Oct 18

Today’s News October 18, 2015

  • The Fall Of The Unipower: Russia Is Defeating More Than ISIS In Syria

    Submitted by Paul Craig Roberts,

    The distinguished and knowledgeable international commentator William Engdahl, in a superb statement, has expressed the view I gave you that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech on September 28 at the 70th anniversary of the United Nations changed the balance of power in the world. Until Putin’s speech the world was intimidated by the Washington Bully. Resistance to Washington brought swift retribution. In the Middle East and Africa it brought economic sanctions and military invasions that destroyed entire countries. In France and other US vassal states it brought multi-billion dollar confiscations of bank net worth as the price of not following Washington’s policies toward other countries.

    Other countries felt powerless in the face of the arrogant hegemonic Unipower, which from time to time replied to noncompliance with threats, such as US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage delivered to Pakistan, to bomb noncompliant countries “back to the stone age.”

    President Putin of Russia brought all that to end on September 28. He stood up before the world in the presence of the overflowing hubris of the hegemon and belled the cat.

    Putin denounced Washington’s threat to the sovereignty, and therefy the freedom, of peoples and countries. He denounced the heartless criminality of Washington’s destruction of the lives of millions of peoples on the basis of nothing other than Washington’s own arrogance. He denouced the illegality of Washington’s assauts on the sovereignty of other peoples, and declared that Russia can no longer tolerate this state of affairs in the world.

    Two days later he took over the war in Syria and began exterminating the Washington financed and equiped Islamic State. Cruise missiles launched from the Caspian Sea hit ISIL targets with pinpoint accuracy and showed Washington’s EU vassals that Washington’s ABM system could not protect them if Europe permitted Washington to force Europe into conflict with Russia.

    Washington’s response was more lies: “the missiles hit Iran,” said the idiots in Washington. The entire world laughed at the lie. Washington, some said, is whistling past its empire’s own graveyard.

    Putin’s declaration of multi-polarity was seconded by the President of China, who said in his understated mild way that every country must participate in shaping the future and not just follow the leadership of one.

    The hegemonic Unipower ceased to exist on September 28.

    This is a sea change. It will affect the behavior of every government. Even some of the craven vassals states, whose “leaders” are bought-and-paid-for, will move toward a more independent foreign policy.

    The remaining danger is the crazed American neoconservatives. I know many of them. They are completely insane ideologues. This inhuman filth has controlled the foreign policy of every US government since Clinton’s second term. They are a danger to all life on earth. Look at the destruction they have wreaked in the former Yugoslavia, in Ukraine, in Georgia and South Ossetia, in Africa, in Afghanistan and the Middle East. The American people were too brainwashed by lies and by political impotence to do anything about it, and Washington’s vassals in Europe, UK, Canada, Australia, and Japan had to pretend that this policy of international murder was “bringing freedom and democracy.”

    The crazed filth that controls US foreign policy is capable of defending US hegemony with nuclear weapons. The neoconsevatives must be removed from power, arrested, and put on international trial for their horrendous war crimes before they defend their hegemony with Armageddon.

    Neoconservatives and their allies in the military/security complex make audacious use of false flag attacks. These evil people are capable of orchestrating a false flag attack that propells the US and Russia to war.

    The neocons are also capable of plotting Putin’s assassination. The crazed John McCain, whom idiotic Arizonians keep returning to the US Senate, has publicly called for Putin’s death, as have other former federal officials, such as former CIA official Herbert E. Meyer, who publicly called for Putin’s removal “wih a bullet hole in the back of his head.” I am confident that the neoconservatives are plotting Putin’s assassination with their Chechen terrorist friends. Unlike the US president, Putin often presents himself in open situations.

    *  *  *

    Here is William Engdahl’s superb statement from the New Eastern Outlook, October 15, 2015.  It is clear that the neoconservatives are not sufficiently realistic to accept this change in the power balance and will resist it to the point of war.

    Putin is Defeating More than ISIS in Syria — William Engdahl

    Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin, a little more than a year ago, in July 2014 were the focus of attention in Europe and North America, accused, without a shred of forensic evidence, of shooting down an unarmed civilian Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine. The Russians were deemed out to restore the Soviet Union with their agreement to the popular referendum of Crimean citizens to annex into the Russian Federation and not Ukraine. Western sanctions were being thrown at Russia by both Washington and the EU. People spoke of a new Cold War. Today the picture is changing, and profoundly. It is Washington that is on the defensive, exposed for the criminal actions it has been doing in Syria and across the Middle East, including creating the recent asylum crisis in Germany and large parts of the EU.

     

    As a student of international politics and economics for most of my adult life, I must say the emotional restraint that Vladimir Putin and the Russian government have shown against tasteless ad hominem attacks, from people such as Hillary Clinton who likened Putin to Adolf Hitler, is remarkable. But more than restraint is required to bring our world from the brink or some might say, the onset of a World War III. Brilliant and directed action is essential. Here something extraordinary has taken place in the very few days since President Vladimir Putin’s September 28, UNGA speech in New York.

     

    What he said . . .

     

    What Putin said to the UN General Assembly must be noted to put what he and Russia did in the days immediately following into clear focus. First of all he made clear what the international law behind the UN Charter means and that Russia is scrupulously abiding by the Charter in actions in Syria. Russia, unlike the US, has been formally asked by the legitimate Syrian government to aid its war against terror.

     

    To the UN delegates and heads of state Putin stated, “The decisions debated within the UN are either taken in the form of resolutions or not. As diplomats say, they either pass or they don’t. Any action taken by circumventing this procedure is illegitimate and constitutes a violation of the UN Charter and contemporary international law.”

     

    He continued, “We all know that after the end of the Cold War the world was left with one center of dominance, and those who found themselves at the top of the pyramid were tempted to think that, since they are so powerful and exceptional, they know best what needs to be done and thus they don’t need to reckon with the UN, which, instead of rubber-stamping the decisions they need, often stands in their way.”

     

    Putin followed this with a clear message to Washington and NATO governments on the subject of national sovereignty, something anathema to many who embrace the Nirvana supposed to come from globalization, homogenization of all to one level: “What is the meaning of state sovereignty, the term which has been mentioned by our colleagues here?” Putin rhetorically asked. “It basically means freedom, every person and every state being free to choose their future. By the way, this brings us to the issue of the so-called legitimacy of state authorities. You shouldn’t play with words and manipulate them. In international law, international affairs, every term has to be clearly defined, transparent and interpreted the same way by one and all.”

     

    Putin added, “We are all different, and we should respect that. Nations shouldn’t be forced to all conform to the same development model that somebody has declared the only appropriate one. We should all remember the lessons of the past. For example, we remember examples from our Soviet past, when the Soviet Union exported social experiments, pushing for changes in other countries for ideological reasons, and this often led to tragic consequences and caused degradation instead of progress.”

     

    Those few words succinctly point to what is fundamentally wrong in the international order today. Nations, above all the one proclaiming herself Sole Superpower, Infallible Hegemon, the USA, have arrogantly moved after the collapse of the main adversary, the Soviet Union in 1990, to create what can only be called a global totalitarian empire, what G.H.W. Bush in his September 11, 1991 address to Congress called a New World Order. I believe with conviction that borders do matter, that respect for different cultures, different historical experiences is essential in a world of peace. That is as much true with nations as with individual human beings. We seem to have forgotten that simple notion amid all the wars of the past decades. Vladimir Putin reminds us.

     

    Then the Russian president goes to the heart of the matter. He lays bare the true activities of the Obama Administration in Syria and the Middle East in arming and training “moderate” Islamist terrorists to attack Washington’s bête noire, Syria’s duly-elected and recently re-elected President, Bashar al Assad.

     

    Putin states, “instead of learning from other people’s mistakes, some prefer to repeat them and continue to export revolutions, only now these are “democratic” revolutions. Just look at the situation in the Middle East and Northern Africa…problems have been piling up for a long time in this region, and people there wanted change. But what was the actual outcome? Instead of bringing about reforms, aggressive intervention rashly destroyed government institutions and the local way of life. Instead of democracy and progress, there is now violence, poverty, social disasters and total disregard for human rights, including even the right to life.”

     

    Then in a remark addressed to Washington and their NGO Color Revolutions known as the Arab Spring, Putin pointedly asks, “I’m urged to ask those who created this situation: do you at least realize now what you’ve done?“

     

    Putin, without naming it, addresses the US and NATO role in creating ISIS, noting with precision the curious anomaly that the sophisticated new US Treasury unit to conduct financial sanctions against terrorist organizations, has utterly ignored the funding sources of ISIS, their oil sales facilitated by the Turkish President’s own family to name just one. The Russian President stated, “…the Islamic State itself did not come out of nowhere. It was initially developed as a weapon against undesirable secular regimes. Having established control over parts of Syria and Iraq, Islamic State now aggressively expands into other regions. It seeks dominance in the Muslim world and beyond…The situation is extremely dangerous. In these circumstances, it is hypocritical and irresponsible to make declarations about the threat of terrorism and at the same time turn a blind eye to the channels used to finance and support terrorists, including revenues from drug trafficking, the illegal oil trade and the arms trade.

     

    And what Putin is doing . . .

     

    Russia in the last weeks has completely out-maneuvered the diabolical, and they are diabolical, agenda of the Obama Administration not only in Syria but also in the entire Middle East and now in the EU with unleashing the flood of refugees. He openly reached out to invite Obama in their New York September 30 meeting to cooperate together in defeating ISIS. Obama stubbornly insisted that first Assad must go, despite the fact that Christine Wormuth, the Pentagon Undersecretary responsible for the Syrian war, confirmed Russian statements about Assad’s essential role today in any defeat of ISIS. She told the US Senate that Assad’s military “still has considerable strength,” adding, “it’s still the most powerful military force on the ground. The assessment right now is the regime is not in imminent danger of falling.”

     

    Now come the howls of protest from neo-con warhawks, like the ever-ready-for-war Senator John McCain, chairman of the NGO International Republican Institute of the democratic revolution exporting US-backed NGO, National Endowment for Democracy. Or we hear flaccid protests from President Obama. This is because Washington finds itself deeply exposed to the light of world scrutiny for backing terrorists in Syria against a duly-elected state leader and government. The US warhawks accuse Russia of hitting “the moderate opposition” or civilians.

     

    Emperor’s New Clothes . . .

     

    Russia’s Putin is playing the role ever so elegantly, even gracefully, of the small boy in the Hans Christian Anderson classic fairy tale from 1837, The Emperor’s New Clothes. The boy stands with his mother amid thousands of other villagers in the crowd outside the vain Emperor’s palace balcony, where the disassociated king struts around the balcony naked, thinking he is wearing a magnificent new suit of clothes. The boy shouts, to the embarrassment of all servile citizens who pretend his clothes are magnificent, “Mother, look the Emperor has no clothes!”

     

    What do I mean? In the first four days of precision bombing of select sites in Syria Russian advanced fighter jets firing Kh-29L air-to-surface laser-guided missiles that strike targets with a precision less than two meters, managed to destroy key ISIS command centers, munitions depots and vital infrastructure. According to the Russian Defense Ministry official reports, with photos, Su-34 bombers attacked an ISIS special training camp and munition depot near Al-Tabqa, Ar-Raqqah province,” a critical ISIS outpost captured in August, 2014 after bitter battles. “As a result of explosion of the munition depot, the terrorist training camp was completely destroyed,” the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman stated. Russian Su-25 jets have also attacked training camp of the Islamic State in the Syrian Idlib, destroying a workshop for explosive belt production.

     

    Moscow states its air force has “engaged 3 munition, fuel and armament depots of the illegal armed groups. KAB-500 aviation bombs detonated the munition and armament,” and they used BETAB-500 concrete-piercing bombs to destroy four command posts of the ISIS armed groups. The facilities with terrorists are completely destroyed,” the Moscow spokesman added. Russia’s aviation conducted 20 flights and carried out 10 airstrikes against facilities of the Islamic State (ISIL) terrorist group in the past 24 hours. Then Moscow announced they had also hit key outposts of other terror groups such as the Al Qaeda-franchise, Al Nusra Front.

     

    These are the so-called “moderates” that McCain and the Washington warhawks are weeping over. Washington has been creating what it calls the “New” Syrian Forces (NSF), which they claim is composed of “moderate” terrorists, euphemistically referred to as “rebels.” Imagine how recruitment talks go: CIA recruiter, “Mohammed, are you a moderate Islamist? Why yes, my dear CIA trainer. Please take me, train me and arm me in the fight against the ruthless dictator Assad and against ISIS. I’m on your side. You can trust me…”

     

    In late September it was reported that Major Anas Obaid a.k.a. Abu Zayd, on completing his CIA training in Turkey, defected from the train-and-equip program to join Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria) immediately on entering Syria. Incredibly, US officials admit that Washington does not track or exercise command-and-control of its Jihadist proxies once they enter Syria. Abu Zayd’s defection after being trained in advanced warfare techniques by the US, is typical. Other elements of the New Syrian Forces directly handed all their weapons to Nusra upon entering Syrian territory at the town of Atareb at the end of September.

     

    These latest “moderate” defections to join Al Qaeda’s Al-Nusra Front affiliate in Syria come less than two weeks after Gen. Lloyd Austin III, head of the US “war against ISIS,” during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Syria, admitted that the US military program that intended produce 5,400 trained fighters a year has so far only resulted in “four or five” who still remain on the ground and active in combat. The rest have all joined ISIS or Al Nusra Front of Al Qaeda, the US-backed “moderate opposition” to ISIL.

     

    What the successful Russian precision airstrikes have done is expose in all its ugly nakedness the Emperor’s New Clothes. For more than one year, the Obama Administration claims it has committed the most awesome airpower on the planet allegedly to destroy ISIS, which has been described as a “ragtag band of militants running around the desert in basketball shoes.”

     

    Curiously, until last week, ISIS has only expanded its web of power in Syria and Iraq under US bombings. Now, within 72 hours, the Russian military, launching only 60 bombing runs in 72 hours, hitting more than 50 ISIS targets, has brought the ISIS combatants into what the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman described as a state of “panic” where more than 600 have deserted. And, according to Moscow, the fight is only beginning, expected, they say to last three to four months.

     

    The Obama Administration has been training terrorists of Al Qaeda/Al Nusra, allegedly to fight ISIS, much like the disgraced General David Petraeus did in Iraq and Afghanistan along with Obama’s special ISIS coordinator, the just-resigned General John Allen. The US-trained “moderate” terrorists were being readied, it’s now clear to all the world, in reality, to battle Assad and open the way for a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Syria and a real plunge into darkness for the world if that were to succeed.

     

    Now, with the truth in the open, exposed by the remarkable successes of a handful of Russian fighter jets in four days against ISIS, accomplishing more than the US “anti-ISIS coalition” in more than one year, it is clear to the world Washington has been playing a dirty double game.

     

    Now that hypocritical Obama Administration mask has been blown off with the precision hit of a Russian laser-guided Kh-29L missile. As German and other EU governments have admitted, much to the strong objection of Washington, Putin has demonstrated that Russia is the essential part of any peaceful resolution of the Syria war. That in turn has a huge bearing on the current asylum-seeker crisis in Germany and other parts of the EU. It also has a huge bearing on prospects for world peace. The Norwegian Parliament’s Nobel Peace Prize Committee, rather than consider John Kerry, might consider Vladimir Putin and Russian Defense Minister, Sergey Shoygu, for the prize.

  • China Vs. United States: A Visual Tale Of Two Economies

    The United States has had the world’s largest economy for about 140 years, and it roughly accounts for 22% of global GDP. However, in recent times China has overtaken the US by at least one measure of total economic strength, which is GDP based on purchasing power parity (PPP).

    Either way you slice it, the economies are the two strongest globally in absolute terms.

    That’s where the similarities end. While comparable in total size, the makeup of each economy is totally different. United States is a sophisticated and highly diversified economy that is based on services, finance, and consumption from the middle class. China has similar aspirations in the future, but right now it is resource-intensive growth engine making the transition from a manufacturing hub to a consumer-driven economy.

    Today’s infographic looks at the economic differences between each country: total reserves, foreign direct investment, demographics, imports, exports, GDP per capita, energy, education, and much more.

     

    For a larger version of this infographic, click here.

    Original graphic by: SCMP

  • Dollar Moves Shake The World: "Federal Reserve Could Start A Currency War"

    Submitted by Mac Slavo via SHTFPlan.com,

    There is a war, a currency war, and the war is, ultimately, on us.

    In many respects, Americans have fallen far, and hard, from the liberty they once had.

    Rather than living under a sound currency, modern Americans live under an economic despotism. There are monopoly men who tightly control the money, and are all the more insidious in their subtlety, and quietness in the shadows.

    Today, things are so bad that they face economic enslavement and a rapid theft of their wealth through the debasement of the dollar’s value. Not only is the destruction of the dollar systematic and planned, but it is designed to leave Americans holding the bag. The money passes round and round, but it trickles down from the big banks, who are loaned the money free at zero percent interest by the Federal Reserve under its QE program, created to “fix” the 2008 economic crisis that nearly brought the world to its knees.

    Now, literally any action at all – especially including no action – by the Federal Reserve has a direct impact on the value of the U.S. dollar, and greatly determines the course of world events, and especially whether or not average people can pay the bills.

    According to The Street, it is an all out currency war that will have direct impact on budgets large and small:

    The stock market stays high because the Fed is not going to raise short-term interest rates. The Fed is not going to raise short-term interest rates because the U.S. inflation rate remains low. The inflation rate remains low because the value of the U.S. dollar is high. The dollar is strong because world commodity prices have fallen and have “driven up the dollar and held down U.S. import prices.”

     

    According to the Financial Times, the last three items mentioned are interrelated. Furthermore, it now seems as if momentum is picking up within the Federal Reserve to postpone any increases in it policy rate for an extended period of time. That inaction may not be the best decision in terms of the relative strength of currencies.

     

    […]

     

    According to this argument, the stock market should begin to fall because the Fed is raising interest rates

    The key connector here seems to be the relationship between the value of the U.S. dollar and any action that the Federal Reserve might take on raising short-term interest rates.

    The Fed is the only thing propping the stock market up – when, or if, it moves, there will be a crash, that will call bad debtors and impoverish entire social security systems. But things aren’t much better if they stay still, either. According to The Street:

    [I]f the Fed does not raise its target policy rate, other countries will have to take further action to ease up further on their economic policies. The European Central Bank will extend its quantitative easing. The Bank of England will not raise its policy rates.

     

    The Peoples Bank of China will attempt to achieve further ease so that the renminbi will fall against the U.S. dollar.

     

    In effect, this looks like a currency war, and the world cannot afford a currency war at this time.

     

    The Federal Reserve needs to take these things into consideration in making their policy decisions. They are, after all, the global reserve currency and they cannot avoid the responsibilities that go along with this position.

     

    […]

     

    If the Federal Reserve does not raise interest rates, the value of the US dollar will fall and this will have an impact on the commodity prices of emerging nations, causing import prices and U.S. inflation to rise.

    How did the Federal Reserve get so much power over the American economy – and that of the world’s? There have been many stages of the theft which are too numerous to list, but which are generally well known to those familiar with its odious origins as a design by the banking cartel.

    Started under conspiratorial circumstances back in 1913, the Federal Reserve has established itself as a private central bank for the country, though it is not part of the U.S. government. Since its inception, the Fed has driven the dollar down to just a fraction of its original value.

    shrinking-dollar

    Since the U.S. went off the gold standard under the shadow presidency of Henry Kissinger in 1971, the dollar has plummeted in status to a worthless piece of paper. Meanwhile, however, the dollar was the world reserve currency, and was the currency that traded for oil during a time of supply crisis, it has retained an accepted – and therefore valued – status so long as America dominated foreign policy (in part by managing more and more wars) and maintained its status.

    The banksters operated the monetary and financial system that led the world by trading in petrodollars, and in turn, forced oil rich nations like Saudi Arabia to invest on Wall Street, as well as reluctant powers like Japan, who were forced to open up their markets to foreign investment during the oil crisis.

    But now world power is shifting. The dollar is dying, and the Federal Reserve has become a leviathon that is too big to die, and too bloated to be effective. In its enormous capacity, it is facilitating the theft of TRILLIONS and TRILLIONS of dollars from the American people:

     

    Americans face a further decline in their standard of living in all cases, market-wide conditions that the Fed alone can determine. Their wealth is rapidly evaporating.

    If the Fed raises rates, the market will crash. On the otherhand, if it doesn’t raise rates, and continues indefinitely on its course of quantative easing, investors, middle class and working families, businesses, as well as pensions, benefit programs and insurance policies will also die a slow painful economic death.

    Already things are hovering dangerously on edge, and squeezing in tightly.

  • Mapping And Cataloguing The History Of ISIS-Inspired Attacks Across The Globe

    While there’s no doubt that the endless stream of propaganda emanating from The Kremlin is to a certain extent just Moscow basking in the glory of Russia’s triumphant return to the world stage in the name of eradicating terrorism and thus should be taken with a grain of salt, the near daily videos released by the Russian Defense Ministry clearly demonstrate that Russian warplanes are destroying something in Syria. 

    If even a portion of the bombing raids Moscow is broadcasting to the world on YouTube in fact depict successful strikes on ISIS positions, then it’s likely just a matter of time before the group fades into the annals of history. 

    On Friday alone, Russia claims to have destroyed 11 ISIS “command centers”. Here’s Sputnik:

    The Russian Aerospace Force has conducted 36 sorties over the past 24 hours, hitting 49 ISIL targets in the Syrian provinces of Hama, Idlib, Latakia, Damascus, Aleppo, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday. As a result, 11 ISIL command and operation centers have been destroyed.

     

    According to the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman, on October 16 the Russian aviation launched strikes on underground hideouts, operation centers, home-made weapon production plants, firing positions, artillery, munition warehouses, ammunition and material supplies of the Islamic State jihadist group.


    And while it might be too early to write the ISIS obituary, the end seems to be nigh which is why we thought it a good time to offer the following “career” retrospective on the violence (false flag or no) the group has either caused or inspired across the globe. 

    Bear in mind, this is not a glorification of the group’s “achievements.”

    In fact, it’s the opposite. This is what happens when the West and its regional allies in the Mid-East attempt to destabilize governments by supporting extremists.

    Via The New York Times:

     

    Aug 20, 2015

    Egypt An ISIS affiliate claimed responsibility for bombing a branch of the Egyptian security agency.

    Aug 12

    Egypt An ISIS affiliate said it had beheaded a Croatian expatriate worker because of Croatia’s “participation in the war against the Islamic State.”

    Aug 10

    New Jersey A New Jersey man was arrested for allegedly trying to organize support for ISIS. 

    Aug 8

    Mississippi A newlywed Mississippi couple were arrested on charges that they tried to travel abroad to join ISIS.

    Aug 7

    Saudi Arabia ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a mosque that killed at least 15 people, including 12 members of a Saudi police force.

    July 29

    New York A man from Buffalo was arrested and charged with trying to join ISIS.

    July 28

    Florida A Florida man was charged with planning to bomb a public beach in Key West to show his support for ISIS.

    July 22

    Italy The Italian police arrested two men accused of plotting attacks on national landmarks in Italy and of posting threatening messages online in support of the Islamic State. 

    July 21

    United Kingdom A man who was allegedly planning on traveling to Syria to join ISIS was charged with plotting to run over an American serviceman stationed in Britain and then killing him with a knife. 

    July 20

    Turkey A Turkish citizen believed to have had ties to ISIS killed at least 32 people at a cultural center. 

    July 19

    Saudi Arabia The Saudi Interior Ministry announced that security forces had arrested more than 400 people believed to be connected to ISIS over the past few months. 

    July 16

    Egypt In what appeared to be the first attack on a naval vessel claimed by Sinai Province, the ISIS affiliate said it destroyed an Egyptian naval vessel and posted photographs on social media of a missile exploding in a ball of fire as it slammed into the vessel. 

    July 12

    Kosovo Following exhortations by ISIS to poison Kosovo’s food and water supplies, five people were in custody, suspected of a plot to contaminate the water supply in the capital, Pristina.

    July 11

    Egypt ISIS claimed responsibility for an explosion outside the Italian Consulate’s compound in downtown Cairo that killed one person. 

    July 10

    Turkey In early-morning raids in Istanbul and Sanliurfa Province, Turkish police seized automatic rifles, large ammunition packs and military uniforms and arrested 21 suspected ISIS members. 

    July 4

    Boston The son of a Boston police captain, described as mentally ill and devoted to the Islamic State, was arrested for allegedly plotting a series of deadly attacks. 

    July 1

    Egypt Militants affiliated with the Islamic State killed dozens of soldiers in simultaneous attacks on Egyptian Army checkpoints and other security installations in Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula. 

    June 26

    Tunisia At least one gunman disguised as a vacationer attacked a Mediterranean resort, killing at least 38 people at a beachfront hotel — most of them British tourists — before he was shot to death by the security forces. 

    June 26

    Kuwait A suicide bomber detonated explosives at one of the largest Shiite mosques in Kuwait City during Friday Prayer. 

    June 17

    Yemen An ISIS branch claimed responsibilty for a series of car bombings in Sana, the capital, that killed at least 30 people. 

    June 13

    New York A college student in Queens was charged with conspiring to support a foreign terrorist organization after an investigation found he was planning to attack various New York City landmarks on behalf of ISIS.

    June 11

    Massachusetts Two men were charged in Boston with conspiring to help ISIS. A third man was fatally shot the previous week by law enforcement officials who said he had threatened them with a large knife. 

    June 9

    Egypt ISIS’s Sinai province claimed responsibility for firing rockets toward an air base used by an international peacekeeping force.

    June 3

    Afghanistan ISIS is suspected of beheading 10 members of the Taliban.

    Full report from New York Times 

  • Who Will Be Blamed?

    It was one week ago, when we read with great curiosity (and commented on) a research report drafted by none other than the NY Fed called “The Liquidity Mirage“, which was not only a confirmation of our article from July explaining “How High Frequency Traders Broke, And Manipulated, The Treasury Market On October 15, 2014“, but a validation of all our work since we first wrote our inaugural post on the dangers from HFT on that long ago April 10, 2009: “The Incredibly Shrinking Market Liquidity, Or The Upcoming Black Swan Of Black Swans” (for those who have not read it, it may be an interesting read: over 6 years ago, when virtually nobody had head of HFT, it predicted just how the market would break under the weight of the fake liquidity provided by these very “liquidity provider” as it did for the first, and certainly not last, time on August 24).

    None of the authors’ conclusions were surprising: we have been repeating for years that what HFTs do is create a broken market topology at the micro level, where the noise of an infinite of HFTs algos becomes the signal in itself, and whenever a major countertrend move happens, the market simply shuts down as these “New Normal” liquidity providers are simply finely-tuned momentum creation and frontrunning machines, and most certainly not market makers.

    What was curious is that the NY Fed went one step further than the Joint Staff Report released in July of this year, which stopped just short of blaming HFTs for the October 2014 Treasury flash crash. The NY Fed report did not have such qualms and openly accused HFTs of generating the conditions that were necessary and sufficient for the October 15 2014 flash crash (and every other one both before and since following the implementation of Reg NMS). From the report:

    This situation, which we term the liquidity mirage, arises because market participants respond not only to news about fundamentals but also market activity itself. This can lead to order placement and execution in one market affecting liquidity provision across related markets almost instantly. The modern market structure therefore implicitly involves a trade-off between increased price efficiency and heightened uncertainty about the overall available liquidity in the market.”

    Our take:

    Goodbye to “fat fingers” being blamed for flash crashes, and welcome to the Heisenberg uncertainty market: you can have your 1 millicent bid/ask spreads… but you can’t have any real market depth at the same time.

    Which then leads to the logical and final question: why do this? Why admit (not only that we have been right all along), but that HFTs – far from a benign influence on the market – are a latent threat one which may lead at any given moment, to a market crash so profound the only recourse is “circuit breaking” the entire market?

    Our conclusion from a week ago is what we have said for the past 6 years: HFTs have become the perfectly willing and eager scapegoat, one which will be blamed for everything that is wrong when the next crash finally comes.

    In other words, from market predator HFTs are now one millisecond – and market crash – away from become regulatory prey. Why? Simple: so these culprit which have broken the market at the micro level deflect all attention from those responsible for breaking the market at the macro level: the central banks. This was our conclusion:

    In the aftermath of this report, one can be sure that the days of current market structure are numbered, and that the scene is now set to throw the book at the HFTs. The only thing that is missing is the appropriate catalyst. And what is better than an orchestrated, or ad hoc, market crash, one which exonerates the real culprit for the stock market bubble – the Federal Reserve – and unleashes populist anger by millions of investors who lose their net worth in an HFT instant, aimed squarely at the HFTs, and the 20-year-old math PhDs behind them?

    A few days ago, in his latest article “Invisible Threads: Matrix Edition“, Epsilon Theory’s Ben Hunt confirmed just that. To wit:

    you can bet that whenever an earthquake like this happens, especially when it’s triggered by two invisible tectonic plates like put gamma and call gamma and then cascades through arcane geologies like options expiration dates and ETF pricing software, both the media and self-interested parties will begin a mad rush to find someone or something a tad bit more obvious to blame. This has to be presented in soundbite fashion, and there’s no need for a rifle when a shotgun will make more noise and scatters over more potential villains. So you end up getting every investment process that uses a computer – from high frequency trading to risk parity allocations to derivative hedges – all lumped together in one big shotgun blast.…you use computers and math, so you must be part of the problem.

    Hunt may disagree with this blunt assessment, and he may revolt at the “prejudice” against the algos, but what he is missing is the far bigger question: why? Why is the “computer trading” crowd is being primed for the biggest fall ever. The answer is simple – someone has to be held accountable.

    Whether it is a scapegoat why Leon Cooperman crashed in August and blamed Ray Dalio’s “risk parity” trade, or why Ray Dalio indirectly blamed the Fed when “smart beta” suddenly became very dumb, or why the Fed, which will have seen trillions in fake paper wealth evaporate overnight, will need to deflect the anger of a few billion furious investors worldwide out for blood, someone will need to take the fall.

    That someone will be those who use “computers and math” to trade, or – as we have shown it repeatedly in the past for “soundbite” reasons – look like this:

    And best of all, you can’t arrest a vacuum tube, or lynch an algo: the market can wipe itself out… and nobody will go to prison.

    Which means that the only question is when will this scapegoating kangaroo court of diversion begin; answering that question will also answer when the next, and most epic yet, market crash will take place.

  • The Humiliation Is Complete: ISIS Fighters Cut Off Beards And Run Away As Russia, Iran Close In

    The thing about ragtag groups of militants that display a penchant for extreme violence is that in the absence of serious opposition, they can rack up gains at an alarming pace. 

    Of course there are plenty of (possibly credible) theories out there, which suggest that some of what you see in the videos released by ISIS is for show and we won’t endeavor to assess the degree to which the group’s brutality is real versus staged, but one thing is clear: regardless of who is funding, training, and/or supporting them, there are obviously fighters on the ground in the Mid-East waving the ISIS flag and committing atrocities in its name. 

    That works well when it comes to destabilizing fragile states that are already beset with sectarian bickering on the way to claiming large swaths of territory from a defenseless citizenry.

    But you can’t intimidate a modern fighter jet by waving around a sword and if you’re a newbie on the Mid-East militant scene, you can’t scare a three decade veteran by beheading a couple of people, which is why if you’re ISIS, the combination of the Russian Air Force and Hezbollah ground troops is absolutely terrifying.

    As we documented earlier today, Hezbollah and Iranian troops are advancing on Aleppo and Moscow is backing the offensive from the sky which means that the hodgepodge of anti-regime forces that control Syria’s largest city will almost (and we say “almost” because there are no sure things in war) certainly be routed in a matter of weeks if not days, which would effectively serve to restore the Assad regime in Syria.

    After that, the Russian bear and Qasem Soleimani will turn their eyes to the East of the country and at that point, it is game over for ISIS. 

    Apparently all of the above isn’t completely lost on al-Nusra and Islamic State fighters because if you believe the Russian media (and we’re not saying you should), Sunni extremists are now shaving off their beards and running for their lives. Here’s Sputnik:

    Hundreds of ISIL fighters are fleeing Syria for Turkey, as Russia’s Defense Ministry previously said, and reports are popping up that they are leaving their beards behind.

    Now obviously, these are just pictures of hair on the ground with razors, so that shouldn’t be interpreted as anything that even approximates definitive evidence of a full-on ISIS retreat but put yourself in the following situation for a moment. You’re a Sunni extremist and your regional and Western backers have just abandoned you. You are now under siege by the Russian Air Force. If you survive the air strikes you will soon have to come face to face with the fiercest, most experienced Shiite militia on the planet and if you somehow manage to survive that, well then you have to fight the Quds Force (“how do you shoot the devil in the back?).

    What would you do? 

    *  *  *

    We close with the perfect video clip analogy. The US is in the blue shirt, ISIS is in the red, star-spangled jumpsuit, and Russia, well… Russia is the bear.

    US to ISIS: “No, no, you can’t quit now, we just started. You got to give these people a show man“…

  • Mainstream Media Finally Admits Syrian Conflict Is US-Russia Proxy War

    Submitted by Nick Bernabe via TheAntiMedia.org,

    The Syrian civil war rages on, displacing as many as 11 million people and killing nearly 300,000 as the conflict reaches into its fifth year. Syria, a longtime ally of Russia, has been receiving material support from the Eastern giant since the 1940s. As Anti-Media reported last month,

    “Russia’s support for Syria dates back to 1946, when Russia helped consolidate Syria’s independence. The two countries mutually came to a diplomatic and military agreement in the form of a non-aggression pact, which was enacted on April 20, 1950. In this pact, Russia promised support to the newly-created Syria by helping to develop its military and by providing tactical support. Essentially, Russia and Syria have been cooperating for decades both militarily and economically, with Russia maintaining a naval base on the Syrian Mediterranean.”

    Meanwhile, the United States also has its own designs on the region. In 2013, President Obama, along with John Kerry, attempted to stir up enough public support for a direct regime change in Syria, tugging at the American public’s freedom-spreading, democracy-loving heart strings. This attempt at a public overthrow of the Syrian government failed, with Americans responding with the massive #NoWarWithSyria protest movement. However, the drive for regime change didn’t end just because the government stopped talking about it. The CIA continued to arm basically any group willing to fight against the Assad government. The Pentagon also tried (but failed), to manufacture an American-allied army out of so-called moderate Syrian rebels at the cost of $500 million — who, on paper would oppose ISIS, but in reality work to oust Assad.

    Russia, who has been a Syrian ally for decades, has remained steadfast in its support of the Assad regime — openly supplying weapons, aircraft, tanks, intelligence, and human resources in the form of military advisers. Russia also operates a naval base on Syria’s Mediterranean shores.

    By any measure, this is a textbook proxy war between military powers vying to maintain their own economic interests in the Middle East. However, five years later, it seems the corporate media is finally “realizing” this shadow war for what it is. Over the weekend, The Washington Post ran an article titled, Did U.S. weapons supplied to Syrian rebels draw Russia into the conflict?The article goes on to state:

    “American antitank missiles supplied to Syrian rebels are playing an unexpectedly prominent role in shaping the Syrian battlefield, giving the conflict the semblance of a proxy war between the United States and Russia, despite President Obama’s express desire to avoid one.”

    Then, on Monday, The New York Times published a piece titled “U.S. Weaponry Is Turning Syria Into a Proxy War With Russia.” The article admits that Syrian rebels are receiving abundant amounts of arms from the CIA, which are being used to fight the Russian-backed advance of Assad’s troops as he tries to take back Syria from the various rebel, Islamist, and terror groups that have overtaken much of countryside.

    Understanding that the U.S. public has been war-weary since the Iraq War debacle, Obama was forced to change his rhetoric from regime change in Syria to fighting terrorism in the form of ISIS. The ample fear-mongering provided by ISIS brutes gave Obama the public support he needed to renew America’s seemingly permanent war in Iraq while giving him a back-door into Syria. The U.S. is currently bombing both countries, joined by a coalition of 62 partners, with Russia now officially throwing its hat into the bombing bonanza ring.

    What should be clear is that the Unites States’ priority in the region is not to defeat ISIS, but instead to overthrow Assad. Clever rhetoric disguises America’s covert intentions, but the actions — and subsequent paper trail — paint a very clear picture of what is truly happening in Syria. WikiLeaks gives us some insight into the West’s designs on Syria, providing a window into the longtime campaign to oust Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. A new book that analyzes diplomatic cables leaked by Chelsea Manning, The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to U.S. Empire, reveals the U.S. had a longstanding regime change policy in Syria that dates back long before the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that rocked the Middle East.

    “A December 13, 2006 cable, ‘Influencing the SARG [Syrian government] in the End of 2006,’ indicates that, as far back as 2006 – five years before Arab Spring protests in Syria – destabilizing the Syrian government was a central motivation of U.S. policy. The author of the cable was William Roebuck, at the time chargé d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Damascus. The cable outlines strategies for destabilizing the Syrian government. In his summary of the cable, Roebuck wrote:

     

    ‘We believe Bashar’s weaknesses are in how he chooses to react to looming issues, both perceived and real, such as the conflict between economic reform steps (however limited) and entrenched, corrupt forces, the Kurdish question, and the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists. This cable summarizes our assessment of these vulnerabilities and suggests that there may be actions, statements, and signals that the USG can send that will improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising.’”

    These cables reflect an even older plan, which was detailed by Dan Sanchez at AntiWar.com:

    “A veritable ‘carpe chaos’ manifesto was written in 1996 for a Washington think tank by David Wurmser, an Israel-first neocon (but I repeat myself) who would later play a key role in the Bush administration’s drive to the Iraq War: advising Dick Cheney in the Vice President’s Office, assisting John Bolton at the State Department, and fabricating fanciful ‘connections’ between Iraq and Al Qaeda at the Department of Defense.

     

    In ‘Coping with Crumbling States: A Western and Israeli Balance of Power Strategy for the Levant,’ Wurmser made a case for ‘limiting and expediting the chaotic collapse’ of the Baathist governments in Iraq and Syria.”

    Declassified documents from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) suggest that ISIS is simply a convenient  — and dare we say welcome — side effect of the West’s destabilization agenda in Syria and Iraq.

    proxy war

    View the entire DIA document on Syria and ISIS on Judicial Watch.

    Sanchez continued to describe this plan:

    “Then, after the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’ of popular uprisings reached Syria, ‘The Redirection’ went into overdrive. The US-led regional coalition (Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc.) has been strenuously trying to overthrow the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad since at least 2012 by heavily sponsoring an insurgency led by jihadists including Al Qaeda and ISIS.”

    The Wurmser plan seems to be materializing before our eyes in Syria.

     

    What is hidden beneath all of this information is why the United States wants Assad ousted from power so badly. The most obvious excuse was his open abuse of human rights. And while this was the exact story-line given to the U.S. public from our “friends” in the media, the rhetoric comes off as empty at best, considering the U.S. actively supported Saudi Arabia’s brutal crackdown of Arab Spring protesters. We learned during the Arab Spring that our Gulf State allies were allowed to kill as many pro-democracy protesters as they wanted (hell, we even supplied them with the weapons to do it), while any non-allies were not. Muammar Gaddafi learned this the hard way. Meanwhile, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, a Saudi national, is awaiting execution by crucifixion for the crime of protesting the Saudi government during the Arab Spring. But crucifying a guy for protesting is fine with the United States because Saudi Arabia is one of our closest allies in the region. Repression is alright as long as it’s our guys doing it, right?

    With the mythical human rights argument out of the way, the following question emerges: What is the true agenda causing the U.S.-Russia proxy war in Syria? In short, it is resources, power, and hegemony.

    While nearly every war the U.S. involves itself in is sold as a humanitarian effort to either stop terrorism or spread democracy, studies show that countries with resources such as fossil fuels are over 100 times more likely to see foreign involvement in their internal conflicts. America is often the foreign force that arms and finances different sides of these conflicts. Coincidentally, in Syria, so is Russia.

    While this geopolitical scenario is rather complex, it makes perfect sense. The U.S. has been trying to contain Russia since World War II, and those policies of containment are still in effect today. America enjoys its role as the only remaining superpower and has an interest in maintaining that hegemony. To make things perfectly clear, this is the main driver behind the Syrian Civil War.

    Russia has somewhat of a monopoly over the gas supplies needed for Europe’s economy to operate. This gives Russia a semi-permanent economic base to fund its foreign policy agenda and maintain its own geopolitical strategy. The U.S. and its NATO allies want to end that monopoly, but in order to accomplish that, a pipeline must be built from the Sunni Gulf states, starting in Qatar, going through Jordan and Syria, and making its way into Turkey. From Turkey, the gas supplies will be distributed into Europe, effectively undermining Russia’s current arrangement with the European Union and placing its economy in a state of uncertainty. This would eventually lead to a flight of investment away from Russia and subsequently permanently damage what’s left of Russia’s resource-dependent economy. This explains Russia’s steadfast support for the Assad government. As The Guardian documented back in 2013:

    “Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar and Turkey that run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad’s rationale was ‘to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.’”

     

    Note the purple line which traces the proposed Qatar-Turkey natural gas pipeline and note that all of the countries highlighted in red are part of a new coalition hastily put together after Turkey finally (in exchange for NATO’s acquiescence on Erdogan’s politically-motivated war with the PKK) agreed to allow the US to fly combat missions against ISIS targets from Incirlik. Now note which country along the purple line is not highlighted in red. That’s because Bashar al-Assad didn’t support the pipeline and now we’re seeing what happens when you’re a Mid-East strongman and you decide not to support something the US and Saudi Arabia want to get done. (Map: ZeroHedge.com)

    Note the purple line which traces the proposed Qatar-Turkey natural gas pipeline and note that all of the countries highlighted in red are part of a new coalition hastily put together after Turkey finally (in exchange for NATO’s acquiescence on Erdogan’s politically-motivated war with the PKK) agreed to allow the US to fly combat missions against ISIS targets from Incirlik. Now note which country along the purple line is not highlighted in red. That’s because Bashar al-Assad didn’t support the pipeline and now we’re seeing what happens when you’re a Mid-East strongman and you decide not to support something the US and Saudi Arabia want to get done. (Map: ZeroHedge.com)

    Mnar Muhawesh of Mint Press News describes these pipeline plays in her article, “Migrant Crisis & Syria War Fueled By Competing Gas Pipelines”:

    “Knowing Syria was a critical piece in its energy strategy, Turkey attempted to persuade Syrian President Bashar Assad to reform this Iranian pipeline and to work with the proposed Qatar-Turkey pipeline, which would ultimately satisfy Turkey and the Gulf Arab nations’ quest for dominance over gas supplies, who are the United State’s allies. But after Assad refused Turkey’s proposal, Turkey and its allies became the major architects of Syria’s civil war.”

    It’s unfortunate that it took the corporate media all these years to “discover” that the United States and Russia are fighting a geopolitical proxy war in Syria. It remains to be seen how many more years and lost lives it will take for them to also “discover” that this proxy war is being fought over resources and power. It’s a sad state of affairs when the Western media provides humanitarian cover for the U.S. and NATO to fuel a brutal civil war – which has taken the lives of nearly 300,000 people – simply to create economic advantages for NATO states and allies while undermining stability in the Middle East – creating the greatest humanitarian catastrophe since World War II. And as millions of refugees continue to pour out of Syria into Europe and abroad, the NATO-dominated public of the E.U. and U.S. remain largely ignorant to the fact their own governments helped create the refugee crisis they so abhor.

  • European Vacation "2050"

    …with your hosts: ISIS

     

     

    Source: Ben Garrison

  • The Model Minority

    Submitted by Roger Barris via Acting-Man.com,

    Ivy League: Perfect Scores not Good Enough for the “Wrong Race”

    The Economist has run a lengthy article about Asian-Americans It begins with a description of Michael Wang, who had a perfect score in his college entrance (ACT) exams, who was ranked second academically out of 1,002 students at his high school, who was part of a chorus that performed at Barack Obama’s inauguration, who came in third place in a national piano championship, who was in the top 150 in a national mathematics competition, and who was in several national debating-competition finals.  Michael was rejected by six out of the seven Ivy League schools to which he applied.  Like many other members of this “model minority,” he is no longer willing to take this quietly.

     

    michael-wang

    Michael Wang: too Asian and too perfect for the Ivy League schools. This is a typical example of modern-day socialism’s drive to allegedly “equalize opportunity”, a heading under which the incentive to make an effort to actually accomplish something in life is slowly but surely deadened among those showing the best abilities. Over time, it leads to decay in the population’s morals and intelligence, until you end up with a nation best compared to a ship of fools.

     

    Asian-Americans have suffered systematic discrimination, including as recently as World War II when 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned in camps as potential “fifth columnists” while no similar actions were taken against Americans of German or Italian ancestry.

    The article points out that the worst single incident of lynching in American history was actually directed against Chinese immigrants, when 17 were murdered in 1871.  Yet, as anyone who has walked the campuses of MIT, Caltech, Harvard or Stanford, or any other top-flight university, can attest, Asian-Americans are massively represented (44% of the recent incoming class at Caltech, which is routinely rated the number one school in the world).

    This is despite explicit discrimination which means that, as estimated by two Princeton academics, Asian-Americans need a Scholastic Aptitude Test (“SAT”) score about 140 points higher than a white candidate in order to be admitted to a private university, whereas African-Americans can have a result that is 310 points lower in order gain the same result.

     

    Americans of Japanese ancestry are loaded on a train on their way to a concentr… sorry, internment camp in WW2.

     

    And two University of Michigan researchers have produced a study which shows the difference is down to nothing more than hard work: they followed 6,000 white and Asian children from toddler through school.  They found small differences in initial cognitive abilities and the socioeconomic status of parents, but sizable gaps in effort that eventually produce large differences in academic results.

    After years of avoiding the issue, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Abigail Fisher versus the University of Texas in its next session.  Ms Fisher, who is white, is suing UT over its affirmative action policies which she claims unfairly denied her a position.  Her suit is backed by an amicus curiae brief submitted on behalf of 117 Asian-American organizations.  This follows a lawsuit by a group of Asian students against Harvard and the University of North Carolina.  Here is the gist of Harvard’s defense in this suit:

    “…a class that is diverse on multiple dimensions, including on race, transforms the educational experience of students from every background and prepares our graduates for an increasingly pluralistic world…”

    I suppose that this argument could be used to support the admission of almost anyone, including a few utter imbeciles since they too are part of our “pluralistic world,” although I think that Harvard restricts this policy to its professorial staff.

    But more importantly, what is the message that this sends for both over- and under-achieving students?  What does it teach our young about the relative merits of individual hard work versus political machinations?  And, from a strictly economic perspective, what are the implications of this for American success when we deliberately hinder investment in our most promising human capital?

    I have previously quoted Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts on this subject: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race.”  Let’s hope that he follows through in the Abigail Fisher case and that Justice Kennedy joins him, since we can reliable expect that the “Gang of Four” (Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayer and Kagan) will march in lock step to whatever nonsense Obama’s Department of Justice puts forth in defense of this indefensible practice.

     

    socialist supremes

    The four Supreme Court justices most likely to support socialist policies

  • NIRP Goes To Nippon: Japan Auctions 1 Year Paper At Most Negative Yield On Record

    Two weeks ago, on October 5 the financial punditry was dumbounded when – for the first time ever – the US Treasury sold $21 billion in 3-Month Treasury Bills at a yield of nothing, or 0.000%. And while the US had sold 1 month bills at zero yields before, this was the first time that investors were willing to fund Uncle Sam and give Jack Lew the privilege of holding their money not for 1 but 3 months without expecting anything in return.

    The subsequent weekly 3M auction this Tuesday also priced at a yield of 0.000%, leading many to ask if this is just a preview of negative interest rates coming to the US, something the Fed has been ever louder hinting at ever since the infamous negative dots on the dot plot (for our own take on whether NIRP is coming, read “Fed Opens Negative Interest Rate Pandora’s Box: What Happens Next“).

    Yet once again, when it comes to the dark hole of the zero lower bound (and beyond), Japan remains the harbinger of what is coming. “Dark hole”, because there is simply no escaping it, as Japan so vividly demonstrated back in August 2000 when, just like the US, after years of ZIRP, it tried to “telegraph” normalcy and hiked rates to a modest 25 bps, only to go right back down seven months later.

     

    What is surprising about Japan is that unlike most of Europe, which has opted to adopt a Negative Interest Rate Policy, or NIRP,  because unlike Japan or the US, it can’t push rates synthetically as negative via QE because Europe simply does not have enough sovereign paper to monetize, is that Japan whose monetary policy became a basket case years ago – for those keeping count Japan is currently on QE10…

     

    … it still hasn’t thrown in the “all-in” towel and announced negative rates.

    This may have officially changed yesterday, when in an auction that flew deep under the radar, Japan sold 1 Year (not 3 Month) Bills at the most negative yield in history, or -0.0418%, nearly doubly more negative the -0.0252% yield on the September 16 auction.

    To be sure, this may be more than just a simple bet that Japan is about to join Europe (and soon, the Fed) in unleashing negative rates. According to Tadashi Matsukawa, Tokyo-based head of fixed-income investment at PineBridge, “there appear to be inflows from overseas in Japan’s short- term securities because rates are negative in Europe and an early Fed liftoff looks unlikely in the U.S.”

    It’s not just the liftoff that is looking unlikely: another imminent catalyst that may be causing this scramble for Japanese Bills is the upcoming debt ceiling fight. As a reminder, absent a debt ceiling hike or another extension, the US will run out of “emergency” funds in the second week of November, and so it is imperative that a deal be concluded by November 3. With this looking increasingly uncertain, US bills that mature after the debt ceiling D-Day, some time around November 10, are starting to get sold off. WSJ has more:

    Concerns that the U.S. could run out of money next month rippled through the bond market Friday, marking a return to the worries of previous debt-ceiling standoffs. The yield on the U.S. Treasury bill maturing on Nov. 12 rose to 0.036% Friday, the highest since Aug. 19 and up from 0.005% Thursday. Prices fall as their yields rise.

     

    While yields remain ultralow, the trading is a reversal for a security whose yield for the past few weeks has often been below zero, reflecting outsize demand from money-market funds and other investors and a decline in bill issuance by the U.S. government.

     

    Congressional leaders appear increasingly unlikely to reach any kind of budget deal in time to ease passage of an increase in the federal borrowing limit needed by Nov. 3. Failure to reach a budget agreement by early next month would put pressure on Republican leaders and President Barack Obama over the terms of a debt-limit increase.

    To be sure, we have all seen this play out many times before, and “Friday’s trading marked a repeat of debt-ceiling showdowns in 2011 and 2013. Both times, yields on bills maturing around the debt-ceiling deadline spiked before falling once legislators agreed to increase the national borrowing limit.”

    In other words, just as we said one week ago, Keep an eye on T-Bill yields for the turning point when the market decides this situation is becoming serious.”

    According to the market (if only just the bond market for now, stocks continue to do their HFT momentum ignition-cum-short squeeze thing), it just started to get serious.

    And yet the irony is that it will have to get even more serious for the market to whip the GOP into action, and to come up with a debt ceiling solution. For now, the complacency among everyone that nothing can possibly go wrong is unprecedented which means the market itself may have to do the heavy lifting once again as it did in August 2011 when a debt ceiling deal seemed impossible until the S&P500 promptly tumbled 20% in no time.

    For now, however, any market tumult is reverberating very quietly and only in the Bill market – not only that of the US, but also the abovementioned Japanese record negative 1Y Bill yield. As can be seen in comparing the yield on the November 12 T-Bill with the auction yield on the Japanese 1 Year Bill, what may be pushing Japan further into NIRP is not so much concerns about Kuroda going “Full QEtard“, as much as the US defaulting on its debt.

     

    There is a third option: the BOJ is expected to make a critical announcement on October 30, which many believe will be increasing its QE10 (aka QQE) beyond the already expanded parameters (recall it was almost precisely one year ago, on October 31 when the BOJ increased its QQE for the first time, announcing it would monetize JPY 80 trillion monthly, up from JPY60-70 trillion).

    However, since even Japan has run out of willing sellers from whom it can buy Treasury paper, there is a possibility that Japan will merely go where Jordan, Draghi and Ingves have boldly gone before and announce negative interest rates.

    So to summarize what may be going on is the following, here are the three possible scenarios

    • Fears over a US debt default are forcing holders of short-term US debt to rush out of US Bills and go into Japanese short term paper
    • A US debt default, while unlikely, will require a market event “shock” to stir the complacent GOP out of its hypnotic trance that “Ms. Chairwoman will get to work”, and from stonewalling the passage of a debt ceiling extension, or even just the election of a speaker.
    • Japan may itself be approaching the limits of ZIRP and be on the verge of NIRP.

    And all this is happening while equities ignore absolutely everything taking place in the world and trade purely on technicals and “hope” for even more future liquidity flow out of central banks, because a global depression would be just what is needed to send the S&P to all time highs.

    The biggest irony is that it is no longer clear how the S&P500 would react to a US default: once upon a time, this would be the event that not only ends the dollar’s reserve status but wipes out trillions in market cap in an instant. This time, it just may send the market limit up…

  • UCLA Unleashes Absurd, Anti-Intellectual & Dangerous Attack On Campus Free Speech

    Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

    One of the most dangerous trends in America today is occurring on college campuses. These are the places I grew up viewing as laboratories for free speech, youthful energy and resistance to the status quo.

    Unfortunately, what they’re turning into are anti-intellectual wastelands in which America’s supposedly “best and brightest” are being transformed into unthinking, mentally shackled, emotionally stunted automatons. The only thing being produced on college campuses these days seem to be frightened, thoughtless worker-bees, conditioned to shut-up and instinctively worship authority. Rather than teaching kids to think critically, administrators have created an environment where kids aren’t encouraged to think at all.

    For those of you who may have missed it, I’ve covered this topic before. See:

    Rutgers University Warns Students – “There is No Such Thing as Free Speech”

    A Professor Speaks Out – How Coddled, Hyper Sensitive Undergrads are Ruining College Learning

    Moving along, today’s piece relates to a recent incident on the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) campus. A fraternity-sorority party was held under the theme “Kanye Western,” in which partygoers wore costumes parodying Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian. Naturally, this was simply too much to handle for a vocal group of censorship-inclined students. As such, the accusations began to fly that the greek students wore blackface, and school administrators immediately moved to suspend the social activities of the fraternity and sorority before completing an investigation. 

    Interestingly enough, in the days that followed, it became clear that the students weren’t actually wearing blackface at all (not that it would have mattered from a free speech perspective). Conor Friedersdorf did an incredible job for making the case for free speech in his excellent Atlantic article. Here are a few excerpts:

    A half-century ago, student activists at the University of California clashed with administrators during the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, a series of events that would greatly expand free-speech rights of people at public colleges and universities.

    Today, activists at UCLA are demanding that administrators punish some of their fellow students for expressive behavior that is clearly protected by the First Amendment.

     

    What did UCLA students find so outrageous as to warrant the violation of the fundamental right to free expression? A “Kanye Western” theme party where students wore costumes that parodied rap superstar Kanye West and his celebrity wife, Kim Kardashian. For this, UC student activists would squander their inheritance.

     

    Perhaps 18-to-22-year-olds can be forgiven for failing to appreciate what’s at stake in their activism. But UCLA administrators cannot be forgiven for complying with student demands to punish this free expression—a glaring illustration of their low-regard for the First Amendment, California law, and liberal ideals.

    This is precisely the point. Young kids going to college are precisely that: Young kids going to college. Administrators are the ones who are supposed to be responsible for protecting free speech and upholding the U.S. Constitution within their spheres of influence, not pandering to hypersensitive students accustomed to always getting their way by merely shouting “racist” at whoever they happen to disagree with that week. Where are the adults in the room?

    Meanwhile, critics of the critics insist that West is a famous celebrity, not a stand-in for black culture; that stuffed butts were a reference to Kim Kardashian, who is white and of Armenian descent, not black; that there is nothing wrong with appropriating the dress of hip-hop culture, which is not the same as black culture; that it’s myopic for privileged student activists to focus on a frat theme party while living in a city plagued by police killings, homelessness, housing discrimination, and other injustices; that activists are giving Greek organizations too much power to set their agenda; and that college kids these days are oversensitive to the point of self-parody.

     

    It is salutary for collegians to contest such matters in the student newspaper, on campus, and on social media. Evidently, public discourse has changed some minds. Said the frat, “we sincerely apologize for the offense and hurt we caused to our fellow Bruins, especially those in the African American community … We are grateful for the dialogue we have had so far, and we intend to continue communicating with our fellow Bruins about how SigEp and Alpha Phi can make this a learning opportunity.”

     

    What’s unhealthy is the movement to suppress free speech at UCLA.

    This is another key point, and the issue that presents the greatest danger. By coddling students from opinions they may find offensive or hurtful, you are doing them a tremendous disservice. It would be far better to allow the student body to engage in debate and rational argument about such topics. This will teach kids to become critical thinkers and strong advocates for causes they believe in. Creating a sterile environment in which various opinions aren’t given the freedom to be expressed does a incalculable harm to these students, and fails to prepare them in any way for the real world.

    University administrators bear the most culpability. After hearing objections to the theme party, but before finishing an investigation into it, UCLA officials suspended the social activities of the fraternity and sorority, effectively punishing them without due process even as these same officials publicly acknowledged that they didn’t have all the facts. Moreover, university officials are abusing their authority merely by investigating protected speech in the first place. And the student newspaper is cheering them on, demanding in an editorial that the office of UCLA Fraternity and Sorority Relations take a more active role in preemptively clearing all party themes.

    Think about what sort of example this teaches the student body about due process and the rule of law. This is a total disaster and administrators should be fired for this.

    UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, one of America’s foremost First Amendment scholars, has published several Washington Post items explaining why these reactions are legally dubious. “The suspension of the fraternity and sorority is likely unconstitutional,” he wrote. “Costumes that convey a message are treated as speech for First Amendment purposes (see, e.g., Schacht v. United States (1970)and Cohen v. California (1971)). And a university may not punish speech based on its allegedly racist content; see, e.g., Rosenberger v. Rector (1995), which holds that a university may not discriminate against student speech based on its viewpoint.”

     

    He adds that “interim speech restrictions imposed before a full investigation and adjudication have historically been seen as more constitutionally suspect (as so-called ‘prior restraints’), see, e.g., Vance v. Universal Amusement, Inc. (1980); and the prior restraint doctrine is applicable to restrictions imposed by universities, see Healy v. James (1972). But in any event, even setting aside the prior restraint doctrine, suspending an organization’s social activities because of the offensive message conveyed by the organization’s past speech violates the First Amendment.”

     

    In a followup post, he notes that the Supreme Court has unanimously held that student organizations have the right to express “the thought that we hate,” a far more offensive message than anything conveyed by the Greek organizations at UCLA.

     

    Students who value fundamental human rights, protecting unpopular activism, or safeguarding the political liberties of the least powerful among us ought to be lobbying for the most stringent free-speech protections possible, not undermining core human rights that have benefitted generations of marginalized people as a salve for outrage at a frat party. As the ACLU once explained in answer to the question of why it sometimes mounts defenses of speech that is racist or promotes intolerance.

     

    Restricting the speech of one group or individual jeopardizes everyone’s rights because the same laws or regulations used to silence bigots can be used to silence you. Conversely, laws that defend free speech for bigots can be used to defend the rights of civil rights workers, anti-war protesters, lesbian and gay activists and others fighting for justice. For example, in the 1949 case of Terminiello v. Chicago, the ACLU successfully defended an ex-Catholic priest who had delivered a racist and anti-semitic speech. The precedent set in that case became the basis for the ACLU’s successful defense of civil rights demonstrators in the 1960s and ’70s.

     

    The college students fighting to limit free speech or to punish free expression are courting tremendous harms that would ultimately fall disproportionately on the least powerful, most marginalized groups of the present and future––and as UCLA graduates, they are highly unlikely to be in either group, which may help explain their lack of concern for how their behavior could affect the less privileged. It is nevertheless incoherent for activists who say that they live in a system of white supremacy to empower state administrators to police speech at their discretion!

     

    But there is no “black point of view,” a prejudicial notion that is so easily refuted that it’s a wonder anyone invokes it. There are plenty of black people––a majority, I would wager––who understand better than many other Americans the importance of the First Amendment to the history of the civil-rights movement and the future of other civil-rights causes. As if to underscore that point, the Los Angeles Times highlighted an open letter sent to UCLA by Michael Meyers, president of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. He said that “as an African American civil rights leader” he had to speak out. “We are increasingly alarmed—and distressed—by the failure of public university officials to support free speech and diversity of opinion on campus,” he wrote in the letter to UCLA’s chancellor. “Diversity of opinion surely includes the right of students to contest orthodoxy and to poke fun at popular culture and celebrities.”That is exactly right, and UCLA administrators should publicly apologize for acting to the contrary rather than caving to the illegal demands of student activists.

    In case you missed it above, Connor brought up another key observation in this whole preposterous charade. He notes:

    It is nevertheless incoherent for activists who say that they live in a system of white supremacy to empower state administrators to police speech at their discretion!

    Indeed, I didn’t think I was the one to see the absurdity in the fact that students at UCLA who portray themselves as some sort of victim, are the same ones who wield such tremendous power at the university. So much so, that administrators suspended due process and violated free speech rights merely to massage their thin skins and empower their self-rightious behavior.

    How about the fact that it was America, a country with a sordid history of slavey and virtually no limits on free speech, which elected a black man President. Twice. Similarly, why is anti-Semitism so much more entrenched in parts of Europe than in the United States, despite all the “hate speech” laws across the pond. I’ll tell you why, because free speech works and censorship doesn’t.

    Indeed, the real victims in the saga are clear. The suspended fraternity and sorority, free speech, logic, and of course the UCLA student body as a whole.

    I’m speechless.

  • US Shocked To Find Russian Machine Gun With Iranian Ammo Attached To Abrams Tank

    Needless to say, what’s happening in Syria is a nightmare for those who have been forced by circumstance to bear witness to the intractable violence. The plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the country is unfathomable and the situation facing those who remain is even worse.

    For military and political strategists in Washington, Syria’s civil war represents a different kind of nightmare. The Russia-Iran nexus is just about the worst possible outcome for the US, whose status as global hegemon was already fading in the face of an ascendant China. 

    Put simply, the partnership between Washington’s two worst geopolitical enemies represents a kind of “sum of all fears” scenario and to make matters worse, the alliance between Tehran and Moscow looks as though it will apply to Iraq as well, raising the spectre of the US being kicked out of the country it “liberated” after 9/11. 

    And while there’s nothing funny about the plight of the Syrian people, there’s quite a bit to laugh at when it comes to this latest (and perhaps greatest) US foreign policy blunder which is why we found the following bit from Defense News particularly amusing. Apparently, the Iran-backed (and US supported) Shiite militias battling ISIS in Iraq aren’t getting the kind of logistical support they need from Washington and so they have begun attaching Russian guns to Abrams tanks and firing Iran-stamped ammo. Here’s more:

    Earlier this month, Shia militiamen in Iraq dropped off an American-supplied Abrams tank at a US-supported repair facility where workers were surprised to find an attached Russian machine gun plus Iranian ammo, Defense News has learned.

     

    The MIA1 main battle tank — one of 146 frontline tanks the US sold to Baghdad — was transported through the Green Zone to a US-supported Iraqi service facility at al-Muthanna that was established as part of the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.

     

    The tank was equipped with a Russian .50-caliber machine gun and Iranian-stamped 12.75-mm ammunition, according to a source at the facility.

     

    “Once all the ammo was removed, as per procedure, by Iraqi personnel, we noticed Iranian markings on the back of the shell casings. Seems they put a Russian machine gun with Iranian ammunition on an Abrams tank.”

     

    As Washington scrambles to adapt to the myriad, Iranian-backed Shiite militias fighting alongside its US-trained and -supplied partners in Iraq, new manifestations of shifting alliances may threaten the relevance of US end-use monitoring in that war-torn country.

     

    The US-Russian tank hybrid could constitute twin violations of Iraq’s FMS agreements with Washington, due to unauthorized use by Shiite militias and the unsanctioned addition of the Russian gun and Iranian ammo, Pentagon officials say.

     

    “Any time you do a foreign military sale, there’s a requirement that you do end-use monitoring, and it’s a violation if you do alterations,” Vice Adm. Joseph Rixey, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) told Defense News.

     

    Interviewed in Washington this week at the annual Association of the US Army conference, neither Rixey, the Pentagon’s FMS chief, nor Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, chief of the US Army Security Assistance Command, had knowledge of the event recounted to Defense News. However, both men suggested that their Iraqi customers had an obligation to report such occurrences in a timely and accurate manner.

     

    “If they brought it into the maintenance facility, then that should be reported to our US folks there, and then we can have a discussion about how, ‘This is not what we’re going to do,’” McDonald said.

     

    McDonald was deputy commander at the time the Iraqi tank deal was concluded, and noted that the FMS contract includes a maintenance package that covers the facility in question. “We eventually got them to buy the maintenance and training package, so I do know there is an ongoing maintenance effort going on over there under our FMS contract, with a US company doing the maintenance.”

     

    The in-country source noted that it was the first time he had encountered the hybridization of the Abrams to accommodate the Russian gun and Iranian ammo.

     

    “It could be an isolated event or it could mark the beginning of something worrisome. It’s too early to tell … but given the strange bedfellows over there in the Amber Zone, you never know.”

    Yes, “you never know”, but what appears to have happened here is that because the Iran-backed Shiite militias are more adept than the Iraqi army on the battlefield, they’re the ones driving the tanks.

    As a reminder, here’s their assessment of America’s role in providing support for the ground campaign against ISIS in Iraq (via Reuters):

    Allied Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias who are leading the fight against Islamic State in Iraq, say the United States lacks the decisiveness and the readiness to supply weapons needed to eliminate militancy in the region.

    And so, because of this “lack of decisiveness and readiness”, the militiamen improvised and slapped a Russian machine gun on a US-supplied tank and loaded it up with Iranian ammo. 

    As noted above, these soldiers aren’t really supposed to be driving these things which makes the following description of what unfolded when they dropped it off for service down right hilarious: 

    “They brought it in through Iraqi checkpoints, back-rolled it off the trailer and then drove away.”

     


  • Silicon Valley's Ultimate Insider Warns Of "Subprime Unicorns… Managements Are Deluded"

    Authored by Michael Moritz, Chairman of Sequoia Capital, originally published Op-Ed via The Financial Times,

    The private and public worlds of technology collided this week with a set of stories about two very different companies: one a large business in its fourth decade, seeking to adjust to a new world; the other a much touted Silicon Valley start-up whose ambitious scientific claims were questioned in a devastating newspaper article. The former, Dell, and the latter, Theranos, illustrate the benefits and perils of life as a private company.

    Michael Dell had experienced many years as the head of a publicly traded company, which included some close encounters of the worst kind and a bruising battle with some dissident shareholders, before delisting in a leveraged buyout in 2013.

    Since then, relieved from the merciless roasting of the quarterly earnings call, he has had the freedom to undertake a long-term restructuring of his business. Mr Dell emerged from the shadows this week to announce his intention to purchase EMC, the large storage provider, in what would be the biggest technology takeover in history.

    If Mr Dell illustrated the benefits of privacy, Elizabeth Holmes, the chief executive and founder of Theranos, has just learnt that even for the head of a high-profile, secretive Silicon Valley company valued at $9bn, a light will eventually illuminate dark places.

    Ms Holmes formed Theranos in 2003 to provide health tests from a few drops of blood rather than what gushes out of several tubes. Ms Holmes ingeniously convinced some very accomplished people (including Oracle’s Larry Ellison) to furnish her company with about $400m and has persuaded two former US secretaries of state, a former US defence secretary and the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee to join her board of directors.

    That feat of persuasion may have been even more impressive than it seemed. The Wall Street Journal this week reported claims that the company’s proprietary technology — whose co-inventor committed suicide two years ago after telling his wife that it was not effective — is used only in a small fraction of the company’s tests, with others performed using standard laboratory equipment in a way that might produce inaccurate results. Former employees of Theranos told the newspaper they had been instructed to deal with regulatory checks on its test results in a way that might amount to cheating.

    Theranos contests these suggestions of scientific trickery and legerdemain. However, if they turn out to be true, the company could be mortally wounded — a development that might make technology investors sit up straight and be less credulous as they scrutinise investments.

    Life in the shadows of the private market has many benefits for emerging companies. It allows them to experiment, work out kinks in a product, lure talented people with attractively priced stock options, shield themselves from the scrutiny of predatory competitors and stutter in private until they can speak fluently in public. It is also a refuge to which people such as Mr Dell can retreat once their companies no longer offer public investors either the growth or predictably for which they yearn.

    But there is also a false sense of security provided by the private markets at a time when interest rates are negligible and many investors, particularly those who are either new to technology or have short memories, are all too willing to back start-ups whose premises house several baristas and where a dozen blends of tea (not to mention the sea-salt flavoured chocolate bars and bio-dynamically raised Anjou pears) are de rigueur. It is easier to conceal weaknesses, present an aura of invincibility and confound investors as a private company that can escape by making few disclosures than as a publicly traded one.

    One glance at the list of so-called unicorns — those private technology companies valued at more than $1bn — illustrates this point. A handful of these businesses will become the great, enduring companies of tomorrow. But a good number seem the flimsiest of edifices. Forget the fact that some of these valuations are illusory because the most recent investors have structured their investments as debt in all but name, meaning that they will stand to profit even if the company is worth far less.

    The more salient point is that for the past three or four years private investors have just been more forgiving than their public market counterparts, who, had they been presented with the most recent financial reports of a good number of these companies, would have decimated the stocks. In the past few quarters, the founders of several technology companies have discovered a far chillier reception as they tramped around on initial public offering roadshows than they were accorded in the private shadows.

    Most of the leaders of the subprime unicorns who continue to enjoy the fruits of the private market delude themselves about the difference between control and discipline. Some say that if their companies become public they will lose control. Google, Facebook and a raft of other companies with dual-class stocks put paid to that argument. What the heads of the subprime unicorns really mean is that the sort of disclosure required of a public company is the picture they do not want to view. But as Ms Holmes of Theranos discovered this week, eventually there is no place to hide.

  • Images From The Iraqi Frontlines: Iran-Backed Fighters Battle ISIS For Control Of Key Refinery

    One event that flew under the radar last month as Russia revved up its long dormant military juggernaut, was the intelligence sharing alliance struck between Moscow, Baghdad, Tehran, and Damascus. The deal called for the establishment of an intel command base in Baghdad and a rotating presidency. As Sputnik reported on September 28:

    “This shared intelligence base will be formed by the representatives of the chiefs of joint military staff of each of these four countries. … The first goal of the base is to gather intelligence regarding the region in the framework of fighting against this terrorist group. After the data is collected, it will be analyzed and will eventually be forwarded to the related organizations in the armed forces of each of these countries. The command of this base will rotate every three months between the member states and the first rotating president will be Iraq.”

    This initiative was purportedly behind the strike on an ISIS convoy that some initially believed had killed Bakr al-Baghdadi. Apparently, Baghdadi was not actually present, but nevertheless, the Iraqis are clearly excited about the joint intelligence initiative, presumably because the US hasn’t proven to be too “intelligent” an ally thus far. Consider the following from Reuters:

    Iraq has begun bombing Islamic State insurgents with help from a new intelligence center with staff from Russia, Iran and Syria, a senior parliamentary figure said on Tuesday about cooperation seen as a threat to U.S. interests in the region.

     

    The center has been operational for about a week, and it provided intelligence for air strikes on a gathering of middle-level Islamic State figures, Hakim al Zamili, the head of parliament’s defense and security committee, told Reuters.

     

    The new security apparatus based in Baghdad suggests the United States is losing clout in a strategic oil-producing Middle East, where it has been heavily invested for years.

     

    Iraqi officials, frustrated with the pace and depth of the U.S. military campaign against Islamic State, have said they will lean heavily on Washington’s former Cold War rival Russia in the battle against the Sunni Muslim jihadists.

     

    “We find it extremely useful,” the Iraqi official said. “The idea is to formalize the relationship with Iran, Russia and Syria. We wanted a full-blown military alliance.”

     

    Iran, a longtime Middle East adversary of the United States, already boasts deep influence in Iraq. Iranian military advisers help direct Baghdad’s campaign against Islamic State, which aims to expand its self-proclaimed caliphate in the Middle East.

     

    Washington, with a history of close security links with Baghdad, now worries the intelligence center may foster closer Russian-Iraqi ties, particularly with respect to operations against Islamist militants, a U.S. security official said.

     

    The Baghdad government, and allied Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias who are leading the fight against Islamic State in Iraq, say the United States lacks the decisiveness and the readiness to supply weapons needed to eliminate militancy in the region.

    Yes, “Iran boasts deep influence in Iraq, [its] military advisers help direct Baghdad’s campaign against Islamic State, [and] the Baghdad government and allied Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias say the United States lacks the decisiveness and the readiness to supply weapons needed to eliminate militancy in the region.” As we’ve documented extensively, this is all orchestrated and overseen by the Quds Force and the plan from day one appears to have been this: Tehran agrees to allow Russia to become the new Mid-East puppet master once the US packs up and leaves if Russia agrees to provide the military might needed for Iran to secure Syria and cement the IRGC’s stranglehold on Iraqi politics and military affairs. 

    So in short, what seems likely to happen here is that once Syria is secure, the Shiite militias under Iran’s control (including Hezbollah) will simply move on to Iraq to reinforce the Iran-backed militias operating there.

    As we demonstrated on Thursday, Russia now has the capability to strike targets in Iraq thanks to the new base at Latakia, so air cover shouldn’t be a problem.

    Given all of the above, we imagine we’ll be hearing a lot more about Iraq in the coming months and so, in an effort to begin taking a closer look at the activities of the Shiite militias operating in the country alongside the Iraqi army, we bring you the following from The New York Times who reports that the groups achieved a major strategic victory on Thursday when ISIS was driven from the Baiji refinery:

    Iraqi forces and the Shiite militias fighting alongside them announced Friday that they had retaken the oil refinery at Baiji from Islamic State militants, in some of the first significant progress against the extremist group after months of stalled efforts.

     

    “Baiji refinery has been completely liberated from Daesh,” a spokesman for Iraq’s counterterrorism service said.

     

    Iraqi officials insist that its recapture is a strategically important step, and a vital lift to morale, in the broader campaign against the Islamic State, which controls much of northern and western Iraq.

     

    Baiji and the nearby town of Siniya, which Iraqi forces said they had also taken, are on a major north-south route to Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, which was seized by the Islamic State in June 2014.

     

    “This battle is crucial,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Monday during a visit to Salahuddin, the province north of Baghdad that includes Baiji.

     

    The Iraqis appeared to have had more going for them this time. The push to retake Baiji came as Iraqi forces were mounting a parallel offensive to retake Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province in western Iraq.

     

    The Iraqi military said it had encircled Ramadi, which United States military officials say is defended by an estimated 600 to 1,000 Islamic State fighters.

     

    The Shiite militias — formally known as the Popular Mobilization Forces — have not been given a role in the Ramadi operation for fear that their presence might antagonize the mostly Sunni population there. But the militias, some of which are backed and trained by Iran, played a major role in the Baiji operation.

     

    A spokesman for Shiite militias said that several thousand Shiite militiamen were fighting in and near Baiji, which is more than the estimated number of Iraqi soldiers also fighting there. 

     

    Shiite militia leaders have advertised their presence on the battlefield. Qais al-Khazali, the head of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a militia long supported by Iran, was filmed inside the captured refinery. Hadi al-Ameri, the leader of the Badr Organization, another Iranian-backed group, also played a visible role in the operation.

    And here are the images of the Shiite fighters who battled to retake Baiji (via Reuters):

  • After 6 Years Of Austerity, 36% Of Greeks In Poverty

    Via KeepTalkingGreece.com,

    Thousands of austerity measures, dramatic cuts in incomes, incredible hikes in taxes. Five and a half years in deep recession. Three bailout agreements. And where do Greeks stand now?

    On top of the Eurozone when it comes to poverty. More than one out of three Greeks, that is “36% of the Greek population is at risk of poverty and social exclusion,” the EUROSTAT found out – the highest rate within the Euro Zone.

    The EUROSTAT data were released on the occasion of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty which is ‘celebrated’ yearly on October 17th.

    What means poverty? Not enough food on the table, no adequate warm home in winter, difficulties to cover basic needs and pay utilities and health care, just to name a few.

    Oh and here is the Statistics we love: also the inability to afford to pay for one week annual holiday away from home.

    According to European union “directives’ poor is an individual or a family with available income of less than 500 euro per month. It can be 480 euro or Zero Euro.

    The detailed EUROSTAT poverty data for the entire EU is here.

    The rate of Greeks at risk of poverty and social exclusion was at 30% and 33% in the last two years. No surprise, it increased.

    *  *  *

    Still with the economic "boom" we are told to expedct from the flood of refugees (and Germany's pressure  on the Greeks to take more refugees), we are sure this will all end well…

  • China Officially Sold A Quarter Trillion Treasurys In The Past Year (Unofficially Much More) And What This Means

    Back in May, this website was the first to explain the “mystery” behind Belgium’s ravenous Treasury buying which in early 2015 had turned into sudden selling, and which we demonstrated was merely China transacting using offshore Euroclear-based accounts to preserve anonymity. Since then theme of Belgium as a Chinese proxy has become so popular, even CNBC gets it.

    Consequently, we were also the first to correctly warn that China had begun liquidating its Treasury holdings (a finding which left none other than Goldman “speechless”), which also helped us predict that China is about to announce its currency devaluation three days before it happened as the conversion of Chinese reserves from inert paper to active dollars hinted at a massive effort to stabilize the currency, and thus unprecedented capital outflows.

    As a result, the only data point which mattered in yesterday’s Treasury International Capital data release was not China’s holdings, which actually “rose” $1.7 billion in the month when China actively devalued its currency and then spent hundreds of billions to prevent the devaluation from becoming an all out FX rout, but the ongoing decline in Belgium holdings. As the chart below shows, Belgium, pardon Euroclear – which is a clearing house not only for China but many other EM nations who park their reserves in Belgium – sold another $45 billion in Treasurys last month, bringing the total to a dangerously low $111 billion, down from $355 billion at the start of the year.

     

    Lumping Belgium and China holdings into one, as we have done since May, shows that as expected, Chinese selling continued in August, and the result was another drop of $43 billion in TSY holdings in the month of August, which incidentally mirrors perfectly the previously announced decline in September Chinese FX reserves, which according to official data declined from $3.557 trillion to $3.514 trillion.

     

    According to the chart above, while to many Quantitative Tightening is a novel concept, the reality is that China (+ Euroclear) have been dumping Treasurys and liquidating reserves since January when total holdings peaked at $1.6 trillion last summer, and have since declined to $1.38 trillion. It means that China has sold a quarter trillion dollars worth of Treasurys in the past year, in the process offsetting what would have been about 25% of the Fed’s QE3.

    However, the real number is likely far greater.

    While China’s official (declining) FX reserve data (a real-time mirror of the TIC data from China’s perspective) is a useful guide to what is happening with China’s reserves (primarily US Treasurys, as well as European sovereigns and various other unclassified assets), it is also manipulated by the politburo which does not want to give an overly pessimistic picture of what is happening in China. As a result, a far more accurate representation of FX flows comes from the data showing FX purchases for the whole banking system (PBOC plus banks), as this number is far more difficult to rig.

    As we previously reported, in September FX purchases decreased by US$120 billion in September (vs. a decrease of $115bn in August). This is a troublin discrepancy with both official Chinese reserve data and US TIC data as the scale of decline in this data is significantly larger than that in PBOC’s FX reserves (-$43bn) and its foreign assets (-$42bn), suggesting that banks have resorted to their own spot FX positions to help absorb outflow pressure.

    More from Goldman:

    Given possible PBOC balance sheet management (e.g., short-term transactions and agreements between with banks, e.g., forward transactions, FX entrusted loan drawdown or repayment), we interpret the FX reserves data with caution, as it might not give a complete picture of the FX flow situation. The large gap between today’s data and the other PBOC data for September suggests that banks might have used their own spot FX positions to help meet some of the outflow demand, although banks’ overall FX positions might still have been squared with the PBOC via forward agreements. This also partly explains why new RMB loans exceeded RMB deposit generation by a large margin (of over RMB 1tn) in September, as shown in yesterday’s money and credit data–apparently corporates and households converted a large amount of their RMB deposits into FX. Overall, today’s data indicates that the outflow situation might have improved only modestly from August. Note that today’s data do not include information on possible forward transactions between the PBOC and onshore or offshore banks.

    The problem with China’s data – and incrasingly the US – is that it is completely unreliable. So to get a full picture of what really hapepned, we will have to wait for SAFE data on banks’ FX settlements on behalf of their onshore clients (due on October 22nd) to have a more complete view on the FX-RMB conversion trend among onshore non-banks. That report captures banks’ FX transactions vis-à-vis non-banks through both spot and forward transactions (for August this data showed an overall FX outflow of $178bn).

    But even with the incomplete picture we have, we can draw two conclusions:

    • Chinese FX outflows are actually accelerating, not slowing down, despite the PBOC’s (and TIC’s) best efforts to show that China has sold “only” $250 billion in Treasurys in the past year
    • Chinese TSY selling has so far not impacted price of 10Ys adversely because it took place in a time of “great unrotation” from stocks into safety assets, and a surge in global deflation fears provoked by… China. Now that the Politburo appears to have fooled markets that China is “fine” once again, and inflationary fears reemerge, preserving the bid for 10Y paper may not be quite so easy especially as China continues to fight capital outflows by selling reserves.
    • The recent data on rising Chinese credit creation had nothing to do with an improvement in the economy, and everything to do with covering the discrepancy between official (declining) capital outflows, and unofficial (increasing) capital outflows.

    Bottom line: China’s capital outflow is getting worse, not better, and continued to drag not only its economy lower, but accelerate China’s disposition of Treasury paper. Anyone hoping for a quick rebound in China’s economy will be severely disappointed.

  • The Smoking Gun: Silver & Gold Manipulation Exposed

    Submitted by Dave Fairfax via PeakProsperity.com,

    Gold price suppression!

    The amount of ink spilled on this topic could fill a supertanker.  Goldbugs the world over believe in the suppression story as an article of faith, and indeed, the evidence that “something is happening” appears incontrovertible.

    Given how important the subject is to the bullion-owning community, and the volume of energy we expend talking (and talking, and talking, and talking) about it, how much information do we really have about what is actually going on?  Has anyone quantified suppression?  Do we know how, when, and how frequently it occurs?  Once a month?  Once a day?  What does it even look like?  For many of us it might be like that old Supreme Court Justice's definition of obscenity: I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.

    So, I'll take my best shot at defining suppression. Then armed with a definition, I should be able to discover how and when it takes place. To see how frequently it happens, and what the immediately observable effects are – as well as the apparent longer term effects of such events.  Does the fact that a suppression attack occurs means the price trend changes?  Is an attack prima facie evidence of successful control of prices over the long term?  And is anything else being suppressed, too?  Perhaps everything is being suppressed by our banking lords and masters!

    The visible attacks that we have all seen involve “someone” dumping (or buying) large numbers of futures contracts in the market when activity is relatively lighter than usual, with the intent of deliberately moving price.  Most goldbugs like to say that gold and silver suppression attacks occur in the “wee hours of the morning.”  Loosely translated, I take this to mean during non-US and non-London trading hours.  So that's the time range I will use: 4pm-3am Eastern; from just after US market close through to the London market open.

    So how do we define a deliberate act of suppression – or let me state it more neutrally – a “volatility event”?  The ones we have all seen involve a large spike down (or up) in a small increment of time.  I'll define this more specifically as at least a 0.5% move within a one-minute period.  So, at current prices, that's a $6 move in gold or a $0.08 move in silver that happens within one minute.  That's just the minimum amount – often the moves are much larger than that.

    Goldbugs tend to believe they are a heavily persecuted lot, with their favorite metal singled out for routine beatings.  Is there a factual basis for this feeling?  Or do volatility events occur for other futures contracts also?

    Others (including me!) have pointed out that volatility events happen to the upside as well as to the downside.  I have personally seen these spikes higher squeeze the shorts, thus driving prices even higher during non-US non-London trading hours.  Some goldbugs never seem to want to acknowledge these events; some have even claimed that “they don't happen!”  So do they happen?  That should be easy enough to prove or refute by looking at the trading records. And if such evidence indeed exists, how often do these volatility events take place compared to the downside moves?

    To answer all these questions, I wrote some software — as I'm a programmer by training. The program sorted through intraday price data for 9 different futures markets, with the data starting in late 2009 through today, and counted all the 0.5% 1-minute price spikes (either up or down) that happened during non-US non-London trading times.  Then, I entered them into a spreadsheet for analysis.  Let's take a look:

    Legend:

    total events: the total number of 0.5% 1-minute moves during the time period for that contract.

    # ev down/up: # of moves that ended lower, or higher than the starting price.

    chg down/up: aggregate dollar change for all up and down events for that contract.

    total change: aggregate chg up – chg down, in either dollars or points.

    So first of all, are there up events as well as down events?  The # ev up column says yes, definitely.  Silver had 402 up events, and 467 down events.  So it's not just a one way street down.  Those scoffing analysts are correct: the up-events really do happen.  And not just occasionally either!  That said, evidence also clearly shows there are more down events than up events for gold and silver (and also for Natgas, and the e-minis).

    Next, are gold and silver the only contracts that suffer volatility events during the wee hours of the morning?  No.  Many contracts received hundreds of similar-sized volatility events during the time period.   While it is true that silver received the most total events at 869, Natgas, Wheat, and Crude have all received more total events than gold, with Natgas coming in at #2 with 489.

    Could there be an active Natgas, Wheat, and Crude oil suppression campaign going on too?

    No.  There is one last critical part: the aggregated total change column.   If you sum the price changes for all events: chg down + chg up, you get to see the net price impact of all the events.   So for silver, the total change over the period is $53 up – $71 down = –$18.  Compare this with crude oil, which had $43 up – $41 down = +$2.

    What does this mean?  Even though silver had $53 in support from the 402 up events it received, it was also hit for $71 from the 467 down events it got: net effect -$18.  That's significant for something with a current price of $15.  In fact, when viewed as a percentage of silver's current price (the % change column), silver was far and away the hardest hit of all 9 contracts I investigated.  Gold's price impact was #2, at $379.  Crude actually had a positive effect, while Natgas was dead flat.  Even though Natgas had a large number of volatility events, the net effect on price was a wash.  The same is largely true for wheat, treasury bonds, and the e-mini futures.  Some experienced a mild positive effect, others a mild negative effect, but the effects were quite small relative to the current price of the underlying item.

    So goldbugs, take a victory lap!  Even though the scoffers were right – there are a large number of up events – the down events dominate for PM contracts and especially for silver.  You have been singled out for beatings!  Of course you already knew that, didn't you?  🙂

    So now that we've looked at the last 6 years in aggregate, and we've established that precious metals have definitely been singled out for “negative attention” compared to other contracts, its time to look at these events across time, to see if we can get answers to the other questions, such as: When do these events take place? What effect do they have on the price chart? Are they still happening? And if so – how often?

    First, let's look at the big picture.  Here are a pair of price charts for silver and gold over the five year time period, with the volatility events (red = down, blue = up, measured in dollars, weekly) overlaid.

    For silver, we can see four main events: a huge spike right near the 2011 peak, another spike that seems to coincide with the low in 2011, and a couple more in early-2013 that happened during the great gold smash of 2013.  We can also see that the red (the down spikes) usually is larger than the blue (the up spikes).

    Gold's picture is a bit different: a few smaller spikes appear during the uptrend, a couple appear right near the peak, and a massive spike appears right after the peak.  The largest spike in gold happens during the 2013 gold smash.  One last big spike occurs in 2015, about the time of the low at 1075.  As a general impression, gold has far more red than blue; this is borne out by the spreadsheet, which shows a 2:1 red:blue ratio.

    Anatomy of a Top

    The next goal is to dig deeper, and see how a volatility event storm affected price.  Does a volatility event line up with a big move down?  And what happens after?  Does price keep falling, or does it bounce right back up?  Do volatility events change trend?  If so – are there conditions?

    Silver has received the biggest total number of volatility events, and has received the largest negative impact as a percentage of price.  Let's look at the biggest spike, the infamous 2011 peak at $50 through the lens of volatility events, and try to see what might have gone on.  Did suppression cause the top?  It seems like it should have – but did it?

    On Sunday/Monday, April 25th, 2011, “someone” hit the market with 12 different volatility events totaling $3.15, which was at that time the largest single set of volatility events in the timeseries, the same day that silver ticked $50/oz.  As a result, silver printed a doji on the day.  Price fell the following day, but then a funny thing happened.  Price started moving higher again.  Three days after the big Sunday-evening silver smash, price was once again testing $50 – and in fact it had two shots at $50 without any volatility events appearing at all on days #4 and #5.  But those two shots at $50 failed, and on day #6 as price began to fade, “someone” came in with a truly absurd 51 events totaling $15.45 in impact that started the collapse in price down from the high.  Buyers still tried to buy the dip that day, and price only fell $2 – a minor miracle given the pounding – but the rock had started to roll down hill, and it didn't stop until price dropped a total of $15 over 5 days.

    Was the top “caused” by these volatility events?  Its hard to say.  Had the bulls been strong enough to push price over $50 in days #4 & 5, its likely the volatility event on day #6 would not have worked.  They don't seem to work too well during an uptrend.  The silver bulls had two free shots to move price above $50,  completely unopposed by any volatility events at all, and they failed.  Once they failed, that's when “someone” launched the second volatility event storm.

    Looking at the price chart alongside the volatility event chart, it does not look like a straightforward case of “someone successfully causing the top” through direct application of force.  First they used a stall to stop the upward momentum in a very extended market which resulted in the doji print, and then the buyers were unable to muster enough power to push prices higher, and then “someone” unloaded with maximum force once the buyer fatigue became apparent.  That's how I read the chart anyway.

    What would have happened had someone not unleashed the volatility storm on day #6?  We will never know.  The market would have eventually corrected at some point – no tree grows to the sky – but its hard to know how much higher it might have gone.

     

    *  *  *

    In Part 2: How To Protect Yourself & Profit From This Manipulation, we look further into the recent data to determine whether or not the downward manipulation of precious metals can continue as it has over the past few years. Bullion investors will be heartened to learn of the signs we're seeing that $1,05/oz gold may have been the bottom, and that brighter days may indeed lie ahead.

    True or not, though, the manipulation attempts are likely to continue for some time. We look at how bullion investors can position themselves to defend against the most predictable elements of these raids, and how brave souls interested in speculating may profit from them.

    Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

  • With US Warships En Route To Islands, China Asks: "What On Earth Makes Them Think We Will Tolerate This?"

    The US is in a tough spot militarily. 

    In Syria, Russia and Iran have taken advantage of the fact that the plan hatched by the West and its regional allies to destabilize the Assad regime took far too long to develop. The idea was to foment discord and provide covert support for the various armed militias fighting to overthrow the government. But the effort is entering its fifth year and Assad is still there. Not only that, there have been a series of unintended (well, at least we hope they’re unintended) consequences. First, one of the rebel groups the West and its allies supported morphed into an insane band of white basketball shoe-wearing, black flag-waving, sword-wielding desert bandits. Second, the fighting created a horrific refugee crisis that now threatens to destabilize the whole of Europe. Sensing a historic geopolitical opportunity, Moscow and Tehran simply stepped in and outmaneuvered Washington. Now, the US basically has to decide whether it wants to go to war with Russia, because paradropping ammo into the middle of the desert isn’t going to be a viable strategy.

    Meanwhile, the US faces another superpower confrontation in the South China Sea.

    When Beijing began its land reclamation efforts in the Spratlys, we’re reasonably sure the Pentagon didn’t anticipate the extent to which the effort would quickly become a giant headache for Washington. 

    As a reminder, it’s not so much the dredging that has Washington’s regional allies in the South Pacific upset. Island building has been done before in the area. Rather, it’s the scope of the project that has everyone unnerved as Beijing has so far constructed over 3,000 acres of new sovereign territory atop which China has built everything from cement factories, to greenhouses, to runways. 

    Whether or not the US really cares about this is debatable although these shipping lanes are indeed critical for world trade. But with The Philippines and others crying foul, Washington is left with little choice but to put on a brave face lest the world should get the idea that China can just redraw maritime boundaries at will and establish a Sino-Monroe Doctrine in the process. 

    So finally, the US decided that it would sail some warships by the islands just to see if it can do so without getting shot at. 

    No, really. That’s the whole plan. “Let’s see how far we can push them.” 

    This is of course orchestrated under the guise of a freedom of navigation operation which, in a way, makes little sense because China has never threatened global trade. Then again, it’s fairly obvious that Beijing has some military role for the new islands in mind. 

    In any event, China hit back on Thursday, saying the PLA would “stand up and use force” if necessary should the US make a “mistake” with the whole warship plan.

    So in short, Washington is now in a staring contest with both Moscow and Beijing and both Russia and China seem to have gotten the idea that the US has lost its resolve lately and will probably blink first in both standoffs. 

    It’s with all of that in mind that we bring you the following rather amusing op-ed from Beijing out Saturday on Xinhua, presented below with no further comment:

    *  *  *

    Via Xinhua

    The United States’ provocative attempts to infringe on China’s South China Sea sovereignty are sabotaging regional peace and stability and militarizing the waters.

     

    The U.S. Navy is reportedly preparing to conduct “freedom of navigation” operations, sending warships within 12 nautical miles of Chinese islands in the South China Sea. The U.S. operations may take place within days, according to reports.

     

    Last month, in his response to China’s claim of sovereignty over the South China Sea, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the United States “will fly, sail and operate wherever the international law allows, as we do around the world.”

     

    White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said on Oct. 8 that U.S. warships patrolling close to artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea “should not provoke significant reaction from the Chinese.”

     

    Let us not forget that in October 1962, when the Soviet Union was building missile sites in Cuba — not even on U.S. soil — U.S. President Kennedy made it clear in a televised speech that the United States would not “tolerate the existence of the missile sites currently in place.”

     

    What on earth makes the United States think China should and will tolerate it when U.S. surface ships trespass on Chinese territory in the South China Sea?

     

    China will never tolerate any military provocation or infringement on sovereignty from the United States or any other country, just as the United States refused to 53 years ago.

     

    China’s stand on the South China Sea disputes is firm and clear. China’s sovereignty and claims of rights over Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters in the South China Sea have been formed over the long course of history and upheld by successive Chinese governments, and have adequate and solid historical and legal basis.

     

    Just as Article 15 of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea stipulates, delimiting the territorial seas of China and other countries in the South China Sea shall be in accordance with China’s “historic title” to the region.

     

    China has always been, in a constructive and effective manner, a firm upholder of the freedom of navigation as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea. And China has vowed to continue to do so in the future.

     

    China’s construction of civilian and public facilities on the Nansha Islands and reefs, which fall within the scope of China’s sovereignty, serves not only China but also coastal nations in the South China Sea.

     

    For instance, two lighthouses recently built on reefs in the region have helped guide passing vessels from around the world and significantly improved navigation safety.

     

    Contrary to U.S. claims, it will be the United States, as an outsider, that further provokes tensions in the South China Sea by sending soldiers and warships to Chinese territory in the name of “freedom of navigation.”

     

    This is not the first move by the United States to undermine the regional peace and stability that China has worked so hard for.

     

    Over the past several years, the United States has held frequent large-scale drills with its allies in the South China Sea, flexing their military muscles.

     

    According to the website of the U.S. Department of Defense, the country has deployed thousands of civilian and military officials, as well as a huge number of weapons, to the Pacific region.

     

    To destabilize the region and contain China, the United States has deliberately involved non-party nations, such as Japan, in the South China Sea issue and stirred disputes between China and other parties, including the Philippines.

     

    By no means will China let the provocateurs make waves in waters that should be characterized by peace, friendship and cooperation.

     

    Last year, the bilateral trade volume between China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) exceeded 480 billion U.S. dollars.

     

    Concerned nations have no alternative but to jointly deal with disputes in the South China Sea that pose a threat to the development and prosperity of parties in the region.

     

    On Sept. 18, in response to remarks made by the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific on patrolling the South China Sea, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said China, like the United States, upholds freedom of navigation in the waters.

     

    However, the spokesman stressed, China opposes any country’s challenge, in the name of freedom of navigation, to China’s sovereignty and security in the South China Sea.

     

    During a visit to Europe in March 2014, Chinese president Xi Jinping stressed that his country will “never stir up any trouble, but will resolutely safeguard its legitimate rights” when it comes to sovereignty and territorial integrity.

     

    Even though enhancing mutual trust and managing disputes through high-level visits and talks still remains the first option for China, the country will, without any doubt, adopt countermeasures against the United States if it doesn’t stop military provocations that infringe upon China.

     

    People with vision in Washington should and must see clearly China’s determination in safeguarding national sovereignty and regional security.

     

  • Prominent Veterans Group Just Called On US Public To Say No To War

    Submitted by Nick Bernabe via TheAntiMedia.org,

    A group of former U.S. service members called the Veterans For Peace issued a letter to the American public and President Obama today. In it, they outline reasons for the Unites States to immediately end the war in Afghanistan and elsewhere and call on the public to step in to ensure it happens. The entire letter is included below:

    President Obama’s decision to prolong the U.S. led war in Afghanistan only ensures U.S. responsibility for more death and destruction. Veterans For Peace condemns the decision and calls on the U.S. public to say no to more war.

     

    Today, President Obama commented, ‘I do not support the idea of endless war, and I have repeatedly argued against marching into open-ended military conflicts that do not serve our core security interests.’ But Veterans For Peace asks, what is this policy but endless war? The U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan for over fourteen years. What can fewer than 10,000 service members do that more than 100,000 could not? Al-Qaeda is a non-factor in Afghanistan and the Taliban are Afghans. U.S. presence in Afghanistan ensures more Afghan deaths and delay in reduction of violence so that civil society can be rebuilt and peace and justice can begin to take hold. War, Mr. President, has not worked. If you don’t believe in endless wars and you want to be a true Nobel Peace laureate to be looked up to and admired for working for peace in the face of pressure to continue down the road of war, Bring Our Troops Home and put all of the weight and power of the U.S. behind building peace.

     

    In his remarks, the president referred to the Taliban and the people of Afghanistan as if they are two different groups. The truth is that the Taliban represent a portion of the Afghan people. The Taliban are Pashtun tribesmen. Pashtuns are also the majority in Afghanistan. This makes it very difficult to combat the Taliban as they have many sympathizers and supporters who may not actively fight the U.S. backed government, but will not support it.

     

    It is clear that U.S. led efforts in Afghanistan have given more people reason to join the Taliban. A Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 2009 question and answer piece explained, people… ‘join because the Afghan government is unjust, corrupt, or simply not there. They also join because the Americans have bombed their houses or shown disrespect for their values. For young people, joining the Taliban is a way to earn social status.’

     

    That was written six years past, and little has changed. Just two weeks ago on October 3, 2015 the U.S. bombed a Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz Afghanistan killing twelve medical staff, ten patients and wounding thirty-two others. This type of incident is not uncommon. Amnesty International’s 2014/15 Annual Afghanistan Report says, ‘ISAF and NATO forces continued to launch night raids and aerial and ground attacks, claiming dozens of civilian lives, despite completing the handover of responsibility for security to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in June 2013.’

     

    The report goes on to say.[sic] ‘There were significant failures of accountability for civilian deaths, including a lack of transparent investigations and a lack of justice for the victims and their families.’ An October 14th New York Times article reports that, ‘Mr. Ghani is not popular among Afghans. And the problems in his government — like corruption and incompetence — run so deep that fixing them will take years, possibly decades.’ Trust of the Afghan government has not increased among the people it claims to represent.

     

    It is true that anti-government forces are responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths. However, continuing the war does not increase the possibility for reduction of violence to save lives. This makes coalition forces and the opposition complicit in every death. There is little chance of defeating the Taliban because they will not stop fighting until the foreign invaders are gone and there are not enough Afghans willing to possibly die in support of the U.S. backed national government.

     

    There is not a perfect solution to the tragedy of Afghanistan. War has been the norm for the people of Afghanistan for nearly 37 years. The answer to ending the violence there is political, not military. The U.S. must withdraw and give the nation of Afghanistan back to the people of Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan must form their own union. One we may not like, but is theirs. The international community must pressure the Afghan government, Taliban dominated or not, to follow international law and respect human rights. A real diplomatic effort must be brought to bear to end the violence so that the people of Afghanistan can rebuild civil society and create space for human rights activists to struggle for a just society.

     

    Concerns about the threat of ISIL in Afghanistan must be met with more effective efforts to end the violence and wars in Iraq and Syria. U.S. global policy of endless war is merging into a global response of violence. We need a global response that meets human needs and aspirations. War is not the foundation on which to build peace. U.S. efforts have proven that war is the breeding ground for more violence and hatred. We demand a peace plan, Mr. President. We are not war weary, we simply know it does not work.

     

    Finally, there are U.S. service members and families upon whose shoulders this failed and derived policy of endless war will continue to fall. U.S. military personnel have sacrificed enough in blood on the battlefield; wounded and killed. They are burdened with executing a no win strategy. When they come home they face unemployment, homelessness, recovery from physical and mental wounds and high rates of death by suicide. The Department of Veterans Affairs is already overwhelmed, unable to meet the needs of our brother and sister veterans. This policy ensures more of the same on the home front as well. Mr. President, it is clearly time to end this and all U.S. wars. Bring Them Home and Take Care of Them When They Get Here.”

    Veterans for Peace is a non-profit anti-war group whose members include U.S. military veterans. You can find their website here.

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