Feb 14

Today’s News 14th February 2018

  • Apple Shipped More Watches Than Switzerland In Q4 2017

    Despite the fact that the Apple Watch is consistently playing second (or third) fiddle to the iPhone in terms of public attention, the evidence suggesting that Apple has yet another hit product on its hands is piling up.

    According to estimates by market research firm Canalys, the Apple Watch had its best quarter ever in Q4 2017. Driven by the release of the Series 3 model including (optional) LTE support, Apple shipped 8 million watches between October and December, bringing its total for the year to more than 18 million units.

    As Statista’s chart illustrates, that puts Apple ahead of the entire Swiss watch industry (think Rolex, Swatch etc.) for the quarter, supporting the company’s claims that the Apple Watch became the top-selling watch in the world some time in 2017.

    Infographic: Apple Shipped More Watches Than Switzerland in Q4 2017 | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

    For all of 2017, BI reports that the Swiss exported more watches than Apple shipped, and the Chinese still make far more watches than anyone. But as the data indicates, Apple is rapidly gaining ground.

  • 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 

    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/

  • Tiny Canadian Bank Unveils Digital Vault For Bitcoins

    VersaBank, a tech-based, all-digital Canadian chartered bank, is developing a n ultra high-tech “Blockchain-based digital safety deposit box” for cryptocurrencies and other digital assets.

    Last week, the firm announced the hiring of Gurpreet Sahota as Chief Architect of Cyber Security, a former Principal Architect of Cyber Security at BlackBerry Limited, to supervise a team of engineers in developing a novel Blockchain-based digital safety deposit box, known as the VersaVault. The service will be available by June and will serve as a means to store cryptocurrencies, according to the company’s latest press release.

    VersaBank describes the VersaVault as the “world’s first blockchain-based safety deposit box,” which will soon be available on a global scale.

    Your digital assets are just as valuable as any family jewelry, property deed or stock certificate, but protecting them isn’t nearly as simple. No storage device or commercial cloud service is completely safe, and most blockchain-based secure storage is only for crypto-currency… and offered by companies you’ve never heard of, in places you don’t know. VersaVault is the solution your digital wealth has been waiting for: the impenetrable security and absolute privacy of blockchain encryption, created and managed by a chartered bank in one of the world’s most trusted financial markets. Like a safety deposit box, only you have access to what’s inside, and like a safety deposit box, it’s been built by an institution you can trust to be there for the long run.

    It is common that physical assets such as precious metals be stored in Switzerland, Hong Kong, and even Singapore, but when it comes to digital assets, could the country of choice soon be Canada? President and CEO David Taylor sure hopes so, and has positioned the bank to become a global leader in digital asset security from the perspective of safety.

    Last month, Coincheck, a Japanese cryptocurrency exchange, told financial authorities that it had lost 500 million NEM cryptocurrency coin, which at January 26 exchange rate amounted to roughly $400 million. By far, this was the most significant crypto theft in history.

    “We’re using what banks are all about — safety and security — only what we’re doing now is saying that physical box in the basement is getting obsolete,” Taylor said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Toronto office. “Most people’s really valuable assets are contained in some sort of digital format, whether it be a deed or a contract or a cryptocurrency.”

    Our differentiator in this market is to be secure and super private,” added Taylor, 65. “The bank wouldn’t have any kind of back door to open up the vault, we’re just providing the facility that folks could put their digital keys in.”

    Taylor said large financial institutions are showing interest in storing their digital assets in VersaVault since the company’s latest press release. He told Bloomberg that pricing has yet to be released, but he did indicate that it will be expensive.

    Bloomberg notes that VersaBank is an early mover in the digital asset security space. However, VersaBank is not alone in the space with firms in Asia, Canada, and the United States, who have also made claims to digital asset secuity services.

    South Korea’s Shinhan Bank said in November it planned to start a bitcoin vault by mid-year. Outside banking, Palo Alto, California-based Xapo Inc. has offered clients secure storage for Bitcoin for about four years, while Goldmoney Inc., a Toronto-based firm that lets clients buy, sell and store precious metals in vaults in seven countries, started offering Bitcoin storage in September.

    Bloomberg explains  that Taylor’s decision to incorporate Blockchain technology into the bank will enable it to rapidly grow in size in a short period of time.

    VersaBank, with a market value of about C$158 million ($126 million), 80 employees and C$1.73 billion in assets, has outperformed Canada’s big banks, with shares soaring 24 percent this year versus the 2.9 percent decline of the eight-company S&P/TSX Commercial Banks Index. Last year VersaBank rose 19 percent compared to the 11 percent gain of the banks index. Taylor is now eyeing a bit more growth while staying the course.  

    “I’m happy to be a niche player, but can probably double the size we are in assets,” he said. “I think C$3 billion is kind of a nice number.”

    It remains to be seen just how much safer a “blockchain-based” crypt will be compared to traditional air-gapped hard drives. Until then, we are confident that the world’s cryptobillionaires will stick to more conventional options, such as this “secret” Swiss bunker where the ultra rich hide their bitcoins.

  • Army Major Slams Trump's Toy-Soldier Fantasy

    Authored by Army Major Danny Sjursen via TruthDig.com,

    When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.
    —Provenance unknown; sometimes erroneously attributed to author Sinclair Lewis

    You’ve got to give it to the guy. He sure has a set on him. President Trump is impenetrable and far from subtle.

    On Tuesday, Americans were treated to the news that Trump has ordered the Pentagon to plan a “big” military parade. We should hardly be surprised. Our president—he of bone spurs and other Vietnam draft deferments—loves martial displays. We’ve already watched him gleefully sword dance with Saudi Arabian princes and marvel at a triumphant Bastille Day parade in Paris. He really liked the French procession.

    In fact, according to a Pentagon spokesman, “The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France.”

    The man possesses the military maturity of a sophomore from his alma mater, a New York military boarding school in the Hudson Valley, but he sure knows what he wants.

    In the coming days, you’ll no doubt be treated to dozens of columns about Trump’s latest request, or, more accurately, his latest order. Expect much discussion of the logistical difficulties inherent in such a cavalcade and speculation about the parade’s monetary cost. But the crisis is deeper still.

    The parade is just a symptom. It centers on persistent American militarism and our pariah status in the eyes of the world.

    The Trump administration, like the two that proceeded it, possesses not even the semblance of a coherent foreign policy. Who needs strategy when you’ve got pomp, and who better to usher in the show than America’s first reality-TV president?

    Make no mistake: This is spectacle, not strategy, pageantry, not prudence. In that sense, nothing better defines our unique militarist moment.

    Everything is in play in the martial culture wars waged among Americans. The National Football League is a battleground. Soldiers a-marching and jets a-flying used to be saved for Memorial Day or Veterans Day. Now, it’s a regular Sunday spectacle. Presidents, politicians and “patriots” nearly faint with pride and adulation—a new, compulsory, American ritual. The few African-American players with the audacity to kneel in protest during the national anthem are pilloried, attacked from the very pinnacle of government. It’s a war, in our heads and in our hearts. Militarism is winning.

    *  *  *

    Trump didn’t invent the misappropriation of military members for partisan political gain. Oh, no. That’s a well-worn trick of the trade. Heck, George W. Bush landed a plane on a damn aircraft carrier. Even Barack Obama was hardly above speeches and photo-ops with the troops. Still, you have to admit that only Trump could elevate this sort of spectacle into an art form, albeit a gaudy one.

    Like so much else in Trump’s governing style, this is pure distraction. He’ll entertain the sentimental masses with shiny, low-hanging patriotic fruit while whisking Paul Ryan’s agenda (with a sprinkle of Stephen Miller nativism) through Congress. After all, there’s lots from which to distract in contemporary America. From militarized police patrolling the streets of black and brown neighborhoods to record income inequality, to sporting the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world, in a nation where black men are imprisoned at five times the rate of whites. Take your pick.

    Zooming out a bit, how do you think America’s upcoming martial parade will play in the rest of the world, especially the Greater Middle East, Uncle Sam’s favorite playground of late?

    Let’s take an imaginary tour. I’m not sure the people of Yemen—starving and disease ridden under United States-backed Saudi terror bombing—will find much to celebrate in the U.S. military. The Kurds, America’s erstwhile allies in Syria, might resent Trump’s decision to abandon them to the machinations of Turkey, their sworn enemy. Palestinians won’t be impressed either, seeing as this administration broke with the rest of the world and 70 years of precedent to unilaterally sign away their capital, Jerusalem, to Israel.

    Afghans can’t be bothered with U.S. victory parades. After all, their capital city is suffering under regular bombing attacks, and a record number of provinces are now controlled by the Taliban. This after a 17-year string of U.S. military “victories.”

    The Nigerians, South Sudanese, Somalis and Yemenis suffering under what experts call the catastrophic “four famines” are liable to ask whether the U.S. military couldn’t provide a bit less terror-chasing and a bit more humanitarian assistance before they and their families starve to death. And, finally, imagine the shock of millions of Mideast refugees blocked from entering the U.S. when they find out the American military is celebrating “victory” in the very wars (think Iraq, 2003) that destabilized their region.

    *  *  *

    The truth is that most Americans, especially those in Trump’s peculiar coalition—war hawks, tax-cut-hungry CEOs, struggling Rust Belt white males and (strangely, considering their support for a thrice-married New Yorker) evangelical Christians—couldn’t care less about any other countries.

    This is now the “America First,” “Make America Great Again” Republican Party, remember? No one in the president’s iron alliance of (40 percent of) Americans is going to worry about how the image of a U.S. military parade plays on the “Arab street.” Self-awareness is not a common American virtue, more’s the pity.

    Anyway, the parade will come and go. America’s military will obediently spin its logistical wheels to give the president what he wants—a spectacle to match that of his favorite nemesis doppelganger in North Korea. Half the country will cheer our passing American “heroes.” The other half will grumble about Trumpian narcissism. When it’s all over, most everyone will ignore the creeping militarism that infects American society.

    This veteran, for one, will pass on watching Trump’s carnival display. It’s a sad day indeed when one pines for the unrest of the late 1960s, when hundreds of thousands of peace activists, frustrated veterans and even Gold Star mothers regularly descended on Washington to protest an immoral and failing war.

    Now, that would be a parade worth watching.

  • China Rolls Out J-20 Stealth Fighter, Navy Calls "Serious Threat" To US Assets

    As tensions mount over the South China Sea shipping corridor which handles $5 trillion in annual trade, China has finally rolled out its Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter jet which some have compared to the United States’ F-22 Raptor.  

    The new jet is rumored to have already been deployed to the South China Sea along with several of China’s Su-35s, to take part in a joint combat patrol over the region, according to the Chinese Ministry of Defense whose release did not mention the J-20.

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    The fourth-generation medium and long-range fighter jet made it’s maiden flight in 2011 and was first shown to the public at a November, 2016 air show in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province. 

    A spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army (PLO), Shen Jinke, said that the J-20 would “help the air force better shoulder the sacred mission of safeguarding national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity,” adding that the air force was in the middle of a modernization program in order to fight enemies on all fronts.

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    While the jet’s combat service was announced on Friday, the J-20 was officially entered military service last September – and conducted nine days of drills along with older J-16 and J-10C fighters last month, according to the air force. 

    The J-20 was designed for stealth and manoeuvrability and is powered by two jet engines, giving it extra power as well as the ability to survive engine failure, according to the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

    The US Naval Institute said the aircraft was likely to be a serious threat to US aircraft, ships and bases, because the PLA might be able to put more of them into the sky. –scmp.com

    Senior analyst at the Australia Strategic Policy Institute, Malcom Davis, told Business Insider that the J-20 is a “fundamentally different sort of aircraft than the F-35”

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    Davis characterized the J-20 as “high-speed, long-range, not quite as stealthy (as US fifth-gen aircraft), but [the Chinese] clearly don’t see that as important.” According to Davis, the J-20 is “not a fighter, but an interceptor and a strike aircraft” that doesn’t seek to contend with US jets in air-to-air battles.

    Instead, “the Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS (airborne early warning and control systems) and refueling planes so they can’t do their job,” Davis said. “If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.

    Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula agrees. In a November assessment for Defense & Aerospace ReportDavis said “The J-20, in particular, is different than the F-22 in the context that, if you take a look and analyze the design, it may have some significant low-observable capabilities on the front end, but not all aspects — nor is it built as a dogfighter,” adding “But quite frankly, the biggest concern is its design to carry long-range weapons.

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    A senior scientist at Lockheed told Business Insider that China made serious missteps in their attempt to integrate stealth into the J-20.

    “It’s apparent from looking at many pictures of the aircraft that the designers don’t fully understand all the concepts of LO design,” said the scientist.

  • FBI Scandal Unraveling: Susan Rice Email From Inauguration Day Is "Disturbing"

    Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

    As if rational-minded humans needed any other evidence that the “Russian collusion” narrative was fabricated, a disturbing email from Susan Rice has surfaced, adding fuel to that fire. Rice was Barack Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations and is most known for her lying in the aftermath of the Benghazi scandal.

    Rice has been neck deep in several scandals, including the “unmasking” ordeal that unfolded shortly after Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Senator Lindsey Graham has now described one of Rice’s newly discovered emails as “disturbing,” flinging her head first into the invented Russian collusion scandal.

    The recently revealed Inauguration Day email from Susan Rice detailed former President Barack Obama’s guidance at a high-level meeting about how law enforcement should investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    According to Fox News, the email first surfaced Monday, when Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Graham, R-S.C., sent the Obama national security adviser a letter, pressing for answers about the email by next week.

    “She’s sending herself an email talking about a conversation on January 5 with the president, reassuring herself, and I guess the president, that this would be done by the book,” Graham said Monday night on Fox News’ The Story with Martha MacCallum.

    “I think that’s odd and disturbing because we know the investigation regarding the Trump campaign was anything but by the book.”

    Rice’s email, which she sent to herself on January 20, 2017, seemed to document a January 5, 2017, meeting in the Oval Office with Obama, then-Vice President Joe Biden, former FBI Director James Comey, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, and herself.

    In writing to Rice, Grassley and Graham said, “It strikes us odd that, among your activities in the final moments on the final day of the Obama administration, you would feel the need to send yourself such an unusual email purporting to document a conversation involving President Obama and his interactions with the FBI regarding the Trump/Russia investigation.”

     The two senators also noted that while Rice said that Obama instructed Comey to proceed ‘by the book,’ the Republicans claim that ‘substantial questions have arisen about whether officials at the FBI, as well as the Justice Department and the State Department, actually did proceed “by the book.”‘

    This major scandal and subsequent mainstream media coverup is slowly unraveling, and it seems there are few high-powered Democrats that aren’t caught up in the corruption.

  • "All Public Pollsters Should Be Shot" Says Former Obama Campaign Manager

    Former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina has violent opinions about public pollsters – telling MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough “Joe, you know how I feel about public polls… I think all public pollsters should be shot.

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    The former White House senior staffer who ran President Obama’s 2012 campaign was discussing the value of polling so far out from the election when he made the comment – telling Scarborough that he is more interested in how amped up voters are vs. generic polls.

    What you care more about is passionate intensity. When I ran President Obama s campaign, the number I looked at everyday was intensity. Are my voters more motivated than Republican voters? Don t go generic. It s going to jump all over the place.

    Pre-election polling from a variety of forecasters put Hillary Clinton’s chance of beating Donald Trump anywhere from 70% to as high as 99% – pegging her as the overwhelming favorite to win several states such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that ended up voting for Trump. 

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    The fact that so many forecasts were off-target was particularly notable given the increasingly wide variety of methodologies being tested and reported via the mainstream media and other channels. The traditional telephone polls of recent decades are now joined by increasing numbers of high profile, online probability and nonprobability sample surveys, as well as prediction markets, all of which showed similar errors. –Pew

    Some have suggested that the overly-optimistic (totally wrong) polls gave Democratic voters a false sense of security, leading to lower turnout. 

    The Pew Research center had some thoughts on what may have actually happened.

    Nonresponse bias: Poor white Trump voters didn’t pick up the phone and participate in surveys. “The problem is if you get what pollsters call nonresponse bias, people are less likely to take your call or stay on the phone with you,” explained Claudia Deane, Vice President of research at Pew. 

    “Shy Trumper” effect: Fearing judgement from others, closeted Trump supporters told pollsters they were going to vote for Clinton, when in fact they voted for Trump. 

    Likely voter error: People who tell pollsters over the phone that they’ll turn out to vote, when in fact they don’t. “You might get 70 or 80% of the people on the phone telling you they’re going to vote because maybe that day they do plan to vote,” when in reality maybe 50 – 55% of people actually go to the polls.

    Perhaps pollsters will figure it out before the next election. If not, they risk being shot by President Obama’s campaign manager – or perhaps someone inspired by him to take matters into their own hands.

  • USDJPY Plunges To Lowest Since Nov 2016 After Weakest Japanese GDP In 2 Years

    USDJPY tumbled to 107.01 – the lowest since Trump’s election in Nov 2016 – after a disappointing GDP print signaled the beginning of the end of the ‘global synchronous recovery’…

    As Goldman Sachs writes, Japanese real GDP growth slowed sharply to +0.5% qoq annualized, representing a sharp slowdown from July-September (+2.2%) and coming in below the market forecast (+1.0%).

    This is the weakest Japanese GDP growth since Q4 2015…

    The GDP deflator turned negative qoq annualized (-0.8%, 0.0% yoy), resulting in a sharp slowdown in nominal GDP at -0.1%, from +2.6% in July-September.

    Private demand remains solid, despite a sharp fallback of external demand and private inventories: The breakdown of real GDP shows private inventories and external demand, which substantially boosted July-September real GDP, made a negative contribution to October-December GDP. Despite this, however, private demand remains solid.

    The reaction was swift, with USDJPY legging lower, stalling briefly at Sept 2017 lows, before tumbling to 107.01…

     

    Yen is the strongest since November 14th 2016 against the dollar…

     

    Of course, the perfectly correlated price action of US equity futures to USDJPY has decoupled amid this collapse…

    Perhaps because the machines are too busy working overtime preparing for tomorrow’s – likely to be historic – VIX options expiration.

    As DataTrekResearch’s Nicholas Colas notes, tomorrow could prove volatile as monthly VIX contracts will expire.

    The VIX tends to experience wider intraday moves during monthly expirations than days when contracts don’t mature.

    The Cboe Volatility Index tends to have bigger swings on days its contracts mature, with intraday moves of 13 percent on average on the past 12 monthly expirations. That compares with a mean daily fluctuation of 10 percent in the year through January. Of course, that was before this month, when a record VIX surge on Feb. 5 sent its average intraday move for February to almost 60 percent.

  • James Montier: This Is A "Greater Fool Bubble" And I'm Getting Out

    Last August, we were delighted to point out the latest quirk of this incredibly manipulated and centrally-planned “market”: in “Record Number Of Fund Managers Say “Stocks Are Overvalued” As They Rush To Buy Nasdaq”, we noted a paradox whereby on one hand a record number, or 46%, of Wall Street fund manager respondents to the BofA monthly survey said stocks are “overvalued”…

    even as virtually all remained fully invested in equities.

    Today, half a year later, the same paradoxical observation forms the basis for the latest note by Jeremy Grantham’s colleague, GMO’s James Montier, titled “The advent of a cynical bubble“, in which he uses the exact same survey and makes the exact same observations to reach our conclusion:

    A recent Bank of America ML survey showed the highest level of those citing “excessive valuation” ever. Yet despite this, the same survey showed fund managers to still be overweight in equities.

    To Montier this combination was not paradoxical per se,as much as exposing a the existence of that strangest of creatures: “the fully-invested bear.”

    The most common rationale for such a cognitively dissonant stance is “the fear of missing out on the upside”(aka FOMO – fear of missing out). As I think Seth Klarman pointed out long ago, this isn’t really fear at all, but rather greed.

    How does one explain the existence of this particular “greedy bear”? To Montier the cognitive dissonance noted above is a function of the Fed-reflated bubble the US finds itself in: the near rational – or cynical – bubble, also known as the greater fool bubble. Here’s Montier:

    I am not a great fan of this nomenclature as it suggests a veneer of respectability that I find undeserved. To me  these are really better described as greater fool markets. They are cynical bubbles in that those buying the asset in question don’t really believe they are buying at fair price (or intrinsic value), but rather are buying because they want to sell to someone else at an even higher price before the bubble bursts. Chuck Prince, the former CEO of Citibank, aptly demonstrated the typical cynical bubble mentality when in July of 2007 he uttered those fateful words, “As long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We are still dancing.”

    If the presence of the proposed buyer of last resort rings a bell, it’s because that’s precisely the market environment the Fed has created: there is no longer any risk not because fundamentals are strong or the economy is improving, but because the Fed will always step in and rescue the market when things turn south. Montier agrees:

    I would suggest that this is exactly the sort of market we are observing at the current juncture. Fund managers for the most part all agree that the US market is expensive but still they choose to own equities – a cynical career-risk-driven position if ever there was one. I have been amazed by the number of meetings I’ve had recently where investors have said they simply “have to own US equities.”

    While such a bubble can make speculators extremely wealthy if only for a period of time – because putting money into what everyone knows is a ridiculous valuation is not investing, it’s speculation, and as Montier admits “that the US equity market is obscenely overvalued can hardly be news to anyone” – it only works as long as there is at least one more greater fool to sell to.

    Indeed, Montier concedes that “cynical bubbles are based on a belief that one can get out before everyone else. Obviously, this is simply impossible. Like a game of musical chairs played at a child’s birthday party, when the chairs are increasingly rare, the competition for them gets fiercer. Crowded exits don’t end well – inevitably some are crushed in the stampede.”

    Which brings us to Montier’s conclusion, one shared with the movie war games in which the only winning move is “not to play” any longer. As the GMO strategist, who admits he can’t time bubbles, admits, “perhaps you are skilled at picking the managers with great timing ability, and perhaps those managers do have great timing ability, in which case, good luck.”

    As for me, I prefer to leave the party early, in the knowledge that I can walk away with ease.

    Monitor’s conclusion: an aptly appropriate excerpt from JM Keynes himself:

    It is the nature of organized investment markets, under the influence of purchasers largely ignorant of what they are buying and speculators who are more concerned with forecasting the next shift of market sentiment than with a reasonable estimate of future yield of capital – assets, that, when disillusion falls upon an over-optimistic and over-bought market, it should fall with sudden and catastrophic force.

    We saw an example of this “sudden and catastrophic force” last week. We will see it again soon, once the “greater fools” realize there are no more left and the cynical bubble finally bursts.

    Source: GMO

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