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Zero Hedge
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22 мая, 04:25

Is Gold About To Go Full Bull?

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Authored by Sven Henrich via NorthmanTrader.com, Is Gold about to go full bull? Let’s check some charts. Before we do, some basic price facts: Gold peaked in 2011 just above $1900. Since then it’s been an exercise in dread for gold bugs (Disclosure: I have no position, not trading Gold myself). Gold bottomed in early 2016 and now it’s back in the same price range it’s basically been in since 2013.  So basically the price of Gold has gone nowhere over the past 6 years which could be interpreted as a consolidation range. While the price chop may seem arbitrary we can however discern some structural conclusions on a larger time frame chart: 2 key trend lines: A supporting trend line from the 2008 lows connecting the 2015/2016 lows and the 2018 lows. Price remains above this trend line. A trend line that formed resistance off of the 2011 and 2012 highs and represented resistance in 2016 and initially in 2017. Price has broken above that trend line in 2017 and has remained ever since. Bottomline: Trend line resistance has been overcome and trend line support has been affirmed. Combined these events are supportive of a potentially larger bullish outlook. However price has really not make much progress. In the chart above one may identify a potential bull flag, that has risk back to the support trend line. Taking a closer look we can see an additional pattern, and I present a structure identified by my better half Mella, a potential inverse pattern on Gold: To be clear: This is not a confirmed pattern, it’s a potential pattern, but it comes with the aforementioned bull flag as well. To see confirmation Gold needs to move solidly above 1350-1380, a perhaps tall order in its current configuration, but that pattern, if triggered may be quite powerful as it implies a $1520 target. When is the pattern and support structure invalid? A sustained drop below 1250 would spell trouble. 1250 represents confluence support of the long term support trend line and the .236 fib level shown in the earlier chart. Another way to think about the setup? Risk/reward. If the pattern plays out, risk can be defined as 1230/1250 and upside reward to 1520, or about 3% downside and 19% upside from current price levels. *  *  * For the latest public analysis please visit NorthmanTrader. To subscribe to our market products please visit Services.

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22 мая, 04:05

White House Planned To Use Huawei As Trade 'Bargaining Chip'

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If there was any lingering doubt that President Trump has treated Huawei like a 'bargaining chip' during trade talks with the Chinese, Bloomberg just put the issue to rest. In a report sourced to administration insiders, BBG reported that the Trump administration waited to blacklist Huawei until talks with the Chinese had hit an impasse, because they were concerned that targeting Huawei would disrupt the talks. Plans to punish Huawei - including possible economic sanctions - had been kicking around for months. And prosecutors took their first tentative steps toward holding Huawei 'accountable' by convincing Canada to arrest Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. And once trade talks had broken down, there was a 'scramble' to implement the measures against Huawei. Though BBG doesn't offer a definitive answer on this, it reports that some are suspicious that Trump is pressuring Huawei to 'gain a negotiating edge' with Beijing (meanwhile, the Chinese leadership are furious about the decision). Timing of the U.S. action raised questions about whether President Donald Trump is punishing the company in part to gain a negotiating edge with Beijing in a deepening clash over trade. Talks between Beijing and Washington deadlocked this month as Trump accused China of backing out of a deal that was taking shape with U.S. officials, saying China reneged on an agreement to enshrine a wide range of reforms in law. Another take on what happened suggested that the decision to hold back on Huawei actually came from the bureaucracy, as administration officials were worried President Trump would just scrap the measures as a favor to Xi, like he did last year with ZTE Corp. Those concerns haven't entirely abated. Washington has offered Huawei some wiggle room by suspending the new restrictions for 90 days. The company has been stockpiling chips, and reportedly already has enough to keep its business running for three months.  But this report effectively confirms that the administration wasn't being entirely truthful when it said there was 'no link' between Huawei and the trade talks. Trump said back in December that he would go so far as to intervene in efforts to extradite Meng Wanzhou if it would help with the trade talks. And although that would be extreme, we should rule it out just yet.

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22 мая, 03:45

Two Scenarios For Trump-Russia Investigators... And Neither Is Comforting

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Authored by Sharyl Attkisson , op-ed via The Hill, As the investigations into the Trump-Russia investigation proceed, it’s not too difficult to figure out a few of the theoretical starting points. The first and most obvious theory is the one largely promulgated in the media for the better part of two years. It goes something like this: The sharp, super-sleuth investigative skills of top officials within the Justice Department and our intel community enabled them to identify Donald Trump and his campaign as treacherous conduits to Russian President Vladimir Putin himself. That theory was summarily dismissed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusion that there wasn’t so much as even coordination between Russia and Trump, or any American. So that leaves several other possibilities … and none of them is good: They knew One possibility to be considered is that top Obama administration officials knew all along there never was any real collusion or crime at play, but they manufactured the false Russia premise in order to justify their political spying. Under this hypothetical scenario, they wanted to get inside information on the Trump campaign and, perhaps, gather dirt against the competition for blackmail or political purposes. This effort included surveillance using paid spies and wiretaps on multiple Trump associates, as reported in the press. The Obama officials had lots of help from foreign players such as the United Kingdom and Russia’s nemesis, Ukraine. Ukrainian-linked Democrats assisted with an early effort to gin up negative press coverage about key players, such as Trump associate Paul Manafort, who had been hired by the pro-Russian Ukrainian government prior to the anti-Russian Ukrainian government taking over in 2014. There were other Ukraine entanglements, such as the lucrative position earning millions of dollars that then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son got in 2015 to serve on the board of a Ukrainian energy company under the anti-Russia Ukraine regime. Anyhow, under this scenario, after Trump defied all predictions and won the election, those who had conspired against him went into panic mode. They rightly worried that Trump, his national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and others outside the “establishment” would be able to see what Justice Department and intel officials had been up to in secret. They were worried that not only would their furtive activities in 2016 be exposed but that their behavior during the past decade-plus, when there were many other documented surveillance and intel abuses. These abuses include improper surveillance of American citizens, political figures, journalists and other targets. One can only imagine all the things they did that never became public. Whose communications did they pretend to capture accidentally? Whose bank records, photos, emails, text messages, internet history and keystrokes were monitored? What unverified or false evidence did intel officials present to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to get wiretaps on political enemies? Who improperly “unmasked” whom? Hypothetically, these government officials — desperate to keep their deeds in the dark — rushed to amplify the Trump-Russia collusion narrative. Putting Trump under investigation, even if under false pretenses, would accomplish the goal of keeping him from poking around into their business and practices. Any attempts he’d make to find out what was going on inside his own Justice Department or intel agencies would automatically be declared “Obstruction!” However, they were sloppy. First, they were sloppy in the improper actions they undertook over a decade or more. They never imagined outsiders would ever really get a look at the evidence of their alleged wrongdoing. Then, they became sloppier in their panic-stricken attempts to cover up after Trump got elected. As you can see, this scenario presumes a level of corruption. For those who aren’t prepared to accept the possibility that some within our Justice Department and intel community would frame Trump and his associates to keep their own alleged crimes secret, there is at least one other possibility. But it may not be much more palatable. They didn’t know If Mueller is correct and there was no collusion or even coordination between Russia and Trump, or any American, and if the Obama administration officials who insisted that was the case are not corrupt, then they collectively suffered from one of the most historically monumental cases of poor judgment in U.S. intelligence history. Under this scenario, the seasoned experts entrusted to protect our national security committed the kind of bush-league mistakes that few novice investigators would make. They jumped to conclusions with no evidence. They let their own biases lead them down trails in the wrong direction. They misinterpreted evidence, misread people’s actions and barked up the wrong trees. They misconstrued exceedingly common business and political contacts with Russians as deep, dark, dastardly plots. They wasted energy and resources chasing specters, ghosts and conspiracies where none existed. Under this scenario, the misguided obsession over nonexistent treachery and enemies of the state caused the officials to underestimate or ignore the real threats that were right under their noses. We do know this much: Only after Trump was elected did these officials ring major alarm bells about the Russians. It’s as if they are utterly unaware that the election interference they suspected and detected happened while they were in charge. Or maybe they just hope to convince us to look the other way. Instead of looking the other way, we might be well advised to open the books and examine how these officials were running their shops well before 2016. What does either scenario imply about how these operators behaved behind closed doors? How did they use their power and the powerful tools at their disposal? How well did they guard the nation’s interests and our deepest secrets? Whether they were corrupt or inept, whether they knew or whether they didn’t know, the questions seem important to answer.

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22 мая, 03:43

Yuan, Futures Slide On Reports Trump Administration Expands China Tech Blacklist

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US equity futures are sliding as Asian markets open after a NYTimes report that the Trump administration is considering limits to a Chinese video surveillance giant’s ability to buy American technology. Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, a company controlled by the Chinese government, is now the world's largest supplier of video surveillance equipment, with internet-enabled cameras installed in more than 100 countries. The move would effectively place the company on a United States blacklist, and as NYT notes, it also would mark the first time the Trump administration punished a Chinese company for its role in the surveillance and mass detention of Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority. And this escalation has sparked selling in stocks... And yuan... Congress and the administration have responded with other measures that may clamp down on Hikvision’s business. Congress included a provision in its 2019 military spending authorization bill that banned federal agencies from using Chinese video surveillance products made by Hikvision or Dahua. The Trump administration is also considering imposing sanctions on specific Chinese officials known to play critical roles in the surveillance and detention system in Xinjiang. These sanctions would be imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act. The highest-ranking official being considered for this type of targeted sanction is Chen Quanguo, a member of the party’s Politburo and party chief of Xinjiang since August 2016.

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22 мая, 03:25

US Warns Assad Of "Quick Response" After New Chemical Attack Allegation

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Here we go again with a claim that seems to surface every Spring: the US says it is looking into allegations the Syrian government has used chemical weapons as it continues an offensive against jihadists in northwest Syria. Just as in prior incidents, it appears the sole originator of the claim is al-Qaeda in Syria, currently battling it out with pro-Assad forces near Idlib. And like with prior chemical attack allegations, it comes at a moment the jihadists are fast losing ground in the area.  According to Reuters, citing US State Department remarks:  US State Department says it sees signs Syrian government may be renewing use of chemical weapons, including alleged chlorine attack on May 19.  File photo from fighting in Douma last year, site of a prior chemical attack allegation, via the AFP. The State Department spokesman said in a written statement the US is closely monitoring Assad military operations in northwest Syria after an alleged chlorine attack on Sunday. "We are still gathering information on this incident, but we repeat our warning that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, the United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately," the statement reads.  The May 19 claimed incident has received little to no media coverage since it allegedly happened Sunday, with nothing in the way of any kind of photographs or footage yet to surface, unlike prior highly publicized chemical attack claims. It allegedly occurred near Idlib or possibly in northeast Latakia province, a government stronghold southwest of Idlib, and it appears the initial claim was made by none other that Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham before being picked up by Syrian opposition media groups and among some western Middle East think tanks analysts.   According to prior United States government statements Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) is synonymous with al-Qaeda in Syria (as it rebranded from Nusrah Front). Thus it once again it appears the United States is blindly parroting the claims al-Qaeda terrorists.  The few details that currently exist surrounding the claimed chemical attack were reported Sunday by Middle East-based source Al Masdar News: The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) launched a new attack to capture the key town of Kabani in the northeastern countryside of the Latakia Governorate. Led by the 4th Armored Division, the Syrian Arab Army began their assault by launching a flurry of missiles and artillery shells towards the positions of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP). During this barrage of missiles, the militants accused the Syrian Arab Army of using chlorine gas against them. Two years ago in April 2017 it was also HTS that initially claimed a chemical attack by pro-Assad forces in Khan Shaykhun, Idlib province - which eventually resulted in President Trump ordering airstrikes on Syria for the first time.  During that incident, as well as ones following such as the more recent events in Douma outside of Damascus, both Syria and Russia have pointed the finger at al-Qaeda operatives and their backers for staging such "provocations" in order to draw in US intervention.  Brett McGurk — then White House appointed anti-ISIS envoy — previously described Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham, the group making the latest chemical attack claims, in unusually frank comments: @brett_mcgurk labels #Idlib the largest al-Qaeda safe haven. He also attacks indirectly #Turkey and wants to isolate the province. pic.twitter.com/bSaQsvX9ab — Ali Osman Özkök (@Ozkok_A) July 30, 2017 Interestingly, the State Department in its Tuesday statement made extensive reference to repeat Russian and Syrian "false flag" allegations. According to the State Dept.: Russia and the Assad regime have made these false allegations as a pretext in advance of the Assad regime’s own barbaric chemical weapons attacks. The facts, however, are clear: the Assad regime itself has conducted almost all verified chemical weapons attacks. The statement further said Russian media criticisms of the White Helmets are part of "a continuing disinformation campaign" to create a "false narrative".  However, ironically these new allegations have surfaced just after a leaked report produced by the international watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), paints a very different picture contracting the US version of events on Douma last April 2018.  The Douma incident led to massive US and allied airstrikes on Damascus, which Trump had said was a "limited" and punitive campaign in order to prevent chemical weapons usage. 

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22 мая, 03:05

Geologist: A Yellowstone Eruption "Would Destroy Most Of America"

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Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com, A geologist has said that if the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, it would destroy most of the United States, all but wiping the country off of the map. Dr. Jerzy Zaba is importantly not predicting that the volcano is going to erupt soon, but simply stating that it does have the power to destroy humanity and life as we know it. According to Tech WP, Dr. Zaba says that Yellowstone, if it erupted in a similar manner as it did 640,000 years ago, it would destroy much of the United States. Dr. Zaba, who is a geologist at the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland, said the mass explosion is completely unavoidable although it’s impossible to say when that explosion will occur. In addition to the annihilation of the United States, the geologist also says about 5 billion other people will starve to death in the volcanoes aftermath: a volcanic winter. It is forecasted that if there was an explosion similar to the one from 640,000. for years, it would destroy most of the United States. Discarded materials would cover everything with a meter layer within a radius of 500 km. And due to the emission of a huge amount of dust, gases or sulfur oxide to the atmosphere, there would be a temporary cooling of the climate. Sulfur oxide would create a thin veil of sulfuric acid around the planet reflecting sunlight. [This] would persist for many years. It is estimated that due to climate change about five billion people would starve to death. The scenario of such an explosion can be seen in the documentary film “Superwulkan – disaster scenario”. This is, of course, a catastrophic film, but a lot of scientific truth in it. –Dr. Jerzy Zaba, via Tech WP An eruption at Yellowstone would cause the Earth’s temperature to plummet as the sulfuric acid would reflect the sunlight, making growing food difficult across the globe. As more talk is made by geologists that suggest that the supervolcanoes are “waking up” around the world, the fears will simultaneously spike. That doesn’t mean an eruption will happen anytime soon, only that Earth will experience another supervolcano eruption in the future. Recently, there was even talk that the Laacher See volcano 650 kilometers from the Polish border has “come to life“. When that volcano last erupted nearly 13 thousand years ago, the population living in its vicinity died out. Europe also then suffered from several colder years of “volcanic winter”. Experts still say there is no reason to fear a supervolcano eruption just yet, but understanding the devastation that we will all face sooner or later is important in the advancement of science and human survival.

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22 мая, 02:45

Antifa Organizer Ordered To Pay Legal Fees Over 'Unreasonable, Frivolous' Lawsuit

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A San Francisco judge on Wednesday ordered a Berkeley Antifa organizer to pay Judicial Watch $22,000 in legal fees and $4,000 in litigation costs, while her co-plaintiffs were ordered to pay $1,000 each to the conservative legal watchdog.  Judge Vince Chhabria, an Obama appointee, called Yvette Felarca's lawsuit against Berkeley Unified - in which Judicial Watch was named as a party - "frivolous" and "unreasonable."  Felarca is a prominent figure in By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), a group founded by the Marxist Revolutionary Workers League that protests conservative speaking engagements. In 2016, Felarca and two of her allies were arrested and charged with several crimes, including felony assault, for inciting a riot in Sacramento. Earlier this year, Felarca was ordered to stand trial for assault. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, Northern District of California, who had previously ruled that Felarca’s lawsuit was “entirely frivolous,” wrote in his ruling awarding legal fees to Judicial Watch that Felarca and her co-plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims were “premised on the obviously baseless assumption” that the First Amendment condemns the speech of some while condoning the ideological missions of others. -Judicial Watch Chhabria also said that "The plaintiffs also mischaracterized the documents under review" and had "failed to grapple with the role Ms. Felarca played in making herself a topic of public discourse through her physical conduct at public rallies and her voluntary appearance on Fox News." Fox News's Tucker Carlson took Felarca to town in 2017 over her definition of a "fascist" - challenging her to explain what she thinks should be done to people she disagrees with.  In 2017, Judicial Watch filed a California Public Records Act (CPRA) request seeking public records information about Felarca’s Antifa activism and its effect within the Berkeley Unified School District. In her lawsuit aimed at keeping the Berkeley school district from furnishing the records, Felarca alleged that Judicial Watch was misusing the law for political means and the district should refuse to provide the information. In January 2018, a separate judge ordered Felarca to pay more than $11,000 in attorney and court fees for her frivolous attempt to get a restraining order against Troy Worden, the former head of the University of California (UC) Berkeley College Republicans. -Judicial Watch Embarrassingly, Judge Chhabria also pointed out that "a significant portion of the documents the plaintiffs initially sued to protect from disclosure had been publicly disclosed months earlier in another suit brought by Ms. Felarca against BUSD, where she was represented by the same counsel. (See generally Felarca v. Berkeley Unified School District, No. 3:16-cv-06184-RS). The plaintiffs, therefore, had no reasonable argument to protect those documents from disclosure."  In other words, Chhabria has a really crappy lawyer. 

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22 мая, 02:25

Afghan War: Hope For Exit, No Hope For Peace

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Authored by Lawrence Franklin via The Gatestone Institute, In his State of the Union address on February 5, U.S. President Donald Trump said that his administration was "holding constructive talks with a number of Afghan groups, including the Taliban... [in order] to be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counter-terrorism." Trump continued, "We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement — but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace." On April 26, following a meeting in Moscow on the status of the Afghan "peace process," representatives of the U.S., China, and Russia released the following joint statement: The three sides respect the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Afghanistan as well as its right to choose its development path. The three sides prioritize the interests of the Afghan people in promoting a peace process. The three sides support an inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and are ready to provide necessary assistance. The three sides encourage the Afghan Taliban to participate in peace talks with a broad, representative Afghan delegation that includes the government as soon as possible. Toward this end, and as agreed in Moscow in February 2019, we support a second round of intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha (Qatar). The three sides support the Afghan government efforts to combat international terrorism and extremist organizations in Afghanistan. They take note of the Afghan Taliban's commitment to: fight ISIS and cut ties with Al-Qaeda, ETIM, and other international terrorist groups; ensure the areas they control will not be used to threaten any other country; and call on them to prevent terrorist recruiting, training, and fundraising, and expel any known terrorists. The three sides recognize the Afghan people's strong desire for a comprehensive ceasefire. As a first step, we call on all parties to agree on immediate and concrete steps to reduce violence. The three sides stress the importance of fighting illegal drug production and trafficking, and call on the Afghan government and the Taliban to take all the necessary steps to eliminate the drug threat in Afghanistan. The three sides call for an orderly and responsible withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan as part of the overall peace process. The three sides call for regional countries to support this trilateral consensus and are ready to build a more extensive regional and international consensus on Afghanistan. The three sides agreed on a phased expansion of their consultations before the next trilateral meeting in Beijing. The date and composition of the meeting will be agreed upon through diplomatic channels. This statement was released a mere week after a summit between the Taliban and officials from the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was postponed indefinitely, after the Taliban objected to the number of delegates that Kabul wanted to send to the meeting. That spat was only one example of why negotiations with the Taliban have not been going smoothly. Another is concern on the part of high-ranking Afghan diplomats and intelligence officials that their American counterparts may be betraying them. Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, for example, publicly accused Zalmay Khalilzad -- the U.S. State Department's Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation -- of having ambitions to become president of Afghanistan. Sadly, no amount of blood, money or time spent in Afghanistan has been, or possibly will be, able to fashion it into a peaceful, united and democratic country. Pictured: U.S. Army soldiers carry a critically wounded American soldier on a stretcher to an awaiting helicopter, on June 24, 2010 near Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Nevertheless, in response to the U.S.-China-Russia trilateral statement on the peace process, Khalilzad wrote a highly optimistic post on social media: "Our [the U.S.'s] agreement w/ China & Russia yesterday along w/ previous one w/ Europeans means we have emerging intl consensus on US approach to end the war AND assurances [that] terrorism never again emanates from #Afghanistan. More to do but important milestone. #Momentum" Trump should be lauded for working toward a withdrawal from Afghanistan, where 14,000 U.S. troops still remain. But he should not expect to leave behind a peaceful situation in the failed state, which is made up of a complex web of tribal divisions and hostilities. The ethnic Pashtuns, who comprise most of the Taliban's recruits, account for about 40% of Afghanistan's population. Taliban Pashtuns are largely from the Durrani Pashtun clan from southern Afghanistan in the Kandahar Province region, along the Pakistani border. The Durrani are historic enemies of the Ghilzai Pashtun clan, which inhabits the region east and south of Kabul. President Ghani is closely allied with the Ghilzai Pashtun from eastern Afghanistan, and may have somewhat isolated himself by viewing his presidential responsibilities primarily through a Ghilzai lens. The rivalry between Pashtun clans further complicates efforts to arrive at a negotiated settlement between the Taliban and the Ghani administration. There is a lack of trust even within the largely Pashtun Taliban. Yet another factor militating against national unity is that Pashtun clans appear not to view Afghanistan's non-Pashtun ethnic minorities as equal partners in a future Afghanistan. Pashtuns assume that Afghanistan is synonymous with "Land of the Afghans (or Pashtuns)." Perhaps the most debilitating factor of all is that millions of Pashtuns also live in Pakistan, courtesy of the Durand Line. This dysfunctional demographic reality is a consequence of the late 19th century decision by imperial Britain to establish the border between Afghanistan and British India (which included today's Pakistan) and Afghanistan. To the Pashtuns, however, the Durand Line is only a line on a paper map, to be ignored. The point is that whatever the final terms of a negotiated U.S. withdrawal, Afghanistan's strife will probably continue unabated. The Taliban will still be able to count on a sizable supply of manpower -- from Pakistan-based Pashtun males attending madrassas (schools for Islamic study). The Taliban may also rely upon continued support from Pakistan, unless Islamabad alters its strategic assessment that a pro-Pakistani regime in Afghanistan is a necessary wedge against India, its regional rival. In addition, the Taliban and its Pakistani supporters are undoubtedly assured of an uninterrupted flow of financial support from Islamist sources in the Gulf States, as the strict Sunni nature of the Taliban brand of Islam is well-aligned with some of the Gulf State Islam. Afghanistan's remaining population consists of Tajiks (25%), Hazaras (19%), Uzbeks (6%) and various tribal peoples. Respectively, these Persian, Mongol and Turkic peoples, based upon their past armed resistance to Pashtun attempts to control the whole of Afghanistan, will most likely fight to maintain their autonomy. This historical reality alone should be sufficient cause for U.S. policy-makers to abandon the seemingly impossible task of building a unified, democratic, pro-Western Afghanistan. Yet another reason not to harbor fantasies of a unified Afghanistan is the utter lack of what Mideast scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar calls a "shared national consciousness." Even a superpower with good intentions such as the United States cannot accomplish the impossible. Sadly, no amount of blood, money or time spent in Afghanistan has been, or possibly will be, able to fashion it into a peaceful, united and democratic country. *  *  * Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve.

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22 мая, 02:05

Texas Pipeline Protesters May Face Up To 10 Years In Prison

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Ever since last September, Angeline Cheek was preparing for disaster. The native American organizer from the Fort Peck reservation in Montana has fears that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline could break and spill, destroy her tribe’s water, and desecrate sacred Native American sites. But environmental catastrophe is not the most immediate threat. The government has characterized pipeline opponents like her as “extremists” and violent criminals and warned of potential “terrorism”, according to recently released records. The documents, revealed last year, suggested that police were set to launch an aggressive responses to possible Keystone protests. And now, that threat to what some have dubbed as "eco-terrorism" has become reality, at least in one US state. According to Bloomberg, oil pipeline protesters who interrupt operations or damage equipment could face up to 10 years in prison under legislation approved by Texas lawmakers. Under the bill that was approved by both chambers of the Texas legislature, protesters found guilty of halting service or delaying construction of an oil or natural gas pipeline could be charged with a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years of incarceration. That’s on a par with the sentences handed down to drive-by shooters who fail to hit their mark according to Bloomberg. The measure, which was originally authored by Republican Representative Chris Paddie, cleared the Texas House on May 7 and the Senate on Monday. The delighted Texas Oil & Gas Association applauded the bill's passage and said the bill provides property owners and pipeline companies “greater protections against intentional damage, delays, and stoppages caused by illegal activity.” The bill still needs Governor Greg Abbott’s signature to become law, although that is only a formality. Predictably, environmental groups, meanwhile, called the measure an assault on free speech. “The bill was never about safety and security,” Cyrus Reed, interim director for the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter, said in an email. “It was about silencing protesters trying to protect their water and land.” That... and also preventing rampant vandalism. Other projects, including Energy Transfer LP’s Dakota Access crude pipeline and EQM Midstream Partners LP’s Mountain Valley gas conduit, have also drawn on-the-ground protests. Even in Texas, which is considered friendlier to the oil and gas industry, activists have staged opposition to the Trans-Pecos pipeline, which runs through the Big Bend region in the western part of the state. Texas may be the first, but it will hardly be the last: as noted above, states have long been taking action to prepare for pipeline protests as environmental groups increasingly target infrastructure as part of their opposition to fossil fuels, becoming true "eco-terrorists" in the process; there should thus be little surprise that officials are cracking down. As Bloomberg notes, while South Dakota has yet to pass a similar crackdown on eco protesters, earlier this year the state advanced legislation to allow the state to seek money from pipeline companies to help cover expenses related to protests. That bill aims to ready South Dakota for the contentious Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, which is held up in court but recently scored a new presidential permit from the Trump administration.

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22 мая, 01:45

Donald Trump, Socialist?

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via Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) “Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” US president Donald Trump announced in his State of the Union address in February.  His base, as he had hoped, cheered him on in setting himself up as foil to Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In the three months since, though, Trump has doubled down on his own socialist policy proposals. On trade and immigration, he’s 21st-century America’s most strident - or most empowered, anyway - advocate of an indispensable tenet of state socialism: Central planning of the economy by the government. Trump wants the government to control what you buy and who you buy it from. Thus, his “trade wars” with Canada, Mexico, the European Union, and China, powered by tariffs intended to advantage “Made in America” goods (and their politically connected makers) over others. Now he’s announced a plan for “merit-based” government control of immigration under which bureaucrats in Washington decide how many, and which, immigrants the American economy “needs,” instead of leaving such decisions to markets and individuals. In the past I’ve bemoaned the fact that “socialism” has come to mean such different things to so many different people. From its 19th century definition of  “worker ownership of the means of production,” it’s been continually re-defined to characterize everything from Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism to a more all-embracing “democratic socialist” welfare state powered by heavy taxation on “the rich.” That’s a pretty broad net. But except among anarchist socialists, state control of the economy is the axis on which all versions of socialism turn, and Trump is clearly all-in on the idea. He even lends a socialist cast to the  excuses he makes for his economic policies. He continually positions himself as protecting workers from the “dog-eat-dog” competition of capitalism (while avoiding using that word negatively). By adding an emphasis on political borders to those excuses, he changes the discussion from “labor versus capital” to “American labor versus foreign capital.” That approach is nothing new. See Stalin’s “socialism in one country,” for example, or the marriage between central economic planning and nationalism characterizing the fascism of Mussolini and Hitler. America’s Republican president campaigns against socialism while attempting to implement it. Meanwhile, America’s progressives  campaign for socialism while attempting to thwart actual worker ownership of the means of production (e.g. the “gig economy”). Talk about cognitive dissonance! Notice what’s missing from the discussion on both major “sides”: Freedom. Freedom to move within and across political borders. Freedom to trade within and across political borders. Freedom to plan our own lives and live them instead of turning that power, and that responsibility, over to the state. Neither major political party even convincingly pretends to care about those fundamental human rights anymore. The entire public discussion revolves around what the politicians should “allow” or “forbid” the rest of us to do next, based on an unquestioning assumption of their moral authority to make such decisions for us. Unless we break that cycle, we’re on our way into the next Dark Age. * * * Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.  

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22 мая, 01:25

To Beat The Market In China, Smart Investors Force Themselves To Think Stupid

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Reckless global monetary policy, led by the Federal Reserve, has literally forced the smart money to try and think stupid in order to make money. While fund managers are calling it "a new strategy", we can't help but see it for what it really is: anything but a vote of confidence for the central banking status quo.  For instance, despite running a $500 million hedge fund, manager Tom Zhou spends most of his time trying to "think like a novice investor," according to Bloomberg. He has has degrees in civil engineering, economics and finance but, for him, the key to figuring out the $6.6 trillion Chinese stock market isn't higher education, it's dumbing things down.  Since the Chinese market is 80% driven by mom and pop investors, quants and fund managers are stuck trying to literally "predict where the dumb money is heading". It's a tougher task than some might think, especially because of China's market volatility and price swings that often defy logic.  So now quants comb through social media posts and use AI to try and anticipate how 147 million retail investors will collectively act. They perpetuate the self-fulfilling prophecy of technical indicators, trying to predict when investors will use them as cues to buy and sell. And they're spending tons of money buying data from companies like Tencent to gauge sentiment.  As the country is now part of the MSCI Global Indexes, the "strategy" makes light of how global participants in the Chinese market may need to tailor their thinking to adapt to different market psychologies.  Zheng Xu, a former portfolio manager at Millennium Partners said: “In the U.S., quants are trying to make money off other institutional investors with complex models or automated transactions at lightening speed, but in China many strategies don’t work well and quants’ arch rivals are retail investors. Understanding retail investors’ behavior and sentiment is extremely valuable here.’’ Some quants detailed how they have been modeling the impact of retail investors on China's stock market. For instance, Chinese traders have a tendency to lock-in profits more quickly than their peers, Zhou said. As it relates to an investment thesis, this means that short-term price reversal factors tend to perform better in China than momentum factors. High Flyer Quant, a firm that manages $870 million in Hangzhou, uses AI to anticipate as many as two days in advance when technical indicators will prompt investors to buy or sell. BlackRock tracks changes in sentiment by analyzing about 100,000 chat room posts a day on websites like Eastmoney.com and Xueqiu.com. The firm tailors its buys to names that attract growing attention in these rooms and sells stocks that fall out of favor.  Wang Pei, chief executive officer of Shenzhen-based Focus Technology Ltd., said his fund netted an additional 7% to 8% annually by incorporating data on the most viewed stocks in trading apps owned by Tencent and Hithink RoyalFlush Information Network Co. This strategy failed to work in 2015, as competitors adopted the same strategy.  China's unique rules can sometimes make it frustrating for quants, too. For instance, abiding by a rule that prevents investors from buying and selling the same shares in a single day can make some high-frequency trading tactics difficult. Additionally, the country's censorship of social media is a challenge for those looking to monitor it for investor sentiment.  The median return for funds linked to China’s CSI 300 Index beat the benchmark by 3.63% in 2018. In Q1 of this year, funds underperformed the benchmark by 3.22%. And other international shops, like Boston-based PanAgora Asset Management Inc., are experimenting with new models based on trying to find these outsized returns.  Mike Chen, who works for PanAgora, developed a model to identify the slang Chinese retail investors use on online message boards. His interest was piqued after he noticed some "strange" moves in Chinese stocks after the 2016 election: He became interested in the challenge in part because of some quirky moves in Chinese stocks in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. When the result became clear, a listed Chinese company whose name sounds like “Trump Wins Big’’ in Mandarin surged, while a firm that sounds like “Aunt Hillary’’ slumped. Chen concluded: “There are a lot of inefficiencies, and many of these are driven by retail investors. You want to understand what they think, but you can’t do it through the traditional financial statements.’’ We can't help but think that's a nice way of saying: "The financials don't matter anymore and, even if they did, you'd be too stupid to read them." 

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22 мая, 01:05

China's Economic "Super-Weapon" Would Devastate Its Rare-Earth Exporters

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Submitted by Michael Every of Rabobank Earth With nationalism to the fore, for a change, talk of a “people’s war”, and with China telling the US it has “unwavering resolve” to fight “bullying” --a change from “imperialism”, which China itself is now accused of in some quarters-- President Xi Jinping went to visit a rare earths facility yesterday. That was no accident. Nothing in Chinese politics is an accident. It was a signal that China can turn off the taps on rare earths exports to the US if pushed much further. Yet such a step would devastate its rare earth exporters; it would show the world they cannot rely on China as a supplier; and it would be the final(?) nail in the coffin of a ‘macro 101’ model of how the world works. (As if that is needed a day after US President Trump publicly stated he’s “very happy” with the trade war and that the Chinese economy won’t be number one on his watch.) After all, rare earths aren’t actually rare. Lots of countries, including the US, Japan, Brazil, India, and South Africa, have them in abundance. China only controls 80% of global supply because it subsidised its state-owned firms until they achieved economy-of-scale dominance in the same way as it is seen trying to do in other industrial sectors, which has generated the current China backlash. In short, mercantilism–meets-Mr.Magoo-free-markets means Beijing got the whip hand over the industrial global supply chain for a vital input in order to save a few dollars. One sees why it’s time to say goodbye to macro 101. Indeed, if there aren’t governments planning to massively boost rare earths output in Australia, California, India, Japan, Vietnam, and Brazil, etc., then I will eat my hat. China will soon find that its latest economic ‘super-weapon’ is another dud. Wind You want to see a real super-weapon? Look at the US decision to cut Huawei off from Western technology yesterday. How is Huawei supposed to function without the high-end silicon chips China can’t make, and which neither US nor European firms will now supply? It has 12-months of stock…and then what? (And in terms of the global economic impact, please note South Korea’s May 1-20 chip exports plunged -33% y/y before any of this happened!) Equally, how is Huawei supposed to sell 5G phones when it cannot update Google’s Android software? Of course, some say China will develop its own high-end silicon chips and proprietary operating system (OS). It might do that…but that’s a very hard thing to achieve when cut off from the West – and it’s much harder to do than digging up rare earths. If China could just do it, why hasn’t it until now? Because they believe in macro 101? Really?! Indeed, the announcement today that Huawei will roll out its own OS imminently looks like ‘wind’ to me… unless it is called “Ban-droid”. Will it come bundled with the Little Red App of Xi Jinping thought? As someone said on Game of Thrones when it was still good, “Power is power.” And this, is power, folks. Not visiting a rare earths factory for the cameras. However, the White House has just announced the Huawei hamstringing will be delayed by 90 days, with existing equipment to be serviced for that period, not new products, presumably to allow room for that crucial G-20 head-to-head between Trump and Xi, and also to allow US firms to gird their loins for the disruption that this ban is going to cause. Can we agree that the stakes for that G-20 are going higher and higher, especially for China? As such, this is still very much a long USD, short CNY, if indirectly, and EM FX environment as we get to see the full power of this fully operational battle station. The Fed’s Powell meanwhile says “the outcome of the trade negotiations is not known, is highly uncertain, and it would be premature” for the Fed to make a judgement (and hence rate call) on the back of it. Not known, yes; uncertain, arguably no. The balance of risks must be clear, even to the Fed(?) Fire! It would be tempting to shift to talk about Iran or North Korea under that sub-heading (Trump has just said again that any Iranian action will be with “great force”), but I turn to the RBA. Just days after the election, the (comprehensively recidivist) Australian Prudential Regulation Authority –which presided over an epic housing bubble driven by lax lending standards-- is about to loosen its loan guidance again. Instead of most lenders having to assume a 7.25% mortgage rate ahead when assessing a borrower’s repayment ability --as opposed to 10x income interest-only loans on fantasy income-- the new rule will be to assume rates 2.5% above the current mortgage rate. Does this mean the Aussie bubble is baaaack? Nope. But it means the RBA are going to cut aggressively, because when borrowers had to assume a 7.25% rate regardless of where the actual interest rate was, there was no advantage for the housing market in cutting. Now there will be: if the RBA slashes rates 125bp, for example, all of that can get passed on. So, RBA, fire! Indeed, the RBA’s minutes today showed the conservative bank noting “…members considered the scenario where there was no further improvement in the labour market in the period ahead, recognising that in those circumstances a decrease in the cash rate would likely be appropriate….” In short, they have now moved from expecting the labour market to get better to admitting that even if it stays the same, rather than unemployment rising, a cut is warranted! That door to easing is easing open. We next hear from Governor Lowe later in the day, and one wonders if he will also signal this more clearly?