Nov 07

Today’s News 7th November 2017

  • Meotti: The Migrant Crisis Upended Europe

    Authored by Giulio Meoti via The Gatestone Institute,

    • "The migrant crisis is the 9/11 of the European Union… That day in 2001, everything changed in the US. In a minute, America discovered its vulnerability. Migrants had the same effect in Europe… The migration crisis profoundly undermines the ideas of democracy, tolerance and… the liberal principles that constitute our ideological landscape." — Ivan Kratsev, Chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia and a member of the Institute of Humanities in Vienna, Le Figaro.
    • The European public now looks at EU institutions with contempt. They perceive them — under multiculturalism and immigration — not only as indifferent to their own problems, but as adding to them.
    • "We are a cultural community, which doesn't mean that we are better or worse — we are simply different from the outside world… our openness and tolerance cannot mean walking away from protecting our heritage". — Donald Tusk, President of the European Council.

    A few weeks after Germany opened its borders to over a million refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that the migration crisis would "destabilize democracies". He was labelled a demagogue and a xenophobe.

    Two years later, Orbán has been vindicated. As Politico now explains, "[M]ost EU leaders echo the Hungarian prime minister" and the Hungarian PM can now claim that "our position is slowly becoming the majority position".

    Many in Europe seem to have understood what Ivan Krastev, the Chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia and a member of the Institute of Humanities in Vienna, recently explained to Le Figaro:

    "The migrant crisis is the 9/11 of the European Union… That day in 2001, everything changed in the US. In a minute, America discovered its vulnerability. Migrants had the same effect in Europe. It is not their number that destabilizes the continent… The migration crisis profoundly undermines the ideas of democracy, tolerance and progress as well as the liberal principles that constitute our ideological landscape. It is a turning point in the political dynamics of the European project".

    Thousands of migrants arrive on foot at a railway station in Tovarnik, Croatia, September 17, 2015. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

    Migration is having a significant impact, for instance, on Europe's public finances. Take the two countries most affected by it. Germany's federal government spent 21.7 billion euros in 2016 to deal with it. Also reported was that Germany's budget for security this year will grow by at least a third, from 6.1 billion to 8.3 billion euros.

    In Italy, the Minister of Economy and Finance recently announced that the country will spend 4.2 billion in 2017 on migrants (one-seventh of Italy's entire budget for 2016). Spain recently announced that in North Africa, the fence around its enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, which keeps migrants out of the Spanish territory, will be funded through a further infusion of 12 million euros. Everywhere in Europe, states are allocating extra resources to deal with the migrant crisis, which has also changed Europe's political landscape.

    The recent election victories of Sebastian Kurz in Austria and Andrej Babis in the Czech Republic have potentially enlarged the group of Central and Eastern European countries that oppose Brussels — countries that do not want to accept the number of migrants that the EU is demanding. The topic of immigration is fracturing Europe along ideological lines. Not only fences, but rivalry, mistrust and hate now divide the European project more deeply than ever before. The European public now looks at EU institutions with contempt. They perceive them — under multiculturalism and immigration — not only as indifferent to their own problems, but as adding to them.

    Another political earthquake linked with the migration crisis is "the decline of social democracy in the West", as Josef Joffe, Editor and Publisher of Die Zeit, recently called it. Everywhere in Europe, the migration crisis has all but killed the social-democratic parties, long perceived as unable to cope with it. Twenty years ago, these left-liberal parties governed everywhere — Spain, Britain, Germany, for instance — but now they are in the opposition everywhere except Italy. From Norway to Austria, Europe is now led by conservative governments.

    More than half the terror plots in Germany since the onset of the migrant crisis in 2014 have involved migrants, according to headlines as well as a study by the Heritage Foundation. In addition, ever since the Islamic State — now defeated in Raqqa — took advantage of the destabilization caused by Syria's civil war to become a major driver of the migrant crisis, migration has been a major concern for Europe's security. From the territory it conquered, ISIS launched major terror attacks on Europe.

    The migration crisis has also led to the strategic strengthening in Europe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has been blackmailing European countries by threatening that if billions of euros and certain political concessions are not given to him, he will open Turkey's borders to let millions more migrants flood into Europe. Erdogan has not only demanded that Europe jail writers and journalists; he has also tried to influence elections in the Netherlands and Germany by appealing to his Turkish constituencies there.

    A Pew Research report shows how migration is reshaping European countries. In 2016 alone, Sweden's population grew by more than 1%. The increase is ascribed to mass migration, the second-highest in the EU. The number of immigrants rose from 16.8% to 18.3% of Sweden's population between 2015 and 2016.

    Austria and Norway, two other countries with large immigrant populations (at least 15% percent in 2016), saw a 1% rise from 2015. The newspaper Die Welt recently reported that 18.6 million German residents — one-fifth of Germany's total population — now come from migrant backgrounds.

    The Machiavelli Center in Italy reported in a study, "How immigration is changing Italian demographics", that an "unprecedented" shift in Italy's demography has been taking place due to the migration crisis.

    The Pandora's box of a demographic revolution has been opened.

    Two years ago, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was the only voice in Europe speaking of the need to keep Europe "Christian". Now one of his most vocal opponents, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, has said:

    "We are a cultural community, which doesn't mean that we are better or worse — we are simply different from the outside world… our openness and tolerance cannot mean walking away from protecting our heritage".

    In 2015, any talk about "culture" was condemned as "racism". Now it is becoming part of the mainstream.

    In trying to cope with the Islamists' war on Western politics, culture and religion, and the cultural clash they created, Europe has been upended.

  • Is Korea Just A Smokescreen?

    Authored by Bryan McBride via Mises Canada,

    Is Korea just a smokescreen?

    In my last article (Sticking the arson charge on a couple of patsies) I questioned why North Korea’s nuclear program was attracting such attention from the United States. North Korea is a very poor and backwards country whose bellicosity reflects the regime’s need for an external enemy like the United States to galvanize domestic support. Attacking America and its allies in the region is the last thing North Korea’s leaders would want to do as such an attack would guarantee an American response that would be sure to destroy their lives, their government and the lives of millions of innocent Korean civilians.

    However, this month I was made aware of another possible reason for the attention being paid to North Korea and its nuclear program.

    What if the escalating tensions over Korea are just a smokescreen intended to legitimize an American military buildup in the region aimed at intimidating China?

    In 2011, former U.S. President Barack Obama announced a change in U.S. foreign policy that was termed a ‘Pivot to Asia.’ The official thinking was that as China and the emerging countries of South-East Asia gained in economic importance, it made sense to devote more military and diplomatic attention to the region while reducing the attention paid to Europe and the Middle East.

    Of course, observers also saw the pivot as a response to the rising economic, political and military power of a resurgent China. Just as the U.S. sought to contain the Soviet Union during the Cold War with a string of encircling alliances and economic agreements, so America today seeks to keep China in check through military alliances with East Asian countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

    Chinese leaders acutely resent continued American dominance in a region they consider their own backyard. However, they are not reckless and do not seek to engage in a potentially catastrophic military confrontation. Instead, they have spent the past few years establishing institutions and agreements which, taken together, will displace the U.S. dollar from the centre of the global financial system. Empire is expensive. Just as the British were forced to decolonize in the 1960s once the pound lost its reserve currency status in the years following World War II, so too will the demise of the dollar force American retreat from global (and, most importantly for the Chinese, East Asian) hegemony.

    At this point, it is worthwhile to recall how the U.S. dollar became (and remains) the world’s reserve currency in the first place. At the Bretton Woods conference in 1944, it was agreed that all currencies would have a fixed exchange rate with the U.S. dollar, which itself would have a fixed value in terms of gold. From 1945 until 1971, foreign central banks were allowed to exchange their accumulated dollars for gold at a price of $35/ounce. As the U.S. dollar was literally ‘as good as gold,’ commodities were priced in dollars and foreign governments found it desirable to accumulate and hold dollars in order to purchase imports.

    However, by the late 1960s the system was coming under stress. The value of the U.S. dollars in circulation abroad was far greater than the value of the 8000 tons of gold held by the U.S. Treasury in Fort Knox, Kentucky. In order to stop foreign governments stripping the U.S. of its gold reserves, in 1971 U.S. President Richard Nixon ‘temporarily suspended’ the convertibility of dollars for gold. Predictably, while a dollar bought 1/35th of an ounce of gold in 1971, by 1980 it only bought 1/850th of an ounce.

    To try to arrest the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar Richard Nixon, in one of the last acts of his presidency, sent newly-appointed Treasury Secretary William Simon to Saudi Arabia in 1974. The agreement he came away with reinforced the dollar’s position as the global reserve currency by replacing gold convertibility with oil convertibility. In exchange for agreeing to price and sell oil in dollars and to lend their newly-acquired oil wealth to the U.S. by purchasing U.S. government Treasury bonds, the U.S. agreed to provide military aid and equipment to the Saudis.

    To this day, oil continues to be priced and sold in dollars. As everyone therefore needs U.S. dollars (often referred to as petro-dollars) in order to purchase crucial energy imports, the dollar has remained the world’s reserve currency.

    However, China has recently established two complementary markets aimed at removing this crucial pillar of dollar support. First, in April 2016 the Shanghai Gold Exchange launched a yuan-denominated gold price fix in order to become a price maker in a market historically dominated by London and New York. Uniquely, though, while in London and New York traders deal mainly in paper contracts for gold which are very rarely exercised, the Shanghai market is primarily a spot market whose participants purchase physical gold, usually in the form of one kilogram bars.

    Second, within the last two months China has announced its intention to offer a crude oil futures contract denominated in yuan before the end of the year. This contract will establish a benchmark price for oil in yuan to compete with the dollar-denominated oil prices set in New York. To make the yuan-denominated contracts more attractive to oil exporters, the Chinese are emphasizing the convertibility of yuan for gold at the Shanghai Gold Exchange. As the economist and lawyer Jim Rickards put it recently:

    “China, Russia and Iran are coordinating a new international monetary order that does not involve U.S. dollars. It has several parts, which together spell dollar doom. The first part is that China will buy oil from Russia and Iran in exchange for yuan.

     

    “The yuan is not a major reserve currency, so it’s not an especially attractive asset for Russia or Iran to hold. China solves that problem by offering to convert yuan into gold on a spot basis on the Shanghai Gold Exchange.

     

    “This marks the beginning of the end of the petro-dollar system that Henry Kissinger worked out with Saudi Arabia in 1974, after Nixon abandoned gold.”

    Chinese yuan with the gold-convertibility of the pre-1971 U.S. dollar should prove an attractive alternative to the dollar for major oil exporters. Just this past month Saudi Arabia, the country at the centre of the petro-dollar arrangement, agreed to purchase S-400 air defense missile systems from Russia. By making this purchase, the Saudis are signaling that they no longer feel obliged to rely on America for their arms as laid out in the 1974 petro-dollar agreement. Might this historic first signal a repudiation of their commitment to price their oil in dollars as well?

    If so, the end of the dollar is at hand, and with it the beginning of the end of the American empire. Weaker countries like Iraq and Libya which tried to price their oil exports in, respectively, euros and gold-backed dinars were invaded and bombed by the U.S. in order to maintain dollar supremacy. Given this history, the threat to American power posed by a yuan-denominated global oil market may also be met with force.

    This being the case, it is reasonable to question whether the American air and naval units being moved to Asia are in fact being sent to protect American allies from North Korean missiles.

    Looking at the bigger picture, it seems more likely that the entire Korean issue is a smokescreen designed to provide cover for a military buildup intended to intimidate or even force China to abandon its challenge to the U.S. dollar. However, China is not Iraq or Libya. It is a major nuclear power. Trying to enforce continued dollar dominance in East Asia could very well end in catastrophe for America, East Asia and the entire world.

  • Woman Fired After Photo Of Her Flipping Off Trump Motorcade Goes Viral

    Remember that old saying “don’t bite the hand that feeds you?” Well, in case you’ve somehow forgotten, here’s a timely reminder.

    Juli Briskman, a 50-year-old Virginia woman who was captured in a viral photograph flipping off the president’s motorcade as it left the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia, has been fired from her employer, a government contractor called, for allegedly violating the company’s social-media policy, the Huffington Post reported.

    Briskman’s employer, Akima LLC, a construction firm that reportedly relies on government contracts for much of its revenue, was less than pleased with her newfound notoriety: They fired her for “violating their social media policy”, saying her presence at the firm could jeopardize future business with the federal government.

    The picture, snapped by a White House photographer traveling with the president as he left his golf course in Sterling, Va., went viral almost immediately. News outlets picked up the story when it appeared in a White House pool report. Late-night talk show hosts told jokes about the encounter and people on social media began hailing the unidentified woman as a “she-ro,” using the hashtag #Her2020.

    Taken aback by the sudden publicity, Briskman briefly set the photo as her profile picture, before deciding that – given the nature of her work – she would do the right thing and inform her employer of the phenomenon. Since the photo contained no hints about her association with the company, she figured she had nothing to hide, and nothing to fear.

    Unfortunately, that’s not quite how things turned out.

    A day later, she was summoned to her company’s HR department, where she was given the bad news.

    “They said, ‘We’re separating from you,'” Briskman said. “Basically, you cannot have ‘lewd’ or ‘obscene’ things in your social media. So they were calling flipping him off ‘obscene.’"

     

    Briskman, who worked in marketing and communications for the company for a little more than six months, said she pointed out to the executives that the incident didn’t happen when she was on the clock and that the social media posts didn’t mention her employer.

     

    At a meeting Tuesday, her bosses told her she violated the company’s media policy by posting the photo as her profile picture on Twitter and Facebook.

    Briskman criticized her former employer for firing her while declining to punish a male employee who called somebody a “fucking Libtard asshole” on Facebook. Displaying a shocking lack of self-awareness (typically of libtards everywhere), Briskman implored her former employer to justify exactly how her colleague’s Facebook comment was less obscene than her decision to personally disrespect the leader of the free world.

    Briskman, a Democrat, said as the motorcade began to pass her on Oct. 28 as it returned to the White House from the Trump National Golf Course in Sterling, Va., she had a gut reaction to flip it off.

    “He was passing by and my blood just started to boil,” she said. “I’m thinking, DACA recipients are getting kicked out,” she said. “He pulled ads for open enrollment in ObamaCare. Only one-third of Puerto Rico has power. I’m thinking, he’s at the damn golf course again."

    Despite being fired, she said, Briskman says she has no regrets.

  • “False Flags” Are So Common that U.S. Officials Commonly Discuss Them

    Despite the attempt to marginalize the concept, "false flags" are so common that U.S. officials frequently use that phrase.

    For example, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell:

    Former Director for Transnational Threats on the U.S. National Security Council, Roger Cressey:

    Former CIA counterterrorism official Philip Mudd:

    Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney, a high ranking Air Force official:

    Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (and Neocon warmonger) John Bolton:

    The Washington Post notes that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved as an acceptable interrogation method

    A technique known as "false flag," or deceiving a detainee into believing he is being interrogated by someone from another country.

    NBC News points out:

    In another document taken from the NSA by Snowden and obtained by NBC News, a JTRIG official said the unit’s mission included computer network attacks, disruption, “Active Covert Internet Operations,” and “Covert Technical Operations.” Among the methods listed in the document were jamming phones, computers and email accounts and masquerading as an enemy in a “false flag” operation. The same document said GCHQ was increasing its emphasis on using cyber tools to attack adversaries.

    Washington’s Blog asked high-level NSA official Bill Binney* if he had heard of the term “false flags” when he was with the NSA. Binney responded:

    Sure, they were under deception and manipulation programs. I was not involved in doing them; but, I did have to figure out some that the other side was doing. The other side called them “dezsinformatsiya” and Manipulatsiya.” The Brits have been doing this for several hundred years and are quite good at it.

    Washington’s Blog asked Philip Giraldi – a former counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer with the CIA – the same question with regards to his experience with the CIA. Giraldi responded:

    Yes, of course. We did false flags, and called them that, frequently in the operations directorate using false documentation to indicated that we were nationals of a country that was not the United States. Almost every CIA officer had false third country identification when operating overseas….

    We followed up by asking:

    Is it fair to say some of the false flags were for the purpose (i.e. premeditated) of blaming another country or group … not only just in case caught?

    Giraldi replied:

    Sometimes if it were a covert action attempting to do just that but more often just for cover reasons to make one appear to not be American…

    Robert David Steele – a 20-year Marine Corps infantry and intelligence officer, the second-ranking civilian in U.S. Marine Corps Intelligence, and former CIA clandestine services case officer – said:

    Most terrorists are false flag terrorists or are created by our own security services.

    ***

    In the United States, every single terrorist incident we have had has been a false flag, or has been an informant pushed on by the FBI.

    Steele has repeatedly and publicly said (and also confirmed to Washington's Blog) that he personally carried out a "false flag" attack while working as a U.S. intelligence officer.

    Indeed, false flags are so common that there are official rules of engagement prohibiting false flags in naval, air and land warfare.

    * William Binney is the highest-level NSA whistleblower in history. Binney is the NSA executive who created the agency’s mass surveillance program for digital information, who served as the senior technical director within the agency, who managed six thousand NSA employees, the 36-year NSA veteran widely regarded as a “legend” within the agency and the NSA’s best-ever analyst and code-breaker, who mapped out the Soviet command-and-control structure before anyone else knew how, and so predicted Soviet invasions before they happened (“in the 1970s, he decrypted the Soviet Union’s command system, which provided the US and its allies with real-time surveillance of all Soviet troop movements and Russian atomic weapons”).

  • Twitter Told Congress This Random American Is A Russian Propaganda Troll

    Update: Twitter has re-activated Delaware’s account. The company declined to comment about why it reinstated the account and about whether it would amend the list it sent to Congress.

    *  *  *

    Authored by Louise Matsakis via Motherboard.Vice.com,

    Robert Delaware is now part of the Congressional record, despite having no apparent ties to Russia…

    Robert Delaware is a US citizen, a former Microsoft contractor, and an avid Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) filer. According to the United States Federal Government however, he’s a Russian propaganda agent – at least on Twitter.

    As part of the social media company’s investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 US presidential election, it deleted Delaware’s account, and sent record of it to US lawmakers as evidence of foreign interference.

    The problem is Delaware is actually an American – and has never even been to Russia. So how did his account get swept into a list of those believed to be connected to a Russian troll farm?

    Representatives from Google, Facebook, and Twitter testified at several open hearings on Capitol Hill this week about how Russian-linked trolls used their platforms to influence the 2016 US presidential election and sow political unrest. As part of that process, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a list of 2,753 suspended Twitter accounts the company believes to be linked to a Russian troll farm.

    The committee said those handles “impersonate[ed] U.S. news entities, political parties, and groups focused on social and political issues,” in a memo it released along with the accounts.

    Included on the list is Delaware, under the handle @RobbyDelaware. Motherboard reviewed emails sent to Delaware by Twitter verifying that he was the owner of the handle or at least had access to the email account associated with it. Motherboard also verified that Robert Delaware was the person he purported to be by verifying his Facebook account.

    The fact that Delaware was included in the cache sent to the US government indicates that real people are being swept up in Twitter’s investigation into how Russia used its platform to influence US politics. Delaware’s Twitter account is now part of the Congressional record as being linked to a Russian troll farm – even though he has no apparent ties to it.

    A Google cache as well as several news articles which aggregated his tweets show that Delaware talked about the journalist Don Lemon, a Microsoft chatbot, and used the hashtag #1980sin4words on Twitter. According to a Google cache, his bio said “I support the free movement of people, ideas and capital.”

    The cached version of his Twitter account shows Delaware tweeted about current events, as well as mundane events like having a cold. A screenshot from the Internet Archive also shows that he was tweeting about similar topics in 2012.

    According to an email from Twitter to Delaware reviewed by Motherboard, Delaware’s account was suspended two weeks ago, on October 17.

    Delaware’s life is far from connected to Russian propaganda efforts. He is a United States citizen and was born in California. In 2010, he moved to the country Georgia, and now resides there with a Georgian woman. He works as a commercial actor and an English instructor. He mainly used his Twitter account to tweet about books, movies, and television shows, he told me.

    Delaware’s account was the oldest included in the ones Twitter provided to US lawmakers, according to a security expert Motherboard spoke to that asked to remain anonymous citing professional concerns. Twitter assigns a unique ID number to each person when they join the network. Delaware’s was 18710816. The number is an indication of the age of an account; you can use this website for example to calculate your own.

    Other security researchers noticed the age of some of the accounts as well:

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    We don’t know for certain why Delaware’s account was banned or why it was on the list delivered to US lawmakers, and Twitter declined to tell me.

    “We are confident in the methodology described in our written testimony to surface accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency.

     

    We encourage all Twitter users to take steps to reinforce security on their accounts, including enabling two-factor authentication, and to file a support request if they believe their account may have been compromised,” a Twitter spokesperson told me in an email.

    Delaware believes that his account might have been mistakenly connected to Russia for two reasons.

    For one, he lives in Georgia, which shares its northern border with Russia. For nearly seven years, he has tweeted from the country in which he lives. Delaware told me that he rarely tweeted about his intellectual pursuits (like filing FOIA requests) nor politics.

    The second reason involves a Russian-created hoax from 2014. On September 11 of that year, Russian trolls spread a false rumor online about an explosion at the “Columbian Chemicals plant” in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana. The “Columbian Chemicals plant” doesn’t exist. The trolls used text messages, YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook, and Twitter to try and spread their hoax.

    Almost a year later, journalist Adrian Chen published an extensive article in the New York Times connecting the hoax to a now-notorious Russian propaganda outfit, the Internet Research Agency. The accounts Twitter handed over to US lawmakers are believed to be connected to the same outfit.

    On the day the trolls attempted to spread their explosion hoax, Twitter was flooded with hundreds of fake accounts tweeting under the hashtag #ColumbianChemicals, according to Chen’s reporting.

    Robert Delaware was one of the people using the hashtag that day. Not because he was a bot trying to spread a hoax, but because he knew the explosion was fake, he told me. “I immediately suspected it as a hoax. I tweeted to DHS [Department of Homeland Security] saying something like, ‘what is this, please investigate,'” Delaware told me in a Twitter direct message from another account he has, @iPad_App_Bugs, where he documents minor iOS bugs that he finds. Delaware has had that account since 2016, but began using it more after @RobbyDelaware was suspended.

    Delaware even communicated with Chen. The journalist confirmed with Motherboard that he was contacted by Delaware in a Twitter message. “I think I emailed him because he tweeted about [the hoax],” Chen told me. “And he emailed me back. I think we talked on the phone. He seemed fine.”

    After his account was suspended, Delaware tried a variety of methods to try and get it back, or at least figure out why he was banned in the first place. He opened a case with Twitter Support asking for information about his account, and he sent messages to various Twitter email accounts, according to messages Motherboard reviewed.

    “I went to the thing where I entered in my account, and asked for support,” Delaware told me. “I even cc’d other emails I found on the site. I searched on the internet, and someone on a blog wrote that Twitter has zero human customer support. That is why I cc’d advertising and jobs emails associated with Twitter.”

    In addition to @iPad_App_Bugs, Delaware also runs an account where he shares photos of his adopted country, Georgia. There, he sent a public plea to Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey for help with his banned account:

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    As of Thursday, Twitter had not gotten back to Delaware, he said. Twitter did not immediately respond to a followup request for comment about why Delaware’s support case has yet to be addressed.

    “Still puzzled as to how I entered into the Congressional record,” he told me. “I would guess I am the only actual human who ended up on this list.”

  • Trump Says Japan Will Shoot North Korean Missiles "Out Of The Sky" After Lockheed Deal

    President Donald Trump’s 12-day Asia tour kicked off in Japan last night, where discussions between Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were punctuated by the deadly mass shooting that claimed 26 lives in a small-town Texas church. But not before Trump could engage in some customary saber-rattling aimed at his favorite verbal sparring partner, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

    Trump’s meeting with Abe was the first time the two world leaders have met face to face since late September, when they discussed strategies for containing the North Korean nuclear threat on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, including how to pressure China and Russia to increase economic pressure on their restive neighbor, according to Reuters.

    Not much has changed since then; though South Korean and US intelligence have detected signs of movement around some of the North’s missile-launch sites, the country has so far refrained from engaging in any more missile or nuclear tests since it fired a medium-range missile over Japan on Sept. 15.

    However, that didn’t stop Trump from repeating his mantra the “era of strategic patience” with North Korea was over, and said the two countries were working to counter the “dangerous aggressions,” during a press conference following a leadership summit between the two men.

    “He (Abe) will shoot them out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of additional military equipment from the United States,“ Trump said, referring to the North Korean missiles. ”The prime minister is going to be purchasing massive amounts of military equipment, as he should. And we make the best military equipment by far."

    Abe, for his part, said Tokyo would shoot down missiles “if necessary”.

    Trump was replying to a question that was posed to Abe – namely how he would respond to a quote from Trump from a recent interview in which he said Japan was a “samurai” nation and should have shot down the North Korean missiles.

    Japan’s policy is that it would only shoot down a missile if it were falling on Japanese territory or if it were judged to pose an “existential threat” to Japan because it was aimed at a US target, Bloomberg reported.

    Trump once again defended his aggressive rhetoric, arguing that passivity in the face of the burgeoning threat posed by North Korea led to today’s diplomatic standoff.

    “Most importantly, we’re working to counter the dangerous aggressions of the regime in North Korea,” Trump said, calling Pyongyang’s nuclear tests and recent launches of ballistic missiles over Japan “a threat to the civilized world and to international peace and stability”.

    “Some people said that my rhetoric is very strong. But look what’s happened with very weak rhetoric over the last 25 years. Look where we are right now,” he said, adding that "no dictator" should underestimate US resolve.

    Trump is on the first stop of a five-nation swing through Asia where he plans to push his message of fair trade and freedom in the region backed by a strong U.S. military presence. The U.S.’s $69 billion trade deficit with Japan is its second-highest behind only China, fueled largely by American imports of cars and electronics.

    North Korea’s recent actions have raised the stakes in the most critical international challenge of Trump’s presidency.

    The US leader, who will visit South Korea on the trip, has repeatedly promised to “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatens the US, while dismissing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a “rocket man” on a suicide mission during a speech before the UN General Assembly in September.

    Abe, with whom Trump has bonded through multiple summits and phone calls, repeated at the same news conference that Japan backed Trump’s stance that “all options” are on the table, saying it was time to exert maximum pressure on North Korea and the two countries were “100 percent” together on the issue. Abe said Japan is buying Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35A fighter jets and missile interceptors from Raytheon Co. – deals that had previously been announced. He said Japan would buy more Aegis equipment from the U.S. for its ships.

    Abe also discussed improving Japan's defense capabilities as the country moves further beyond constitutional restrictions on militarism imposed after World War II.

    “With the North Korean situation becoming more severe, and the Asia-Pacific security environment becoming harsher, I think we need to improve Japan’s defense capabilities in terms of quality and quantity,” Abe said.

    Meanwhile, the North Korean regime is reportedly monitoring Trump’s Asia tour “very closely” and has said that, if he does anything crazy, the North will “respond powerfully.” To wit, in what seems like a deliberate attempt to aggravate the North during Trump’s visit (perhaps in the hope of provoking another missile test that would underscore Trump’s calls for regional cooperation on the issue) three US aircraft carriers and several nuclear submarines are taking part in joint military exercises with the Japanese and South Koreans in the waters off the Korean peninsula.

  • Ron Paul: We Are Reaching A Point Of No Return

    Authored by Adam Taggart via PeakProsperity.com,

    Dr. Ron Paul has long been a leading voice for limited constitutional government, low taxes, free markets, sound money, civil liberty, and non-interventionist foreign policies.

    Dr. Paul served as the US Representative for Texas’s 27th Congressional District from 1976 to 1985. He then represented the 14th district from 1977 to 2013. He ran for the office of US President, three times, most recently in the 2012 Republican primaries. Dr. Paul also had a long career as an OBGYN over which he delivered more than 4,000 babies.

    The recent author of the book, The Revolution At Ten Years, Dr. Paul looks ahead at the future of the movement he helped launch — tackling central planning, the military empire, cultural Marxism, the surveillance state, the deep state, and the real threats from these institutions to our civil liberties.

    As a multi-term member of Congress, Dr. Paul knows the players and policies responsible for the growing unfairness and inequality now rampant in society. He does not expect the offenders will reform willingly. Instead, he predicts the system will collapse under its own unsustainability — offering a rare and valuable chance then for more sound and fair solutions to prevail:

    Wealth doesn’t come from the creation of money, especially a fiat system. With too much fiat money and all this credit, eventually the economy becomes exhausted and engulfed with debt and mal-investments. The treatment for this is a correction; you have to allow the debt to be liquidated. You have to get rid of the mal-investment and you have and to allow real economic growth to start all over again. But that wasn’t permitted in ’08 and ’09, which is why there’s been stagnation. It's hard to believe that today we have negative interest rates — real rates are negative and people still aren’t grabbing them up! A shortage of money isn't the problem here; rather, it’s a shortage of understanding market conditions.

     

    We’re over-taxed and over-regulated. This is resulting in a destructive system that has divided the country into two groups: those who haven’t recovered from the Great Financial Crisis versus those who are getting very rich because they're on the receiving end of the new money created by the Federal Reserve. The people who get to create the credit get to distribute the credit, which always results in a situation where money becomes unfairly distributed, as its allocation is no longer dependent on productivity.

     

    We haven’t changed anything. We still have a system where we encourage people to borrow money, that debt doesn’t matter, and we’re not going to cut taxes, and we’re not even going to admit that we spend too much money. Nobody can cut anything — that’s why Washington is at a stalemate. A lot of people don’t like Obamacare, but there’s enough people who do like it. Once it has been implemented, it’s very hard to get rid of a program. I also don't think that the proposed tax reforms will actually lower taxes. They never do.  Our politicians won’t admit where the real problem lies: overspending, monetizing the debt, taking over the whole world through the monetary system, financing wars, financing welfare and the military industrial complex. It’s going to continue until this whole thing comes apart.

     

    The eventual event will be driven by the marketplace. When it comes undone, they will no longer be able to prop things up just by printing more money. If we have a sharp downturn and they decide, "Well, QE didn’t work because it wasn’t enough." and they double QE, there’ll be a point of no return and all confidence will be lost. We’ll dump the dollar. Interest rates will go up instead of down. That will make all the difference in the world because it will be unsustainable and create real challenges for the dollar remaining the reserve currency. When the dollar no longer serves as the world's key currency, that’s when the ballgame will be over.

    Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Dr. Ron Paul (29m:56s).

  • "Homeless Explosion": Tech Boom, Surging Rents Creating Homeless Crisis On America's West Coast

    America’s liberal left coast states count themselves among the most adamant supporters of controversial pieces of legislation intended to support low-income families.  From their stunningly high income tax rates to their $15 minimum wage mandates, states like California and Washington are leading the charge on implementing Bernie’s socialist agenda.

    Of course, some of the biggest advocates of that socialist agenda are the billionaire leaders of Silicon Valley’s largest tech companies…which is precisely why it’s so ironic that it’s the “tech boom” being enjoyed by those billionaires that has resulted in surging housing prices and what SFGate described earlier today as a “homeless explosion pushing West Coast cities to the brink.”

    Housing prices are soaring here thanks to the tech industry, but the boom comes with a consequence: A surge in homelessness marked by 400 unauthorized tent camps in parks, under bridges, on freeway medians and along busy sidewalks. The liberal city is trying to figure out what to do.

     

    “I’ve got economically zero unemployment in my city, and I’ve got thousands of homeless people that actually are working and just can’t afford housing,” said Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien. “There’s nowhere for these folks to move to.”

     

    That struggle is not Seattle’s alone. A homeless crisis is rocking the entire West Coast, pushing abject poverty into the open like never before.

     

    Nationally, homelessness has been trending down, partly because governments and nonprofit groups have gotten better at moving people into housing. That’s true in many West Coast cities, too, but the flow the other direction is even faster.

     

    “So everybody who was just hanging on because they had cheap rent, they’re losing that … and they wind up outside,” said Margaret King, director of housing programs for the nonprofit DESC in Seattle. “It’s just exploded.”

    Homeless

    According to stats gathered by the Associated Press, some 168,000 people in California, Oregon and Washington count themselves among the growing tally of homeless folks who can’t afford housing.

    Official counts taken earlier this year in California, Oregon and Washington show 168,000 homeless people in the three states, according to an AP tally of every jurisdiction in those states that reports homeless numbers to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That is 19,000 more than were counted in 2015, although the numbers may not be directly comparable because of factors ranging from the weather to new counting methods.

     

    —During the same period, the number of unsheltered people in the three states climbed 18 percent to 105,000.

     

    Rising rents are the main culprit. The median one-bedroom apartment in the San Francisco Bay Area is more expensive than it is in the New York City metro area, for instance.

     

    —Since 2015, at least 10 cities or municipal regions in California, Oregon and Washington have declared emergencies due to the rise of homelessness, a designation usually reserved for natural disasters.

    Of course, when home prices double in a matter of just a few years and are seemingly just as volatile as a tech stock circa March 2000, you know there’s a problem.

    Meanwhile, as we pointed out a few weeks ago (see: San Diego’s Deadly Hepatitis A Outbreak Turns “Statewide Epidemic” As “Outbreak Could Last Years”), the homeless crisis in California has resulted in an alarming hepatitis A outbreak that started in San Diego and is now on the verge of reaching statewide epidemic status as cases have spread through homeless tent cities all the way north to Sacramento.

    California’s outbreak of hepatitis A, already the nation’s second largest in the last 20 years, could continue for many months, even years, health officials said Thursday.

     

    At least 569 people have been infected and 17 have died of the virus since November in San Diego, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles counties, where local outbreaks have been declared.

     

    Dr. Monique Foster, a medical epidemiologist with the Division of Viral Hepatitis at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters Thursday that California’s outbreak could linger even with the right prevention efforts.

     

    “It’s not unusual for them to last quite some time — usually over a year, one to two years,” Foster said.

    Of course, as SFGate points out, local governments on the West Coast are responding to the crisis in the best way they know how, namely by raising taxes…

    All along the West Coast, local governments are scrambling for answers — and taxpayers are footing the bill.

     

    Voters have approved more than $8 billion in spending since 2015 on affordable housing and other anti-homelessness programs, mostly as tax increases. Los Angeles voters, for example, approved $1.2 billion to build 10,000 units of affordable housing to address a homeless population that’s reached 34,000 people within city limits.

    which should only serve to accelerate the number of businesses relocating to Texas.

  • Brick-and-Mortar Meltdown Sinks Property Prices

    By Wolf Richter, WOLFSTREET.com:

    Commercial real estate prices soared relentlessly for years after the Financial Crisis, to such a degree that the Fed has been publicly fretting about them. Why? Because US financial institutions hold nearly $4 trillion of commercial real estate loans. But the boom in most CRE sectors is over.

    The Green Street Property Price Index – which measures values across five major property sectors – had soared 107% from May 2009 to the plateau that began late last year, and 27% from the peak of the totally crazy prior bubble that ended with such spectacular fireworks. But it has now turned around, dragged down by a plunge in prices for retail space.

    The CPPI by Green Street Advisors dropped 1.1% in October from September. In terms of points, the 1.4-point decline was the largest monthly decline since March 2009. The index is now below where it had been in June 2016:

    This phenomenal bubble, as depicted by the chart above, has even worried the Fed because US financial institutions hold nearly $4 trillion of CRE loans, according to Boston Fed governor Eric Rosengren earlier this year. Of them, $1.2 trillion are held by smaller banks (less than $50 billion in assets). These smaller banks tends to have a loan book that is heavily concentrated on CRE loans, and these banks are less able to withstand shocks to collateral values.

    Rosengren found that among the root causes of the Financial Crisis “was a significant decline in collateral values of residential and commercial real estate.”

    But the CRE bubble isn’t unraveling as gently as the chart suggests. Some sectors are still surging, while others are plunging. According to the report, the index, which captures the prices at which CRE transactions are currently being negotiated and contracted, “was pushed down by falling mall valuations.”

    Which sector is plunging, and which is soaring?

    Brick-and-mortar retail space is getting crushed. The index for strip retail fell 5% year-over-year. And the index for mall prices plunged 6% in just the month of October from September – a huge move in one month – and are down 11% from a year ago.

    The self-storage sector, formerly the hottest sector of them all, having surged 180% since the trough of the Financial Crisis, has turned cold, and prices are down 3% year-over year.

    Lodging took a 12% plunge that started in 2015, and it never recovered. It has remained essentially flat since, currently with a 1% gain over the beaten-down levels last year. Lodging has been under attack from a structural shift to home-sharing rentals, such as Airbnb, and even at its peak in 2015, the index barely hit its peak before the Financial Crisis, before dropping again. It is now down about 10% from its 2007 peak.

    The industrial sector is hot. The index jumped 10% year-over-year in October. Industrial includes warehouse space for “fulfillment centers,” as Amazon calls them. They are in hot demand, not only from Amazon, which has been leasing them around the country, but also from other logistics and retail companies involved in the online retail boom.

    The apartment sector is still hanging on by its fingernails, with prices up a measly 1% from a year ago, but down from their peak.

    The office sector index rose 3% year-over-year. While price growth has slowed, there has been no significant decline in recent months.

    Healthcare is still rising, up 4% year-over-year, as the industry takes up an ever larger slice of the US economy.

    The CPPI is based on estimates of private-market value for REIT portfolios across the five major property sectors with an aggregate asset value of $600 billion, according to Green Street Advisors. Since REITs own high-quality properties, the index measures the value of institutional-quality commercial real estate.

    Investors tend to jump on the next hot trend, and years ago, they jumped on retail malls in the hope that the American consumer couldn’t ever be crushed. That is likely true. But that consumer has changed buying habits, and malls are being left out. Maybe these folks should have bought gold coins instead. At least they’d have something that doesn’t have to be razed, which is the fate many malls are facing.

    CRE is clearly showing the side effects of the structural switch to online retailing. For retailers with a large brick-and-mortar presence that are trying to restructure their operations and finances to survive in this era, or for their landlords such as REITs, this structural change will drag out for years and will be painful. But for some, this (creative) destruction in the brick-and-mortar meltdown is already painful. Read…  Malls and their Hapless Investors Keep Getting Crushed

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