Jan 312024
 January 31, 2024  Posted by at 9:40 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  60 Responses »

Tamara de Lempicka The refugees 1937


Biden Wants Taylor Swift To Sing For Him – NYT (RT)
Is There A Taylor Swift Psyop? (ZH)
The Next Big Thing (Jim Kunstler)
US Foreign Arms Sales Rocket to Record Highs (Sp.)
Stoltenberg: Weapons for Ukraine Are ‘the Way to Peace’ (Sp.)
West Asks Countries To Secretly Send Russian Weapons To Ukraine – Lavrov (RT)
Russia Warns US Against Returning Tactical Nuclear Weapons to UK (Sp.)
The Palestinians Won in The Hague: So Did the Rest of Us (Patrick Lawrence)
ICJ Ruling Is What It Is: Symbolic. But What Happens Next Is Critical (Jay)
West Starts to Understand That Ukraine Project ‘Failing’ – Lavrov (Sp.)
Lavrov Blasts ‘Absurd’ Claims That Russia Will Attack NATO (RT)
Zelensky Ready To Further Fuel Ukraine Conflict (Sp.)
Ukraine To Teach Troops To Speak Ukrainian (RT)
US Facing ‘Death Spiral’ Of Swelling Debt – Nassim Taleb (RT)
Imran Khan Sentenced To Ten Years In Prison (RT)
Imran Khan Sentenced To 14-year New Jail Term (RT)











A Delaware judge just retroactively voided Elon’s $55B Tesla pay package from 2018 where shareholders voted in favor for it, all milestones were hit, and Tesla stock is up 800% since then.

Elon Musk:”Never incorporate your company in the state of Delaware.”






Tucker Russell Brand






Joe Biden, George Soros and Taylor Swift. What a plotline.

“Joe Biden is in [a] hole with young people, he knows it. And if he thinks Taylor can get him out of that hole, he’s gonna go for it.”

Biden Wants Taylor Swift To Sing For Him – NYT (RT)

US President Joe Biden is pursuing an endorsement from global pop superstar Taylor Swift ahead of November’s election, the New York Times has claimed. The Democratic leader’s campaign is reportedly seeking to counter flagging polls that show him trailing likely Republican candidate, Donald Trump. Trump’s strong performances in early Republican primaries and caucuses have suggested that a rematch of the 2020 election is the most likely scenario at the US ballot box later this year. As such, Biden’s staff plan to rehash tactics that proved successful in the caustic battle with Trump four years ago, the New York Times said on Monday. Principally, this is said to involve painting the former president as a threat to American democracy, along with a heavy focus on abortion rights as part of a broader appeal to voters against alleged conservative efforts to restrict personal freedoms.

One influential voice the Democrats again intend to harness is that of Swift, arguably the most famous popstar on the planet. Perhaps more specifically, her 280 million Instagram followers are of significant interest, the report claims. Swift publicly backed Biden and his vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris in 2020, saying that she would “proudly vote” for the Democratic ticket because “under their leadership, I believe America has a chance to start the healing process it so desperately needs.” Last year, a single social media post from Swift led to the registration of 35,000 new voters in the US, the NYT report said, and Democrats are keen to secure her backing to expand this enthusiasm to a national scale. It is also predicted that fund-raising appeals from the singer could boost Biden’s campaign to the tune of millions of dollars.

“Taylor Swift stands tall and unique,” California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, said last year. “What she was able to accomplish just in getting young people activated to consider that they have a voice and that they should have a voice in the next election, I think, is extremely powerful.” Perhaps courting Swift’s backing, the White House last week condemned salacious fake AI images of the singer that have been circulating on social media in recent days. Fox News anchor Jeanine Pirro, a vocal backer of Trump, on Monday warned Swift not to “get involved in politics.” “We don’t want to see you there,” Pirro said on the news network’s ‘The Five’ show. “Joe Biden is in [a] hole with young people, he knows it. And if he thinks Taylor can get him out of that hole, he’s gonna go for it.” Trump, though, is also no stranger to leaning on popular culture for support. He has previously boasted of backing from the likes of Kanye West and Kid Rock. The latest polling data shows Trump holding an advantage of between 1 and 5 percentage points over Biden in a head-to-head race.


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“..has been pitched by legacy media as finally finding the “perfect match”: Kansas City Chiefs Travis Kelce. The relationship doesn’t pass the sniff test..”

Is There A Taylor Swift Psyop? (ZH)

Welcome to the matrix. The current news cycle gives the impression that Taylor Swift is everywhere. According to Bloomberg data, corporate media headlines featuring “Taylor Swift” began ramping up in the first half of 2023 and hit new record highs later in the year. The singer, who has made an entire career whining about having chosen the wrong men, has been pitched by legacy media as finally finding the “perfect match”: Kansas City Chiefs Travis Kelce. The relationship doesn’t pass the sniff test, given Taylor’s terrible choices with men. Let’s begin with Michael Benz, a former Trump admin State Department official whose work has been cited in congressional hearings, posted on X a video from 2019 featuring the Pentagon’s psychological operations research that pitched the idea of turning Taylor into an asset to combat “disinformation.”

Back to Taylor’s relationship with Kelce. Consider this:


And there’s this.

We’re not alone. Fox News’ Jesse Watters also asked: “Why is Taylor Swift Everywhere?” Perhaps it’s not by chance that the story count in corporate media for Taylor has exponentially exploded, averaging above 1,000 per day since late September. Taylor’s surge comes as legacy corporate media is terrified about the rise of alternative media. Wall Street Journal Chief Emma Tucker warned WEF elites at Davos this month: “We no longer own the news.” [..] While it remains to be seen if Taylor has become a NATO asset. Certainty Democrats appear to be salivating all over her ahead of the presidential election to turn ‘Swifites’ into blue voters.

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“Joe Biden” will seize an excuse to declare a national emergency and subject the US to some manner of martial law..”

The Next Big Thing (Jim Kunstler)

I’m sure you can see exactly where all this is going. By all this, I refer to the cortège of disasters orchestrated by “Joe Biden” and associates — with help from a power-crazed globalist cabal — hauling our country at a gallop now to the graveyard of empires. Is there any question that they are out to wreck Western Civ? And speeding up the action because too many actual citizens are rising to oppose their degenerate wickedness? Most particularly, the people who have not surrendered their reason to the Woke-Marxist mind-fuck that calls itself “progressivism” have had enough of the purposeful inflow of something like ten-thousand fake asylum-seekers a day across the border, mostly men, a lot of them from China, and many more of them mutts from faraway lands where Jihad is the order of the day — meaning the crusade to exterminate the people of Western Civ. We’re supposed to be okay with that.

This deliberate, treasonous policy was rightfully declared an “invasion” last week by the Governor of Texas, requiring the human wave to be met with real force, not the welcome wagon that the federal border patrol has been turned into. The result so far is a real-live Mexican stand-off between the regime in Washington and the state of Texas, joined by twenty-five other sympathetic US states willing to send men and matériel to seal the border. None of this is reported in Monday morning’s New York Times, by the way, though you can read Is Dying Your Hair Bad for Your Health there. Nor will you read about the caravan of American truckers striking out from all points around the country to “peacefully protest and pray” at the border while Texas attempts to settle its hash with “Joe Biden.” Nor will you read about the uprising of European farmers blocking highways to protest ruinous EU rules on food imports, diesel fuel prices, carbon emissions inanity, and, of course, the officially-enabled tide of Africans and jihadists flooding into EU member states.

“Joe Biden’s” response so far is to say he’ll attend to the border situation only if Congress green-lights another massive aid package for Ukraine, a dishonest proffer from any angle. Ukraine is a lost cause that should never have been a cause of ours in the first place. Yet securing the US border is a principal duty of the executive branch, not some optional fringe benefit to be used as leverage for other projects. Congress has already got impeachment articles ready for Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas, who has lied repeatedly under oath about the border being “secure.” But it’s obviously not enough. The failure is entirely “Joe Biden’s” and warrants his impeachment on its face, aside from all the evidence of bribery and racketeering among him and his family.

The best move would be to impeach both the president and his proclaimed “border czar” Veep Kamala Harris — which would put Speaker Mike Johnson in the oval office. But the impeachment process is too slow and awkward for that. So, now I will tell you where all this is actually going: “Joe Biden” will seize an excuse to declare a national emergency and subject the US to some manner of martial law. The excuse could be an outbreak of violence in the quarrel between the states and the feds over the border. Or it could be a widening of the war in the Middle East, a direct confrontation with Iran that would draw in Russia and Turkey and kickoff World War Three, a war we would have an excellent shot at losing, considering our DEI-ravaged, over-vaxxed army, our obsolete naval carrier groups that can be sunk by hypersonic missiles, and our depleted reserves of armaments already fobbed off by Ukraine and, lately, given to Israel in the Gaza campaign to destroy Hamas.

If such a war didn’t set off a world-ending exchange of nukes, it would at least collapse the economies of Europe and America and, with that, many governments, including possibly ours. And what role might all those recently-arrived illegal aliens play in such a fiasco? Any way you cut it, we’d be in for chaos and hardship. Or, if we somehow avert major war, “Joe Biden” can try the national emergency ploy when the much-heralded (by the WHO) “Disease X” trots onstage. (And we must ask whether that will just be a delayed side-effect of the mRNA vaccine deaths?) Ultimately, the purpose of any national emergency at this moment in history, whatever prompts it, will be to suspend the 2024 elections. The Democratic Party has gone so completely off-the-rails psychologically that it will do anything to avert losing control of the government.

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What it’s all about. The bottom line.

US Foreign Arms Sales Rocket to Record Highs (Sp.)

Capitalizing on armed conflicts across the world is not uncommon for Washington, something that is confirmed by the fact that the US’ foreign military sales (FMS) reached $80.9 billion in fiscal year 2023, soaring almost 56% from the previous year to set a new record. Apart from FMS, America’s so-called direct commercial sales (DCS) likewise increased last year to $157.5 billion from $153.6 billion in fiscal 2022, the State Department said in a statement. A record total of FMS and DCS in FY2023 stands at about $238 billion. The total $80.9 billion figure for FMS last year includes $62.25 billion in arms sales funded by US allied and partner nations, as well as $3.97 billion through the Title 22 Foreign Military Financing program, according to data released. An additional $14.68 billion was funded through other Department of State and Department of Defense programs, including the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.

Poland made some of the biggest purchases, buying Apache helicopters for $12 billion and also paying $10 billion for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). Germany spent $8.5 billion on Chinook helicopters while Bulgaria paid $1.5 billion for Stryker armoured vehicles and Norway bought $1 billion worth of multi-mission helicopters. The Czech Republic bought $5.6 billion in F-35 jets and munitions. Outside of Europe, the State Department data indicated that South Korea paid $5 billion for F-35 fighter jets and Australia spent $6.3 billion on C130J-30 Super Hercules planes. Also, Japan reached a $1 billion deal for an E-2D Hawkeye surveillance plane. Examples of last year’s major DCS Congressional Notifications include a hefty agreement with the Ukrainian Defense Ministry to supply National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS) worth $1.2 billion.

Other agreements worth approximately the above-mentioned sum pertain to Italy, India, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, and Norway, per the State Department. It’s safe to assume that commercializing wars has become a trend in US policy. In the same vein, in a 2022 extensive report by the Washington-based Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft think tank, the authors urged the Biden administration “to address a number of key issues if US policy on arms sales is to be made consistent with long-term US interests.”

“The key policy consideration is how to restrict sales to those that will help allies defend themselves without provoking arms races or increasing the prospects for conflict,” the report pointed out, referring to the AUKUS submarine deal, which “will benefit US contractors but risks fueling arms competition and increasing tensions with China.” On the “rapid” US military assistance to Ukraine, the report underscored that “the United States has failed to offer an accompanying diplomatic strategy aimed at ending the war before it evolves into a long, grinding conflict or escalates into a direct US-Russian confrontation.” Moscow has repeatedly warned the US and its allies that sending arms to Kiev would only prolong the Ukraine conflict. The authors warned that foreign arms sales can also pose risks to US security “by fueling conflicts, provoking American adversaries, stoking arms races, and drawing the US into unnecessary or counterproductive wars.”

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Works for the industry.

Stoltenberg: Weapons for Ukraine Are ‘the Way to Peace’ (Sp.)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a press briefing that supporting Ukraine goes beyond charity, serving as an investment into global security. “Supporting Ukraine is not a charity, it is an investment in our own security,” Stoltenberg said during a press briefing on Monday. Stoltenberg also suggested that arms for Ukraine are “the way to peace.” In October, the White House requested from Congress supplemental funding of for more than $100 billion, including more than $60 billion for Ukraine, but Republican lawmakers have refused to approve the request without including substantive measures to strengthen US border security and address record levels of illegal immigration into the United States.

Western countries have been providing military aid to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s special military operation in February 2022 in the amount of hundreds of billions of dollars. The aid evolved from artillery munitions and training in 2022 to heavier weapons, including tanks, advanced air-defense systems, cluster munitions and missiles later that year and in 2023. The Kremlin has consistently warned against the West’s continued arms deliveries to Ukraine. Moscow has repeatedly stated that Western military supplies do not bode well for Ukraine and only prolong the conflict. In addition, vehicles carrying supplied weapons are a legitimate target for the Russian Army.

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“In accordance with this certificate, the recipient of the weapon does not have the right to resell it or redirect it anywhere without the consent of the supplier country..”

West Asks Countries To Secretly Send Russian Weapons To Ukraine – Lavrov (RT)

Moscow has become aware of several cases of Western powers asking certain countries to secretly donate Russian-made weaponry to Kiev for use in the Ukraine conflict, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said. The Russian diplomat’s comments come as Kiev ramps up its demands for more military aid, citing acute shortages in hardware and ammunition. The US and its allies have also been seeking to approve further financial and military support for Ukraine. Speaking at a roundtable meeting with the heads of foreign diplomatic missions in Moscow on Tuesday, Lavrov stated that Russia has been in contact with “certain countries” that the West has been trying to convince to hand over Russia-supplied weapons to Ukraine, without informing Moscow of such transfers.

The minister noted that there have been “several cases of this kind” recorded by Moscow over the past year and a half, and stressed that Russia will continue to demand that all international obligations regarding weapons transfers be observed. Lavrov pointed out that when a foreign country legally acquires Russian arms, the shipments come with a certain package of documents, including an end-user certificate. “In accordance with this certificate, the recipient of the weapon does not have the right to resell it or redirect it anywhere without the consent of the supplier country,” the minister explained.

At the same time, Russia’s top diplomat noted that the West has been pretending not to notice that its own weapons, which it has supplied to Ukraine, have already spread to war zones across the world, where they are frequently being used by extremists and terrorists. “The weapons that the West supplies to the Ukrainian regime have been found not only in conflict zones in the Middle East, but in illegal shipments that have been recorded in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Gaza,” Lavrov said. Last week, speaking at a UN Security Council meeting, Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s claims that Kiev has been reselling Western weapons on the black market, and expressed disbelief that Ukraine’s backers were unaware of this. Russia has repeatedly condemned Western weapons deliveries to Ukraine, insisting that such shipments only serve to prolong the fighting and lead to more bloodshed without affecting the eventual outcome.

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“..the United States is expected to station B61-12 gravity bombs, which are three times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, at the Lakenheath base for the first time in 15 years..”

Russia Warns US Against Returning Tactical Nuclear Weapons to UK (Sp.)

Russia strongly warns the US against returning its tactical nuclear weapons to the territory of the UK, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Tuesday.”Regarding the hypothetical return of US tactical nuclear weapons to the UK territory, I would like to strongly warn against this destabilizing step,” Ryabkov told reporters. The move would not strengthen the security of either the UK or the US, but would increase the level of escalation and threat in Europe, the diplomat said. “We assume that despite the rather sad experience, from the point of view of ensuring European security, the experience of recent years in London and Washington, hotheads are not drawing any lessons from this, so this scenario is quite possible,” he added.

The Telegraph reported on January 26 that the United States is expected to station B61-12 gravity bombs, which are three times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, at the Lakenheath base for the first time in 15 years after Washington decided to remove its nuclear arsenal from the United Kingdom in 2008. A Pentagon spokesperson, commenting on the development, said in a statement to Sputnik that it is a US policy to neither confirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weapons at a specific location amid reports that Washington plans to station its nuclear weapons in the United Kingdom.

“It is U.S. policy to neither confirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weapons at any general or specific location,” the statement said. The statement noted that the United States “routinely upgrades its military facilities in allied nations. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said that the Kremlin would view the deployment of US nuclear weapons in the United Kingdom as an escalatory action.

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“.. it ordered Israel should facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid, it actually said, “You have to cease fire because there is no [other] way of doing that.”

The Palestinians Won in The Hague: So Did the Rest of Us (Patrick Lawrence)

Half a dozen years ago I sat in the lobby lounge at the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan talking at length with Richard Falk, the scholar, lawyer, U.N. rapporteur, and advocate of Palestinian rights. Inevitably, the conversation turned for a time to international law, a topic on which Falk has long been a recognized authority. Here is a little of what he said as we took our afternoon tea: When international law is on the side of the geopolitical actors, then they are very serious about its relevance. When the American embassy was seized in Tehran after the Iranian Revolution, they talked about the flouting of international law as if that was the most sacred body of law that ever existed. International law is used very instrumentally. If you’re protecting private investment in Venezuela or Chile, then it’s barbaric not to uphold it. But if it’s blocking the pursuit of some kind of interventionist project, then it’s flaky or irrelevant to talk about it …

I thought about that exchange over the weekend, as I considered the International Court of Justice’s ruling last Friday that the apartheid state of Israel may be guilty of genocide against Gaza’s Palestinian population, as South Africa charges, and that the case Pretoria brought last month must proceed. Later Friday, the estimable Phyllis Bennis quoted Falk in a piece she wrote for In These Times. Falk called the decision the court’s “greatest moment,” and went on to explain, “It strengthens the claims of international law to be respected by all sovereign states—not just some.” Consistency of thought: It does not get more admirable than this. There are many, many ways to look upon the ICJ’s ruling, many things worth saying. The very first of these is that the significance of the ICJ’s interim finding lies beyond dispute.

Will the barbarities of a nation self-evidently suffering a collective psychosis now stop? No. What Dick Falk said six years ago still holds: Israel has already made clear it will ignore The Hague’s judgment. But what “the Jewish state” does this week or next is not for the moment our question. What are the enduring consequences of this ruling for the global order? How shall we situate the court’s judgment? Where does its importance lie? These are our questions. And Falk was right last Friday, too: The ICJ has begun the work—the long work—of restoring international law as a foundational feature of a world order worthy of the term. Having made this point, I must immediately note the abject deflections we find in the reports of our corporate media—which, nearly to a one, urge their readers, listeners, and viewers to dismiss the ICJ’s interim finding as, borrowing from Falk, more or less flaky and irrelevant.

In the second paragraph of its main story Friday, The New York Times, fairly bursting to get the point across, wrote, “The court did not rule on whether Israel was committing genocide, and it did not call on Israel to stop its campaign to crush Hamas…” Three untruths here, straight off the top. One, the South Africans did not ask The Hague to issue a ruling on genocide one way or the other. In the cause of expedience, to stop the savagery as quickly as possible, it asked for what it got—a swift interim judgment so the court could order Israel to stop the violence and that the larger case on genocide could proceed. Two, a mountain has been made of the fact that the ICJ did not, in so many words, call upon Israel to cease fire in Gaza. This is preposterously misleading.

Peruse the six stipulations that comprise the ruling, the first of which reads, “Israel shall take all measures within its power to prevent all acts within the scope of Genocide Convention, Article 2.” Here I defer to Raz Segal, an Israeli historian who professes at Stockton University in New Jersey. This is from a segment of Democracy Now!, distributed last Friday: We’re already seeing headlines in The New York Times today which frame this as, “The court did not issue an order for a ceasefire”—which, in effect, it actually did, because if it ordered that Israel should cease from genocidal acts, and it ordered Israel should facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid, it actually said, “You have to cease fire because there is no [other] way of doing that.”

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“It’s the starter’s pistol of a global clampdown, which will impact humble Israelis as their economy tumbles and life gets tougher..”

ICJ Ruling Is What It Is: Symbolic. But What Happens Next Is Critical (Jay)

All eyes now will be on Joe Biden to see what card he will play next after he has cut UNRWA aid – a despicable move which will haunt him until his dying days For many, the ruling of the ICJ in the Hague was surreal as it swiftly delivered a judgement against Israel for its genocide in Gaza. Yet even though the interpretation from around the world was that the conclusion of the court was unequivocal, the only real way of judging the validity of both the court and its judgement is with its impact. One has to wonder why the court, for example, didn’t use the word “genocide” and also why it stopped short of calling for an all-out ceasefire. For those naïve enough to believe that the court is entirely independent, the decision by the U.S. to veto any decision made by the United Nations Security Council should set minds at rest. We know that the Americans will do nothing at all, but there might be plans, however, for other countries to use the ruling as a basis for a host of actions against Israel, beyond merely legal ones.

The Americans were quick to point out on the day of the ruling that the court did not rule that Israel carried out a genocide. And so, by definition, it didn’t. This mentality, which is popular among gangsters, is really all that matters and is what those seeking justice will have to grapple with now.But the ruling did throw a spotlight on just how desperate both the Americans and Israelis are becoming as the stunt they pulled on the same day of the ruling, to distract media attention away from the court case and its significance, is telling.UNRWA is the UN agency, which takes care of the Palestinians, not only in Israel but in other countries like Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. For the Biden administration to entirely pull its funding of this agency, the last lifeline for thousands of Palestinians who rely on it even for food aid, is desperate, pathetic and despicable.

For those wondering what this stunt was intended to do, all they had to do is watch BBC news and see how this once fine international broadcaster has become a propaganda channel for U.S. hegemony. Eight minutes were given to why the Biden administration took the decision and only a couple of minutes given to the court decision itself.The Americans and Israel are still fighting a media war, which, for them, must feel like flogging a dead horse, despite most analysts acknowledging that all of the West’s media giants are completely supportive of israel. Israel clearly prepared the dossier and tortured its Palestinian prisoners to fabricate a story about UNRWA workers being complicit with the October 7th attacks in a confession signed in blood. Shamefully, this “evidence” which wouldn’t stand up in any court in the U.S. or UK, was all it took for Biden to go ahead with the plan, which leading commentators like George Galloway in the UK have already called an act of genocide in itself.

The UNRWA stunt is absolutely disgusting as it is craven and an all-time new low point for Biden. It paints Biden as a U.S. president who is happy to play his role in murdering thousands of civilians all in the name of fighting the media and controlling the debate. Some commentators will no doubt note the irony that the Gaza campaign started with claims by Israel of Hamas beheading babies and Israeli women being raped – the latter claim just retracted by the New York Times in recent days – and is now noted for Israel’s baptism of fake news as it struggles now even to get the upper hand in Gaza amidst reports of Hamas fighters returning to northern Gaza.

The ruling however will send shockwaves around the world for Israel to deal with. Certainly most of the countries, which make up the UN General Assembly, which has a good working relationship with the court, will not keep quiet about a U.S. veto in the Security Council. The boycott of goods may well be cranked up to official sanctions on Israel’s goods, visas and even the entity’s participation of international events. But for Netanyahu, this is not a badge of honour. He knows that the ruling will only compound his all-time low ratings in his own country. It’s the starter’s pistol of a global clampdown, which will impact humble Israelis as their economy tumbles and life gets tougher. Biden of course, could use the ruling to leverage Bibi to call a ceasefire. That is of course if you believe the reports that sleepy Joe really wants one, or is just bluffing once again, using his own journalists to help him with this deception.

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Oh, they know.. Admitting it is something else.

West Starts to Understand That Ukraine Project ‘Failing’ – Lavrov (Sp.)

The West is beginning to understand that the “Ukraine project” is failing but can not stop assisting Kiev because of its economic benefit and fear of losing “prestige,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday. “The figures that are hidden in Ukraine, they speak a lot about how important it is for the West to prevent the ‘failure’ of their ‘Ukraine project’. Moreover, they already understand that the failure has already begun. But nevertheless they cannot stop. And not only for reasons of prestige … And also from the point of view of economic benefits,” Lavrov said during a meeting with foreign diplomats in Moscow. Addressing the UN Security Council meeting on January 22, 2023, Lavrov emphasized that there are no interests – and there never were – in the conflict with Russia in favor of the Ukrainian people.

There are only “the interests of the Anglo-Saxons, their henchmen and the criminal, rotten Kiev elite, which is tied to the West by mutual responsibility and which is afraid of being swept away the day after the end of the war.” The Russian top diplomat pointed out that Moscow has never given up on a peaceful resolution to the Ukraine conflict. “We never gave up on the peaceful resolution, we are always ready to negotiate — negotiate not about how to keep the leadership of the Kiev regime in place but about overcoming the inheritance of a decade-long destructive looting of the country and violence against the people, removing the reasons for the tragic Ukrainian situation,” Lavrov said. However, the key factor hindering a resolution of the conflict in Ukraine is the continued support of the West, he added.

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Without those claims, what is left?

Lavrov Blasts ‘Absurd’ Claims That Russia Will Attack NATO (RT)

Speculation in the West that Russia could attack the Baltic and Nordic states once the Ukraine conflict ends is pure fiction, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said. Speaking to the heads of diplomatic missions on Tuesday, Lavrov said the US had gathered a group of 54 countries to provide military, technical and intelligence aid to Ukraine to help it fight Russia. “All this is being done to prevent Russia from claiming victory,” he added. He said Western countries were claiming that “if Russia wins and asserts its interests in this war, the Baltics, Sweden, and Finland will be next.” Three Baltic nations became NATO members in the early 2000s, more than a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Both Helsinki and Stockholm applied to join the bloc after the start of the Ukraine conflict, although only Finland’s application has been ratified so far.

Lavrov noted that this view was shared by Joe Biden, referring to remarks by the US president in early December, when he said that “if [Russian President Vladimir] Putin takes Ukraine, he won’t stop there” and could proceed to attack a NATO country. Moscow said at the time that such comments were “unacceptable for a responsible nuclear state.” The Russian foreign minister said that “the absurdity of such statements is clear to anyone who understands the slightest bit of history and the goals of the special military operation in Ukraine, which we announced openly and without hiding.” Russian officials have repeatedly said that Moscow is seeking the “denazification” and “demilitarization” of Ukraine, as well as an arrangement guaranteeing that the country would not join NATO, and would instead recommit to neutrality.

Lavrov further noted that the military campaign against Kiev is aimed at eliminating “historical injustice.” According to the minister, Moscow is fighting attempts to rewrite history, as well as efforts to turn territories where Russians and other peoples of Russia have lived for centuries “into a springboard for US-led NATO to be used to threaten the [country’s] security.” Last month, Putin said Moscow had no interest whatsoever in launching an offensive against the bloc. He added that the president of the United States – which he called the “master” of NATO – surely knows that “Russia has no interest… geopolitically, economically or militarily… in waging war against [the bloc].”

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When you lose, escalate.

Zelensky Ready To Further Fuel Ukraine Conflict (Sp.)

Doubts about the West’s willingness to further prop up the Kiev regime may drive Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to stir up the Ukraine conflict even further by ordering riskier attacks against Russia, Time magazine reported. Zelensky is already taking “bigger risks” in order to turn the conflict around and bolster his political standing at home, according to the publication. Every one of these actions is ripe with the potential for Russian retaliation, which may in turn deepen the hostilities and directly drag in NATO, Time magazine notes, adding that neither Moscow nor Brussels wants such a development. Armed conflicts “take on a life of their own, particularly with one of the key players -in this case, Zelensky- becoming a wild/ card to watch, the magazine concluded.

This follows Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters that Zelensky is currently in a tight spot because no one is providing him with money and Ukraine is up against a crisis at the moment. “Zelensky is in a tough position. He has stopped receiving money, there are not enough shells for him abroad, he is also facing a tense situation inside the country, and many people are dissatisfied. In order to cloak his positions, he resorts to disguising them with utterly ludicrous decrees. It is unlikely that this can help the Kiev regime in any way, [so] the difficulties will only mount. This is despite the fact that there certainly are still more or less bright minds who understand what needs to be done to get out of this situation,” Peskov said, commenting on Zelensky’s decree entitled “On the territories of the Russian Federation historically inhabited by Ukrainians.”

Time’s report comes after The American Conservative pointed out that Zelensky has issued frenzied orders to attack civilians in order to fuel the conflict and secure further assistance from the West. On January 21, 27 people were killed and 25 more wounded when Ukrainian troops shelled the Kirovsky district of the city of Donetsk, according to head of the Donetsk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin. The shelling was preceded by the Ukrainian military’s strike on the Russian city of Belgorod on December 30, which killed 25 civilians and wounded 109 others. Moscow excoriated the murderous attack, slamming it as an act of terrorism. Also in December, President Vladimir Putin stressed in an interview with Russian media that Moscow has “no reason and no interest – neither geopolitical, nor economic, political, and military – to fight with NATO countries.” Russia and NATO members do not have any territorial claims against one another, Putin noted, adding that Moscow is unwilling to spoil relations with the alliance.

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“..Many soldiers reportedly continue to speak Russian on the front lines..”

Ukraine To Teach Troops To Speak Ukrainian (RT)

Special courses will be created for Kiev’s troops so that they can improve their command of the Ukrainian language, government official Taras Kremen has said.Kremen, who is Ukraine’s language ombudsman, made the announcement as he met with servicemen at a Territorial Defense Forces training center on Monday, his office said in a statement.Violations of the country’s language law, which among other things obliges the military to use Ukrainian, have been recorded in a large number of units, including in the capital Kiev, according to the commissioner.Ukraine historically has a large Russian-speaking population, especially in its eastern regions. Many soldiers reportedly continue to speak Russian on the front lines. In a 2001 census, more than 14.2 million Ukrainian citizens (almost 30% of the population) called Russian their native language.

During the meeting with servicemen, it was “agreed to open language courses for military personnel who want to improve their knowledge and properly prepare for the exam to determine the level of proficiency in the state language,” Kremen said. “I will be happy to assist in the creation of such a network [of courses] in other military units as well,” the commissioner added. Signed by then President Pyotr Poroshenko in 2019, the language law established Ukrainian as the sole state language and made it obligatory for use in all areas of social life. It was a continuation of Kiev’s policy of forcing out the Russian language, pursued by the authorities after the violent Western-backed coup in 2014.Since 2021, passing a Ukrainian language exam has been mandatory to become a government employee or to obtain Ukrainian citizenship.

“Nobody there [in the conflict zone] speaks Ukrainian,” a sniper from Kiev’s forces told the TSN media outlet in October. Despite concealing his identity, the serviceman enjoyed a certain celebrity status in Ukraine due to his regular interviews and podcast appearances.He claimed that Russian was common in all sections of the front line that he had been posted to. In his own unit, “two people speak the harshest Surzhik [a mix of Russian and Ukrainian] and, probably, two or three others [use] Ukrainian language. All the rest are Russian-speaking,” the sniper insisted. Moscow has repeatedly denounced Kiev’s clampdown on Russian culture and language, insisting that the “forced Ukrainization” violates international law and infringes upon the rights of native Russian speakers, who make up around a quarter of the population.

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“..It now amounts to about $102,000 for an average American family of three..”

US Facing ‘Death Spiral’ Of Swelling Debt – Nassim Taleb (RT)

The burgeoning US debt pile is akin to a “death spiral” that only a “miracle” could extract the country from, economist and ‘Black Swan’ author Nassim Taleb said at a business event on Monday, as quoted by Bloomberg. Taleb defined the expanding US debt load as a “white swan,” meaning a risk event that is highly predictable and more probable than a “black swan” event, a metaphor describing an occurrence that comes as a complete surprise. “So long as you have Congress keep extending the debt limit and doing deals because they’re afraid of the consequences of doing the right thing, that’s the political structure of the political system, eventually you’re going to have a debt spiral,” Taleb said. “And a debt spiral is like a death spiral.” Earlier this week, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that the absolute level of US public debt looks like “a scary number.”

US government federal debt topped $34 trillion for the first time in history at the end of December. It now amounts to about $102,000 for an average American family of three. In 2023 alone, it grew by more than $4 trillion.According to Taleb, a former trader who is best known for publishing several bestselling books on economics, white swans include both the US deficit and the American economy that has grown more vulnerable to shocks than in previous years. He called such vulnerability a feature of globalization, as problems in one region can ricochet around the world.When asked how the US “debt spiral” could play out, Taleb said, “we need something to come in from the outside, or maybe some kind of miracle,” adding that this makes him “kind of gloomy about the entire political system in the Western world.”

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“..a classified cable that was sent to Islamabad by the Pakistani ambassador to Washington in 2022, which allegedly suggested that the US wanted Khan ousted over his neutrality in the Ukraine conflict.”

Imran Khan Sentenced To Ten Years In Prison (RT)

A Pakistani court has sentenced former prime minister Imran Khan to ten years behind bars. He has been charged with leaking state secrets, according to the spokesman for the politician’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI). On Tuesday, Zulfiqar Bukhari said, as quoted by AP, that the verdict was announced at a prison in the northern city of Rawalpindi, not far from the capital, Islamabad. The same sentence was also imposed on former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. The charges relate to the so-called cipher, a classified cable sent to Islamabad by the Pakistani ambassador to Washington in 2022, shortly after the start of the Ukraine conflict. The document allegedly suggested that the US wanted to remove Khan over his neutrality regarding the hostilities.

The ex-Pakistani PM called the cipher case on Tuesday “false,” adding that it “is being completed in violation of constitutional requirements and legal regulations.” “This is not a trial but a fixed match outcome of which was predetermined,” he added. Echoing those comments, his party PTI noted that “there can be no more ridiculous case than the cipher.” “What can be more ridiculous than that Pakistan has imprisoned its prime minister and foreign minister for exposing the foreign conspiracy!” Khan, a former professional cricket player who became prime minister in 2018, was ousted in 2022 in a non-confidence vote. The opposition accused him of poor governance, as well as of mismanaging the economy and foreign policy. At the time, he claimed that he had been toppled as a result of a US conspiracy.

The controversy around the politician did not end there, however, with Khan becoming a target of dozens of cases, sparking mass street protests organized by his supporters, which resulted in dozens of casualties. In August 2023, the politician was sentenced to a three-year jail sentence on charges related to what prosecutors argued was an attempt to conceal receiving state gifts while Khan was serving as PM. The country’s judiciary, however, later suspended the sentence, granting him bail. Khan still remained incarcerated on other charges.

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And one day later, there’s more…

Imran Khan Sentenced To 14-year New Jail Term (RT)

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife have been sentenced to 14 years in prison in a corruption case. This comes after another court ruling in which Khan was given ten years for leaking state secrets. The politician and his wife, Bushra Bibi, were sentenced by a Pakistani accountability court on Wednesday in the city of Rawalpindi, not far from the capital, Islamabad. Both were charged with the illegal sale of state gifts while Khan was prime minister from 2018 to 2022. In addition to the sentence, the two have been barred from running for public office for ten years and fined $2.7 million.

This comes after Khan was sentenced to ten years on Tuesday for leaking state secrets. The charges are related to a cipher, a classified cable that was sent to Islamabad by the Pakistani ambassador to Washington in 2022, which allegedly suggested that the US wanted Khan ousted over his neutrality in the Ukraine conflict. Commenting on the verdict, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) denounced what it called the “complete destruction of every existing law in Pakistan in two days.” “Imran Khan and Bushra Bibi have faced yet another kangaroo trial in which no right to defense was given to both. Like cipher, this case has no basis to stand in any higher court.”

Both sentences come ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for February 8. The PTI said the “atrocities against [Khan] will be avenged by the power of the vote.” Khan, a former cricketer-turned-politician, was ousted in a no-confidence vote in 2022, with the opposition accusing him of mismanaging the economy and foreign policy. Khan claims that he was overthrown as a result of a US conspiracy. Since then, the former leader has fought dozens of legal battles. Islamabad’s attempts to prosecute him sparked massive public unrest with numerous casualties.

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In the earliest days of space exploration, most calculations for early space missions were done by “human computers,” and most of these computers were women. These calculations helped the U.S. launch its first satellite, Explorer 1, 65 years ago #Today.









Big baby






Baby elephant








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Jun 202023
 June 20, 2023  Posted by at 9:11 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  82 Responses »

Vincent van Gogh Fishing Boats on the Beach at Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer 1888


We Need a Peace President (Ron Paul)
Blinken Says US Does Not Support Taiwan Independence (JTN)
Beijing Tells US To Respect ‘One China’ Policy (RT)
Future Of Humanity Depends On China-US Relations – Xi (RT)
Scholz: West Should ‘Brace’ Itself For Prolonged Conflict In Ukraine (TASS)
Biden Warns Of ‘Real’ Nuclear Threat (RT)
Greater Eurasian Partnership Becomes Russia’s Flagship Project – Lavrov (TASS)
BRICS Expansion, De-Dollarization and ‘Decline of US Empire’ (Tweedie)
Kiev Reportedly Can’t Account for ‘Hundreds of Millions’ in Weapons (Reed)
EU Wants to Mandate Arms Makers to Prioritize Orders for Ukraine
German Armor Too Wide To Transport – Bild (RT)
BlackRock, JP Morgan Set Up ‘Reconstruction Bank’ For Ukraine (HE)
Strange Days (James Howard Kunstler)
The New World War On Free Speech (Shellenberger)
Juneteenth, The Day Republicans Freed All The Democrats’ Slaves (BBee)



Rand Paul





Putin OUN



Lavrov Germany



Results of the counteroffensive …







“..we desperately need a peace president to do for us what JFK did for the US during the Cuba crisis..”

We Need a Peace President (Ron Paul)

Most people agree that we are closer to nuclear war than at any time since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Some would even argue that we are closer now than we were in those fateful days, when Soviet missiles in Cuba almost triggered a nuclear war between the US and the USSR. In those days we were told that we were in a life-or-death struggle with Communism and thus could not cede a square foot of territory or the dominoes would fall one-by-one until the “Reds” ruled over us. That crisis was very real to me, as I was drafted into the military in the middle of the US/USSR standoff over Cuba and we could all feel how close we were to annihilation. Fortunately, we had a president in the White House at the time who understood the dangers of nuclear brinkmanship.

Even though he was surrounded by hawks who could never forgive him for aborting the idiotic Bay of Pigs Cuba invasion, President John F. Kennedy picked up the telephone for a discussion with his Soviet counterpart, Nikita Khrushchev, which eventually saved the world. Historians now tell us that President Kennedy agreed to remove US missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Soviets removing missiles from Cuba. It was a classic case of how diplomacy can work if properly employed. It is all too clear that we do not have a John F. Kennedy in the White House today. Although we no longer face a Soviet empire and communist ideology as justification for taking a confrontational tone toward Russia, the Biden Administration is still dragging the US toward a nuclear conflict. Why are they putting us all at risk?

The same old “domino theory” that was discredited in the Cold War: If we don’t fight Russia down to the last Ukrainian, Putin will soon be marching through Berlin. This all started with Biden promising to only send uniforms and medical supplies to Ukraine for fear of sparking a Russian retaliation. From there we went to anti-tank missiles, multiple-rocket launchers, Patriot missiles, Bradley fighting vehicles, and millions of rounds of ammunition. The Biden Administration announced last week that it would send depleted uranium ammunition to Ukraine, which poisons the earth for millennia to come. Rumors are that long-range ATACMs missiles are to be delivered soon, which could strike deep into Russia. Apparently, F-16 fighter jets are also on the way.

The escalation rationale from Washington, we are told, is that since the Russians have not directly retaliated against NATO for NATO’s direct support of Ukraine’s war machine, we can be sure they never will respond. Is that really a wise bet? It is clear to many that US-built F-16 fighters taking off from NATO bases with NATO pilots attacking Russians in Ukraine – or even Russia itself – would be a declaration of war on Russia. That means World War III – something we managed to avoid for the whole Cold War. Congress is silent – or compliant – as we lurch forward toward disaster for no discernable US strategic goal. Biden – or whoever is actually running the show – is forging straight ahead. As we move into the US presidential election cycle one thing is clear: we desperately need a peace president to do for us what JFK did for the US during the Cuba crisis. Hopefully it won’t be too late!

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“About 50% of the global commercial container traffic… goes through the Taiwan Strait every day,” Blinken remarked, including the vast majority of “high-end semiconductors.”

Blinken Says US Does Not Support Taiwan Independence (JTN)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a press conference Monday that the U.S. does not support Taiwan independence. “We do not support Taiwan independence,” Blinken said. “We remain opposed to any unilateral changes to the status quo by either side. We continue to expect the peaceful resolution of cross strait differences. We remain committed to continuing our responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act including making sure Taiwan has the ability to defend itself.” Blinken made clear that the U.S. does have some concerns about China and what its actions could have on the world. “At the same time, we and many others have deep concerns about some of the provocative actions that China has taken in recent years going back to 2016,” he continued, according to Fox News.

“And the reason that this is a concern for so many countries, not just the United States, is that were there to be a crisis over Taiwan, the likelihood is that could produce an economic crisis that could affect quite literally the entire world.” Blinken wrapped up his meeting with China President Xi Jinping and summarized it as “candid” and “constructive,” but admitted to “profound differences” as the two nations seek to repair “unstable” relations with each other. He said during an interview with NPR that it was important to maintain peace with the nation that China treats as its own. Taiwan is a massive contributor to the global trade market. “About 50% of the global commercial container traffic… goes through the Taiwan Strait every day,” Blinken remarked, including the vast majority of “high-end semiconductors.” “If either of those things were taken offline as a result of a crisis, it could have devastating consequences for the global economy,” he continued.

Blinken Taiwan

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Where Blinken got his talking points.

Beijing Tells US To Respect ‘One China’ Policy (RT)

The US should respect the One China principle and stop supporting Taiwan’s push for independence from Beijing, Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi has told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “China has no room to compromise or concede” on the status of Taiwan, Wang told Blinken during a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing on Monday. “The US must truly adhere to the One China principle… respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and clearly oppose ‘Taiwan independence’,” the director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission office of the Chinese Communist Party was quoted by local media as saying. Washington’s support for sovereignty in Taiwan, a self-governed island of 23.5 million which Beijing views as part of its territory, has been among the issues aggravating tensions between China and the US in recent years.

According to Wang, bilateral relations have now reached “a critical juncture.” He told Blinken that Washington needs to make a choice “between dialogue or confrontation, cooperation or conflict” with Beijing. “We must take a responsible attitude toward the people, history and the world, and reverse the downward spiral of US-China relations,” he said. China’s top diplomat also called upon the Biden administration to stop making threats towards Beijing and abandon its “suppression” of Chinese scientific and technological development. According to the US State Department, Blinken stressed the importance of “responsibly managing the competition” between the US and China “through open channels of communication to ensure competition does not veer into conflict.”

He also told Wang that Washington will “continue to use diplomacy to raise areas of concern and stand up for the interests and values of the American people.” Blinken is the first US secretary of state to visit Beijing in five years. His trip was initially scheduled to take place in February, was postponed due to the so-called “spy balloon” incident. Washington claimed it shot down a Chinese surveillance aircraft over its territory, while Beijing said it was merely a weather balloon, which had strayed into American airspace by accident. Following his meeting with Wang, Blinken held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. His two-day visit also included negotiations with China’s recently appointed Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Sunday.

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“The international community [..] doesn’t want to choose sides in the event of a conflict..”:

Future Of Humanity Depends On China-US Relations – Xi (RT)

Stable relations between China and the US are vital for the international community, which doesn’t want to choose sides between the two countries, Chinese President Xi Jinping said during a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Beijing on Monday. “Planet Earth is big enough to accommodate the respective development and common prosperity of China and the US,” Xi told Blinken, according to a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The Chinese leader said that the world is interested in “generally stable” ties between Beijing and Washington, because “whether the two countries can find the right way to get along bears on the future and destiny of humanity.” The international community expects China and the US to “coexist in peace and have friendly and cooperative relations,” and doesn’t want to choose sides in the event of a conflict, Xi stated.

The Chinese president argued that competition with Beijing would not help Washington to solve America’s domestic problems or the challenges currently facing the world. “China respects US interests and does not seek to challenge or displace the US,” Xi stressed, adding that Beijing expects the same approach from the Biden administration. Xi called on the US to adopt a rational and pragmatic attitude towards China, and to jointly work on improving ties and making the global situation more stable. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that Blinken had assured Xi during their 35-minute talk that the US does not seek conflict or a new Cold War with Beijing, and has no intention of trying to change China’s political system.

Washington expects to continue high-level engagement with Beijing, while keeping lines of communication open and managing differences responsibly, the top US diplomat said, according to the Chinese statement. Blinken is the first US secretary of state to meet Xi since 2018. He was initially scheduled to arrive in Beijing in early February, but the trip was postponed due to the so-called “spy balloon” scandal. The US claimed it had shot down a Chinese surveillance aircraft over its territory, while China insisted that the object was a weather balloon which had strayed into American airspace by accident. The two-day visit by Blinken also included a meeting with Beijing’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, earlier on Monday, as well as talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Sunday.

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“However, it’s obvious that NATO will not become a party to the conflict.”

Scholz: West Should ‘Brace’ Itself For Prolonged Conflict In Ukraine (TASS)

The West should adjust its policy with the expectation that the Ukraine conflict may go on for an indefinite period of time German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday. “We have to brace ourselves that the Russian [special military operation] act could last for a long time,” German Chancellor Scholz said speaking at a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg “This is what we are preparing for and this is what we are orienting our policy toward,” Scholz told Stoltenberg. “Germany will continue to be a staunch supporter of Ukraine as long as it takes,” Scholz continued. “However, it’s obvious that NATO will not become a party to the conflict.”

On June 14, the German government has adopted the country’s first ever National Security Strategy, which enshrines the main principles and measures to counter potential external threats to the state in the coming years. “The determining factor” of the document’s development was Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, the “Zeitenwende” or “tipping point,” as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called it. The German government enshrined its NATO commitments and decided to increase defense spending by twp percent of GDP. “We express our strong commitment to NATO and the EU and strengthen the Bundeswehr (the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Germany) to meet the primary objective of national and alliance defense (of two percent),” the document said.

It pointed out that the authorities planned to reach the two-percent increase in defense spending in the term of “over several years.” “We will strengthen our security in cyberspace and space,” the document stressed. In addition, the German government said that it will reduce dependence on energy and raw materials supplies and work on their diversification. “We will reduce unilateral dependency on the supplies of raw materials and energy resources by diversifying them. We will work together with our businesses to promote raw materials projects, including creating strategic stockpiles,” the document said. The German authorities also added that they sought to expand national food, energy, and medicine reserves. The document included as well plans to overpass a law aimed at protecting critical infrastructure facilities.

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“Before blaming others, Washington could use some introspection.”

Biden Warns Of ‘Real’ Nuclear Threat (RT)

President Joe Biden has claimed there is a “real” threat that Russia will use tactical nuclear weapons, soon after the Kremlin announced that it would station some of its arsenal in a friendly neighboring state. Speaking to a group of donors in California on Monday, Biden suggested that Russia’s moves in Belarus could be a sign that it is preparing to use its smaller-yield tactical nukes, despite recent comments from the White House acknowledging no “imminent indication” of any such attack. “When I was out here about two years ago saying I worried about the Colorado river drying up, everybody looked at me like I was crazy,” he said, adding “They looked at me like when I said I worry about [Russian President Vladimir] Putin using tactical nuclear weapons. It’s real.”

The statement came after the president slammed Russia’s upcoming deployments as “totally irresponsible” over the weekend. He previously told reporters he felt “extremely negative” about the decision. Moscow and Minsk finalized an agreement on hosting tactical nuclear weapons on Belarusian territory last month. According to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, the atomic warheads will be mounted on Iskander-M missiles and fighter jets specifically modified for the purpose. Russia first revealed that talks for the deployments were underway in March, and said the decision was a response after Britain supplied depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine last year. On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko that “everything is going according to plan,” adding that preparations for the missiles would be completed by July.

Responding to critical reactions from US officials, the Russian Embassy in the United States previously accused Washington of hypocrisy on the issue, pointing to some 150 American nuclear missiles stationed across Western Europe and Türkiye. “The United States has been for decades maintaining a large arsenal of its nuclear weapons in Europe. Together with its NATO allies it participates in nuclear-sharing arrangements and trains for scenarios of nuclear weapons use against our country,” it said, adding “Before blaming others, Washington could use some introspection.”

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Building a formidable bloc.

Greater Eurasian Partnership Becomes Russia’s Flagship Project – Lavrov (TASS)

Building support for the Greater Eurasian Partnership project could be seen as the flagship project of Russia’s foreign policy, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday. “Our flagship foreign political project is to [build] support for the concept of the Greater Eurasian Partnership. What we’re talking about is facilitating the objective process of forming a broad integrative configuration that is open for all countries and associations across our vast continent. Practical steps are already being made [in this direction],” Lavrov said.

These include the processes of interlinking the complementary development plans of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, expanding interaction within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) with the involvement of SCO observer states and dialogue partners, strengthening the strategic partnership between Russia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and establishing working contacts among the executive bodies of the EAEU, SCO and ASEAN, the foreign minister noted. “Among the concrete deliverables [of these processes] we envision the provision of mutually beneficial, interlinking infrastructure and the creation of a continent-wide architecture of peace, development and cooperation throughout Greater Eurasia,” Lavrov added.

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“I could give you ten other statistics and they all point in the same direction. This is an empire that is declining..”

BRICS Expansion, De-Dollarization and ‘Decline of US Empire’ (Tweedie)

Economist Richard Wolff told Sputnik that the US displaced its mother country Britain as the world’s dominant imperial power around 1920 — and that history was now repeating itself. “The American empire didn’t work the same way. It didn’t set up colonies the way the British had in India or South Africa or any of the other places,” Wolff said. “It had a more informal empire. [From] The way it had managed to control Latin America throughout the early years of this country to how they expanded and controlled the world by economic arrangements, by political deals, by alliances.” But the US empire peaked around the year 2000, the academic said, and is now in “decline.” “We lost the wars in Vietnam. We lost the war in Afghanistan. We lost the war in Iraq,” Wolff said.

“It’s not clear what’s going to happen in Ukraine. But I wouldn’t bet money on a different outcome there either. And that war is a war between the United States and Russia more than anything else, with the disaster being concentrated on […] Ukraine.” While the US leads the G7 group of the biggest Western economies, “there’s a different and other bloc, and that’s what’s new, it’s the bloc called the BRICS.” “The BRICS now account for 33 per cent, one third of the total output of goods and services on this planet, whereas the United States and its allies have slipped to under 30 per cent, about 29 per cent of total output.” “I could give you ten other statistics and they all point in the same direction. This is an empire that is declining,” he added.

The conflict in Ukraine and Western sanctions on Russia — the world’s biggest energy and food grain exporter — has accelerated that downfall. “The economic war between Russia and Europe is being lost by Europe, not by Russia, which was not the intent, but is the outcome,” Wolff said. “The Europeans are going to have to ask themselves, which side are you on? Are you going to stay with the US and the G7 and heading down the slide of your bloc as the BRICS blocs rises, or are you going to choose the other way?” The academic pointed out that when the UK had the world’s greatest empire from the 17th to the 19th centuries, the pound sterling was the “global currency.” With the rise of the US in the 20th century the dollar usurped the pound.

“What that means is that everywhere in the world, people need dollars to do their business. Central banks hold dollars as that alongside of gold, as the guarantor of the value of their currency,” Wolff explained. Now BRICS has overtaken the G7 as “the dominant economic bloc in the world,” a new contest has begun which will end in “the decline of the dollar and the rise of whatever alternative the BRICS settle on, either the Chinese currency or a composite that they’re producing.”

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Everybody takes their cut…

Kiev Reportedly Can’t Account for ‘Hundreds of Millions’ in Weapons (Reed)

The Zelensky regime spent “hundreds of millions” on weapons which have yet to materialize, according to a damning new [NYT] article which reported serious problems throughout the Ukrainian military supply chain. “Ukrainian government documents show that as of the end of last year,” Kiev’s leaders “paid arms suppliers more than $800 million since… February 2022 for contracts that went completely or partly unfulfilled,” the outlet noted. “We did have cases where we paid money and we didn’t receive,” a deputy Ukrainian defense minister working on arms procurement reportedly confirmed. When weapons do show up, their quality is reportedly a major source of frustration. Video of a “recent delivery of 33 self-propelled howitzers donated by the Italian government…. showed smoke billowing from the engine of one, and engine coolant leaking from another,” according to the outlet.

In a statement, Italy’s Defense Ministry claimed the vehicles were known to have been decommissioned long ago but that the Kiev regime demanded them regardless. The weapons were always meant “to be overhauled and put into operation,” the ministry insisted, given what it called “the urgent need for means to face the Russian aggression.” But the headaches didn’t end there. Efforts to fix the faulty howitzers were complicated by another setback in January after Zelensky’s officials claimed they paid a US company to carry out the necessary repairs, but 13 of them were still “not suitable for combat missions” when received. In a February letter to the Pentagon’s inspector general, Ukraine’s defense procurement director effectively accused Ultra Defense Corporation of defrauding the Kiev regime of millions of dollars, claiming the Florida-based weapons supplier took $19.8 million of Ukrainian government funds with “no prior intention to fulfill its obligations.”

However, the company’s chief executive, Matthew Herring, strenuously denies the accusations. “Every single one of them worked when we delivered them,” he reportedly wrote. In a statement which accused the Ukrainians of failing to maintain the weapons upon their arrival, he noted that one howitzer suffered from a coolant leak which “magically appeared after delivery in Ukraine.” The episode isn’t the only instance where Kiev officials’ stories didn’t exactly match up with the entities they partnered with. The documents, reportedly the product of a government audit this year, “showed that some of the most valuable sets of undelivered contracts are between the Defense Ministry and state-owned Ukrainian arms companies that function as independent brokers.” “In recent months, the ministry has sued at least two of those state firms over unfulfilled contracts, and Ukraine recently announced overhauls aimed at making those companies more efficient,” the outlet reported.

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With all those millions/billions missing, let’s spend more, and faster…

EU Wants to Mandate Arms Makers to Prioritize Orders for Ukraine

The European Union put forward a “temporary emergency measure” which will obligate manufacturers of explosives to prioritize the orders of firms producing ammunition for Ukraine, the military news portal reported on Monday, citing a European Commission spokesperson. “The Commission’s proposal provides for priority rated orders to help manufacturers – for example – with the supply of necessary raw materials where the Commission could ask suppliers to prioritize selling to those manufacturers,” the spokesperson told the outlet. At the moment, the “emergency measure” is getting through the EU’s approval process, the spokesperson was cited as saying.

The initiative has already drawn criticism from a number of member states and private companies that fear the Commission will get too much power assuming the role of regulator of the ammunition market, according to the report. They argue the plan will create conditions for the violation of trade secrets or the disclosure of confidential information. The unnamed Commission spokesperson allayed these concerns by telling that “the Commission has long-standing experience in handling such information in the context of other procedures and has the necessary safeguards in place.” In early May, the Commission announced it would allocate 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion) for the production of ammunition for Ukraine. The EU plans to spend another 500 million euros on expanding the production of shells in Europe.

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“German media have mocked it as the ‘Pannenpanzer,’ or “breakdown tank.”

German Armor Too Wide To Transport – Bild (RT)

Germany’s main infantry fighting vehicle, the Puma, is too wide to be transported by train, the outlet Bild reported on Sunday. The IFV has struggled with a variety of mechanical problems since entering service in 2015. “In terms of firepower, the Puma is really good. But the transport is more than suboptimal,” one soldier told Bild. Tracked vehicles such as tanks and IFVs are normally transported to the area of operations by train, in order to save on fuel and track maintenance. Because the Pumas are so wide, their crews need to unscrew their side armor before loading it onto the rail cars – then repeat the procedure in reverse at the destination. A company of 14 Pumas can be “completely loaded and stowed in 24 hours,” a Bundeswehr spokesperson told Bild.

Military experts estimated that transporting an entire battalion of 44 vehicles can take “a few days.” One big bottleneck is a shortage of cranes, but the military said Puma companies will be “equipped with them in the future.” Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann developed the Puma between 1995 and 2009 to replace the older Marder IVF, which Berlin has since supplied to the Ukrainian military. The specifications called for a vehicle that could be airlifted to places like Africa and Afghanistan. “The Puma shows what mistakes were made in procurement,” Andreas Schwarz, a Bundestag member from the ruling SPD, told Bild. “Instead of relying on battle-tested and marketable weapon systems, a panzer was developed according to special requests that is too wide for train transport. That must end.”

Word of the new problems with the Puma comes during a difficult month for the reputation of German armor, as photographic and video evidence from Ukraine showed Leopard 2 tanks provided to Kiev getting destroyed in battles with the Russian military. Berlin paused the purchase of new Pumas last December, after a disastrous exercise that saw one of the vehicles catch fire and all 18 break down. The vehicle is supposed to have superior crew protection and excellent firepower, including a 30mm autocannon and anti-tank missiles. However, German media have mocked it as the ‘Pannenpanzer,’ or “breakdown tank.”

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They’re probably making deals for a Ukraine that includes the Donbass (the richest part) and Crimea. But there will not be such a Ukraine.

BlackRock, JP Morgan Set Up ‘Reconstruction Bank’ For Ukraine (HE)

BlackRock and JPMorgan Chase are reportedly aiding the Ukrainian government in setting up a reconstruction bank that could see rebuilding projects being heavily invested in by private entities. The Financial Times noted that it would cost Ukraine roughly $411 billion to rebuild their country amid the onslaught of attacks by Russia, but the cost is continuing to increase. The Ukraine Development Fund is still in the early stages of setting up the reconstruction bank, but potential investors will get an inside preview of how things will look during a London conference that is set to take place this week. With the steep cost to rebuild, the Ukrainian government reached out to BlackRock in November to see if there was a conceivable way of attracting investments. JPMorgan was soon added in February.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed last month that he was working with the two financial institutions and consultants at McKinsey, per the report. Philipp Hildebrand, BlackRock vice-chair, said: “So many of today’s long-term challenges are best addressed through blended finance and this is one. You need these vehicles to mobilise capital at scale.” Though BlackRock and JPMorgan are offering their services, they will likely have the first look at potential investments in the Eastern European country. The report noted that the current development has only deepened JPMorgan’s relationship with its long-standing client, Ukraine. The financial institution has helped Ukraine raise more than $25 billion in sovereign debt since 2010, and it led in the country’s $20 billion debt reconstruction in 2022.

BlackRock has claimed that Ukraine needs a “development finance bank” that would provide the country with infrastructure, climate, and agriculture opportunities. This will apparently make them more attractive to other long-term investors. JPMorgan was added to the venture due to its debt expertise. Stefan Weiler, JPMorgan’s head of debt capital markets in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, said: “The fund is being set up to also give public and private sector investors the opportunity to invest into specific projects and sectors.” “There will be different sectoral funds that the fund identified as priorities for Ukraine. That aim is to maximise capital participation.” However, it does not appear that Ukraine is expected to receive such investments until the end of the conflict with Russia.

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“..if Harris were flat-out forced to resign, then Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) would automatically become president..”

Strange Days (James Howard Kunstler)

Strange doings at a strange time in a strange land. Videos of widespread military vehicle maneuvers around our nation popped up on the Web at mid-weekend while the American citizenry went about its holiday weekend business (including Father’s Day revels and “Juneteenth” celebration mass shootings): Scenes of armored personnel carriers rolling down Walnut Street in downtown Philly; B2 bomber wings over Minnesota; Tank columns galumphing along a California highway… leading to widespread suspicions that something untoward is up. Durned if I know what’s up. Among things one can know: The “Joe Biden” presidency is whirling around the drain in plain sight, and with it, likely, the Globalist hopes and dreams of making everybody eat bugs while they take away everything you own.

Last week, audiotapes surfaced of the main parties to the Ukraine grift (Biden and Poroshenko) working things out in 2016 over the phone in “JB’s” final days as vice-president. Meanwhile, the House Oversight Committee has got its mitts on Biden family bank records galore detailing the abstruse money-laundering activities that were run through obscure European banks and innumerable Biden shell companies. Well, sonofabitch…! It’s getting hard even for Democrats to ignore the accumulating evidence of the Biden family’s global grift operation, and “JB’s” obvious advancing mental deterioration, provoking moves that should lead to his ejection from office. Last week, their captive mainstream news media broadcast a cavalcade of embarrassing public idiocies committed by the Commander in Chief — declaring “God save the Queen” incongruously at the end of a Gun Safety Summit in Connecticut; groping actress Eva Longoria’s boobs after a White House movie screening; cracking a weird joke about the “Philadelphia girl” in his bed (Dr. Jill Biden); being introduced at an I-95 bridge collapse event by brain-damaged PA Senator John Fetterman who tossed up a word salad about the federal “delegadation” aiming to fix “infructure,” while dressed-up looking like Uncle Fester out of The Addams Family. The indignity of it all was really something to behold.

You understand, “Joe Biden’s” reelection campaign is another rank hoax, yet another trip laid on the American public by a desperate, degenerate Democratic Party that doesn’t know what to do next with public opinion souring on it. There’s no way this gibbering near-corpse can run again. He can’t even perform as a puppet anymore. He’s a broke-down engine pulling a train of failure, perfidy, and treason five miles long behind him. The Ukraine war project he presides over looks more and more like an effort to conceal and cover-up his family’s bribery schemes by laying waste to the pitiful chump of a foreign land that went along with the grift — and which, anyway, is winding up as yet another American military humiliation with the Russians finishing off what’s left of Ukraine’s army in the failed “spring offensive.”

Do you suppose that all these military vehicle movements around the country in recent days signal a constitutional crisis in the offing, necessitating martial law? Let me lay it out: Absolutely no one believes that Vice-president Kamala Harris is up to the job of stepping-in when “Joe Biden” gets bum-rushed out of the White House. Nor, I’m sure, are they willing to force her to resign hastily without a substitute vice-president (say, Gavin Newsom) in place — a cumbersome process that requires approval by both the House and Senate (with the Senate split 50-50 and no vice-president to preside over the body with a tie-breaking vote). But if Harris were flat-out forced to resign, then Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) would automatically become president.

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“..hate speech” includes the reluctance of some people online to use female pronouns when referring to transwomen..”

The New World War On Free Speech (Shellenberger)

The war on free speech is hardly a novel phenomenon, instead mutating over the centuries. What is new, however, is its global aspirations: today, the conflict takes the form of a world war. You can see its shadow in every Western country, from the US and Canada to Ireland and Australia, as well as in every multinational organisation, from the EU to the UN. Rising levels of hate speech and misinformation, we are told, make it more urgent than ever for governments, corporations and multilateral organisations to adopt stronger measures to protect vulnerable populations online. It is for this reason that Biden’s Department of Homeland Security recently created a “Disinformation Governance Board”, the European Commission crafted a new Digital Services Act and Code of Practice on Disinformation, and the UN is proposing a “Code of Conduct for Information Integrity on Digital Platforms”.

All of these initiatives are allegedly the product of good intentions; all of them, however, are rooted in the same fallacy: there is little evidence to suggest that hate speech and misinformation are on the rise. On the contrary, Western countries are more tolerant of racial, religious and sexual minorities than ever before. To take one example, the percentage of Americans who approve of marriages between white and black Americans has risen from 4% in 1958 to 87% in 2013 to 94% in 2021. There are, of course, plenty of examples of misinformation and hatred online, and Twitter and Facebook are right to reduce their spread — but often the threat is exaggerated. The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), for instance, recently published a study that concluded that antisemitism was increasing on Twitter.

But there is no definitive evidence of rising hate online. The ISD study counted tweets criticising George Soros which didn’t mention his Judaism as antisemitic. Elsewhere, “hate speech” includes the reluctance of some people online to use female pronouns when referring to transwomen — even though one might oppose using female pronouns for natal males and harbour no animus toward transwomen. Here we can see that what people label as “hatred” and “misinformation” is often merely an opinion they don’t like or which they fear will encourage bad behaviour. In both the UK and the US, this led to government officials demanding that social media platforms censor “often-true” content, including about Covid vaccine side effects, out of fear that such stories would result in vaccine hesitancy.

What’s more, Facebook and Twitter have also started deleting a significant amount of true content. Between 2020 to 2021, for example, Facebook censored claims that the coronavirus came from a Chinese lab, even though that was always as likely, if not more so, than the natural-origin hypothesis. Twitter also censored an accurate New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop while allowing supporters of his father, Joe Biden, to falsely claim it was a result of “Russian disinformation”. The global campaign to censor disfavoured views on Twitter and Facebook is therefore rather curious. If there is no evidence that hatred and misinformation are increasing, and ample evidence of inappropriate censorship of true and accurate information, why are politicians across the West calling for greater power to censor?

Read more …

“Congress has also approved the building of a giant elephant statue in D.C. to honor the party responsible for the freeing of slaves from Democrat plantations..”

Juneteenth, The Day Republicans Freed All The Democrats’ Slaves (BBee)

The Senate has unanimously passed a resolution to recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday, commemorating the glorious day Republicans freed the last of the Democrats’ slaves. “We are so proud to show the world how not racist we are by officially recognizing the day the Republicans came charging in to free all our slaves,” said Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer. “Yeah– we Democrats did a little ‘whoopsie’ with that whole slavery thing, but the Republicans corrected it. Thanks, Republicans!” During this year’s Juneteenth, the nation will gather to celebrate the American political party that was founded on protecting human rights of people of all skin colors.

Democrats around the country will write letters of apology and organize celebrations for the vast network of Christians, Catholics, Quakers, and Republicans who fought and died to end the scourge of slavery in America. Congress has also approved the building of a giant elephant statue in D.C. to honor the party responsible for the freeing of slaves from Democrat plantations. Biden has confirmed he will organize a celebration at the White House after he lays a wreath on the grave of his best friend Robert Byrd.

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Sep 152019
 September 15, 2019  Posted by at 2:17 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »

Pavel Filonov The Kolkhoznik (Member of a Collective Farm) 1931


Those winds just keep on shifting, no matter that the western press either doesn’t see them shift, doesn’t recognize them for what they are, or chooses to ignore them. But these winds bring tidings of a tectonic plate-shaking shift in the global political climate.

The fires in Saudi oil installations, whether they were caused by drones or missiles, and whoever fired those, are a major story, and rightly so, because they could shake up economies in drastic ways. But they may still, not be the biggest story after all.

Last Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intention to annex the Jordan Valley (already occupied territory, 65,000 Palestinians and 11,000 Israeli settlers live there). He did that to steal votes from the far right in next Tuesday’s (Sep. 17) Knesset election. “Bibi” also called Donald Trump his “friend” every second word for that same purpose. Trump responded in kind. He may come to regret that. Choose your friends wisely. Bit of background from RT:


US, Israel Talk About Mutual Defense Treaty – Trump

The US and Israel are discussing a mutual defense treaty that would further cement the already “tremendous” alliance between the two countries, President Donald Trump has revealed. “I had a call today with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the possibility of moving forward with a Mutual Defense Treaty, between the United States and Israel, that would further anchor the tremendous alliance between our two countries,” Trump tweeted.

Trump voiced not-that-veiled support for Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections in Israel. “I look forward to continuing those discussions after the Israeli Elections when we meet at the United Nations later this month!” Trump wrote. The support surely comes in handy, as Netanyahu’s backing appears to be quite shaky. The September 17 polls are the second snap legislative elections this year after Netanyahu failed to form the government back in April.

The outcome of the upcoming vote is hard to predict, as Netanyahu’s party, Likud, has almost equal support as their main opponent the Blue and White led by Benny Gantz, opinion polls show. Netanyahu was quick to respond to Trump’s announcement, lauding the prospects of the alliance and managing to call the US president a “friend” twice in a single tweet.

[..] Israel was one of the first major non-Nato ally (MNNA), a designation that goes with a whole set of benefits, such as generous loans, a priority in delivery of various military surplus, possession of war reserve stocks of Pentagon-owned hardware outside US military bases (Israel is said to have at least six sites) and others.

Yet in 2014 the US enshrined Israel into a new class of ally – a major strategic partner. The new designation, which is a step above MNNA, was basically established specifically for Israel. It greatly expanded the US wartime stockpiles in Israel from $200 million in value to a whopping $1.8 billion. Under the Trump administration, the trend has continued, and in 2017, the US established its first permanent military base – an air defense facility – in Israel.

A second thing Bibi is trying to do to win Tuesday’s elections is intimidating the prosecutors who are on his tail for three different cases or fraud. He has a grand plan to become immune from this prosecution (basically, become King Bibi), but he must win the election to execute it. Haaretz is Israel’s oldest newspaper, but it’s not Bibi’s biggest fan(club):


Netanyahu’s Plan to Escape Trial, in His Own Words: ‘Time for Them to Be Frightened’

Immediately after the last election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined to members of his inner circle a plan to extract him from facing trial. The plan was based on obtaining immunity from the Knesset and passing legislation to prevent the High Court of Justice from removing that immunity. If his bloc wins 61 Knesset seats next week, Netanyahu will presumably resort to this rescue plan. For him it will be the Day of Judgment.

“Stop being frightened. It’s time for them to be frightened,” Netanyahu told his confidants, referring to justice officials, headed by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who have decided to indict him in three cases, subject to a hearing. Netanyahu told his confidants why he insisted on his destructive plan, telling them he had lost all confidence in the legal system on all levels – the attorney general’s office, the state prosecutor and the court system.

“They want me in prison,” he told one of his cronies, noting that if he were indicted that would indeed be the result – not because he had crossed a red line, but merely due to the jurists’ collective hostility toward him and his ideology. Netanyahu appears to wholeheartedly believe himself to be a victim, framed by prosecutors and that Mendelblit, who is weak, doesn’t believe in them at all, but couldn’t withstand the pressure.

In his interviews with the police Netanyahu acted like a hunted man. “It’s a wacky conception,” he told national fraud squad chief Koresh Bar-Nur in January 2017. Bar-Nur came to Netanyahu’s residence with a team of investigators to question him under caution on Case 2000, involving a bribery deal Netanyahu allegedly negotiated with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes.


And that wasn’t all. To court the right wing vote, Bibi also planned to bomb locations in Syria controlled by “Iran-backed” Assad troops, right about right now. And he needed permission from Vladimir Putin to do that. So he flew to Moscow, did a bunch of photo-ops with Putin to show Israeli voters he’s an important statesman, but all he got was a big load of coal in his stocking. Putin said: we’l shoot you out of the skies if you dare. And do note: this is not the first time.

In other words, Bibi was deeply humiliated one week before the election he so deperately needs to him to stay out of jail. Now tell me, which western paper or TV channel did you read or watch the news about this in/on? Remember, this happened before Trump announced his Mutual Defense Treaty with Bibi. By the way, what does that “Mutual” mean anyway, that Israel will save America? This is from Zero Hedge:


Israeli Attacks On Syria Halted After Russian Threat To Shoot Down Jets

According to reports in both Israeli and Arabic regional media, Israel this past week was preparing to expand major airstrikes against “Iran-backed” targets in Syria, but Moscow imposed its red line. The Independent has published a story describing that Russia’s military in Syria threatened to shoot down any invading Israeli warplanes using fighter jets or their S-400 system.

The Jerusalem Post, citing sources in the UK Independent (Arabia), writes just after the latest meeting in Sochi between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin: “According to the report, Moscow has prevented three Israeli airstrikes on three Syrian outposts recently, and even threatened that any jets attempting such a thing would be shot down, either by Russian jets or by the S400 Anti-aircraft missiles.

The source cited in the report claims a similar situation has happened twice, and that during August, Moscow stopped an airstrike on a Syrian outpost in Qasioun, where a S300 missile battery is placed.” Netanyahu’s hasty trip to meet with Putin on Thursday – even in the final days before Tuesday’s key election – was reportedly with a goal to press the Russian president on essentially ignoring Israel’s attacks in Syria.

Citing further sources in the British-Arabic Independent Arabia, The Jerusalem Post continues: According to the Russian source, Putin let Netanyahu know that his country will not allow any damage to be done to the Syrian regime’s army, or any of the weapons being given to it… Israel sources cited by the Arabic newspaper described Netanyahu’s attempts to persuade Putin as “a failure”. This in spite of Netanyahu telling reporters after the meeting that his relations with Moscow were stronger than ever.

[..] The Russian source said: “Putin has expressed his dissatisfaction from Israel’s latest actions in Lebanon” and even emphasized to Netanyahu that he “Rejects the aggression towards Lebanon’s sovereignty”, something which has never been heard from him.

Putin further stated that someone is cheating him in regards to Syria and Lebanon and that he will not let it go without a response. According to him, Netanyahu was warned not to strike such targets in the future.



This is where and how the winds -and with them the tectonic plates- have shifted. And don’t underestimate it. Bibi can presumably count on Trump more than any other US President in his time, and the US is supposedly this almighty force, also in the Middle East, but today Putin just tells him “don’t you dare!” Putin refuses to let him touch Assad’s territory and -Russian- weapons.

The clincher is those weapons have become so sophisticated that Bibi, Trump support or not, puts his tail between his legs and flies back, hoping nobody notices what shape he’s in. And in that humiliation, Lebanon is the cherry that Putin puts on top of the pie. “Now that you’re here, I want you to stop harassing Lebanon too. Yes, now you may go.” Lebanon must have stunned Bibi.

What these shifting winds tell us is that the shots in that part of the world, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, (I wouldn’t go as far as including Iran and Saudi Arabia just yet) are no longer called by Bibi or the US. The main reason, as we’ve mentioned often before, is that Russian weapons have become so powerful.

Because as also previously discussed, Russian arms may well be -far- superior to American ones, which in turn in due to the US arms industry developing weapons for profit, vs Russia producing them to defend itself. Putin outright humiliating Bibi Netanyahu may be the first real obvious consequence of that.

This is something that will play out over a long time, but it may change the global political climate dramatically very rapidly. Mike Pompeo can try to blame Iran for whatever it is that happened to Saudi oil facilities, but for the US to attack Iran, which may be the reason for that blame game, it would need to ask Putin for permission, just like Netanyahu did.

And why would Putin give that permission? That’s a real good question. Mind you, Netanyahu may on Tuesday get the Knesset seats he needs to stifle the investigations against him, and to annex the Jordan Valley, but he will still have to ask permission if he has big dreams. And neither Trump nor Jared Kushner nor anyone else can help him there.

The US neocons have been talking about a New World Order for decades. Well, now they got one.





Oct 122018
 October 12, 2018  Posted by at 1:12 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »

Alfred Eisenstaedt Egyptian Fishing Boats. Suez Canal near Port Said 1935


According to Middle East Eye, Richard Branson, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Economist editor-In-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, New York Times, Financial Times, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshah, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish and AOL founder Steve Case have all withdrawn from Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative conference, to be held this month in Riyadh. Branson also put a $1 billion investment plan on hold.

Also, on Wednesday, former US energy secretary Ernest Moniz said that he had suspended his role on the board of Saudi Arabia’s planned mega business zone NEOM, to which he was named on Tuesday. The Harbour Group, a Washington firm that has been advising Saudi Arabia since April 2017, ended its $80,000 a month contract on Thursday. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is still scheduled to speak at the conference, as is Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga, but they won’t risk the damage to their reputations.

All this is due, obviously, to the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a former close aquaintance of the Saud family, who moved to the US and wrote for the Washington Post (how’s Amazon’s Saudi business, Jeff Bezos?) after falling out with the House of Saud.

As the what someone actually labeled “unfolding diplomatic crisis” takes shape, there is really only one thing to say about these people and organizations: they the worst group of hypocrites ever. And their reasons to boycott the conference must be questioned.

Because before Khashoggi vanished they all apparently though it was quite okay to go feed at the Saud trough, despite the still ongoing slaughter of millions of people in the ‘war’ in Yemen. Which makes one suspect it’s not so much about their principles but about their public image.

Donald Trump said he won’t stop weapons sales to the Saudi’s because they would just buy their arms from someone else, like Russia (it would be interesting to get Putin’s view on Khashoggi). And while Trump is completely wrong here, at least he’s not hypocritical about it.

Not selling guns and tanks is by no means the most forceful action vs MBS and his dad, and not just because they can buy them elsewhere. What’s much stronger as a protest against what apparently happened to Khashoggi is to hit the Sauds where it hurts: in their wallet. That wallet is being filled by the sale of oil.

Simply stop buying their oil. Tell Shell and Exxon and BP and Total to get the hell out of the country. It’s just that to top off the hypocrisy, the best -only?- replacement for Saudi oil is Russian oil, and the US and Europe are engaged in a long drawn out smear campaign to isolate Russia from their world order.

But as long as Richard Branson flies his planes on Saudi oil, what’s the use of him boycotting a conference? Well, other than he hopes it makes him look good in the eyes of the world and feel good about himself? The carnage in Yemen has been going on for years, and all that time Branson has been silent. And was planning to get into a $1 billion investment as emaciated Yemeni babies are fed leaves.

And the idea is not to single him out, those major media organizations and the World Bank are just as bad. They all just hope that no-one will notice or speak out when they grab the Saudi money, and that when they are caught in the middle they will collect applause for making their ‘heroic’ decision not to attend a conference.

That said, it’s interesting to see the story move through the media. Is it the power of Jeff Bezos that gets it so much -and sustained- attention? Did the Saudi’s know that Turkey had their consulate bugged? Isn’t that against international law? How much Saudi oil does Turkey use? Did US intelligence know what was going to happen? Did Turkey?

Why so much more interest in this case than all the other disappearing journalists? Khashoggi is/was no Christ; he was close to the royal family for years while women and gay people and dissidents were under severe threat.

Just more hypocrisy. And if we want to end that, let’s boycott Saudi oil. Let’s use different oil, or none. And until then let’s not fall for the stage performances of all those who all of a sudden want to be seen as principled actors. That’s just about as bad as sawing a guy into pieces.



May 142018

Brassaï Cat 1945


What’s happening to John McCain is tragic. It’s not something one should ever wish upon another human being. Nor is it decent, let alone useful, to wish that he would die. Wishing bad things upon someone because they did bad things is too close for comfort to what he himself did. But it’s good to remember that his brain tumor is not the most tragic part of McCain’s life on earth. And no, neither is his time as prisoner of war in Vietnam.

McCain’s main tragedy is that he didn’t learn the one lesson he should have learned about his time in Vietnam, and didn’t turn his back on warfare. Instead, he turned into the biggest and loudest pro-war campaigner in Washington for decades. Talk about a missed opportunity, a life wasted. If there was one person who was presented with the first-hand experience needed to turn against bloodshed, it was John McCain.

What’s more, during his time in the House and later the Senate, McCain completely missed out on a development that might yet have changed his mind. That is, wars became unwinnable. Something even that the US losing their war in Vietnam might have taught him. It entirely passed him by. McCain still never saw an opportunity to wage battle somewhere, anywhere on the planet, that he didn’t like.

That makes him a dinosaur and a fossil who should never have been allowed to remain in the Senate for as long as he did. At the age of 81, and after ‘serving’ for 35 years in Washington, it apparently becomes too difficult to see how the world outside changes, let alone to adapt to those changes. If you limit the time a president can serve, why not do the same for senators? Is it because those same senators would have to vote on that?

Moreover, if wars are unwinnable, but you incessantly call for new wars anyway, then regardless of moral issues about going to war in the first place, you have de facto become a threat to your own people and your own country that you purport to serve. Especially, and first of all, to the American soldiers you desire to send out there to fight those wars. But also a threat to the image of America around the globe.


When wars are unwinnable, there is no reason to fight them. Again, even apart from morals and ethics. You will have to find other ways to deal with ‘elements’ that feel and act less than friendly towards you. To find out what, it helps to realize that they understand it’s just as futile for them to attack you militarily as it is for you to attack them. It also helps to figure out why they are unfriendly.

What doesn’t help is to take yet another stab at Putin and say “Vladimir Putin is an evil man, and he is intent on evil deeds”, as McCain does in a forthcoming book. If that’s the best you can do, your best-by date has long since passed. That’s language fit for a 4-year old. And George W.

McCain’s father and grandfather were both 4-star US Navy admirals. Perhaps that partly explains his blindness to the evils of war, and the role the US has played in many conflicts, including -but certainly not limited to- Vietnam. It’s hard to imagine Apocalypse Now, Platoon or Full Metal Jacket being McCain’s favorite Hollywood classics.

And that is a bigger problem than it may seem. Because America has indeed been able to paint a vivid portrait for itself of why Vietnam was such an insane venture that should never have happened, and certainly not repeated. If your culture has the ability to put that in words and images, and as a nation you still don’t learn the lesson embedded in them, you’re pretty much lost.

Oh, and besides, you lost too, remember? You lost the war and the lives and limbs of tens of thousands of young Americans and over a million Vietnamese. To have been part of that and then turn around and strive to be Washington’s premier warmonger, that’s just totally bonkers. Or worse. Has McCain been promoting war all this time because he subconsciously wanted to redo Vietnam but this time not lose?


Unwinnable wars are bad news for the weapons industry. They will deny the existence of even such a concept as long and as strongly as they can. Because if you can’t win a war, why wage them? There will continue to be technological developments, but there’s no “throughput”. You can fire some missiles into some desert somewhere from time to time, and that’s it.

The military-industrial complex is happy only -because most profitable- if and when guns and missiles and jets constantly need to be replaced because they’ve been lost in a theater of war, along with young Americans. McCain knows this better than most. And he knows the captains of this complex, both the military side and the weapons producers. Far too well.

Being as beholden as it is to the arms makers and dealers, has made America lose whatever edge it once had militarily. In the US weapons are developed and sold to generate the largest profits possible; in Russia, they are developed to protect the country. This is largely why the American defense budget is 10 times larger than its Russian counterpart. All this happened on John McCain’s watch.

The entire narrative of “protecting and sharing our values” has become hollow propaganda. Because the US has engaged its military in more theaters of war and invasion than we can even keep track of anymore. The US armed forces don’t protect democracy or human rights around the world, they protect the financial interests of America’s elites, including the military-industrial complex. Does anyone believe John McCain doesn’t know this?


Unbeknownst to John McCain, the world has entered a whole new era. And this didn’t happen yesterday. Russia and China may have only recently announced new hypersonic missile technology, but it didn’t fall out of the sky. It does profoundly change things though. It ends all notions and dreams of American exceptionalism and unilateralism.

And America needs to learn that lesson. It will have to do it without John McCain. And it might as well, because McCain was incapable of changing, and of seeing the changes around him. But the American view of the world will have to change, because the world itself has.

Still, you’re right: the real tragedy is not that John McCain wasted his own life. It’s that he helped destroy so many others.



Apr 172018

Charles Sprague Pearce Lamentations over the Death of the First-Born of Egypt 1877


In Matthew 12:22-28, Jesus tells the Pharisees:


Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.

In 1858, US Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln borrows the line:


On June 16, 1858 more than 1,000 delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, statehouse for the Republican State Convention. At 5:00 p.m. they chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. At 8:00 p.m. Lincoln delivered this address to his Republican colleagues in the Hall of Representatives. The title reflects part of the speech’s introduction, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” a concept familiar to Lincoln’s audience as a statement by Jesus recorded in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke).

Even Lincoln’s friends regarded the speech as too radical for the occasion. His law partner, William H. Herndon, considered Lincoln as morally courageous but politically incorrect. Lincoln read the speech to him before delivering it, referring to the “house divided” language this way: “The proposition is indisputably true … and I will deliver it as written. I want to use some universally known figure, expressed in simple language as universally known, that it may strike home to the minds of men in order to rouse them to the peril of the times.”

On April 12, 2018, the Washington Post runs this headline:

We need to go big in Syria. North Korea is watching.

The WaPo is undoubtedly disappointed that James Mattis prevailed over more hawkish voices in Washington and the least ‘expansive’ attack was chosen.

Then after the attack, Russian President Putin warns of global ‘chaos’ if the West strikes Syria again. And I’m thinking: Chaos? You ‘Predict’ Chaos? You mean what we have now does not qualify as chaos?

Yes, Washington Post, North Korea is watching. And you know what it sees? It sees a house divided. It sees an America that is perhaps as divided against itself as it was prior to the civil war. An America that elects a president and then initiates multiple investigations against him that are kept going seemingly indefinitely. An America where hatred of one’s fellow countrymen and -women has become the norm.

An America that has adopted a Shakespearian theater as its political system, where all norms of civil conversation have long been thrown out the window, where venomous gossip and backstabbing have become accepted social instruments. An America where anything goes as long as it sells.


In an intriguing development, while Trump pleased the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN and MSNBC, his declared arch-enemies until the rockets flew, his own base turned on him. While the ‘liberals’ (what’s in a word) cheered and smelled the blood, the right wing reminded the Donald that this is not what he was elected on – or for.

Can Trump afford to lose his base? Isn’t the right wing supposed to be the side that calls for guns and bombs? It’s unlikely that he can do without his base, it would weaken him a lot as the Lady Macbeths watch his every move looking for just that one opportunity, that one moment where his back is turned.

As for the right wing not being the bloodthirsty one, that is quite the shift. Not that it’s a 180 on a dime, it has been coming for a while. It’s not just interesting with regards to Trump, there are many war hawks who -will- see their support crumble too if or when they speak out for more boots in deserts. Maybe John McCain should consider changing parties?


So yeah, what does North Korea see? Should it be afraid? Will it have become more afraid? Kim Jong-Un will have watched for China’s reaction, much more important to him that what the US does. And China has condemned the attack. It would do the same if America were to attack North Korea, and a lot stronger. Therefore Kim Jong-Un doesn’t believe Washington will dare attack him.

An interesting line from Chinese state run newspaper Global Times illustrates how China sees the world, and the US in particular, at present:


“A weak country has no diplomacy. As a hundred years have passed, China is no longer that [weak] China, but the world is still that world.”

That is how China, and in its wake, North Korea, see America. And so does Russia. Americans may -and do- think that they are still no. 1, and the most powerful, economically, politically, militarily, but that’s no longer what the rest of the world sees.

Is the US still mightier than China militarily? Probably, but not certainly. Still, how do you conquer 1.3 billion people and keep them subdued? Xi Jinping is very aware of that, and he bides his time.

Is the US still mightier than Russia militarily? Almost certainly not. To quote Paul Craig Roberts once more (and he’s no amateur):

The Russians know that they can, at will within a few minutes, sink the entire US fleet, destroy every US airplane & ship in the ME & within range of the ME, completely destroy all of Israel’s military capability & wipe out the military of the two-bit punk state of Saudi Arabia.

I’ve written this before in the past: there is a big difference between how America sees and treats its military, and how Russia does it. A difference that explains how Russia can, with one tenth of American defense spending, still be militarily superior, or at least make any wars against it unwinnable.

That is, in the US the focus is not on making the best weapons, it’s on making the most money on weapons. Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed will develop those weapons that are most profitable, not those that are most effective. The interminable story of the development of the Joint Strike Fighter is perhaps the best example of this, but there are many others. The Pentagon is a money pit.

Americans can perhaps still make the best weapons for the least money, but they don’t do it. Russia does. For Putin, the best weapons are a matter of survival. Russia has been under American threat as long as he can remember.

While Americans believe so strongly in their supremacy, and have grown so accustomed to the idea, that they no longer see having the best weapons as a matter of survival for the nation. They have come to see their superiority as something automatic and natural.


The attack on Syria is seen as a sign of weakness. Because there was no need for it. Because the evidence is flimsy at best. Because the world has international bodies to deal with such issues. Because there is no logic in allowing the blood to flow in the Gaza and Yemen but cite humanitarian reasons for bombing alleged chemical facilities elsewhere.

What the world sees is bluster emanating from a deeply divided nation (and we haven’t even tackled Britain). It sees that less than 48 hours after the airstrikes, a former FBI chief talks about his former boss in terminology that nobody would dare use in most countries, and throughout most of history,

James Comey is beyond Shakepeare. And in America, the issue is who’s right in the Comey-Trump conflict. In Russia, China et al it’s not. They see a house, a country divided. A weak country has no diplomacy.

That’s how all empires end. Complacency and division. That is what North Korea sees when it watches America, what China, and Russia see. And they may even know how Jesus put it. He didn’t just say a kingdom divided would become less powerful or wealthy, he said:


Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation.



Apr 052017
 April 5, 2017  Posted by at 7:23 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »

Ramón Casas Decadence 1899


Reading up on the Syria ‘chemical attack’ issue (is that the right term to use?). The headlines are entirely predictable, and by now that probably won’t surprise anyone, no matter where they are or what views they adhere to. We know there’s been an attack and that some kind of chemical was used. The media talk about sarin.

They also, almost unanimously, blame the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad for it. But that’s the same government that just this week saw both US Foreign Secretary Rex Tillerson and US UN enjoy Nikki Haley point to a significant shift in American policy, towards a view that removing Assad is no longer a priority in US Middle-East policy.

That comes after many years of insisting that Assad must be removed. And after many years of US involvement in removing other regimes in the region, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi. It also comes on the eve of a large Syria conference, the first in a long time, due to start today. Russia and the States send only lower-level representatives, politically sensitive etc., but still.

The question arises what reason the Syrian government could possibly have to launch a chemical attack anywhere on its territory, gruesome pictures of which, with many child casualties, were posted soon after the attack supposedly too place. And that’s where logic at least seems to break down.

Syria was not supposed to have any chemical warfare arsenals left, far as I understand, there was an accord to that extent in 2013. Did they hide any (Saddam WMD style?!), or did they recently obtain them (from Russia?!). But most of all, why use them on the eve of a conference where you have everything to gain?

I’ll be the last to claim that I know, but it certainly doesn’t make a lot of sense. Being denied recognition, legitimacy even in a sense, for years, and then throw it away the day before? Not even declaring Assad -and by association Putin and Iraq- to be complete idiots would seem to explain that. And they’re not idiots.

The Russians say a ‘rebel’ chemical weapons depot may have been hit. I don’t know, and barely a soul does, but opinions have been pre-cooked, and there we go again. There are pictures of White Helmets tending to the wounded, but then if this were sarin, that might not be advisable to do with bare hands and without gas masks. And the White Helmets themselves are not beyond scrutiny either. Meanwhile, Trump has followed everyone else in the West in accusing Assad.


Any of this sound familiar? It does to me. When I open my -personalized, no less- Google News page, all main headlines concerning either US politics or topics like the Syria chemical attack come from a ‘select’ group of ‘media’. It’s all NYT, WaPo, CNN, BBC, all the time. Google likes The Hill too, for some reason. Since my page is ‘personalized’ I don’t know how it is for others, but I have an idea.

The same opinion-forming (leading) ‘reporting’ that happens in the case of Syria, is also applied to the US. And it’s tearing the country apart, bit by inevitable bit. The MSM’s answer to the Trump campaign- and subsequent election- has been to do more of the same ‘leading’, much more. And they have plenty of takers. Subscriptions are way up, so they think they’ve hit a gold mine, a very welcome one too given where sales numbers were heading.

Trump’s the best thing that happened to WaPo in years. But then again, they still lost, and bigly. Their preferred candidate lost. And the entire storyline they had spun over, say, the entire year leading up to November 8, had gone nowhere. None of it got Hillary elected, and none of it was ever proven.

Now, of course, it’s not the job of news organizations to choose sides in politics (their job’s the opposite), and even less to make up a storyline in order to promote whatever side they pick. It’s really weird that that aspect has been largely lost on America over the past few years; not that it’s entirely new, don’t get me wrong, but it got a lot more pronounced and ‘brazen’.

It’s as if people have all of a sudden started to find it normal that their news sources tell them what to think. The echo chamber has become both much larger and a whole lot more cramped at the same time. And got for too comfy with 1984.


What makes it even weirder is that it should be obvious to us all that there has been a large shift in politics as well, albeit over a longer period of time. There is no left in the system anymore, there is no left left; workers and the poor in general have nobody left who represents them.

This is true in the US as it is in Europe. Britain’s Labor party is all but dead, Holland’s Labor equivalent went from 38 to 9 seats in the recent election, the list goes on. The US democrats? Are you kidding? Left? Left of what?

The media have followed this development as much as they have led the way. There’s a lot of synergy there; it’s just that there’s none left with the people they’re either supposed to represent or inform. But that in turn means you might as well say that the whole thing is dead. What left there still is left will have to re-invent itself.

The political system and the media may cross-pollinate as much as they want, and they obviously seem to want that a lot, but they still depend for their survival on a connection with people, voters, readers. Only, they appear to have concluded Groucho stye that “Hey, if you can fake that, you can fake anything..”

Problem is, this did cost the US media’s candidate the election. So now they’re echo-chambering to less than half of the population. Who are so receptive that they may be temporarily fooled into thinking they’re doing fine. But the other -more than- half already thinks they’re full of it, and that’s not going to change back (my humble prediction).


If the US MSM would go back to impartial reporting, they would be fine. The same is true for the Democratic party -and its link to the poorer part of America. But both have made their beds (and bets) and must now lie on them.

For the media, this means being forced to turn over ever more readers and viewers to ‘new media’. It’s not even a technology thing, it’s just that they themselves have chosen to become irrelevant. And yes, it is ironic that the soon-so-be richest man on the planet, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, controls the bigliest web success and destroys the WaPo at the same time. It’s an awful shame too. But the paper for him is financial pocket change, not a legacy of hard work.

Bezos et al do this by trying to dictate what people think, by becoming Edward Bernays and Joe Goebbels. The idea might have worked without the Interwebs, but I must retract that: it would have been sacrificed on the altar of economic mayhem. Lots of irony in there, though.

The New York Times and Washington Post owe their reputation to America’s times of plenty, and those are gone, long gone. These papers are no longer capable of Woodward and Bernstein, because there’s nothing left that’s objective, the entire focus is partisan now, and that means you’re going to miss out on the big, the real stories, if they’re your news sources.

And it’s not even that they’re papers, and they may or may not get digital; it’s their owners’ choices for certain political directions that’s doing them in. Maybe that’s an inevitbale process; that news organizations must perish one sources change, or processes, or range. I’m not sure of that, though; I think they’re squandering a 100 year -or so- legacy on an altar of political megalomania.


And that gets me to what got me thinking about the reporting on Syria’s chemical attack to begin with, and the way it’s presented. That is, I read a lot of things, it’s what I do, but instead of the journalists asking the questions, I know it’s up to -people like- me to do that. That goes for Syria, and just as much for US domestic issues. There’s nobody left I can rely on. Again I aks of you: any of this sound familiar?

I’m by no means ready to go with everything Fox says, or any -formerly- right-wing source. But I can no longer trust the left wing either, let alone the formerly neutral ones. I’m on my own. And so are you.

Now, Russia spying on America is a done deal, of course they do. Everyone spies on every other one, if they have the technology they will do it. But Susan Rice ‘unmasking’ people in the Republican campaign is a step or two further. It may be technically legal, but it skirts far too close for comfort to potential political interference.

Since the entire Russia story was never proven, after a year and change of investigation by the entire media AND intelligence machine, I think perhaps it’s reasonable to suggest that it was always merely a convenient front for spying on Trump and the other Republicans. I don’t know that, it’s deduction that leads me there.


Still, of course the Russia-Trump connection probe just keeps on going. They haven’t found a thing, no shred, after all this time, but maybe, maybe… Look, I always said that a Trump presidency would be ugly and stupid -just still preferable to Hillary- but this ‘Putin is the devil’ meme is a lot uglier than that.

If and when you lose, as the Dems and their media have, doubling down is not the way to go, not if you want to win the next one. You have to look at what mistakes you’ve made and learn from them, not focus even more on what is or was wrong with the other side. That makes no sense. Losers must lose with grace, as much as winners win with it.

It’s not just in the US that people have completely lost sight of this most basic of principles; in the UK the post-Brexit bickering just won’t stop, and everything gets worse in the process. But it’s all about blaming the others, not your own side. How that can be helpful when you’ve lost is not clear to me at all.


Susan Rice will be before a Senate or Congress committee soon, and it will be interesting to see what she has to say. I’m sure her legal counsel have previously assured her that it was all perfectly within her job prescription. But she, what can I say, she doesn’t look good in her press appearances.

And you can complain all you want about the photos with only males in Trump’s office, but the entire glass ceiling female crew, Donna Brazile, Huma Abedin, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, they all look to have broken that ceiling but from the wrong side, (lost in gravity?!), and in the wrong way. They’ve all either cheated to get where they are (were), or cheated while they were there.

What a loss that is. That ceiling must be broken, badly, but not by women who are part of it. It fits the overall picture, though. If and when nothing is what it seems, it’s a lot easier to get people to believe what you tell them, certainly when you can put a NYT or WaPo stamp on what you’re saying. The problem is, by now you’ll only be talking to less than half of the people. And that’s on a good day.

The whole thing is broken, and you don’t heal that by pointing out to what extent the other side is broken. You heal it by looking at your own f*ck-ups, and then correct them. And until you do that, the risk of chemicals raining down on kids in Syria will just continue to be the same as Obama ordering drone strikes. Or the US and UK and France and Germany selling weapons to the Saudis that allow them to obliterate an entire nation and people in Yemen.

This is not about Assad, it’s about you, and Theresa May and Trump and Obama and Hillary and W. and Merkel and Tony Blair and scores of French and German politicians who’ve kept the death racket alive all these years. It’s where the money is.



Feb 252015
 February 25, 2015  Posted by at 3:18 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »

Gordon Parks “New York, New York. Scene in Harlem area.” 1943

Riddle me this, Batman. I don’t think I get it, and I definitely don’t get why nobody is asking any questions. The IMF and EU make a lot of noise – through the Eurogroup – about all the conditions Greece has to address to get even a mild extension of support, while the same IMF and EU keep on handing out cash to Ukraine without as much as a whisper – at least publicly.

The Kiev government, which has been ceaselessly and ruthlessly attacking its own people, is now portrayed as needing – monetary and military – western help in order to be able to ‘defend’ itself. From the people it’s been attacking, presumably. And hardly a soul in the west asks what that is all about.

Why did Kiev kill 5000 of its own citizens? Because there are people in East Ukraine who had – and still have – the guts to say they don’t want to be ruled by a regime willing to murder them for saying they don’t want to be ruled by it. And just in case there’s any confusion left about this, yes, that is the regime we are actively supporting, in undoubtedly many more ways than are made public. All the doubts about the western narrative are swept aside with one move: blame Putin.

Of the two countries, Greece, despite its humanitarian issues, is by far the luckiest one. Ukraine is quite a few steps further down the hill. One can be forgiven for contemplating that the west, aided by President Poroshenko and the Yats regime in Kiev, is dead set on obliterating the entire nation.

There are again peace talks under way, with no – direct – Anglo-Saxon involvement, but as the Foreign Ministers of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany meet, Britain announces it’s sending military personnel into Ukraine and Poroshenko buys weapons from UAE, which is the same as saying from America. Where does he get the money? Chocolate sales? Had a good Valentine’s campaign?

Baltic states reinforce their armies (Lithuania just launched conscription), as NATO expands its presence there. The constantly repeated message is that Putin will attack them. It’s a made-up story. Poroshenko says he wants Crimea back, even as he knows full well that’s not going to happen.

What part of the fresh round of IMF/EU loans will go towards arms purchases? Can Brussels please supply a run-down ASAP? Don’t Europeans have a right to know where their money goes?

To start with, here’s a – partial – overview of loans from Constantin Gurdgiev:

IMF Package for Ukraine: Some Pesky Macros

Ukraine package of funding from the IMF and other lenders remains still largely unspecified, but it is worth recapping what we do know and what we don’t.Total package is USD40 billion. Of which, USD17.5 billion will come from the IMF and USD22.5 billion will come from the EU. The US seemed to have avoided being drawn into the financial singularity they helped (directly or not) to create. We have no idea as to the distribution of the USD22.5 billion across the individual EU states, but it is pretty safe to assume that countries like Greece won’t be too keen contributing.

Cyprus probably as well. Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy – all struggling with debts of their own also need this new ‘commitment’ like a hole in the head. Belgium might cheerfully pony up (with distinctly Belgian cheer that is genuinely overwhelming to those in Belgium). But what about the countries like the Baltics and those of the Southern EU? Does Bulgaria have spare hundreds of million floating around? Hungary clearly can’t expect much of good will from Kiev, given its tango with Moscow, so it is not exactly likely to cheer on the funding plans… Who will?

Austria and Germany and France, though France is never too keen on parting with cash, unless it gets more cash in return through some other doors. In Poland, farmers are protesting about EUR100 million that the country lent to Ukraine. Wait till they get the bill for their share of the USD22.5 billion coming due.

Recall that in April 2014, IMF has already provided USD17 billion to Ukraine and has paid up USD4.5 billion to-date. In addition, Ukraine received USD2 billion in credit guarantees (not even funds) from the US, EUR1.8 billion in funding from the EU and another EUR1.6 billion in pre-April loans from the same source. Germany sent bilateral EUR500 million and Poland sent EUR100 million, with Japan lending USD300 million.

Here’s a kicker. With all this ‘help’ Ukrainian debt/GDP ratio is racing beyond sustainability bounds. Under pre-February ‘deal’ scenario, IMF expected Ukrainian debt to peak at USD109 billion in 2017. Now, with the new ‘deal’ we are looking at debt (assuming no write down in a major restructuring) reaching for USD149 billion through 2018 and continuing to head North from there.

In other words, the loans are only and exclusively making Ukraine’s position worse. The Greeks may feel like debt slaves, but Ukrainians face a far darker feudal situation. They’re going to be -debt -prisoners in their own country. And that has nothing to do with Putin, it’s the ultimate shock doctrine. The distinct impression to me is the country will be turned into a testing ground for NATO and western military industries. Which is why ‘we’ have been so intent on engaging Russia in the Ukraine conflict.

But back to the loans first:

The point is that the situation in the Ukrainian economy is so grave, that lending Kiev money cannot be an answer to the problems of stabilising the economy and getting economic recovery on a sustainable footing. With all of this, the IMF ‘plan’ begs three questions:

  1. Least important: Where’s the European money coming from?
  2. More important: Why would anyone lend funds to a country with fundamentals that make Greece look like Norway?
  3. Most important: How on earth can this be a sustainable package for the country that really needs at least 50% of the total funding in the form of grants, not loans? That needs real investment, not debt? That needs serious reconstruction and such deep reforms, it should reasonably be given a decade to put them in place, not 4 years that IMF is prepared to hold off on repayment of debts owed to it under the new programme?

Why indeed? One thing seems certain: reconstruction is not in the cards. All assets will be sold for scrap, and most citizens ‘encouraged’ to cross one of many borders Ukraine has. Britain is next up in the escalation process. Again, as German/French talks with Russia continue.

Britain To Send Military Advisers To Ukraine, Announces Cameron

Britain was pulled closer towards a renewed cold war with Russia when David Cameron announced UK military trainers are to be deployed to help Ukraine forces stave off further Russian backed incursions into sovereign Ukraine territory. The decision – announced on Tuesday but under consideration by the UK national security council since before Christmas – represents the first deployment of British troops to the country since the near civil war in eastern Ukraine began more than a year ago. Downing Street said the deployment was not just a practical bilateral response to a request for support, but a signal to the Russians that Britain will not countenance further large scale annexations of towns in Ukraine.

The prime minister said Britain would be “the strongest pole in the tent”, and argued for tougher sanctions against Moscow if Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine failed to observe the provisions of a ceasefire agreement reached this month with the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko. Downing Street said some personnel would be leaving this week as part of the training mission. Initially 30 trainers will be despatched to Kiev with 25 providing advice on medical training, logistics, intelligence analysis and infantry training. A bigger programme of infantry training is expected to follow soon after taking the total number of trainers to 75.

That’s simply war-mongering, and precious little else. We may wonder about the timing, but not the intention. Cameron goes on to make some really bizarre statements:

He said there was no doubt about Russian support for the rebels. “What we are seeing is Russian-backed aggression, often these are Russian troops, they are Russian tanks, they are Russian Grad missiles. You can’t buy these things on eBay, they are coming from Russia, people shouldn’t be in any doubt about that. “We have got the intelligence, we have got the pictures and the world knows that. Sometimes people don’t want to see that but that is the fact.”

No, Mr. Cameron, the problem is, the world does not know that, because it has never been shown either the intelligence or the pictures. Why not provide them? Because you don’t have them, is the only reason I can think of after a full year full of alleged activity of which there is not one shred of proof, but a million tons of accusations and innuendo. It’s literally a propaganda war, with the other side hardly firing back at all. And then there’s this from RT:

East Ukraine Artillery Withdrawal In Focus – As Poroshenko Buys UAE Weapons

While the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine were meeting in Paris to talk about the Eastern Ukraine peace settlement, it was revealed that the Ukrainian president has struck a deal on arms supplies from the UAE. The four ministers agreed on the need for the ceasefire to be respected, as well as on the need to extend the OSCE mission in Eastern Ukraine, reinforcing it with more funding, personnel and equipment. It’s important for Kiev troops and the rebels to start withdrawing heavy weapons right now, without waiting for the time “when not a single shot is fired,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after the meeting.

He added that his German and French counterparts thought it a positive development that the Donetsk and the Lugansk rebels had started to pull their artillery back. “The situation has significantly improved, that was acknowledged by my partners,” Lavrov said. “However, sporadic violations are being registered by the OSCE observers.” The withdrawal of heavy weaponry by Kiev troops and the rebels is part of the ceasefire deal struck in Minsk earlier in February. The Donetsk militia has announced it is complying.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has meanwhile reached an agreement on weapons supplies from the United Arab Emirates. That’s according to a Facebook post by advisor to Ukrainian Interior Minister, Anton Gerashchenko. The deal was struck with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. “It’s worth emphasizing that unlike Europeans and Americans, the Arabs aren’t afraid of Putin’s threats of a third world war starting in case of arms and ammunition supplies to Ukraine,” Gerashchenko wrote. He also said he believed the UAE blamed Russia for the drop in oil prices. “So, this is going to be their little revenge,” the adviser said.

Curious. Now it’s the Russians who are to blame for the oil price plunge? Weren’t they supposed to be the major victims? And when did Putin threaten with WWIII? There’s more to this:

[..].. former US diplomat James Jatras told RT: “This discussion in Washington about supplying weapons has been going on for some time. Usually that indicates that some kind of a covert program is already in operation and that we already are supplying some weapons directly,” he said. Jatras added that it is hard to believe that UAE would sell these weapons to Ukraine “without a green light from Washington.”

I would think the same thing: plenty forces in Washington who want nothing more than to supply weapons to Kiev, and there’s always a way. Note that Germany and France, the western partners in the peace talks, have so far managed to prevent direct arms supplies. They’ve now been blindsided, or so it would seem. Maybe it’s time for Merkel to pull her weight here, and a bit less on Greece. Germany doesn’t want an escalating warzone on its doorstep.

Meanwhile, the gas delivery issue is heating up again (pun intended). Ukraine continues to provoke Russia, but it will have to pay eventually. Unless escalation is the real goal, and freezing Eastern Europeans will be deemed a justifiable sacrifice.

Kiev Cash-For-Gas Fail Could Cost EU Its Supply (In 2 Days) – Gazprom

Russia will completely cut Ukraine off gas supplies in two days if Kiev fails to pay for deliveries, which will create transit risks for Europe, Gazprom has said. Ukraine has not paid for March deliveries and is extracting all it can from the current paid supply, seriously risking an early termination of the advance settlement and a supply cutoff, Gazprom’s CEO Alexey Miller told journalists. The prepaid gas volumes now stand at 219 million cubic meters. “It takes about two days to get payment from Naftogaz deposited to a Gazprom account. That’s why a delivery to Ukraine of 114 million cubic meters will lead to a complete termination of Russian gas supplies as early as in two days, which creates serious risks for the transit to Europe,” Miller said.

Earlier this month, Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak estimated Ukraine’s debt to Russian energy giant Gazprom at $2.3 billion. In the end of 2014, Kiev’s massive gas debt that stood above $5 billion, forced Moscow to suspend gas deliveries to Ukraine for nearly six months. On December 9, Russia resumed its supplies under the so-called winter package deal, which expires on April 1, 2015. [..] On Monday, Ukrainian state energy company Naftogaz accused Gazprom of failing to deliver gas that Kiev had paid for in advance. Naftogaz says Russia has broken an agreement to deliver 114 million of cubic meters of natural gas to Ukraine by delivering only 47 million cubic meters.

During a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on February 20, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev expressed concern about an increase in daily applications by Ukraine for the supply of gas, TASS reports. He noted that “Ukraine’s consumers have requested a larger supply; the volume has increased by 2.5 times. This means that the prepaid volumes left are enough for no more than two to three days.”

Overall, there seems to be little left that can be done to de-escalate the situation. The Donbass rebels may retreat some heavy weapons, but they won’t want to risk being defeated by a freshly replenished Ukraine/US/UK army. The make-up of which is ever harder to envision, since a few hundred thousand potential soldiers have already fled the country. Unless they extend the draft to 12- to 80-year-old women, what Ukrainians will be left to fight? And who will want to? Except for the private battallions of questionable make-up, that is.

Ukraine will at some point in the not too distant future be so impoverished that a new Maidan type revolution may be inevitable. There should really be elections in the country as soon as possible, but that doesn’t look likely to happen. Why Yatsenyuk is still PM should be a mystery, he was elected by a parliament at gunpoint. And he’s a US puppet, who’s recently invited three US citizens into key positions in his cabinet. Ukrainians may be scared to speak up, but if they don’t, things could get much worse real fast.

It’s once again time for the people to take to the streets. But that risks turning into an awful bloodbath that could make Kiev look like the Dresden. Unless all international parties retreat from Ukraine, there doesn’t seem to be a solution that would benefit the people.

Aug 012014
 August 1, 2014  Posted by at 2:03 pm Finance Tagged with: , , ,  6 Responses »

DPC Majestic Building from Detroit Opera House 1909

Oil prices are dropping as Exxon announces a -5.7% plunge in output. And as Shell, as I said yesterday, can think of nothing better to do with its remaining funds than to spend it on share buybacks and dividends. Perhaps shareholders should take the money and run. Because what sort of future can they expect for a company that acts like that?

Western oil companies have tens of billions invested in Russian projects they may or may not have access to anymore now the sanctions are coming into effect. The scourge of insecurity. Never good for industry, never good for markets. Prices will rise again, and a lot, just ask Putin, but that doesn’t take away the insecurity over Big Oil’s chances of – even medium term – survival.

The BLS jobless report came in quite a bit less sunny than hoped and expected (unemployment rose to 6.2%, only 209K jobs created), but it would be good to realize that the importance of the report has fallen substantially lately. There will be many, many people in the finance world who are going to get burned because they don’t acknowledge that, or at least not rapidly enough.

While Janet Yellen can perhaps change course by a few degrees in the face of less than sparkly numbers, it’ll still be steady as she blows. Wages didn’t move one bit, nor did part-time jobs, and Yellen did hint at making those numbers more important, but then again the participation rate squeezed up by 0.1%, so those who want to see silver linings don’t have to look that far. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

The failure – whether intentional or not – of the Fed’s multi-trillion stimulus is now plain for everyone to see. Yellen is not going to fool anyone with another trillion. The next FMOC meeting may announce a temporary taper hiccup, but what use would it be in the face of the past 5-6 years of not achieving much of anything for Main Street with the printer working both day and night shifts?

It’s of course nice, or funny, or hilarious, to see that while GDP rises 4.0% (well, in the first estimate only), the unemployment rate goes up. Upside down Bizarro.

Still, as I’ve noted repeatedly over the course of the last two weeks, what will drive US financial policy as we move forward has much less to do than before with domestic issues, and much more with global ones. That this will throw Americans in front of the steamroller (even more than before) is being taken for granted, and has been ‘absorbed’ into policy making.

The lure, and the advantages, of forcing the entire planet to fight over, and give up much more than before for, US dollars, have won the day. Undoubtedly not a rash decision, but something that’s been decided behind the curtains way back when everyone was still focused on other things. Like the recovery that never came.

This perhaps becomes easier to understand when you take a good look at that -5.7% fall in Exxon output. And the $110 billion that the shale industry comes up short every single year. What numbers like these spell out is the end of an era, the end of our way of life, perhaps the end of our societies as they exist today.

That end won’t come tomorrow morning, but the combination of rising demand and shrinking supply of fossil fuels points to one single and inescapable conclusion: we will need to divide what’s left, and being the humans that we are, that means we’re going to do the dividing by fighting over it. No prisoners.

And while there will be many physical proxy battles over oil and gas, just watch Ukraine, the first major battles will take place in the financial world. Having everyone and their pet poodle scramble to get hold of your particular currency is a mighty mighty weapon in those financial battles.

There are a numbers of goals in this for the people who’ve taken over, and factually run, America: make sure you get as much of what’s left of the fossil fuels as possible, and make sure others get as little as possible. But also: make sure less of it is used going forward, and store the difference under your own control. That goes both internationally, where you make nations and their citizens poorer so they can afford to buy less fuel, and domestically, where you make Americans themselves poorer so they will drive and heat and cool less.

Making Americans poorer may seem a bit counterintuitive in what is still in name a democracy – how to still get their votes? -, but when you start from the realization that shrinking energy supplies automatically mean a shrinking economy, and an end to the growth model the country is based on, in which at present everything needs to be borrowed because far too little is being produced, it all makes a lot more sense.

There is a major shift afoot, or actually already behind us, and unemployment numbers are now but an immaterial little sideshow the media put on. And no matter how many of those 4.0% GDP growth numbers you see, make no mistake: from now on, the -5.7% Exxon output number is much more important. That’s what will drive US policy going forward.

The taper will continue, far fewer dollars will be available globally and domestically, interest rates will rise, as will unemployment and foreclosures. Oil prices will suffer at first from falling international demand, but with supply falling just as fast not too long from today, we will be looking at $200. And then some.

The more the US fails internally, the more it will chest thump abroad. And with both the reserve currency and the by far largest weapons arsenals, it has extremely powerful tools to thump its chest with. Both at home and abroad.

Bears Who Won Big During Finance Crisis Are Growling Again (WSJ)

Many of the Wall Street money managers who made billions by anticipating the U.S. housing bubble see more trouble on the horizon. Unlike before the crisis, when those traders were mostly united against subprime mortgages, the wagers vary this time. Some are against U.S. junk bonds, while others are targeting European sovereign debt. The warnings come from hedge-fund managers including Joshua Birnbaum and Greg Lippmann, who rose to prominence when trading for Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, respectively. The moves mark the first time since the crisis that most of these investors, who generated big profits after the downturn riding the global economic recovery, have begun to turn bearish again. “There’s one thing for sure: History repeats itself, and this is starting to feel like a bubble,” said Stuart Lippman, manager of a credit-markets-focused hedge fund at TIG Advisors in New York. “We’re building up to something.”

Whitebox Advisors a Minneapolis hedge-fund firm that anticipated the crisis, warning of an imminent credit-market panic as early as 2006, is close to starting a fund to wager against the debt of several European countries and the euro, according to a letter to investors viewed by The Wall Street Journal. The moves don’t quite yet represent another “big short,” the term writer Michael Lewis applied to precrisis bets against soaring housing prices. In most cases, the hedge funds say they are trying to capitalize on prices they think are far out of whack and that may suffer a correction over the coming months, rather than predicting widespread financial calamity. But the shift from some of Wall Street’s most closely followed names shows growing worry about potential pockets of distress. Paul Singer, who oversees one of the world’s biggest hedge-fund firms, $25 billion Elliott Management Corp., this week told investors that many markets could turn south with “head-spinning abruptness and shocking intensity.”

The fears come after years of low interest rates that have encouraged investors of all sizes to pile into junk bonds and other relatively risky areas in search of yield. If prices drop, it could hurt small investors who have bought company debt to make up for paltry returns on U.S. Treasury bonds. Demand for junk bonds has skyrocketed in recent years, driving up prices and pushing yields to the lowest level on record. Yields fall as prices rise. Relative calm across much of Europe has benefited debt issued by countries such as Italy and Spain, with many traders shrugging off prior worries of a euro-zone crisis. But some cracks are starting to show: High-yield bonds in July suffered their biggest price declines in over a year, as lofty valuations and concerns about the potential for interest-rate increases drove a flight from funds that hold riskier debt.

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Exxon Output Falls 5.7% To Lowest in Five Years (Bloomberg)

Exxon Mobil fell after reporting oil and natural gas production declined to the lowest level in almost five years, raising the stakes as it seeks to pursue crude deposits in Russia. The world’s largest energy company dropped 4.2% to $98.94 at the close in New York, the biggest slide in almost three years, after reporting second-quarter earnings that beat analysts’ estimates. The company’s oil and gas output decreased 5.7% to the equivalent of 3.84 million barrels a day, the lowest since the third quarter of 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Exxon had been expected to post quarterly output equivalent to 3.96 million barrels, based on six analysts’ estimates. Crude from Exxon wells in Europe and Asia dropped, while gas production faltered in every region in which the company does business except Africa and the South Pacific.

Exxon is going after crude in Russia’s Arctic regions in an effort to extract some of the largest oil reserves and reverse a trend of declining production for the company. It’s allocating $39.8 billion to capital projects this year, including hundreds of millions for an exploratory well in Russia’s Kara Sea, as part of a 29-year agreement signed with Moscow-based Rosneft in 2011. Sanctions threaten to halt that progress after the U.S. and European Union said July 29 they would restrict the export of technologies for energy production to Russia. The oil-producing nation holds an estimated $8 trillion worth of crude underground. Exxon is awaiting further details on U.S. and EU sanctions to determine any effects, Vice President David Rosenthal said on a conference call today. He declined to comment on how the recently completed Berkut platform, a joint venture with Rosneft of Russia’s Far East coast, was financed.

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Nah, it’s just fear.

Is The Chase For Yield Running Out Of Breath? (CNBC)

Ultra-low interest rates globally have spurred investors to chase yield in ever riskier corners of the bond market, but some are starting to pull out of the race into high-yield papers. “We take our exposure in high yield bonds to zero, and keep the proceeds in cash,” Julius Baer, which has around $409 billion in total client assets, said in a note Wednesday. “Speculative-grade bonds have become expensive and are facing serious liquidity challenges.” Julius Baer isn’t alone in heading for the sector’s exits. Around $6.34 billion has flowed out of high-yield bond mutual funds and exchange-traded funds over the past four weeks, although a net $17.15 billion has flowed in so far this year, according to data from Jefferies.

In addition to the outflow, the SPDR High Yield Bond ETF tumbled in pre-market trading Friday, down 33 percent. High-yield bonds, otherwise known as speculative grade or junk debt, are issued by companies with a rating of ‘BB’ or lower from Standard & Poor’s or ‘Ba’ or below from Moody’s. They have a higher risk of default compared with investment-grade debt, but traditionally offered higher yields as compensation. Julius Baer is concerned that as regulators “tighten the screw” on banks, it will limit their ability to provide liquidity in the high-yield bond market. “Liquidity conditions could become as precarious as in late 2008,” it said. “If investor sentiment worsens, their low liquidity means that we would not be able to get out in time.”

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US Futures Tumble Again On Global Equity Weakness (Zero Hedge)

If yesterday’s selloff catalysts were largely obvious, if long overdue, in the form of the record collapse of Espirito Santo coupled with the Argentina default, German companies warning vocally about Russian exposure, the ongoing geopolitical escalations, and topped off by a labor costs rising and concerns this can accelerate a hiking cycle, overnight’s latest dump, which started in Europe and has carried over into US futures is less easily explained although yet another weak European PMI print across the board, with UK manufacturing growing at the slowest pace in a year in July as a cooling in new orders and output ended the first half’s “stellar growth spurt”, probably didn’t help. However, one can hardly blame largely unreliable “soft data” for what is rapidly becoming the biggest selloff in months and in reality what the market may be worried about is today’s payroll number, due out in 90 minutes, which could lead to big Treasury jitters if it comes above the 230K expected.

In fact, today is one of those days when horrible news would surely be great news for the momentum algos. More importantly even than the noisy jobs number, the Fed will increasingly be looking at the quality composition of jobs (full time vs part time), and whether wages are growing: watch hourly earnings today as the FOMC have shifted towards wages as one of their main criteria for when to become more hawkish. The market is expecting this to stay at 0.2% M/M but the year-on-year number is tipped to increase to +2.2% Y/Y (vs 2.0% previous). Still, with futures down 0.6% at last check, it is worth noting that Treasurys are barely changed, as the great unrotation from stocks into bonds picks up and hence the great irony of any rate initiated sell off: should rates spike on growth/inflation concern, the concurrent equity selloff will once again push rates lower, and so on ad inf. Ain’t central planning grand?

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Who needs the young anyway?

Falling Wages in Southern EU Vex Draghi as Youth Punished (Bloomberg)

Across much of the euro area, young adults are worst hit by wage deflation or stagnation, which increasingly is seen as a threat to the 18-member bloc’s nascent economic recovery. Economic weakness is a mounting concern for the European Central Bank, which took unprecedented action in June, becoming the first major central bank to take one of its main rates negative. Threats to price stability are real, President Mario Draghi said last month, citing high unemployment, weak demand and low inflation. In Spain, the region’s fourth-largest economy, people under 30 have had the sharpest drop, reflecting their 42% jobless rate compared with 25% unemployment for the total population. The average gross annual salary earned by 20-to-24-year-olds was 15% lower in 2012 than in 2010, while it declined 0.3% across all age groups. It dropped by 8% for people as much as five years older, according to data from Spain’s statistics agency INE.

In Portugal, the average monthly wage for 18-to-24-year-olds fell 25% between 2011 and 2012, whereas it rose 1% for the whole population, the most recent data published by the national statistics agency show. The decline was 17% for people as much as 10 years older. While few European countries offer recent wage statistics by age group, a similar pattern is probable in most of the European Union’s 28 members, said Zsolt Darvas, an economist at the Bruegel research institute in Brussels. “It makes sense for wages to decline to share the few jobs available, but young people are bearing the brunt of the adjustment,” Darvas said. “That’s neither fair nor positive for the economy. Older people earn more and their standards of living wouldn’t be as hurt by a pay cut.”

Young people tend to be hired with lower wages, and on work contracts that are easier to end or temporary, compared with more stable positions held by older people, he said. In Spain, 52% of under 30-year-olds had short-term employment in the second quarter versus a general rate of 24% for all employees, INE data showed last month. Those different labor market conditions are widening the income gap between generations, leading 20-to-24-year-olds to earn 50% less than the average wage in 2012, compared with a 33% difference eight years earlier.

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No-Exit Strategy May Be Fed Burden in Unwinding Stimulus (Bloomberg)

The Federal Reserve is trying to change as little as possible as it crafts its strategy to exit from record stimulus. The trouble is financial markets have changed so much that the still-developing plan may prove costly and ultimately unworkable. The approach, sketched out in the minutes of the Fed’s June 17-18 meeting and in officials’ comments since then, retains a focus on the federal funds rate as the central bank’s target. Policy would continue to be conducted mainly through banks rather than via dealings with money-market funds. “They don’t want to make wholesale changes in the way they interact with markets when they are going to have so many other issues in play” as they raise interest rates, said Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP LLC in Jersey City, New Jersey, who has been watching the Fed for three decades.

The strategy has drawbacks, given the way money markets have evolved since the recession. Banks no longer need to borrow in the once-vibrant fed funds market to meet reserve requirements, as they did before the crisis, because the Fed has pumped so much money into the financial system during the last six years. As a result, trading in that market has dwindled and now mainly comprises U.S. branches of foreign banks acting as arbitragers, according to research by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. To help keep that market alive, the Fed will have to pay those banks a premium to continue trading in it, which will eat into the profits the central bank remits to the U.S. government each year.

And even then, foreign banks may be unwilling to continue their trades as stricter regulations on leverage take effect. “I don’t like the political or economic implications” of the plan, Joseph Gagnon, a former Fed and U.S. Treasury official who is now at the Peterson Institute of International Economics in Washington, said in an e-mail. “It costs the taxpayers money, and it makes for a less efficient financial system,” he added, a view echoed by former Fed Governor Jeremy Stein in an interview. Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, suggested in a July 11 interview with Bloomberg News that policy makers would reach a final agreement on their exit blueprint at their next meeting in September. Under the developing plan, the Fed would continue to set a target range for its benchmark federal funds rate, which banks charge each other on overnight loans. The interest rate it pays banks on reserves would be the ceiling, and the rate it pays to borrow cash from money funds and others would be the floor.

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They kept him on just to get the loans. This smells very bad.

Ukraine Skirts Argentine Default Path as Premier Survives (Bloomberg)

Ukrainian lawmakers backed a tax increase needed to qualify for a $17 billion bailout by the International Monetary Fund and rejected the prime minister’s resignation after warnings that the country risked a default. “The first major economic news today is that Argentina went into default,” Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told lawmakers after the vote today. “And the second is that Ukraine didn’t default, and it never will.” Ukraine is relying on the IMF’s funding for its budget needs and for making about $10 billion in foreign debt payments by year-end. The Washington-based lender’s mission urged the government and the legislature to adopt austerity measures before its board decides next month on the second disbursement of a $1.4 billion tranche. Parliament turned down Yatsenyuk’s resignation submitted last week in protest over lawmakers’ failure to approve the bills required by the IMF and needed to finance a military push against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Budget and tax code amendments adopted today allow the cabinet to avoid complications with IMF program revisions in the future given lawmakers’ reluctance to back unpopular bills, said Oleksandr Parashchiy, head of analytics at investment bank Concorde Capital in Kiev. [..] The vote “solves most of Ukraine’s problems up to the end of 2014,” Parashchiy said by phone. The government has prepared “a back-up” for the rest of the year to avoid further revisions of budget spending and economic forecasts every time an IMF mission comes to Ukraine.’’ Ukraine’s economy shrank more than analysts predicted in the second quarter, contracting 4.7% from a year earlier, in the wake of months of bloody fighting against insurgents. The conflict is disrupting trade, weighing down an economy that’s contracted in seven of the past eight quarters. While the IMF sees Ukraine’s gross domestic product declining 6.5% this year, the government predicts a 6% slump in the amended budget approved today.

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This could break the EU/US axis.

Russia And Germany Said To Work On Secret ‘Gas For Land’ Deal (Zero Hedge)

Thanks to the Independent, we may know the answer, and it is a doozy, because according to some it is nothing shy of a sequel to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact: allegedly Germany and Russia have been working on a secret plan to broker a peaceful solution to end international tensions over the Ukraine, one which would negotiate to trade Crimea’s sovereignty for guarantees on energy security and trade. The Independent reveals that the peace plan, being worked on by both Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, “hinges on two main ambitions: stabilising the borders of Ukraine and providing the financially troubled country with a strong economic boost, particularly a new energy agreement ensuring security of gas supplies.”

Amusingly, this comes on the day when the WSJ leads with “On Hold: Merkel Gives Putin a Blunt Message. Germany’s Backing of Russia Sanctions Marks Breach in Pivotal European Relationship” in which we read that ” Angela Merkel spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin for at least the 30th time since the Ukraine crisis erupted. She had a blunt message, according to people briefed on the phone conversation: Call me if you have progress to report in defusing the conflict. That was July 20. The two leaders haven’t spoken since.” They may or may not have spoken since, but it is not because Putin has “no progress to report” – it’s because the two leaders have come to a secret agreement which will hardly make Ukraine, or most of Europe, not to mention the UN, happy as it requires that Crimea be permanently handed over to Russia in exchange for Russian gas, which has been cut off for a month now due to non-payment by Kiev. Here is how the deal came to happen:

Sources close to the secret negotiations claim that the first part of the stabilisation plan requires Russia to withdraw its financial and military support for the various pro-separatist groups operating in eastern Ukraine. As part of any such agreement, the region would be allowed some devolved powers. At the same time, the Ukrainian President would agree not to apply to join Nato. In return, President Putin would not seek to block or interfere with the Ukraine’s new trade relations with the European Union under a pact signed a few weeks ago.

Second, the Ukraine would be offered a new long-term agreement with Russia’s Gazprom, the giant gas supplier, for future gas supplies and pricing. At present, there is no gas deal in place; Ukraine’s gas supplies are running low and are likely to run out before this winter, which would spell economic and social ruin for the country. As part of the deal, Russia would compensate Ukraine with a billion-dollar financial package for the loss of the rent it used to pay for stationing its fleets in the Crimea and at the port of Sevastopol on the Black Sea until Crimea voted for independence in March.

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Go Abe go.

Japan’s Weak Yen Woes (Bloomberg)

Ask Japanese Internet millionaire Shinichi Nishikubo about Shinzo Abe’s weak yen and you’ll get an earful. Nishikubo is that rarity in Japan: a rebel entrepreneur who bets big and makes deals many contemporaries would never contemplate. Most famously, Nishikubo bought into money-losing budget airline Skymark in 2003 and took on its presidency a year later. Indeed, he got so into learning what airlines do that he took flying lessons. In 2010, he decided to soar higher. Peers shook their heads at news Nishikubo was ordering four Airbus A380s, later coming back for two more. A February 2011 Orient Aviation magazine headline summed it up succinctly: “Crazy or a Genius?” As that deal now implodes, many might answer “crazy.” Still, Abenomics deserves a share of the blame. Were Nishikubo’s ambitions bigger than demand for seats on his airline? Probably. But when he ordered that fleet of A380s, the yen was trading around 80 to the dollar. Its subsequent 20%-plus drop in value really smarts when you’re paying for planes that list at $414 million.

This is something Japan-watchers consistently seem to ignore. Prime Minister Abe’s devaluation is routinely couched as smart economic policy. But it’s disastrous for companies like airlines that buy fuel and aircraft – both prohibitively expensive in the best of times – priced in U.S. currency. Exchange rates clearly contributed to Nishikubo’s undoing. If Abe were looking through the economic lens of today, not one from 1994, he might engineer a stronger yen. On the one hand, a rising currency is about confidence; Japan’s weak-yen obsession comes more from insecurity. On the other, with nuclear reactors idled amid safety concerns, Japan’s energy needs have the economy importing inflation – the bad kind. Also, a lower yen runs contrary to Abe’s ambitions for Japan Inc. to expand abroad anew.

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The central bank wants to halt the bubble, while the government keeps on handing out interest free loans. Yeah, that should work …

UK Help to Buy Scheme Hits New High (Guardian)

More than 4,000 households in England used the government’s Help to Buy loan scheme to buy properties in June, the highest monthly total since the scheme began in 2013. The latest government data indicated more than 4,300 completions during the month, with more than 27,100 homes bought using the scheme. The figures refer to the first phase of Help to Buy, which offers buyers an interest-free loan worth up to 20% of the price of a new-build home. Data from the Department for Communities and Local Government showed that £1.1bn of loans had been offered, supporting purchases worth £5.65bn. More than two-thirds of buyers took the chance to take out a 95% mortgage, with the rest putting down larger deposits.

Nearly a third of sales were in the £150,001 to £200,000 price bracket, while a quarter involved homes costing less. A fifth were in the £200,001 and £250,000 bracket. The median value of properties bought through the scheme was £187,000. Loans are available on properties costing up to £600,000 and there is no upper limit on applicants’ incomes. The figures indicated that Help to Buy is not a major contributor to Britain’s galloping house market. Fewer than 250 households, or 0.9% of the Help to Buy total, had used the scheme to buy properties costing more than £500,000 while 3% of the total had household incomes in excess of £100,000 a year. More than eight out of 10 purchases were made by first-time buyers. The scheme, which went live in April 2013, was designed to kickstart construction by helping buyers with small deposits. The housing minister, Brandon Lewis, said the scheme was doing what it had been designed to achieve.

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Argentina Government Blames ‘Conspiracy’ For Defaulting On Debt (Guardian)

Argentina’s government was in a defiant mood on Thursday after defaulting on its debt for the second time in 13 years. Economy minister Axel Kicillof, speaking after 11th hour talks with bondholders in New York failed to avert a default, played down the impact it would have on the country’s citizens. “We’re not going to sign an agreement that jeopardises the future of all Argentinians,” he told a press conference in New York. “Argentinians can remain calm because tomorrow will just be another day and the world will keep on spinning.” Markets appeared to disagree, with Argentina’s Merval share index falling almost 7% on Thursday and the peso down more than 4% against the dollar. Analysts said a fall in Argentina’s currency would cause further pain in the country, pushing up the price of imports and driving inflation higher. Steen Jakobsen, chief economist at Saxo Bank, said the fallout would be difficult for a country where inflation is already 12% on official measures and 40% unofficially. “At a minimum we’ll see a loss of GDP of at least 1% if not 2%,” he said.

Argentina was already locked out of international capital markets following its earlier default in late 2001, and Neil Shearing, chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, said the latest default would be viewed as a local issue: “Confirmation that Argentina has officially fallen into default is likely to rattle local markets and has the potential to do significant damage to the domestic economy. But we suspect that contagion to other emerging markets is likely to be limited.” Argentina has been locked in a decade-long dispute with hold-out investors that the government has described as “vulture funds” – a group of US hedge funds led by billionaire Paul Singer’s NML Capital, an affiliate of Elliott Management. The vast majority of Argentina’s bondholders agreed to debt restructuring deals in 2005 and 2010 following its 2001 default, wiping off more than 70% of the value of their investment but securing regular interest payments. But the holdout investors refused the restructuring and are demanding repayment in full.

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Swaps still rule the world.

Argentina Debt Dilemma Spotlights Knotted World of Default Swaps (Bloomberg)

Whenever the knotted world of credit-default swaps is pushed to the forefront in a financial crisis, conspiracy theories abound. Argentina is no exception. Argentine Economy Minister Axel Kicillof described a group of so-called holdout creditors this week as “vulture funds” after failing to reach a restructuring agreement with them. Kicillof specifically directed his ire at credit swaps, a market, he said, that clouds the motives of creditors while leading to “the most wretched speculative capitalism that exists.” “When they present a solution you don’t know if it’s something you can believe at the negotiating table or if there’s something else that you’ll never know about happening outside that gives them greater benefits,” Kicillof told reporters at a July 30 news conference. Many bond buyers also own credit swaps as protection against losses or as a way to double down on a company’s creditworthiness. The dual roles can skew incentives because creditors will sometimes stand to profit more from a swaps payout than an issuer actually meeting its debt obligations.

One of Argentina’s holdout creditors is New York-based hedge fund Elliott Management Corp., which also sits on an industry committee that will determine whether investors who bought credit-swaps protection on the nation’s bonds are paid out. The $24.8 billion fund manager, run by billionaire Paul Singer, last year denied in a U.S. court that it owned credit swaps that would allow it to profit if the government halted payments. Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan are also among the 15 dealers and investors on the swaps committee. Both Wall Street titans are said to be negotiating to buy the defaulted bonds that Elliott and other creditors own. Citigroup is in talks to buy the securities, according to Buenos Aires-based newspaper Ambito, and discussions with JPMorgan are also ongoing, according to a bank official with knowledge of the situation.

Argentine Economy Minister Kicillof says the funds are like vultures since they prey on countries in distress and seek massive profits by squeezing governments through embargo attempts and lengthy litigation. Kicillof says Elliott is seeking a profit of 1,600% on its investment of defaulted bonds and would still make 300% if it accepted the restructuring terms. Argentina claims it can’t offer holdout creditors a better deal without violating a “rights upon future offers” clause in the restructured bonds that may trigger additional claims. The clause requires Argentina to extend to the restructured bondholders any improved terms it “voluntarily” offers holders of the defaulted bonds.

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Two Americans With Ebola to Be Flown Back to US (ABC)

Two American patients stricken with Ebola are being flown from Africa to the U.S., ABC News has learned. The patients, Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly, will be transported one by one, sources said. There are plans to transfer one of the patients to Emory University Hospital’s special facility containment unit within the next several days, hospital officials said in a statement. Officials added that it’s unclear when the patient will arrive in Atlanta. “Emory University Hospital has a specially built isolation unit set up in collaboration with the CDC to treat patients who are exposed to certain serious infectious diseases,” hospital officials said.

“It is physically separate from other patient areas and has unique equipment and infrastructure that provide an extraordinarily high level of clinical isolation. It is one of only four such facilities in the country.” “Emory University Hospital physicians, nurses and staff are highly trained in the specific and unique protocols and procedures necessary to treat and care for this type of patient. For this specially trained staff, these procedures are practiced on a regular basis throughout the year so we are fully prepared for this type of situation.”

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Worse fast.

California Breaks Drought Record As 58% Of State Hits Driest Level (LA Times)

More than half of California is now under the most severe level of drought for the first time since the federal government began issuing regular drought reports in the late 1990s, according to new data released Thursday. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor report, in July roughly 58% of California was considered to be experiencing an “exceptional” drought — the harshest on a five-level scale. A federal report says more than half of California is now in an exceptional drought and that current drought conditions are the worst in the state’s history. This is the first year that any part of California has seen that level of drought, let alone more than half of it, said Mark Svoboda, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, which issued the report. “You keep beating the record, which are still all from this year,” he said.

The entire state has been in severe drought since May, but more of it has since fallen into more severe categories — “extreme” and “exceptional.” Nearly 22% more of California was added into the exceptional drought category in the last week alone. California is also more than a year’s worth of water short in its reservoirs and moisture in the state’s topsoil and subsoil has nearly been depleted, according to the report. “It’s hard because the drought is not over and you’re in the dry season. Our eyes are already on next winter,” Svoboda said. “Outside of some freakish atmospheric conditions, reservoir levels are going to continue to go down. You’re a good one to two years behind the eight ball.” The lowest reservoir levels on record were in 1977, Svoboda pointed out, but he said the vulnerability has increased as the state’s population has grown. “The bottom line is, there’s a lot of ground to make up,” he said. “Mother Nature can’t put it back in that fast.”

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