ZeroHedge. Alternative view on facts Zero Hedge Sat, 24 Mar 2018 13:20:05 +0300 <![CDATA[Tolerance Cuts Both Ways: Freedom For The Speech We Hate]]> Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

Tolerance cuts both ways.

This isn’t an easy pill to swallow, I know, but that’s the way free speech works, especially when it comes to tolerating speech that we hate.

The most controversial issues of our day - gay rights, abortion, race, religion, sexuality, political correctness, police brutality, et al. - have become battlegrounds for those who claim to believe in freedom of speech but only when it favors the views and positions they support.

Free speech for me but not for thee is how my good friend and free speech purist Nat Hentoff used to sum up this double standard.

This haphazard approach to the First Amendment has so muddied the waters that even First Amendment scholars are finding it hard to navigate at times.

It’s really not that hard.

The First Amendment affirms the right of the people to speak freely, worship freely, peaceably assemble, petition the government for a redress of grievances, and have a free press.

Nowhere in the First Amendment does it permit the government to limit speech in order to avoid causing offense, hurting someone’s feelings, safeguarding government secrets, protecting government officials, insulating judges from undue influence, discouraging bullying, penalizing hateful ideas and actions, eliminating terrorism, combatting prejudice and intolerance, and the like.

Unfortunately, in the war being waged between free speech purists who believe that free speech is an inalienable right and those who believe that free speech is a mere privilege to be granted only under certain conditions, the censors are winning.

We have entered into an egotistical, insulated, narcissistic era in which free speech has become regulated speech: to be celebrated when it reflects the values of the majority and tolerated otherwise, unless it moves so far beyond our political, religious and socio-economic comfort zones as to be rendered dangerous and unacceptable.

Indeed, President Trump - who has been accused of using his very public platform to belittle and mock his critics and enemies while attempting to muzzle those who might speak out against him - may be the perfect poster child for this age of intolerance.

Even so, Trump is not to blame for America’s growing intolerance for free speech.

The country started down that sorry road long ago.

Protest laws, free speech zones, bubble zones, trespass zones, anti-bullying legislation, zero tolerance policies, hate crime laws and a host of other legalistic maladies dreamed up by politicians and prosecutors (and championed by those who want to suppress speech with which they might disagree) have conspired to corrode our core freedoms, purportedly for our own good.

On paper - at least according to the U.S. Constitution - we are technically free to speak.

In reality, however, we are only as free to speak as a government official - or corporate entities such as Facebook, Google or YouTube - may allow.

Free speech is no longer free.

What we have instead is regulated, controlled speech, and that’s a whole other ballgame.

Just as surveillance has been shown to “stifle and smother dissent, keeping a populace cowed by fear,” government censorship gives rise to self-censorship, breeds compliance, makes independent thought all but impossible, and ultimately foments a seething discontent that has no outlet but violence.

The First Amendment is a steam valve. It allows people to speak their minds, air their grievances and contribute to a larger dialogue that hopefully results in a more just world.

When there is no steam valve - when there is no one to hear what the people have to say - frustration builds, anger grows and people become more volatile and desperate to force a conversation. By bottling up dissent, we have created a pressure cooker of stifled misery and discontent that is now bubbling over and fomenting even more hate, distrust and paranoia among portions of the populace.

Silencing unpopular viewpoints with which the majority might disagree - whether it’s by shouting them down, censoring them, muzzling them, or criminalizing them - only empowers the controllers of the Deep State.

Even when the motives behind this rigidly calibrated reorientation of societal language appear well-intentioned - discouraging racism, condemning violence, denouncing discrimination and hatred - inevitably, the end result is the same: intolerance, indoctrination and infantilism.

The police state could not ask for a better citizenry than one that carries out its own censorship, spying and policing.

This is how you turn a nation of free people into extensions of the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent police state, and in the process turn a citizenry against each other.

So where do we go from here?

If Americans don’t learn how to get along - at the very least, agreeing to disagree and respecting each other’s right to subscribe to beliefs and opinions that may be offensive, hateful, intolerant or merely different - then we’re going to soon find that we have no rights whatsoever (to speak, assemble, agree, disagree, protest, opt in, opt out, or forge our own paths as individuals).

The government will lock down the nation at the slightest provocation.

Indeed, the government has been anticipating and preparing for civil unrest for years now, as evidenced by the build-up of guns and tanks and militarized police and military training drills and threat assessments and extremism reports and surveillance systems and private prisons and Pentagon training videos predicting the need to impose martial law by 2030.

Trust me: when the police state cracks down, it will not discriminate.

We’ll all be muzzled together.

We’ll all be jailed together.

We’ll all be viewed as a collective enemy to be catalogued, conquered and caged.

Indeed, a recent survey concluded that a large bipartisan majority of the American public already recognizes the dangersposed by a government that is not only tracking its citizens but is also being controlled by a “Deep State” of unelected government officials.

Thus, the last thing we need to do is play into the government’s hands by turning on one another, turning in one another, and giving the government’s standing army an excuse to take over.

So let’s start with a little more patience, a lot more tolerance and a civics lesson on the First Amendment.

What this means is opening the door to more speech not less, even if that speech is offensive to some.

It’s time to start thinking for ourselves again.

It’s time to start talking to each other, listening more and shouting less.

Most of all, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it’s time to make the government hear us—see us—and heed us.

This is the ultimate power of free speech.

]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 06:25:00 +0300
<![CDATA[Visualizing The Rising Problem Of Crypto Theft (And How To Protect Yourself)]]> Part of the appeal of cryptocurrency is that it exists “outside” of the system.

Using complex cryptography and decentralized ledgers, Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins explains, a blockchain can operate independently from the world’s most powerful countries, corporations, and banking institutions.

While this detachment from authority is extremely powerful, existing almost exclusively in the digital realm does have its drawbacks.


Today’s infographic from CryptoGo shows that as cryptocurrencies rise in prominence, so does its appeal to hackers, criminals, and other bad actors.

With millions of dollars being stolen via crypto theft, investors and other dabblers in cryptocurrency must take precautions to protect their assets for the long haul.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Crypto theft comes in many different forms, and at least $225 million of cryptocurrency has been stolen as of mid-2017.

There are various forms of crypto theft that have made this possible, including brute forcing, phishing, phone-porting, mining malware, and Ponzi schemes.


Here are the most prominent forms of crypto theft:

Brute Forcing

This is the form of hacking that most are familiar with. It involves automated software that simply tries different passwords until one works.


Using your phone number and a little “social engineering”, a hacker can convince a customer service rep that they are actually you. This allows them to reset your password and access your funds.


In this case, a hacker will send you suspicious links through email or social media messages. By clicking on one of those links, malware is installed.

Ponzi Schemes

Multi-level marketing schemes that provide signing bonuses. These eventually collapse when prices change or signups stop. Once over, the thieves takes the money and run.

Mining Malware

Hackers hijack a computer’s power to mine cryptocurrency remotely.

Protecting Yourself

Crypto theft can be prevented by taking appropriate precautionary measures.

These include using encrypted backups to hold private keys and other data, using proper anti-virus software for crypto, and opting for multi-factor authentication.

Further, other general measures can also be taken to protect assets, such as holding only small amounts of cryptocurrency in hot wallets, using safety deposit boxes to store USB and private paper keys, turning off SMS authentication and email recovery options, and diversifying holdings through various exchanges.

]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 06:05:00 +0300
<![CDATA[US Doubles Down As Empire Declines]]> Authored by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers via,

US empire is in decline. Reports of the end of the US being the unitary power in world affairs are common, as are predictions of the end of US empire. China surpassed the United States as the world economic leader according to Purchasing Power Parity Gross National Product, and Russia announced new weapons that can overcome the US’ defense systems.

What is happening in the United States, in response, is to do more of what has been causing the decline. As the Pentagon outlined in its post-primacy report, the US’ plan is more money, more aggression and more surveillance. Congress voted nearly unanimously to give the Pentagon tens of billions more than it requested. Military spending will now consume 57% of federal discretionary spending, leaving less for basic necessities. The Trump administration’s new nominees to the State Department and CIA are a war hawk and a torturer. And the Democrat’s “Blue Wave” is composed of security state candidates.

The US is escalating an arms race with Russia and China. This may create the mirror image of President Reagan forcing Russia to spend so much on its military that it aided in the break-up of the Soviet Union. The US economy cannot handle more military spending, worsening austerity when most people in the US are in financial distress.

This is an urgent situation for all people in the world. In the US, we carry an extra burden as citizens of empire to do what we can to oppose US imperialism. We must be clear that it is time to end wars and other tools of regime change, to become a cooperative member of the world community and to prioritize the needs of people and protection of the planet.

There are a number of opportunities to mobilize against US empire: the April 14-15 days of action, the Women’s March on the Pentagon in October and the mass protest planned against the military parade in November.

Turmoil in Foreign Policy Leadership

This week, President Trump fired Secretary of State Tillerson, nominated CIA director Mike Pompeo for the State Department and chose Gina Haspel to replace Pompeo at the CIA. As we write this newsletter, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is on the verge of being fired [since been fired and replaced by uber-hawk John Bolton]. The deck chairs are being rearranged on the Titanic but this will not correct the course of a failing foreign policy.

The Pompeo and Haspel nominations are controversial. Pompeo believes torturers are patriots. He is a war hawk on every conflict and competing country, including Russia and especially Iran. And, unlike Tillerson, who stood up to Trump on occasion, Pompeo kisses-up to Trump, defending his every move. Haspel led a CIA black site torture center and ordered destruction of evidence to obstruct torture investigations.

The Democrat’s record on torture is not good. President Obama said he would not prosecute Bush era torturers, infamously saying, “we need to look forwards as opposed to looking backwards.” John Brennan who was complicit in Bush-era torture, withdrew under pressure from becoming CIA director in 2008, instead becoming Deputy National Security Adviser, which did not require confirmation. After Obama’s re-election, Brennan became Obama’s CIA director.

Brennan was inconsistent on whether torture worked. He tried to elevate Haspel, but the controversy around her prevented it. When the CIA spied on the US Senate Intelligence committee over their torture report, Brennan originally lied, denying the spying, but was later forced to admit it. He was not held accountable by either the Democrats or Obama.

Haspel headed a black site in Thailand where torture was carried out. She ordered the destruction of 92 secret tapes documenting torture even thoughthe Senate Judiciary requested the tapes, as had a federal judge in a criminal trial. According to a federal court order, the tapes should have been turned over to comply with a FOIA request. Counsel for the White House and CIAsaid the tapes should have been preserved. Haspel’s actions should lead to prosecution, not to a promotion as head of the agency, as CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who exposed torture and served time in prison for it, reminds us.

The Trump nominations leave the Democrats on the cusp of a complete surrender on torture in an election year. Caving on torture by approving Pompeo and Haspel will anger Democratic voters and risk the high turnout need for their anticipated 2018 “Blue Wave”.

Republican Senator Rand Paul says he will oppose both nominees. If all the Democrats oppose, the Senate will be split 50-50, requiring one more Republican to block the nominees. Fifteen Democrats supported Pompeo’s nomination as CIA director, so Democratic opposition is not ensured. Will Democrats oppose torture or be complicit in normalizing torture?

Democrat’s Security State Blue Wave

Militarism and war are bi-partisan. When Trump submitted a military budget, the Democrats almost unanimously joined with the Republicans to increase the budget by tens of billions of dollars. But, that is not all, a series of investigative reports by the World Socialist website reported the Democratic Party is becoming the party of military and intelligence candidates.

The series identifies more than 50 military-intelligence candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in 102 districts identified by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as targets for 2018. The result, as many as half of all new congressional Democrats could come from the national security apparatus. An example is the victory in Pennsylvania by Conor Lamb, an anti-abortion, pro-gun, pro-drug war, ex-Marine, which is being celebrated by Democrats.

The Sanders-Democrats, working to make the Democratic Party a progressive people’s party, are being outflanked by the military-intelligence apparatus. In the end, Democratic Party leadership cares more about numbers than candidate’s policy positions.

Patrick Martin writes:

If on November 6 the Democratic Party makes the net gain of 24 seats needed to win control of the House of Representatives, former CIA agents, military commanders, and State Department officials will provide the margin of victory and hold the balance of power in Congress. The presence of so many representatives of the military-intelligence apparatus in the legislature is a situation without precedent in the history of the United States.

Just as Freedom Caucus Tea Party representatives hold power in the Republican Party, the military-intelligence officials will become the powerhouse for Democrats. This takeover will make the Democrats even more militarist at a dangerous time when threats of war are on the rise and the country needs an opposition party that says ‘no’ to war.

What does this mean? Kim Dotcom might be right when he tweeted, “The Deep State no longer wants to rely on unreliable puppets. They want to run politics directly now.” What does it mean politically? There is no two-party system on militarism and war. Those who oppose war are not represented and must build a political culture to oppose war at home and abroad.

US Foreign Policy Elites in Denial About Russia’s New Weapons

There is dangerous denial among US foreign policy elites about the Russian weapons systems announced by Putin in his state of the union speech last week. Military-intelligence analyst the Saker compares the US’ reaction to the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. US elites are in the first two stages.

The US does not have an adequate defense to the weapons announced by Putin. As the Saker writes, “Not only does that mean that the entire ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] effort of the USA is now void and useless, but also that from now US aircraft carrier battle groups can only be used against small, defenseless, nations!” US leadership cannot believe that after spending trillions of dollars, Russia has outsmarted their military with ten percent of their budget.

Former Secretary of Defense William Perry exemplifies this denial, claiming Putin’s weapons are “phony,” exaggerated and do not really exist. Then he blames the Russians for starting an arms race. Of course, in both the National Security Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review, published before the Putin speech, the US announced an arms race.

US political and military leadership brought this on themselves. The US’ leaving the SALT treaty in 2002 and expanding NATO to cover the Russian border led to Russia’s development of these new weapons.

Further, Obama, and now Trump, support spending more than a trillion dollars to upgrade nuclear weapons. Perry falsifies history and blames Russia rather than looking in the mirror, since he was defense secretary during this era of errors.

The new Russian weapons systems do not have to lead to an unaffordable arms race. The US should re-evaluate its strategy and find a diplomatic path to a multi-polar world where the US does not waste money on militarism. We can divest from the military economy and convert it to civilian economic investment, as the US has many needs for infrastructure, energy transition, health care, education and more.

US global dominance is coming to an end. The issue is how will it end? Will the US hang on with an arms race and never-ending wars, or it will it wind down US empire in a sensible way. The Saker writes:

The Russian end-goal is simple and obvious: to achieve a gradual and peaceful disintegration of the AngloZionist Empire combined with a gradual and peaceful replacement of a unipolar world ruled by one hegemon, by a multipolar world jointly administered by sovereign nations respectful of international law. Therefore, any catastrophic or violent outcomes are highly undesirable and must be avoided if at all possible. Patience and focus will be far more important in this war for the future of our planet than quick-fix reactions and hype. The ‘patient’ needs to be returned to reality one step at a time. Putin’s March 1st speech will go down in history as such a step, but many more such steps will be needed before the patient finally wakes up.

As of now, the Pentagon and US leadership are in denial and not ready to face reality. The people of the United States, in solidarity with people of the world, must act now to end the war culture and convince US leadership that a new path is necessary.

]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 05:45:00 +0300
<![CDATA[Atlanta City Government Hit With Crippling Ransomware Attack]]> In an unprecedented attack on the IT systems of a major municipal government, hackers are demanding ransom payable in bitcoin after seizing control of computers belonging to the Atlanta city government, AFP reports.

The ransomware assault shut down multiple internal and external applications for the city, including apps that people use to pay bills and access court-related information, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told a news conference Thursday.

The attack also impacted the city's emergency-response services - forcing dispatchers answering 911 calls to take down reports with a paper and pen

"This is a very serious situation," Bottoms said.

City officials said they learned of the attack before dawn Thursday when they detected unusual activity on their servers and discovered that some of the city's data had been encrypted without their consent.

Shortly after, the city government received a ransom note giving instructions for paying to free up files encrypted by the hackers.


The hackers - perhaps having learned from the relatively small take received during previous ransomware attacks like last year's infamous "WannaCry" global assault - are demanding the city pay a relatively modest ransom: Six bitcoins - or about $51,000.

Newsweek reports that a note provided to city officials included step-by-step instructions on how to pay. It linked to a website URL hosted on the dark web. But at a press conference led by Bottoms, officials told the public they are still assessing the extent of the attack.

"The City of Atlanta has experienced a ransomware cyberattack," confirmed chief operating officer Richard Cobbs during the briefing. This attack has encrypted some of the city data, however we are still validating the extent of the compromise."

A statement released to the public read: "The City of Atlanta is currently experiencing outages on various internal and customer facing applications, including some applications that customers use to pay bills or access court-related information."

"At this time, our Atlanta Information Management team is working diligently with support from Microsoft to resolve the issue," it added. "We are confident that our team of technology professionals will be able to restore applications soon."

Bottoms demurred when asked whether the city is contemplating paying the ransom.

On the option of paying the ransom, Bottoms said: "We can’t speak to that right now, we will be looking for guidance specifically from our federal partners on how best to navigate the best course of action. Right now, we are focused on fixing the issue."

"The explanation is simple, we don’t know the extent. I would ask that people assume you may be included if personal data has been breached. We don’t know if it's information related to just our employees or if it’s more extensive than that. Because we don’t know, I think it would be appropriate for the public to be vigilant checking their accounts and making sure credit agencies can also be notified."

The FBI warned in 2016 that victims of ransomware attacks should refrain from paying ransoms, explaining that it would not guarantee that their data would be released, and, furthermore, would only embolden criminals.

That attack hit more than 200,000 companies, hospitals, government agencies and other organizations in 150 countries, but most of the victims opted to let their data be erased rather than pay the ransom.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are investigating.

WannaCry, Petya and other major ransomware attacks were carried out using NSA cyberweapons that were stolen by a group called the Shadowbrokers, who've been selling a cache of NSA weapons to whoever is willing to buy them - even launching a subscription service last year. It's unclear what type of ransomware is being used in the Atlanta attack.

]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 05:25:00 +0300
<![CDATA["Just A Few More Pips" - Watch The Hong Kong Dollar!]]> Authored by Jeffrey Snider via Alhambra Investment Partners,

On Page 1, Chapter 1 of the Central Banker Crisis Handbook it states very clearly, “do not make it worse.” It’s something like the Hippocratic oath where monetary authorities must first assess what their actions might do to an already fragile system. It’s why they take great pains to try and maintain composure, appearing calm and orderly while conflagration rages all around. The last thing you want to do is confirm the run.

In modern times, that’s been taken to extremes where officials just outright lie – nothing to see here.

Inflation hysteria has subsided to a considerable degree, thankfully. Going back to January 26 or so, markets aren’t quite as ready to embrace the lie as they were through all of last year. People are now paying attention to LIBOR-OIS when all they needed was the HKMA.

Less than two weeks ago, on March 8, Norman Chan, CEO of Hong Kong’s monetary authority, issued a statement. It was the usual stuff about how HK has built up an enormous reserve buffer able to withstand any convertibility issues (how’d that work out in China with their much larger pile of forex?) Further, Chan says that HKD’s vomit-inducing drop is as much a good thing as any other kind of thing.

The world is getting so much better, he wrote, so HKD’s outflows are merely restoration of normality. So far so good. Many people will buy that because the logical fallacy of appeal to authority is often unquestioned. Central bankers, we are conditioned to believe, know their stuff.

But he titled his message:

Stay calm on the weakening of the Hong Kong dollar

D’oh. Today it’s 7.848, and just a few more pips to obligated intervention, perhaps as soon as Monday, maybe even tomorrow (though I suspect they’ve been in the market already).

The more interesting part is CNY, or how it’s correlation (inverse) with HKD has now definitively broken (nearly two months). Whether it has permanently will be determined, I believe, by what happens at the 7.85 trigger. As I write for tomorrow:

You didn’t really need LIBOR-OIS to suggest global dollar conditions are escalating the wrong way.

There was repo and collateral (including gold) in September..

Cross currency basis in December...

Stock market liquidations sweeping across the globe in January...

And now this.

The one common trend through all of that was HKD.

Why aren’t HKD traders remaining calm?

For one, HKMA has never been here before. They quite literally don’t know what they are doing.


]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 05:05:00 +0300
<![CDATA[Drudge, Coulter Trash Trump Over "Fake Veto" As Base Rages]]> Matt Drudge and Ann Coulter took to Twitter on Friday after President Trump "begrudgingly" signed the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package - after threatening to veto it hours earlier over the "800,000 DACA recipients" which Trump said were "totally abandoned by the Democrats," and the lack of funding for the "BORDER WALL." 

Trump spent around 30 minutes on Friday doing his best to convince his base that, gosh dangit, he was "forced" to sign the bill in order to fully fund the military.

In response to Trump bemoaning the legislation, claiming "I will never sign a bill like this again," pundit and author Ann Coulter - a harsh critic of Trump whenever he strays from campaign promises, tweeted "Yeah, because you'll be impeached." 


Of note, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) declared the spending bill rushed through by Republicans a "victory." 

“The distinguished leader has clearly put forth many of the priorities that we’re very proud of in a bill that’s one yard high,” said Pelosi of House Speaker Paul Ryan at a joint press conference on Thursday. 

“It’s one yard high,” Pelosi exclaimed - referring to the literal height of the legislation. “About half of it is the bill, a quarter of it is earmarks, and another quarter are report language.”

Matt Drudge, meanwhile, loved his site The Drudge Report's headline "Fake Veto" so much that he tweeted out a screenshot! "Fake Veto," of course, is a mockery of Trump's co-opted catch phrase "Fake News" following Trump's earlier tweet pretending to be on the fence. 

Other reactions around the twittersphere have echoed feelings of defeat: 

Translation; Trump got steamrolled and the base is furious.

Meanwhile, here are the 25 House Republicans who opposed the bill:

]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 04:43:38 +0300
<![CDATA[Paul Ehrlich: "Collapse Of Civilisation Is A Near Certainty Within Decades"]]> Authored by Damian Carrington via The Guardian,

Fifty years after the publication of his controversial book The Population Bomb, biologist Paul Ehrlich warns overpopulation and overconsumption are driving us over the edge...

A shattering collapse of civilisation is a “near certainty” in the next few decades due to humanity’s continuing destruction of the natural world that sustains all life on Earth, according to biologist Prof Paul Ehrlich.

In May, it will be 50 years since the eminent biologist published his most famous and controversial book, The Population Bomb. But Ehrlich remains as outspoken as ever.

Prof Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The world’s optimum population is less than two billion people – 5.6 billion fewer than on the planet today, he argues, and there is an increasing toxification of the entire planet by synthetic chemicals that may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change.

Ehrlich also says an unprecedented redistribution of wealth is needed to end the over-consumption of resources, but “the rich who now run the global system – that hold the annual ‘world destroyer’ meetings in Davos – are unlikely to let it happen”.

The Population Bomb, written with his wife Anne Ehrlich in 1968, predicted “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death” in the 1970s – a fate that was avoided by the green revolution in intensive agriculture.

Many details and timings of events were wrong, Paul Ehrlich acknowledges today, but he says the book was correct overall.

“Population growth, along with over-consumption per capita, is driving civilisation over the edge: billions of people are now hungry or micronutrient malnourished, and climate disruption is killing people.”

Ehrlich has been at Stanford University since 1959 and is also president of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere, which works “to reduce the threat of a shattering collapse of civilisation”.

“It is a near certainty in the next few decades, and the risk is increasing continually as long as perpetual growth of the human enterprise remains the goal of economic and political systems,” he says. “As I’ve said many times, ‘perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell’.”

It is the combination of high population and high consumption by the rich that is destroying the natural world, he says. Research published by Ehrlich and colleagues in 2017 concluded that this is driving a sixth mass extinction of biodiversity, upon which civilisation depends for clean air, water and food.

High consumption by the rich is destroying the natural world, says Ehrlich. Photograph: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

The solutions are tough, he says.

“To start, make modern contraception and back-up abortion available to all and give women full equal rights, pay and opportunities with men.

“I hope that would lead to a low enough total fertility rate that the needed shrinkage of population would follow. [But] it will take a very long time to humanely reduce total population to a size that is sustainable.”

He estimates an optimum global population size at roughly 1.5 to two billion,

But the longer humanity pursues business as usual, the smaller the sustainable society is likely to prove to be. We’re continuously harvesting the low-hanging fruit, for example by driving fisheries stocks to extinction.”

Ehrlich is also concerned about chemical pollution, which has already reached the most remote corners of the globe.

“The evidence we have is that toxics reduce the intelligence of children, and members of the first heavily influenced generation are now adults.”

He treats this risk with characteristic dark humour:

“The first empirical evidence we are dumbing down Homo sapiens were the Republican debates in the US 2016 presidential elections – and the resultant kakistocracy. On the other hand, toxification may solve the population problem, since sperm counts are plunging.”

Plastic pollution found in the most remote places on the planet show nowhere is safe from human impact. Photograph: Conor McDonnell

Reflecting five decades after the publication of The Population Bomb (which he wanted to be titled Population, Resources, and Environment), he says: “No scientist would hold exactly the same views after a half century of further experience, but Anne and I are still proud of our book.” It helped start a worldwide debate on the impact of rising population that continues today, he says.

The book’s strength, Ehrlich says, is that it was short, direct and basically correct. “Its weaknesses were not enough on overconsumption and equity issues. It needed more on women’s rights, and explicit countering of racism – which I’ve spent much of my career and activism trying to counter.

“Too many rich people in the world is a major threat to the human future, and cultural and genetic diversity are great human resources.”

Accusations that the book lent support to racist attitudes to population controlstill hurt today, Ehrlich says. “Having been a co-inventor of the sit-in to desegregate restaurants in Lawrence, Kansas in the 1950s and having published books and articles on the biological ridiculousness of racism, those accusations continue to annoy me.”

But, he says: “You can’t let the possibility that ignorant people will interpret your ideas as racist keep you from discussing critical issues honestly.”

More of Paul and Anne Ehrlich’s reflections on their book are published in The Population Bomb Revisited.

]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 04:25:00 +0300
<![CDATA[Chinese Newspaper: Beijing Should Prepare For War In The Taiwan Straits]]> On Thursday, a leading Chinese state-run newspaper announced the unthinkable: Beijing must prepare for “a direct military clash” over self-ruled Taiwan after a mid-level U.S. official arrived in Taipei on Tuesday, angering senior officials in Beijing.

The atmosphere in Beijing started to get heated when Alex Wong, US deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, arrived in Taipei on Tuesday. Wong became the first senior State Department official of the Trump administration to visit Taiwan since Washington approved the Taiwan Travel Act, which has already roiled ties and brought new pressures to Sino-US relations (refers to international relations between the U.S and China).

Interesting enough, with trade war tensions escalating between Beijing and Washington, the pivot by the Trump administration over Taiwan has made the situation much worse.

Local media reports cited Wong as stating the United States’ commitment to Taiwan has never been stronger, and that Washington will get international organizations to strengthen ties with Taipei.

“Taiwan can no longer be excluded unjustly from international fora. Taiwan has much to share with the world,” Wong said at a reception attended by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, a member of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

“I can assure you, the United States government and the United States private sector will do their part to ensure Taiwan’s stellar international example shines brightly,” he added.

In response, the senior editor of the Global Times declared China had to “strike back” against “Washington’s implementation of the Taiwan Travel Act.”

“We must strike back against Washington’s implementation of the Taiwan Travel Act. First, Beijing should not invite senior officials of the US Department of State and Defense who visit Taiwan, to the mainland during their terms. For instance, Wong should not be invited to the mainland until he no longer occupies the post. Senior Taiwan officials who visit the US and meet publicly with high-level US officials should be treated alike. This won’t make the mainland suffer diplomatically. After all, Beijing and Washington have various channels to communicate.” 

The editor then said,

China can pressure the US in other areas of bilateral cooperation: for example, the Korean Peninsula issue and Iran nuclear issue. China can also set itself against the US in international organizations such as the UN. In addition, China needs to move fast to establish diplomatic ties with allies of Taiwan to further squeeze the island’s space in the international community.”

At the end of the piece, the editor dropped the mother of all bombshells, “Mainland [China] must prepare itself for a direct military clash in the Taiwan Straits.”

The mainland must also prepare itself for a direct military clash in the Taiwan Straits. It needs to make clear that escalation of US-Taiwan official exchanges will bring serious consequences to Taiwan. This newspaper has suggested that the mainland can send military planes and warships across the Taiwan Straits middle line. This can be implemented gradually depending on the cross-Straits situation.

Preventing the Taiwan independence movement and promoting unification through peaceful ways can be costly, perhaps costing more than the short-term loss brought about by forceful unification. It’s a misunderstanding to think that peaceful unification will be a harmonious and happy process. The Taiwan authority will only turn around when left with no choice. Sticks matter more than flowers on the path to peaceful reunification.

China Uncensored provides us with the knowledge that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has already made the preparations to invade Taiwan by 2020.

Earlier this week, the New Straits Times reported that China sailed its aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait, in response to Wong’s Taipei trip.

Taiwan said Wednesday it had scrambled jets and sent ships to track a Chinese aircraft carrier which passed through the Taiwan Strait as Beijing’s leader gave the island a fierce warning against separatism. The Liaoning and accompanying vessels entered Taiwan’s air defence zone on Tuesday, the same day Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a blistering nationalistic speech – warning against what he called any attempts to split China.  

While the Global Times says China should prepare for military action against Taiwan, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Trump administration coupled with military–industrial complex is preparing for the next great war in the East. This time around, perhaps, we have gained an important clue that war with China starts with Taiwan.

]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 04:05:00 +0300
<![CDATA[The Digital-Military-Industrial Complex Exposed]]> Authored by Tamsin Shaw via,

The New Military-Industrial Complex of Big Data Psy-Ops

Apparently, the age of the old-fashioned spook is in decline.

What is emerging instead is an obscure world of mysterious boutique companies specializing in data analysis and online influence that contract with government agencies.

As they say about hedge funds, if the general public has heard their names that’s probably not a good sign. But there is now one data analysis company that anyone who pays attention to the US and UK press has heard of: Cambridge Analytica. Representatives have boasted that their list of past and current clients includes the British Ministry of Defense, the US Department of Defense, the US Department of State, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and NATO. Nevertheless, they became recognized for just one influence campaign: the one that helped Donald Trump get elected president of the United States. The kind of help the company offered has since been the subject of much unwelcome legal and journalistic scrutiny.

Carole Cadwalladr’s recent exposé of the inner workings of Cambridge Analytica shows that the company, along with its partner, SCL Group, should rightly be as a cautionary tale about the part private companies play in developing and deploying government-funded behavioral technologies. Her source, former employee Christopher Wylie, has described the development of influence techniques for psychological warfare by SCL Defense, the refinement of similar techniques by SCL Elections through its use across the developing world (for example, a “rumor campaign” deployed to spread fear during the 2007 election in Nigeria), and the purchase of this cyber-arsenal by Robert Mercer, the American billionaire who funded Cambridge Analytica, and who, with the help of Wylie, Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon, and the company’s chief executive Alexander Nix, deployed it on the American electorate in 2016.

But the revelations should also prompt us to ask deeper questions about the kind of behavioral science research that enables both governments and private companies to assume these powers.

Two young psychologists are central to the Cambridge Analytica story. One is Michal Kosinski, who devised an app with a Cambridge University colleague, David Stillwell, that measures personality traits by analyzing Facebook “likes.” It was then used in collaboration with the World Well-Being Project, a group at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center that specializes in the use of big data to measure health and happiness in order to improve well-being. The other is Aleksandr Kogan, who also works in the field of positive psychology and has written papers on happiness, kindness, and love (according to his résumé, an early paper was called “Down the Rabbit Hole: A Unified Theory of Love”). He ran the Prosociality and Well-being Laboratory, under the auspices of Cambridge University’s Well-Being Institute.

Despite its prominence in research on well-being, Kosinski’s work, Cadwalladr points out, drew a great deal of interest from British and American intelligence agencies and defense contractors, including overtures from the private company running an intelligence project nicknamed “Operation KitKat” because a correlation had been found between anti-Israeli sentiments and liking Nikes and KitKats. Several of Kosinski’s co-authored papers list the US government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, as a funding source. His résumé boasts of meetings with senior figures at two of the world’s largest defense contractors, Boeing and Microsoft, both companies that have sponsored his research. He ran a workshop on digital footprints and psychological assessment for the Singaporean Ministry of Defense.

For his part, Aleksandr Kogan established a company, Global Science Research, that contracted with SCL, using Facebook data to map personality traits for its work in elections (Kosinski claims that Kogan essentially reverse-engineered the app that he and Stillwell had developed). Kogan’s app harvested data on Facebook users who agreed to take a personality test for the purposes of academic research (though it was, in fact, to be used by SCL for non-academic ends). But according to Wylie, the app also collected data on their entire—and nonconsenting—network of friends. Once Cambridge Analytica and SCL had won contracts with the State Department and were pitching to the Pentagon, Wylie became alarmed that this illegally-obtained data had ended up at the heart of government, along with the contractors who might abuse it.

This apparently bizarre intersection of research on topics like love and kindness with defense and intelligence interests is not, in fact, particularly unusual. It is typical of the kind of dual-use research that has shaped the field of social psychology in the US since World War II.

Much of the classic, foundational research on personality, conformity, obedience, group polarization, and other such determinants of social dynamics—while ostensibly civilian—was funded during the cold war by the military and the CIA. The cold war was an ideological battle, so, naturally, research on techniques for controlling belief was considered a national security priority. This psychological research laid the groundwork for propaganda wars and for experiments in individual “mind control.” The pioneering figures from this era—for example, Gordon Allport on personality and Solomon Asch on belief conformity—are still cited in NATO psy-ops literature to this day.

The recent revival of this cold war approach has taken place in the setting of the war on terror, which began in 1998 with Bill Clinton’s Presidential Decision Directive 62, making terrorism America’s national security priority. Martin Seligman, the psychologist who has bridged the military and civilian worlds more successfully than any other with his work on helplessness and resilience, was at the forefront of the new dual-use initiative. His research began as a part of a cold war program of electroshock experiments in the 1960s. He subjected dogs to electric shocks, rendering them passive to the point that they no longer even tried to avoid the pain, a state he called “learned helplessness.” This concept then became the basis of a theory of depression, along with associated ideas about how to foster psychological resilience.

In 1998, Seligman founded the positive psychology movement, dedicated to the study of psychological traits and habits that foster authentic happiness and well-being, spawning an enormous industry of popular self-help books. At the same time, his work attracted interest and funding from the military as a central part of its soldier-resilience initiative. Seligman had previously worked with the CIA and even before September 11, 2001, his new movement was in tune with America’s shifting national security priorities, hosting in its inaugural year a conference in Northern Ireland on “ethno-political conflict.”

But it was after the September 11 attacks that terrorism became Seligman’s absolute priority. In 2003, he said that the war with jihadis must take precedence over all other academic research, saying of his colleagues: “If we lose the war, the laudable, but pet projects they endorse, will not be issues… If we win this war, we can go on to pursue the normal goals of science.” Money poured into the discipline for these purposes. The Department of Homeland Security established Centers of Excellence in universities for interdisciplinary research into the social and psychological roots of terrorism. Elsewhere, scholars worked more obliquely on relevant behavioral technologies.

Some of the psychological projects cultivated under the banner of the war on terror will be familiar to many readers. Psychologists such as Jonathan Haidt and Steven Pinker, and their colleagues in other disciplines (most prominently, the Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein) rehabilitated the cold war research on “group polarization” as a way of understanding not, this time, the radicalism that feeds “totalitarianism,” but the equally amorphous notion of “extremism.” They sought to combat extremism domestically by promoting “viewpoint diversity” both on campus (through organizations such as the Heterodox Academy, run by Haidt and funded by libertarian billionaire Paul Singer) and online, suggesting ways in which websites might employ techniques from social psychology to combat phenomena such as “confirmation bias.” Their notion of “appropriate heterogeneity” (Sunstein) in moral and political views remains controversial.

Seligman himself saw the potential for using the Internet to bring his research on personality together with new ways of gathering data. This project began shortly after the September 11 attacks, with a paper on “Character Strengths Before and After September 11,” which focused on variations in traits such as trust, love, teamwork, and leadership. It ultimately evolved into the innovative World Well-Being Project at Penn. Seligman also fostered links with Cambridge University, where he is on the board of the Well-Being Institute that employs the same kind of psychometric techniques. The aim of these programs is not simply to analyze our subjective states of mind but to discover means by which we can be “nudged” in the direction of our true well-being as positive psychologists understand it, which includes attributes like resilience and optimism. Seligman’s projects are almost all funded by the Templeton Foundation and may have been employed for entirely civilian purposes. But in bringing together the personality research and the behavioral technologies that social psychologists had for decades been refining with the new tool of big data (via the astonishing resources provided by social media), it has created an important template for what is now the cutting-edge work of America’s intelligence community.

In 2008, then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates commissioned the Minerva Initiative, funded by the DoD, which brought researchers in the social sciences together to study culture and terrorism, and specifically supported initiatives involving the analysis of social media. One of the Cornell scientists involved also participated in the famous and controversial Facebook study of emotional contagion. Less well known is the Open Source Indicators program at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or IARPA (a body under the Director of National Intelligence), which has aimed to analyze social media in order to predict social unrest and political crises.

In a 2014 interview, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, speaking then as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that such open-source data initiatives, and in particular the study of social media such as Facebook, had entirely transformed intelligence-gathering. He reported that traditional signals intelligence and human intelligence were increasingly being replaced by this open-source work and that the way in which intelligence agents are trained had been modified to accommodate the shift. A growing portion of the military’s $50 billion budget would be spent on this data analytics work, he claimed, creating a “gold rush” for contractors. A few weeks after this interview, Flynn left the DIA to establish the Flynn Intel Group Inc. He later acted as a consultantto the SCL Group.

Carole Cadwalladr reported in The Observer last year that it was Sophie Schmidt, daughter of Alphabet founder Eric Schmidt, who made SCL aware of this gold rush, telling Alexander Nix, then head of SCL Elections, that the company should emulate Palantir, the company set up by Peter Thiel and funded with CIA venture capital that has now won important national security contracts. Schmidt threatened to sue Cadwalladr for reporting this information. But Nix recently admitted before a parliamentary select committee in London that Schmidt had interned for Cambridge Analytica, though he denied that she had introduced him to Peter Thiel. Aleksandr Kogan and Christopher Wylie allowed Cambridge Analytica to evolve into an extremely competitive operator in this arena.

It was by no means inevitable that dual-use research at the intersection of psychology and data science would be employed along with illegally-obtained caches of data to manipulate elections. But dual-use research in psychology does seem to present a specific set of dangers. Many areas of scientific research have benefited from dual-use initiatives. The National Cancer Institute began its life in the early 1970s as part of a coordinated program examining the effects of tumor agents developed as bio-weapons at Fort Detrick. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, similarly, researched the effects of militarily manufactured hazardous viruses. This was the foundation of a biotechnology industry that has become a paradigm case of dual use and has led, in spite of its more sinister side, to invaluable medical breakthroughs. But the development of behavioral technologies intended for military-grade persuasion in cyber-operations is rooted in a specific perspective on human beings, one that is at odds with the way they should be viewed in democratic societies.

I’ve written previously about the way in which a great deal of contemporary behavioral science aims to exploit our irrationalities rather than overcome them. A science that is oriented toward the development of behavioral technologies is bound to view us narrowly as manipulable subjects rather than rational agents. If these technologies are becoming the core of America’s military and intelligence cyber-operations, it looks as though we will have to work harder to keep these trends from affecting the everyday life of our democratic society. That will mean paying closer attention to the military and civilian boundaries being crossed by the private companies that undertake such cyber-operations.          

In the academic world, it should entail a refusal to apply the perspective of propaganda research more generally to social problems. From social media we should demand, at a minimum, much greater protection of our data. Over time, we might also see a lower tolerance for platforms whose business model relies on the collection and commercial exploitation of that data. As for politics, rather than elected officials’ perfecting technologies that give them access to personal information about the electorate, their focus should be on informing voters about their policies and actions, and making themselves accountable.

]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 03:45:00 +0300
<![CDATA[Trade War Humor? Zimbabwe Rejects Imported Chinese Condoms For Being "Too Small"]]> A Chinese condom manufacturer is considering producing its prophylactics in different (read: larger) sizes after Zimbabwe's health minister complained that the condoms its produces are too small, and are therefore ineffective at helping the country combat its rampant AIDS crisis.

Zhao Chuan, the chief executive of condom manufacturer Beijing Daxiang and His Friends Technology Co, told the South China Morning Post that his firm was planning to produce a new suite of products following the complaints.


Chuan's announcement comes after Health Minister David Parirenyatwa made the comments at an event in the capital Harare last week to promote HIV/Aids prevention, according to the website New

"The southern African region has the highest incidence of HIV and we are promoting the use of condoms," Parirenyatwa said.

"Youths now have a particular condom that they like, but we don’t manufacture them. We import condoms from China and some men complain they are too small."

But any changes to these product offerings might be too little, too late, as Parirenyatwa is now calling for Zimbabwean firms to seize the opportunity to muscle out their foreign competitors by producing condoms domestically. Zimbabwe is one of the top five condom importers in the world, while China is one of the world's largest producers. China has about 300 firms manufacturing condoms - producing about 3 billion rubbers a year. 

In other trade news, China announced this week that it will retaliate against the US by imposing $3 billion in tariffs on US imports based on 128 product categories - and has threatened to unleash "tens of billions" more.

Chuan explained that customers around the world have different preferences. For example, Chinese men prefer thinner condoms - but aren't so concerned about size - while American consumers prefer softer, thicker rubbers.

Judging by the map below, Chuan might be on to something...




]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 03:25:00 +0300
<![CDATA[Are Central Banks About To Open The Floodgates For Gold And Cryptocurrency?]]> Authored by Alex Deluce via,

Recently Switzerland’s Central Bank Swiss National Bank garnered headline glory by reporting a record $55 billion (54 billion francs) profit last year, which exceeds even the annual profit of Apple and the combined profit of JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway. The central bank’s strong result was aided by record profit on its equity holdings, bond prices, and its weaker currency.

SNB earned 8% of GDP last year

SNB’s stupendous results made one wonder how the central bank emerged as a major money manager with a nearly $800 billion portfolio of bonds and stocks. Of note, unlike other central banks such as ECB, BOJ and FED, SNB’s balance sheet largely comprised of foreign assets, with 49 billion francs of its profits generated from its foreign assets, while the central bank could net only about three billion francs from its gold holdings and another two billion francs from its Swiss franc positions. It is widely believed that SNB has been preventing Swiss franc from drastic appreciation by printing more francs and infusing them into global markets to buy bonds and stocks. The hefty profit of 54 billion francs clocked last year translates into 8% of Switzerland’s GDP. Thus one can surmise that the central bank made substantial PROFIT OUT OF THIN AIR.

While SNB’s gold holdings resulted in only about three billion francs of profit last year, various central banks turned out to be aggressive buyers of gold in 2017, having purchased 414.9 tons, as against 95.1 tons bought in 2016. Investors were in full focus when data from World Gold Council revealed that the central banks purchased 117.7 tons during October and November 2017 alone. It is well known that central banks prefer gold as protection against black swan economic events.

Welcome to Digital Gold

Amidst central banks’ active reserve management skills, as elucidated above, a former central banker with the South African Reserve Bank believe in 2018, G7 central banks will start buying cryptocurrencies to propel their foreign reserves. Considering the recent popularity and upsurge witnessed in prices of cryptocurrencies, the former central banker predicts the special drawing rights and G7 country currencies will be forced to alter their foreign reserve weightages by ultimately including a basket of cryptocurrencies.

Considering bitcoin was designed to enact as digital gold, he reckons G7 central banks will witness bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies turning out to be biggest international currency by market capitalization. It is felt that such massive popularity of cryptocurrencies can force central banks to call for emergency meetings to exercise their prerogative to deviate from the existing investment policy for reserve management and hence ultimately central bank money could pour into cryptocurrencies.

Centralized Vs Decentralized digital currencies

Resonating the vast popularity of cryptocurrencies, it has been reported that Russia is working on a government-run cryptocurrency, while other leading countries including the US, China, Japan and Canada are either exploring or actively working on some form of digital currency. Similarly, central banks from Singapore to Sweden have been pondering the feasibility of issuing digital versions of their own money. It is felt digital currencies could cut out middlemen and banks. 

Alluding to the rapidly evolving area of central banks’ interest in digital currencies, Bank for International Settlement has come out with a report this month titled: “Central bank digital currencies”. The report published by BIS’ two committees viz.: Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures and Markets Committee suggests central banks should carefully consider the implications for financial stability and monetary policy of issuing digital currencies.

Terming Central bank digital currencies (CBDC) as a potentially new form of digital central bank money, the BIS report underscores two main CBDC variants viz.: a wholesale (for use in financial market) and a general purpose (for use by the general public).

The following picture puts CBDC in the context of other types of money. The diagram focuses on the mix of four fundamental properties viz.: issuer (central bank or other), form (digital or physical), accessibility (widely or restricted) and technology (token or account based):

The BIS report notes cash and many digital currencies are token-based, while reserve account balances and most forms of commercial bank money are account-based.

The authors believe the wholesale variant would limit access to a predefined group of users, while the general purpose one would be widely accessible. The authors reckon the wholesale CBDCs, combined with the use of distributed ledger technology, may enhance settlement efficiency for transactions involving securities and derivatives. The report highlights that wholesale CBDCs might be useful for payments but more work is needed to assess the full potential.

The following table captures a comparative analysis of properties across existing and potentially new forms of central bank money:

Taking a macro view post the implementation of CBDC, the BIS report has come out with a stylized balances sheet of the central bank after the introduction of CBDC, duly reflecting the demand for CBDC and its enhanced assets holdings. The balance sheet clearly underscores the dominant role played by central bank digital currency, as it is projected to form a substantial share of central banks’ liabilities:

Thus it is clearly evident that Bank for International Settlements is keeping pace with the opportunity in the central bank digital currencies...

]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 03:05:00 +0300
<![CDATA[Trump "Disk Pic": Stormy Daniels' Lawyer Teases Mystery CD In A Safe]]> The lawyer representing porn actress Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) fired off a tweet with a picture of what appeared to be a compact disc in a safe - hinting that he has video or photographic evidence of Clifford's affair with President Trump. 

"If 'a picture is worth a thousand words,' how many words is this worth?????" tweeted lawyer Michael Avenatti. 

Avenatti has been a frequent guest on cable news as he promotes Stormy's upcoming 60 minutes tell-all about her alleged affair with President Trump, in which she was reportedly paid $130,000 by Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen to keep quiet. 

When CBS Evening News' Julianna Goldman asked Avenatti if he had photos, texts or videos of her alleged relationship with Trump, he replied "No comment," adding that Clifford just "wants to set the record straight." (which you can read more about in her upcoming book, we're sure). 

Clifford has filed a lawsuit that alleges the NDA she signed shortly before the 2016 election is null and void because Trump - under the name "David Dennison," never signed it. 

"We have photos of Trump's penis" 

On Monday Avenatti appeared on MSNBC where he told The Beat's Ari Melber "We have a lot of information, a lot of evidence, a lot of documents that haven’t come to light yet. Numerous pieces of evidence, numerous facts, and we’re not gonna show our hand in the beginning weeks of any case. No good lawyer would do that, and we’re certainly not gonna do it here.

In response, notorious Louise Mensch co-hoaxer, Claude Taylor, tweeted "Stormy's Lawyer on MSNBC. I'll paraphrase. "We have photos of Trump's penis". 

Taylor's tweet was immediately megaphoned by several blue-check Twitter accounts, which caused the tweet to go viral until journalist Yashar Ali and others set the record straight.

In light of Avenatti's "Disk Pic," however, one wonders if there may be some truth to Taylor's assertion.

Trump filed to sue Daniels last week for $20 million, accusing her of repeatedly violating the nondisclosure agreement. 

Meanwhile, former Playboy model Karen McDougal who alleges she had an affair with President Trump, told CNN's Anderson Cooper that she fell in love with Trump - with whom she had "unprotected sex dozens of times" after their 2006 introduction. 

McDougal, 46, also told CNN that she and "charming" Trump had sex on their first date and that she went home afterward ‘crying in the backseat of a car’ when he offered her cash after they made love. 

'After we had been intimate, he tried to pay me, and I actually didn't know how to take that,' she said. 

She said she was hurt by the cash offer, which she turned down.  

'I don't even know how to describe the look on my face,' she said. 'It must have been so sad.' 

Later that year she was also given an apartment in New York City as a Christmas gift, but lost it after the two split. -Daily Mail

Fighting back tears - certainly not in advance of a book deal, McDougal told Cooper "I'm really sorry for that. I know it's a wrong thing to do."

She said Trump 'always' told her that he loved her. The two even had nicknames for each other.

'He would call me baby, or he'd call me beautiful Karen,' McDougal said.

McDougal filed a lawsuit this week against the publisher of the National Enquirer, which allegedly bought the exclusive rights to her story about the affair with Trump and then never published in order to help him after he won the Republican nomination.

McDougal told CNN that she first met Trump in 2006, when NBC was filming an episode of Celebrity Apprentice at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.

'He said hello like he would to anybody and throughout the night, it was kind of obvious that there was an attraction from his part to me,' McDougal said.  -Daily Mail

McDougal took the opportunity to slam Trump's marriage during the interview, telling Cooper she thought it was odd that Donald and Melania slept in separate bedrooms. "I thought maybe they were having issues," she said.

Where is this all going?

While some have construed the $130,000 payment to Daniels may constitute an illegal campaign contribution, others have said that's not likely to hold much water. And since Trump had the affairs as a private citizen, not in the Oval Office, nor has he lied about it to Congress like Bill Clinton, it appears that this whole Stormy and McDougal thing exists solely to embarrass the President while he plays musical chairs with key positions (Tillerson, Bolton, McMaster, etc.). 

]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 02:45:22 +0300
<![CDATA[Council On Foreign Relations President: "Goodbye, LIberal World Order"]]> Whatever one thinks of Trump, love him, loathe him, mock him or respect him, he's managed to do one thing - in the one year that he's been president, his ad hoc, haphazard, chaotic, irrational and unpredictable style of governance may have thrown the country, its institutions, its "establishment", and certainly the press for loop, but it has also achieved one other thing: it has made the "globalists" conclude that the "liberal world order" which they created - which has resulted in the greatest accumulation of wealth by the fewest number of people; in the greatest political, social, ethnic, economic and financial polarization in recent history; in a global debt load that has put the world on the verge of financial catastrophe (only offset by constant central bank "confidence" injections); and which the "Trump vote" was a protest against - is almost over.

And nobody says it better than Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, in the following essay:

Liberal World Order, R.I.P.

After a run of nearly one thousand years, quipped the French philosopher and writer Voltaire, the fading Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire. Today, some two and a half centuries later, the problem, to paraphrase Voltaire, is that the fading liberal world order is neither liberal nor worldwide nor orderly.

The United States, working closely with the United Kingdom and others, established the liberal world order in the wake of World War II. The goal was to ensure that the conditions that had led to two world wars in 30 years would never again arise.

To that end, the democratic countries set out to create an international system that was liberal in the sense that it was to be based on the rule of law and respect for countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity. Human rights were to be protected. All this was to be applied to the entire planet; at the same time, participation was open to all and voluntary. Institutions were built to promote peace (the United Nations), economic development (the World Bank) and trade and investment (the International Monetary Fund and what years later became the World Trade Organization).

All this and more was backed by the economic and military might of the US, a network of alliances across Europe and Asia, and nuclear weapons, which served to deter aggression. The liberal world order was thus based not just on ideals embraced by democracies, but also on hard power. None of this was lost on the decidedly illiberal Soviet Union, which had a fundamentally different notion of what constituted order in Europe and around the world.

The liberal world order appeared to be more robust than ever with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. But today, a quarter-century later, its future is in doubt. Indeed, its three components – liberalism, universality, and the preservation of order itself – are being challenged as never before in its 70-year history.

Liberalism is in retreat. Democracies are feeling the effects of growing populism. Parties of the political extremes have gained ground in Europe. The vote in the United Kingdom in favor of leaving the EU attested to the loss of elite influence. Even the US is experiencing unprecedented attacks from its own president on the country’s media, courts, and law-enforcement institutions. Authoritarian systems, including China, Russia, and Turkey, have become even more top-heavy. Countries such as Hungary and Poland seem uninterested in the fate of their young democracies.

It is increasingly difficult to speak of the world as if it were whole. We are seeing the emergence of regional orders – or, most pronounced in the Middle East, disorders – each with its own characteristics. Attempts to build global frameworks are failing. Protectionism is on the rise; the latest round of global trade talks never came to fruition. There are few rules governing the use of cyberspace.

At the same time, great power rivalry is returning. Russia violated the most basic norm of international relations when it used armed force to change borders in Europe, and it violated US sovereignty through its efforts to influence the 2016 election. North Korea has flouted the strong international consensus against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The world has stood by as humanitarian nightmares play out in Syria and Yemen, doing little at the UN or elsewhere in response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. Venezuela is a failing state. One in every hundred people in the world today is either a refugee or internally displaced.

There are several reasons why all this is happening, and why now. The rise of populism is in part a response to stagnating incomes and job loss, owing mostly to new technologies but widely attributed to imports and immigrants. Nationalism is a tool increasingly used by leaders to bolster their authority, especially amid difficult economic and political conditions. And global institutions have failed to adapt to new power balances and technologies.

But the weakening of the liberal world order is due, more than anything else, to the changed attitude of the US. Under President Donald Trump, the US decided against joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. It has threatened to leave the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. It has unilaterally introduced steel and aluminum tariffs, relying on a justification (national security) that others could use, in the process placing the world at risk of a trade war. It has raised questions about its commitment to NATO and other alliance relationships. And it rarely speaks about democracy or human rights. “America First” and the liberal world order seem incompatible.

My point is not to single out the US for criticism. Today’s other major powers, including the EU, Russia, China, India, and Japan, could be criticized for what they are doing, not doing, or both. But the US is not just another country. It was the principal architect of the liberal world order and its principal backer. It was also a principal beneficiary.

America’s decision to abandon the role it has played for more than seven decades thus marks a turning point. The liberal world order cannot survive on its own, because others lack either the interest or the means to sustain it. The result will be a world that is less free, less prosperous, and less peaceful, for Americans and others alike.


]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 02:25:22 +0300
<![CDATA[2.8 Million Hong-Kongers Got A HK$4,000 Cash Handout Today]]> With Trump signing a record $1.3 trillion spending bill, of which $700 billion is set to go to the military, average Americans are wondering if they will each get some cash, or at least an army tank, from the government. And, if they were resident of Hong Kong instead of the US today, the answer would be yes (to the cash that is, not the tank), as the local government is literally making money rain.

Today, more than 2.8 million Hong-Kongers who did not benefit from this year’s budget will receive a cash handout of HK$4,000 (US$510) each from the government, following intense public and political pressure on Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po to further share the bumper HK$138 billion surplus announced in last month’s budget, the SCMP reported . And faced with demands to do more for the needy, the government decided to fork out an extra HK$11 billion in handouts.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan said the new scheme shows the government’s goal of caring for the community. “[We are] trying to cover more people who may not directly benefit from the budget,” he said at a press conference on Friday. What he meant is that his is just another way to short-circuit conventional economics and directly bribe the population.

Protesters calling for cash handouts and measures to benefit the poor during the announcement of the 2018 budget. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP

Asked by reporters, Chan said he would not promise that there will be similar handouts in the future. Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said he could not give an exact date when residents could receive the benefits, but said he hoped it will happen before the next budget is issued.

Predictably, handing out cash to some but not others leads to anger, and Chan in his financial blueprint – the first by the government of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor – dished out a combination of salary and profits tax rebates and increased old age and disability allowances for at least two million Hongkongers. The 2018 budget was criticised by many, including lawmakers from both camps, for neglecting specific groups, in particular low-income people who pay no taxes, do not own property and do not receive government benefits.

Asked if the new measure was made after receiving pressure from both camps, Chan responded that he said he would look into further measures two days after the budget was issued.

“[W]e mainly heard the voices in society, and we reflected calmly after listening to these voices and opinions. We agreed that the budget’s caring and sharing component could provide wider coverage,” he said.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To said he welcomed the new measure (duh): “We do not want the government to give cash handouts every year, but the original budget was unfair,” he said. “The Financial Secretary has to think about not giving land rates rebate to big corporations.”

What he meant is that he wants the government to give cash handouts every year.

* * *

According to a poll conducted by the University of Hong Kong’s public opinion program one to two days after the budget announcement, the 500 people surveyed gave the budget 42.8 marks out of 100, meaning satisfaction with the government’s financial strategy plunged to a seven-year low.

Which explains the highly popular cash handout.

However the money is distributed today, Hong Kong has now set a very dangerous precedent, one where the government literally has to hand out cash to quell public anger. Call it pork for the people, which is great as long as government funding is cheap and ample - like in the case of the US and its $1.3 trillion porkulus package - however one the money dries out, such "universal cash handouts" just happen to be the fastest road to a revolution by a suddenly disgruntled "free shit" army.

]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 02:05:00 +0300
<![CDATA[The World According To John Bolton... In His Own Words]]> Via,

Trump's new national security adviser has been branded a bully, abrasive and 'unhinged'. Here are some of his most outspoken statements...

John Bolton is set to replace HR McMaster as Donald Trump's national security adviser in a Lazarus-like resurrection for a man regarded as among the most hawkish of American politicians. 

The US president announced the move on Thursday afternoon.

Bolton will become Trump's third national security advisor in less than 15 months. Last year, Michael Flynn was forced to step down because of his failure to disclose that he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador in Washington before Trump took office.

Bolton is a Bush-era defence under-secretary and former ambassador to the UN, and one of the signatories to the influential, pre-9/11 neo-conservative "Project for a New American Century", which openly called for the unilateral removal of Saddam Hussein.

Described by critics as abrasive, confrontational and, in one case, "unhinged", Bolton was accused of manipulating US intelligence on weapons of mass destruction before the Iraq war and of abusive treatment of his subordinates.

He joins the president's new-look top team - Mike Pompeo, the former CIA chief, is Trump's new secretary of state. Gina Haspel becomes the CIA's new spymaster.

John Bolton

On the UN, 1994: "There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that's the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along."

On UN bureaucracy, 1994 (scroll to 16.00 in video below): "The secretariat building in New York has 38 storeys. If you lost 10 storeys today, it wouldn't make a bit of difference. The UN is one of the most inefficient... organisations going, Unesco is even worse and things go downhill from there."

On UN reform, 2000: "If I were redoing the Security Council today, I'd have one permanent member because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world... the United States." (Bolton later claimed he had been quoted out of context)

On Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, 2002: "We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction."

On Bush's 'axis of evil' of Iran, Iraq and North Korea, 2002: There is "a hard connection between these regimes - an 'axis' along which flow dangerous weapons and dangerous technology."

On Iran in 2009, before the signing of the international nuclear deal: "Ultimately, the only thing that will stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons is regime change in Tehran."

Advocating US-Israel bombing of Iran, 2015: "Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed. Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran's opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran."

On claims Barack Obama is a Muslim, 2016: "King Abdullah of Jordan, who is not simply the Muslim king of a Muslim country - unlike our president." 

On the attempted coup against Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 2016: "Erdogan... wants an Islamic state. The failed military coup was most likely the last gasp of the secular generals. Whether he goes on to declare a Turkish caliphate or not, I don't know, but he has laid the ground."

On the Iranian nuclear deal, 2016: "The Iran nuclear deal, in my opinion, was the worst act of appeasement in American history."

On Israel, 2017: “The Middle East peace process has long needed clarity and an injection of reality, and Trump has provided it by making the decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.”

On Russia, 2018: "There needs to be a strategic response to Russia's new nuclear missiles to show our allies in Europe that we will not let Russia push the US or its allies around."

Bolton has also appeared in an unusual Russian video in which he talks about loosening gun laws for Russians, NPR reported on Thursday.

In 2013, he recorded a video for the Russian group Right to Bear Arms, which was founded politician Alexander Torshin. Torshin is under investigation by Robert Mueller for possibly funneling money into the NRA to help Trump during the 2016 US presidential election.

"Thank you for this opportunity to address the Russian people on the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Russian Constitution," Bolton said.

"Were the Russian national government to grant a broader right to bear arms to its people, it would be creating a partnership with its citizens that would better allow for the protection of mothers, children and families without in any way compromising the integrity of the Russian state," he added in the video.

Others on John Bolton

"I think I would rest easy if he was dog catcher in Stone Mountain, Georgia. But maybe not."

Carl Ford, former head of the State Department's intelligence bureau.

"It concerns me that Trump would put someone in charge who is unhinged as far as believing in absolute and total intervention."

Rand Paul, Republican senator.

"My long-standing support for a fix for the Iran deal may have just died an untimely death."

- Mark Dubowitz, Foundation for Defence of Democracies think tank, on Bolton's appointment.


]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 01:45:00 +0300
<![CDATA[Raytheon's Laser-Dune-Buggy Blasts Drone-Swarm Out Of The Sky]]> Earlier this year, Raytheon boasted in a press release about combining a solid-state laser with an advanced variant of the company’s Multi-Spectral Targeting System (MTS) of sensors — mounted on a militarized all-terrain Polaris light-vehicle. The press release describes the vehicle as an “agile, mobile, and effective” war machine to protect troops from weaponized unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) threats.

Raytheon said its “engineers and physicists are doing something that has never been done before,” and frankly, the militarized laser dune buggy looks like it is straight out of the Mad Max movies.

“Basically, we’re putting a laser on a dune buggy to knock drones out of the sky,” said Dr. Ben Allison, director of Raytheon’s high-energy laser program.

“It’s actually a little more complicated than that,” Allison added.

Allison’s team has managed to mount a high-energy laser with an advanced variant of Raytheon’s Multi-Spectral Targeting System (MTS), an advanced package of electro-optical/ infrared (EO/IR), laser designation, and laser illumination capabilities integrated into a single sensor onto the bed of a Polaris MRZR.

As stated by Allison, the concept of laser blasting drones from the sky with dune buggies was conceived from a meeting with Raytheon’s CEO Chairman Tom Kennedy last year. Kennedy expressed his disbelief to Allison when an allied nation [most likely Israel] used the Patriot missile system to intercept cheap weaponized drones outfitted with grenade-like munitions.

Typical quadcopters used by terrorist groups are worth several hundred dollars, while Patriot missiles cost about $2 million per rocket.

“That cost-to-kill ratio is high,” explained Allison, “but the threat is clear. So, the question became, ‘What can we do for a counter-UAS system using a high-energy laser, and do it quickly. We didn’t want to go out and do a bunch of research and development. We wanted to take the assets and capabilities Raytheon has today and use them to really affect this asymmetrical threat. We settled on a small system that’s hugely capable.”

Here is Raytheon’s Laser Dune Buggy versus a Drone in action: 

According to Raytheon’s latest press release, around forty-five unmanned aerial vehicles and drones were blasted out of the sky, downed by the company’s “advanced high-power microwave and laser dune buggy.” The field training exercise known as Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment was recently conducted at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Raytheon states that high-ranking military and defense industry officials spectated the field training exercise to grasp an understanding of new “ways to bridge the Army’s capability gaps in long-range fires and maneuver short-range air defense.”

Highlights from the event include:

  • Raytheon’s high-power microwave system engaged multiple UAV swarms, downing 33 drones, two and three at a time.

  • Raytheon’s high energy laser, or HEL, system identified, tracked, engaged and downed 12 airborne, maneuvering Class I and II UAVs, and destroyed six stationary mortar projectiles.

Within the press release, it seems as Raytheon was testing yet another high-energy gun at Fort Still — separate from the laser dune buggy. Raytheon describes the weapon as a “directed energy system emits an adjustable energy beam that, when aimed at airborne targets such as drones, renders them unable to fly.”

“The speed and low cost per engagement of directed energy is revolutionary in protecting our troops against drones,” said Dr. Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president. “We have spent decades perfecting the high-power microwave system, which may soon give our military a significant advantage against this proliferating threat.”

“Our customer needed a solution, and they needed it fast,” said Dr. Ben Allison, director of Raytheon’s HEL product line. “So, we took what we’ve learned and combined it with combat-proven components to rapidly deliver a small, self-contained and easily deployed counter-UAV system.”

Interesting enough, we reported on Tuesday, the Army is scrambling to plug the gap in short-range defenses. In doing so, the Army is testing its Mobile High Energy Lasers (MEHEL) mounted on the M1126 Stryker armoured personnel carriers in Europe. The Stryker-mounted MEHEL is designed for short-range aerial threats, such as weaponized drones.

U.S. Soldiers from the Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment are now equipped with newly developed laser weapon MEHEL mounted on 8×8 Stryker armoured vehicle. The Stryker with MEHEL 2.0 was presented for the first time on General Dynamics Land Systems booth during the AUSA exhibition in Washington D.C. in October 2016 equipped with a 5kW beam director.

The 5 kW laser project is part of the Mobile Experimental High Energy Laser. It represents an advance over a previous laser tested in 2016, and will lead into more powerful, longer ranging anti-drone, anti-missile laser systems. The Stryker-mounted MEHEL has proven to be extremely efficient in eliminating enemy drone targets, and its use in Europe will help the U.S. Army to assess emerging concepts, technologies and interoperability.

With millions of commercial and hobby drones buzzing in the skies around the world, it seems like the Pentagon has taken notice of the growing threat that these drones could be soon weaponized. After all, the Pentagon has more than 800 military bases around the world...

It is increasingly evident that the United States Department of Defense (DoD) and its allies cannot afford to use a $2 million Patriot missile to blast a $500 drone from the sky. As a result, to lower the cost-to-kill ratio, the Pentagon has decided to start strapping drone-killing lasers to its war machines. As we have said before, you are starting to get the picture of how the next war will be fought... Have you prepared? 

]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 01:25:00 +0300
<![CDATA[Pat Buchanan Asks "Will The Deep State Break Trump?"]]> Authored by Patrick Buchanan via,

“It is becoming more obvious with each passing day that the men and the movement that broke Lyndon Johnson’s authority in 1968 are out to break Richard Nixon,” wrote David Broder on Oct. 8, 1969.

“The likelihood is great that they will succeed again.”

A columnist for The Washington Post, Broder was no fan of Nixon.

His prediction, however, proved wrong. Nixon, with his “Silent Majority” address rallied the nation and rocked the establishment. He went on to win a 49-state victory in 1972, after which his stumbles opened the door to the establishment’s revenge.

Yet, Broder’s analysis was spot on. And, today, another deep state conspiracy, to break another presidency, is underway.

Consider. To cut through the Russophobia rampant here, Trump decided to make a direct phone call to Vladimir Putin. And in that call, Trump, like Angela Merkel, congratulated Putin on his re-election victory.

Instantly, the briefing paper for the president’s call was leaked to the Post. In bold letters it read, “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.”

Whereupon, the Beltway went ballistic.

How could Trump congratulate Putin, whose election was a sham? Why did he not charge Putin with the Salisbury poisoning? Why did Trump not denounce Putin for interfering with “our democracy”?

Amazing. A disloyal White House staffer betrays his trust and leaks a confidential paper to sabotage the foreign policy of a duly elected president, and he is celebrated in this capital city.

If you wish to see the deep state at work, this is it:

anti-Trump journalists using First Amendment immunities to collude with and cover up the identities of bureaucratic snakes out to damage or destroy a president they despise. No wonder democracy is a declining stock worldwide.

And, yes, they give out Pulitzers for criminal collusion like this.

The New York Times got a Pulitzer and the Post got a Hollywood movie starring Meryl Streep, for publishing stolen secret papers from the Pentagon of JFK and LBJ - to sabotage the Vietnam War policy of Richard Nixon.

Why? Because the hated Nixon was succeeding in extricating us with honor from a war that the presidents for whom the Times and Post hauled water could not win or end.

Not only have journalists given up any pretense of neutrality in this campaign to bring down the president, ex-national security officers of the highest rank are starting to sound like resisters.

Ex-CIA Director John Brennan openly speculated Tuesday that the president may have been compromised by Moscow and become an asset of the Kremlin.

“I think he’s afraid of the president of Russia,” Brennan said of Trump and Putin. “The Russians, I think, have had long experience with Mr. Trump and may have things they could expose.”

If Brennan has evidence Trump is compromised, he should relay it to Robert Mueller. If he does not, this is speculation of an especially ugly variety for someone once entrusted with America’s highest secrets.

What is going on in this city is an American version of the “color revolutions” we have employed to dump over governments in places like Georgia and Ukraine.


Break Trump’s presidency, remove him, discredit his election as contaminated by Kremlin collusion, upend the democratic verdict of 2016, and ash-can Trump’s agenda of populist conservatism.

Then, return America to the open borders, free trade, democracy-crusading Bushite globalism beloved by our Beltway elites.

Trump, in a way, is the indispensable man of the populist right.

In the 2016 primaries, no other Republican candidate shared his determination to secure the border, bring back manufacturing or end the endless wars in the Middle East that have so bled and bankrupted our nation.

Whether the Assads rule in Damascus, the Chinese fortify Scarborough Shoal, or the Taliban return to Kabul are not existential threats.

But if the borders of our country are not secured, as Reagan warned, in a generation, America will not even be a country.

Trump seems now to recognize that the special counsel’s office of Robert Mueller, which this city sees as the instrument of its deliverance, is a mortal threat to his presidency.

Mueller’s team wishes to do to Trump what Archibald Cox’s team sought to do to Nixon: Drive him out of office or set him up for the kill by a Democratic Congress in 2019.

Trump appears to recognize that the struggle with Mueller is now a political struggle - to the death.

Hence Trump’s hiring of Joe diGenova and the departure of John Dowd from his legal team. In the elegant phrase of Michael Corleone, diGenova is a wartime consigliere.

He believes that Trump is the target of a conspiracy, where Jim Comey’s FBI put in the fix to prevent Hillary’s prosecution, and then fabricated a crime of collusion with Russia to take down the new president the American people had elected.

The Trump White House is behaving as if it were the prospective target of a coup d’etat. And it is not wrong to think so.

]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 01:05:00 +0300
<![CDATA[Peter Schiff: There's A Big Problem With The Economy, "Americans Are Broke"]]> Authored by Mac Slavo via,

Financial analyst Peter Schiff says there’s a big problem with the economy even though the mainstream media is reporting that rising interest rates are a good thing.  The problem, however, is that Americans are broke, and those interest rates could have a major impact on some of our wallets.

“The bad news is, we are going to live through another Great Depression and it’s going to be very different. This will be in many ways, much much worse, than what people had to endure during the Great Depression,” Schiff says.

“This is going to be a dollar crisis.”

“When you are talking about the magnitude of the debt we have, that extra money [raising interest rates] is big. That’s going to be a big drain on the economy to the extent that we have to pay higher interest to international creditors...

...a lot of this phony GDP is coming from consumption, while the average American who is consuming is deeply in debt and they are going to impacted dramatically in the increase in the cost of servicing that debt...

...given how much debt we have, and how much debt is going to be marketed the massive increase in supply will argue for interest rates that are higher.” –Peter Schiff

Retail sales “unexpectedly” fell again in February even though most media outlets are touting a booming economy that can support raising the interest rates. It was the third straight monthly drop and the first time the US economy has seen three straight months of declining retail sales since 2012.

Sales fell 0.1% in February even though analysts had expected an uptick of 0.3%. According to CNBC, households cut back on purchases of motor vehicles and other big-ticket items, pointing to a slowdown in economic growth in the first quarter. But Peter Schiff won’t sugarcoat this one for us: Americans are broke.

And the worse things get, the less investors seem to notice.

What makes matters even worse is two Fridays ago, we got the “too good to be true” and “just what the doctor ordered” Goldilocks jobs report that said 1 million people got jobs. Schiff said this “good news” report doesn’t make any sense, actually.

“So why didn’t any of those million people take their paychecks and spend them at a retailer? I mean, Trump is talking about all the great jobs, and all the raises that people have, and all the tax cuts. Why are retail sales down for three months in a row?” –Peter Schiff

Unfortunately, we also saw Americans running up record high levels of debt at the same time that the government is running massive deficits.

Last month, the New York Fed released the latest data on US household debt, revealing it has grown to a record $13 trillion. So yes, Americans have been spending, but they’ve been putting a lot of it on plastic. Credit card balances grew by $24 billion in the last quarter of 2017 alone. Could it be that Americans have maxed out the plastic?

At some point, a house of credit cards will collapse.

Schiff is hard on Donald Trump too, and rightfully so.  Lower taxes are always a good thing, the lower the better, in fact.  But Republicans refused to cut any government spending while instead, increasing it to the point of running massive deficits, making them worse than Democrats when it comes to being fiscally conservative.

The cold truth is that a backup plan is needed, and most Americans don’t have that.  Many would be in some serious trouble during a financial downturn, and the country is most definitely headed that way.

]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 00:25:00 +0300
<![CDATA[Trump Overturns Obama-Era Law: Bans All Bump Stock Devices]]> Perhaps needing a distraction from the fiscal folly of today's $1.3 trillion monster spending bill... or perhaps looking to show progress ahead of tomorrow's expected-to-be-huge "march For Life" across America, President Trump has swung his Oval Office ax at another Obama-era law and followed through on his promise to ban bump stocks.

President Trump tweeted tonight...

In February he ordered Sessions to "ban 'bump stocks'" and that is what has happened a month later...

Full Statement from AG Sessions:


ASHINGTON - Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice is proposing to amend the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, clarifying that bump stocks fall within the definition of "machinegun" under federal law, as such devices allow a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger.

In making the announcement, Attorney General Sessions made the following statement:

"Since the day he took office, President Trump has had no higher priority than the safety of each and every American," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

"That is why today the Department of Justice is publishing for public comment a proposed rulemaking that would define `machinegun' to include bump stock-type devices under federal law - effectively banning them. After the senseless attack in Las Vegas, this proposed rule is a critical step in our effort to reduce the threat of gun violence that is in keeping with the Constitution and the laws passed by Congress. I look forward to working with the President's School Safety Commission to identify other ways to keep our country and our children safe, and I thank the President for his courageous leadership on this issue."

On February 20, 2018, the President issued a memorandum instructing the Attorney General "to dedicate all available resources to... propose for notice and comment a rule banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machineguns." This NPRM is in response to that direction, and would make clear that the term "machinegun" as used in the National Firearms Act (NFA), as amended, and Gun Control Act (GCA), as amended, includes all bump-stock-type devices that harness recoil energy to facilitate the continuous operation of a semiautomatic long gun after a single pull of the trigger. If the NPRM is made final, bump-stock-type devices would be effectively banned under federal law and current possessors of bump-stock-type devices would be required to surrender, destroy, or otherwise render the devices permanently inoperable.

The comment period for the NPRM is 90 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

*  *  *

As we noted previously, Gun Owners of America executive director Erich Pratt said in a statement...

“That is a gross infringement of Second Amendment rights.” 

He argued that such a ban could be extended to triggers, magazines, or semi-automatic firearms.

“While Trump ran as a pro-gun candidate, this action does not appear to line up with his campaign rhetoric.”

]]> Sat, 24 Mar 2018 00:10:36 +0300
<![CDATA[In Warning To Iran, Israel Releases Video Of 2007 Airstrike On Syrian Nuclear Facility]]> In the latest warning to Iran that it means business, Israel has released a video of an airstrike it conducted on a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007. Until this week, Israel refused to officially acknowledge the operation for over a decade. 

"During the night of September 5th and 6th, 2007, the Israeli Air Force destroyed a nuclear facility in its last stages of construction in the Deir ez-Zor region in Syria, 280 miles north-east of Damascus," reads a statement from the IDF. "Four F-16 jets eliminated a nuclear threat not only to Israel, but to the entire region."

The IDF released previously classified footage, images and intelligence documents from the operation - revealing how Israel monitored the site before the attack, suggesting that it could become operational within months. 

One report, dated 30 March 2007, said: “Syria has set up, within its territory, a nuclear reactor for the production of plutonium, through North Korea, which according to an (initial) worst-case assessment is liable to be activated in approximately another year.”

The military said that following the four-hour operation, the reactor “had been totally disabled”, and the damage done “was irreversible”. -The Guardian

Israel said that the decision to strike the alleged nuclear facility was based on information from the Military Intelligence Directorate, which had been monitoring the site for two years. 

The black and white aerial images from the Syrian desert show a box-shaped structure close to the Euphrates river. The video shows the structure's demise.

Syria, a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty since 1968, has consistently denied that it has pursued a nuclear weapons program - and said that the Dier ez-Zor facility was non-operational and contained no nuclear material. 

Media reports at the time posited that it was an undeclared reactor being built by North Korea - however following its bombing, the nuclear watchdog IAEA concluded that the complex resembled a reactor building, and pointed the finger at the Syrian government for a lack of transparency. 

On Wednesday morning, Israel's intelligence minister, Yisrael Katz, directly warned Iran that the reactor raid in Syria provided a clear message that "Israel will never allow nuclear weapons to countries like Iran who threaten its existence." 

The defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, stopped short of suggesting the possibility of a similar strike on Iranian facilities, but made clear the 2007 attack proved Israel was willing and able to act militarily. -The Guardian

“The motivation of our enemies has grown in recent years, but so too the might of the (Israel Defence Forces),” he said. “Everyone in the Middle East would do well to internalize this equation.”

Israel sought to further justify the strike, noting that ISIS had captured the region with the reactor in it during Syria's civil war. 

“The security implications of a nuclear reactor falling into the hands of Isis or other extremist groups during the war in Syria are vast,” said the IDF. 

As a reminder, in September 2016 in the aftermath of Obama's Iran Deal, Russia started construction of a new, $10 billion nuclear power plant in Iran.  Iran already runs one Russian-built nuclear reactor at Bushehr, its first. Russia signed a deal with Iran in 2014 to build up to eight more reactors in the country. Or maybe not, as Israel has made it clear it will never allow this to happen.

]]> Fri, 23 Mar 2018 23:50:25 +0300