    But the real point of note from Ferguson was his honest angst at Greta's platform of lies.






    "The reality is that the Green Deal [and its massive debt load] will amount to a drag on German manufacturing and the eurozone economy as a whole."



    "Privately, a lot of people are admitting that Trump is doing the stuff we should be doing - fiscal stimulus."




    Simply put, Ferguson dares to say that all the virtue-signaling is not in any way candid, because if it were, they would admit that




    "60% of CO2 emissions since Greta Thunberg was born is attributable to China... but nobody talks about that. They talk as if its somehow Europeans and Americans who are going to fix this problem... which is frustrating because it doesn't get to the heart of the matter."




    Ferguson comfortably admits that there is a climate change problem, but that's not the point. The point is what are we going to do about it, to which he asks rhetorically...




    "If you're serious about slowing CO2 emissions and temperatures rising it has to be China and India that are constrained."




    But Greta goes to New York or Davos:




    "I don't see her in Beijing or Delhi."




    Hard to argue with "facts" and "science" that this is true...



    Global Pollution





    Source: WHO




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 15:25


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    Feminist Author Demands Germans Stop Having Babies To Save The Planet

    Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,



    Feminist author Verena Brunschweiger has called on Germans to stop having babies to save the planet, despite the fact that the country’s native fertility rate is already at just 1.4 children per woman.





    In an interview with Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, Brunschweiger warns

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    “we are on the brink of ecological collapse” and that the only solution is “the renunciation of one’s own reproduction.”



    Claiming that this topic is being kept hidden in “pro-natalist Germany,” Brunschweiger, who herself is childless, remarked,




    “It is…above all because of the masses of people that we have such big environmental problems. We are just too many and hardly anyone wants to limit themselves. If we were fewer people and restricted ourselves, we could save something.”




    Brunschweiger claimed that she felt like she was “in Saudi Arabia in the 14th century” when trying to voice her message, but that she had received support from a lot of women.



    The feminist is directing her message to Germans despite the fact that the country’s native fertility rate is around 1.4 children per woman, well below the necessary 2.1 replacement rate.




    “Since 1972, Germany has not seen a single year in which the number of newborns has exceeded the number of deaths,” reports Arutz Sheva.




    Despite her passion for population reduction, Brunschweiger’s “virtue-signalling has not yet reached the continent of Africa,” reports Free West Media. “Africa’s child population will reach 1 billion by 2055, making it the largest child population among all continents.”



    Indeed, sub-Saharan Africa will produce the most births for the rest of the century, so if Brunschweiger really cared about lowering the global population to save the planet, she would be telling Africans to stop breeding, which would of course be racist.



    And after all, to progressives it’s better to be dead than called racist!



    *  *  *



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




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 05:00


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    US Navy To Revive Flak Cannons To Combat Drone Attacks

    The proliferation of unmanned aircraft has frightened the U.S. Navy into developing a powerful airburst round to knock drones out of the sky, reported Military.com. 



    The precision airburst munition, similar to anti-aircraft flak rounds used in World War II, is being designed to combat drones that are targeting warships at sea. 



    The new round is compatible with the Littoral

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    Combat Ship's (LCS) 30mm deck gun. 




    "We're looking at another round called the proximity round, which detects the drone as it approaches and then blows up," Kevin Knowles, who works on Northrop Grumman's LCS and unmanned surface vessel programs, said Tuesday at the Surface Navy Association conference. "It's not a radar system, but it's something similar. That's what we're looking at for drones."




    Knowles said it's nearly impossible to hit a drone with a solid round, that's why the Navy is reviving old technology with a modern twist to combat unmanned aircraft. 



    The LCS has two Mk44 Bushmaster II 30mm chain guns that can fire 100 to 200 rounds per minute. 





    Last summer, Iran flew a drone, undetected, over a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group transiting the Strait of Hormuz. 




    The Pentagon has tasked a 60-person team to develop new policies and find advanced weapons that can counter the increasing threat of drones worldwide. 




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 01:00
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    "Go Outside!" President Macron Filmed Yelling At Israeli Police In Jerusalem Church Altercation

    On Wednesday French President Emmanuel Macron toured Jerusalem's Old City with a police escort as he attended the Fifth World Holocaust Forum in Israel. 



    He especially wanted to visit the Church of St Anne, just like some of his predecessors, given it's specially designated as French sovereign territory since being gifted by the Ottoman Empire

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    to France in 1856. The church is considered the best preserved Crusader church in the region, and dates back to 1138. By popular belief it enshrines the home of the Virgin Mary and her parents. 



    But President Macron's trip to the French national treasure was marred when he personally entered a spat with Israeli security, berating at least one Israeli officer to "Go outside, please!" in English




    It's unclear precisely what the Israeli security entourage did to provoke the rare and bizarre incident, but the historic Roman Catholic church is located in East Jerusalem — on the occupied Palestinian side which is also the Muslim Quarter of the walled city. 



    According to the BBC, "Mr Macron accused officers of violating rules that prevent them from entering the Crusader-era Church of St Anne, which is considered French territory."




    "I don't like what you did in front of me. Go outside, please," he warned them in English. "Nobody has to provoke."




    Video of the Wednesday testy exchange went viral in the hours after it happened. Macron appeared to be directing his wrath at a uniformed Israeli police officer.


    Still frame of video from the incident at the front of St. Anne's Church in Jerusalem, via the BBC.

    Macron referenced agreed up rules asserting control of the place as French territory: "I'm sorry, but we know the rules. Nobody, nobody has to provoke, nobody. We keep calm," the 42-year old French president said. 



    He also turned to a plainclothes security officer, attempting to calm the situation: "We had a wonderful walk. You did a great job in the city. I do appreciate it guys."



    He followed with: "Please respect the rules as they are for centuries. They will not change with me. I can tell you, OK?" And then he moved forward unimpeded into the church. 



    A spokeswoman for the Elysée Palace later told CNN the altercation involved a tense exchange between French and Israeli security, likely involving physical shoving, with the Israeli Foreign Ministry remaining mum immediately following the incident:




    "St. Anne belongs to France in Jerusalem. It is up to France to protect these places in this city. The Israeli security forces wanted to enter while security was being provided by French security services. The president reacted to an altercation between the Israeli and French security forces at the time of entering Saint Anne in order to end it, and to remind everyone of the rules that apply," the spokeswoman said.





    A similar incident had actually played out in 1996 when French President Jacques Chirac toured St. Anne's.


    St. Anne's Church with the French national flag flying over it in Jerusalem, file image.

    In that episode, which created an international incident for which the Israeli Foreign Ministry issued an apology, Chirac was angered when Israeli security shoved local Muslims and journalists that were among the entourage. 




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 02:45


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    Wahrheit Macht Frei... Truth Sets You Free

    Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation,



    This week sees the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi Auschwitz death camp by the Soviet Red Army. But the momentous event is being overshadowed by renewed attempts by the Polish authorities – aided by American and German officials – to shift the blame for the Second World War on to the Sovi

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    et Union.





    The grimly deceptive German maxim “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Works Sets You Free”) adorning the iron-gate entrance to Auschwitz through which millions of prisoners passed on their way to death, could be subtitled today with the more honest phrase “Wahrheit Macht Frei” (“Truth Sets You Free”).



    Because what is going on in the Polish commemoration of Auschwitz and claims about the origins of the Second World War more generally is an appalling distortion of history to suit current geopolitical interests in the West of undermining Russia. Concealing or denying the causes of war only traps the world into repeating war.



    Rather than being given a full place of honor for the liberation of the extermination camp in southern Poland on January 27, 1945, by the Soviet army, today Moscow is being sidelined despite its crucial role in crushing the Nazi regime and all its horrors.



    Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly declined to attend the 75th anniversary in Poland. Russia will be represented by its ambassador to the country. Putin is attending an equivalent event in Israel, and at that alternative commemoration will be afforded due prominence to mark the liberating achievement of Russia’s predecessor, the Soviet Union. It is understandable why the Russian president decided to give the event in Poland a miss because of the toxic claims made recently by Warsaw and other Western states concerning allegations that the Soviet Union colluded with Nazi Germany in instigating the war.



    This distortion of history has even gained an official status when the European Parliament – after Polish and Baltic state lobbying – adopted a resolution last September in which the Soviet Union is cast as equally culpable along with the Nazi Third Reich for starting World War II.



    When President Putin slammed that resolution as “nonsense” and went on to point out Poland’s own documented collaboration with Nazi Germany, the current Polish government, along with German and American diplomats, doubled down on the accusations impugning Moscow for having partial responsibility for the worst conflagration in history.



    Those Polish and Western accusations stem from the historical Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact which was signed on August 23, 1939, one week before the Nazis invaded Poland. Thus it is claimed that Stalin’s detente with Hitler emboldened the latter to launch the war.



    As Radio Free Europe reported: “German envoy Rolf Nikel and US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher both said on December 30 that Germany and the Soviet Union colluded to start the war in 1939 that led to the death of tens of millions of people on continental Europe.”



    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Moraweicka denounced Putin’s version of history as “lying… trampling the memory of those events. Poland must stand up for the truth, not for its own interests but for the sake of of what defines Europe.”



    That’s quite an audacious feat of historical distortion.



    The motives for such re-writing of history are obvious. Germany can unburden some of its war guilt for terrorizing Europe with its fascist genocide.



    By implicating the Soviets in Nazi horror, the Americans and their rightwing surrogates in Poland and the Baltic states can breath some air into the stale, breathless claims of “Russian aggression” towards modern-day Europe. That twist is especially odious given that the Soviet Union suffered the most out of any nation from Nazi barbarity, with up to 25 million dead and tens of millions more wounded.



    Poland has perhaps the most to gain from falsifying history. Its own shameful past of colluding with the Nazi regime before and during the war is, it is anticipated, whitewashed and shoved down the memory hole.



    The people lining up to disparage Russia over alleged Soviet complicity with Nazi Germany claim, ironically, that Putin is “rewriting history” by referring to Soviet records and propaganda.



    One of the finest scholarly accounts of the period from the First World War until the late 1930s and the outbreak of war is the work by British historian AJP Taylor, entitled ‘The Origins of the Second World War’ (published 1961). Taylor is no “fellow-traveller” of the Soviet Union. His study is a consummate exercise in objective scholarship.



    The Russian perspective is substantially corroborated by Taylor (and other Western historians, see for example this recent essay by Michael Jabara Carley). The Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact on the eve of the war’s outbreak was a desperate attempt by Moscow to keep the Third Reich at bay. Because, as Taylor points out, the Western powers, in particular Britain and France and Poland, had consistently rebuffed Soviet appeals to form a collective European security pact against Nazi Germany.



    Britain, France and Poland looked the other way when Hitler annexed Austria in 1936 and invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938. The Fuhrer’s manifesto in ‘Mein Kampf’ and his various ranting speeches during the 1930s explicitly targeted the Soviet Union and European Jewry for annihilation in a Final Solution.



    Polish ministers during this period shared the Nazi contempt for Soviet and Jewish people. The case of Polish Ambassador in Berlin Josef Lipski proposing to Hitler in 1938 a scheme to deport European Jews to Africa is indisputable.



    What Polish authorities today are compelled to deny is the objective historical record which assigns complicity to their predecessors in unleashing the Nazi monster. The fact Auschwitz and other Nazi extermination camps are on Polish territory does not seem to give these virulent Russphobes any pause for thought. The fact that the Soviet Red Army saved millions of Poles from Nazi barbarity – a barbarity that their vain, deluded political leaders emboldened – is perhaps the clearest example of how “Lies Do Not Set You Free”.




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 02:00


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    "The 2-Child Policy Has Failed": China's Birth Rate Hits Record Low As Growth Slows

    China finally abandoned its controversial one-child policy in November 2013. But more than six years later, millions of Chinese couples are still unwilling to have a second child. And that's a huge problem for the Communist Party, whose legitimacy in the eyes of the public depends on its ability to deliver on promises of unbridled growth and prosperity.



    And who c

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    an blame them? Entrenched behaviors die hard, and after the government's brutal treatment of citizens who defied its policy (which was initially imposed to ward off famine), we can sympathize with Chinese who simply believe that having two children isn't in keeping with the fundamentals of patriotic socialism with Chinese characteristics.





    But as the FT reported this week, issues of culture and perception aren't the only reasons Chinese women are still refusing to have more than one child. As we reported last week, Chinese GDP growth slowed in 2019 to its weakest level in 29 years...





    ...proving unequivocally that Beijing's massive credit stimulus hasn't done much, if any, good.





    Meanwhile, official statistics agencies reported that China's birth rate dropped to 1.05%, a record low. That's equivalent to 10.5 births per thousand Chinese.





    The UN expects China's population, the largest of any country in the world, to start declining by the end of this decade.





    It's the latest sign that the 'two child policy' is now considered an abysmal failure - so much so that party functionaries are apparently unafraid of discussing this fact with the Western press.




    Weng Wenlei, vice-president of the Shanghai Women’s Federation, a government body, said birth rates in Shanghai had plunged despite efforts to relax China’s population control. She said births in the city had fallen “swiftly” following a brief recovery in 2016, when China began allowing couples to have two children.



    "This suggests [the two-child policy] has failed to serve its intended purpose," said Ms Weng. "Consistently low birth rate will have a negative impact on Shanghai’s social and economic development."




    Leftists in the US love to complain about the costs associated with having a baby, even for couples who have insurance. But even in a society where most of the people's health-care needs are met by the state, Chinese citizens are still put off by the cost of care.




    Josephine Pan, a Shanghai-based data analyst, abandoned plans to have a second child after spending half of her family’s monthly salary of Rmb20,000 ($2,900) on her seven-year-old son. “It costs a fortune to raise a child,” said Ms Pan, 41, who after giving birth gave up her decade-long hobby of buying designer bags. “I couldn’t afford a second one.”




    Women in China are still reluctant to have children, even with the state promising cash handouts to couples who have two children, because they fear more children will hurt their careers.




    As in the west, a growing number of Chinese women are reluctant to have babies because they fear children would hurt their career. Chinese employers have a tradition of discriminating against pregnant workers as many female staff face demotion, if not unemployment, after returning from maternity leave.



    "I don’t want to risk my career to have a second child," said Lucy Zhang, a Beijing-based newspaper editor with a five-year-old daughter. "I have worked so hard to get to where I am now."




    All signs suggest that public sentiment is firmly entrenched against breeding. Surveys carried out in Shanghai and Shanxi province last year suggested that the number of women willing to have a second child is languishing between 10% and 25%. Furthermore, only 6.7% of women in Shanghai who are of child-bearing age and also possessed a local residence permit, or hukou, gave birth to a second child in 2018.




    "Raising a child takes so much time and energy," said Mary Xu, a Shanghai-based magazine editor who has a three-year-old daughter. "I have had enough."




    Though they are largely ignored or censored in the mainland press, China's debt burden is already becoming unwieldy. Last month, a state-owned giant defaulted on a dollar bond, the largest default in two decades. But the issues of being over-leveraged aren't strictly limited to the corporate sector. Local government financing vehicles are also in trouble.





    China bulls in the west argue that the Communist Party exercises such an unshakeable hold on the economy that they simply won't allow for a systemic debt cross-default. But as the party struggles to contain capital outflows, the country's reliance on monetary stimulus is finally pushing up against the boundaries of what's possible.



    To be sure, China isn't the only country struggling with population shrinkage: 27 countries have fewer people now than in 2010. The UN expects 55 nations, including China, to experience declines between now and 2050. Most of these are countries have developed economies, a status that China has only recently achieved.



    A declining population places inevitable constraints on economic growth. And as China's momentous rate of growth slows, its economy will come to resemble a frog sitting in a pot of water on a hot stove.



    For investors hoping to increase their exposure to China at a time of slowing growth, when the Chinese economy faces myriad difficulties, slowing population growth might create an opportunity in China's domestic government bond market, according to one of WSJ's Heard on the Street columnists.



    Numerous studies suggest that a shrinking population should cause real rates to fall. And of course we have a real-world example of this phenomenon in Japan, where government bond prices have never been higher. Of course, this doesn't necessarily guarantee that the Chinese bond market will follow suit. But it's certainly some worthwhile food for thought.




    Tyler Durden

    Wed, 01/22/2020 - 23:45
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    How The Military-Industrial Complex Gets Away With Murder In Contract After Contract

    Authored by Mandy Smithberger via TomDispatch.com,



    Call it a colossal victory for a Pentagon that hasn’t won a war in this century, but not for the rest of us. Congress only recently passed and the president approved one of the largest Pentagon budgets ever. It will surpass spending at the peaks of both the Korean and Vietnam wars. As l

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    ast year ended, as if to highlight the strangeness of all this, the Washington Post broke a story about a “confidential trove of government documents” — interviews with key figures involved in the Afghan War by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction — revealing the degree to which senior Pentagon leaders and military commanders understood that the war was failing. Yet, year after year, they provided “rosy pronouncements they knew to be false,” while “hiding unmistakable evidence that the war had become unwinnable.”



    However, as the latest Pentagon budget shows, no matter the revelations, there will be no reckoning when it comes to this country’s endless wars or its military establishment — not at a moment when President Donald Trump is sending yet more U.S. military personnel into the Middle East and has picked a new fight with Iran. No less troubling: how few in either party in Congress are willing to hold the president and the Pentagon accountable for runaway defense spending or the poor performance that has gone with it.



    Given the way the Pentagon has sunk taxpayer dollars into those endless wars, in a more reasonable world that institution would be overdue for a comprehensive audit of all its programs and a reevaluation of its expenditures. (It has, by the way, never actually passed an audit.) According to Brown University’s Costs of War Project, Washington has already spent at least $2 trillion on its war in Afghanistan alone and, as the Post made clear, the corruption, waste, and failure associated with those expenditures was (or at least should have been) mindboggling.





    Of course, little of this was news to people who had read the damning reports released by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in previous years. They included evidence, for instance, that somewhere between $10 million and $43 million had been spent constructing a single gas station in the middle of nowhere, that $150 million had gone into luxury private villas for Americans who were supposed to be helping strengthen Afghanistan’s economy, and that tens of millions more were wasted on failed programs to improve Afghan industries focused on extracting more of the country’s minerals, oil, and natural gas reserves.



    In the face of all this, rather than curtailing Pentagon spending, Congress continued to increase its budget, while also supporting a Department of Defense slush fund for war spending to keep the efforts going. Still, the special inspector general’s reports did manage to rankle American military commanders (unable to find successful combat strategies in Afghanistan) enough to launch what, in effect, would be a public-relations war to try to undermine that watchdog’s findings.



    All of this, in turn, reflected the “unwarranted influence” of the military-industrial complex that President (and former five-star General) Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans about in his memorable 1961 farewell address. That complex only continues to thrive and grow almost six decades later, as contractor profits are endlessly prioritized over what might be considered the national security interests of the citizenry.



    The infamous “revolving door” that regularly ushers senior Pentagon officials into defense-industry posts and senior defense-industry figures into key positions at the Pentagon (and in the rest of the national security state) just adds to the endless public-relations offensives that accompany this country’s forever wars. After all, the retired generals and other officials the media regularly looks to for expertise are often essentially paid shills for the defense industry. The lack of public disclosure and media discussion about such obvious conflicts of interest only further corrupts public debate on both the wars and the funding of the military, while giving the arms industry the biggest seat at the table when decisions are made on how much to spend on war and preparations for the same.



    Media Analysis Brought to You by the Arms Industry

    That lack of disclosure regarding potential conflicts of interest recently came into fresh relief as industry boosters beat the media drums for war with Iran. Unfortunately, it’s a story we’ve seen many times before. Back in 2008, for instance, in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series, the New York Times revealed that the Pentagon had launched a program to cultivate a coterie of retired-military-officers-turned-pundits in support of its already disastrous war in Iraq. Seeing such figures on TV or reading their comments in the press, the public may have assumed that they were just speaking their minds. However, the Timesinvestigation showed that, while widely cited in the media and regularly featured on the TV news, they never disclosed that they received special Pentagon access and that, collectively, they had financial ties to more than 150 Pentagon contractors.





    Given such financial interests, it was nearly impossible for them to be “objective” when it came to this country’s failing war in Iraq. After all, they needed to secure more contracts for their defense-industry employers. A subsequent analysis by the Government Accountability Office found that the Pentagon’s program raised “legitimate questions” about how its public propaganda efforts were tied to the weaponry it bought, highlighting “the possibility of compromised procurements resulting from potential competitive advantages” for those who helped them.



    While the program was discontinued that same year, a similar effort was revealed in 2013 during a debate over whether the U.S. should attack Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime. You probably won’t be surprised to discover that most of the former military figures and officials used as analysts at the time supported action against Syria. A review of their commentary by the Public Accountability Initiative found a number of them also had undisclosed ties to the arms industry. In fact, of 111 appearances in major media outlets by 22 commentators, only 13 of them disclosed any aspect of their potential conflicts of interest that might lead them to promote war.



    The same pattern is now being repeated in the debate over the Trump administration’s decision to assassinate by drone Iranian Major General Qassem Suleimani and other Iran-related issues. While Suleimani clearly opposed the United States and many of its national security interests, his killing risked pushing Washington into another endless war in the Middle East. And in a distinctly recognizable pattern, the Intercept has already found that the air waves were subsequently flooded by defense-industry pundits praising the strike. Unsurprisingly, news of a potential war also promptly boosted defense industry stocks. Northrop Grumman’s, Raytheon’s, and Lockheed Martin’s all started 2020 with an uptick.



    Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) have offered legislation that could shut down that revolving door between the major weapons makers and Washington for good, but it has met concerted resistance from Pentagon officials and others still in Congress who stand to benefit from preserving the system as is. Even if that revolving door wasn’t shut down, transparency about just who was going through it would help the public better understand what former officials and military commanders are really advocating for when they speak positively of the necessity for yet another war in the Middle East.



    Costly Weapons (and Well-Paid Lobbyists)

    Here’s what we already know about how it all now works: weapon systems produced by the big defense firms with all those retired generals, former administration officials, and one-time congressional representatives on their boards (or lobbying for or consulting for them behind the scenes) regularly come in overpriced, are often delivered behind schedule, and repeatedly fail to have the capabilities advertised. Take, for instance, the new Ford class aircraft carriers, produced by Huntington Ingalls Industries, the sort of ships that have traditionally been used to show strength globally. In this case, however, the program’s development has been stifled by problems with its weapons elevators and the systems used to launch and recover its aircraft. Those problems have been costly enough to send the price for the first of those carriers soaring to $13.1 billion. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jet fighter, the most expensive weapons system in Pentagon history, has an abysmal rate of combat readiness and currently comes in at more than $100 million per aircraft.





    And yet, somehow, no one ever seems to be responsible for such programmatic failures and prices — certainly not the companies that make them (or all those retired military commanders sitting on their boards or working for them). One crucial reason for this lack of accountability is that key members of Congress serving on committees that should be overseeing such spending are often the top recipients of campaign contributions from the big weapons makers and their allies. And just as at the Pentagon, members of those committees or their staff often later become lobbyists for those very federal contractors.



    With this in mind, the big defense firms carefully spread their contracts for weapons production across as many congressional districts as possible. This practice of “political engineering,” a term promoted by former Department of Defense analyst and military reformer Chuck Spinney, helps those contractors and the Pentagon buy off members of Congress from both parties. Take, for example, the Littoral Combat Ship, a vessel meant to operate close to shore. Costs for the program tripled over initial estimates and, according to Defense News, the Navy is already considering decommissioning four of the new ships next year as a cost-saving measure. It’s not the first time that program has been threatened with the budget axe. In the past, however, pork-barrel politics spearheaded by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Richard Shelby (R-AL), in whose states those boats were being built, kept the program afloat.



    The Air Force’s new bomber, the B-21, being built by Northrup Grumman, has been on a similar trajectory. Despite significant pressure from then-Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the Air Force refused in 2017 to make public or agree upon a contract price for the program. (It was a “cost-plus,” not a “fixed price” contract, after all.) It did, however, release the names of the companies providing components to the program, ensuring that relevant congressional representatives would support it, no matter the predictably spiraling costs to come.



    Recent polling indicates that such pork-barrel politics isn’t backed by the public, even when they might benefit from it. Asked whether congressional representatives should use the Pentagon’s budget to generate jobs in their districts, 77% of respondents rejected the notion. Two-thirds favored shifting such funds to sectors like healthcare, infrastructure, and clean energy that would, in fact, create significantly more jobs.



    And keep in mind that, in this big-time system of profiteering, hardware costs, however staggering, are just a modest part of the equation. The Pentagon spends about as much on what it calls “services” as it does on the weaponry itself and those service contracts are another major source of profits. For example, it’s estimated that the F-35 program will cost $1.5 trillion over the lifetime of the plane, but a trillion dollars of those costs will be for support and maintenance of the aircraft.



    Increasingly, this means contractors are able to hold the Pentagon hostage over a weapon’s lifetime, which means overcharges of just about every imaginable sort, including for labor. The Project On Government Oversight (where I work) has, for instance, been uncovering overcharges in spare parts since our founding, including an infamous $435 hammer back in 1983. I’m sad to report that what, in the 1980s, was a seemingly outrageous $640 plastic toilet-seat cover for military airplanes now costs an eye-popping $10,000. A number of factors help explain such otherwise unimaginable prices, including the way contractors often retain intellectual property rights to many of the systems taxpayers funded to develop, legal loopholes that make it difficult for the government to challenge wild charges, and a system largely beholden to the interests of defense companies.



    The most recent and notorious case may be TransDigm, a company that has purchased other companies with a monopoly on providing spare parts for a number of weapon systems. That, in turn, gave it power to increase the prices of parts with little fear of losing business — once, receiving 9,400% in excess profits for a single half-inch metal pin. An investigation by the House Oversight and Reform Committee found that TransDigm’s employees had been coached to resist providing cost or pricing information to the government, lest such overcharges be challenged.



    In one case, for instance, a subsidiary of TransDigm resisted providing such information until the government, desperate for parts for weapons to be used in Iraq and Afghanistan, was forced to capitulate or risk putting troops’ lives on the line. TransDigm did later repay the government $16 million for certain overcharges, but only after the House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing on the subject that shamed the company. As it happens, TransDigm’s behavior isn’t an outlier. It’s typical of many defense-related companies doing business with the government — about 20 major industry players, according to a former Pentagon pricing czar.



    A Recipe for Disaster

    For too long Congress has largely abdicated its responsibilities when it comes to holding the Pentagon accountable. You won’t be surprised to learn that most of the “acquisition reforms” it’s passed in recent years, which affect how the Department of Defense buys goods and services, have placed just about all real negotiating power in the hands of the big defense contractors. To add insult to injury, both parties of Congress continue to vote in near unanimity for increases in the Pentagon budget, despite 18-plus years of losing wars, the never-ending gross mismanagement of weapons programs, and a continued failure to pass a basic audit. If any other federal agency (or the contractors it dealt with) had a similar track record, you can only begin to imagine the hubbub that would ensue. But not the Pentagon. Never the Pentagon.





    A significantly reduced budget would undoubtedly increase that institution’s effectiveness by curbing its urge to throw ever more money at problems. Instead, an often bought-and-paid-for Congress continues to enable bad decision-making about what to buy and how to buy it. And let’s face it, a Congress that allows endless wars, terrible spending practices, and multiplying conflicts of interest is, as the history of the twenty-first century has shown us, a recipe for disaster.




    Tyler Durden

    Thu, 01/23/2020 - 00:05


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