UK: Why Are Dangerous Jihadists Being Released Early From Prison?

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UK: Why Are Dangerous Jihadists Being Released Early From Prison?

Authored by Soeren Kern via The Gatestone Institute,

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to toughen sentencing guidelines for convicted terrorists after a newly-released prisoner carried out a jihadist attack in London.

On February 2, Sudesh Amman, a 20-year-old jihadist from Harrow in north-west London, sta

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bbed two people in a knife rampage on Streatham High Road before he was shot dead by police. He had been released from prison just days earlier after serving less than half of his sentence for terrorism offenses.

Amman, who was carrying a 10-inch kitchen knife, wearing a fake suicide bomber vest, and shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("Allah is the Greatest"), had been under active police surveillance at the time of the attack, which London police described as an "Islamist-related terrorist incident."

In December 2018, Amman was sentenced to three years and four months in prison after pleading guilty to 13 counts of expressing support for Islamist terrorism and possessing and sharing Islamic State and al-Qaeda propaganda. He was 18 years old at the time.

Amman was arrested in May 2018 after posting Islamist propaganda online. At the time, police said that he had expressed support for the Islamic State, sent beheading videos to his girlfriend, and asked her to kill her "kuffar" (non-Muslim) parents. He also wrote about carrying out a jihadist attack:

"If you can't make a bomb because family, friends or spies are watching or suspecting you, take a knife, Molotov [cocktail], sound bombs or a car at night and attack the crusaders, police and soldiers of taghut [idolatry], or western embassies in every country you are in this planet."

In a search of Amman's computer, police found documents titled, "How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom", "U.S. Army Knife Fighting Manual Techniques" and "Bloody Brazilian Knife Fighting Techniques."

During Amman's trial, police noted that he had a "fierce interest in violence and martyrdom." Acting Commander Alexis Boon, then head of the Metropolitan police counter terrorism command, explained:

"His fascination with dying in the name of terrorism was clear in a notepad we recovered from his home. Amman had scrawled his 'life goals' in the notepad and top of the list, above family activities, was dying a martyr and going to 'Jannah' — the afterlife."

"It's not clear how Amman became radicalized, but it is apparent from his messages that it had been at least a year in development. Whatever the circumstances, this case is a reminder of the need to be vigilant to signs of radicalization and report it."

Amman's attack is the second one in the British capital in the past three months. On November 29, 2019, Usman Khan, a 28-year-old jihadist from Stoke-on-Trent, stabbed and killed two people in a knife rampage near London Bridge. Like Amman, Khan had also been released early from prison.

A day after Khan's attack, Boris Johnson announced a review into the license (parole) conditions of 74 terrorists who had been released from prison early. He also vowed to end the practice of automatically releasing serious offenders from prison before the end of their terms:

"The terrorist who attacked yesterday was sentenced 11 years ago under laws passed in 2008 which established automatic early release.

"This system has got to end. I repeat, this has got to end.... If you are convicted of a serious terrorist offense, there should be a mandatory minimum sentence of 14 years — and some should never be released.

"Further, for all terrorism and extremist offenses, the sentence announced by the judge must be the time actually served — these criminals must serve every day of their sentence, with no exceptions."

A Sentencing Bill included in the Queen's Speech in October 2019 would have changed the automatic release point from halfway to two-thirds for adult offenders serving sentences of four years or more for serious violence or sexual offenses. The bill, however, stalled due to a hung parliament, and was shelved later that month when new elections were called.

The latest attack sparked considerable anger. In an interview with Sky News, the editor of Spiked magazine, Brendan O'Neill, spoke for many when he said:

"The Streatham terror stabbing is a scandal. This man was an Islamist maniac. He was devoted to ISIS and he had planned to kill non-believers. And yet he was let out of jail after just 18 months. We've got to start taking Islamic terrorism more seriously."

Paul Stott, a terrorism researcher with the London-based Henry Jackson Society, added:

"We need an immediate moratorium on the release of terrorist prisoners, whilst the government reviews each individual case."

In an interview with the Daily Mail, an unidentified government source said that according to British law, Amman had to be released from prison early, despite the threat he posed to society:

"There had been concerns when he [Amman] was in prison but there were no powers for any authority to keep him behind bars.

"There was nothing that could be done to keep him behind bars under existing laws, hence why he was under surveillance and strict licensing conditions.

"He had served half of his sentence, which was more than three years, so he had to be released despite concerns over his conduct.

"The public will look at this case and say why was this individual not kept behind bars and the Prime Minister shares that view."

After the latest attack, Johnson promised "fundamental changes" to the system for dealing with convicted terrorists. He said that terrorists currently in prison will lose their right to automatic early release halfway through their sentences. Johnson stressed that the legal concept of automatic early release for people "who obviously continue to pose a threat to the public has come to the end of its useful life."

On February 3, Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland announced that the government would introduce emergency legislation — The Counterterrorism Bill — to end the automatic early release from prison of terror offenders:

"We cannot have the situation, as we saw tragically in yesterday's case, where an offender — a known risk to innocent members of the public — is released early by automatic process of law without any oversight by the Parole Board.

"We will, therefore, introduce emergency legislation to ensure an end to terrorist offenders getting released automatically having served half of their sentence with no check or review."

Buckland added that the changes would be retroactive and apply to jihadists currently in prison:

"We face an unprecedented situation of severe gravity and, as such, it demands that the government responds immediately and that this legislation will therefore also apply to serving prisoners.

"The earliest point at which the offenders will now be considered for release will be once they have served two-thirds of their sentence and, crucially, we will introduce a requirement that no terrorist offender will be released before the end of their full custodial term unless the Parole Board agrees."

A total of 353 convicted and suspected Islamist terrorists were released from prison between June 2012 and June 2019, according to Home Office statistics cited by the Daily Mail.

In October 2018, the Islamist firebrand preacher Anjem Choudary, described as Britain's "most dangerous extremist," was released from prison after serving only half of the five-and-a-half-year sentence he received in 2016 for pledging allegiance to the Islamic State.

Prison authorities could not prevent his release: under British sentencing guidelines, prisoners — even those who are still a risk to the public — automatically become eligible for release under license (parole) after serving half their terms.

In an essay published by the Daily Mail, Philip Flower, a former chief superintendent with the Metropolitan Police, warned that the fight against violent Islamism in Britain was being hampered by political correctness:

"As a retired senior police officer involved in containing terrorist and other threats during a 40-year career, I want to tell you of the intense frustrations that will be felt today across British policing. They will feel utterly let down by the judicial system.

"When I was a constable, I could arrest and process a suspect in an hour, maximum. Today, it takes a day or more.

"The police are mired in bureaucracy, while the judicial system has become an institutional cloud-cuckoo land.

"As a society, we have to decide how to deal with terrorist suspects. It takes around 32 police officers to maintain around-the-clock surveillance of a single terror suspect.

"It is insane to attempt to maintain this level of supervision of the thousands of individuals known to be of interest to the security services and counter-terrorism police. It seems as though the Streatham perpetrator was being watched by armed police, yet still he managed to stab shoppers....

"If we are to release convicted terrorists from jail early, then we would have to recruit thousands and thousands more police to oversee them, which of course will never happen because there is not enough money and we would find that level of intrusion unacceptable in a free society.

"There is a wider problem of maintaining the morale of the officers charged with keeping the public safe from fanatics.

"Bluntly, how would you feel if you were told to keep track of known terrorists who have been released from prison to satisfy the politically correct assumptions of our justice system?"

Ian Acheson, a veteran prison officer who in 2015 led an independent review of Islamist extremism in British prisons, told the BBC's Today program that the UK's risk-management system is fundamentally broken:

"We are going to have to accept that we have to be much more skeptical and robust about dealing with the risk of harm.

"We may need to accept that there are certain people who are so dangerous they must be kept in prison indefinitely....

"I am still unconvinced that the prison service itself has the aptitude or the attitude to assertively manage terrorist offenders."

Tyler Durden

Fri, 02/07/2020 - 02:00


Law Crime
War Conflict


The Real Umbrella Corp: Wuhan Ultra Biohazard Lab Was Studying "The World's Most Dangerous Pathogens"

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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




US Troops Seen Blocking Russians From Syrian Oilfields In Series Of Dangerous Standoffs

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US Troops Seen Blocking Russians From Syrian Oilfields In Series Of Dangerous Standoffs

Yet another dangerous incident has played out between American and Russian forces operating in Syria in what appears a series of standoffs near key oil installations since Saturday. “This is the third incident that occurred within a week,” one local reporter told VOA in an alarming report.

Image source: journalist Mohammed Hassan 

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Days ago we reported on the first incident involving a US convoy blocking a Russian convoy on a highway near the town of Rmelan, after the Americans were apparently concerned the Russians were going to enter an oil field, which the US administration says it has "secured". 

But now Voice of America reports three total incidents, with the most recent ones happening Tuesday and Wednesday in al-Hasakah province, as newly detailed by the opposition outlet Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

Image source: journalist Mohammed Hassan 

All of the incidents involved US forces blocking Russian military vehicles and forcing them to turn around as they neared sensitive oil installations held by the US-backed Kurdish SDF and American special forces in Syria's northeast. 

One eyewitness reporter on the ground described the following:

The incident on Tuesday is part of a series of similar incidents that happened in recent days between the two powers over their presence in Syria, local sources said. 

“This is the third incident that occurred within a week,” said Nishan Mohammad, a local reporter who said he witnessed another recent standoff between U.S. and Russian troops in northeast Syria.

“I was there last weekend when U.S. soldiers stopped Russian military vehicles and forced them to head back to their base,” he told VOA in a phone interview Tuesday.

While none of these close encounters between two major powers on disputed soil resulted in exchange of gunfire, it presents a potentially deadly situation which could set off spiraling escalation between two superpowers.

This is especially the case given the US and Russia now have small military installations dotting northern Syria in somewhat close proximity to one another.

Months ago US troops withdrew from some northernmost Syrian towns amid a Turkish military incursion.

In some instances Russian forces immediately came in and took over the same installations, such as the sizable Sirrin Air Base in the northern Aleppo area.

While it doesn't appear Russia has any intent to "take the oil" like the White House has repeatedly pledged, Russian forces there do represent the interests of it's ally Assad and the Syrian Army. 

And as Trump continues talking up "securing the oil" — most recently at Davos Assad has simultaneously promised to retake all of sovereign Syria, especially the oil-rich Deir Ezzor and Hasakah provinces. 

President Trump said while addressing reporters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday: “But very importantly, as you know, we have the oil. And we left soldiers for the oil, because we take the oil and we’re working on that, and we have it very nicely secured.”

Tyler Durden

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 21:05


War Conflict


Why Laws Against Hate Speech Are Dangerous

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Why Laws Against Hate Speech Are Dangerous

Authored by Fjordman via The Gatestone Institute,

In November 2019, Germans celebrated the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany 30 years earlier. That same month, Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a speech to the German federal parliament (Bundestag), advocated more restrictions on free speech for all Germans. She warned that free speech has limits:

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"Those limits begin where hatred is spread. They begin where the dignity of other people is violated. This house will and must oppose extreme speech. Otherwise, our society will no longer be the free society that it was."

Merkel received great applause.

Critics, however, would claim that curtailing freedom in order to protect freedom sounds a bit Orwellian. One of the first acts of any tyrant or repressive regime is usually to abolish freedom of speech. Merkel should know this: she lived under a repressive regime -- in the communist dictatorship of East Germany, where she studied at Karl Marx University.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects freedom of speech, specifically speech critical of the government, and prohibits the state from limiting free speech. The First Amendment was placed first in the Bill of Rights because the American Founding Fathers realized that freedom of speech is fundamental to a free society. US President George Washington said:

"For if Men are to be precluded from offering their Sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences... reason is of no use to us; the freedom of Speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter."

Without freedom of speech, you cannot truly be free. Freedom of speech exists precisely to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

What exactly is "hate speech," and who gets to define it? Those who love justice usually also hate injustice. But what is justice? Social justice? Economic justice? Ecological justice? Religious fundamentalist justice? Climate justice?

Hate may be a negative emotion, but you cannot ban emotions. Envy and jealousy are also widely considered negative feelings. Yet we do not ban them. Envy of people who are wealthier than you is arguably a component of Socialist and Marxist political parties everywhere.

The concept of a "hate crime" is also flawed. If you rob, assault or murder people, that is equally injurious regardless of the motivation of the assailant or of who the victim is. We should not have different penalties depending upon whether the victim is a gay black man, a straight white man, a Muslim woman or a Christian nun, or we will end up with a kind of a legal caste system.

Although the legal system should not be based on feelings or emotions, we see an increasing tendency toward this subjectivity. There is a tendency to censor certain viewpoints because they might "offend" others. The problem is, it is not the inoffensive things that need protecting; it is only the offensive things that do. When, in the US, the National Socialist Party of America wanted to march though Skokie, Illinois, home to many Holocaust survivors, the Supreme Court decided that the Nazis' right of free speech overrode suppressing the marchers. According to the Bill of Rights Institute:

"In these cases, National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie (1977), and Brandenburg v. Ohio (1968), the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protects individuals' rights to express their views, even if those views are considered extremely offensive by most people...

"American writer Noam Chomsky said 'If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.' Individuals who express unpopular opinions are protected by the First Amendment. The First Amendment prevents majorities from silencing views with which they do not agree—even views that the majority of people find offensive to their very core. "

Possibly many things people say will be considered offensive to somebody, somewhere. In 1600, Giordano Bruno was burned alive at the stake as a heretic for saying that the universe has no center, and stars are suns, surrounded by planets and moons. The findings of Charles Darwin were challenged by the "Scopes Monkey Trial" in 1925, when a high-school teacher in Tennessee, John T. Scopes, was charged with violating state law by teaching the theory of human evolution.

Just a few years ago, it was uncontroversial to state that there are only two biological sexes. After all, this is a fact that would seem pretty straightforward. Yet recently, even this simple statement has become explosive. When the tennis champion Martina Navratilova questioned the fairness of having transgender men compete in sports again women, but was eventually driven to "apologize."

In the UK, a physician, David Mackereth, recently lost his government job as a medical assessor after more than three decades for refusing to renounce his view that gender is determined at birth.

People who claim to combat "hate" often seem to be quite full of hate themselves. Some Americans claim that US President Donald J. Trump is a racist, yet themselves express open hatred toward Trump, and those who vote for him. They do not object to hating. They just seem to believe that their hate is the only legitimate one.

In 2013, the American scholar Robert Spencer was banned by British authorities from entering the UK. Spencer the author of many books about Islam and runs the website Jihad Watch.

The Koran sura 9:5 has verse stating:

"When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful."

The exact translation of this verse can be debated, but the Arabic verb qatala generally means to kill, slay or murder somebody. How come it is all right to publish the original source, prescribing murder, but that it is "hate speech" to point out that quote?

Robert Spencer and others have observed, for instance, that verse 9:5 and other intolerant verses in the Koran have been quoted repeatedly by militant Muslims to justify jihad attacks and violence (for instance here, here and here). Although other religious books also contain violence, as the scholar Bruce Bawer points out:

"Sometimes, when one points out these rules, people will respond: 'Well, the Bible says such-and-such.' The point is not that these things are written in Islamic scripture, but that people still live by them."

Muslims in Britain and other Western nations are free to spread teachings that are hateful towards non-Muslims. Yet because non-Muslims such as Robert Spencer pointed out that some teachings are hateful and have inspired actual atrocities, UK authorities banned Spencer for spreading "hate."

One sees, then, that restrictions against "hate speech" often do not really ban hate speech; instead they may actually be protecting certain forms of hate speech against legitimate inquiry.

Laws against "hate speech" and "racism" always lead to political censorship, because the definition of what constitutes "hate" is always influenced by politics and ideology. Laws against hate speech or racism should therefore be removed. No person has the right "not to be offended." Freedom of speech means saying and hearing things with which you may disagree. What remains important is to be able to say and hear them.

Tyler Durden

Sat, 01/18/2020 - 20:00


Social Issues


For Softbank's Son, "Conflating Luck And Talent Is Dangerous"

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For Softbank's Son, "Conflating Luck And Talent Is Dangerous"

Authored by Scott Galloway via ProfGalloway.com,

Third Base

The Dunning-Kruger effect posits that dumb people are too stupid to know they are dumb. They are not perplexed by difficult situations but overconfident — not knowing what they don’t know. As few people believe they are stupid, or a bad driver, a more relatable component of Dunning-Kruger is incorre

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ctly believing one area of skill translates to another. 

I suffer massively from this. I’m smarter than your average bear when it comes to marketing, so I’ve come to believe that makes me an expert on pretty much anything. I don’t know much about physics but constantly reference Galileo despite knowing little besides the fact that he dared challenge the church. 

There is evidence of this all over the marketplace. Great P/E guys believe they would make great VCs and vice versa. Hedge fund managers believe two years of above-market returns means they are also great operators. To disabuse anybody of this notion, take them to a Sears. Billionaires running for president, actors starting skincare lines, and tech CEOs founding media firms. Being rich also naturally makes you a great film producer. 

Masayoshi Son created $64 billion in shareholder value, mostly through deft acquisitions. Mr. Son can also boast of perhaps the best venture investment in history, $20 million into Alibaba that became $100 billion. That investment is tantamount to Michael Jordan hitting a grand slam on his first at bat wearing a Birmingham Barons hat.

Mr. Son has mistaken luck in venture investing for the ability to responsibly allocate billions based on a gut feeling. The size of SoftBank investments, relative to the diligence, now looks stupid, if not negligent. A writedown on an investment in a dog-walking app may have been avoided had someone in the SoftBank diligence team taken the time to discover they were investing $300 million in … a dog-walking app.

Conflating luck and talent is dangerous. As I get older, I’m struck by how big a part luck played in my life, and how much I mistook it for skill, well into my forties. The Pareto principle shows that even if competence is evenly distributed, 80% of effects stem from 20% of the causes.

Not recognizing your blessings feeds into the dark side of capitalism and meritocracy: the notion that success is a choice, and that those who haven’t achieved success are not unlucky, but unworthy. This leads to regressive policies that further reward the perceived winners and punish the perceived losers based on income level. The most recent example of our belief that poor people are guilty: The US now has the fourth-lowest tax rate in the world, and billionaires have the lowest tax rate of any cohort.

First Base 

I constantly humblebrag that I was raised by a single immigrant mother who lived and died a secretary. But truth is I was born on third base. My parents got me to first base before I was born, immigrating to the US. This took courage, desire, and a dose of selfishness. Both left families that needed them. My mom left London when her two youngest siblings were still in an orphanage.

In Europe I’d make much less money being an entrepreneur and challenging institutions. In China I’d likely be in jail. Having one of my companies fail would have bankrupted me in Europe, as the tolerance for risk or failure is scant. I have no idea what would have happened in China. In the US, a tolerance for failure meant a lifestyle my parents couldn’t have imagined crossing the Atlantic on a steamship in 1961. 

Second Base 

I have some talent and have worked really hard, but mostly my success is due to being born in the right place at the right time, and being a white heterosexual male. Coming of professional age as a white male in the nineties was the greatest economic arbitrage in history. Today’s 54-to-70-year-olds saw the Dow Jones increase an average of 445% from 25-40, their prime working years. For other ages, it doubles at most.

Economic liberalization (globalization, technology, market deregulation) coupled with social norms that clung to the past meant 31% of America (white males) were given license over a lion’s share of the spoils. In nineties San Francisco, I raised over $100 million for my start-ups. I didn’t know a single woman under 40 who raised more than a million. And it seemed normal. Even today, white men hold 65% of elected offices despite being 31% of the population.

Third Base 

Rich, fabulous people are the ideal billboards for luxury brands. Our nation’s best universities have adopted the same strategy. Universities are no longer nonprofits, but the highest-gross-margin luxury brands in the world. Another trait of a luxury brand is the illusion of scarcity. Over the last 30 years, the number of applicants to Stanford has tripled, while the size of the freshman class has remained static. Harvard and Stanford have become finishing school for the global wealthy. 

In the class of 2013 in the Ivy League, five of the eight colleges (Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn, and Brown) had more students from the top 1% of the income scale than the bottom 60%.

Fast and Slow Thinking

According to @thetweetofgod, intelligence looks in the mirror and sees ignorance; ignorance looks in the mirror it sees intelligence. The sectors that have enjoyed the greatest prosperity spread across increasingly few people — technology and finance — have created an unprecedented level of arrogance among people born on third base.

When we feel threatened, we are more prone to see each other as an enemy, rather than someone who has a different opinion. We want to dismiss and fight the whole person, rather than just what they said. From primeval times, our brains have been set up to identify “enemy” or “one of us,” that simple binary distinction. Do I trust them as a person or are they not “one of us.” When we are in our more evolved, slow thinking mode (Daniel Kahneman), we evaluate arguments. When we are in our knee-jerk, threatened fast thinking, we decide the person is our enemy and argue from our amygdala, not our forebrain. 

When we are threatened, we are also less empathic. Altruistic behavior decreases in times of greater income inequality. The rich are more generous in times of lesser inequality and less generous when inequality grows more extreme. When the poor need our help more, we are less likely to offer it, because we don’t see the poor as one of us. They become “them.” 

Michael Lewis writes, “The problem is caused by the inequality itself: it triggers a chemical reaction in the privileged few. It tilts their brains. It causes them to be less likely to care about anyone but themselves or to experience the moral sentiments needed to be a decent citizen.” 

Tyler Durden

Sun, 12/15/2019 - 12:15

Breaking Open A Black Hole: The World's Most Dangerous Experiment

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Breaking Open A Black Hole: The World's Most Dangerous Experiment

Authored by Haley Zaremba via OilPrice.com,

2012 was a big year for black holes. Or, rather, for our understanding of them. First, Scientific American published a moderately terrifying paper titled “Black Holes are Everywhere” and then a team of researchers at Princeton University numerically solved the Einstein-hydrodynamic equations in order to determin

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e that black holes are, in fact, way easier to create than previously thought. Their findings showed that the formation of a black hole requires considerably less energy than previous calculations suggested. Meanwhile, perhaps at least partly because of these revelations, concern over the world-destroying possibility--no matter how unlikely--of a man-made particle collider opening up an Earth-swallowing black hole has remained omnipresent in the larger conversation around atomic research.

The “Ultrarelativistic Black Hole Formation” study from Princeton University, published in 2013, developed new computer models which they utilized to show that the formation of a black hole would actually require less than half the energy -- 2.4 times less, to be precise -- than previous research had determined. The study reports that the researchers found that “the threshold for black hole formation is lower (by a factor of a few) than simple hoop conjecture estimates, and, moreover, near this threshold two distinct apparent horizons first form postcollision and then merge.”

(Click to enlarge)

Credit: W. E. East and F. Pretorius, Phys. Rev. Lett. (2013)

As a report at Phys.org explains, “Researchers know that it is theoretically possible to create black holes because of Einstein's Theory of Relativity—particularly the part describing the relationship between energy and mass—increasing the speed of a particle causes its mass to increase as well.” This is what drove the Princeton researchers to form a computer model based on Einstein’s original hydrodynamic equations. The model “provides a virtual window for viewing what happens when two particles collide—they focus their energies on each other and together create a combined mass that pushes gravity to its limit and as a result spawns a very tiny black hole. That result was expected—what was surprising was that the team found that their model showed that such a collision and result would require 2.4 times less energy than has been previously calculated to produce such a tiny black hole.”

And our galaxy is positively chock-full of them. It’s not just the famous supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, but scores of smaller black holes as well. Scientific American’s “Black Holes are Everywhere” tells readers that “most of the holes in our galaxy are perhaps 4 or 5 solar masses, and they're teeny, with horizons of only about 12 km in radius. But there have to be tens of thousands of them, the inevitable remnants of the short lives of huge stars.”

This news fed into fears that “Mad Scientists Performing Universe-Breaking Experiments” were flying a bit too close to the sun (so to speak) by conducting experiments at the European Organization for Nuclear Research’s (CERN) Large Hadron Collider (LHC) with the potential to open up microscopic black holes with potentially disastrous consequences. These concerns surfaced before the LHC -- an underground accelerator which forms a ring with a diameter of 5 miles near Geneva, Switzerland -- was ever switched on. A 2008 report from NASA succinctly titled “The Day the World Didn't End” tells readers that bringing the accelerator online “did not trigger the creation of a microscopic black hole. And that black hole did not start rapidly sucking in surrounding matter faster and faster until it devoured the Earth, as sensationalist news reports had suggested it might.”

The fear around these larger-than-life experiments was so potent and widespread that CERN has an entire page on their website dedicated to the Frequently Asked Question “Will CERN generate a black hole?“ and even the Princeton scientists addressed it in their academic report, noting that even with the new calculations finding that black holes require much less energy to open up than previously thought, opening up a black hole big enough to collapse the earth would still require billions of times more energy than the LHC is capable of generating. What’s more, even if and when a black hole did open up in the collider, it would disappear just as quickly thanks to an effect called Hawking radiation. 

(Click to enlarge)

Source: https://science.nasa.gov/ 

While fears of the Armageddon-causing potential of these microscopic black holes may have been overblown, however, the fact that the particle can open up these tiny black holes was then and remains now an absolute truth. Even CERN’s FAQ page concedes that “The LHC will not generate black holes in the cosmological sense. However, some theories suggest that the formation of tiny 'quantum' black holes may be possible.” Of course, the page goes on to reassure concerned readers that “the observation of such an event would be thrilling in terms of our understanding of the Universe; and would be perfectly safe.”

Nevertheless, there are still some scientists who think we are right to be worried about these experiments that are probing the boundaries of physics. Just last year the well-respected (not to mention knighted) British scientist Sir Martin Rees published a warning to take fears around the LHC seriously in his book “On the Future." As paraphrased by NBC’s science news site MACH,the particles crashing about inside an accelerator could unleash bits of ‘strange matter’ that shrink Earth into a ball 300 feet across. In another [scenario], the experiments could create a microscopic black hole that would inexorably gnaw away at our planet from the inside. In the most extreme scenario Rees describes, a physics mishap could cause space itself to decay into a new form that wipes out everything from here to the farthest star.” Rees himself recognizes that these scenarios are extremely unlikely, but in the author’s own words, "given the stakes, they should not be ignored.”

And now that the Event Horizon Telescope has successfully captured the first-ever image of a black hole, scientists are dreaming up ever more radical future experiments. Let’s just hope that as scientists continue to push against the limitations of human knowledge and ability the headlines continue to read “The Day the World Didn’t End.” Or that we continue to have headlines at all. 

Tyler Durden

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 19:05


Technology Internet


The 10 Most Dangerous Foods In The World

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The 10 Most Dangerous Foods In The World

Authored by Vikas Shukla via ValueWalk.com,

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

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

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

10- Raw cashews

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

9- Cassava

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

8- Blood clams

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

7- Sannakji

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

6- Rhubarb

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

5- Elderberries

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

4- Cherry seeds

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

3- Casu Marzu

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

2- Ackee

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

1- Fugu (Pufferfish)

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

Tyler Durden

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 20:00


Health Medical Pharma


Dalio: The Next Logical Steps In A Dangerous Journey To War, The 1935-45 Analog

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Dalio: The Next Logical Steps In A Dangerous Journey To War, The 1935-45 Analog

Authored by Ray Dalio via LinkedIn.com,

Regarding that classic dangerous journey, you have heard me describe it many times but, at the risk of boring you, I will repeat it. I believe that we are on a classic journey that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes but has happened many times before, most recently in the late 1930s. 

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It is being driven by the same big forces that drove the dynamics in the late 1930s. In particular, now, like in the late 1930s and unlike any period since, these three big forces are converging

They are:

  1. The largest wealth and political gaps since the late 1930s exist, which is leading to the emergence of and conflicts between populists of the left and populists of the right. If history and logic are to be our guides, it seems reasonable to worry that the gaps between the rich and the poor and the populists of the left and the populists of the right will become more war-like and that the consequences of their fighting could undermine the efficient operation of the economy as well as the efficient running of government. History has shown, logic suggests, and what seems to be happening is that the greater conflict leads to a) the reduced respect for both law and the art of compromise by our political leaders, and b) the increased testing of relative powers and the increased use of “emergency powers” to gain and use more power than these acts were intended for. It is likely that the upcoming US elections will be the greatest ideological clash that we have seen in our lifetimes, approaching the extreme fascist-communist clashes of the 1930s. It is likely that after the election there will be many more conflicts, tax law changes, and wealth redistributions that will have big implications for markets and economies.

  2. There is limited ability of the world’s reserve currency central banks to stimulate the economy in the event of an economic downturn.  When I imagine what the next economic downturn will be like with the social and political polarity that now exists, I expect it will be socially and politically ugly and that some form of “Monetary Policy 3” (see this May 2019 article) will have to happen or the economic depression won’t be rectified. To implement MP3-type monetary policy will require very large fiscal spending and large budget deficits that will have to be funded by a) substantially increased taxes on companies and the rich, and b) the printing of money by central banks and the buying of the debts that are coming from the deficits. Typically, this has led to capital flight as investors seek to escape these things, which has quite often led to capital controls that are intended to keep capital in the country and the currency so that it can more easily be taxed and/or devalued. So, naturally, I can’t help but wonder whether this extraordinary (i.e., nothing like this has happened in my lifetime) deviation from convention to restrict capital flows to China could be followed by these other steps when/if the circumstances that I’m describing unfold.

  3. There is a rising power (China) challenging the existing world power (the US), which will probably lead to more conflicts between them about many different issues. History has shown that this situation has led to the increased risk of wars that typically come in four forms: trade wars, capital wars, technology wars, and geopolitical wars. As far as the trade wars go, you can see them for yourself (so I won’t delve into them) and probably have yourself drawn comparisons with the Smoot-Hawley Tariffs in 1930 and with various tariffs in several countries during the 1930s. Regarding the capital and currency wars, the ability of the US president to unilaterally cut off capital flows to China and also freeze payments on the debts owed to China and also use sanctions to inhibit non-American financial transactions with China must be considered as possibilities. That’s why the proposed step of limiting American portfolio investments in China makes me both think about the implications of this step and wonder if it is an inching toward bigger moves.

For perspective about what can be done and how it would be done, one can look at the US freezing of Japanese assets and embargoing of oil to Japan in the late 1930s to early ‘40s; they show how the use of special emergency powers gives the president the ability to do these things. Emergency powers today are most accessible to the president under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977 (IEEPA). It empowers the president to unilaterally impose capital and FX controls, freeze assets and/or payments on assets (coupons), and force asset divestures to “deal with any unusual and extraordinary threat” from outside the US to “the national security…economy of the United States.” Just the realization that these moves can be used has important implications for capital flows. For example, how would you feel if you were an adversarial foreign investor holding US bonds given this situation, given where US bond interest rates are and the impending deficits and monetizations of them? Of course, China dumping US bonds would have its own terrible consequences too. In any case, from not having to worry about such things in the past, now all market participants need to worry about them.

Regarding the technology war, we have seen the tip of the spear with Huawei, and we (Bridgewater) have given you an extensive look at the moves we can imagine could be done by both sides, so I won’t embellish more on them. As far as the geopolitical war is concerned, it’s a war of influence that is being fought in the classic Chinese way of quietly gaining strength and showing that strength to one’s opponent so that they realize that it is better to retreat than to fight. That is certainly happening in Asia and, to a lesser extent, in other parts of the world. 

Countries are increasingly having to choose whether they are aligned with the US or China. When presented with this choice, they typically answer it based on both economic and military calculations. Almost without exception, they say that the economics favors being aligned with China because China is more important to them economically (because China is bigger in trade and bigger in capital inflows) and that the military support favors the US if the US is willing to use it to support them, which is highly doubtful. 

At the same time, China’s own military capabilities (including cyber) are rising relative to the US’s, especially in Asia. As a result, China is for the most part quietly winning the geopolitical war, particular in Asia. As for what is likely to happen next, the big thing is the 2020 elections because that will determine who the players are; until then, actions and agreements are more for theater to play to the crowd than the real deal. After the elections, the real picture will emerge. Longer term, barring any big shocks, time is on China’s side as it is improving at a faster rate than the US, and the big question is whether the world will:

a) peacefully evolve toward two different spheres of influence, with China the dominant force in the East and the US the dominant force in West, or

b) have more painful wars of their various types.

Under each of these three broad categories of influences, I have imagined a detailed sequence of events for how these dynamics will progress, based on how sequences of events have classically played out in the past and how it is logical they will play out nowadays. I do this so I can compare how events transpire relative to expectations. If they’re largely the same, I assume the sequence will continue as imagined, and if they’re different, I abandon my theory and recalibrate. 

To me, last week’s developments seemed like the most recent logical steps in this classic dangerous journey that is analogous with that which occurred in the 1935-45 period.

Four Appendices

What follows are four appendices. 

  • Appendix 1 provides a more detailed account of what actually happened, what can happen, and how it can happen pertaining to threats to curtail capital flows to China.

  • Appendix 2 recounts the path to war in the late 1930s via excerpts from my book “Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises” (available in pdf form here for free). 

  • Appendix 3 recounts various times monetary policies didn’t work because there was “pushing on a string” and provides the various Monetary Policy 3-type fiscal/monetary coordinations that occurred in the past. 

  • Appendix 4 provides the legal basis for capital controls and capturing the assets of foreign entities.

Appendix 1: A More Precise Account of What Happened, Why, and What Is Likely to Happen

To be precise, two narrow measures are being examined by the administration.

  • The first narrow step under consideration by the White House is whether to support/push for Senator Marco Rubio’s Equitable Act legislation. The Equitable Act outlines a process for the delisting of a Chinese firm from US stock exchanges if it doesn’t fully comply with US accounting and oversight regulations, e.g., audit requirements. Senator Rubio notes that China’s government has long been reluctant to allow overseas regulators to inspect local accounting firms—including member firms of the Big Four international accounting networks—citing national security concerns, and that a 2013 agreement allowing US regulators to request audit working papers in China has not been effectively implemented. Resultantly, in December 2018, the SEC and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) flagged the difficulties US regulators faced in inspecting the audit work and practices of auditing firms in China that examine US-listed Chinese companies. 

  • The second narrow measure under discussion is a potential ban (or restriction) precluding the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board from including the MSCI All Country World ex-US Index in the ~$50 billion Federal Employees Retirement Fund (FERF, the government’s main retirement savings fund) in 2020. Senator Rubio and other members of Congress who support such a ban argue that retirement assets of federal government employees, including members of the US Armed Forces, will be exposed to “severe and undisclosed material risks” associated with many of the Chinese companies listed on this MSCI index.

Why Are These Things Happening? 

The motivations and objectives driving these discussions appear varied: from wanting to enforce US accounting and oversight regulations in order to engender reciprocity (Senator Rubio’s Equitable Act bill), to curtailing access to US capital by certain Chinese firms implicated by national security concerns (restricting FERF’s planned MSCI offering), and ultimately to decoupling US and China capital markets so as to undermine China’s rise. There are officials (Peter Navarro) who seek to limit China’s access to US capital, as they think such access strengthens the Communist Party in China—an economic rival and rising geostrategic competitor with different values antithetical from the US/West. Recently, Steve Bannon characterized the goal this way: “The Frankenstein monster that we have to destroy is created by the West. It’s created by our capital.” There are other officials trying to circumscribe these measures and keep them separated from trade negotiations so as not to inflame tensions, sink markets, and weaken the real economy. Some officials, on the other hand, reportedly see these measures as giving the US increased leverage in the trade negotiations with China at a critical juncture. All these US officials appear to share concerns about US capital enabling Chinese firms when the lines of demarcation between state-owned and private firms are further eroding. They are concerned with the unusual influence the Chinese government has over private firms, including placing restrictions on the release of financial information of Chinese firms. And, importantly, they want to counter industrial policies such as President Xi’s new “military-civil fusion” directed at enhancing cooperation between China’s technology firms and the military and Made in China 2025.

These discussions, in turn, are taking place days before Vice Premier Liu He’s expected visit to Washington for high stakes talks on October 10-11. These talks importantly will play out in the shadow of scheduled US tariff increases, a potential Xi-Trump meeting, and the pending expiration of Huawei licenses. In particular, i) on October 15 tariffs are scheduled to increase to 30% from 25% on $200 billion in imports from China; ii) there is a scheduled meeting on November 16-17 between Xi and Trump at the APEC Summit; iii) on November 19 Huawei’s general temporary license is due to expire, and iv) on December 15 tariffs are scheduled to be imposed on $160 billion of the most politically sensitive Chinese imports (consumer products of high value to US consumers with no readily available substitutes (~87% sourced from China)).

Appendix 2: The 1930s Path to War (Excerpted from Part 2 of “Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises,” Which Was about the 1930 - 1941 Period)

While the purpose of this chapter has been to examine the debt and economic circumstances in the United States during the 1930s, the linkages between economic conditions and political conditions, both within the United States and between the United States and other countries—most importantly Germany and Japan—cannot be ignored because economics and geopolitics were very intertwined at the time. Most importantly, Germany and Japan had internal conflicts between the haves (the Right) and the have-nots (the Left), which led to more populist, autocratic, nationalistic, and militaristic leaders who were given special autocratic powers by their democracies to bring order to their badly managed economies. They also faced external economic and military conflicts arising as these countries became rival economic and military powers to existing world powers.

To help to convey the picture in the 1930s, I will quickly run though the geopolitical highlights of what happened from 1930 until the official start of the war in Europe in 1939 and the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. While 1939 and 1941 are known as the official start of the wars in Europe and the Pacific, the wars really started about 10 years before that, as economic conflicts that were at first limited progressively grew into World War II. As Germany and Japan became more expansionist economic and military powers, they increasingly competed with the UK, US, and France for both resources and influence over territories. That eventually led to the war, which culminated in it being clear which country (the United States) had the power to dictate the new world order. This has led to a period of peace under that world order and will continue until the same process happens again.

More precisely:

  • In 1930, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff began a trade war.

  • In 1931, Japan’s resources were inadequate, and its rural poverty became severe, so it invaded Manchuria, China to obtain natural resources. The US wanted to keep China free from Japanese control and was competing for natural resources—especially oil, rubber, and tin—from Southeast Asia, while at the same time Japan and the US had significant trade with each other.

  • In 1931, the depression in Japan was so severe that it drove Japan off the gold standard, leading to both the floating of the yen (which depreciated greatly) and big fiscal and monetary expansions that led to Japan being the first country to experience a recovery and strong growth (which lasted until 1937).

  • In 1932, there was a lot of internal conflict in Japan, which led to a failed coup and a massive upsurge in right-wing nationalism and militarism. During the period from 1931 to 1937, the military took over control of the government and increased its top-down command of the economy.

  • In 1933, Hitler came to power in Germany as a populist promising to exercise control over the bad economy, to bring order to the political chaos of the democracy of the time, and to fight the communists. Within just two months of being named chancellor, he was able to take total authoritarian control; using the excuse of national security, he got the Reichstag to pass the Enabling Act, which gave him virtually unlimited powers (in part by locking up political opponents and also by convincing some moderates that it was necessary). He promptly refused to make reparations payments, stepped out of the League of Nations, and took control of the media. To create a strong economy and attempt to bring prosperity to the people, he created a top-down command economy. For instance, Hitler was involved with setting up Volkswagen to build a more affordable car and directed the building of the national German Autobahn (highway system). He believed that Germany’s potential was limited by its geographic boundaries, that it didn’t have adequate raw materials to feed the industrial military complex, and that German people should be ethnically united.

  • At the same time, Japan became increasingly strong with its top-down command economy, building a military-industrial complex, with the military intended to protect its bases in East Asia and northern China and to expand its controls over other territories.

  • Germany also got stronger by building its military-industrial complex and looking to expand and claim adjacent lands.

  • In 1934, there was severe famine in parts of Japan, causing even more political turbulence and reinforcing the right-wing, militaristic, and nationalistic movement. Because the free market wasn’t working for the people, that led to the strengthening of the command economy.

  • In 1936, Germany took back the Rhineland militarily, and in 1938, it annexed Austria.

  • In 1936, Japan signed a pact with Germany.

  • In 1936–37, the Fed tightened, which caused the fragile economy to weaken, and other major economies weakened with it.

  • In 1937, Japan’s occupation of China spread, and the second Sino-Japanese War began. The Japanese took over Shanghai and Nanking, killing an estimated 200,000 Chinese civilians and disarmed combatants in the capture of Nanking alone. The United States provided China’s Chiang Kai-shek government with fighter planes and pilots to fight the Japanese, thus putting a toe in the war.

  • In 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and World War II in Europe officially began.

  • In 1940, Germany captured Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.

  • During this time, most companies in Germany and Japan remained publicly owned, but their production was controlled by their respective governments in support of the war.

  •  In 1940, Henry Stimson became the US Secretary of War. He increasingly used aggressive economic sanctions against Japan, culminating in the Export Control Act of July 2, 1940. In October, he ramped up the embargo, restricting “all iron and steel to destinations other than Britain and nations of the Western Hemisphere.”

  • Beginning in September 1940, to obtain more resources and take advantage of the European preoccupation with the war on their continent, Japan invaded several colonies in Southeast Asia, starting with French Indochina. In 1941, Japan extended its reach by seizing oil reserves in the Dutch East Indies to add the “Southern Resource Zone” to its “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” The “Southern Resource Zone” was a collection of mostly European colonies in Southeast Asia, whose conquest would afford Japan access to key natural resources (most importantly oil, rubber, and rice). The latter, the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,” was a bloc of Asian countries controlled by Japan, not (as they previously were) the Western powers.

  • Japan then occupied a naval base near the Philippine capital, Manila. This threatened an attack on the Philippines, which was at the time an American protectorate.

  • In 1941, to aid the Allies without fully entering the war, the United States began its Lend-Lease policy. Under this policy, the United States sent oil, food, and weaponry to the Allied Nations for free. This aid totaled over $650 billion in today’s dollars. The Lend-Lease policy, although not an outright declaration of war, ended the United States’s neutrality.

  • In the summer of 1941, US President Roosevelt ordered the freezing of all Japanese assets in the United States and embargoed all oil and gas exports to Japan. Japan calculated that it would be out of oil in two years.

  • In December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and British and Dutch colonies in Asia. While it didn’t have a plan to win the war, it wanted to destroy the Pacific Fleet that threatened Japan. Japan supposedly also believed that the US would be weakened both by fighting a war in two fronts (Europe and Asia) and by its political system; Japan thought that totalitarianism and the command military industrial complex approaches of their country and Germany were superior to the individualistic/capitalist approach of the United States.

These events led to the “war economy” conditions, explained at the end of Part 1.

Appendix 3: Past Needs for and Ways of Executing Monetary Policy 3

Monetary Policy 3 puts money more directly into the hands of spenders instead of investors/savers and incentivizes them to spend it. Because wealthy people have fewer incentives to spend the incremental money and credit they get compared to less wealthy people, when the wealth gap is large and the economy is weak, directing spending opportunities at less wealthy people is more productive. Logic and history show us that there is a continuum of actions to stimulate spending that have varying degrees of control to them. At one end are coordinated fiscal and monetary actions, in which fiscal policy makers provide stimulus directly through government spending or indirectly by providing incentives for nongovernment entities to spend. At the other end, the central bank can provide “helicopter money” by sending cash directly to citizens without coordination with fiscal policy makers. Typically, though not always, there is a coordination of monetary policy and fiscal policy in a way that creates incentives for people to spend on goods and services. Central banks can also exert influence through macroprudential policies that help to shape things in ways that are similar to how fiscal policies might. For simplicity, I have organized that continuum and provided references to specific prior cases of each below.

  • Fiscal/Monetary Coordination can take three basic forms:

  • Increase in debt-financed fiscal spending, paired with QE that buys most of the new issuance (e.g., Japan in the 1930s, US during WWII, US and UK in the 2000s).

  • Increase in debt-financed fiscal spending, where the Treasury isn’t on the hook for the debt, because:

a) The spending is paired with QE where the central bank retires the debt or commits to rolling the debt forever,

b) The central bank promises to print money to cover debt payments (e.g., Germany in the 1930s), or

c) Where the central bank directly lends to entities other than the government that will use it for stimulus projects (e.g., lending to development banks in China in 2008).

  • Directly giving newly printed money to the government to spend, not bothering to go through issuing debt. Past cases have included printing fiat currency (e.g., Imperial China, the American Revolution, the US Civil War, Germany in the 1930s, UK during WWI) or debasing hard currency (Ancient Rome, Imperial China, 16th-century England).

  • Printing money and doing direct cash transfers to households (i.e., helicopter money). When we refer to “helicopter money,” we mean directing money into the hands of spenders of money to get them to spend (e.g., the US veterans’ bonus during the Great Depression, Imperial China).

  • How that money is directed could take different forms—the basic variants are a) to either direct the same amounts to everyone, or to aim for some degree of helping one or more groups over others (e.g., to the poorer more than to the rich), and b) to provide this money either as one-offs or over time (perhaps as a universal basic income). These variants could be paired with an incentive to spend it—like the money disappearing if not spent within a year.  

  • The money could be directed to specific investment accounts (like retirement, education, or accounts earmarked for small business investments) to target it toward socially desirable spending/investment.

  • One potential way to craft the policy is to distribute returns/holdings from QE to households instead of to the government.

  • Big debt write-down accompanied by big money creation (the “year of Jubilee”). (e.g., Ancient Rome, the Great Depression, Iceland).

While I won’t offer opinions on each of these, I will say that the most effective approaches involve fiscal/monetary coordination, because that ensures that both the providing and the spending of money will occur. If central banks just give people money (helicopter money), that’s typically less adequate than giving them that money with incentives to spend it. However, sometimes it is difficult for those who set monetary policy to coordinate with those who set fiscal policy, in which case other approaches are used.

Also, keep in mind that sometimes the policies don’t fall exactly into these categories, as they have elements of more than one of them. For example, if the government gives a tax break, that’s probably not helicopter money, but it depends on how it’s financed. The government can also spend money directly without a loan financed by the central bank—that is helicopter money through fiscal channels.

While central banks influence the costs and availabilities of credit for the economy as whole, they also have powers to influence the costs and availabilities of credit for targeted parts of the financial system through their regulatory authorities. These policies, which are called macroprudential policies, are especially important when it’s desirable to differentiate entities—e.g., when it is desirable to restrict credit to an overly indebted area while simultaneously stimulating the rest of the economy, or when it’s desirable to provide credit to some targeted entities but not provide it broadly. Macroprudential policies take numerous forms that are valuable in different ways in all seven stages of the big debt cycle. Because explaining them here would require too much of a digression, they are explained in some depth in the appendix of my book “Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises.” If you want to dig deeper, please review that appendix.

Appendix 4: The Legal Authorities of the President to Curtail Capital Flows

The president has broad, powerful, and mostly unilateral authority to regulate commerce (trade and finance) with foreign countries, under the executive’s emergency powers—codified in statute and reaffirmed by courts (courts have shown great deference to the president’s judgment in matters of foreign and national security). Key among them and one that President Trump has tapped and will likely tap for any meaningful curtailment of capital flows (e.g., foreign exchange controls) is the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) of 1977. §1701 of IEEPA empowers the president to declare a national emergency to “deal with any unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source…outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” IEEPA gives the president discretion to “investigate,” “block,” “regulate,” “compel,” or “prohibit,” the “importation,” “transfer,” or “acquisition” of “property in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest.” §1702(a)(1)(B) of IEEPA empowers the president to act with respect to any person “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.”

In the 42 years since its enactment, presidents have declared 54 national emergencies under IEEPA, 29 of which are ongoing. Presidents have tapped IEEPA to restrict a wide range of international transactions while expanding both the rationale for emergencies and targets of the restrictions, e.g., at first, targets were foreign governments, and later IEEPA was used to target individuals and non-state actors (terror groups). History (judicial precedent and congressional inaction) suggests that Trump could wield IEEPA with great force/impact, e.g., delisting Chinese companies on US stock exchanges, blocking all US-based transactions or freezing the US assets of any foreign firm or person, imposing currency controls or restricting FX purchases for certain or all foreign nationals, forcing divestment of US assets, blocking SWIFT payments system for foreign firms, and prohibiting US firms from outsourcing to China. President Trump cited IEEPA as the legal authority enabling his “order” that American companies “immediately start looking for an alternative to China.” Barring a successful court challenge, the only check on Trump’s IEEPA authority is Congress, which has yet to attempt to invalidate a national emergency. The political bar for congressional action is high—under IEEPA, Congress can invalidate a state of emergency via a joint resolution. The Supreme Court, however, has held that a joint resolution will not suffice. Congress must pass legislation to that effect, e.g., amend IEEPA to circumscribe the president’s emergency powers. Trump could then veto the legislation. And overriding a veto requires a two-thirds supermajority in both chambers.

Historical Precedent

There is much precedent for the president’s use of emergency powers before IEEPA. Before IEEPA’s enactment in 1977, the president’s emergency powers—enabling broad regulation of commerce (trade and financial)—were anchored in the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) of 1917. It was enacted after the US entered World War I. Section 5 of TWEA delegates to the president broad wartime powers to regulate all forms of international commerce and financial flows and to freeze or seize any foreign assets during a time of war. While the 1917 Act required a declaration of war, it was subsequently amended in 1933 to allow the president to declare a national emergency during peacetime. The declaration empowers the president with broad powers over both domestic and international transactions (the amendment came about due to the Great Depression, and President Roosevelt invoked Section 5(b) of the amended TWEA to declare a national emergency and order a bank holiday). Specifically, the 1933 amendment gave the president the authority to: “investigate, regulate, or prohibit...by means of licenses or otherwise any transactions in foreign exchange, transfers of credit between or payments by banking institutions...and export, hoarding, melting, or earmarking of gold or silver coin or bullion or currency by any person within the United States or any place subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” For example, with the objective of denying Germany access to Danish and Norwegian assets in the US, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8389, based on the authority vested in him by the TWEA Act as amended in 1933, to freeze all financial transactions involving (and assets of) Danes and Norwegians. In June 1941, President Roosevelt extended the freezing of assets to all of continental Europe under Executive Order 8785, backstopped by the TWEA.

Tyler Durden

Tue, 10/01/2019 - 16:45


Business Finance


Nestle Steps Up Testing After Finding High Levels Of Dangerous Weedkiller In Coffee Beans

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Nestle Steps Up Testing After Finding High Levels Of Dangerous Weedkiller In Coffee Beans

Apparently, beer and wine aren't the only beverages containing surprisingly high levels of glyphosate, a purported carcinogen and one of the most widely used herbicides in the world (it's the main ingredient in the weed killer Roundup).

Swiss food and beverage behemoth Nestle warned its suppliers that it will be performing more tests on c

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offee beans after the company found higher levels of the weedkiller glyphosate - the key ingredient of weedkiller Roundup, originally designed and sold by Monsanto.

For those who aren't familiar with the controversial agro-chemical, Glyphosate has found itself at the center of a flood of lawsuits against Monsanto and its new owner, Bayer, as alleged victims claim that Roundup causes cancer. After buying Monsanto for $63 billion, Bayer is facing billions of dollars of lawsuits that have hammered the company's shares.

Now, the world's largest coffee roaster is forcing suppliers from Indonesia to Brazil to scramble to meet its new standards. Nestle hopes these tests will be "temporary" until these countries "correct" the application of glyphosate.

But Nestle's request is just one indicator of a conflict arising between companies that import large quantities of agricultural commodities and the farmers that grow them, as more countries ban or severely limit the use of Roundup.

"We actively monitor chemical residues, including glyphosate, in the green coffee that we purchase," Switzerland-based Nestle said in a statement. "This monitoring program has shown that in some green coffee lots chemical residue levels are close to limits defined by regulations. We are reinforcing our controls working with suppliers to ensure that our green coffee continues to meet regulations all around the world."

According to Bloomberg, the new measures requested by Nestle "have the potential to complicate global coffee trade-flows" since Europe has some of the most strict standards on glyphosate levels, while Australia and Malaysia also have relatively high limits. That's compared to the US, where restrictions on glyphosate levels in food are relatively lenient.

Nestle said it is "working with growers" to reduce their reliance on glyphosate: "Our agronomists will continue to work with coffee farmers to help them improve their weed management practices, including the appropriate use of herbicides and adoption of other weeding methods."

Meanwhile, a manager at one Brazilian growing cooperative said his organization is struggling to help members reduce glyphosate levels to help meet European standards.

Tyler Durden

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 20:05


Business Finance


Revealed: The 25 most dangerous software bug types – mem corruption, so hot right now

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Tired: SQLi. Expired: Format string exploits. Hired: Anyone who can port code from C/C++

On Tuesday, the Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) team from MITRE, a non-profit focused on information security for government, industry and academia, published its list of the CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors.…


The ECB's Dangerous Deflation Obsession

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The ECB's Dangerous Deflation Obsession

Authored by Daniel Gros via Project Syndicate,

Central banks aim for price stability, and today, prices are largely stable across much of the developed world. Yet central bankers declare themselves unsatisfied. Some policymakers, most notably at the European Central Bank, are even preparing further stimulus measuresaimed at convincing financial markets of their resolve to fight de

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flation. But such policies overestimate the risk of falling prices.

For starters, prices are not falling now; they are just increasing more slowly than central bankers would like. In the eurozone, for example, core inflation (which excludes volatile energy and food prices) is running at about 1% per year, and markets expect it to remain at this level, on average, for the next decade.

The ECB regards such low inflation as totally unacceptable. It defines “price stability” not as stable – that is, unchanging – prices, but as year-on-year eurozone inflation of “below, but close to, 2% over the medium term.” Similarly, the United States Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan have inflation targets of 2%.

Central banks are afraid of stable prices for two reasons.

The first is that the real value of debt automatically increases when prices fall. But fears of debt deflation seem overblown: because nominal interest rates are themselves close to zero, the real burden of debt would not increase even if prices remained stable. Moreover, the manageability of debt service depends mainly on whether incomes increase faster than the outstanding debt, not on whether the inflation rate exceeds the interest rate.

This is especially important for highly indebted governments (and households). But on that score, the picture is currently even more positive: nominal GDP growth in the eurozone remains around 3%, well above the interest rates on almost all member governments’ longer-term debt (the average refinancing cost across the eurozone is now close to zero).

As a result, eurozone governments are in a very comfortable position. Provided they run a primary budget balance of revenue and non-interest expenditure, their debt burden will slowly decline, relative to GDP. Households are also favorably placed: their incomes are growing by about 3%, while mortgage rates are heading toward zero. They can therefore just wait for their debt-service capacity to improve over time.

Central banks’ second reason for avoiding stable prices is that it might be difficult for prices to fall in absolute terms. In any economy, the relative prices of goods and services need to adjust in response to supply and demand shocks. So, for average prices to remain unchanged overall, some prices would still have to increase, and others would have to fall.

True, producers rarely face significant barriers to lowering the prices of most goods and services sold to consumers or other businesses. But firms generally find it much harder to reduce nominal wages to compensate for lower prices. It is better, therefore, for average wages to increase, so that those wages that need to fall do so in relative rather than absolute or nominal terms.

Yet the downward stickiness of wages is unlikely to become a concern anytime soon. Nominal wages are currently increasing by around 2.5% per year in the eurozone (and by over 3% in the US). These rates are among the highest this decade, which has been a period of strong employment growth overall.

Some may argue that average eurozone wage growth of 2.5% is not enough, and that the ECB’s expansionary monetary policy stance is thus justified. But the question remains: Should the ECB be preparing additional stimulus measures when the risk of harmful deflation is actually falling?

Moreover, downward wage stickiness can disappear, as the experience of Japan shows. In 2018, for example, Japanese wages increased by about 2%, the highest rate in over 20 years. But over the past 12 months, they have suddenly started to fall, even though labor-market conditions have not deteriorated. On the contrary: employment continues to increase and unemployment is still falling.

This is not the first time that wages have fallen in Japan, and previous episodes caused no noticeable problems. Some economists, in fact, have argued that downward wage flexibility does not seem to be a primary contributing factor to Japan’s prolonged deflation.

Central bankers today are thus facing a luxury problem: prices are increasing a bit more gently than they would like. Although inflation is below target, unemployment keeps falling to record lows, and debtors are happy. The need for occasional reductions in nominal wages seems remote in Europe and the US, and does not seem to cause trouble in Japan.

Given all this, it is hard to understand why the ECB in particular should be so anxious to find new ways to make its stance even more expansionary. Yes, economic activity has weakened over recent quarters, and survey-based indicators suggest that the global economy is poised for a slowdown. But as former US Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence H. Summers and Anna Stansbury have convincingly argued, by itself, further monetary-policy easing will do little to stimulate demand and drive inflation.

The ECB should tone down its rhetoric about the imminent risk of deflation and keep its course steady. Its hyper-vigilance about falling prices is misplaced, and its ability to increase the rate of inflation is dubious.

Tyler Durden

Sun, 09/08/2019 - 07:00


Business Finance


Dershowitz: The Dangerous Stalinism Of The "Woke" Hard-Left

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Authored by Alan Dershowitz via The Gatestone Institute,

Civil liberties are in greater danger today from the intolerant hard-left than from the bigoted hard-right. This may seem counterintuitive: There has been far more violence — mass shootings in malls, synagogues and other soft targets — from extremists who identify more with the hard-right than with the hard-left. But the influence of the hard-left on our future leaders is far more pervasive, insidious and dangerous than the influence of the hard-right.

People on the

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"woke" hard-left seem so self-righteous about their monopoly over Truth (with a capital T) that many of them see no reason to allow dissenting, politically incorrect, views to be expressed. Such incorrect views, they claim, make them feel "unsafe." They can feel safe only if views they share are allowed to be expressed. Feeling unsafe is the new trigger word for demanding censorship.

A "woke" rally in Washington. We must always remember that it is not only the road to hell that is paved with good intentions. It is also the road to tyranny. Photo: Wikipedia.

No university student has the right to be safe from uncomfortable ideas, only from physical threats, and any student who claims to be in physical fear of politically incorrect ideas does not belong at a university. The most extreme example of this distortion of the role of higher education took place at my own university when a distinguished dean of a Harvard residential college was fired from his deanship because some "woke" students claimed to feel unsafe in his presence because he was representing, as a defense lawyer, a man accused of rape.

We often forget that the concept of "political correctness" originated in the Stalinist Soviet Union, where Truth — political, artistic, religious — was determined by the central committee of the Communist Party and any deviation was regarded as unacceptable. To be sure, there is a vast difference between how Stalin treated political incorrectness and how the "woke" generation treats it. Stalin murdered those who deviated from his Truth, while "wokers" generally shun and discredit, though there has been occasional violence from elements of the hard-left toward those who deviate from their Truth. But both produce a similar result: less dissent, less reliance on the marketplace of ideas and more self-censorship.

For many "wokers," freedom of speech is nothing more than a weapon of the privileged used to subjugate the unprivileged. It a bourgeois concept that emanates from an anachronistic white, male constitution that is irrelevant to the contemporary world. Free speech for me — the underprivileged — but not for thee — the privileged. That is what the "wokers" want. Affirmative action for speech!

The other dangerous similarity between the Stalinists and the "wokers" is that both disdain due process for those they deem guilty of political incorrectness or other crimes and sins. They reject any presumption of innocence or requirement that the accuser bear the burden of proof. These bourgeois concepts are based on the recognition of human fallibility and uncertainty. For Stalinist and "wokers," there is no uncertainty or fallibility. If they believe someone is guilty, he must be. Why do we need a cumbersome process for determining guilt? The identities of the accuser and accused are enough. Privileged white men are guilty perpetrators. Intersectional minorities are innocent victims. Who needs to know more? Any process, regardless of its fairness, favors the privileged over the unprivileged.

When I was in college in the 1950s, it was the McCarthyite right that was censoring and denying due process. It was the liberal left that was defending free speech, dissent and due process. But for some on the left, this stance was self-serving, because it was people on the extreme left who were being denied these protections. Now that it is conservatives who are being censored and denied due process on campuses around the country, many on the left have remained silent. Civil liberties for me, but not for thee.

That is why I make the controversial claim that today the "woke" hard-left is more dangerous to civil liberties than the right. To be sure there are hard right extremists who would use — and have used — violence to silence those with whom they disagree. They are indeed dangerous. But they have far less influence on our future leaders than their counterparts on the hard-left. They are not teaching our college age children and grandchildren. They are marginalized academically, politically and in the media. The opposite is true of hard-left Stalinists. Many have no idea who Stalin even was, but they are emulating his disdain for free speech and due process in the interests of achieving the unrealizable utopia they both sought. They also have in common the attitude that noble ends justify ignoble means.

It is precisely because the ends sought by the "wokers" are often noble — racial and gender equality, a fairer distribution of wealth, protection of the environment, a women's right to choose, gay marriage — that liberals find it harder to condemn them for their intolerance toward civil liberties. But we must always remember that it is not only the road to hell that is paved with good intentions. It is also the road to tyranny.


Plastic Apocalypse: Dangerous Microplastics Invade Alps To Artic, Found In Fresh Snow

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A new study has revealed that high levels of microplastics have been detected in some of the most remote regions of the world.

The discovery, published in the journal Science Advances, is the first international study on microplastics in snow, conducted by the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany.

Melanie Bergmann, the lead scientist, and her team of researchers found microplastics from the Alps to the Arctic contained high levels of the plastic fragment, raises questions about the environmental and health implications of potential expos

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ure to airborne plastics.

"I was really astonished concerning the high concentrations," said co-author Gunnar Gerdts, a marine microbiologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute.

Bergmann explains that microplastics come from industrial economies where rubber and paints are used. The tiny fragments end up in the sea, where they're broken down by waves and ultraviolet radiation, before absorbing into the atmosphere. From there, the plastic particles are captured from the air during cloud development, can drift across the Earth via jet streams. At some point, the particles act as a nucleus around supercooled droplets can condense, and travel to Earth as snow.

"Although there is a huge surge of research into the environmental impact of plastics, there is still so much that we do not know," said Bergmann.

Bergmann noted how the scientific community was only in its infancy of examining the process of how microplastics get sucked up into the atmosphere then scattered around the world in some form of precipitation. She said, there's an "urgent need for research on human and animal health effects focusing on airborne microplastics."

"Once we have determined that large quantities of microplastic can also be transported by the air, it naturally raises the question as to whether and how much plastic we are inhaling," she said, "raising the question of whether breathing in these particles might increase the risk of suffering respiratory and lung diseases."

The study's sampling sites were on icebergs in the Arctic between Greenland and Svalbard averaged 1,760 particles per liter of melted snow, with one approaching 14,600 particles per liter. The highest concentration of all, 154,000 particles per liter found in new snow from the Bavarian Alps.

Bergmann identified a wide range of different plastics in the samples, from varnishes and paints used to coat structures, ships, automobiles, and oil rigs; rubber particles from car tires; fibers from synthetic clothing; and mass-produced synthetics, such as polyethylene, PVC, polystyrene, and polycarbonate.

More research on the full environmental and health impacts of airborne microplastics still need to be done, but preliminary results suggest a silent plastic apocalypse has infected Earth.


The sea is dangerous and no one likes robots, so why not send a drone on rescue missions?

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UK.gov offers £990k for pilotless pilot

The UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is coughing up just shy of a million quid to see how drones could help with sea rescue and surveillance operations.…


Eye-For-An-Eye: UK Caught As Trump's "Useful Idiot" In Dangerous Iran Policy

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Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk,

The UK fell for a US trap when it seized an Iranian ship on July 4. Iran struck back last Friday.

Useful Idiots

Eurointelligence provides interesting commentary of tit-for-tat ship seizures first by the UK, then by Iran in response.

The extraordinary story behind the capture of the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero is a cautionary tale on many levels. It has the potential of turning into a major

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diplomatic calamity for both the UK and the EU.

Simon Tisdall tells the story in the Observer that this confrontation was masterminded by none other than John Bolton, Donald Trump’s national security adviser. Several weeks ago, US intelligence services tracked an Iranian oil vessel headed for the Mediterranean, bound for a refinery in Syria. The Grace 1 sailed under a Panama flag. As it was too big for the Suez Canal, it undertook the longer journey from Iran around Cape Horn and up the Atlantic towards Spain. Washington alerted the Spanish government 48 hours before the tanker was due to enter the Strait of Gibraltar, but without giving any details that the ship might be in breach of US sanctions. The Spanish Navy escorted the ship but took no action at the time. Spain later said it would have intervened if it had been given information that the ship was in breach of US sanctions. 

Bolton instead tipped off the British, who felt compelled to intercept the Grace I as it entered the Strait of Gibraltar on July 4, dispatching a force of 30 marines who stormed the ship. 

The US managed to accomplish three things at the same time: escalating the conflict with Iran; dividing the Europeans by pitching the UK against Spain, which distanced itself from the UK manoeuvre off Gibraltar; and turning the UK once again into the useful idiot of US diplomacy. Not bad for a few days' work. But it is also a clear indication of the EU's total lack of preparedness to deal with a hostile Trump administration. 

Unsurprisingly, the EU’s response is divided. Spain is furious about the UK’s unilateral action in international waters off the Spanish coast. The EU’s external-action service, soon to be headed by Josep Borrell, Spain’s foreign minister, is silent. Germany and France are backing the UK - at least diplomatically - for now. Russia, Japan and China are with Iran. They do not want to risk oil supplies.

Excellent News?!

Dangerous Trap

The Guardian comments How Trump’s Arch-Hawk Lured Britain Into a Dangerous Trap to Punish Iran

Bolton’s delighted reaction suggested the seizure was a surprise. But accumulating evidence suggests the opposite is true, and that Bolton’s national security team was directly involved in manufacturing the Gibraltar incident. The suspicion is that Conservative politicians, distracted by picking a new prime minister, jockeying for power, and preoccupied with Brexit, stumbled into an American trap.

In short, it seems, Britain was set up. As a result, Britain has been plunged into the middle of an international crisis it is ill-prepared to deal with.

Much of this angst could have been avoided. Britain opposed Trump’s decision to quit the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the trigger for today’s crisis. It has watched with alarm as the Trump-Bolton policy of “maximum pressure”, involving punitive sanctions and an oil embargo, has radicalised the most moderate Iranians.

Yet even as Britain backed EU attempts to rescue the nuclear deal, Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt, foreign secretary, tried to have it both ways – to keep Trump sweet.

Eye for an Eye

The Financial Times comments on the ‘Eye for Eye’ Ideology Behind Iran’s Seizure of UK Tanker.

Eye for eye and hand for hand is our Islamic ideology. An American eye or a European hand are not more valuable than an Iranian eye or hand,” said Mohammad-Sadegh Javadi-Hesar, a reformist politician.


Nothing But War Will Do

Bolton wants war. Nothing less will do.

To get it, he is willing to radicalize the Iranian moderates and trap allies into doing his immoral bidding.

I am sick of this administration's war policy and treatment of allies.


Widespread, Dangerous Heat Expected To Roast 200 Million Americans 

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About 200 million Americans in the eastern two-thirds of the country will be trapped in a monsterous heat dome that will send tempatures over 100°F into the weekend, and with humidity factored in, the real feel could be a scorcher: 110°F, reported AccuWeather.


"Significant heat is expected across the eastern and central United States into the weekend as a ridge of high pressure anchors itself in place. This will promote very hot temperatures in the upper 90s and low 100s along with oppressive humidity. This combinati

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on will make it feel like 110-115°F into the weekend for millions. This will also impact energy and agriculture, leading to increased cooling load in the Northeast and Midwest as well as heat stress on Midwestern corn and soybeans. The heat will break into early next week," reported meteorologist and owner of Empire Weather LLC., Ed Vallee.

From the Rockies through Central Plains and Midwest, to the Southeast and up across the Northeast, very hot and humid conditions will start on Thursday and last through the weekend.

Cooling degree days, which is a measurement intended to quantify the demand for energy needed to cool a building, is expected to spike across the Central, Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast regions through Monday.

Much of the Midwest, including Kansas City, St Louis, Omaha, and Wichita, are under heat watches, likely to see warnings posted in the next 24 to 48 hours as tempatures are expected to top 100 degrees.

Washington, D.C., could peak at 101°F on Friday, with New York's Central Park reaching 97°F on Saturday.

"Excessive heat warnings cover a pretty considerable number of states today," said Alex Lamers, a forecaster with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. "Then we are expecting the heatwave to ramp up on the East Coast in the next couple of days."

Jim Rouiller, the chief meteorologist at the Energy Weather Group, said the intense heat could test regional electric grids from New York to Illinois, with extended power demand likely to "stress the grid-like it hasn't been stressed in a long, long time."

Data compiled by Bloomberg shows wholesale electricity at a hub in New York jumped by almost 3,000% to as high as $286.95 a megawatt-hour on Wednseday.

For farmers in the Midwest, record rainfall in the spring delayed a significant amount of planting that means plants have smaller root systems for this time of year and extended hot weather could lead to widespread crop losses for some parts.

Don Keeney, the senior agricultural meteorologist at Maxar, said it usually takes four or five days of temperatures in the 90s to stress crops.  "When the root systems are as shallow as they are this year it only takes a day or two," he said.

The heat dome is expected to dissipate next week as the jet stream drops southward across the eastern half of the country, allowing the heat to lift northward into next week.


ICE Raids Begin Sunday, But Targets Are Getting Dangerous Advice

zerohedge News raids begin sunday targets getting dangerous advice All https://www.zerohedge.com   Discuss    Share

Authored by John Banzhaf via ValueWalk.com,

ICE will reportedly begin deportation raids early Sunday, but targets are being given dangerous advice which could lead not only to their deportation, but also to deportation of other family members – so called collateral detentions – claims public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

For example, some advocacy groups are suggesting that, if ICE agents come to the door demanding that the door be opened, and claiming to have a warrant, residen

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ts inside should first ask that the document be slipped under the door for their inspection.

But, in most cases, ICE officials will have only a deportation order which does not require that they be granted entry, or authorize them to use force to come inside, rather than an arrest warrant signed by a judge which, to be valid, must also contain the suspect's correct name, address, and date of birth.

Asking people who are terrified of deportation, not legally sophisticated, and who might have only limited fluency in English (much less legalize) to tell the difference between a mere administrative deportation order and a valid arrest warrant, especially if ICE agentsmisrepresent it, may not be very effective, and could jeopardize their rights and also the rights of other family members, he warns.

A much safer policy for at risk families is simply to say nothing when someone knocks, not even confirming to the agents that anyone is at home, rather than trying to determine for themselves the validity of any legalistic document which might be slipped under the door, suggests Banzhaf.

In the great majority of such cases, the agents will have little choice but to leave, says Banzhaf, because they are very unlikely to have a valid arrest warrant signed by a judge, and in any event would probably be very reluctant to attract attention and risk adverse publicity by forcibly breaking down a door.

The tiny chance of having to replace a broken door is very small compared to the much larger risk of misreading a legalistic document - and/or otherwise being tricked into opening the door - and risking mass deportations, not only of valid targets, but also of other family members who may be present, he argues.

Indeed, says Banzhaf, regardless of the circumstances, those approached by ICE agents should say nothing at all, even though advocacy groups suggest that they should formally announce that they are "pleading the fifth amendment and choosing to remain silent."

Saying anything at all makes it harder to remain silent later, and later could be misconstrued or even misrepresented by ICE agents since, he notes, "anything you say can be used against you."

Since ICE agents have reportedly been known to use many ruses to gain entry - e.g., saying they are looking for a friend, searching for witnesses, or even representing themselves as police, etc. - groups should advise at-risk families to simply refuse to converse with anyone who comes to their door seeking entry, regardless of who they claim to be and/or what documents or authority they claim to have, argues Banzhaf.

Advocacy groups are advising at risk families to "take pictures, videos, or notes," but taking accurate and detailed notes when a raid is being conducted would probably be almost impossible.

In any event, any such notes would have only limited legal value or persuasiveness, warns Banzhaf, who points out that the notes could be confiscated, or somehow allegedly "lost" by the agents.

Simply telling families to take videos (or audio recordings) may not be very effective without telling them exactly how to begin taking such recordings on their cell phones quickly when the need arises.

Trying to suddenly figure out which apps to use and buttons to push during a brief and emotionally draining crisis is a recipe for failure and deportation, he argues.

Moreover, simply making such recording may not be sufficient, since recordings on phones can easily be erased, or the phones could be accidentally "lost" or "damaged" during the raids.

It would be much better, he says, for at risk families to be shown how to insure that such audio or video recordings are sent in real time to at least one alternative storage location (e.g., into the cloud, to a server maintained for that purpose, or even to a friend, etc.) in case the phone with its vital recording is seized, damaged, or otherwise cannot be used if the legality of any entry is later challenged in court.

Whether or not individuals agree with the new deportation efforts, everyone should agree that, if such programs are to be carried out, the legal rights of all affected must be protected. 

This is especially true of lawyers, since they are dedicated to protecting the rights of all Americans, says Banzhaf.


How do we stop facial recognition from becoming the next Facebook: ubiquitous and useful yet dangerous, impervious and misunderstood?

logicfish Security stop facial recognition from becoming next facebook ubiquitous useful dangerous impervious misunderstood All http://go.theregister.com   Discuss    Share
We talk to one CEO about why bans aren't the answer but federal regulation is

Facial recognition is having a rough time of it lately. Just six months ago, people were excited about Apple allowing you to open your phone just by looking at it. A year ago, Facebook users joyfully tagged their friends in photos. But then the tech got better, and so did the concerns.…

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