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18 марта, 13:00

No CEO should earn 1,000 times more than a regular employee | Sarah Anderson

For the first time ever, US corporations have begun reporting pay ratio data. And a movement is building to crack down on companies that don’t share the wealth The CEO of Marathon Petroleum, Gary Heminger, took home an astonishing 935 times more pay than his typical employee in 2017. In other words, one of Marathon’s gas station workers would have to toil more than nine centuries to make as much as Heminger grabbed in just one year. Employees of at least five other US firms would have to work even longer – more than a millennium – to catch up with their top bosses. These companies include the auto parts maker Aptiv (CEO-worker pay ratio: 2,526 to 1), the temp agency Manpower (2,483 to 1), amusement park owner Six Flags (1,920 to 1), Del Monte Produce (1,465 to 1), and apparel maker VF (1,353 to 1). Continue reading...

16 марта, 03:02

The Marine Corps Can't Seem to Hold onto a Few Good Men

Task and Purpose, James LaPorta, Jared Keller Security, North America Washington, we have a recruting problem.  The Marine Forces Reserve can’t keep enough prior-service Marines to stay in to fill reserve billets for the first time in recent years, an unexpected recruiting failure that is rankling the service’s manpower bosses, Task & Purpose has learned. Maj. Gen. Paul Kennedy, the commanding general for Marine Corps Recruiting Command, sent a letter to Lt. Gen. Michael A. Rocco, the deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs at Headquarters, Marine Corps in Quantico, Va. last month asking to slash its prior service recruiting (PSR) goal down to 3,200 Marines from its original target of 3,655, according to several sources with knowledge of the correspondence. In an email to Task & Purpose, MCRC spokesman Lt. Col. John Caldwell explained that while the command was on track to meet its target goals for new recruits, officials had identified a projected PSR shortfall due to “an imminent and uncharacteristically high” turnover rate of 46% among the command’s 81 PSR recruiters, well above what one senior military official described as a typical turnover rate of between 33% and 40%. Though that official characterized the request for mission reduction as “not exactly national news,” Kennedy’s letter detailing the shortfall is reportedly making waves within Manpower and Reserve Affairs as a “cultural” rather than operational problem: Why don’t more Marines want to stick with the Corps? “It’s a small story outside the building, but it’s a big story in it,” the official told Task & Purpose under the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the topic. “Marine Corps Recruiting Command formally asking for a mission reduction is basically unheard of.” So far, “the recommended solutions are in staffing and a final decision by M&RA has not been made,” Caldwell told Task & Purpose. But, he added, the service’s overall reserve retention rates “may allow for a mission reduction that will ensure Marine Reserve end-strength requirements are met for [fiscal year] 18.” Read full article

10 марта, 05:00

The FBI Now Admits It Could Have Prevented The Florida High School Shooting

Authored by Carey Wedler via TheAntiMedia.org, Amid the fallout from the February 14 school shooting in Parkland, FL, that left 17 dead, the FBI and local law enforcement received widespread criticism for their inability to prevent the shooting despite multiple warning signs and opportunities. On Tuesday, the FBI admitted these failures to the House Judiciary Committee during a hearing focused on how the bureau handled tips about Nikolas Cruz prior to the massacre. FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich met with members of the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, acknowledging that, as the House Judiciary Committee’s press release put it, “opportunities were missed.” That release summarized the takeaways, which have already been highlighted in media reports: “In September 2017, the FBI received an Internet tip from a video blogger about a threatening comment posted to a YouTube video the blogger had posted. The comment stated, ‘I am going to be a professional school shooter,’ and was posted under the username ‘nikolas cruz.’” According to the hearing, an FBI office in Mississippi received that tip, but after officials investigated it, they closed the case because “it lacked personal identifiable information on the user who posted the threatening comment” (the username “nikolas cruz” was evidently not enough for the agents to go on). Apparently, however, the agents could have done more: “The agents tasked with the case could have requested assistance from YouTube to attempt to identify the user who left the comment, but determined that the United States Attorney’s Office in that region was unlikely to agree to such a request.” On another occasion, a friend of the Cruz family called the FBI tip line and, according to Bowdich, provided sufficient information for the bureau to follow up. But as the press release noted, “the call taker did not ask any standard investigative probing questions during the call” despite the caller saying she worried Cruz “going to explode” and that she feared him “getting into a school and just shooting the place up.” The agent who took the call spoke to their supervisor, but that conversation was not documented. Worse, as the press release summarized: “At the time, the call taker was able to connect information about Nikolas Cruz to the September 2017 tip about the threatening YouTube comment. Despite these connected dots, the call taker and supervisor decided to not pursue the matter further and the case was closed.” They also declined to contact local authorities even though the caller told them Parkland police were also aware of the threat Cruz posed. “Better information sharing between federal and local law enforcement may have prevented the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” the summary of the hearing noted. Bowdich admitted “there were failures and that corrective actions will be taken,” including conducting separate reviews of the two above instances and providing better training for call takers working the tip line. Though the FBI is often glorified in entertainment and has received increased support in recent months thanks to its its pursuit of potential corruption within the Trump administration, the government agency has a long history of nefariousness. Though it is successful in using informants to instigate potential terror attacks, then foiling them and taking credit for keeping the public safe, it appears that despite its tip line, widespread surveillance methods, and immense manpower, the agency continues to fail to live up to its reputation.

01 марта, 22:34

World War II Ended in 1945. One Japanese Solider Kept Fighting Until 1974.

Warfare History Network Security, A remarkable Second World War story.  Remarkably, Onoda was not the last Japanese soldier to come in from World War II. In December 1974, a holdout named Nakamura Teruo was captured on the Indonesian island of Morotai. He was not Japanese, but a Taiwanese conscript more afraid of his Japanese masters than he was of the Indonesians. Consequently, he did not receive a hero’s welcome in Japan, but returned quietly to Taiwan where his arrival highlighted the wartime activities of the so-called Takasago Volunteers. The Japanese empire was a fine place for young Hiro Onoda. In 1939, at age 17, he hired on with a lacquerware company that posted him to Hankow (Wuhan) in Japanese-occupied China. There, he visited suppliers by day and danced the night away with obliging Chinese women. His idyllic world, along with that of countless others, came to an abrupt end in December 1941. Recommended: Stealth vs. North Korea’s Air Defenses: Who Wins? Recommended: America’s Battleships Went to War Against North Korea Recommended: 5 Places World War III Could Start in 2018 Japan opened up a new front in her war against the rest of the world. The Army desperately needed manpower. Onoda was called up in May 1942, and after basic training he was accepted into officer’s candidate school. Upon graduation, he was promoted to 2nd lieutenant and selected for special training in a pacification squad, a type of commando unit. Read full article

27 февраля, 14:25

What Was the Biggest, Most Powerful Military in Human History?

War is a staple of human history. But which nation had the single most powerful military? It's not an easy question to answer.

26 февраля, 15:00

Why Financial Statements Don’t Work for Digital Companies

steven moore for hbr On February 13, 2018, the New York Times reported that Uber is planning an IPO. Uber’s value is estimated between $48 and $70 billion, despite reporting losses over the last two years. Twitter reported a  loss of $79 million before its IPO, yet it commanded a valuation of $24 billion on its IPO date in 2013. For the next four years, it continued to report losses. Similarly, Microsoft paid $26 billion for loss-making LinkedIn in 2016, and Facebook paid $19 billion for WhatsApp in 2014 when it had no revenues or profits. In contrast, industrial giant GE’s stock price has declined by 44% over the last year, as news emerged about its first losses in last 50 years. Why do investors react negatively to financial statement losses for an industrial firm but disregard such losses for a digital firm? In the 2016 book The End of Accounting, NYU Stern Professor Baruch Lev claimed that over the last 100 years or so, financial reports have become less useful in capital market decisions. Recent research lets us make an even bolder claim: accounting earnings are practically irrelevant for digital companies. Our current financial accounting model cannot capture the principle value creator for digital companies: increasing return to scale on intangible investments. This becomes clear when you look at a company’s two most important financial statements: the balance sheet and the income statement. For an industrial company dealing with physical assets and goods, the balance sheet presents a reasonable picture of productive assets and the income statement provides a reasonable approximation of expenses required to create shareholder value. But these statements have little salience for a digital company. Let’s first look at the balance sheet. Assets reported on a balance sheet have to be physical in nature, have to be owned by the company, and be within the company’s confines. However, digital companies often have assets that are intangible in nature, and many have ecosystems that extend beyond the company’s boundaries. Consider Amazon’s Buttons and Alexa powered Echo, Uber’ cars, and Airbnb’s residential properties, for example. Many digital companies have no physical products and have no inventory to report. Therefore, the balance sheets of physical and digital companies present entirely different pictures. Contrast Walmart’ $160 billion of hard assets for its $300 billion valuation against Facebook’s $9 billion dollars of hard assets for its $500 billion valuation. The building blocks for a digital company are research and development, brands, organizational strategy, peer and supplier networks, customer and social relationships, computerized data and software, and human capital. The economic purpose of these intangible investments is no different than that of an industrial company’s factories and buildings. Yet, for the digital company, investments in its building blocks are not capitalized as assets; they are treated as expenses in calculation of profits. So the more a digital company invests in building its future, the higher its reported losses. Investors thus have no choice but to disregard earnings in their investment decisions. Our research has found that intangible investments have surpassed property, plant, and equipment as the main avenue of capital creation for U.S. companies – which further suggests that the balance sheets has become an artifact of regulatory compliance, with little or no utility to investors. The balance sheet has also become less useful for banks’ lending decisions because banks rely on asset coverage to calculate their security. Curiously, companies are allowed to report purchased brands and intangibles as assets on balance sheet, creating distortions between earnings and assets of digital companies that rely on organic growth versus acquisitions. As digital companies become more prominent in the economy, and physical companies become more digital in their operations, income statements too become less meaningful in investors’ decisions. In another study, we show that earnings explains only 2.4% of variation in stock returns for a 21st century company — which means that almost 98% of the variation in companies’ annual stock returns are not explained by their annual earnings. Earnings also seem to matter less for CEO pay: companies are reducing profits-based cash bonuses and shifting toward stock-based CEO compensation, partly to keep opportunistic managers from cutting back on valuable investments as a way to report higher profits. The current financial accounting model fails today’s companies in yet another respect. In a previous HBR article, we argued that, in contrast to physical assets that depreciate with use, intangible assets might enhance with use. Consider Facebook: its value increases as more people use its product because the benefits accrue to an existing user with the arrival of each new user. Its value growth is powered by the network in place, not by increments of operating costs. Therefore the most important aim for digital companies is to achieve market leadership, create network effects, and command a “winner-take-all” profit structure. Facebook’s gross margin of 76% on its 2017 revenues of $46.5 billion illustrates this reaping of rewards—every additional dollar of revenue creates almost equivalent value for shareholders. (You can contrast this to Twitter’s and Yelp’s 2017 revenues of $2.4 billion and $0.8 billion, respectively, as both companies have yet to reach the winner-take-all profit stage.) Yet there is no place in financial accounting for the concept of network effects, or the increase in the value of a resource with its use. This actually implies negative depreciation expense in accounting parlance. So the fundamental idea behind the success of digital companies (the increasing returns to scale) goes against a basic tenet of financial accounting (assets depreciate with use). It’s important to note that companies like professional services firms are also built on intangible assets like human capital. But accounting challenges for modern, digital companies are more severe, as they have increasing returns to scale on their idea-based platforms. For example, Google can service billions more clients with the same office just by adding to its server capacity. But for an audit firm to drastically increase clients, it would likely need more manpower and office space. Furthermore, costs of services for professional services firms, mainly wages, are matched to current revenues. So their income statements accurately reflect surplus created in that period, similar to industrial companies. But for digital companies, the bulk of the cost of building an idea-based platform is reported as an expense in its initial years, when they have little revenue. In later years, when they actually earn revenues on an established platform, they have fewer expenses to report. In both phases, the calculation of earnings does not reflect the true costs of revenues. This brings us to another question: If earnings are so meaningless, then why do investors react positively to rumors concerning a digital company turning profitable? For example, when Twitter reported its first profits, its share prices jumped 20%. The same thing happened to Yelp. One plausible reason could be that this news has an important signaling effect – that the company might have crossed its initial investment phase, that it might now break even, or that it might catapult into a trajectory where it can reap winner-takes-all rewards. This conjecture challenges our overall argument that earnings have no information; another challenge could be that initial losses of digital firms convey risks involved in purchasing their stocks. As balance sheets increasingly fail to reflect the value of the company’s resources and the income statements increasingly fail to capture the value created by the company, CEOs are now wondering what to do. They often ask us: What does preparing and auditing accrual-based financial statements achieve? Wouldn’t digital companies be better off by simply reporting a summary of their cash transactions? What can digital companies do to enhance the informativeness of their financial statements? The answers are not yet clear. It is unlikely that accounting standards will change in the near future to allow digital companies to capitalize their intangible investments. (And even if digital firms capitalized their intangibles, the recalculated profits or assets would come nowhere close to justifying their current market values.) But there are things companies can do to convey their real worth to investors. Our work has found that investors look for certain cues about the success of a company’s business model, such as acquisition of major customers, introduction of new products and services, technology, marketing, and distribution alliances, new subscriber counts, revenue per subscriber numbers, customer dropouts, and geographical distribution of customers. Companies can disclose these items in the Management discussion and analysis section of their annual report. (For example, see Item 7 of Facebook’s annual report.) Any significant, value-relevant development must be immediately disclosed rather than waiting for the annual report. We have demonstrated in other research that disclosures on network advantages, such as web traffic and strategic alliances, are considered highly value-relevant by investors. When combined with these nonfinancial indicators, financial performance measures become more value relevant. In addition, companies can provide detailed information on intangible investments made by the company — even if that information is not vetted by the auditors — by reporting these investments in three categories: customer relationship and marketing, information technology and databases, and talent acquisition and training. To summarize all this, as firms become more digital and spend more on intangible investments, and as digital companies come to represent the new face of corporate America, they will also have to dramatically alter the manner and ways by which they convey their value to outside investors.

24 февраля, 16:55

South Korea's Army Has 560,000 Troops Ready to Take on Kim Jong Un

Kyle Mizokami Security, In the last seventy years, the Republic of Korea Army (ROK Army) has evolved from a constabulary force into one of the largest, most powerful, technologically advanced armies in the world.  The Republic of Korea Army is a large, powerful land force capable defending the border from North Korean invasion. It’s no accident that the North Korean military has evolved asymmetric means such as long range border artillery, light infantry, infiltration forces, and chemical and radiological units to counter the South’s increasing technological superiority. The ROK Army has deterred war for the last seventy years, a benchmark of success for any peacetime army. In the last seventy years, the Republic of Korea Army (ROK Army) has evolved from a constabulary force into one of the largest, most powerful, technologically advanced armies in the world. This remarkable evolution is entirely due to the original 1950–53 invasion and war by neighboring North Korea. This existential threat has never truly gone away, with North Korea consistently threatening—and preparing for—a second, successful invasion. The Republic of Korea Army was established in 1945 by U.S. forces occupying the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. By 1946 the ROK Army had nine “national security regiments,” lightly armed infantry regiments with a total manpower of 25,000 troops. As U.S./Soviet relations worsened, this was increased to 50,000 troops. The invasion of North Korea in June 1950 caught the fledgling ROK Army ill-prepared for a conventional invasion. In particular, the army lacked the anti-tank firepower necessary to deal with the Korean People’s Army’s 105th Armored Brigade, which fielded approximately 120 Soviet-made T-34/85 tanks and SU-76 self-propelled guns. Although a small armored force by World War II standards, the ROK had virtually nothing to counter it with and was rapidly pushed south towards the port town of Busan. What a War Between NATO and Russia Would Look Like.  Read full article

23 февраля, 20:15

The FBI Is Corrupt And Incompetent – Pelosi Says, "Give 'Em A Raise!"

Authored by Tom Luongo, That’s exactly what Congressional Democratic Leadership wants done. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have redefined chutzpah to the point of insanity. Not three days after the FBI’s gross malfeasance and incompetence in their mishandling of the Parkland Florida massacre, these cretins have the unmitigated gall to publicly ask for another $300 million to add to the FBI’s budget. But, is that $300 million to deal with real domestic threats to the lives and safety of Americans? No. It’s to combat Russian Trolls. Seriously, I kid you not. This is a classic example of these people having a narrative prepped and scheduled to wrest control of the news cycle regardless of the optics. The goal is to create layer upon layer of fake news replete with fake (read: paid by George Soros) outrage — that’s what RussiaGate is all about. Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian individuals and entities in connection with election tampering is a joke. And not even a good one by Washington D.C. standards. This is the kind of joke that hits the audience like a lead zeppelin and the production crew has to foley in a laugh track for the Netflix special. It’s cruel and disgusting display of lawlessness masquerading as investigation. Schumer and Pelosi need a wedge issue for the mid-terms elections. And absent anything else to wield against Trump - the economy is good, tax cuts are popular, gun control is going nowhere - Russophobia is it. And they will run with this all the way to a crushing defeat at the ballot box. No one in the right mind believes there is anything between Trump, his staff and the Russians. At best all they can conjure up is guilt by association and alternative facts. What is there was the beginnings of contacts designed to open lines of communications between the U.S. and Russian leadership that would fulfill Trump’s campaign pledge to improve relations with Russia. Something that we elected him to do, if you can remember back to 2016. And that is now treason in the minds of grand-standing, hyper-partisan Baby-Boomers like Pelosi and Schumer. The Real Reason This is the modus operandi in all statist politics. If there is government failure it’s not because of incompetence. It’s because the taxpayer is too cheap to give them the right tools for the job. So, give us more money because we are government and have the moral high ground. Deflect blame back onto the taxpayer while using the taxpayer’s money to inculcate their children into believing this tripe. If there is anything this sordid period of U.S. history should teach the average person it is that these people work for themselves and not for us. We elected Trump and the FBI took it upon themselves to doctor evidence, harass and indict his staff, and collude with members of the executive branch and a private organization (DNC, Fusion GPS) to overturn that election. Instead of expanding the FBI’s budget by $300 million, it should immediately be cut by $300 million and everyone involved fired and indicted. If found guilty they should be publicly hung or shot for treason. If Pelosi and Schumer had an ounce of shame in their family tree going back three generations (because both their parents and grandparents share responsibility in their fecklessness) they would sit down and shut up. But, they can’t. Winning in Washington is all that matters, no matter the cost, no matter the optics. Our government is the single biggest organization ever to stride this planet in terms of manpower, real power and consumption of resources. It employs more than 20% of the U.S. workforce, consumes around 25% of GDP (which shouldn’t be added to the calculation in the first place) and makes a mess of everything it touches. So, why would we give an obviously corrupt and politicized FBI another $300 million to combat 80 Russians armed with Tweetdeck and Photoshop? The number is so outrageous it must have a different purpose. The most obvious purpose is to expand surveillance and curtailment of political activities of Americans, not Russians.  This is about us, not them.  Their real enemy is anyone with enough brain power left to see through their lies. Another scenario is even worse. This $300 million could be spent to intervene overseas through inter-agency operations, allowing the FBI to pay the CIA to expand operations in Russia. Neat trick to get around Trump’s proposed agency budget cuts, no? It also would obfuscate the money path by sticking it behind the wall of ‘current operations’ to stifle FOIA requests. Mr. President, Tear Down this Blue Wall No, what needs to be done here is a clean sweep of all of these departments. What needs to happen is election reform to ensure that Schumer, Pelosi and their backers don’t steal twenty House seats in November through more blatant ballot stuffing like what occurred in Alabama in December. Trump needs to go on the offensive about election fraud, FBI malfeasance and Department of Justice corruption now.  He has the opportunity, politically, in 2018 to crush the Democrats and, by extension, parts of the Deep State and Shadow Government into bits. Mueller’s investigation is nothing more than a headline generator to assist a broke and busted DNC fund raise for the mid-terms. Why do you think they’re already floating names like Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney for 2020? This is to give Progressives hope. But you know what hope is right? Hope is the thing you have when you have nothing else. With this latest blatant shill for more taxpayer-funded political witch-hunting, the Democrats expose just how little they have. *  *  * Sign up for my Patreon Page to support content like this and get the Gold Goats ‘n Guns Investment Newsletter every month.  

23 февраля, 15:05

How The Top 10 Strongest Militaries Got There May Surprise You

War is a staple of human existence, and typically, the country with the most firepower wins. If a large war broke out today, who has the advantage?

22 февраля, 06:50

Democrats Want $300 Million To "Counter Russian Operatives" Ahead Of 2018 Midterms

It's been barely a week since Special Counsel Robert Mueller unveiled indictments of 13 Russians and 3 Russian entities - including one close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin - and already Democrats are asking Congress for exorbitant sums of money to stop Russia's army of internet trolls from "sowing discord" ahead of the US election - even though anybody who reads the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal is by now no doubt well-acquainted with the reality that these suspected trolls aren't really all that interested in US politics. According to Reuters, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are asking Congress for $300 million for the FBI to combat purported Russian disinformation campaigns ahead of the 2018 midterms in November. The big ask comes about a week after leaders of the US intelligence community testified to a Senate committee about the serious of the purported threat. Democrats are asking that the money be included in the next continuing resolution, which must be signed into law before the March 23 deadline to avert another government shutdown. Republican leaders have been noncommittal. Of course, the Reuters story fails to point out that $300 million is 3,000 times more than the Russian agents allegedly spent on Facebook ads ahead of (and after) the November 2016 vote. Citing warnings from intelligence agencies that Russia is trying to influence the upcoming vote, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi asked that the additional funds be included in a bill to fund the government which Congress aims to pass by March 23. "This additional funding should be targeted to ensure the resources and manpower to counter the influence of hostile foreign actors operating in the U.S., especially Russian operatives operating on our social media platforms," Schumer, Pelosi and the top Democrats on the Senate and House Appropriations Committees wrote in a letter. They sent the letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Republican aides said the proposal, along with many others, would be considered as the spending legislation is written. Leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies warned a Senate committee last week that Russia is trying to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections, when control of Congress is up for grabs, much as it did during the 2016 U.S. campaign. And on Friday, the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians and 13 Russian companies with conspiracy to tamper with the 2016 race. Moscow has repeatedly denied meddling in US politics, calling Mueller's indictments absurd. In addition to this $300 million, Democrats also want a "substantial" increase in funding for the Department of Homeland Security and Election Assistance Commission to upgrade state election systems, which somebody (maybe the Russians?) tried to infiltrate. Meanwhile, Schumer is also demanding that the White House write its own report on how Russia might try to interfere in the upcoming vote - because apparently a special counsel and three concommitant Congressional investigations isnt' enough. Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said on a conference call with reporters that she would back $386 million for states. Members of Congress have repeatedly decried what they see as federal officials’ failure to do more to work with states to protect the election system. Homeland Security said last year that 21 states had experienced initial probing of their systems from Russian hackers and a small number of networks were compromised. But three U.S. intelligence officials said protecting sources of information about the use of cyberspace to meddle in elections are a major obstacle to closer cooperation with state officials because much of the intelligence is so classified that it cannot be shared with anyone who does not have a high-level security clearance. Schumer also said Democrats want Trump administration officials to issue a public report detailing how Russia might interfere in the 2018 U.S. vote. They also want a classified report for state officials and relevant congressional committees. Given the FBI's recent track record of stopping major crimes, we imagine this $300 million - assuming it makes it into the final appropriation - will be put to good use. What do you think?        

21 февраля, 06:35

The Military-Industrial Complex Is Winning The "Guns Vs. Butter" War In America

Authored by Major Danny Sjursen via TimDispatch.com, Think of it as the chicken-or-the-egg question for the ages: Do very real threats to the United States inadvertently benefit the military-industrial complex or does the national security state, by its very nature, conjure up inflated threats to feed that defense machine?  Back in 2008, some of us placed our faith, naively enough, in the hands of mainstream Democrats -- specifically, those of a young senator named Barack Obama.  He would reverse the war policies of George W. Bush, deescalate the unbridled Global War on Terror, and right the ship of state. How’d that turn out?  In retrospect, though couched in a far more sophisticated and peaceable rhetoric than Bush’s, his moves would prove largely cosmetic when it came to this country’s forever wars: a significant reduction in the use of conventional ground troops, but more drones, more commandos, and yet more acts of ill-advised regime change.  Don’t get me wrong: as a veteran of two of Washington’s wars, I was glad when “no-drama” Obama decreased the number of boots on the ground in the Middle East.  It’s now obvious, however, that he left the basic infrastructure of eternal war firmly in place.  Enter The Donald. For all his half-baked tweets, insults, and boasts, as well as his refusal to read anything of substance on issues of war and peace, some of candidate Trump’s foreign policy ideas seemed far saner than those of just about any other politician around or the previous two presidents.  I mean, the Iraq War was dumb, and maybe it wasn’t the craziest idea for America’s allies to start thinking about defending themselves, and maybe Washington ought to put some time and diplomatic effort into avoiding a possibly catastrophic clash or set of clashes with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  Unfortunately, the White House version of all this proved oh-so-familiar.  President Trump’s decision, for instance, to double down on a losing bet in Afghanistan in spite of his “instincts” (and on similar bets in Somalia, Syria, and elsewhere) and his recently published National Defense Strategy (NDS) leave little doubt that he’s surrendered to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, the mainstream interventionists in his administration. In truth, no one should be surprised.  A hyper-interventionist, highly militarized foreign policy has defined Washington since at least the days of President Harry Truman -- the first in a long line of hawks to take the White House.  In this context, an ever-expanding national security state has always put special effort into meeting the imagined needs (or rather desires) of its various component parts.  The result: bloated budgets for which exaggerated threats, if not actual war, remain a necessity.  Without the threat of communism in the previous century and terrorism (as well as once again ascendant great powers) in this one, such bloated budgets would be hard to explain.  And then, how would the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines get all the weaponized toys they desired?  How would Congressional representatives in a post-industrial economy get all those attractive “defense” jobs for their districts and how would the weapons makers get the government cash they crave? The 2-2-1 Threat Picture With that in mind, let’s take a look at the newly released National Defense Strategy document.  It offers a striking sense of how, magically enough, the Pentagon’s vision of future global policy manages to provide something for each of its services and their corporate backers. Start with this: the NDS is to government documents what A Nightmare on Elm Street is to family films; it’s meant, that is, to scare the hell out of the casual reader.  It makes the claim, for instance, that the global “security environment” has become “more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory.”  In other words, be afraid, very afraid.  But is it true?  Is the world really more volatile now than it was when two nuclear superpowers with enough missiles to destroy the planet several times over faced off in a not-so-Cold War? Admittedly, the NDS does list and elaborate some awesome threats -- and I think I know just where that list came from, too. When I went through the document, I realized that I had heard it all before.  Back in 2015, when I taught history at West Point, a prominent departmental alumni -- a lieutenant general by the name of H.R. McMaster who, today, just happens to be President Trump’s national security advisor -- used to drop by occasionally.  Back then, he commanded the Army Capabilities Integration Center, which was basically a future-planning outfit that, in its own words, “develops concepts, learns, and integrates capabilities to improve our Army.”  In 2015, McMaster gave us history instructors a memorable, impromptu sermon about the threats we’d face when we returned to the regular Army.  He referred, if memory serves, to what he labeled the two big threats, two medium threats, and one persistent threat that will continue to haunt our all-American world.  In translation: that’s China and Russia, Iran and North Korea, and last but not necessarily least Islamist terrorism. And honestly, if that isn’t a lineup that could get you anything you ever dreamed of in the way of weapons systems and the like, what is?  So can we be surprised that, in the age of McMaster and Mattis, the new NDS just happens to lay out the very same lineup of perils?  The Two Bigs: “Revisionist Powers” The document kicks off with a pivot of sorts: forget (but not forever!) the ongoing war on terror.  The U.S. military is on to even more fearsome things.  “Inter-state strategic competition [which, in Pentagonese, means China and Russia], not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security,” the document insists.  Those two countries are -- the Pentagon’s most recent phrase of eternal damnation -- “revisionist powers” that “want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model.”  In other words, they have the staggering audacity to actually want to assert global influence (the very definition of evil in any power other than you-know-who).    This section of the NDS reads like a piece of grim nostalgia, a plunge back into the pugnacious language of the long-gone Cold War.  It’s meant to be scary reading.  It’s not that Russian irredentism or Chinese bellicosity in the South China Sea aren’t matters for concern -- they are -- but do they really add up to a new Cold War? Let’s begin, as the document does, with China, an East Asian menace “pursuing” that most terrifying of all goals, “military modernization” (as, of course, are we), and seeking as well “Indo-Pacific Regional hegemony” (as, of course, has... well, you know which other country). The National Defense Straregy isn’t, however, keen on nuance.  It prefers to style China unambiguously as a 10-foot-tall military behemoth.  After all, countering a resurgent China in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea ensures a prominent role for the Navy and its own air force of carrier-based naval aviators.  In fact, the military’s latest “AirSea Battle” doctrine hinges on a potential conflict in a place that bears a suspicious similarity to the Taiwan Straits (and thanks to the catchy name, the Air Force gets in on the action as well).  Consider all of this a formula for more blue-water ships, more advanced fighter planes, and maybe even some extra amphibious Marine Corps brigades. But what about the poor Army?  Well, that’s where that other revisionist power, Russia, comes in.  After all, Putin’s government is now seeking to “shatter” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  No point, naturally, in reminding anyone that Washington was the country that expanded what was, by definition, an anti-Russian military alliance right up to Russia’s borders, despite promises made as the Soviet Union was collapsing.  But this is no time to split hairs, so bottom line: the Russian threat ensures that the Army must send more combat troops to Europe.  It may even have to dust off all those old Abrams tanks in order to “deter” Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  Ka-ching!  (Consider this, by the way, a form of collusion with Russia that Robert Mueller isn’t investigating.)  If you look at the Pentagon’s 11 “defense objectives” included in the National Defense Strategy document, you get a sense of just how expansive the one great non-revisionist power on the planet actually is.  Yes, the first of those sounds reasonable enough: “defending the homeland from attack.” Skip down to number five, though -- “Maintaining favorable regional balances of power in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere” -- and you’re offered a vision of what an expansionist attitude really is.  Although the NDS claims this country is threatened by the rise of Russia or China in just two of these areas (the Indo-Pacific and Europe), it asserts the need for favorable “balances of power” just about everywhere!  By definition, that’s an urge for hegemony, not defense!  Imagine if China or Russia staked out such claims.  An unbiased look at that set of objectives should make anyone (other than a general or an admiral) wonder which is really the “rogue regime” on this planet. The Two Mediums: “Rogue States” Now, on to the next group of threats, Uncle Sam’s favorite bad boys, North Korea and Iran.  North Korea, we’re told, is a land of “outlaw actions” and “reckless rhetoric” (never to be compared to the statesmanlike “fire and fury” comments of President Donald Trump). And indeed, Kim Jong-Un’s brutal regime and the nuclear weapons program that goes with it are cause for concern -- but they also turn out to be deeply useful if you want to provide plenty of incentive for the funding of the Air Force’s and the Navy’s trillion dollar nuclear “modernization” effort (that already looks like it may actually cost more like $1.7 trillion).  In other words, more nuclear subs, heavy bombers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, not to speak of the immense cost of recent investments in such missile defense systems as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD). In this way, “rogue states” couldn’t be more helpful.  Take Iran, which, according to the NDS, “remains the most significant challenge to Middle East stability.”  Hmmm.  It’s hard not to wonder why ISIS, Bashar al-Assad’s rump Syria, Saudi terror bombing in Yemen, even old-fashioned al-Qaeda (and its new-fashioned affiliates) don’t give Iran at least a run for its money when it comes to being the clearest-and-presentest danger to the region and to the United States.  (And that’s assuming that, in the Middle East, the U.S. hasn’t been the greatest danger to itself.  Exhibition one being the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.)  No matter.  Anti-Iranian hysteria sells fabulously in Washington, so who wouldn’t want to run with it?  In fact, the alleged Iranian threat to us is the gift that just keeps giving inside the Beltway.  Iran’s nuclear threat -- though there’s no evidence that the Iranians have cheated on the nuclear deal President Obama signed with them in 2015 and that President Trump is so eager to abrogate -- guarantees yet another windfall for all the services.  The Army’s air defense programs, for example, should get a long-needed shot in the arm; the Navy will clamor for more Aegis cruisers (with anti-ballistic systems on board); and the Air Force will certainly need yet more bombers for the potential preemptive strike against the nuclear threat that isn’t there.  Everyone wins (except perhaps the Iranian people)! One “Persistent Condition”: Terrorism And then, of course, there’s terrorism or, to be more exact, Islamist terrorism, that surefire funder of the twenty-first century.  It may no longer officially be the military’s top priority, but the National Defense Strategy assures us that it “remains a persistent condition” as long as terrorists “continue to murder the innocent.” The proper question, though, is: How big of a threat is it?  As it turns out, not very big, not for Americans anyway.  Any of us are so much more likely to choke to death or die in a bicycle or car accident than lose our lives at the hands of a foreign-born terrorist.  And here’s another relevant question: Is the U.S. military actually the correct tool with which to combat persistent terrorism?  The answer, it seems, is no.  Though U.S. Special Operations forces deployed to 75% of the world’s countries in 2017, the number of Islamist threat groups has only risen in certain areas like Africa thickest with those special operators.  It turns out that all the advising and assisting, all the training and coaching, has only made matters worse.  As for those overstretched forces, relentless deployments are evidently breaking them down as reports indicate that rates of mental distress and suicide are again on the rise among them. Still, here’s the positive part of the NDS’s continuing emphasis on “degrading” terrorist groups and “countering extremism”: it ensures a financial and manpower bonanza for U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).  In the Obama years, that “elite” set of forces already experienced a leap in numbers to almost 70,000. (By the way, at what point in the escalation game do such troops stop being so “special”?)  Since SOCOM, a joint command that’s home to personnel from all the services, hadn’t yet been dealt into this NDS version of largesse, it’s lucky that terrorism and the war on it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, which means that SOCOM will never want for funds or stop growing. Guns Versus Butter In 1953, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, a West Point graduate and retired five-star general, gave a speech that couldn’t have been more unexpected from a career military man.  He reminded Americans that defense and social spending were always in conflict and that the “guns” versus “butter” tradeoff couldn’t be a more perilous one.  Speaking of the growth of the defense budget in that tense Cold War moment, he asserted that: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” Those words still seem salient today.  As Americans experience acute income inequality, the rising cost of a college education, and ongoing deindustrialization in the heartland, the country’s runaway spending continues to rise precipitously.  The planned 2019 Pentagon budget is now expected to hit a staggering $716 billion -- more than much of the rest of the world’s defense spending combined. The battle between “guns and butter” is still raging in the United States and, if the new NDS is any indicator, the guns are winning. *  *  * Major Danny Sjursen, a TomDispatch regular, is a U.S. Army officer and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives with his wife and four sons in Lawrence, Kansas.  Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet and check out his new podcast Fortress on a Hill, co-hosted with fellow vet Chris “Henri” Henrikson. [Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.]

19 февраля, 04:59

The Navy's New $13 Billion Aircraft Carrier Has Some Serious Problems

Task and Purpose, Jared Keller Security, North America A few billion here, a few billion there—pretty soon, we’ll be talking about a working aircraft carrier. At the current reliability, Ford’s cats only have “a 9 percent chance of completing the 4-day surge and a 70 percent chance of completing a day of sustained operations as defined in the design reference mission without a critical failure.” That’s on a good day, with a deck full of trained-up sailors; the Ford class was designed to reduce manning requirements but is “sensitive to manpower fluctuations” simply because the next-generation technologies it embraces “are not well understood,” the report states The Department of Defense’s fiscal year 2019 budget includes a hefty chunk of cash for a fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier, but the Navy may have to wait a little bit longer to see its dreams of an 11-carrier fleet truly realized. Among the slew of vessels included in the Navy portion of President Donald Trump’s planned boost to the U.S. armed forces budget are three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, two Virginia-class submarines, and the “first year of full funding” for the now-unnamed CVN 81 aircraft carrier, a younger sibling to the brand-new $13 billion USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), which the Navy (and Trump) commissioned last July. Read full article

18 февраля, 15:20

Is Conor Lamb the Next Big Democratic Upset?

This 33-year-old Marine has a chance at winning one of the GOP’s most reliable districts.

18 февраля, 14:51

Behind the minimum wage fight, a sweeping failure to enforce the law

Raising hourly pay is a rallying cry for 2018, but states often fail to get workers the money that’s owed them.

14 февраля, 08:10

The Brutal Truth About Violence When The SHTF

Selco interviewed by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog, Are you prepared for the extreme violence that is likely to come your way if the SHTF? No matter what your plan is, it’s entirely probable that at some point, you’ll be the victim of violence or have to perpetrate violence to survive. As always, Selco is our go-to guy on SHTF reality checks and this thought-provoking interview will shake you to your core. If you don’t know Selco, he’s from Bosnia and he lived through a year in a city that was blockaded with no utilities, no deliveries of supplies, and no services. In his interviews, he shares what the scenarios the rest of us theorize about were REALLY like.  He mentioned to me recently that most folks aren’t prepared for the violence that is part and parcel of a collapse, which brings us to today’s interview. How prevalent was violence when the SHTF in Bosnia? It was wartime and chaos, from all conflicts in those years in the Balkan region Bosnian conflict was most brutal because of multiple reasons, historical, political and other. To simplify the explanation why violence was common and very brutal, you need to picture a situation where you are “bombarded” with huge amount of information (propaganda) which instills in you very strong feelings of fear and hate. Out of fear and hate, violence grows easy and fast, and over the very short period of time you see how people around you (including you) do things that you could not imagine before. I can say that violence was almost an everyday thing in the whole spectrum of different activities because it was a fight for survival. Again, whenever (and wherever) you put people in a region without enough resources, you can expect violence. We were living a normal life, and then suddenly we were thrown in a way of living where if you could not “negotiate” something with someone, you solve the problem by launching a rocket from an RPG through the window of his living room. Hate stripped down the layers of humanity and suddenly it was “normal” to level an apartment building with people inside with shells from a tank or form private prisons with imprisoned civilians for slave work or sex slaves. Nothing that I saw or read before could have prepared me for the level of violence and blindness to it, for the lives of kids, elders, civilians, and the innocent. Again, the thing that is important for readers is that we were a modern society one day, and then in few weeks it turned into carnage. Do not make the mistake of saying “it cannot happen here” because I made that mistake too. Do not underestimate power of propaganda, fear, hate, and the lowest human instincts, no matter how modern and good your society is right now and how deeply you believe that “it can not happen here”. You’ve mentioned warlords and gangs in several of your articles. Were they responsible for the majority of the violence or was it hungry families? Fighting of the armies through the whole period of war brings violence in terms of constant shelling from a distance from different kind of weapons. For example a few multiple rocket launchers (VBR) could bring in 30 seconds the destruction in an area of 3-4 apartment buildings, and being there in that moment and surviving it gives you a completely new view on life. Snipers were a constant threat and over time you simply grow a way of living that you constant scan area in front of you where your next steps gonna be. Are you gonna be visible and from where? Etc. Most brutal violence was actually lawlessness and complete lack of order between different factions and militias, so in some periods there were militias or gangs who simply ruled the cities or part of the city where they were absolutely masters of everything in terms of deciding of taking someone’s life. In lawlessness, you as one person could be really small and not interesting, or join some bigger group of people to be stronger, some family or militia or gang. An example of a gang would be group of people of some 300 or 500 people who “officially” were a unit or militia and operate for some faction, but in reality they operate mostly for themselves. That included owning part of the black market, having prison (for forced labor or ransom), attacking people and houses for resources, smuggling people from dangerous areas. Violence from those kinds of group was the most immediate violence, the most visible in terms of SHTF talking. If those people came on your door you could obey, fight, or negotiate, but mostly you could not not ask for help from any kind of authority, because there was no real authority. In any society, no matter where you are living, there are a great number of people who are waiting for the SHTF to go out and do violent things. Small time criminals or simply violent persons who are not openly violent because system is there to punish them for that. It is like that. Some gang leaders that I knew were actually completely sick people with a strange type of charisma that makes people follow them, weird situations that can happen only in a real collapse. They are people who just waited for their time to rise. Those kinds of people together with criminal organization that are already there in any city in the world will be the backbone of SHTF gangs. Who were the most likely victims? A very simple answer would be that the most likely victims were people who had interesting things without enough defense. But it was not always that simple. For example one of the first houses that got raided in my neighborhood, right at the beginning of collapse while there was still some kind of order, was a rich family’s home. They had a nice house with bars on the windows, a pretty good setup for defense, and they had enough people inside so they could give pretty good resistance to the mob. But they got raided simply because they were known that they are rich, so they were attacked with enough force to be overwhelmed. It was not only about how much manpower you had and how well-organized defense of your home was, it was also about how juicy a target you were. If you are faced with 150 angry people attacking your home because they are sure you have good stuff inside your chances are low, no matter how good and tough you are. People who were alone were a pretty easy target and old people without support of family or friends. It was not always about killing someone or violence. For example, if you were alone and without resources but you had something else valuable like some kind of skill or knowledge you could easily be “recruited” for some faction or group, not by your will of course. What were some ways to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of violence? How do you recommend that people prepare themselves for the possibility of violence? It can be done in steps, or in layers. Do not be interesting (or attract attention) when the SHTF. This means a lot of things, for this article I can give a few examples with shortened explanations because it is a huge topic: Do not look like a prepper (before or after SHTF). There is no sense in announcing that you are prepping for EMP, civil collapse, apocalypse, or whatever. With that you are risking the probability that when the SHTF, people will remember that you have interesting things in your home Your home should look ordinary. For example, if you are living in the city on a street where all houses look similar, there is not  much sense in making your home look like a fortress. You’ll just attract attention. Your defense should be based on more subtle means. Some examples are having means to reinforce doors and windows quickly when you need it, or to reinforce them from inside. Make changes in your yard to funnel possible attackers where you want them to be (trees, fence, bush…). You can make your home look abandoned or already looted. Think about what survival is! Survival is about staying alive, it is not about being comfortable at the expense of losing your life. I have seen many times people lose their lives simply because they were too attached to their belongings (house, car, land, goods…) so they simply did not want to leave something and run in a particular moment. Everything can be earned and bought again except life. Forget about statements like “I will defend it with my life” or “over my dead body” or similar because the real SHTF is usually not heroic or noble. It is hard and brutal. When you are gone you are gone and there might be nobody to take care of your family just because you have been stubborn or trusted in movies when it came to violence. To rephrase it: Be ready to leave your home in a split second if that means you and your family will survive, no matter how many good things you have stored there. Be mentally ready for violence In a way, it is impossible to be ready for violence, especially widespread violence when the SHTF, but you can minimize shock when that happens with some things. If you are not familiar with what violence is, you can try to get yourself close” to it today (in normal times). It can be done, for example, by doing some voluntary work for example in a local hospital, ER or similar… or simply by working with homeless people. Sounds maybe strange but activities like this can get you a bit of a feeling of what it is all about, not to mention that you can learn some practical and useful skills for SHTF. Have means and skills  (physically) to defend – or to do violence No matter how old or young you are, your gender or religion I assure you that you are capable of doing violence. It is only a matter of the situation and how far you are going to be pushed. It is not just “some people are capable of violence.” Everybody is capable. Not everybody enjoys doing it or is willing to do it so easily. In today (normal times) you can learn some violence skills and you should do it, again no matter if you are a woman or old or young. You should own a weapon and know how to use it. You should practice with it, or have at least some basic knowledge about hand-to-hand combat. The worst case scenario is to have a weapon that you try for the first time when SHTF. Be familiar with your means for defense, let your family members know what they need to do in case of attack of your home, have plan, and go through it. Only through practice will you minimize chances for mistakes. Use common sense I know lot of survivalists almost dream about how they are going to use weapons against bad guys when SHTF, and that they will be something like super heroes from movies, saving innocents and killing villains. Truth is that in a real collapse, a lot of things are kind of blurred and you are not sure who the bad guys are. Good guys turn out to be lunatic gang members who want to bring food to their kids. There are no super heroes when SHTF, and if some of them show up they end up dead quickly. There is only you and your skills and mindset and what you prepared. Use  violence as a last resort because of the simple fact that by using violence you are risking of getting killed or hurt. Remember when SHTF there is maybe no doctor or hospital to take care of your wound. It is a time when even a small cut can eventually kill you through infection and lack of proper care. I’m a single mom with a household full of girls. In an SHTF situation, what would our best strategies be to remain safe? Just like I have mentioned before, strategy is always same for any part of survival, and shooting from the rifle is pretty similar no matter are you man or woman. Being single mom with household full of girls on first look make you as a ideal target in some situations, but we are talking here in prepper terms so there is no reason not to be perfectly well prepared as a single mom with girls. But yes I admit it is not perfect situation, even if you are prepared well, some things are sure, you need to connect with other people even more. House with couple of girls will always look like easy prey for some people. It is like that. Were people in the city safer than people in the country? Can you tell us more about rural living during this time? In my case definitely no. In the essence it always come to the resources and people. City meant more people less resources, country (rural) meant less people more resources, and because that level of violence simply was lower. That was most important reason. There are few more reasons why it was much better in the country. People in the country (rural settings) were much more “connected to ground”  they were more tough if you like, they grew their own food, had cattle, lived more simple life prior SHTF and when everything collapsed they had less problems getting use to it. Yes they also did not have electricity and phones, running water or connection to other places but they adapted easier to the new life because they had more useful skills then people in the city. Life was harder for them too than prior to the collapse, but they had means to get resources: land, woods, river… Another thing is that people in small rural communities “in the country” were more connected to each other, people knew their neighborhood and some things were easier to organize, like community security watch, help in case of diseases and similar. What types of weapons did people have for self-defense? It was different political system prior the collapse where it was not so usual to own a weapon legally. And to own one illegally could mean a lot of troubles. Right prior to SHTF, it became possible to buy different weapons on the black market but still, a majority of people did not own weapons. When it all collapsed, it was possible to get a weapon through trade. Because of the military doctrine here prior to the collapse, we used “East Bloc” weapons. A favorite was AK-47 in all different kind of editions, or older weapons like M-48 rifle, SKS rifle, 22 and similar. People used what they had, so in one period you would be lucky if you had any kind of pistol and knife. Later through the different channels weapon become more available so people had them more. A lot of that was actually junk that some warlords somehow “imported”. Weapons 50-60 years old without proper ammunition, or not in operating condition. A lot of people simply did not have a clue how to use any kind of weapon so a lot of accidental deaths happened. I remember people storming abandoned army barracks that was mostly looted, but they found in one building a lot of RPGs while other part of the same building was burning. Two guys were trying to figure out a single-use RPG, and while they were messing with it clearly not knowing how that thing worked, they accidentally armed it and launched a rocket that flew through the crowd, not hurting anyone and exploding in wall 100 meters from where they stood. They were smiling, clearly happy because they thought they figured out how that thing worked. What weapons do you suggest to have for SHTF? It is a never-ending discussion and a favorite prepper topic, and I must say that whole discussion is overrated. I have used them in a real situation, and tried and tested lot of different kind of weapons and what works for me may simply not work for you. For example, here for me good choice is AK-47 rifle, maybe for you wherever you are it is very bad choice. Good advice is : you need to have a weapon that most people have around you because of multiple reasons: spare parts, repairing, ammunition availability, possibility that you can pick that rifle from other people and you know how to use it. What caliber and similar is a matter of discussion again. I am talking from the point of owning a rifle. Another thing is that you need to know how that weapon works. Luckily, most of my readers live in an area where gun laws are great comparing to region where I am. You have much more choices when it comes to owning a weapon and practicing with it. Use that. And do not forget that using weapon in a real life situation is not like shooting at beer bottles with your friends after a barbecue. In real life you might be in a situation to use a weapon while you are tired, dirty, and hungry and while someone is screaming next to you. It is going to be maybe when you are not ready to do that, maybe in pitch dark, maybe after you have been awake for 48 hours. At least think about that. When should you use violence? Contrary to some popular beliefs in the prepper community, the point is to use violence only as a last solution. The reason is as I mentioned already, the risk that you can be hurt or killed too, but also once you do violence you change your own rules, or push it more forward, and it is easy to get lost in violence. There are consequences to that, and you are not going to be the same person ever again. Violence is a tool, not a toy. You need to know how to use it as best as possible, but also to avoid using it when it is not necessary. It is a good idea to set up a clear set of rules (mentally too) when you are gonna use violence and to try to stick to it. For example you will use weapon if someone tries to break your home and attack you, and you need to be ready to do that without hesitation. What else should we know about post-collapse violence? Think with your head and research. One thing that is absolutely important when it comes to understanding how violent it is going to be and what can you expect in your own case of SHTF, is to understand how much media can influence people in making their decisions about violence. In my case, the media built up situation where people feared so much from other people that they actually hated them. They hated them so much that they actually strip them down from humanity. In a real-life example, it works in a way that people killed other people, including kids and women, because they hated them so much because media told them. It may look ridiculous and not possible to you, and you might again think “that can not happen here” but please trust your own resources, look for independent information, not mainstream media, in order to get the right information about what is really happening in the beginning of collapse. Do not be pulled into “popular opinion” just because the “man from TV” (whoever he might be) told you so. It is easier today. Because of the internet, you have much more choices for correct information than in my time. But still be careful, you might find yourself rioting together with 500 people just because you trusted some media. *  *  * More from Selco  Selco: The Reality of Barter and Trade in an SHTF Economy Selco: Who Survives and Who Dies When the SHTF? Selco: How to Stay Warm During a Long-Term SHTF Situation Stories from an SHTF Christmas: An Interview with Selco Selco: What an “Average Day” Is REALLY Like When the SHTF More information about Selco Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution. In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today. He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations like Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months. Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world. Read more of Selco’s articles here: https://shtfschool.com/blog/ And take advantage of a deep and profound insight into his knowledge and advice by signing up for the outstanding and unrivaled online course. More details here: https://shtfschool.com/survival-boot-camp/

12 февраля, 15:00

How AI Is Changing Contracts

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CSA Images/ Color Printstock Collection/Hayon Thapaliya/Getty Images Contracting is a common activity, but it is one that few companies do efficiently or effectively. In fact, it has been estimated that inefficient contracting causes firms to lose between 5% to 40% of value on a given deal, depending on circumstances. But recent technological developments like artificial intelligence (AI) are now helping companies overcome many of the challenges to contracting. The main challenge firms face in contracting arises from the sheer number of contracts they must keep track of; these often lack uniformity and are difficult to organize, manage, and update. Most firms don’t have a database of all the information in their contracts – let alone an efficient way to extract all that data – so there’s no orderly and fast way to, for example, view complex outsourcing agreements or see how a certain clause is worded across different divisions. It requires a lot of manpower to draft, execute, and improve not only the contracts themselves, but also the contracting processes and the transactions these contracts govern. If, for example, a large tech company finds itself with a huge volume of procurement contracts that all have varying renewal dates and renegotiation terms, it would require hundreds of hours and a team of contract managers to review and track of all this information to ensure that no renewal or opportunity is missed. AI software, however, can easily extract data and clarify the content of contracts. (It could quickly pull and organize the renewal dates and renegotiation terms from any number of contracts.) It can let companies review contracts more rapidly, organize and locate large amounts of contract data more easily, decrease the potential for contract disputes (and antagonistic contract negotiations), and increase the volume of contracts it is able to negotiate and execute. In my research, I have seen that many companies use contract management software, and a smaller number of firms – mostly those with a high volume of routinized contracts – use more advanced software with AI capabilities. These firms have generally seen an increase in productivity and efficiency in their contracting. The use of AI contracting software has the potential to improve how all firms contract – and it will do so in three ways: by changing the tools firms use to contract, influencing the content of contracts, and affecting the processes by which firms contract. Improved Tools for Managing Contracts While software for legal document review has existed for years, it typically only helps companies store and organize their contracts. Contracting software that uses AI raises the bar for what these tools can accomplish. AI contracting software can, for example, identify contract types (even in multiple languages) based on pattern recognition in how the document is drafted. Because AI contracting software trains its algorithm on a set of data (contracts) to recognize patterns and extract key variables (clauses, dates, parties, etc.), it allows a firm to manage its contracts more effectively because it knows – and can easily access — what is in each of them. AI software also offers simple prediction, which has implications for due diligence: AI contracting software can quickly sort through a large volume of contracts and flag individual contracts based on firm-specified criteria. Current AI software can also read contracts accurately in any format, provide analytics about the data extracted from the contracts, and extract contract data much faster than would be possible with a team of lawyers. This may sound like bad news for lawyers, but this is not necessarily the case: having additional contract data could allow firms to update their contracts more regularly, and lawyers could focus more on their role as counsel instead of contract reviewer. Keeping Contracts Consistent AI contracting software helps firms keep terms and usage consistent in all of their contracts. For example, if a company wants to define the term “confidential information” in a specific way in its non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), it must make sure that all of its divisions are on board with this definition, and that changes to the definition get incorporated quickly and accurately, because variation could prove damaging to the company. AI contracting software can easily keep this term consistent across the firm’s templates, and it can spot other terms that signal “confidential information” in NDAs from business partners. Being able to identify and extract key data points helps firms organize and execute contracts as well. For example, a company with a large number of vendor contracts must ensure that they are keeping track of variations in termination provisions and penalty and damage provisions – both in their own contracts and in vendor contracts. Managing variations is a huge undertaking that requires proactive organization. But AI contracting software can record and standardize these provisions in the company’s contracts and in those that vendors send, making it far easier to identify instances of noncompliance and ensure that unfavorable provisions are dealt with promptly. Additionally, AI contracting software can quickly assess risk in contracts (performing the risk analysis much faster than a team of lawyers) by identifying terms and clauses that are suboptimal. And it can reduce the risk of human error in contract drafting and review. New Processes Require New Skills As new AI contracting tools change the actual content of contracts, this in turn affects the contracting processes that firms use. Previously, successful contracting required skills in drafting and negotiating contracts, as well as in managing and reviewing them. Specialized high-value transactions were dependent on groups of attorneys devoting hours to comprehensive due diligence. Contracting professionals were expected to find clever ways to draft contracts to include clauses that favored their client. And even more routine transactions required employees to pay close attention to details. But when most due diligence and contract organization – and even contract drafting — is done using AI contracting software, the resources required to produce a large volume of contracts, both simple and complex, will change. This doesn’t necessarily mean companies will need fewer lawyers, but rather their roles may transform. For example, lawyers will spend more time in assessing risk and providing counsel, rather than in document review. And instead of having a large team of associates conduct due diligence before a deal, companies will have a smaller, more agile team review the documents that the software flags and then offer advice. Indeed, Professor Gillian K. Hadfield, a law professor at the University of Southern California who specializes in contract law, believes that AI in contracting will lead to a better use of legal talent: “lawyers will shift their focus from routine activities to much more high value work involved in shaping strategies and navigating complex legal problems.” Similarly, the role of contract management professionals will shift. Whereas contract compliance was previously done by an entire team, AI tools enable a well-designed software platform – coupled with a few employees – to do the job. Rather than organizational skills being key to the role, contract managers will need more technical and process flow expertise to work with the software. These improvements to tools, content, and processes will mean that contracting becomes faster, better, and easier once this technology is more widespread. But it is important to recognize that, while AI promises to do a lot, it won’t do everything. Contracting technology is currently at a midpoint: One stream of development will be in industries with highly routinized, template-based contracts. Here, AI contracting technology will be used in a blockchain model, allowing contracts to evolve and essentially re-write themselves according to the parties’ needs. The other main use will be to help develop contracting standards, such as how to debate and structure certain clauses. When companies negotiating a contract can easily access every similar contract from the past twenty years, prioritized by industry, and see what wording is most commonly used, we should see less onerous negotiating over clauses, leading to an easier contracting process. Understanding what AI contracting tools can and cannot do is key to their successful implementation and use. Right now, they may offer the highest value add to companies with large volumes of contracts – cutting time spent in contract review and drafting – and companies that conduct more routinized transactions. But as this technology develops, it is all but certain that it will one day be useful to all firms.

11 февраля, 20:12

How Much Would It Cost to Build and Run the Death Star From ‘Star Wars’?

In the 'Star Wars' movies, the Death Star is the ultimate weapon. But what would it cost to build and run it, and how would that go over with taxpayers?

10 февраля, 14:53

America’s Had Military Parades Before. Here’s Why Trump’s Will Be Different.

Over two days in the spring of 1865—May 23 and May 24, just weeks after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse and Abraham Lincoln’s tragic death—roughly 150,000 Union soldiers marched in full regalia down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., for the now-famous Grand Review. With the new president, Andrew Johnson, and General Ulysses S. Grant positioned in a VIP review box, first the men of George Meade’s Army of the Potomac, and then the men of William T. Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee staged the largest and most elaborate military exposition in American history to that date. Grant doubted that “an equal body of men of any nation, take them man for man, officer for officer, was ever gotten together.”Like Grant, Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, also enjoys a good parade, and as luck might have it, he enjoys the constitutional authority to order one assembled. After witnessing a military cavalcade in Paris last Bastille Day, he has reportedly instructed the Pentagon to plan an enormous show of American might—columns of service members, tanks, weaponry and the like—in the nation’s capital. On the surface, it’s all pretty similar to the Grand Review of 1865. Except it isn’t at all.In keeping with his “Make America Great Again” motif, Trump aspires to project strength by showcasing the might of our armed forces and the depth and breadth of our arsenal. To be sure, there have been moments in American history when the country placed its military on public display. But those moments stand as a reminder that Trump’s proposal violates American political norms. In 1865, 1919 and 1945, mass military parades celebrated returning troops who—as everyone understood—were about to return to civilian life. They marked the wind-down of wartime mobilization and the dismantling of large volunteer armies. These parades were in keeping with a long political tradition that viewed standing armies warily.In this sense, Trump’s military parade is just one more example of how far we’ve traveled from longstanding traditions. ***Aversion to brute displays of military force is well-ingrained in American history. Deeply immersed in the intellectual tradition of England’s Whig opposition, the men who propelled the colonies toward revolution in the late 18th century viewed “standing armies”—permanent institutions that existed in peacetime and wartime alike, populated by professional soldiers rather than volunteer militiamen—as the instruments of despots. Redcoats occupying the streets of Boston and Hessian soldiers of fortune hiring themselves out to do the king’s dirty work seemed the very embodiment of this coercive and corrupting force. When they incorporated the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, the framers purposely included the Third Amendment, which prohibited the mandatory quartering of soldiers in civilian homes during peacetime—a measure that reflected very real and recent experiences with British forces and Americans’ distrust of professional soldiers. In the early 1790s, Congress debated whether to have a standing army at all, and if so, whether to cap it at 3,000 soldiers, as Representative Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts suggested. Many of Gerry’s fellow Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans agreed, though President George Washington—who wryly suggested an accompanying requirement that “no foreign enemy should invade the United States, at any time, with more than three thousand troops”—ultimately won the day. The new nation would have a standing army and navy, with no particular manpower limit.Nevertheless, for the first 75 or so years, the United States maintained only a small and widely dispersed military. On the eve of the Civil War, a mere 16,000 troops, led by a thin officer corps, composed the entirety of the nation’s armed forces. It was only with mass enlistment, later enforced by a draft in 1863, that the United States Army temporarily swelled to impressive numbers. More than 2.5 million men served on the Union side during the war. And many of those men were proud to mark their imminent demobilization at the Grand Review in 1865.In the words of the Philadelphia North American, the Civil War parade was “as great a tribute to free government as was been paid.” The Union Army wasn’t a standing force. It was composed of civilians—small shopkeepers and farmers, college professors like Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and lawyers like James Garfield—who would leave Washington and soon return to civilian life. By January 1866, only 90,000 troops remained stationed in the South. That number would dwindle in the coming year so that by the late 1860s, a small and increasingly isolated number of career enlisted men and officers struggled to enforce Reconstruction-era laws, while a slightly larger number spread out along the vast western frontier to provide muscle for the expansion of railroads and settlements. The Grand Review was very much the last hurrah for the massive Army that Abraham Lincoln had raised.The same was true in 1919, when over 200,000 “doughboys”—the popular nickname for American servicemen during World War I—marched in roughly 450 victory parades nationwide. The grand processions ranged from New York City’s, which held six massive displays of military splendor, to Harrisburg’s, where the city feted 100 of the first soldiers to return home and doff their uniforms. Like their Civil War predecessors, they had been part of a mass-scale mobilization of citizen soldiers and sailors: On the eve of America’s entry into the war, the Army had roughly 140,000 officers and soldiers; over the course of two years, 4.5 million men enlisted or were drafted into the armed forces, and at the height of the war, over 2 million were stationed in France. By 1920, only 130,000 remained in uniform. The grand parades of 1919 were meant to welcome the boys back to civilian life.So it was the case on January 12, 1946, when between 2 million and 4 million New Yorkers greeted a procession of 13,000 airborne troops with a rollicking ticker-tape “Victory Parade,” in lock step with dozens of other cities that welcomed home the roughly 16.4 million men and women who served in uniform during World War II. The parade featured not only the returning troops, but also row after row of 36-ton Sherman tanks, tank destroyers, howitzers, jeeps, armored cars and anti-tank guns. The “showered blessing, shrill whistle, waves of handclapping, hoarse cheering, and here and there open tears” were “unstinting,” the New York Times observed. But again, the Victory Parade was intended to celebrate soon-to-be veterans as they reverted to civilian life. By spring 1946, less than one-quarter of Army soldiers remained in uniform—this, at the dawn of the Cold War.To be sure, Americans have grown comfortable with the idea that permanent armed forces are a necessity in the modern era. We no longer live in colonial times. Roughly 1.3 million active-duty soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors compose today’s large, professional military. And to that end, we have held military parades—notably, in 1991, when 200,000 onlookers converged in Washington, D.C.—to celebrate professional service members. This occasion was different from most that preceded it: Citizens cheered for a permanent, “standing Army.” But the context—a resounding military triumph in the Gulf War—was the same.What Trump proposes to do is altogether out of step with American tradition, and that is precisely why his parade makes some people uncomfortable. Not just liberals, who might remain mute in their opposition for fear of appearing anti-military, but conservatives like Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, who offered that “confidence is silent and insecurity is loud. America is the most powerful country in all of human history; you don’t need to show it off.” No less a military icon than Dwight Eisenhower strongly disavowed such displays when he served as president. “Eisenhower said absolutely not, we are the pre-eminent power on Earth,” historian Michael Beschloss explained. “For us to try to imitate what the Soviets are doing in Red Square would make us look weak.”But this, of course, is Trump—a man who continues to relitigate the size of his inauguration crowd. In the same way that Soviet autocrats and third-world strongmen traditionally used the trappings of military might to enforce the false appearance of strength and conformity, Trump is a historically unpopular president presiding over a deeply divided and disquieted country. But he controls the soldiers and the tanks. And he now becomes the very embodiment of the founding fathers’ worst nightmare.

08 февраля, 20:25

Global Warming Means These Winter Olympic Cities May Never Be Able to Host the Games Again

Climate change and global warming mean we may never see another Olympics in Sochi or Vancouver.

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02 февраля, 16:06

Квартальная выручка Manpower увеличилась на 13,7% г/г

Американская рекрутинговая компания Manpower представила финансовые результаты за четвертый квартал. Так, чистая прибыль за три месяца с окончанием 31 декабря увеличилась с $127,4 млн или $1,87 на акцию годом ранее до $216,3 млн или $3,22 на бумагу. Стоит отметить, что аналитики прогнозировали показатель на уровне $2,06 на одну акцию. Выручка, тем временем, возросла на 13,7% г/г и достигла $5,64 млрд по сравнению с $4,96 млрд годом ранее. Заметим, что по итогам всего 2017 года чистая прибыль составила $545,4 млн или $8,04 на акцию по сравнению с $443,7 млн или $6,27 на бумагу годом ранее.