Sep 07

Today’s News 7th September 2017

  • Did Benjamin Netanyahu Just Panic?

    Authored by Alistair Crooke via ConsortiumNews.com,

    Is Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu pushing the panic button over the collapse of the Saudi-Israeli jihadist proxies in Syria and now threatening to launch a major air war…

    A very senior Israeli intelligence delegation, a week ago, visited Washington. Then, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke into President Putin’s summer holiday to meet him in Sochi, where, according to a senior Israeli government official (as cited in the Jerusalem Post), Netanyahu threatened to bomb the Presidential Palace in Damascus, and to disrupt and nullify the Astana cease-fire process, should Iran continue to “extend its reach in Syria.”

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on March 3, 2015, in opposition to President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran. (Screen shot from CNN broadcast)

    Russia’s Pravda wrote, “according to eyewitnesses of the open part of the talks, the Israeli prime minister was too emotional and at times even close to panic. He described a picture of the apocalypse to the Russian president that the world may see, if no efforts are taken to contain Iran, which, as Netanyahu believes, is determined to destroy Israel.

    So, what is going on here? Whether or not Pravda’s quote is fully accurate (though the description was confirmed by senior Israeli commentators), what is absolutely clear (from Israeli sources) is that both in Washington and at Sochi, the Israeli officials were heard out, but got nothing. Israel stands alone. Indeed, it is reported that Netanyahu was seeking “guarantees” about the future Iranian role in Syria, rather than “asking for the moon” of an Iranian exit. But how could Washington or Moscow realistically give Israel such guarantees?

    Belatedly, Israel has understood that it backed the wrong side in Syria – and it has lost. It is not really in a position to demand anything. It will not get an American enforced buffer zone beyond the Golan armistice line, nor will the Iraqi-Syrian border be closed, or somehow “supervised” on Israel’s behalf.

    Of course, the Syrian aspect is important, but to focus only on that, would be to “miss the forest for the trees.” The 2006 war by Israel to destroy Hizbullah (egged on by the U.S., Saudi Arabia – and even a few Lebanese) was a failure. Symbolically, for the first time in the Middle East, a technologically sophisticated, and lavishly armed, Western nation-state simply failed. What made the failure all the more striking (and painful) was that a Western state was not just bested militarily, it had lost also the electronic and human intelligence war, too — both spheres in which the West thought their primacy unassailable.

    The Fallout from Failure

    Israel’s unexpected failure was deeply feared in the West, and in the Gulf too. A small, armed (revolutionary) movement had stood up to Israel – against overwhelming odds – and prevailed: it had stood its ground. This precedent was widely perceived to be a potential regional “game changer.” The feudal Gulf autocracies sensed in Hizbullah’s achievement the latent danger to their own rule from such armed resistance.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    The reaction was immediate. Hizbullah was quarantined — as best the full sanctioning powers of America could manage. And the war in Syria started to be mooted as the “corrective strategy” to the 2006 failure (as early as 2007) — though it was only with the events following 2011 that the “corrective strategy” came to implemented, à outrance.

    Against Hizbullah, Israel had thrown its full military force (though Israelis always say, now, that they could have done more). And against Syria, the U.S., Europe, the Gulf States (and Israel in the background) have thrown the kitchen sink: jihadists, al-Qaeda, ISIS (yes), weapons, bribes, sanctions and the most overwhelming information war yet witnessed. Yet Syria – with indisputable help from its allies – seems about to prevail: it has stood its ground, against almost unbelievable odds.

    Just to be clear: if 2006 marked a key point of inflection, Syria’s “standing its ground” represents a historic turning of much greater magnitude. It should be understood that Saudi Arabia’s (and Britain’s and America’s) tool of fired-up, radical Sunnism has been routed. And with it, the Gulf States, but particularly Saudi Arabia are damaged. The latter has relied on the force of Wahabbism since the first foundation of the kingdom: but Wahabbism in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq has been roundly defeated and discredited (even for most Sunni Muslims). It may well be defeated in Yemen too. This defeat will change the face of Sunni Islam.

    Already, we see the Gulf Cooperation Council, which originally was founded in 1981 by six Gulf tribal leaders for the sole purpose of preserving their hereditary tribal rule in the Peninsula, now warring with each other, in what is likely to be a protracted and bitter internal fight. The “Arab system,” the prolongation of the old Ottoman structures by the complaisant post-World War I victors, Britain and France, seems to be out of its 2013 “remission” (bolstered by the coup in Egypt), and to have resumed its long-term decline.

    The Losing Side

    Netayahu’s “near panic” (if that is indeed what occurred) may well be a reflection of this seismic shift taking place in the region. Israel has long backed the losing side – and now finds itself “alone” and fearing for its near proxies (the Jordanians and the Kurds). The “new” corrective strategy from Tel Aviv, it appears, is to focus on winning Iraq away from Iran, and embedding it into the Israel-U.S.-Saudi alliance.

    President Donald Trump touches lighted globe with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi King Salman and Donald Trump at the opening of Saudi Arabia’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology on May 21, 2017. (Photo from Saudi TV)

    If so, Israel and Saudi Arabia are probably too late into the game, and are likely underestimating the visceral hatred engendered among so many Iraqis of all segments of society for the murderous actions of ISIS. Not many believe the improbable (Western) narrative that ISIS suddenly emerged armed, and fully financed, as a result of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s alleged “sectarianism”: No, as rule-of-thumb, behind each such well-breached movement – stands a state.

    Daniel Levy has written a compelling piece to argue that Israelis generally would not subscribe to what I have written above, but rather: “Netanyahu’s lengthy term in office, multiple electoral successes, and ability to hold together a governing coalition … [is based on] him having a message that resonates with a broader public. It is a sales pitch that Netanyahu … [has] ‘brought the state of Israel to the best situation in its history, a rising global force … the state of Israel is diplomatically flourishing.’ Netanyahu had beaten back what he had called the ‘fake-news claim’ that without a deal with the Palestinians ‘Israel will be isolated, weakened and abandoned’ facing a ‘diplomatic tsunami.’

    “Difficult though it is for his political detractors to acknowledge, Netanyahu’s claim resonates with the public because it reflects something that is real, and that has shifted the center of gravity of Israeli politics further and further to the right. It is a claim that, if correct and replicable over time, will leave a legacy that lasts well beyond Netanyahu’s premiership and any indictment he might face.

    “Netanyahu’s assertion is that he is not merely buying time in Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians to improve the terms of an eventual and inevitable compromise. Netanyahu is laying claim to something different — the possibility of ultimate victory, the permanent and definitive defeat of the Palestinians, their national and collective goals.

    “In over a decade as prime minister, Netanyahu has consistently and unequivocally rejected any plans or practical steps that even begin to address Palestinian aspirations. Netanyahu is all about perpetuating and exacerbating the conflict, not about managing it, let alone resolving it…[The] message is clear: there will be no Palestinian state because the West Bank and East Jerusalem are simply Greater Israel.”

    No Palestinian State

    Levy continues: “The approach overturns assumptions that have guided peace efforts and American policy for over a quarter of a century: that Israel has no alternative to an eventual territorial withdrawal and acceptance of something sufficiently resembling an independent sovereign Palestinian state broadly along the 1967 lines. It challenges the presumption that the permanent denial of such an outcome is incompatible with how Israel and Israelis perceive themselves as being a democracy. Additionally, it challenges the peace-effort supposition that this denial would in any way be unacceptable to the key allies on which Israel depends…

    The Palestinian flag is waved as relief ships arrive in Gaza in August 2008.

    “In more traditional bastions of support for Israel, Netanyahu took a calculated gamble — would enough American Jewish support continue to stand with an increasingly illiberal and ethno-nationalist Israel, thereby facilitating the perpetuation of the lopsided U.S.-Israel relationship? Netanyahu bet yes, and he was right.”

    And here is another interesting point that Levy makes:

    “And then events took a further turn in Netanyahu’s favor with the rise to power in the United States and parts of Central Eastern Europe (and to enhanced prominence elsewhere in Europe and the West) of the very ethno-nationalist trend to which Netanyahu is so committed, working to replace liberal with illiberal democracy. One should not underestimate Israel and Netanyahu’s importance as an ideological and practical avant-garde for this trend.”

    Former U.S. Ambassador and respected political analyst Chas Freeman wrote recently very bluntly: “the central objective of U.S. policy in the Middle East has long been to achieve regional acceptance for the Jewish-settler state in Palestine.” Or, in other words, for Washington, its Middle East policy – and all its actions – have been determined by “to be, or not to be”: “To be” (that is) – with Israel, or not “to be” (with Israel).

    Israel’s Lost Ground

    The key point now is that the region has just made a seismic shift into the “not to be” camp. Is there much that America can do about that? Israel very much is alone with only a weakened Saudi Arabia at its side, and there are clear limits to what Saudi Arabia can do.

    Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

    The U.S. calling on Arab states to engage more with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi seems somehow inadequate. Iran is not looking for war with Israel (as a number of Israeli analysts have acknowledged); but, too, the Syrian President has made clear that his government intends to recover “all Syria” – and all Syria includes the occupied Golan Heights. And this week, Hassan Nasrallah called on the Lebanese government “to devise a plan and take a sovereign decision to liberate the Shebaa Farms and the Kfarshouba Hills” from Israel.

    A number Israeli commentators already are saying that the “writing is on the wall” – and that it would be better for Israel to cede territory unilaterally, rather than risk the loss of hundreds of lives of Israeli servicemen in a futile attempt to retain it. That, though, seems hardly congruent with the Israeli Prime Minister’s “not an inch, will we yield” character and recent statements.

    Will ethno-nationalism provide Israel with a new support base? Well, firstly, I do not see Israel’s doctrine as “illiberal democracy,” but rather an apartheid system intended to subordinate Palestinian political rights. And as the political schism in the West widens, with one “wing” seeking to delegitimize the other by tarnishing them as racists, bigots and Nazis, it is clear that the real America First-ers will try, at any price, to distance themselves from the extremists.

    Daniel Levy points out that the Alt-Right leader, Richard Spencer, depicts his movement as White Zionism. Is this really likely to build support for Israel? How long before the “globalists” use precisely Netanyahu’s “illiberal democracy” meme to taunt the U.S. Right that this is precisely the kind of society for which they too aim: with Mexicans and black Americans treated like Palestinians?

    ‘Ethnic Nationalism’

    The increasingly “not to be” constituency of the Middle East has a simpler word for Netanyahu’s “ethnic nationalism.” They call it simply Western colonialism.

    Round one of Chas Freeman’s making the Middle East “be with Israel” consisted of the shock-and-awe assault on Iraq. Iraq is now allied with Iran, and the Hashad militia (PMU) are becoming a widely mobilized fighting force.

    The second stage was 2006. Today, Hizbullah is a regional force, and not a just Lebanese one.

    Far-right militia members demonstrating outside Ukrainian parliament in Kiev. (Screen shot from RT video via YouTube video)

    The third strike was at Syria. Today, Syria is allied with Russia, Iran, Hizbullah and Iraq. What will comprise the next round in the “to be, or not to be” war?

    For all Netanyahu’s bluster about Israel standing stronger, and having beaten back “what he had called the ‘fake-news claim’ that without a deal with the Palestinians ‘Israel will be isolated, weakened and abandoned’ facing a ‘diplomatic tsunami,’” Netanyahu may have just discovered, in these last two weeks, that he confused facing down the weakened Palestinians with “victory” — only at the very moment of his apparent triumph, to find himself alone in a new, “New Middle East.”

    Perhaps Pravda was right, and Netanyahu did appear close to panic, during his hurriedly arranged, and urgently called, Sochi summit.

  • What Country Is This? Forced Blood Draws, Cavity Searches, And Colonoscopies

    Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

    “The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official.”

    – Herman Schwartz, The Nation

    Our freedoms – especially the Fourth Amendment – are being choked out by a prevailing view among government bureaucrats that they have the right to search, seize, strip, scan, shoot, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.

    Such is life in America today that Americans are being made to relinquish the most intimate details of who we are – our biological makeup, our genetic blueprints, and our biometrics (facial characteristics and structure, fingerprints, iris scans, etc.) – in order to clear the nearly insurmountable hurdle that increasingly defines life in the United States: we are now guilty until proven innocent.

    Forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, forced inclusion in biometric databases: these are just a few ways in which Americans are being forced to accept that we have no control over our bodies, our lives and our property, especially when it comes to interactions with the government.

    Consider, for example, what happened to Utah nurse Alex Wubbels after a police detective demanded to take blood from a badly injured, unconscious patient without a warrant.

    Wubbels refused, citing hospital policy that requires police to either have a warrant or permission from the patient in order to draw blood. The detective had neither. Irate, the detective threatened to have Wubbels arrested if she didn’t comply. Backed up by her supervisors, Wubbels respectfully stood her ground only to be roughly grabbed, shoved out of the hospital, handcuffed and forced into an unmarked car while hospital police looked on and failed to intervene (take a look at the police body camera footage, which has gone viral, and see for yourself).

    Michael Chorosky didn’t have an advocate like Wubbels to stand guard over his Fourth Amendment rights. Chorosky was surrounded by police, strapped to a gurney and then had his blood forcibly drawn after refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test. “What country is this? What country is this?” cried Chorosky during the forced blood draw.

    What country is this indeed?

    Unfortunately, forced blood draws are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the indignities and abuses being heaped on Americans in the so-called name of “national security.”

    Forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies and forced roadside strip searches are also becoming par for the course in an age in which police are taught to have no respect for the citizenry’s bodily integrity whether or not a person has done anything wrong.

    For example, 21-year-old Charnesia Corley was allegedly being pulled over by Texas police in 2015 for “rolling” through a stop sign. Claiming they smelled marijuana, police handcuffed Corley, forced her to strip off her pants, threw her to the ground, forced her legs apart and then probed her vagina. The cavity search lasted 11 minutes. This practice is referred to as “rape by cop.”

    David Eckert was forced to undergo an anal cavity search, three enemas, and a colonoscopy after allegedly failing to yield to a stop sign at a Wal-Mart parking lot. Cops justified the searches on the grounds that they suspected Eckert was carrying drugs because his “posture [was] erect” and “he kept his legs together.” No drugs were found.

    During a routine traffic stop, Leila Tarantino was subjected to two roadside strip searches in plain view of passing traffic, while her two children—ages 1 and 4—waited inside her car. During the second strip search, presumably in an effort to ferret out drugs, a female officer “forcibly removed” a tampon from Tarantino. No contraband or anything illegal was found.

    Thirty-eight-year-old Angel Dobbs and her 24-year-old niece, Ashley, were pulled over by a Texas state trooper on July 13, 2012, allegedly for flicking cigarette butts out of the car window. Insisting that he smelled marijuana, the trooper proceeded to interrogate them and search the car. Despite the fact that both women denied smoking or possessing any marijuana, the police officer then called in a female trooper, who carried out a roadside cavity search, sticking her fingers into the older woman’s anus and vagina, then performing the same procedure on the younger woman, wearing the same pair of gloves. No marijuana was found.

    Meanwhile, four Milwaukee police officers were charged with carrying out rectal searches of suspects on the street and in police district stations over the course of several years. One of the officers was accused of conducting searches of men’s anal and scrotal areas, often inserting his fingers into their rectums and leaving some of his victims with bleeding rectums.

    It’s gotten so bad that you don’t even have to be suspected of possessing drugs to be subjected to a strip search.

    Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Florence v. Burlison, any person who is arrested and processed at a jail house, regardless of the severity of his or her offense (i.e., they can be guilty of nothing more than a minor traffic offense), can be subjected to a strip search by police or jail officials without reasonable suspicion that the arrestee is carrying a weapon or contraband.

    As technology advances, police searches are becoming more invasive on a cellular level, as well, with passive alcohol sensors, DNA collection roadblocks, iris scans and facial recognition software—to name just a few methods—used to assault our bodily integrity.

    America’s founders could scarcely have imagined a world in which we needed protection against widespread government breaches of our privacy, including on a cellular level.

    Yet that’s exactly what we so desperately need.

    Unfortunately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the indignities being heaped upon us by the architects and agents of the American police state—whether or not we’ve done anything wrong—are just a foretaste of what is to come.

  • NYC Commercial Real Estate Sales Plunge Over 50% As Owners Lever Up In The Absence Of Buyers

    So what do you do when the bubbly market for your exorbitantly priced New York City commercial real estate collapses by over 50% in two years?  Well, you lever up, of course. 

    As Bloomberg notes this morning, the ‘smart money’ at U.S. banking institutions are tripping over themselves to throw money at commercial real estate projects all while ‘dumb money’ buyers have completely dried up.

    A growing chasm between what buyers are willing to pay and what sellers think their properties are worth has put the brakes on deals. In New York City, the largest U.S. market for offices, apartments and other commercial buildings, transactions in the first half of the year tumbled about 50 percent from the same period in 2016, to $15.4 billion, the slowest start since 2012, according to research firm Real Capital Analytics Inc.

     

    At the same time, the market for debt on commercial properties is booming. Investors of all stripes — from banks and insurance companies to hedge funds and private equity firms — are plowing into real estate loans as an alternative to lower-yielding bonds. That’s giving building owners another option to cash in if their plans to sell don’t work out.

     

    “Sellers have a number in mind, and the market is not there right now,” said Aaron Appel, a managing director at brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. who arranges commercial real estate debt. “Owners are pulling out capital” by refinancing loans instead of finding buyers, he said.

     

    But don’t concern yourself with talk of bubbles because Scott Rechler of RXR would like for you to rest assured that the lack of buyers is not at all concerning…they’ve just “hit the pause button” while they wander out in search of the ever elusive “price discovery.”  

    At 237 Park Ave., Walton Street Capital hired a broker in March to sell its stake in the midtown Manhattan tower, acquired in a partnership with RXR Realty for $810 million in 2013. After several months of marketing, the Chicago-based firm opted instead for $850 million in loans that value the 21-story building at more than $1.3 billion, according to financing documents. The owners kept about $23.4 million.

     

    “The basic trend is you have a really strong debt market and a sales market that has hit the pause button while it seeks to find price discovery,” said Scott Rechler, chief executive officer of RXR.

     

    The debt market has become so appealing that landlords are looking at mortgage options while simultaneously putting out feelers for buyers, said Rechler, whose company owns $15 billion of real estate throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. That’s a departure for Manhattan’s property owners, who in prior years would pursue one track at a time, he said.

    Of course, this isn’t just a NYC phenomenon as sales of office towers, apartment buildings, hotels and shopping centers across the U.S. have been plunging since reaching $262 billion nationally in 2015, just behind the record $311 billion of real estate that changed hands in 2007, according to Real Capital. Property investors are on the sidelines amid concern that rising interest rates will hurt values that have jumped as much as 85 percent in big cities like New York, compounded by overbuilding and a pullback of the foreign capital that helped power the recent property boom.

    The tough sales market has put some property owners in a bind — most notably Kushner Cos., which has struggled to find partners for 666 Fifth Ave., the Midtown tower it bought for a record price in 2007. The mortgage on the building will need to be refinanced in 18 months.

    Thankfully, at least someone interviewed by Bloomberg seemed to be grounded in reality with Jeff Nicholson of CreditFi saying that it just might be a “red flag” that buyers have completely abandoned the commercial real estate market at the same time that owners are massively levering up to take cash out of projects.

    Some lenders view seeking a loan to take money off the table as a red flag, according to Jeff Nicholson, a senior analyst at CrediFi, a firm that collects and analyzes data on real estate loans. It may signal the borrower is less committed to the project, and makes it easier to walk away from the mortgage if something goes wrong, he said.

    But, it’s probably nothing…

  • Escobar Exposes Real BRICS Bombshell: Putin's "Fair Multipolar World" Where Oil Trade Bypasses The Dollar

    Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

    Putin reveals 'fair multipolar world' concept in which oil contracts could bypass the US dollar and be traded with oil, yuan and gold…

    The annual BRICS summit in Xiamen – where President Xi Jinping was once mayor – could not intervene in a more incandescent geopolitical context.

    Once again, it’s essential to keep in mind that the current core of BRICS is “RC”; the Russia-China strategic partnership. So in the Korean peninsula chessboard, RC context – with both nations sharing borders with the DPRK – is primordial.

    Beijing has imposed a definitive veto on war – of which the Pentagon is very much aware.

    Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test, although planned way in advance, happened only three days after two nuclear-capable US B-1B strategic bombers conducted their own “test” alongside four F-35Bs and a few Japanese F-15s.

    Everyone familiar with the Korean peninsula chessboard knew there would be a DPRK response to these barely disguised “decapitation” tests.

    So it’s back to the only sound proposition on the table: the RC “double freeze”. Freeze on US/Japan/South Korea military drills; freeze on North Korea’s nuclear program; diplomacy takes over.

    The White House, instead, has evoked ominous “nuclear capabilities” as a conflict resolution mechanism.

    Gold mining in the Amazon, anyone?

    On the Doklam plateau front, at least New Delhi and Beijing decided, after two tense months, on “expeditious disengagement” of their border troops. This decision was directly linked to the approaching BRICS summit – where both India and China were set to lose face big time.

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had already tried a similar disruption gambit prior to the BRICS Goa summit last year. Then, he was adamant that Pakistan should be declared a “terrorist state”. The RC duly vetoed it.

    Modi also ostensively boycotted the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit in Hangzhou last May, essentially because of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

    India and Japan are dreaming of countering BRI with a semblance of connectivity project; the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC). To believe that the AAGC – with a fraction of the reach, breath, scope and funds available to BRI – may steal its thunder, is to enter prime wishful-thinking territory.

    Still, Modi emitted some positive signs in Xiamen; “We are in mission-mode to eradicate poverty; to ensure health, sanitation, skills, food security, gender equality, energy, education.” Without this mammoth effort, India’s lofty geopolitical dreams are D.O.A.

    Brazil, for its part, is immersed in a larger-than-life socio-political tragedy, “led” by a Dracula-esque, corrupt non-entity; Temer The Usurper. Brazil’s President, Michel Temer, hit Xiamen eager to peddle “his” 57 major, ongoing privatizations to Chinese investors – complete with corporate gold mining in an Amazon nature reserve the size of Denmark. Add to it massive social spending austerity and hardcore anti-labor legislation, and one’s got the picture of Brazil currently being run by Wall Street. The name of the game is to profit from the loot, fast.

    The BRICS’ New Development Bank (NDB) – a counterpart to the World Bank – is predictably derided all across the Beltway. Xiamen showed how the NDB is only starting to finance BRICS projects. It’s misguided to compare it with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). They will be investing in different types of projects – with the AIIB more focused on BRI. Their aim is complementary.

    ‘BRICS Plus’ or bust

    On the global stage, the BRICS are already a major nuisance to the unipolar order. Xi politely put it in Xiamen as “we five countries [should] play a more active part in global governance”.

    And right on cue Xiamen introduced “dialogues” with Mexico, Egypt, Thailand, Guinea and Tajikistan; that’s part of the road map for  “BRICS Plus” – Beijing’s conceptualization, proposed last March by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, for expanding partnership/cooperation.

    A further instance of “BRICS Plus” can be detected in the possible launch, before the end of 2017, of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – in the wake of the death of TPP.

    Contrary to a torrent of Western spin, RCEP is not “led” by China.

    Japan is part of it – and so is India and Australia alongside the 10 ASEAN members. The burning question is what kind of games New Delhi may be playing to stall RCEP in parallel to boycotting BRI.

    Patrick Bond in Johannesburg has developed an important critique, arguing that “centrifugal economic forces” are breaking up the BRICS, thanks to over-production, excessive debt and de-globalization. He interprets the process as “the failure of Xi’s desired centripetal capitalism.”

    It doesn’t have to be this way. Never underestimate the power of Chinese centripetal capitalism – especially when BRI hits a higher gear.

    Meet the oil/yuan/gold triad

    It’s when President Putin starts talking that the BRICS reveal their true bombshell. Geopolitically and geo-economically, Putin’s emphasis is on a “fair multipolar world”, and “against protectionism and new barriers in global trade.” The message is straight to the point.

    The Syria game-changer – where Beijing silently but firmly supported Moscow – had to be evoked; “It was largely thanks to the efforts of Russia and other concerned countries that conditions have been created to improve the situation in Syria.”

    On the Korean peninsula, it’s clear how RC think in unison; “The situation is balancing on the brink of a large-scale conflict.”

    Putin’s judgment is as scathing as the – RC-proposed – possible solution is sound; “Putting pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear missile program is misguided and futile. The region’s problems should only be settled through a direct dialogue of all the parties concerned without any preconditions.”

    Putin’s – and Xi’s – concept of multilateral order is clearly visible in the wide-ranging Xiamen Declaration, which proposes an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace and national reconciliation process, “including the Moscow Format of consultations” and the “Heart of Asia-Istanbul process”.

    That’s code for an all-Asian (and not Western) Afghan solution brokered by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), led by RC, and of which Afghanistan is an observer and future full member.

    And then, Putin delivers the clincher;

    “Russia shares the BRICS countries’ concerns over the unfairness of the global financial and economic architecture, which does not give due regard to the growing weight of the emerging economies. We are ready to work together with our partners to promote international financial regulation reforms and to overcome the excessive domination of the limited number of reserve currencies.”

    “To overcome the excessive domination of the limited number of reserve currencies” is the politest way of stating what the BRICS have been discussing for years now; how to bypass the US dollar, as well as the petrodollar.

    Beijing is ready to step up the game. Soon China will launch a crude oil futures contract priced in yuan and convertible into gold.

    This means that Russia – as well as Iran, the other key node of Eurasia integration – may bypass US sanctions by trading energy in their own currencies, or in yuan.

    Inbuilt in the move is a true Chinese win-win; the yuan will be fully convertible into gold on both the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges.

    The new triad of oil, yuan and gold is actually a win-win-win. No problem at all if energy providers prefer to be paid in physical gold instead of yuan. The key message is the US dollar being bypassed.

    RC – via the Russian Central Bank and the People’s Bank of China – have been developing ruble-yuan swaps for quite a while now.

    Once that moves beyond the BRICS to aspiring “BRICS Plus” members and then all across the Global South, Washington’s reaction is bound to be nuclear (hopefully, not literally).

    Washington’s strategic doctrine rules RC should not be allowed by any means to be preponderant along the Eurasian landmass. Yet what the BRICS have in store geo-economically does not concern only Eurasia – but the whole Global South.

    Sections of the War Party in Washington bent on instrumentalizing  India against China – or against RC – may be in for a rude awakening. As much as the BRICS may be currently facing varied waves of economic turmoil, the daring long-term road map, way beyond the Xiamen Declaration, is very much in place.

  • Australia Mortgage Market Is Now A $1.7 Trillion "House Of Cards"

    Over a decade ago, the U.S. residential housing market was revealed to be perhaps the biggest ponzi scheme ever created as easy financing enabled people to buy/build countless investment properties, that they were in no way adequately capitalized to own, with no money down all based on the premise that the house could be ‘flipped’ before the first mortgage payment even came due.  It was a classic ponzi that worked great for a while but inevitably turned south when home prices suddenly soured and their was no cash equity backing the trillions of dollars in outstanding mortgage debt.

    But, if a new report from LF Economics is even directionally accurate, then the bubble currently percolating in Australia could take the residential housing ponzi game to a whole new level courtesy of a ‘creative’ little product called “cross-collateralized residential mortgages.”

    The Australian mortgage market has “ballooned” due to banks issuing new loans against unrealised capital gains of existing investment properties, creating a $1.7 trillion “house of cards”, a new report warns.

     

    The report, “The Big Rort”, by LF Economics founder Lindsay David, argues Australian banks’ use of “combined loan to value ratio” — less common in other countries — makes it easy for investors to accumulate “multiple properties in a relatively short period of time despite high house prices relative to income”.

     

    “The use of unrealised capital gain (equity) of one property to secure financing to purchase another property in Australia is extreme,” the report says.

     

    “This approach allows lenders to report the cross-collateral security of one property which is then used as collateral against the total loan size to purchase another property. This approach substitutes as a cash deposit.

     

    “This has exacerbated risks in the housing market as little to no cash deposits are used.”

    Yes, you read that correctly…Australian housing speculators can literally use unrealized gains in investment properties as a ‘cash substitute’ for down payments on other investment properties.  Of course, we’re not experts at ‘the mathematics,’ but if you constantly take every dollar worth of equity you accrue and pledge it as collateral toward a new purchase then doesn’t that mean the entire system is built on debt and no actual equity at all?

    As LF Economics points out, just like the American mortgage bubble, the current ponzi scheme in Australia is also completely dependent on constantly rising prices.

    The report describes the system as a “classic mortgage Ponzi finance model”, with newly purchased properties often generating net rental income losses, adversely impacting upon cash flows.

     

    “Profitability is therefore predicated upon ever-rising housing prices,” the report says. “When house prices have fallen in a local market, many borrowers were unable to service the principal on their mortgages when the interest only period expires or are unable to roll over the interest-only period.”

    Australia

     

    And, just like the American bubble, much of the madness is being funded by unsuspecting foreign investors.

    LF Economics argues that while international money markets have until now provided “remarkably affordable funding” enabling Australian banks to issue “large and risky loans”, there is a growing risk the wholesale lending community will walk away from the Australian banking system.

     

    “[Many] international wholesale lenders … may find out the hard way that they have invested into nothing more than a $1.7 trillion ‘piss in a fancy bottle scam’,” the report says.

    Meanwhile, there is no shortage of ‘success stories’ from people who make next to no money doing their ‘day jobs’ but have been able to acquire dozens of investment properties with nothing but debt.

    Last month, a young Sydney couple revealed how they had racked up $1.2 million in debt on a portfolio of five properties in just two years.

     

    Roy Palleson and Rowena Ebona, appearing on the ABC’s Four Corners, said they had no concerns about their debt — nearly 10 times their combined income of $135,000 — and were hoping to expand their portfolio to 20 investment properties “initially”.

     

    Prominent Sydney property investor Nathan Birch, who accumulated more than 200 properties worth an estimated $55 million by channelling the equity from capital gains into deposits for new purchases, earlier this year announced he was selling off some of his portfolio.

     

    Mr Birch blamed the move on tougher loan serviceability restrictions by the banks. “Anytime you withdraw equity, you need to show income to service that new loan,” he said. “Sadly, the banks don’t value rental income as highly as they once did.”

     

    Eddie Dilleen, a young investor with 10 properties worth about $2 million, last month said he was not fazed by tightening lending environment or talks of a housing bubble.

     

    Mr Dilleen said the majority of his portfolio was positively geared, largely because he avoided borrowing against existing properties, instead saving up for each new deposit by working several jobs.

    Conclusion: “Short everything that guy has touched.”

  • ECB Preview: A Trapped Mario Draghi Makes A Decision

    After a barrage of media trial balloons (as recently as today) meant to temper the enthusiasm of Euro bulls now that the EURUSD is back to 1.20 and threatening European corporate profitability, Mario Draghi’s Sintra hawkishness is a distant memory.

    And so, with the ECB’s policy decision less than 12 hours from now, a “trapped” Mario Draghi finds himself in a quandary: with less than 4 month left until the formal expiration of the ECB’s €2.3 trillion QE program, he will likely start laying the groundwork for the central bank’s stimulus reduction – after all the ECB is rapidly running out of bonds to purchase – but without revealing too much as that will send the EUR surging, and he will also hold off on any major commitment, as an explicit backing off his recent hawkishness could collapse the EUR and send Bunds right back into NIRPatory.

    Which path will he take?

    With that in mind, courtesy of RanSquawk, here is a full preview of what to expect (or not) from the ECB president tomorrow.

    Rate Decision due at 1245BST/0645CDT and Press Conference at 1330BST/0730CDT

    • All rates and the current pace of asset purchases are expected to be left unchanged
    • Staff will update macroeconomic projections; impact of EUR likely to weigh on inflation outlook
    • Key focus for press conference will be on recent EUR strength and possible QE exit
    • Click here for a link to an overview of ECB rhetoric since the last meeting

    RATE/ASSET PURCHASE EXPECTATIONS

    • DEPOSIT RATE: Forecast to remain unchanged at -0.40%. The rate was last adjusted in March 2016, when it was cut by 10bps.
    • REFI RATE: Forecast to remain unchanged at 0.00%. The rate was last adjusted in March 2016, when it was cut by 5bps.
    • MARGINAL RATE: Forecast to remain unchanged at 0.25%. The rate was last adjusted in March 2016, when it was cut by 5bps.
    • ASSET PURCHASES: Forecast to maintain the pace of asset purchases at EUR 60bln per month until December 2017. Last December, the ECB reduced the size of purchases by EUR 20bln per month, and extended the purchase horizon by nine months.

    PRESS CONFERENCE

    CURRENT ECB FORWARD GUIDANCE

    • RATES: “The Governing Council continues to expect the key ECB interest rates to remain at present levels for an extended period of time, and well past the horizon of the net asset purchases.” (ECB statement, 20/Jul)
    • ASSET PURCHASES: “Net asset purchases, at the current monthly pace of €60 billion, are intended to run until the end of December 2017, or beyond, if necessary, and in any case until the Governing Council sees a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation consistent with its inflation aim.” (ECB statement, 20/Jul)
    • GROWTH: “The risks to the growth outlook are broadly balanced.” (ECB statement, 20/Jul)
    • INFLATION: “While the ongoing economic expansion provides confidence that inflation will gradually head to levels in line with our inflation aim, it has yet to translate into stronger inflation dynamics. Headline inflation is dampened by the weakness in energy prices. Moreover, measures of underlying inflation remain overall at subdued levels. Therefore, a very substantial degree of monetary accommodation is still needed for underlying inflation pressures to gradually build up and support headline inflation developments in the medium term.” (ECB statement, 20/Jul)
      POTENTIAL ADJUSTMENTS TO FORWARD GUIDANCE/ROADMAP TO EXITING LOOSE POLICY
    • RATES: No adjustments expected
    • ASSET PURCHASES: Consensus is for no change expected to exact phrasing above. Commerzbank suggest ECB could add ‘or at a lower pace’ into the above statement.
    • GROWTH: No adjustments expected (although impact of firmer EUR could be reflected in latest economic projections).
    • INFLATION: No adjustments expected (although impact of firmer EUR is expected to be reflected in latest economic projections).

    EUR APPRECIATION

    Given the EUR’s 13% advancement against the USD this year, a key focus of the market’s view on ECB monetary policy has been on the appreciating currency. Despite this ultimately reflecting a resurgence in the Eurozone economy, the ECB will be wary of the potential impact on the Eurozone’s inflation path. As such, markets will be looking to see if Draghi talks down the currency with recent source reports (Aug 31st) highlighting EUR is worrying a growing number of ECB policymakers, adding that EUR concerns increase chance of delay in QE decision, or a more gradual exit from asset purchases. Furthermore, the minutes from the previous meeting also highlighted concerns about overshooting and as such given Draghi’s decision to not comment on the currency at Jackson Hole, markets will be highly sensitive to any potential verbal intervention by the President. **Note that existing rhetoric states ‘the ECB does not target the exchange rate’.* *

    That said, ECB’s Nowotny (Sep 1st) has warned markets not to over-dramatize EUR gains vs. USD and ECB’s Hansson (Aug 23rd) also came out and downplayed the issue last month. Despite Hansson and Nowotny being two of the more hawkish policymakers at the Bank and thus in-fitting with their stances, it highlights a lack of unanimity at the ECB.

    FUTURE PATH OF QE PROGRAMME

    Aside from the firmer EUR, another key source of focus for the market will be on any clues as to when the ECB could begin tapering its QE programme given recent economic developments and concerns over bond scarcity. Ultimately, consensus amongst analysts suggest that this meeting will be too early for the bank to outline its plans for tapering at this stage with October seen as a more likely platform for the ECB to provide concrete policy actions; a view back by last month’s (Aug 16th) ECB source reports that suggested the council will hold off on debating the issue until Autumn. Furthermore, the minutes from the July meeting revealed the aim to ‘gain more policy space and flexibility to adjust policy and the degree of monetary policy accommodation, if and when needed, in either direction’; thus suggesting that the central bank will continue to hold off; as highlighted by Lloyds. Commerzbank also highlight the issue of bond scarcity given the current pace of monthly purchases which could cause a headache for the bank. However, Commerzbank suggest that it is unlikely the ECB would be willing to raise the limits on purchases from individual issuers and as such scarcity will have to be addressed as part of a larger policy move.

    Although no explicit announcements are expected this time round, Nordea expect the ECB to comment on the preparatory work on September 7th, subsequently hinting at a decision on October 26th. However, Pictet suggest that markets may have to wait potentially longer than October with the ECB looking to avoid a disorderly exit from policy by proceeding in a cautious manner. This would be achieved by eventually scaling down purchases (avoid explicit mentioning of tapering), no mentioning of ending asset purchases initially or referring to actions as outright monetary tightening. Although it is likely that few details will be revealed during this meeting regarding how the ECB will manage their exit from current policy, the above is worth noting if Draghi et al elude to potential announcements next month.

    ECB STAFF MACROECONOMIC PROJECTIONS

    INFLATION: Likely to be downgraded given the appreciation of the EUR with June projections made under an assumed rate of 1.09 in 2018-2019. Nordea expect the new assumed rate to climb to 1.18 in 2018-2019 and as such, would imply lower annual inflation in 2017-19 by 0.1-0.3% points. However, Nordea also highlight that improving employment prospects in the Eurozone (which could imply higher wages) and the future oil profile could limit the extent of inflation downgrades.

    REAL GDP: There is potential for 2017 growth to be upgraded given recent firm PMI data and consumer confidence, according to Nordea. However, Pictet suggest that longer-term forecasts are likely to be little changed given the possible headwinds of the firmer EUR with ING’s base case for downward revisions for 2018/19 amid FX effects.

    MARKET REACTION

    In terms of a potential market reaction, given the focus on EUR appreciation, FX markets will be mostly centred around any potential verbal intervention by Draghi on the currency. If Draghi is overtly cautious on recent EUR strength this will likely lead to pressure on EUR, whereas, if Draghi downplays the bank’s focus on targeting the FX rate this could provide further fuel to the EUR rally. Elsewhere, the other main source of traction will be hints on when the ECB will curtail bond purchases. It is likely that Draghi won’t offer too much on this front. However, if details are provided or Draghi is forceful about a potential unveiling of details next month, this could lead to selling pressure in fixed income markets, equities and upside in EUR. Furthermore for fixed income markets, traders will also be looking out for any potential reference to the bank’s view on bond scarcity and any possible measures which could be used to counter this issue. However, such actions are unlikely to be made this time round.

  • Ohio Reporter Shot Without Warning For Photographing Routine Traffic Stop

    In one of the more bizarre stories to hit national news this week, an Ohio sheriff's deputy is under investigation for shooting a local reporter who innocently set up a camera and tripod on a public sidewalk to document a routine traffic stop. What's more is the shooting took place in a small town where "everyone knows everybody" and the police officer and victim were actually friends.

    Ohio based New Carlisle News reports that its own photographer was shot in the incident which occurred Monday night:

    Andy Grimm was shot by a Clark County deputy Monday evening. Andy had left the office around 10:00 p.m. to take pictures of lightning. There was a traffic stop on Main Street near Studebaker’s Restaurant, but Andy was not the subject of the stop. He had his camera and tripod in his hands and Deputy Jake Shaw apparently mistook it for a weapon and fired, striking Andy in the side. He was rushed to Miami Valley Hospital for surgery. He is expected to recover from his wounds.


    Image source: New Carlisle News

    Body camera video released by the Clark County Sheriff's Office shows Deputy Jake Shaw shoot Grimm. The shooting sequence begins at 3:20 in as the officer is checking info inside the police car on speeder he pulls over.

    In an unexpected twist, the wounded cameraman is now pleading for the officer to keep his job. Grimm told local reporters, "I know Jake. I like Jake. I don't want him to lose his job over this," in reference to the sheriff's deputy that shot him.

    The victim's father, Dale Grimm, told The Washington Post that his son "got out, parked under a light in plain view of the deputy, with a press pass around his neck. He was setting up his camera, and he heard pops." Sheriff's deputy Jake Shaw reportedly gave no warning before firing.

    The case has been turned over to the the Ohio state attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Division. While it's entirely possible that there's much more here than what's being reported – for example, there could have been some kind of personal dispute between the friends – the strange incident is part of a growing list of "shoot first, ask questions later" incidents which display an increasingly militarized and trigger-happy mentality by local and state police.

    As we reported last week in The Alarming Militarization of American Police, it is deeply disturbing that the federal government currently seeks to pass on military hardware to local and state authorities which continue to display lack of judgement as well as over the top tactics while dealing with routine local civilian matters. Local police forces should never operate like the Pentagon, but it appears we're headed down precisely that path:

    President Donald Trump has signed an executive order clearing the way for local police in America to receive military gear such as grenade launchers, high-calibre weapons, and armored vehicles. Trump and the DOJ have just reversed former President Barack Obama’s restrictions that allows local police departments to receive surplus military equipment.

     

    …Let’s not kid ourselves, America by the day is turning into a police state where power through police force is the objective. The citizens of the police state may experience restrictions on social or financial mobility, or even on their freedom to express or communicate alternative political views.

    No, the sheriff's deputy who possibly mistook a simple camera and tripod on a small-town street for a mounted assault rifle should not keep his job – he is an absolute danger to society. But could we imagine if such police made regular use of mounted 50-caliber machine guns and grenade launchers?

  • Physical Gold In Vault Is "True Hedge of Last Resort" – Goldman Sachs

    – Physical gold is “the true currency of the last resort” – Goldman Sachs
    – “Gold is a good hedge against geopolitical risks when the event leads to a debasement of the dollar” 
    – Trump and Washington risk bigger driver of gold than risks such as North Korea
    – Recent events such as N. Korea only explain fraction of 2017 gold price rally
    – Do not buy gold futures or ETFs rather “physical gold in a vault” [is] the “true hedge”

    Editor: Mark O’Byrne

    What’s increasing the demand for gold? Is it Kim Jon-Un’s calls for nuclear war? Trump’s tough tweets on government and trade and unleashing “fire and fury” on North Korea? The threat of World War III? Possibly not, according to Jeff Currie of Goldman Sachs. This is more to do with the market mechanics underlying such events.

    Currie released a note arguing that gold’s strong performance of late is less to do with the current perceived risk in the geopolitical sphere and instead from the currency debasement that arises from central banks printing money.

    In light of this, investors should be buying up gold. Goldman’s Currie refers to gold as the ‘geopolitical hedge of the last resort’. This is the case ‘if the geopolitical event is extreme enough that it leads to some sort of currency debasement’ and especially so ‘ if the gold price move is much sharper than the move in real rates or the dollar.’

    Read on to see in exactly what form Currie believes you should be investing in gold.

    It has become too easy to pin gains on geopolitics

    As we have repeatedly pointed out, the gold price jumps following events such as North Korea testing missiles or Hurricane Harvey or a declaration from Trump. However these jumps are not frequently sustainable.

    What is going on in the U.S. and global markets and economy which really provides long-term support for the every-strengthening gold price.

    Currie writes:

    “It is tempting to blame the rally in gold prices on recent events in North Korea. While these events have helped to create a bid in gold, they only explain [roughly] $15 of the more than $100 [per ounce] rally since mid-July.”

    It is too easy to pin gold’s rise on geopolitical events. Instead, argues Currie, these events are only really impacting gold if they lead to ‘actual currency debasement.’

    Instead, the recent rally has been down to the decline in the U.S. dollar and lower real interest rates.

    Gold is the currency of the last resort

    All about that (de)base 

    This dynamic is captured by a negative correlation between gold prices and real interest rates. As the central bank prints more currency, the price of the currency as measured by the real interest rate declines. The lower real interest rate, in turn, reduces the opportunity cost of holding a real asset like gold, leading the market to bid up gold prices. So at the core, gold is a hedge against debasement, which is why we have termed it the “currency of last resort.” 

    Bigger things to worry about than Korea

    Interestingly gold’s move this year has had far more to do with President Trump than it has to do with North Korea.

    Currie argues that Kim Jong-Un might only be responsible for 15% of the yellow metals’ move. 85% of the price rise can be accounted for by the fact that  the Trump risk premium is reflected in both real interest rates and a weaker US dollar.

    This does not mean that gold will no longer be classed as a hedge against geopolitical risk (as well as currency debasement). But, in the current climate gold is reacting more to Trump risk and the ongoing devaluation of monetary assets.

    We find that gold can effectively hedge against geopolitical risk if the geopolitical event is extreme enough that it leads to some sort of currency debasement, and especially if the gold price move is much sharper than the move in real rates or the dollar. For these events, gold essentially serves as a call option and can therefore be thought of as a “geopolitical hedge of last resort.” For example, gold served as an effective hedge after the events of September 11, 2001 when the US Federal Reserve substantially increased dollar liquidity, debasing the US dollar. Gold also proved an effective hedge during the Gulf Wars as governments printed money.

    Learn from Lehman

    In conclusion, gold is still very much as we have argued – a hedge against geopolitical risk and currency debasement.

    Investors must consider gold-market liquidity when using gold to protect themselves. Goldman Sachs argue that liquidity in the gold market is

    crucial when deciding to hedge via physical gold in a vault versus COMEX gold futures.

    Investors should not assume that during a geopolitical event liquidity will not be a problem:

    Using a gold futures contract as the basis of the hedge makes the implicit assumption that market liquidity will not be a problem in the realization of a geopolitical event.

    Goldman Sachs strongly advise that investors buy physical gold as opposed to ETFs or Comex Futures. Their logic for this? The liquidity event that was the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

    The importance of liquidity was tested during the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. Gold prices declined sharply as both traded volumes and open interest on the exchange plunged. After this liquidity event, investors became more conscious of the physical vs. futures market distinction and began to demand more physical gold or physically-backed ETFs as a hedge against black-swan events.

    Therefore owning physical gold bullion coins and bars in the safest vaults in the world will again be the primary way to protect yourself and your wealth in the event of a geopolitical crisis and liquidity crunch.

    “The lesson learned was that if gold liquidity dries up along with the broader market’s, so does your hedge—unless it is physical gold in a vault, the true “hedge of last resort.”

    Gold and Silver Bullion – News and Commentary

    Gold up for fifth straight day as geopolitical concerns persist (Reuters)

    Asian Stocks Fall as North Korea Worries Persist (Bloomberg)

    Gold Outshines Bitcoin After N. Korea Bomb Test & China ICO Ban (Barrons)

    U.S. stocks pummeled by policy uncertainty, North Korea tensions (Marketwatch )

    Fed governor urges central bank to pretend there’s no inflation (Reuters)

    Source: BofA Via Zerohedge.com

    Gold is a currency debasement hedge of last resort – Goldman (Yahoo Finance)

    Goldman Issues Two Different Price Targets On Gold In The Same Day (Zerohedge)

    Commentary: I’m not buying gold until this happens (CNBC)

    Paris Hilton, the China crypto crackdown… and the worst way to buy bitcoin (Stansberry C.H.)

    BofA: Even The Bubbles Are Becoming More “Bubbly” Thanks To Central Banks (Zerohedge )

    Gold Prices (LBMA AM)

    06 Sep: USD 1,340.15, GBP 1,028.03 & EUR 1,122.11 per ounce
    05 Sep: USD 1,331.15, GBP 1,029.51 & EUR 1,120.43 per ounce
    04 Sep: USD 1,334.60, GBP 1,030.98 & EUR 1,120.53 per ounce
    01 Sep: USD 1,318.40, GBP 1,020.18 & EUR 1,107.98 per ounce
    31 Aug: USD 1,305.80, GBP 1,013.17 & EUR 1,098.31 per ounce
    30 Aug: USD 1,310.60, GBP 1,014.93 & EUR 1,096.71 per ounce
    29 Aug: USD 1,323.40, GBP 1,020.34 & EUR 1,097.36 per ounce

    Silver Prices (LBMA)

    06 Sep: USD 17.77, GBP 13.62 & EUR 14.90 per ounce
    05 Sep: USD 17.88, GBP 13.80 & EUR 15.03 per ounce
    04 Sep: USD 17.80, GBP 13.75 & EUR 14.95 per ounce
    01 Sep: USD 17.50, GBP 13.53 & EUR 14.69 per ounce
    31 Aug: USD 17.34, GBP 13.47 & EUR 14.62 per ounce
    30 Aug: USD 17.44, GBP 13.49 & EUR 14.60 per ounce
    29 Aug: USD 17.60, GBP 13.59 & EUR 14.62 per ounce


    Recent Market Updates

    – Bitcoin Falls 20% as Mobius and Chinese Regulators Warn
    – Gold Surges To $1338 as U.S. Warns of ‘Massive’ Military Response
    – 4 Reasons Why “Gold Has Entered A New Bull Market” – Schroders
    – Gold Reset To $10,000/oz Coming “By January 1, 2018” – Rickards
    – Gold Surges 2.6% After Jackson Hole and N. Korean Missile
    – Diversify Into Gold On U.S. “Political Instability” Advise Blackrock
    – Trump Presidency Is Over – Bannon Is Right
    – The Truth About Bundesbank Repatriation of Gold From U.S.
    – Cyberwar Risk – Was U.S. Navy Victim Of Hacking?
    – Global Financial Crisis 10 Years On: Gold Rises 100% from $650 to $1,300
    – Mnuchin: I Assume Fort Knox Gold Is Still There
    – Buffett Sees Market Crash Coming? His Cash Speaks Louder Than Words
    – Gold, Silver Consolidate On Last Weeks Gains, Palladium Surges 36% YTD To 16 Year High

    Important Guides

    For your perusal, below are our most popular guides in 2017:

    Essential Guide To Storing Gold In Switzerland

    Essential Guide To Storing Gold In Singapore

    Essential Guide to Tax Free Gold Sovereigns (UK)

    Please share our research with family, friends and colleagues who you think would benefit from being informed by it.

  • 6 Reasons Why Hurricane Irma Could Be "The Natural Disaster Of Our Time"

    Authored by Sarah Burris via RawStory.com,

    Hurricane Harvey was a tragic nightmare that hit the Texas shores with force and then lingered for days, dumping truck-loads of rain on a city ill-equipped to handle it. Florida is next, and if predictions are accurate, Hurricane Irma is going to be far worse than Houston was, and worse than anyone has prepared for.

    Already, Irma is setting records and being named the strongest storm the Atlantic Ocean has seen on record. Here is a short list of things meteorologists and experts at the Hurricane Center have already seen from Irma that should give everyone pause.

    1. The wind speeds broke the measuring tool.

    The wind was so strong when Irma passed over Barbuda that the monitoring equipment used to measure the wind was damaged and couldn’t report an accurate account of the wind speed. It tapped out at 151 mph.

    2. The prospect of 185mph wind should strike fear into our hearts.

    The gusts for the Category 5 storm have reached 185 mph. That’s the equivalent of an EF4 tornado sitting on an area, nonstop for hours. To put that into perspective, the photo below is of the damage sustained by residents of Garland/Rowlett, Texas after an EF4 tornado blew through in 2015.

    Damage in a residential area as a result of the EF4 Garland/Rowlett, Texas tornado. (Photo: Wikipedia)

    To make matters worse, NOAA’s tools dropped into the hurricane to measure the storm and recorded 226mph gusts from its northeast eyewall.

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    3. No one has heard from the tiny island it hit in hours.

    Barbuda is a tiny island with barely over 1,000 residents. The top elevation on the island is 125 feet above sea level. Storm surges, however, predict waves will reach seven to 11 feet in the Northern Leeward Islands. That was worse for Turks and Caicos, which is expected to see 15- to 20-foot storm surges. As long as the surges are under 10 feet, Barbuda will be fine, but storm surges like those expected for Turks and Caicos would destroy the island.

    Already, what scientists have seen from Barbuda is leaving them speechless. Tide sensors in Barbuda recently reported 7.89 feet above what the average height of the top tide is each day.

    “I am at a complete and utter loss for words looking at Irma’s appearance on satellite imagery,” tweeted Taylor Trogdon, of the National Hurricane Center‏.

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    4. Irma ripped grass from its roots.

    CNN meteorologist Chad Myers reported that there were parts of Bermuda that saw vegetation ripped from the soil, the winds were so strong. The claim hasn’t been reported by other outlets and there are no photos or video yet that show the full extent of the damage.

    5. Miami isn’t prepared — no one is.

    Florida is as good as it gets at handling hurricanes, similar to states that are accustomed to navigating tornadoes or weathering earthquakes. Florida citizens know how to prepare for a storm. However, the strength of Irma seems to dwarf more recent hurricanes.

    Already, the city of Miami is being forced to raise its roads to accommodate rising waters creeping into the city. A report from The Atlantic notes that the last major hurricane to hit Miami was in 1926 and 400 people were killed. Back then, the city boasted 100,000 residents, but today the population is more like 6 million.

    Disaster planners have long been concerned about a natural event of this magnitude hitting a major U.S. city. If Irma turns toward Florida, this could be the horrific event they’ve feared. 

    “It won’t survive,” said former top emergency manager Craig Fugate in 2014.

    6. President Donald Trump only barely understands the crisis.

    During a meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders, Trump acted as if he had special insider information on the severity of Hurricane Irma. All he could manage to tell them was it is “not good.”

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