Feb 06

Today’s News 6th February 2018

  • Pentagon Auditor Can't Account For $800 Million In Spending

    The Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) has reportedly “lost track” of hundreds of millions of dollars it spent,  said Ernst & Young, the accounting firm conducting the first-ever Pentagon audit, according to Politico.

    E&Y discovered that DLA “failed to properly document more than $800 million in construction projects,” said Politico, which also reported this is just one of the many instances where millions of dollars went missing as the accountability system inside the Pentagon is broken. Worse, according to Politico, the first-ever audit, covering the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2016, signals complete incompetence about how the Pentagon handles its $700 billion annual budget.

    While these comments from Ernst & Young are mindnumbing, the Trump administration is set to ask Congress for $716 billion for defense spending for fiscal 2019, a 7% increase over the 2018 Budget. Budget analysts have sounded warnings this would be a significant surge in spending for the Pentagon at a time when the organization can barely keep track of its current expenditures.

    If you can’t follow the money, you aren’t going to be able to do an audit,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican and senior member of the Budget and Finance committees, who has suggested to past administrations that hemorrhaging of wasteful spending at the Pentagon must stop.

    Army Lt. Gen. Darrell Williams, the agency’s director, wrote in response to Ernst & Young’s bombshell findings that the audit has “provided us with a valuable independent view of our current financial operations.”

    “We are committed to resolving the material weaknesses and strengthening internal controls around DLA’s operations,” he said, according to Politico.

    The DLA is a $40 billion-a-year logistics agency within the Pentagon with some 25,000 employees and processes about 100,000 orders a day, said Politico.

    Ernst & Young’s auditors found significant accounting errors in DLA’s process of tracking expenditures. There are minimal accounting records of where the money is going said the report. This does not bode well for accountability at the Pentagon, which has combined assets of $2.2 trillion.The Politico describes one section of the audit where Ernst & Young’s auditors found misstatements for some $465 million in construction projects. Another section described that there was very little documentation for another $384 million worth of spending.

    In one part of the audit, completed in mid-December, Ernst & Young found that misstatements in the agency’s books totaled at least $465 million for construction projects it financed for the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies. For construction projects designated as still “in progress,” meanwhile, it didn’t have sufficient documentation — or any documentation at all — for another $384 million worth of spending. The agency also couldn’t produce supporting evidence for many items that are documented in some form — including records for $100 million worth of assets in the computer systems that conduct the agency’s day-to-day business. “The documentation, such as the evidence demonstrating that the asset was tested and accepted, is not retained or available,” it said. 

    The auditor also said that around $100 million worth of assets in computer systems had very little documentation.

    The report, which covers the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2016, also found that $46 million in computer assets were “inappropriately recorded” as belonging to the Defense Logistics Agency. It also warned that the agency cannot reconcile balances from its general ledger with the Treasury Department. 

    “The initial audit has provided us with a valuable independent view of our current financial operations,” Army Lt. Gen. Darrell Williams, the agency’s director, wrote in response to Ernst & Young’s findings. “We are committed to resolving the material weaknesses and strengthening internal controls around DLA’s operations.”

    In a statement to Politico, the DLA said it is the “first of its size and complexity in the Department of Defense to undergo an audit so we did not anticipate achieving a ‘clean’ audit opinion in the initial cycles.”

    “The key is to use auditor feedback to focus our remediation efforts and corrective action plans, and maximize the value from the audits. That’s what we’re doing now,” the statement said.

    Back in January, the team of 1,200 auditors found some $830 million in “missing” helicopters as the audit kicked off into 2018.

    And in a preview of what is to come, Norquist told the House Armed Services Committee that an initial Army audit found 39 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter ($830,700,000) were not adequately recorded in the property system. “The Air Force identified 478 structures and buildings at 12 installations that were not in its real property system,” he added. In other words these helicopters were simply “missing” on the books. 

    As the army of auditors penetrates deep inside the Pentagon’s financial records, we wonder what the 1,200 will find next as they descend further down the rabbit hole of decades of failed proxy wars, regime changes and dictator slush funds?

  • Will The Conspiracy Against Trump And American Democracy Go Unpunished?

    Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,

    Dear Readers,

    This is one of the most important articles I have written, along with this one.

    If the Russiagate conspiracy against Trump and American democracy goes unpunished, accountable government in the United States will cease to exist. US security agencies have long been involved in coups against foreign governments. Now they are involved in one against America.

    There is great danger that Republicans are so worshipful of “national security” and so determined to protect the reputation of the US government that they will give a pass to the high officials who participated in a conspiracy against the United States.

    As for President Trump, he lacks a government that he can count on and is threatened by the military/security complex. The conspiracy could easily be whitewashed as merely a case of the FBI and DOJ not following proper procedures, with the media’s participation in the conspiracy being dismissed with mea culpas of “sloppy reporting.”

    Will The Conspiracy Against Trump and American Democracy Go Unpunished?

    “In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”  –  Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

    The American people do not realize the seriousness of the Russiagate conspiracy against them and President Trump. Polls indicate that a large majority of the public do not believe that Trump conspired with Putin to steal the presidential election, and are tired of hearing the media prostitutes repeat the absurd story day after day. On its face the story makes no sense whatsoever. Moreover, the leaked emails are real, not fabricated. The emails show exactly what Hillary and the DNC did. The public knows that these transgressions were pushed out of news sight by the false story of a Trump/Putin conspiracy. The fact that the entirety of the US print and TV media served in a highly partisan political way to bury a true and disturbing story with a fake news story—Russiagate—is one reason some polls show that only 6% of Americans trust the mainstream media. All polls show that large majorities of independents, Republicans, and youth distrust the mainstream media. In some polls about half of Democrats trust the media, and that is because the media is servant to Democratic Party interests.

    Russiagate is a dagger aimed at the heart of American governmental institutions. A conspiracy involving top officials of the Obama Department of Justice, FBI, and other “security” agencies was formed together with Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, the purpose of which was to defeat Trump in the presidential election and, failing that, to remove Trump from office or to discredit him to the point that he would be reduced to a mere figurehead. This conspiracy has the full backing of the entirely of the mainstream media.

    In other words, it was a coup not only against Donald Trump but also against American democracy and the outcome of a presidential election.

    There is no doubt whatsoever about this. The facts are publicly available in the declassified Top Secret Memorandum Opinion and Order of the FISA Court  and in the declassified report from the House Intelligence Committee—given by the presstitutes the misleading name of the “Nunes Memo,” as if it is Nunes’ personal opinion and not the findings of months of work by an oversight committee of Congress..

    All of this information has been posted on my website for some time. If you have difficulty following my explanation, former US Attorney Joe DiGenova explains the felony actions by the FBI and Obama Justice (sic) Department here.

    Briefly, the National Security Agency discovered that the FBI and DOJ were abusing the surveillance system. As a favor of one security agency to another, NSA Director Adm. Rogers permitted the FBI and DOJ to rush to the FISA Court and confess their transgressions before the NSA informed the Court. The FBI and DOJ pretended that their deception of the Court in order to obtain surveillance warrants for highly partisan political purposes was not due to their intent but to procedural mistakes. The FBI and DOJ told the Court that they were tightening up procedures so that this would not happen again. The FISA Court Memorandum and Order clearly states:

    “On October 24, 2016, the government orally apprised the Court of significant non-compliance with the NSA’s minimization procedures involving queries of data acquired under Section 702 using U.S. person identifiers. The full scope of non-compliant querying practices had not been previously disclosed to the Court.”

    What this legalese jargon is saying is the the FBI and DOJ confessed to obtaining warrants under false pretexts. These are felonies.

    The FISA Court Memorandum and Order is about resolving these deficiencies and returning the FBI and DOJ to legal practices. For example, the Court Memorandum and Order says:

    “On January 3, 2017, the government made a further submission describing its efforts to ascertain the scope and causes of those compliance problems and discussing potential solutions to them. See January 3, 2017, Supplemental Notice of Compliance Incidents Regarding the Querying of Section 701-Acquired Data (“January 3, 2017 Notice”). The Court was not satisfied that the government had sufficiently ascertained the scope of the compliance problems or developed and implemented adequate solutions for them and communicated a number of questions and concerns to the government.”

    In other words, the FBI and DOJ were attempting to make corrections to their “compliance problems” in ways that would allow them to continue to mislead the FISA Court, and the Court wasn’t letting them.

    The FISA Court Memorandum and Order was released prior to the House Intelligence Committee report and has been completely ignored by the utterly corrupt press prostitutes. The FISA Court Memorandum and Order, relying on the confessions of the FBI and DOJ, verifies the House Intelligence Committee report that the FBI and DOJ illegally obtained spy warrants for partisan political purposes.

    Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat who is a disgrace to the voters of his California district, to the Democratic Party, and to the House of Representatives, knows full well that the FBI and DOJ deceived the FISA Court. Schiff is so partisan that he lies to the hilt in the face of hard documented evidence from both the FISA Court and his own House committee. Schiff is so totally devoid of all honesty and integrity that he is the perfect leader for a shithole country, something that he and his ilk are turning the United States into.

    The honest left—not the Identity Politics left, which is a collection of deranged idiots—does not believe a word of the concocted Russiagate conspiracy against Trump. They object to the Russiagate conspiracy not because they like Trump, which they most certainly do not, but because they understand that it is a lie directed against truth. They understand that the American mainstream media has deserted factual, truthful reporting and serves as a propaganda ministry for the war/police state that American is becoming.

    For example, Eric Zuesse holds The Atlantic and its presstitute writer, David A. Graham, to account for lying about the House Intelligence Report.

    Andre Damon writes on the World Socialist Web Site:

    “The Democratic Party was thrown into disarray Friday after the publication of a classified memo exposing as a factionally-motivated witch hunt the investigation by leading intelligence agencies into the Trump administration’s alleged collusion with Russia. . . . The release of the memo once again underscores the fact that the US intelligence agencies have massively intervened in US politics.

    The real left, as opposed to the fake left, understands that the people have no chance when the highest officials of the Department of Justice and the security agencies join in a conspiracy against a democratic outcome. When the justice and police authorities have no respect for the truth, as the Russiagate conspiracy proves, the people are doomed. If the FBI-DOJ-DNC-presstitute conspiracy goes unpunished, The Lie will have prevailed over The Truth and all of us will be endangered.

    The important question before us is: will the treasonous criminals in the FBI, DOJ, and DNC be indicted and held responsible? Or do high government officials get a pass as do the police who rob and murder citizens and never face justice for their crimes?

    From the sound of things, it looks like they will get a pass. Rep. Nunes felt compelled to say on TV how much he likes Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is a party to the deception of the FISA Court. President Trump says he will not fire the conspirator against him, Robert Mueller, even though both Trump and Mueller know that the Russiagate investigation headed by Mueller is a concocted conspiracy against American democracy and the President of the United States. It seems that high government officials, like state and local police and executives of “banks too big to fail,” are above the law.

    What about the FISA Court, readers ask, why did the FISA Court let the FBI and DOJ get away with their illegal acquisition of spy warrants? Once the Court knew about it, the Court did not let them get away with it, as the Memorandum and Order makes clear. The FISA Court does not have prosecutorial power to indict and bring a case against the FBI and DOJ criminals. That has to be done by the DOJ, and the DOJ is not going to indict itself.

    Former US Attorney Joe DiGenova believes that continuing investigations will result in high officials being indicted, convicted, and sent to prison. If the US is to have any future as a country in which government is accountable to law, it is essential that DiGenova be correct. However, I will believe it when I see it.

  • Only 3.8% Of Americans Work More Than 60 Hours A Week

    For many people around the world, Friday doesn’t signal the end of the working week.

    Working hours are affected by many factors including necessity in the case of people working for the emergency services, company expectations, individual drive as well as cultural reasons in different nations. As Statista’s Niall McCarthy notes, OECD research has shed light on the countries where workers are putting in 60 hours plus every week. Thankfully, the share is still low in most countries, though it does rise alarmingly in several places.

    Infographic: Where The Most Workers Put in A 60-Hour Week  | Statista

    You will find more infographics at Statista

    Nearly a quarter of Turkish employees worked 60 hours or more per week in their main job in 2015, the most recent year data is available, according to the OECD.

    Asian countries in particular have earned themselves bad reputations for poor work life balance. In South Korea, the share working very long working hours stands at 22.6 percent. In Japan, cases where people have literally died from work-related stress have made headlines and prompted the government to change attitudes towards work. There is even a word in Japanese for death from overwork – “karoshi”. Workers in Japan are known to stay late and avoid taking holiday but the share working 60 hours plus is still far less than in South Korea, 9.2 percent.

    The United States is also seen as a nation of workaholics with its reputation for good work life balance tarnished by a poor number of vacation days and no paid maternity leave for new mothers (though California is the first state to offer six weeks of partially paid paternity leave). Most Americans avoid late evenings in the office with the share working 60 hours or more coming to 3.8 percent.

  • The Increasing Likelihood Of Nuclear War Should Straighten Out All Our Priorities

    Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via CaitlinJohnstone.com,

    A Russian pilot has been killed by US-armed terrorists in Syria. The Ron Paul Institute‘s Daniel McAdams writes the following about this new development:

    “The scenario where a US-backed, US-supplied jihadist group in Syria uses US weapons to shoot down a Russian plane and then murders the pilot on the ground should be seen as a near-nightmare escalation, drawing the US and Russia terrifyingly closer to direct conflict.”

    McAdams is not fearmongering; he is stating a plainly obvious fact.

    The Trump administration has just announced that it is restructuring its nuclear weapons policy to take a more aggressive stance toward Russia than that which was held by the previous administration. This is coming after this administration’s decision to arm Ukraine against Russia, a move Obama refused to take for fear of escalating tensions with Moscow, as well as its decision to continue to occupy Syria in order to effect regime change, along with numerous other escalations. The Council on Foreign Relations, which is without exaggeration as close to the voice of the US establishment as you can possibly get, is now openly admitting that the “United States is currently in a second Cold War with Russia.”

    In a recent interview with The Real News, leading US-Russian relations expert Stephen Cohen repeated his ongoing warning that “this new Cold War is much more dangerous, much more likely to end in Hot War, than was the 40-year of Cold War, which we barely survived.” In a previous interview with the same outlet, Cohen elaborated more extensively:

    “We are in new cold war that is much more dangerous than the last cold war for various reasons. One is that the new cold war today, as we talk, includes three fronts. U.S.-Russian fronts, they’re fought with hot war. That’s Syria. That’s the reckless NATO military build-up on Russia’s western boarders, which has resulted in a situation today that ordinarily artillery, not missiles, ordinary artillery, can hit Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg. Just think about that and the instability. And the third front is Ukraine.”

    Cohen explains how the political pressures placed on Trump by the ongoing fact-free allegation that he is a Kremlin puppet makes it far more difficult for him to negotiate on these multiple fronts agilely, thus making it much more likely that Trump will choose to advance when he should retreat, hold his ground when he should back down, and generally be locked into patterns of aggression and forward movement rather than the back-and-forth finesse required for safe cold war negotiations with a nuclear superpower

    We came within a hair’s breadth of nuclear annihilation on more than one occasion during the last cold war, and the further things escalate in this new one the more likely we are to tempt fate again. The only reason we survived the extremely tense stand-offs in the last cold war ultimately boiled down to pure dumb luck in some cases, and there’s no legitimate reason to believe we’ll get lucky again.

    To be clear, I am not saying that the US or Russia actually want nuclear war. Two men with guns pointed at one another in a conventional standoff generally don’t want either weapon to discharge, either. What I am saying is that we learned in situations snatched from the brink of disaster by men like Stanislov Petrov and Vasili Arkhipov that there are too many small, unpredictable moving parts involved in a nuclear standoff for cold war escalations to unfold safely and predictably, and the more tense things get the more likely it becomes that a nuclear warhead gets discharged in the chaos and confusion. Once a single warhead goes off, Mutually Assured Destruction comes into play. Add into that the hot war dynamics and political pressures described by Stephen Cohen and we’re looking at some very uncomfortable odds as a species.

    In my view most of the political disagreements I have with people ultimately boil down to this. I see us as facing an immediate existential crisis as a species that needs to be dealt with right now, and people say I should be more worried about this or that conservative figure saying rude things on Twitter. We are facing the very real possibility of near-term human extinction; I don’t know how to care about the petty sectarian squabbles in America’s various political factions. It really is time for us to all get over ourselves and grow up.

    This unprecedented crisis should be drawing us together, yet we’re more politically divided than ever. It is evolve or die time, and we’re all still arguing over airplane peanuts while the plane is in a full nose dive.

    Thought experiment:

    Imagine if you wake up one morning and turn on the TV to an emergency broadcast alert that a nuclear weapon has been discharged by either the US or Russia in the chaos and confusion of this convoluted new cold war, and saying that you need to seek shelter immediately.

    What thoughts will go through your head as the realization dawns that this is really happening? Do you imagine that you will be spending much time thinking about how Trump said “shit hole countries”? Will you spend your last moments on earth mentally shaking your fist at Antifa and “libtards”? Or will you instead perhaps wish that you and your brothers and sisters around the world had more aggressively opposed these new cold war games your leaders have been playing?

    It is entirely possible that you will one day in the near future find yourself in this very situation and answering the questions I just asked you for yourself.

    Let’s skip that part of our story together, please. The reason they need to work so hard to manufacture consent for these escalations is because they require that consent. If we all loudly raise our voices and say “No. Enough. This ends now,” they will necessarily have to obey. The Russiagate psyop exists because the western power establishment is trying to cripple the Russia-China tandem in order to ensure US hegemony, and if they tried to thrust us all into a new cold war without our permission they’d shatter the illusion of freedom and democracy they depend on to rule you. If we all rise as one voice and withdraw that permission, they will be forced to obey.

    Can we do this, please? Can we make ensuring our survival into the future a priority right now and put bickering over identity politics and the president’s tweets on the back burner until then? We’ll have a whole future ahead of us to sort that stuff out if we survive the urgent crisis we are facing right now.

  • Tesla Threatens To Shutter Hong Kong Operations Unless City Revives EV Tax Waiver

    Tesla is deeply indebted to the US government, and the governments of many European nations, that have helped bolster sales of electric vehicles with attractive tax incentives. The importance of these handouts to Tesla’s bottom line cannot be understated, as investors reminded us back in November, when reports that the GOP tax plan would eliminate the US electric-car credit sent Tesla shares spiraling to their worst daily drop ever, a day after the company announced its worst quarterly performance history (Tesla will report results for the October through December period later this week).

    So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, after Hong Kong last year decided to remove its full registration tax waiver on electric cars for private use, Tesla is threatening to shutter its operations in the city unless its administrator, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, revives the waiver.

    By reinstating registration taxes on electric vehicles, the city’s government forced buyers to pay as much as 80% more for high-end models like the Tesla, according to the South China Morning Post.

    Elon Musk reportedly sent the city’s administrator a strongly worded letter asking that the tax be reinstated.

     

    Tesla

    The decline in sales was staggering: After 2,078 new electric vehicles were registered between April and December 2016, that number dropped to 99 last year – though reports that the waiver could be reinstated helped sales rebound in March.

    With the tax waiver capped at HK$97,500 from April 1 last year, sales of electric cars nosedived. Only 99 new cars were registered from April to December last year, compared with 2,078 in the same period the year before.

    Sales at Tesla, which employs 200 people in the city, were hit hardest. It sold 32 cars from April to December, although 2,939 cars were snapped up in March, as buyers rushed to its showrooms after Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po’s announcement that the waiver was ending in last year’s budget.

    An average of 230 Teslas were sold each month from April 2016 to February 2017, mostly of the Model S, the top-selling sedan in the city in 2015. To the excitement of consumers, the car also featured on ride-sharing app Uber.

    “Scaling down Tesla’s operation in Hong Kong is a natural and logical consequence if the number of customers has dwindled prompted by a reduction of government incentives,” the source said. “Without government support, who is ­willing to invest in green technology?”

    Asked for its comments, Tesla told the Post on Sunday: “Our launch in Hong Kong in 2010 was one of Tesla’s earliest, and we remain committed to our customers here, affirming that commitment with the opening of our second Service Centre last year.

    “We remain hopeful that the government will continue to encourage more electric vehicles on the road and preserve Hong Kong’s lead in clean, sustainable living.”

    According to the SCMP, industry sources said that big manufacturers have urged Chan to remove the full tax waiver for electric cars because they were threatened by their rapid growth in the city, especially of Tesla, which dominated about 90% of the market. BMW, Nissan, Volkswagen and Renault also sell electric cars in the city.

    “The sale of Tesla cars in one month was equal to the annual sales figure of some petrol car brands,” the source said. “They all complained that the rapid growth of Tesla these few years had made their lives really difficult.”

    Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, said the chamber was “puzzled” by the city’s policy change, reminding the government that green technology firms like Tesla require “policy transparency” to operate efficiently.

    “Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said she wants to attract leading global tech firms to Hong Kong, but green technology companies, like all companies, require policy transparency and assurance,” she said.

    Musk caught a break back in November when Norway – a crucial market for Tesla – announced it had abandoned plans to impose the so-called “Tesla tax” which would’ve tacked on a more than $100,000 levy to sales of electric vehicles weighing over 2 tons – a group that would pretty much only include Tesla.

    Circling back to Hong Kong, a spokesperson for the city’s government told the SCMP that in deciding on tax ­concessions for EVs last year, the government had considered the narrowing price difference ­between electric cars and fuel engine models, and “its public transport-oriented policy”.

    Electric car owners, as well as getting a tax break, “also enjoy lower annual car licence fees and fuel costs”, the spokesman said.

    is ­prepared to reduce its Hong Kong operations if the government fails to give residents incentives to buy battery-powered cars in its ­upcoming budget.

    Electric cars cost between HK$270,000 ($34,500) and HK$1.1 million ($140,646) before tax. A progressive tax is ­applied on motor vehicle registration, starting at 40% of the first HK$150,000 ($20,000) of the vehicle’s taxable value.

    This is only the latest setback for Musk and Tesla, which have staggered from one embarrassment to the next over the past six months as production of Tesla’s Model 3 Sedan has progressed much more slowly than Musk had promised his customers, some of whom submitted preorder payments for the Model 3 nearly 2 years ago.

    We’ll see how this dropoff impacts Tesla’s earnings, which are due out Wednesday. Investors will be watching to see if the company’s trend of burning through increasingly obscene amounts of cash continued through the end of 2017.

    Tesla

     

  • 1000s Of Jobs In Ohio Are Left Unfilled Because People Can't "Pass A Drug Test"

    Authored by Tim Pearce via The Daily Caller,

    The manufacturing industry in Ohio is expanding under the Trump administration, but growth is stunted because many potential employees are also addicted to drugs.

    Steve Staub, who runs Staub Manufacturing Solutions in Ohio, attended the State of the Union address Tuesday as a special guest to President Donald Trump. While there, aside from participating in the pageantry, Staub discussed problems in the manufacturing industry and business in general with the president.

    Staub mentioned to Trump the toll the opioid crisis has had on business’ ability to fill jobs. About two million Americans nationwide are addicted to the drug. The crisis has been particularly hard on Staub’s home state of Ohio, were thousands of job applicants are turned away because of substance abuse.

    “In Ohio alone, they have about 20,000 available jobs in manufacturing. In Dayton, Ohio, where I’m from, we have about 4,000 jobs available today in manufacturing that we can’t fill,” Staub told TheDCNF.

    “We can’t get people to pass a drug test.”

    Other area’s on Staub’s list of concerns are taxes, regulations, health care, and infrastructure.

    The Trump administration has made significant, direct strides in two of those areas. At the end of 2017, Trump signed into law the GOP tax plan and unleashed a torrent of investment in the form of raised wages and bonuses. The Trump administration has also reversed the expansion of the regulatory state, which increases the costs of doing business.

    Republicans punted on health care, however, as they could not build the support needed to reform or repeal the Affordable Care Act, known widely as Obamacare.

    The fate of Trump’s infrastructure plan remains to be seen. Trump championed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure investment plan during his address to Congress last week.

    “Together, we can reclaim our building heritage,” Trump said. “We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways all across our land. And we will do it with American heart, American hands, and American grit.”

    More than anything, Staub believes the Trump administration has had the greatest impact on the “overall optimism” of the manufacturing industry and business in general as companies adopt plans for growth and expansion. The National Association of Manufacturers, in their Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey taken every quarter for two decades, found optimism to be at an all-time high in the last quarter of 2017.

    Along with the financial boost from the GOP tax plan, companies began implementing their strategies  for growth almost immediately.

    “We’ve gave a much larger Christmas bonus than we were going to when [tax reform] passed,” Staub told TheDCNF of his own company.

    “We are giving raises to everybody, and we went ahead and expanded and bought the building next door to us that was for sale as part of our future growth.”

    Still, it appears achieving the optimistic goals comes back to hiring the right people and that seems to be tough to find in America today.. not because of “wrong skills” but because everyone’s loaded… all the time.

    Emergence of a crisis

    1861-1865 – During the Civil War, medics use morphine as a battlefield anesthetic. Many soldiers become dependent on morphine after the war.

    1898 – Heroin is first produced commercially by the Bayer Company. At the time, heroin is believed to be less habit-forming than morphine, so it is dispensed to individuals who are addicted to morphine.

    1914 – Congress passes the Harrison Narcotics Act, which requires that doctors write prescriptions for narcotic drugs like opioids and cocaine. Importers, manufacturers and distributors of narcotics must register with the Treasury Department and pay taxes on product.

    1924 – The Anti-Heroin Act bans the production and sale of heroin in the United States.

    1970 – The Controlled Substances Act becomes law. It creates groupings (or schedules) of drugs based on the potential for abuse. Heroin is a Schedule I drug while morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone (Percocet, OxyContin) and methadone are Schedule II. Vicodin – a hydrocodone-acetaminophen combination – was originally a Schedule III medication but wasn’t recategorized as a Schedule II drug until October 2014.

    January 10, 1980 – A letter titled “Addiction Rare in Patients Treated with Narcotics” is published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It was not a study and looked at incidences of addiction in a very specific population of hospitalized patients who were closely monitored. However, it would become widely cited as proof that narcotics were a safe treatment for chronic pain.

    1995 – OxyContin, a long acting version of oxycodone, which slowly releases the drug over 12 hours, is introduced and aggressively marketed as a safer pain pill by manufacturer, Purdue Pharma.

    May 10, 2007 – The federal government brings criminal charges against Purdue Pharma for misleadingly advertising OxyContin as safer and less addictive than other opioids. The company and three executives are charged with “misleading and defrauding physicians and consumers.”Purdue Pharma and the executives plead guilty, agreeing to pay a $634.5 million in criminal and civil fines. The three executives plead guilty on criminal misdemeanor charges and are later sentenced to probation.

    2010 – FDA approves an “abuse-deterrant” formulation of OxyContin, to help curb abuse. However, people still find ways to abuse it.

    May 20, 2015 – The DEA announces that it has arrested 280 people, including 22 doctors and pharmacists, after a 15-month sting operation centered on health care providers who dispense large amounts of opioids. The sting, dubbed Operation Pilluted, is the largest prescription drug bust in the history of the DEA.

    March 18, 2016 – The CDC publishes guidelines for prescribing opioids for patients with chronic pain. Recommendations include prescribing over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen in lieu of opioids. Doctors are encouraged to promote exercise and behavioral treatments to help patients cope with pain.

    March 29, 2017 – President Donald Trump signs an executive order calling for the establishment of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is selected as the chairman of the group, with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as an adviser.

    July 31, 2017 – After a delay, the White House panel examining the nation’s opioid epidemic releases its interim report, asking President Trump to declare a national public health emergency to combat the ongoing crisis.

    August 8, 2017 – Trump holds a press briefing on opioids at his New Jersey golf club and says that a stronger law enforcement response is needed to combat the crisis. He stops short of declaring a national public health emergency.

    August 10, 2017 – The White House issues a press release stating that Trump is directing his “administration to use all appropriate authority to respond to the opioid emergency.” The administration does not, however, make a formal declaration of a national public health emergency, which would free up resources and funding to help opioid addicts and jumpstart prevention programs.

    September 22, 2017 – The pharmacy chain CVS announces that it will implement new restrictions on filling prescriptions for opioids, dispensing a limited seven-day supply to patients who are new to pain therapy.

    October 26, 2017 – President Trump declares a national public health emergency to combat the opioid crisis, telling an audience in the East Room of the White House that “we can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic.”

     

  • Dow Futures -600Pts, Hong Kong Down 6%, Bitcoin Tests $6000

    Update 1100ET: As Asia resumes trading after the lunch break, things have gone from worst to worst-er.

    Dow Futures are down 600 points from the close…

    The Dow is now down 3600 points from its highs – Dow 22,687 is the next target to the downside (200DMA)

    With Nasdaq and S&P following…

    Asian equities are a bloodbath with Hang Seng China down 6.1% – its biggest drop since 2011…

    And Bitcoin’s bounce into the US equity close has evaporated…

    And may have further to fall…

    Rate-hike expectations are plummeting…

    Time for a rate-cut?

    *  *  *

    Playing catch-up, or worse, appears to be the opening scenario for Asian equities which are down from around 2% (Malaysia) to 5% (Japan) but perhaps more importantly, Treasury yields continue to tumble.

    US Equity futures are continuing to tumble in overnight trading – all entering the 10% technical correction…

    On the bright side, Japanese stocks are not down as much as Nikkei futures were in the US session…

     

    But the loss of faith in Fed rate hikes continues as 2Y yields tumble back below 2.00%…

     

    Asian FX is also extending its drop against the dollar…

    And while the dollar is stronger, gold is also bid…

  • FBI Warns Facebook Users Not To Share Viral VIdeo

    The FBI and local law enforcement officials across the country are warning Facebook users not to share a disturbing video that’s been making the rounds over the past week. The video depicts an adult sexually abusing a child, and is legally considered child pornography – which is illegal both to watch and to share.

    Strangely, people are sharing the video online purport to have good intentions: The video has been widely shared as part of an online crusade to hold the adult in the film accountable.

    But law enforcement officials are reminding them that – no matter their intentions – this behavior is still a crime.

    Facebook’s communications department has also issued a warning of its own.

    “The sharing of child exploitative images – regardless of intention – is harmful and illegal,” Facebook’s media team said in a statement.

    We have turned off KSAT-12’s ability to receive messages on Facebook due to the viral spread of the video and have instructed our news team to do the same with their own fan pages.

    Law enforcement officials across the country are reaching out to their local media stations to get the word out.

    “If you saved it, if you posted it to your page, if you sent it to someone else,” Tim Gann, Madison County Chief Trial Attorney explained told a local TV station. “you’re disseminating child porn and that’s a felony. If you are in possession of it, no matter your good intentions, that is also a felony. So, in this case, it’s very disturbing that people feel like it’s ok to post something awful happening to a child on social media.”

    In New York State, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office says people have been flooding their inboxes for weeks now with a video they say is too disturbing to even describe.

    “PLEASE DO NOT SHARE those images or video,” said the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said in a message posted to their Facebook page. “Images and video depicting the sexual abuse of a child are pornography. Sharing them, even if your intent is to help, is a crime and continues to victimize the child.”

    As Gann explains, every time the video is shared, the child depicted in it is victimized again.

     

    Polk

    But above all, law enforcement officials have been stunned by the video’s spread.

    “We can not have child pornography going viral,” said Jay Town, the US attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.

    Unfortunately, it appears to be too late for that.

     

  • Trump, Davos, And Free Trade

    Authored by James Rickards via The Daily Reckoning,

    After Trump announced the steep 30% U.S. tariffs on imports of solar panels and washing machines, the Chinese Commerce Ministry expressed “strong dissatisfaction” and said it “aggravates the global trade environment.”

    Trump is not done with tariffs. In the days and weeks ahead, we can expect further announcements with regard to steel and aluminum imports to the U.S. Again, such imports come largely from China, but the tariffs will likely affect all exporters to the U.S.

    Ironically these announcements came just as President Trump was preparing to go to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum.

    The Davos elites vehemently oppose both trade and capital controls, preferring instead a globalist “one-world” approach. The only problem with the Davos elite theory is that it is empirically, historically and analytically wrong.

    The theory of free trade is based on an idea called “comparative advantage.” This idea goes back to David Ricardo, an early 19th century British economist. Ricardo’s theory was that countries should not try to be self-sufficient in all manufacturing, mining and agriculture.

    Instead countries should specialize in what they do best, and let others also specialize in what they do best. Then countries could simply trade the goods they make for the goods made by others. All sides would be better off because prices would be lower as a result of specialization in those goods where you have a natural advantage.

    It’s a nice theory often summed up in the idea that Tom Brady should not mow his own lawn because it makes more sense to pay a landscaper while he practices football.

    But, the theory is flawed. For one thing, comparative advantage is not static. It changes over time. Importantly comparative advantage can be created from thin air. Taiwan had no comparative advantage in semiconductors in the 1980s, but the government made a political decision to create the state-sponsored Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.

    Today Taiwan Semiconductor is the largest supplier of semiconductors in the world. The government nurtured Taiwan Semiconductor with tariffs and subsidies when it was most vulnerable to foreign competition. Today Taiwan Semiconductor is a publicly traded company that competes effectively around the world, but it would never have attained that status without government help in its early days.

    If the theory of comparative advantage were true, Japan would still be exporting tuna fish instead of cars, computers, TVs, steel and much more.

    The same can be said of the globalists’ view that capital should flow freely across borders. That might be advantageous in theory but market manipulation by central banks and rouge actors like Goldman Sachs and big hedge funds make it a treacherous proposition.

    In the depths of the Asian financial crisis of 1997, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir closed Malaysia’s capital account to preserve hard currency and defend his exchange rate. Mahathir was excoriated at the time by the likes of George Soros. Soros went so far as to call Mahathir a “menace to his country.”

    But scholars today agree that Mahathir made the right move. In recent years, even the IMF has said there are certain circumstances where capital controls are fully justified.

    If open trade, and open capital flows are flawed ideas, why do the Davos elite support them?

    The answer is that these theories, which have superficial appeal to everyday citizens, are the perfect smokescreen for the elites’ hidden agenda. That agenda is to diminish the power of the United States, and the U.S. dollar, in world affairs and to enhance the power of rising nations especially China.

    If several hundred million Chinese can be pulled from poverty by leaving the U.S. market open while China subsidies its companies, imposes its own tariffs, steals intellectual property, and limits U.S. foreign direct investment, then that’s fine. If U.S. workers lose their jobs in the process, that’s fine too. The elites don’t care about the U.S.; they only care about their “one world” vision.

    Trump is calling their bluff. When Trump says “America First” he means it. So does Trump’s top trade advisor Robert Lighthizer. Lighthizer is a veteran of the Reagan administration who forced the Japanese to move their auto plants to the U.S. in the 1980s by imposing steep tariffs on Japanese imported cars.

    Thousands of high-paying U.S. manufacturing jobs were created as a result. Lighthizer plans to run the same playbook against the Chinese today.

    Lighthizer is part of a hawkish “Trade Troika” consisting of himself, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Jr. and White House trade advisor Peter Navarro. All three are urging President Trump to impose a set of tariffs on China involving not only washing machines and solar panels, but steel, aluminum, and theft of intellectual property.

    Opposing the Trade Troika are trade doves including National Economic Advisor Gary Cohn, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the CEOs of major global corporations such as Boeing, Apple and General Motors that all derive large profits from Chinese operations.

    The hawks and doves fought each other to a standstill in 2017 because of wishful thinking about Chinese help on North Korea and the importance of a united front to pass the tax bill. With hopes for China now dispelled and the tax bill passed into law, the trade agenda is front and center.

    This is not a “kick-the-can-down-the-road” situation. Trump is confronting hard deadlines on key decisions.

    America has always prospered with high tariffs to protect its industries. From Alexander Hamilton’s plan for infant manufacturing to Henry Clay’s American Plan, the U.S. has always known how to protect its industries and create American jobs. Trump is returning to that tradition.

    The problem is that this will not be a smooth ride. It will take years for U.S. solar panel manufacturers to get back on their feet. (One of the largest U.S. firms filed for bankruptcy protection last year, but it continues to operate in reorganization under court supervision.)

    A full-scale trade war will hurt world growth even as it helps U.S. growth. Given the trillions in dollar-denominated debt in emerging markets, a full-scale foreign sovereign debt crisis could be in the making if those emerging markets countries cannot earn dollars from exports to pay their debts.

    Trump did not impose these tariffs in 2017 because he needed Chinese help with the North Korean situation. But, China did not do all it could in North Korea, and there is good evidence that China is helping North Korea cheat on existing sanctions.

    As if to rub salt in the wound, China reported today that its 2017 trade surplus with the U.S. was $275 billion, the highest ever.

    Once China’s lack of cooperation on North Korea became clear, Trump saw no harm in confronting China on trade, something he’s been talking about since the summer of 2015 during the early days of his campaign.

    The Chinese may choose to retaliate not so much with their own tariffs, but with other forms of financial warfare including its threats to persify its reserves away from U.S. Treasuries.

    As China buys fewer U.S. Treasuries, the most likely substitute asset class is gold. This is one more reason to expect that the recent weak dollar and strong gold trends to continue for the remainder of this year and beyond.

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