5 sub-Earth-sized planets discovered orbiting ancient sun-like star »»
An international team of astronomers has discovered an “unusual” star system that is comprised of the oldest known star hosting planets, 11.2 billion years old. To compare, the Big Bang is considered to have happened 13.8 billion years ago. Read more...
Retired Army General says Obama let Al-Qaeda grow ‘fourfold in last 5 years’ »»
Retired military personnel told senators that the lack of White House strategy makes US combat efforts in the Middle East unwinnable. One general added that “failed” policy has allowed Al-Qaeda to grow “fourfold” since President Barack Obama’s election. Read more...
SpaceX released a 3D animation showcasing its Falcon Heavy rocket launch from Florida, with all three of the boosters safely returning to Earth. Earlier this month, an attempt to land a booster on a sea barge ended with a “rapid unscheduled disassembly.” Read more...
‘If SWIFT gets weaponized, an alternative system is absolutely realistic’ »»
While the West may try to slap Russia with more sanctions, the SWIFT banking payment system will try to stay out of political crossfire, economist Max Fraad Wolff told RT, adding that if it eventually gets weaponized, an alternative will emerge. Read more...
Off-duty drunk federal employee flew drone over White House - report »»
An off-duty Department of Defense employee trying out his friend’s drone from an apartment is responsible for flying the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over White House grounds, The New York Times reported. Read more...
New Eastern Outlook
US “Fighting”Terror Group with Fictional Leaders »»
US claims to be waging war against “Islamic State” whose various “al-Baghdadi” leaders do not exist. In 2007, the New York Times revealed that long-vilified “Islamic State” leader Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi did not exist, and that the creation of this fictional character was a ruse to obfuscate the role of foreigners in the creation and perpetuation […] Read more...
Fatah: Recognition of Palestine requires more than lip service »»
The spokesman for the Palestinian Al-Fatah movement and member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, Dr. Jamal Nazzal, arrived on his first visit to Denmark on Saturday, January 24, 2014. Dr. Nazzal’s visit renews hopes that Denmark will follow its Scandinavian neighbors Norway and Sweden with regard to a recognition of Palestine. He stressed, however, that a […] Read more...
Both 2014 and 2015 feature important dates closely related to some of the most murderous events in human history. The beginning of the World War I was celebrated last year, and the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II will be commemorated in 2015. Japan was involved in both wars. It took […] Read more...
Oil Wars: Pop! Goes the Weasel… »»
When I was a young child growing up in America, a popular silly children’s rhyme was called Pop! goes the Weasel. One verse went: A penny for a spool of thread, A penny for a needle — That’s the way the money goes, Pop! goes the weasel. The “weasel” known as the USA fracking revolution, […] Read more...
Truth Gone Bad, How 9/11 Activists Have Failed »»
There is increasing evidence that the “9/11 truth movement” is, in actuality, a thoroughly controlled and infiltrated “clan” tasked with suppressing truth, not spreading it. Experts in counter-intelligence who have researched both materials and key individuals involved have found evidence that the “dead in the water” groups continue year after year for one purpose only, […] Read more...
The Deficits Republicans Don't Want to Talk About »»
I agree with Republicans - the United States has a deficit problem.
It's just not the same deficit problem Republicans are freaking out about.
Shortly after sweeping the November midterms, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, outlining their plans for the upcoming Congress.
In that op-ed, they wrote that Republicans would work to address, "a national debt that has Americans stealing from their children and grandchildren, robbing them of benefits that they will never see and leaving them with burdens that will be nearly impossible to repay."
As usual, Boehner and McConnell were sounding the alarms over our nation's federal deficit, something Republicans like to do a near-daily basis.
But, what they didn't say in that op-ed is that our federal deficit has actually improved A LOT in recent years.
Our federal deficit has been slashed by more than two-thirds since President Obama took office, and deficits over the next decade are going to be around $4.7 trillion lower than what the Congress Budget Office estimated just four years ago.
Instead of focusing on a federal deficit that's at its lowest point in years, Republicans should instead be focusing on the United States' real deficit problem.
Those deficits are in jobs, infrastructure, income, equality, retirement security, education and trade.
Right now, millions of Americans are unemployed or underemployed. As Sen. Sanders points out in his report, the real unemployment rate, which counts those underemployed and those who have given up looking for work, sits at a staggering 11.2 percent.
This is not a problem that we can just ignore.
Instead, Sen. Sanders is arguing that we take a page out of FDR's playbook, and create a new federal jobs program, which would put millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans to work in well-paying jobs.
One of the fastest ways to create those jobs is by addressing our nation's infrastructure deficit.
As we speak, our bridges are falling down, our roads are buckling and our transportation systems are a joke compared to the rest of the developed world.
As a result, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the US a dismal D+ rating on overall infrastructure.
Ever since Reagan came to Washington and blew up federal funding for infrastructure projects, our country hasn't been the same. It's literally been crumbling to the ground.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have neglected our nation's physical infrastructure for too long, and it's time for a change.
By investing $1 trillion in infrastructure spending over the next five years, as Sen. Sanders suggests in his report, we could help create over 13 million well-paying jobs AND bring the US out of the 19th century and into the 21st century.
Meanwhile, while we're addressing the United States' infrastructure deficit, we must do something about the income and equality deficits plaguing our country.
It's absolutely insane that in the richest country in the world millions and millions of people are struggling to survive and put food on the table.
As the Sanders report points out, "We must raise the minimum wage to a livable wage. In the year 2015, no one in America who works full time should be living in poverty."
But raising the minimum wage alone isn't enough to level the playing field and combat our nation's wealth inequality epidemic.
Right now, the top 1% of Americans control nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, while 400 Americans own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined.
Speaking about the United States' tax loopholes during a speech in 1985, Reagan said that, "in practice they sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying ten percent of his salary, and that's crazy. Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver or less?"
And, of course, the audience answered, "More!"
It's time to make the wealthy elite and giant transnational corporations pay their fair share to support our economy.
While it's important to make sure that all Americans have an equal shot at success, it's also important to ensure that all Americans can retire comfortably.
As Sen. Sanders points out, "Today, only one out of five workers in America has a traditional defined benefit that guarantees income in retirement. Nearly half of all Americans have less than $10,000 in savings."
Fortunately, there's a pretty easy fix for the United States' retirement deficit: expand Social Security.
Instead of focusing on cuts to it, our lawmakers need to be talking about how to expand this vital lifeline for millions of Americans.
Next, we need to address our nation's education deficit, which is keeping us so far behind much of the developed world.
Right now, there's over $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in the US.
That's because college has become so expensive that getting a degree also means taking on mountains of student loan debt.
And those mountains of student loan debt are also hurting our nation's economic recovery. It's a lose-lose situation.
We need to make to be making it easier to get a college degree in the US, not harder.
Finally, we need to tackle the United States' ballooning trade deficit and out-of-whack trade policies.
Last year, our trade deficit stood at $493 billion.
Meanwhile, years of so-called "free trade" deals have exported millions of good-paying US jobs overseas.
We need to rework our trade policy, and stop signing on to so-called "free trade" deals that export jobs and screw over working-class Americans.
So, when Republicans whine about the US having a deficit problem, they're right. We do have a deficit problem.
BUT, it's not our federal deficit that's the problem.
Instead, it's the deficit in our spending on infrastructure, on education and on job creation that's really keeping our country down.
As Sen. Sanders writes, "While we must continue to focus on the federal deficit, we must also be aware that there are other deficits in our society that have been causing horrendous pain for the vast majority of the American people."
It's time to stop that pain, and start making the United States great again.
Paint the Town Red: Syriza's Historic Victory and the Steep Road to Greek Recovery »»
The decisive victory of Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, is a historic event for the Greek left. Still, it would be a mistake to interpret Syriza's win as reflecting an ideological shift among Greek voters, rather than an act of desperation against austerity.
Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), speaks in Thessaloniki, Greece, a few days before the national elections of 2015. (Photo: via Shutterstock)
After six years of a severe depression in which output has shrunk by 25 percent and unemployment went through the roof, rising from 9 percent in 2009 to 27.8 percent in the first quarter of 2014 before dropping to still unbearably high levels at 25.5 percent in the third quarter of 2014, the Greek electorate seems to have had enough with austerity, misery, poverty, authoritarianism and national humiliation. (1)
In the general elections held on January 25, voters resolutely turned their back on the two mainstream political parties - the conservative party of New Democracy and the center-left Pasok - that have functioned as servants to the troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has essentially ruled the nation since the introduction of a financial bailout agreement back in May 2010, (2) by handing power to the radical left Syriza party. Syriza won 36 percent of the vote (finishing eight points ahead of the conservatives) and will hold 149 seats (two short of an absolute majority) in the 300-seat parliament.
The decisive victory of the Coalition of the Radical Left, as Syriza is formally known, is a historic event for the Greek left, as it has never ruled Greece in modern history - although it has always been at the forefront of the struggle for democracy, freedom and social justice, with its leaders and many of its supporters ruthlessly persecuted by the right for nearly 30 years after the end of World War II.
Still, it would be a mistake to interpret Syriza's victory as reflecting necessarily an ideological shift among voters. The majority of the people who voted for Syriza did not suddenly turn left but did so out of despair over their own predicament and from anger regarding the condition of the country. The policies of the troika have caused massive economic damage that will take decades to repair, and have produced untold social pain and misery, which in many cases can never be reversed. (3) The infamous bailout packages ensured the repayment of loans to Europe's banks and preserved the euro at the expense of an entire nation, which became subject to inhumanly harsh austerity measures while the national interests and dignity of the country were shred into pieces by non-elected and unaccountable officials, neoliberal barbarians in the European Union and the IMF working at the behest of banks and the financial elite.
In the midst of this unfolding catastrophe, only Syriza challenged systematically and with courage the EU-IMF duo's decisions and stood up to the lackey domestic governments that were enforcing its respective policies. Only Syriza was able to produce an alternative, even if rather moderate, economic program for dealing with the unfolding humanitarian crisis. Only Syriza created a vision for tomorrow and articulated it with passion and in a way that included all citizens irrespective of political and ideological differences. In the end, it was all these realizations that drove a significant percentage of Greek citizens to cast their vote for the left. The notion of a Greek recovery proved to be one gigantic lie. (4)
All this is not to say that Syriza lives in a dream world. Syriza is fully aware of the realities and challenges facing the party and a Syriza-led government. First, with the overwhelming majority of Greek citizens clinging almost irrationally to the euro, Syriza's leadership abandoned talk of Greece leaving the euro and focused its rhetoric on changing Greece while simultaneously changing Europe with its post-austerity vision. The party leadership's determination to rise to power apparently required the adoption of a "realistic" strategy, but one which is still injected with emotional, political rhetoric powerful enough to move the downtrodden and humiliated masses. What comes to mind in trying to provide a functional understanding of Syriza's transformational vision is President Obama's "Yes We Can" proverbial rhetoric. By the same token, Alexis Tsipras' speech delivery pattern and body movement sought to imitate Pasok's founder and longtime prime minister, Andreas Papandreou, who was by all accounts a magnetic orator. Hopefully, however, Syriza's vision won't have the same fate as Obama's "Yes We Can" while it is virtually certain that Tsipras will not end up imitating Papandreou's own politics, which relied mostly on lying, deception and the manipulation of public opinion.
Apropos of the above strategic outlook, Syriza retreated from its early, openly confrontational stance toward Greece's international creditors, which called for a unilateral end of the bailout agreement; instead, the party opted for a policy of renegotiation of Greece's debt, with an emphasis on the need for a significant write-down of Greek public debt, which has increased substantially since the introduction of the bailout agreement and most of it is held by European institutions. How Syriza's leadership will react in the event (which is the most likely one) that Greece's international creditors refuse to agree to debt relief is still something of a mystery. Realistically speaking, what will probably happen once such negotiations get under way is that Syriza's government will be provided with more favorable debt repayment terms in a take-it-or-leave-it package. Both the IMF and the ECB have already emphasized that they won't take any losses against Greek debt while the voices coming out of Berlin stress the fact that Greece must continue on the path of the already agreed terms.
In 2015, Greece has to repay in principle and interest loans, which amount to 22 billion euros. In the meantime, Syriza's economic program - which involves (a) helping out those who have been hit hardest by the crisis and are in need of access to free electricity, food and rent subsidies; (b) restoring the minimum wage to 751 euros per month; and (c) creating 300,000 new jobs for the unemployed via the implementation of public employment schemes - is estimated to cost 12 billion euros, if not much more. According to Syriza's calculations, the cost for these measures will be covered by cracking down on tax evasion, by issuing new Treasury bills that will be purchased by Greek banks and as a result of maintaining a not so large surplus account as a result of a write-down of Greece's debt.
Unfortunately, Syriza's financing plan for its economic program is as shaky as a three-legged giraffe. It is highly questionable at this point in the game that much money can be generated by cracking down on tax evasion while a write-down on Greek debt is a most improbable event as virtually all major actors inside Europe, but also certain parties inside Greece, such as bank analysts and mainstream economists, seem to be convinced that Greece's current public debt-to-GDP ratio is sustainable even though it stands close to 176 percent. As for the issuing of Treasury bills to be purchased by Greek banks, it is highly doubtful that this can happen as Greece has apparently "already reached the issuance limit for its Treasury bills." (5) Furthermore, Greece has been locked out from the ECB's quantitative easing measures, which means the pressure on a Syriza-led government to stay the course on austerity and structural reforms will only intensify if it wishes to access the available liquidity. (6)
Having said all this, it should be rather evident that Syriza's historic victory ensures that "interesting times" lie ahead both for Greece and Europe. Syriza's debt renegotiating team will have its hands full with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, the ECB boys, and the hard-liners from Holland and Finland. Syriza's mixture of Keynesianism and Marxism to economic issues also won't sit well with institutions like the IMF in spite of the latter having advocated in the past the need for a restructuring of Greek public debt (although it is against a "haircut" involving its own loans to Greece).
In the meantime, Syriza leader Tsipras lost no time following the elections to form a coalition government with the party of Independent Greeks, a populist, right-wing political organization that has opposed austerity and the troika's presence in Greece all along. This collaboration appears to have been in the making long before the outcome of the elections and in preparation of the eventuality that Syriza may fail to attain an absolute majority. The party of Independent Greeks has promised to provide unequivocal support to Syriza's project for lifting the country out of its extreme crisis and, while in politics, everything is possible, the fact of the matter is that the junior coalition partner has nothing to gain by seeking to undermine Syriza's hold on power when the tough gets going, as some on the left seem to be concerned about, given the obvious ideological gap that divides the two parties. The leader of Independent Greeks receives the crucial post of defense minister and there is also a role in the new government for a few other members of the party. In sum, this is a political marriage that should last for some time - at least as long as the struggle against the troika lasts! A Syriza-led government will restructure several ministries in order to make them more flexible and thus more effective, and promises to put its program into action without any delay.
Without a doubt, this is the first time in the country's recent history that a political party takes the reins of power, which does not consist of political frausters and carpetbaggers. The people around Syriza's inner circle have been for the most part long-time activists and true devotees to radical change, even if the party had to accept in its ranks various kinds of opportunists and former apparatchiks of the now virtually defunct socialist party as part of its strategy for coming to power.
Following its electoral victory, Syriza made history for a second time when Tsipras refused, as a declared atheist, to be sworn in as new prime minister of Greece by taking a religious oath and opting instead for a secular oath. This was in itself a bold, revolutionary act, if you wish, considering how conservative Greek society really is and how intertwined church and state have been throughout Greece's modern history. This gesture is also probably suggestive of a logic that Tsipras will not compromise on values he holds dearly and when he knows that his non-compromising stand will not adversely affect the well-being of his people. As further evidence in his belief that "the heart beats on the left," after he was sworn in as new Greek prime minister, Tsipras visited the National Resistance Memorial in the Athens suburb of Kaisariani and laid a wreath in memory of the hundreds of communist resistance fighters who were executed by the Germans on May 1, 1944.
Greece's path to recovery remains long and steep. But with Syriza in power there is at least a fighting chance against the austerians and those who wish to keep Greece financially subjugated, forever under debt and locked inside the neoliberal prison. This is why Greek voters gave their consent to Syriza's vision - out of awareness that the left's history is about resistance, revolt and social transformation.
1. See C.J. Polychroniou, "Greece: A Nation for Sale and the Death of Democracy." Truthout (July 31, 2014).
2. See C.J. Polychroniou, "A Failure By Any Other Name: The International Bailouts of Greece." Public Policy No. 6, 2013. Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. July 2013.
3. See C.J. Polychroniou, "The Tragedy of Greece: A Case Against Neoliberal Economics, the Domestic Political Elite, and the EU/IMF Duo." Public Policy No. 1, 2013. Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. March 2013.
4. See C.J. Polychroniou, "The Greek 'Success Story' of a Crushing Economy and a Failed State." Truthout (January 19, 2014).
A Regime Change in Switzerland »»
Skiers eating lunch at the L'Olympique restaurant in Verbier, Switzerland. The country recently ended its currency peg to the euro. (Photo: Niels Ackermann for The New York Times)
These days it is fairly widely accepted that it's very hard for central banks to get traction at the zero lower bound unless they can convince investors that there has been a regime change - in other words, changing expectations about future policy is more important than what you do now. That's what I was getting at way back in 1998, when I argued that the Bank of Japan needed to "credibly promise to be irresponsible," something it has only managed to do recently.
The trouble is that regime change is hard to engineer. President Franklin D. Roosevelt did it by taking America off the gold standard, but going off gold isn't something you get to do very often.
Last week, however, the Swiss National Bank managed a credible regime change. Unfortunately, it was a change in the wrong direction. By throwing in the towel on the peg to the euro, the bank immediately convinced markets that its previous apparent commitment to do whatever it took to avoid deflation was null and void. And this expectations effect trumped the concrete, immediate policy of drastically negative interest rates on reserves.
There are two things to bear in mind. First, having thrown away its credibility - in today's world, the crucial credibility that central banks need involves not a willingness to take away the punch bowl, but a willingness to keep pushing liquor on an abstemious crowd - it's hard to see how the S.N.B. can get it back. Second, there will be spillovers: The bank's wimp-out will make monetary policy more complicated in other countries because it will leave markets skeptical about whether other supposed commitments to keep up unconventional policy will similarly prove to be time-limited.
I gather that some readers didn't understand what I was driving at when I declared in a recent blog post that the economist Joe Stiglitz and yours truly are the left's "econoheroes," while the likes of Stephen Moore and Art Laffer play that role on the right.
First of all, I was not declaring myself an actual hero; I'm nothing of the kind. Did I mention that I'm sort of short? Actually, hero worship of any kind, for anyone, is a big mistake - place too much faith in any individual, and you're very likely to be let down, hard. (There are, however, real villains.)
No, what I meant - and I thought that this was obvious - is that Mr. Stiglitz and I do tend to get quoted or invoked on a frequent basis in liberal media and by liberals in general, usually with (excessive) approbation. And the thing is that while there are people playing a comparable role in right-wing discussions, they tend not to be highly cited or even competent economists.
So don't tell me that Greg Mankiw or Robert Barro are famous economists and also conservative. Indeed they are. But are they omnipresent on the conservative scene? Take a crude metric, and look at hits on Google News. If you search for "Mankiw economy" you get about 5,200 hits, many of them involving debates at recent economics meetings. If you type in "Stephen Moore economy" you get 65,700 hits. If you put in "Stiglitz economy" you get 43,800.
I see this as a real asymmetry. You can, if you like, claim that within the economics profession conservatives are the intellectual equals or superiors of liberals (and no, economics professors aren't overwhelmingly liberal in the way that some professors are from other social sciences). The point, however, is that the right does not turn to these eminent conservative economists for guidance and support. It prefers the hacks.
The Collapse of Europe? The European Union May Be on the Verge of Regime Collapse »»
The EU needs more than pretty rhetoric and good intentions to stay glued together. (Image via Shutterstock)Europe won the Cold War.
Not long after the Berlin Wall fell a quarter of a century ago, the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States squandered its peace dividend in an attempt to maintain global dominance, and Europe quietly became more prosperous, more integrated, and more of a player in international affairs. Between 1989 and 2014, the European Union (EU) practically doubled its membership and catapulted into third place in population behind China and India. It currently boasts the world’s largest economy and also heads the list of global trading powers. In 2012, the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize for transforming Europe “from a continent of war to a continent of peace.”
In the competition for “world’s true superpower,” China loses points for still having so many impoverished peasants in its rural hinterlands and a corrupt, illiberal bureaucracy in its cities; the United States, for its crumbling infrastructure and a hypertrophied military-industrial complex that threatens to bankrupt the economy. As the only equitably prosperous, politically sound, and rule-of-law-respecting superpower, Europe comes out on top, even if -- or perhaps because -- it doesn’t have the military muscle to play global policeman.
And yet, for all this success, the European project is currently teetering on the edge of failure. Growth is anemic at best and socio-economic inequality is on the rise. The countries of Eastern and Central Europe, even relatively successful Poland, have failed to bridge the income gap with the richer half of the continent. And the highly indebted periphery is in revolt.
Politically, the center may not hold and things seem to be falling apart. From the left, parties like Syriza in Greece are challenging the EU’s prescriptions of austerity. From the right, Euroskeptic parties are taking aim at the entire quasi-federal model. Racism and xenophobia are gaining ever more adherents, even in previously placid regions like Scandinavia.
Perhaps the primary social challenge facing Europe at the moment, however, is the surging popularity of Islamophobia, the latest “socialism of fools.” From the killings at the Munich Olympics in 1972 to the recent attacks at Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris, wars in the Middle East have long inspired proxy battles in Europe. Today, however, the continent finds itself ever more divided between a handful of would-be combatants who claim the mantle of true Islam and an ever-growing contingent who believe Islam -- all of Islam -- has no place in Europe.
The fracturing European Union of 2015 is not the Europe that political scientist Frances Fukuyama imagined when, in 1989, he so famously predicted “the end of history,” as well as the ultimate triumph of liberal democracy and the bureaucracy in Brussels, the EU’s headquarters, that now oversees continental affairs. Nor is it the Europe that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher imagined when, in the 1980s, she spoke of the global triumph of TINA (“there is no alternative”) and of her brand of market liberalism. Instead, today’s Europe increasingly harkens back to the period between the two world wars when politicians of the far right and left polarized public debate, economies went into a financial tailspin, anti-Semitism surged out of the sewer, and storm clouds gathered on the horizon.
Another continent-wide war may not be in the offing, but Europe does face the potential for regime collapse: that is, the end of the Eurozone and the unraveling of regional integration. Its possible dystopian future can be glimpsed in what has happened in its eastern borderlands. There, federal structures binding together culturally diverse people have had a lousy track record over the last quarter-century. After all, the Soviet Union imploded in 1991; Czechoslovakia divorced in 1993; and Yugoslavia was torn asunder in a series of wars later in the 1990s.
If its economic, political, and social structures succumb to fractiousness, the European Union could well follow the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia into the waste bin of failed federalisms. Europe as a continent will remain, its nation-states will continue to enjoy varying degrees of prosperity, but Europe as an idea will be over. Worse yet, if, in the end, the EU snatches defeat from the jaws of its Cold War victory, it will have no one to blame but itself.
The Rise and Fall of TINA
The Cold War was an era of alternatives. The United States offered its version of freewheeling capitalism, while the Soviet Union peddled its brand of centralized planning. In the middle, continental Europe offered the compromise of a social market: capitalism with a touch of planning and a deepening concern for the welfare of all members of society.
Cooperation, not competition, was the byword of the European alternative. Americans could have their dog-eat-dog, frontier capitalism. Europeans would instead stress greater coordination between labor and management, and the European Community (the precursor to the EU) would put genuine effort into bringing its new members up to the economic and political level of its core countries.
Then, at a point in the 1980s when the Soviet model had ceased to exert any influence at all globally, along came TINA.
At the time, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and American President Ronald Reagan were ramping up their campaigns to shrink government, while what later became known as globalization -- knocking down trade walls and opening up new opportunities for the financial sector -- began to be felt everywhere. Thatcher summed up this brave new world with her TINA acronym: the planet no longer had any alternative to globalized market democracy.
Not surprisingly, then, in the post-Cold War era, European integration shifted its focus toward removing barriers to the flow of capital. As a result, the expansion of Europe no longer came with an implied guarantee of eventual equality. The deals that Ireland (1973) and Portugal (1986) had received on accession were now, like the post-World War II Marshall Plan, artifacts of another era. The sheer number of potential new members knocking on Europe’s door put a strain on the EU’s coffers, particularly since the economic performance of countries like Romania and Bulgaria was so far below the European average. But even if the EU had been overflowing with funds, it might not have mattered, since the new “neoliberal” spirit of capitalism now animated its headquarters in Brussels where the order of the day had become: cut government, unleash the market.
At the heart of Europe, as well as of this new orthodoxy, lies Germany, the exemplar of continental fiscal rectitude. Yet in the 1990s, that newly reunified nation engaged in enormous deficit spending, even if packaged under a different name, to bring the former East Germany up to the level of the rest of the country. It did not, however, care to apply this “reunification exception” to other former members of the Soviet bloc. Acting as the effective central bank for the European Union, Germany instead demanded balanced budgets and austerity from all newcomers (and some old timers as well) as the only effective answer to debt and fears of a future depression.
The rest of the old Warsaw Pact has had access to some EU funds for infrastructure development, but nothing on the order of the East German deal. As such, they remain in a kind of economic halfway house. The standard of living in Hungary, 25 years after the fall of Communism, remains approximately half that of neighboring Austria. Similarly, it took Romania 14 years just to regain the gross national product (GDP) it had in 1989 and it remains stuck at the bottom of the European Union. People who visit only the capital cities of Eastern and Central Europe come away with a distorted view of the economic situation there, since Warsaw and Bratislava are wealthier than Vienna, and Budapest nearly on a par with it, even though Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary all remain economically far behind Austria.
What those countries experienced after 1989 -- one course of “shock therapy” after another -- became the medicine of choice for all EU members at risk of default following the financial crisis of 2007 and then the sovereign debt crisis of 2009. Forget deficit spending to enable countries to grow their way out of economic crisis. Forget debt renegotiation. The unemployment rate in Greece and Spain now hovers around 25%, with youth unemployment over 50%, and all the EU members subjected to heavy doses of austerity have witnessed a steep rise in the number of people living below the poverty line. The recent European Central Bank announcement of "quantitative easing" -- a monetary sleight-of-hand to pump money into the Eurozone -- is too little, too late.
The major principle of European integration has been reversed. Instead of Eastern and Central Europe catching up to the rest of the EU, pockets of the “west” have begun to fall behind the “east.” The GDP per capita of Greece, for example, has slipped below that of Slovenia and, when measured in terms of purchasing power, even Slovakia, both former Communist countries.
The Axis of Illiberalism
Europeans are beginning to realize that Margaret Thatcher was wrong and there are alternatives -- to liberalism and European integration. The most notorious example of this new illiberalism is Hungary.
On July 26, 2014, in a speech to his party faithful, Prime Minister Viktor Orban confided that he intended a thorough reorganization of the country. The reform model Orban had in mind, however, had nothing to do with the United States, Britain, or France. Rather, he aspired to create what he bluntly called an “illiberal state” in the very heart of Europe, one strong on Christian values and light on the libertine ways of the West. More precisely, what he wanted was to turn Hungary into a mini-Russia or mini-China.
“Societies founded upon the principle of the liberal way,” Orban intoned, “will not be able to sustain their world-competitiveness in the following years, and more likely they will suffer a setback, unless they will be able to substantially reform themselves.” He was also eager to reorient to the east, relying ever less on Brussels and ever more on potentially lucrative markets in and investments from Russia, China, and the Middle East.
That July speech represented a truly Oedipal moment, for Orban was eager to drive a stake right through the heart of the ideology that had fathered him. As a young man more than 25 years earlier, he had led the Alliance of Young Democrats -- Fidesz -- one of the region’s most promising liberal parties. In the intervening years, sensing political opportunity elsewhere on the political spectrum, he had guided Fidesz out of the Liberal International and into the European People’s Party, alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
Now, however, he was on the move again and his new role model wasn’t Merkel, but Russian President Vladimir Putin and his iron-fisted style of politics. Given the disappointing performance of liberal economic reforms and the stinginess of the EU, it was hardly surprising that Orban had decided to hedge his bets by looking east.
The European Union has responded by harshly criticizing Orban’s government for pushing through a raft of constitutional changes that restrict the media and compromise the independence of the judiciary. Racism and xenophobia are on the uptick in Hungary, particularly anti-Roma sentiment and anti-Semitism. And the state has taken steps to reassert control over the economy and impose controls on foreign investment.
For some, the relationship between Hungary and the rest of Europe is reminiscent of the moment in the 1960s when Albania fled the Soviet bloc and, in an act of transcontinental audacity, aligned itself with Communist China. But Albania was then a marginal player and China still a poor peasant country. Hungary is an important EU member and China’s illiberal development model, which has vaulted it to the top of the global economy, now has increasing international influence. This, in other words, is no Albanian mouse that roared. A new illiberal axis connecting Budapest to Beijing and Moscow would have far-reaching implications.
The Hungarian prime minister, after all, has many European allies in his Euroskeptical project. Far right parties are climbing in the polls across the continent. With 25% of the votes, Marine Le Pen’s National Front, for instance, topped the French elections for the European parliament last May. In local elections in 2014, it also seized 12 mayoralties, and polls show that Le Pen would win the 2017 presidential race if it were held today. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, the National Front has been pushing a range of policies from reinstating the death penalty to closing borders that would deliberately challenge the whole European project.
In Denmark, the far-right People’s Party also won the most votes in the European parliamentary elections. In November, it topped opinion polls for the first time. The People’s Party has called for Denmark to slam shut its open-door policy toward refugees and re-introduce border controls. Much as the Green Party did in Germany in the 1970s, groupings like Great Britain’s Independence Party, the Finns Party, and even Sweden’s Democrats are shattering the comfortable conservative-social democratic duopoly that has rotated in power throughout Europe during the Cold War and in its aftermath.
The Islamophobia that has surged in the wake of the murders in France provides an even more potent arrow in the quiver of these parties as they take on the mainstream. The sentiment currently expressed against Islam -- at rallies, in the media, and in the occasional criminal act -- recalls a Europe of long ago, when armed pilgrims set out on a multiple crusades against Muslim powers, when early nation-states mobilized against the Ottoman Empire, and when European unity was forged not out of economic interest or political agreement but as a “civilizational” response to the infidel.
The Europe of today is, of course, a far more multicultural place and regional integration depends on “unity in diversity,” as the EU’s motto puts it. As a result, rising anti-Islamic sentiment challenges the inclusive nature of the European project. If the EU cannot accommodate Islam, the complex balancing act among all its different ethnic, religious, and cultural groups will be thrown into question.
Euroskepticism doesn’t only come from the right side of the political spectrum. In Greece, the Syriza party has challenged liberalism from the left, as it leads protests against EU and International Monetary Fund austerity programs that have plunged the population into recession and revolt. As elsewhere in Europe, the far right might have taken advantage of this economic crisis, too, had the government not arrested the Golden Dawn leadership on murder and other charges. In parliamentary elections on Sunday, Syriza won an overwhelming victory, coming only a couple seats short of an absolute majority. In a sign of the ongoing realignment of European politics, that party then formed a new government not with the center-left, but with the right-wing Independent Greeks, which is similarly anti-austerity but also skeptical of the EU and in favor of a crackdown on illegal immigration.
European integration continues to be a bipartisan project for the parties that straddle the middle of the political spectrum, but the Euroskeptics are now winning votes with their anti-federalist rhetoric. Though they tend to moderate their more apocalyptic rhetoric about “despotic Brussels” as they get closer to power, by pulling on a loose thread here and another there, they could very well unravel the European tapestry.
When the Virtuous Turn Vicious
For decades, European integration created a virtuous circle -- prosperity generating political support for further integration that, in turn, grew the European economy. It was a winning formula in a competitive world. However, as the European model has become associated with austerity, not prosperity, that virtuous circle has turned vicious. A challenge to the Eurozone in one country, a repeal of open borders in another, the reinstitution of the death penalty in a third -- it, too, is a process that could feed on itself, potentially sending the EU into a death spiral, even if, at first, no member states take the fateful step of withdrawing.
In Eastern and Central Europe, the growing crew who distrust the EU complain that Brussels has simply taken the place of Moscow in the post-Soviet era. (The Euroskeptics in the former Yugoslavia prefer to cite Belgrade.) Brussels, they insist, establishes the parameters of economic policy that its member states ignore at their peril, while Eurozone members find themselves with ever less control over their finances. Even if the edicts coming from Brussels are construed as economically sensible and possessed of a modicum of democratic legitimacy, to the Euroskeptics they still represent a devastating loss of sovereignty.
In this way, the same resentments that ate away at the Soviet and Yugoslav federations have begun to erode popular support for the European Union. Aside from Poland and Germany, where enthusiasm remains strong, sentiment toward the EU remains lukewarm at best across much of the rest of the continent, despite a post-euro crisis rebound. Its popularity now hovers at around 50% in many member states and below that in places like Italy and Greece.
The European Union has without question been a remarkable achievement of modern statecraft. It turned a continent that seemed destined to wallow in “ancestral hatreds” into one of the most harmonious regions on the planet. But as with the portmanteau states of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, the complex federal project of the EU has proven fragile in the absence of a strong external threat like the one that the Cold War provided. Another economic shock or a coordinated political challenge could tip it over the edge.
Unity in diversity may be an appealing concept, but the EU needs more than pretty rhetoric and good intentions to stay glued together. If it doesn’t come up with a better recipe for dealing with economic inequality, political extremism, and social intolerance, its opponents will soon have the power to hit the rewind button on European integration. The ensuing regime collapse would not only be a tragedy for Europe, but for all those who hope to overcome the dangerous rivalries of the past and provide shelter from the murderous conflicts of the present.
"Selma" Director Defends Film's Portrayal of LBJ-MLK Dispute on Voting Rights Legislation »»
As we continue our interview with Selma director Ava DuVernay, she responds to the controversy around her film’s portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson and his relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The film depicts him as a reluctant, and even obstructionist, politician who had the FBI monitor and harass King. "I’m not here to rehabilitate anyone’s image or be a custodian of anyone’s legacy," DuVernay says. She expresses dismay that the debate has shifted attention from the film’s focus on protest and resistance that continues today over police brutality. DuVernay also describes how she screened Selma at the White House for President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama 50 years after D.W. Griffith was there to screen the notoriously racist film Birth of a Nation for President Woodrow Wilson.
The Swiss Franc Will Collapse »»
By Keith Weiner
I have worked to keep this piece readable, and as brief as possible. My grave diagnosis demands the evidence and reasoning to support it. One cannot explain the collapse of this currency with the conventional view. “They will print money to infinity,” may be popular but it’s not accurate. The coming destruction has nothing to do with the quantity of money. It is a story of what happens when interest rates fall into a black hole.
Yields Have Fallen Beyond Zero
The Swiss yield curve looks like nothing so much as a sinking ship. All but the 20- and 30-year bonds are now below the water line.
Look at how much it’s submerged in just one week. The top line (yellow) is January 16, and the one below it was taken just a week later on January 23. It’s terrifying how fast the whole interest rate structure sank. Here is a graph of the 10-year bond since September. For comparison, the 10-year Treasury bond would not fit on this chart. The US bond currently pays 1.8%.
The Swiss 10-year yield was as high as 37 basis points on Friday January 2. By the next Monday, it had plunged to 28, or -25%. By January 15—the day the Swiss National Bank (SNB) announced it was removing the peg to the euro—the yield had plunged to just 7 basis points. It has been nonstop freefall since then, currently to -26 basis points.
What can explain this epic collapse? Why is the entire Swiss bond market drowning?
Drowning is a fitting metaphor. In my dissertation, I describe several harbingers of financial and monetary collapse. The first is when the interest interest rate on the long bond goes to zero. I discuss the fact that a falling rate destroys capital, and that lower rates mean a higher burden of debt. If the long bond rate is zero then the net present value of all debt (which is effectively perpetual) is infinite. Debtors cannot carry an infinite burden. As we’ll see, any monetary system that depends on debtors servicing their debt must collapse when the rate goes to zero.
I think the franc has reached the end. With negative rates out to 15 years, and a scant 33 basis points on the 30-year, it is all over but the shouting.
Not Printing, Borrowing
Let’s take a step back for a moment, and look at how the recent chapter unfolded. It began with the SNB borrowing mass quantities of francs. Most people say printed, but it’s impossible to understand this unprecedented disaster with such an approximate understanding. It’s not printing, but borrowing.
Think of a homebuyer borrowing $100,000 to buy a house. He never gets the cash in his bank account. He signs a bunch of paperwork, and then at the end of the day he has a debt obligation to repay, plus the title to the house. The former owner has the cash.
It works the same with any central bank that wants to buy an asset. At the end of the day, the bank owns the asset, and the former owner of the asset now holds the cash. This cash is the debt of the central bank. It is on the bank’s balance sheet as a liability. The bank owes it.
This is vitally important to understand, and it can be quite counterintuitive. If one thinks of the franc (or dollar, euro, etc.) as money, and if one thinks that the central banks print money, then one will come to precisely the wrong conclusion: that there is nothing owed, and indeed there is no debtor. In this view, the holder of francs has cash, which is a current asset. End of story.
This conclusion could not be more wrong.
Certainly, the idea of the central bank repaying its debt is absurd. By law, payment is deemed made when the debtor pays in currency—i.e. francs in Switzerland. However, the franc is the very liability of the SNB that we’re discussing. How can the SNB pay off its franc liabilities using its own franc liabilities as means of payment?
It can’t. This is a contradiction in terms. Thus it’s critical to understand that there is no extinguisher of debt in the regime of irredeemable paper currency. You may get yourself out of the debt loop by paying in currency, but that merely shifts the debt. The debt does not go out of existence, because paying a debt with an IOU cannot extinguish it. Unlike you, the central bank cannot get itself out of debt.
However, it can service its debt. For example, the Federal Reserve in the U.S. pays interest on reserves. Indeed, the bank must service its debts. It would be a calamity if a payment is missed, if the central bank ever defaulted.
The central bank must also maintain its liabilities, which is what it uses to fund its assets. If the commercial banks withdraw their deposits—and they do generally have a choice—the central bank would be forced to sell its assets. That would be contrary to its policy intent, not to mention quite a shock to brittle economies.
Make no mistake, a central bank can go bankrupt. This may seem tricky to understand, as the law makes its liability legal tender for all debts public and private. A central bank is also allowed to commit acts of accounting (and leverage) that would not be tolerated in a private company. Regardless, it can present misleading financial statements, but even if the law lets it get away with that, reality will have its revenge in the end. The emperor may claim to be wearing magnificent royal robes, but he’s still naked.
If liabilities exceed assets, then a bank—even a central bank—is insolvent and the consequences will come soon enough. The cash flow from the assets will sooner or later become insufficient to pay the interest on the liabilities. No central bank wants to be in a position where it is obliged to borrow, not to purchase asset but to service a negative cash flow. That is a rapid death spiral. It must somehow push down the interest rate on its liabilities (which are typically short term) to keep the cost of financing its portfolio below the revenue generated on the assets.
This becomes increasingly tricky when two things happen. One, the yield on the asset goes negative. Thus, the even-more-negative (and even more absurd) one-day rate of -400 basis points in Switzerland. Two, the issuance of more currency drives down yields even further (described in detail, below).
Events force the hand of the central bank. It goes down a path where it has fewer and fewer choices. That brings us back to negative interest rates out to the 15-year bond so far.
The Visible Hand of the Swiss National Bank
So the SNB issued francs to fund its purchase of euros. Next, it spent the euros on whatever Eurozone assets it wished to buy, such as German bunds.
It’s well known that the SNB put on a lot of this trade to keep the franc down to €0.83 (the inverse of keeping the euro down to CHF1.2) l. It also helped push down interest rates in Europe. The SNB was a relentless buyer of European bonds.
That leads to the question of what it did in Switzerland. The SNB was trading new francs for euros. That means the former owner of those euros then owned francs. These francs have to stay in the franc-denominated domain. What asset will this new franc owner buy?
I frame the question this way deliberately. If you have a 100-franc note, you can put it in your pocket. If you have CHF100,000, you can deposit it in a bank. If you have CHF100,000,000 (or billions) then you are going to buy a bond or other asset (depositing cash in a bank just pushes it to the bank, who buys the asset).
The seller of the asset is selling on an uptick. He gives up the bond, because at its higher price (and hence lower yield) he now finds another asset more attractive on a risk-adjusted basis. Risk includes his own liquidity risk (which of course rises as his leverage increases).
As the SNB (and many others) relentlessly push up the bond price, and hence push down the yield, the sellers of the ever-lower yielding bonds have fresh new franc cash balances.
The Quantity Theory of Money holds that the demand for money falls as the quantity rises. If demand for money falls, then by this definition the prices of all other things—including consumer goods—rises. It is commonly held that people tradeoff between saving money vs. spending money (i.e. consumption). The prediction is rising consumer prices.
I emphatically disagree. A wealthy investor does unload his assets to go on an extra vacation if he doesn’t like the bond yield. A bank with a trillion dollar balance sheet does not dole out bigger salaries if its margins are compressed.
So what does trade off with government bonds? If an investor doesn’t want to own a government bond, what else might he want to own? He buys corporate bonds, stocks, or rental real estate, thus pushing up their prices and yields down.
And then, in a dysfunctional monetary system, you can add antique cars, paintings, a second and third home, etc. These things serve as surrogates for investment. When investing cannot produce an adequate yield, people turn to non-yielding non-investment assets.
The addition of a new franc at the margin perturbs the previous equilibrium of risk-adjusted yields across all asset classes. Every time the bond price goes up, every owner of every franc-denominated asset must recalculate his preferences.
The problem is that the SNB does not create any more productive investment opportunities when it spills more francs into the Swiss financial system. Those new francs have to chase after the existing assets.
Yields are falling. They necessarily had to fall.
An Increasing Money Supply and Decreasing Interest Rate
The above discussion describes the picture in every developed economy. Interest rates have been falling for 34 years in the U.S., for example.
In a free market, the expansion of credit would be driven by a market spread: available yield – cost of borrowing. If that spread is too small (or negative) there will be no more borrowing to buy assets. If it gets wider, then banks can spring into action.
However, central banks distort this. Instead of the cost of borrowing being a market-determined price, it is fixed by the central bank. This perverts the business model of a bank into what is euphemistically known as maturity transformation—borrowing short to lend long. It’s not possible for a bank to borrow money from depositors with 5-year time deposit accounts in order to buy 5-year bonds. The bank has to borrow a shorter duration and buy a longer, in order to make a reasonable profit margin.
If the central bank sets the borrowing cost lower and lower, then the banks can bid up the price of government bonds higher and higher (which causes a lower and lower yield on the long bond). This is not capitalism at all, but a centrally planned kabuki theater. All of the rules are set by a non-market actor, who can change them for political expediency.
The net result is issuance of credit far beyond what could ever happen in a free market. This problem is compounded by the fact that the central bank cannot control what assets get bought when it buys bonds. It hands the cash over to the former bond holders. It’s trying to accomplish something—such as keeping the franc down in the case of the SNB, or preventing bankruptcies, in the case of the Fed—and it has no choice but to keep flooding the market until it achieves its goal. In the US, the rising tide eventually lifted all ships, even the leaky old tubs. The result is a steeper credit gradient, and the bank can eventually force liquidity out to its target debtors.
The situation in Switzerland makes the Fed’s problems look small by comparison. Unlike the Fed, which had a relatively well-defined goal, the SNB put itself at the mercy of the currency market. It had no particular goal, and therefore no particular budget or cost. The SNB was fighting to hold a line against the world. While it kept the franc peg, the SNB put pressure on both Swiss and European interest rates.
Something changed with the start of the year. We can understand it in light of the arbitrage between the Swiss bond, and other Swiss assets. The risk-adjusted rate of return on other assets always has to be greater than that of the Swiss government bond (except perhaps at the peak of a bubble). Otherwise why would anyone own the higher-risk and lower-yield asset?
Therefore, there are three possible causes for the utter collapse in interest rates in Switzerland beginning 10 days prior to the abandonment of the peg:
1) the rate of return of other assets has been leading the drop in yields
2) buying pressure on the franc obliged the SNB to borrow more francs into existence, fueling more bond buying
3) the risk of other assets has been rising (including liquidity risk to their leveraged owners)
#1 is doubtful. It’s surely the other way around. It’s not falling yields on real estate driving falling yields on bonds. Bond holders are induced to part with their bonds on a SNB-subsidized uptick. Then they use the proceeds to buy something else, and drive its yield down.
One fact supports conclusion #2. Something forced the SNB to remove the peg. Buying pressure is the only thing that makes any sense. The SNB hit its stop-loss.
The rate of interest continued to fall even after the SNB abandoned its peg. Why? Reason #3, rising risks. Think of a bank which borrowed in Swiss francs to buy Eurozone assets. This trade seemed safe with the franc pegged to the euro. When the peg was lifted, suddenly the firm was faced with a staggering loss incurred in a very short time.
The overreaction of the franc in the minutes following the SNB’s policy change had to be the urgent closing of Eurozone positions by many of these players. The franc went from €0.83 to €1.15 in 10 minutes, before settling down near €0.96. For those balance sheets denominated in francs, this looked like the euro moved from CHF1.20 to CHF0.87, a loss of 28%. What would you do, if your positions instantly lost so much? Most people would try to close their positions.
Closing means selling Eurozone assets to get francs. Then you need to buy a franc-denominated asset, such as the Swiss government bond. That clearly happened big-time, as we see in the incredible drop in the interest rate in Switzerland. Francs which had formerly been used to fund Eurozone assets must now be used to fund assets exclusively in the much-smaller Swiss realm.
In other words, a great deal of franc credit was used to finance Eurozone assets. This is a big world, and hence the franc carry trade didn’t dominate it. When those francs had to go home and finance Swiss assets only, it capsized the market.
And the entire yield curve is now sinking into a sea of negative rates.
The Consequences of Falling Interest
Meanwhile, unnaturally low interest is offering perverse incentives to corporations who can issue franc-denominated liabilities. They are being forced-fed with credit, like ducks being fatted for foie gras. This surely must be fueling all manner of malinvestment, including overbuilding of unnecessary capacity. The hurdle to build a business case has never been lower, because the cost of borrowing has never been lower. The consequence is to push down the rate of profit, as competitors expand production to chase smaller returns. All thanks to ever-cheaper credit.
Artificially low interest in Switzerland is causing rising risk and, at the same time, falling returns.
The Swiss situation is truly amazing. One has to go out to 20 years to see a positive number for yield—if one can call 21 basis points much of a yield.
It’s not only pathological, but terminal. This is the end.
In Switzerland, there is hardly any incentive remaining to do the right things, such as save and invest for the long term. However, there’s no lack of perverse incentives to borrow more and speculate on asset prices detaching even further from reality.
Speculation is in its own class of perversity. Speculation is a process that converts one man’s capital into another man’s income. The owner of capital, as I noted earlier, does not want to squander it. The recipient of income, on the other hand, is happy to spend some of it.
We should think of a falling interest rate (i.e. rising bond market and hence rising asset markets) as sucking the juice (capital) out of the system. While the juice is flowing, asset owners can spend, and lots of people are employed (especially in the service sector).
For example, picture a homeowner in a housing bubble. Every year, the market price of his house is up 20%. Many homeowners might consider borrowing money against their houses. They spend this money freely. Suppose a house goes up in price from $100,000 to $1,000,000 in a little over a decade. Unfortunately, the debt owed on the house goes up proportionally.
With financial assets, they typically change hands many times on the way up. In each case, the sellers may spend some of their gains. Certainly, the brokers, advisors, custodians, and other professionals all get a cut—and the tax man too. At the end of the day, you have higher prices but not higher equity. In other words, the capital ratio in the market collapses.
To understand the devastating significance of this, consider two business owners. Both have small print shops. Both have $1,000,000 worth of presses, cutters, binding machines, etc. One owns everything outright; he paid cash when he bought it. The other used every penny of financing he could get, and has a monthly payment of about $18,000. Both shops have the same cost of doing business, say $6,000. If sales revenues are $27,000 then both owners may feel they are doing well. What happens if revenues drop by $3,500? The all-equity owner is fine. He can reduce the dividend a bit. The leveraged owner is forced to default. The more your leverage, the more vulnerable you are to a drop in revenues or asset values.
Falling interest, and its attendant rising asset prices, juices up the economy. People feel richer (especially if their estimation of their wealth is portfolio value divided by consumer prices) and spend freely. Unfortunately, it becomes harder and harder to extract smaller and smaller drops of juice. The marginal productivity of debt falls.
Think about it from the other side, the borrower. The very capacity to pay interest has been falling for decades. A declining rate of profit goes hand-in-hand with a falling rate of interest. Lower profit is both caused by lower interest, and also the cause of it. A business with less profit is less able to pay interest expense. Who could afford to pay rates that were considered to be normal just a few decades ago? It is capital that makes profit, and hence capacity to pay interest, possible. And it is capital that’s eroded by falling rates.
The stream of endless bubbles is just the flip side of the endless consumption of capital. Except, there is an end. There is no way of avoiding it now, for Switzerland.
How About Just Shrinking the Money Supply?
Monetarists often tell us that the central bank can shrink the money supply as well as grow it, and the reason why it’s never happened is, well… the wrong people were in charge.
To see why, let’s look at the mechanism for how a central bank expands the money supply. It issues cash to an asset owner, and the asset changes hands. Now the bank owns the asset and the seller owns the cash (which he will promptly use to buy the next best asset). A relentlessly rising bond price is lots of fun. It’s called a bull market, and everyone is making profits as they reckon them (actually consuming capital, as we said above).
How would a contraction of the money supply work? It seems simple, at first. The central bank just sells an asset and gets back the cash. The cash is actually its own liability, so it can just retire it. And voila. The money supply shrinks.
Not so fast.
There is an old saying among traders. Markets take the escalator up, but the elevator down. Central bank buying slowly but relentlessly bid up the price of bonds. Tick by tick, the bank forced it up. What would central bank selling do? What would even a rumor of massive central bank selling do?
Bond prices would fall sharply.
The problem is that few can tolerate falling bond prices, because everyone is leveraged. Think about what it means for everyone to borrow and buy assets, for sellers to consume some profits and reinvest the proceeds into other assets. There is increasingly scant capital base supporting an increasingly inflated—as in puffed-up with air, without much substance—asset market. A small decline in prices across all asset classes would wipe out the financial system.
Market participants have to be leveraged. Dirt cheap credit not only makes leverage possible, but also necessary. How else to keep the doors open, without using leverage? Spreads are too thin to support anyone, unlevered.
Banks are also maturity mismatched, borrowing short to lend long. The consequences of a rate hike will be devastating, crushing banks on both sides of the balance sheet. On the liabilities side, the cost of funding rises with each uptick in the interest rate. On the asset side, long bonds fall in value at the same time. If short-term rates rise enough, banks will have a negative cash flow.
For example, imagine owning a 10-year bond that pays 250 basis points. To finance it, you borrow at 25 basis points. Well, now imagine your financing cost rises to 400 basis points. For every dollar worth of bonds you own, you lose 1.5 cents per year. This problem can also afflict the central bank itself.
You have a cash flow problem. You are also bust.
The Bottom Line
The problem of falling rates is crushing everyone, but raising the rate cannot fix the problem. It should not be surprising that, after decades of capital destruction—caused by falling rates—the ruins of a once-great accumulation of wealth cannot be repaired by raising the interest rate.
I do not see any way out for the Swiss National Bank and the franc, within the system of irredeemable paper money. However, unless the SNB can get out of this jam, the franc is doomed. I can’t predict the timing, but I believe the fuse is lit and the powder keg could go off at any time.
One day, a bankruptcy will happen. Soothing voices will assure us it was unexpected. Then another will happen, perhaps triggered by the first or perhaps not. Then the cascading begins. One party’s liabilities are another’s assets. ABC’s bankruptcy wipes out DEF’s asset. Since DEF is leveraged, it cannot absorb much loss until it, too, is dragged under.
Somewhere in the midst of this, people will turn against the franc. Today, it’s arguably the most loved paper currency. However, I don’t think it will take too many capital losses in Switzerland, before there is a selling stampede. The currency will fall to zero, in a repeat of a pattern that the world has seen many times before.
People will call it hyperinflation (I don’t prefer that term). Call it what you will, it will be the death of the franc. It will have nothing to do with the quantity of money.
Two factors can delay the inevitable. One, the SNB may unwind its euro position. As this will involve selling euros to buy francs, the result will be to put a firm bid under the franc. Two, speculators will of course know this is happening and eagerly front-run the SNB. After all, the SNB is not an arbitrager buying when it can make a spread. It is a buyer by mandate (in this scenario) and must pay the ask price. Even if the SNB does not unwind, speculators may buy the franc and wait for it to happen. And of course, they could also buy based on a poor understanding of what’s happening, or due to other perverse incentives in their own countries.
Bankruptcies aside, the franc is already set on a hair-trigger. Something else could trip it and begin the process of collapse. There is little reason for holding Swiss francs in preference to dollars. The interest rate differential is huge. The 10-year US Treasury pays 1.8%. Compare that to the Swiss bond which charges you 26 basis points, and the difference is over 208 points in favor of the US Treasury. Once the risk of a rising franc is taken out of the market (by time or price action) this trade will commence. A falling franc against the dollar will add further kick to this trade. A trickle could become a torrent very quickly.
I would not be surprised if the process of collapse of the franc began next week, nor if it lingered all year. This kind of event is not susceptible to a precise prediction of when.
What is clear is that, once the process begins in earnest, it will be explosive, highly non-linear, and over quickly (I would guess a matter weeks).
I plan to publish a separate paper revisiting my Gold Bonds to Avert Financial Armageddon thesis in light of the Swiss crisis. I will save for that paper my assessment of whether or how gold bonds can provide a way out for the Swiss people trapped in the terminal phase of irredeemable paper money.
My theme for 2015 has been the assertion that this will be a year of shattered illusions; social, political, as well as economic. As I have noted in recent articles, 2014 set the stage for multiple engineered conflicts, including the false conflict between Eastern and Western financial and political powers, as well as the growing conflict between OPEC nations, shale producers, as well as conflicting notions on the security of the dollar's petro-status and the security and stability of the European Union.
Since the derivatives and credit crisis of 2008, central banks have claimed their efforts revolve around intervention against the snowball effect of classical deflationary market trends. The REAL purpose of central bank stimulus actions, however, has been to create an illusory global financial environment in which traditional economic fundamentals are either ignored, or no longer reflect the concrete truths they are meant to convey. That is to say, the international banking cult has NO INTEREST whatsoever in saving the current system, despite the assumptions of many market analysts. They know full well that fiat printing, bond buying, and even manipulation of stocks will not change the nature of the underlying crisis.
Their only goal has been to stave off the visible effects of the crisis until a new system is ready (psychologically justified in the public consciousness) to be put into place. I wrote extensively about the admitted plan for a disastrous “economic reset” benefiting only the global elites in my article 'The Economic End Game Explained'.
We are beginning to see the holes in the veil placed over the eyes of the general populace, most notably in the EU, where the elites are now implementing what I believe to be the final stages of the disruption of European markets.
The prevailing illusion concerning the EU is that it is a “model” for the future the globalists wish to create, and therefore, the assumption is that they would never deliberately allow the transnational union to fail. Unfortunately, people who make this argument do not seem to realize that the EU is NOT a model for the New World Order, it is in fact a mere stepping stone.
The rising propaganda argument voiced by elites in the International Monetary Fund and the Bank For International Settlements, not to mention the ECB, is not that Europe's troubles stem from its ludicrous surrender to a faceless bureaucratic machine. Rather, the argument from the globalists is that Europe is failing because it is not “centralized enough”. Mario Draghi, head of the ECB and member of the board of directors of the BIS, tried to sell the idea that centralization solves everything in an editorial written at the beginning of this year.
“Ultimately, economic convergence among countries cannot be only an entry criterion for monetary union, or a condition that is met some of the time. It has to be a condition that is fulfilled all of the time. And for this reason, to complete monetary union we will ultimately have to deepen our political union further: to lay down its rights and obligations in a renewed institutional order.”
Make no mistake, the rhetoric that will be used by Fabian influenced media pundits and mainstream economic snake-oil salesmen in the coming months will say that the solution to EU instability as well as global instability is a single global governing body over the fiscal life of all nations and peoples. The argument will be that the economic crisis persists because we continue to cling to the “barbaric relic” of national sovereignty.
In the meantime, internationalists are protecting the legitimacy of stimulus actions and banker led policy by diverting attention away from the failure of the central planning methodology.
Mario Draghi has recently announced the institution of Europe's own QE bond buying program, only months after Japan initiated yet another stimulus measure of its own, and only months after the Federal Reserve ended QE with the finale of the taper.
I would point out that essentially the moment the Fed finalized the taper of QE in the U.S., we immediately began to see a return of stock volatility, as well as the current plunge in oil prices. I think it should now be crystal clear to everyone where stimulus money was really going, as well as what assumptions oblivious daytraders were operating on.
The common claim today is that the QE of Japan and now the ECB are meant to take up the slack left behind in the manipulation of markets by the Fed. I disagree. As I have been saying since the announcement of the taper, stimulus measures have a shelf life, and central banks are not capable of propping up markets for much longer, even if that is their intention (which it is not). Why? Because even though market fundamentals have been obscured by a fog of manipulation, they unquestionably still apply.Real supply and demand will ALWAYS matter – they are like gravity, and we are forced to deal with them eventually.
Beyond available supply, all trade ultimately depend on two things - savings and demand. Without these two things, the economy will inevitably collapse. Central bank stimulus does not generated jobs, it does not generated available credit, it does not generated higher wages, nor does it generated ample savings. Thus, the economic crisis continues unabated and even stock markets are beginning to waver.
As demand collapses due to a lack of strong jobs and savings, it pulls down on the central bank fiat fueled rocket ship like an increase in gravity. The rocket (in this case equities markets and government debt) hits a point of terminal altitude. The banks are forced to pour in even more fiat fuel just to keep the vessel from crashing back to Earth. No matter how much fuel they create, the gravity of crashing demand increases equally in the opposite direction. In the end, the rocket will tumble and disintegrate in a spectacular explosion, filled to capacity with fuel but unable to go anywhere.
Oil markets have expressed this reality in relentless fashion the past few months. Real demand growth in oil has been stagnant for years, yet, because of stimulus, because of the real devaluation of the dollar, and because of market exuberance, prices were unrealistically high in comparison. The crash of oil is a startling sign that the exuberance is over, and something else is taking shape...
The disconnect within banker propaganda could be best summarized by Mario Draghi's recent statements on the ECB's new stimulus measures. When asked if he was concerned about the possibility of European QE triggering currency devaluation and hyperinflation, Draghi had this to say:
“I think the best way to answer to this is have we seen lots of inflation since the QE program started? Have we seen that? And now it's quite a few years that we started. You know, our experience since we have these press conferences goes back to a little more than three years. In these 3 years we've lowered interest rates, I don't know how many times, 4 or 5 times, 6 times maybe. And each times someone was saying, this is going to be terrible expansionary, there will be inflation. Some people voted against lowering interest rates way back at the end of November 2013. We did OMP. We did the LTROs. We did TLTROs. And somehow this runaway inflation hasn't come yet.
So the jury is still out, but there must be a statute of limitations. Also for the people who say that there would be inflation, yes When please. Tell me, within what?”
Firstly, if you are using “official” CPI numbers in the U.S. to gauge whether or not there has been inflation, then yes, Draghi's claim appears sound. However, if you use the traditional method (pre-1990's) to calculate CPI rather than the new and incomplete method, inflation over the past few years has stood at around 8%-10%, and most essential goods including most food items have risen in price by 30% or more, far above the official 0%-1% numbers presented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But beyond real inflation numbers I find a very humorous truth within Draghi's rather disingenuous statement; yes, QE has not yet produced hyperinflation in the U.S. (primarily because the untold trillions in fiat created still sit idle in the coffers of international banks rather than circulating freely), however, what HAS stimulus actually accomplished if not inflation? Certainly not any semblance of economic recovery.
Look at it this way; I could also claim that if international bankers lined up on a stage at Davos and danced the funky-chicken, hyperinflation would probably not result. But what is the point of dancing the funky chicken, and really, what is the point of QE? Stimulus clearly has about as much positive effect on the economy as jerking around rhythmically in tight polypropylene disco pants.
Japan and the ECB are in fact launching sizable stimulus measures exactly because the QE of the Federal Reserve achieved ABSOLUTELY NOTHING except the purchase of 5-6 years without total collapse (only gradual collapse). And what is the real cost/benefit ratio of that purchase of half a decade of fiscal purgatory? When the breakdown of debt and forex markets does occur, it will be a hundred times worse than if the Fed had done nothing at all. Which brings me to our current state of affairs in 2015, and the IMF plan to take advantage...
IMF head Christine Lagarde put out a press release this past week, one which was probably drafted for her by a team of ghouls at the BIS, mentioning the formation of what she called the “New Multilateralism”.
Lagarde begins with the same old song about accommodative monetary policy:
“Besides structural reforms, building new momentum will require pulling all possible levers that can support global demand. Accommodative monetary policy will remain essential for as long as growth remains anemic – though we must pay careful attention to potential spillovers. Fiscal policy should be focused on promoting growth and creating jobs, while maintaining medium-term credibility.”
Of course, as we have already established, monetary policy does nothing to inspire demand. So, what is a global syndicate of bankers to do? Promote maximum interdependency! Lagarde laments the impediments of the sovereign attitude:
“No economy is an island; indeed, the global economy is more integrated than ever before. Consider this: Fifty years ago, emerging markets and developing economies accounted for about a quarter of world GDP. Today, they generate half of global income, a share that will continue to rise.
But sovereign states are no longer the only actors on the scene. A global network of new stakeholders has emerged, including NGOs and citizen activists – often empowered by social media. This new reality demands a new response. We will need to update, adapt, and deepen our methods of working together.”
And here we have a more subtle insinuation of the planning and programming I have been warning about for years. Because national sovereignty is no longer “practical” in an economically interdependent world (a world forced into economic interdependency by the globalists themselves), we must now change our way of thinking to support a more globalist framework.
The first big lie is that interdependency is a natural economic state. Historically, economies are more likely to survive and thrive the LESS dependent they are on outside factors. Independent, self contained, self sustaining, decentralized economies are the natural and preferable cultural path. Multilateralism (centralization) is completely contrary and destructive to this natural state, as we have already witnessed in the kind of panic which ensues across the globe when even one small nation, like Switzerland, decides to break from the accepted pattern of interdependency.
Also, take note of Lagarde's reference to the growing role that developing nations (BRICS) are playing in this interdependent globalized mish-mash. As I have been warning, the IMF and the international banks fully intend to bring the BRICS further into the fold of the “new multilateralism”, and the supposed conflict between the East and the West is a ridiculous farce designed only as theater for the masses.
Lagarde reiterates the IMF push for inclusion of the BRICS (new networks of influence) into the new system, as well as the IMF's role as the arbiter of global governance:
“This can be done by building on effective institutions of cooperation that already exist. Institutions like the IMF should be made even more representative in light of the dynamic shifts taking place in the global economy. The new networks of influence should be embraced and given space in the twenty-first century architecture of global governance. This is what I have called the “new multilateralism.” I believe it is the only way to address the challenges that the global community faces.”
The IMF head finishes with my favorite line, one which should tell you all you need to know about what is about to happen in 2015. I have for some time been following the progress (or lack of progress) in the IMF reforms presented in 2010; reforms which the U.S. Congress has refused to pass. Why? I believe the reforms remain dormant because the U.S. is MEANT to lose its veto powers within the IMF, and the IMF has already made clear that lack of passage will result in just that.
“Against this backdrop, the adoption of the IMF reforms by the United States Congress would send a long-overdue signal to rapidly growing emerging economies that the world counts on their voices, and their resources, to find global solutions to global problems.
Growth, trade, development, and climate change: 2015 will be a rendezvous of important multilateral initiatives. We cannot afford to see them fail. Let us make the right choices.”
Why remove U.S. veto power? Because BRICS nations like China are about to be given far more inclusion in the IMF's multilateralist order. In fact, 2015 is the year in which the IMF's Special Drawing Rights conference is set to commence, with initial discussions in May, and international meetings in October. I believe U.S. veto power will probably be removed by May, making the way clear (creating the rationale) for the marginalization of the U.S. dollar in favor of the SDR basket currency system, soon to be boosted by China's induction.
In 2015 what we really have is a sprint towards currency and market devaluation across the spectrum. India, Japan, Russia, Europe, parts of South America, have all been debased monetarily. The U.S. has as well, most Americans just don't know it yet. The value of this for globalists is far reaching. They have at a basic level created an atmosphere of lowered economic expectations – a global reduction in living standards which will at bottom lead to third world status for everyone. The elites hope that this will be enough to condition the public to support centralized financial control as the only option for survival.
It is hard to say what kind of Black Swans and false flags will be conjured in the meantime, but I highly doubt the shift towards the SDR will take place without considerable geopolitical turmoil. The public will require some sizable scapegoats for the kind of pain they will feel as the banks attempt to place the global economy in a totalitarian choke hold. While certain institutions may be held up as sacrificial lambs (including possibly the Federal Reserve itself), the concept of banker governance will be promoted as the best and only solution, despite the undeniable reality that the world would be a far better place if such men and their structures of influence were to be wiped off the face of the planet entirely.
Is China Starting To Crackdown On Alibaba's "Illegal Operations"? »»
It appears the Chinese government has decided it is time to remind the nation's richest man (and millions of retail investors in America) who is in charge. According to a report released by the Chinese government - citing closed-door meetings in July 2014 that were kept quiet so as not to affect the September IPO - there are at least 19 problems with Alibaba's various platforms. As Bloomberg reports, Alibaba failed to properly oversee merchants and allowed the sale of counterfeit products on its e-commerce platforms, according to a Chinese government report. The report concludes, rather ominously, "Alibaba not only faces the biggest credibility crisis since its establishment, it also casts a bad influence for other Internet operators trying to operate legally." While Alibaba has tried to clean-up its image, the report cites issues with counterfeit goods, merchant screening, false advertising, and lax controls.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. failed to properly oversee merchants and allowed the sale of counterfeit products on its e-commerce platforms, according to a Chinese government report.
Many merchants didn’t apply for a business license and misled consumers during holiday promotions, including the Nov. 11 Singles’ Day, according to a document published by a media outlet run by the State Administration for Industry & Commerce.
A meeting was held in July, though the report wasn’t published until now to avoid affecting Alibaba’s initial public offering, it said.
“For a long time, Alibaba hasn’t paid enough attention to the illegal operations on its platforms, and hasn’t effectively addressed the issues,” the report said. “Alibaba not only faces the biggest credibility crisis since its establishment, it also casts a bad influence for other Internet operators trying to operate legally.”
The report from the government cited perceived flaws in its customer feedback system, false advertising and lax controls by Alibaba staff. Alibaba wasn’t stringent enough on merchant screening and there are flaws in its internal credit-scoring system, the report said.
* * *
Alibaba has promised to clean-up...
*ALIBABA PLEDGES TO IMPROVE MANAGEMENT: GOVT PAPER
*ALIBABA TO ADD SPENDING TO CLEAR COUNTERFEIT PRODUCTS: PAPER
Alibaba has worked to get rid of counterfeits as it expands internationally, with 90 million listings for products that breached intellectual-property rights removed before its record $25 billion IPO in September. The crackdown is part of Alibaba’s plan to build its reputation now that it is Asia’s largest technology company with a market value of $254 billion.
In December, Alibaba said it spent $160.7 million from the beginning of 2013 through November to block counterfeit products and boost consumer protection.
* * *
Is Jack Ma the next to be taken down by the corruption probe? We doubt it, but when you're the richest man in the country, it would appear a rather large target is painted on your back.
Greece Begins The Great Pivot Toward Russia »»
Ten days ago, before the smashing success of Greece's anti-austerity party, Syriza, we noted that Russia gave Greece a modest proposal: turn your back on Europe, whom you despise so much anyway, and we will assist your farmers by lifting the food import ban.
Today we got further evidence that Tsipras will substantially realign his country's national interest away from the west and toward... the east.
First, as Reuters reported, today the new premier halted the "blue light special" liquidation of Greece to those highest bidders who have the closest access to various printing presses and stopped the privatization of Greece's biggest port on Tuesday, "signaling he aims to stick to election pledges despite warning shots from the euro zone and financial markets."
One of the first decisions announced by the new government was stopping the planned sale of a 67 percent stake in the Piraeus Port Authority, agreed under its international bailout deal for which China's Cosco Group and four other suitors had been shortlisted.
"The Cosco deal will be reviewed to the benefit of the Greek people," Thodoris Dritsas, the deputy minister in charge of the shipping portfolio, told Reuters.
Europe, for one, will be most displeased that Greece has decided to put its people first in the chain of priority over offshore bidders of Greek assets. Most displeased, especially since the liquidation sale of Greece is part of the Greek bailout agreement: an agreement which as the Troika has repeatedly stated, is not up for renegotiation.
Syriza had announced before the election it would halt the sale of state assets, a plank of the 240 billion-euro bailout agreement. Stakes in the port of Thessaloniki, the country's second biggest, along with railway operator Trainose and rolling stock operator ROSCO are also slated to be sold.
And it wasn't just this open act of defiance that marked the new government's anti-European agenda:
In a separate step, the deputy minister in charge of administrative reform, George Katrougkalos said the government would reverse some layoffs of public sector workers, rolling back another key bailout measure. "It will be one of the first pieces of legislation that I will bring in as a minister," he told Mega TV.
The Germans were not happy: A German central banker warned of dire problems should the new government call the country's aid program into question, jeopardizing funding for the banks. "That would have fatal consequences for Greece’s financial system. Greek banks would then lose their access to central bank money," Bundesbank board member Joachim Nagel told Handelsblatt newspaper.
Well, maybe.... Unless of course Greece finds a new, alternative source of funding, one that has nothing to do with the establishmentarian IMF, whose "bailouts" are merely a smokescreen to implement pro-western policies and to allow the rapid liquidation of any "bailed out" society.
And yes, the BRIC are going through their own share of pain right now as a result of plunging crude prices, but remember: crude is only low as long as the US shale sector is still vibrant. Once this marginal producer of crude with a $80 cost-breakeven is out of the picture, watch as Saudi Arabia tightens the spigots and Crude surges to $100, $150 or more. The question is whether Saudi FX reserves can outlast the Fed's ZIRP, which is the only reason - think idiots junk bond investors desperate for any ounce of yield - why the bulk of unprofitable and cash flow-bleeding US shale can still operate with WTI at $45.
Which naturally means that now Russia (and China) are set to become critical allies for Greece, which would immediately explain the logical pivot toward Moscow.
But wait, there's more.
As Bloomberg further reports, "Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias is due in Brussels on Thursday to discuss possible additional sanctions on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. Before the cabinet even meets for the first time tomorrow, the Greek government said that it disagreed with an EU statement in which President Donald Tusk raised the prospect of “further restrictive measures” on Russia."
In recent months, Kotzias wrote on Twitter that sanctions against Russia weren’t in Greece’s interests. He said in a blog that a new foreign policy for Greece should be focused on stopping the ongoing transformation of the EU “into an idiosyncratic empire, under the rule of Germany.”
And when it comes to the natural adversary of any German imperial ambitions in recent history, Europe has been able to produce only one answer...
Putin’s Message to Obama on Ukraine »»
Putin is a master politician. Well aware of America’s imperial designs.
Wanting Russia marginalized, contained, destabilized, weakened, isolated, smothered and controlled. Using Ukraine as a dagger against it.
Wanting pro-Western stooge governance replacing him. Beholden to US interests. Enabling them… Read more...
Security versus Privacy: A De-Actualizing Formulation »»
On the rather tight-lipped matter of privacy, there was more than a little fear-mongering going on in President Obama’s January 20th State of the Union address. Warning against legislative inertia that threatened to, “leave our nation and economy vulnerable” complete… Read more...
War on a Global Scale. The First Manmade Extinction on Planet Earth: The Endgame’s “Final Solution?” »»
It’s difficult not to see war on a global scale fast approaching. All the signs are here. From the vantage point of looking at the recent past in view of the present world conditions and developments, World War III appears… Read more...
“American Sniper”: Killing Ragheads for Jesus »»
“American Sniper” lionizes the most despicable aspects of U.S. society—the gun culture, the blind adoration of the military, the belief that we have an innate right as a “Christian” nation to exterminate the “lesser breeds” of the earth, a grotesque… Read more...
New Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, A Major Supporter of Al Qaeda »»
The new king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the half-brother of King Abdullah, who died in his early 90s from complications from pneumonia, is expected to rule with a more Wahhabist-oriented religious bent and concentrate on limiting… Read more...
Microsoft’s Shares Decline as Business-License Sales Slump »»
Commercial-licensing revenue fell to $10.7 billion. Read more...
US company outlooks worry investors, sending stocks lower »»
Soda Habit May Prompt Early Puberty in Girls, Study Suggests »»
A "risk factor for depression during adolescence and breast cancer during adulthood." Read more...
MIT researchers reveal interface that can allow a computer to plug into the brain »»
System could deliver optical signals and drugs directly into the brain. Read more...
Cop “Well Known for Drugging & Raping Women” is Still a Licensed Police Officer »»
Woman describes waking up and feeling like she'd been sexually assaulted. Read more...
The 4th Media
Fidel: The Spirit of Our Struggle: Leave a Little Light On for Me »»
Fidel Castro sent this message to the Federation of University Students on the occasion of an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of his admission to the University of Havana. In 2006, as a result of health issues which were incompatible with the time and effort required to fulfill my duties – which I myself assumed […] Read more...
Greece Rebuilt through BRICS and Russia? »»
The sounds of champagne decorking and exuberant cheers among Syriza volunteers, supportive voters, and their struggling-but-comfortable socialist middle-class base within the intelligentsia and literati, could be heard across Athens’ cafes in the clean areas of town. Election results were finalized this evening in Greece, with a clear Syriza victory. But anyone expecting any meaningful change for Greece should hold their breath until the new government makes (or fails to make) the right relationship with Russia, Turkey, and BRICS. The politics of the aesthetic and the symbol, substituting for actual program and platform, is big in Europe. That includes that of the ‘radical’ left, which has for a long time been used within Euro-Communist strains in Europe to maintain the same old status quo. Maybe this time will be different. Maybe not. But again, this will hinge mostly on their attitude towards Russia, Turkey, and the BRICS New Development Bank. Read more...
Like Greece, Once One Oligarchy Falls, It Will Threaten to Topple a Long Line of Oligarch Dominoes »»
Greece at the Crossroads: the Oligarchs Blew It Once one oligarchy falls, it will threaten to topple a long line of oligarch dominoes. A great many narratives invoking Greece are being tossed around, but only one really encapsulates the unvarnished truth: the Oligarchs blew it. The oligarchs in both Greece and the European Union/ECB […] Read more...
President Putin: Ukraine Army is NATO Legion Aimed at Restraining Russia »»
The Ukrainian army is essentially a ‘NATO legion’ which doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine, but persists to restrict Russia, President Vladimir Putin says. “We often say: Ukrainian Army, Ukrainian Army. But who is really fighting there? There are, indeed, partially official units of armed forces, but largely there are the so-called ‘volunteer […] Read more...
GMO Biotech Companies and Compliant Politicians: Infiltrating India Using Baseless Claims and Deception »»
A study of GMOs over a four-year plus period by India’s multi-party Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture recommended a ban on GM food crops, stating they had no role in a country of small farmers. The Supreme Court appointed Technical Expert Committee recommended an indefinite moratorium on the field trials of GM crops until the […] Read more...
21st Century Wire
The Real Age of Stupid: Talking Heads Blame Latest Snowstorm on ‘Global Warming’ »»
Patrick Henningsen | Welcome to the brave new world of crisis management. Read more...
HOTEL HELL: Attack at Luxury Hotel in Libya Reveals ‘False Flag’ Event »»
Shawn Helton | SITE Intelligence is linked to this latest false flag in Libya. Read more...
Anti-Syriza Propaganda Begins: Greece Framed as ‘Emerging Hub for Terrorists’ »»
Stuart J. Hooper + CNN | When a nation becomes a problem for the West, is this not always the line we hear? Read more...
OPERATION GLADIO: A Warning to Syriza and Greece? »»
21WIRE + RT | Is Operation Gladio sending a message to Greece that their policy direction needs to remain in favour of Western financial interests? Read more...
Argentina: Intelligence Agents Suspected in Death of Prosecutor »»
21WIRE + Reuters | Contrary to Western belief, conspiracy, assassination and subversion do occur at the highest levels of government. Read more...
Fatah: Recognition of Palestine requires more than lip service »»
Christof Lehmann (NEO) : The spokesman for the Palestinian Al-Fatah movement and member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, Dr. Jamal Nazzal, arrived on his first visit to Denmark on Saturday, January 24, 2014. Dr. Nazzal’s visit renews hopes that Denmark will follow its Scandinavian neighbors Norway and Sweden with regard to a recognition of Palestine. He […] Read more...
EXPOSED: FBI Transforms Average Citizens into Domestic Terrorists »»
Susanne Posel (OC) : Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report concerning a number of high-profile domestic terrorism plots that had direct involvement with government agents; showing how the US government has a hand in creating circumstances that produce domestic terrorism. Following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center (WTC), “informants” were involved or led […] Read more...
Will Abbott be up to the prime minister’s job this year? »»
Michelle Grattan (TC) : Tony Abbott’s “captain’s pick” of Prince Philip for a knighthood– on Australia Day, and when he says the government should consult more – suggests the Prime Minister’s head is in some very strange place. There is no credible, rational explanation. If Abbott was travelling strongly, one might write it off as […] Read more...
Over 80 Cartoonists And Comics Workers: ‘No Business As Usual With Israel’ »»
IMEMC : More than 80 cartoonists and other workers in the comics industry, including colorists, writers, critics, and editors, from over 20 countries, signed an open letter released today addressed to Franck Bondoux, the head of the International Festival of Comics at Angoulême, which opens in France on January 29th. The letter, a follow up […] Read more...
U.S. Attorney General announced Charges against alleged Russian Spy Ring »»
nsnbc : U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice raised charges against members of an alleged Russian spy ring in New York City whose members allegedly attempted to gather economic intelligence and recruit New York City residents as intelligence sources. One member of the alleged Russian spy ring is Evgeny Buryakov, […] Read more...
39th banker dead in 13 months, third this year »»
Shepard Ambellas | The conspiracy keeps going after another one bites the dust
Cookstoves and the Prepared Lifestyle »»
The best option, one that people have come back to time and again throughout history, is to fire up the stove. If you have a woodstove or wood cookstove, chances are you’ve never worried about this situation. If you lose power and have to rely on yourself for heat, all you need to do is […]
Become More Energy-Independent with a Solar Powered Pool »»
Solar vs. Gas A gas pool heater does not cost as much as other parts of a pool, such as the filter or the chemicals needed to keep it clean, but the price tag on a gas heater is still considerable. Homeowners with an uncovered pool face an initial investment of some two thousand dollars, […]
Caring for Your Chickens in the Winter »»
Chickens are a rather low maintenance animal, in my opinion. Caring for your chickens in the winter doesn’t require much effort, just a little foresight. Chickens need water in the winter still. You will want to keep it from freezing as much as possible. My affiliate partner, Amazon, sells these really cool heated waterers that […]
How to Make Fire Without a Spark »»
They say you can’t make a fire without a spark, but any true survivalist knows that when the SHTF you have to forget about folklore sayings and push the boundaries to do everything in your power to survive. And you also know that in critical situations, human beings are capable of extreme adaptability. Though the […]
Pat Robertson advises elderly woman: Reverse mortgage is 'good deal' to help pay '700 Club' dues »»
TV preacher Pat Robertson on Tuesday advised a senior citizen who was a paying member of his 700 Club teleministry that a reverse mortgage was a "good deal" if she was having trouble making ends meet.
"I have been a 700 Club partner for many years," a woman named Maria explained in an email. "I am 67 years old and still working because retirement money does not cover our basic expenses."
"I was thinking about a reverse mortgage but have my doubts," Maria wrote. "What do you think?" Read more...
Israel launches airstrikes on Syria following rocket attack, 'red line' warning from Iran »»
Israeli jets struck several targets in Syria in response to Hezbollah rocket fire into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the IDF said. The exchange came as Iran warned Tel Aviv of crossing a "red line" with the murder of an Iranian general in Syria.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) announced striking Syrian army artillery targets late on Tuesday night in response to an earlier rocket attack on Golan Heights and Mount Hermon.
"The IDF views the Syrian regime as responsible for what occurs in its territory, and will act at any time and any way it sees fit to protect the citizens of Israel," the IDF said.
Israel's retaliation followed two rocket attacks believed to be perpetrated by Hezbollah in the northern Golan Heights on Tuesday afternoon. While the projectiles exploded in open territory and caused no damage or casualties, some 1,000 visitors to the Mount Hermon ski resort still fled for cover. Read more...
From the files of Dr. Obvious: Infant brain waves indicate pain during vaccine jabs »»
The average person realizes that shots hurt. There's a reason children scream and cry in anguish when they receive vaccinations. Apparently, this tidbit hasn't registered much among the medical community or else why would there be a need to widely publish EEG results of infants at the moment they get jabs? People tend to think babies will move on quickly and forget sooner....
Not only does the following study demonstrate the painful results of babies getting jabs, but is said to be the first time that recordings of brain activity have been conducted in response to real-life needle pain in infants.
It would seem like a study of this nature would have been performed eons ago, and on that note it is morbid that such a study is needed at all. Perhaps it is a growing distaste for vaccines that prompts a study like this with the aim of supporting future painless vaccines or some type of pain relief at the time of inoculation. Read more...
Growing up in a corporate-controlled junk culture »»
A couple of days ago I received a letter from the mother of a post-adolescent daughter, expressing a common concern that millions of parents share. She wrote, in part,
"It seems to me that my daughter and her classmates have more depression and mood disorders than in my day (the 60s and 70s). I know at least one other parent who wonders if there's a cause - the water, vaccines, all of the above.
"Thanks to you though I think it could be psychiatric drugs, which kids will filch from their parents' medicine cabinets to take and share. Then they are stuck with the withdrawal syndrome.
"Looking for more of the picture. Peg"
Here was my response, which, for the purposes of this column, I have expanded upon:
"Yes Peg, your observations are correct. Our children (and us adults as well - but we aren't developing adolescents anymore, are we?) are being forced to grow up in a junk culture, which, thanks to influences such as our powerful, corporate-controlled, profit-driven media, teaches junk values, encourages the swallowing of neurotoxic brain-altering psychiatric drugs, and forces them, during their most brain-vulnerable years, to be injected with multiple doses of highly toxic 'vaccines' that have been proven to damage their immune systems, harm their central nervous systems while simultaneously contributing to the alarming incidences of chronic autoimmune disorders such asasthma; rheumatoid arthritis; autistic spectrum disorders; Gulf War Syndrome; Guillain-Barré syndrome; systemic lupus erythematosus; multiple sclerosis; idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura; Type I and Type II diabetes mellitus; and inflammatory bowel disease; . (see http://www.discoverymedicine.com/Hedi-Orbach/2010/02/04/vaccines-and-autoimmune-diseases-of-the-adult/ and http://www.vaccinetruth.org/dr_blaylock.htm for more information on vaccine-induced autoimmune disorders.) Read more...
FLASHBACK: Ukrainian deputy exposes plans for civil unrest and war in 2013 »»
This video, from November 20, 2013, shows People's Deputy of Ukraine Oleg Tsarov explaining in the Ukrainian parliament U.S. plans for civil unrest and civil war in Ukraine. This was the night before the protests began (on November 21).
See below for the transcript. Read more...
US Resumes Drone Strikes in Yemen Despite Political Leadership Vacuum »»
Scholar and journalist Waalid Al-Saqaf says continued US drone strikes and foreign involvement will push Yemen towards a civil war and do nothing to address the growing humanitarian catastrophe Read more...
CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Convicted of Espionage »»
Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler says Sterling faces decades in prison for leaking details of a botched CIA operation against Iran's nuclear program Read more...
New Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras Sworn In to Office »»
Dimitri Lascaris: SYRIZA Leaders first act as Prime Minister was to visit the grave site, where hundreds of members of the Greek Resistance were executed by the German Nazi forces during World War II Read more...
President Obama in Saudi Arabia to Pay Respects to Former Friend and Ally King Abdullah »»
Toby Jones says contrary to how he is being eulogized, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia built an oppressive regime that violated human rights and cozied up to terrorism Read more...
Will the Kurdish Coalition Hold Kobani? »»
Edmund Ghareeb, the author The Kurdish Question in Iraq says, the Kurds that fought back ISIS in Kobani is a complex coalition Read more...
The Shemitah: The Biblical Pattern Which Indicates That A Financial Collapse May Be Coming In 2015 »»
Does a mystery that is 3,500 years old hold the key to what is going to happen to global financial markets in 2015? Read more...
THIS CHART Tells a Story… America’s Middle Class Thrived After WWII and Died Under Obama »»
In 2015, nothing is more clear than a "wealth grab on a grotesque scale" that has absolutely killed the middle class. Read more...
When Real Disaster Strikes: These Are The People Who Will Loot, Pillage and Kill You For Your Food »»
Most Americans still think the government will be there to provide assistance when the worst happens... Read more...
“Technological Arms Race” Has Captured Global Finance: “Trading Once Took Minutes, Now Handled in Mere Nanoseconds by Computers” »»
Today, high frequency trading is conducted by computer algorithms that predict market behavior and make rapid investment decisions mere mortals could never keep up with. Read more...
Video: Americans Want Obama To Repeal The Bill Of Rights: “Let’s Do It, Let’s Get Behind It” »»
Respondents blithely agree that liberties should be completely eviscerated in the name of fighting ISIS Read more...
Stop Making Sense
British scientists call for debate on ‘designer babies’ »»
James Gallagher reports for BBC News: ‘Dr Tony Perry, a pioneer in cloning, has announced precise DNA editing at the moment of conception in mice. He said huge advances in the past two years meant “designer babies” were no longer HG Wells territory. Other leading scientists and bioethicists argue it is time for a serious […] Read more...
China’s gender imbalance “most serious and prolonged in the world” »»
Xavier Symons writes for Bio Edge: ‘China has by far the greatest gender imbalance of any nation in the world, with conservative estimates from 2014 putting the ratio at 115.8 males to every 100 females. The peak body responsible for family planning in the country, the National Health and Family Planning Commission, this week made its […] Read more...
Turkmenistan: Black cars ‘banned’ by customs officials »»
BBC News reports: ‘Customs officials in the Central Asian country have reportedly refused to allow the importation of black vehicles, according to Chrono-tm.org, a Vienna-based opposition website. They haven’t given a reason for the decision, but are advising importers to buy white vehicles instead because it’s considered a lucky colour, the website says. President Gurbanguly […] Read more...
Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, recently published an excerpt from his book at Boing Boing: ‘The United Nations says the drug war’s rationale is to build “a drug-free world — we can do it!” U.S. government officials agree, stressing that “there is no such thing as […] Read more...
Why We Need to Abolish Competition and Embrace Arguments: Interview with Margaret Heffernan »»
‘Abby Martin interviews Margaret Heffernan, author of ‘Willful Blindness’ and ‘A Bigger Prize’, about the destructive impact of competition and alternative models of incentivizing people to work together for the greater good.’ (Breaking the Set) Margaret Heffernan at TED: The dangers of “willful blindness” Margaret Heffernan at TED: Dare to disagree The Psychology of Our […] Read more...
The Economic Collapse Blog
Why The Damage To The Economy Caused By The Oil Crash Is Going To Get Progressively Worse »»
We are really starting to see the price of oil weigh very heavily on the economy and on the stock market. On Tuesday, the Dow was down 291 points, and the primary reason for the decline was disappointing corporate sales numbers. For example, heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar is blaming the “dramatic decline in the price [...]
The Shemitah: The Biblical Pattern Which Indicates That A Financial Collapse May Be Coming In 2015 »»
Does a mystery that is 3,500 years old hold the key to what is going to happen to global financial markets in 2015? Could it be possible that the timing of major financial crashes is not just a matter of coincidence? In previous articles on my website, I have discussed some of the major economic [...]
Radical Leftists Win Election In Greece – Future Of Eurozone In Serious Jeopardy »»
Radical leftists have been catapulted to power in Greece, and that means that the European financial crisis has just entered a dangerous new phase. Syriza, which is actually an acronym for “Coalition of the Radical Left” in Greek, has 36 percent of the total vote with approximately 80 percent of the polling stations reporting. The [...]
This Is The Beginning Of The End For The Euro »»
The long-anticipated collapse of the euro is here. When European Central Bank president Mario Draghi unveiled an open-ended quantitative easing program worth at least 60 billion euros a month on Thursday, stocks soared but the euro plummeted like a rock. It hit an 11 year low of $1.13, and many analysts believe that it is [...]
12 Signs That The Economy Is Really Starting To Bleed Oil Patch Jobs »»
The gravy train is over for oil workers. All over North America, people that felt very secure about their jobs just a few weeks ago are now getting pink slips. There are even some people that I know personally that this has happened to. The economy is really starting to bleed oil patch jobs, and [...]
Michelle Obama won't cover head in Saudi Arabia »»
(ASSOCIATED PRESS) — RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — For first lady Michelle Obama, just a few hours in Saudi Arabia were enough to illustrate the stark limitations under which Saudi women live.
Joining President Barack Obama for a condolence visit after the death of the King Abdullah, Mrs. Obama stepped off of Air Force One wearing long [...] Read more...
New ABC sitcom celebrates radical 'gay' activist »»
When older generations think of ABC TV sitcoms, “The Brady Bunch” or “Happy Days” might come to mind.
Now, long removed from the days of Richie Cunningham and Alice the housekeeper, the legacy network is celebrating the life of one of the nation’s most provocative homosexual activists.
A feature by the Hollywood Reporter about the new series [...] Read more...
Roy Moore ignores U.S. ruling on 'gay' marriage »»
(AL.com) — Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has released a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley saying that he intends to continue to recognize the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and urging the governor to do so.
Moore’s office released the three-page letter that was delivered to the governor this morning in response to [...] Read more...
'Seriously, the squirrel ate my Toyota' »»
(DAILYMAIL) — A driver has claimed squirrels ‘ate’ his new Toyota Aygo after the firm began using eco-friendly plastics to boost its green credentials.
Tony Steeles said his car was repeatedly attacked by the rodents only days after it was delivered.
‘The aerial’s been chewed off twice, the oxygen sensor’s been damaged and various rubber-like trim parts [...] Read more...
Benghazi part of Obama plot to free Blind Sheik? »»
NEW YORK – Did the Obama administration plan to allow a U.S. ambassador to be kidnapped to set up a prisoner-exchange scenario that would provide a pretext for releasing the “Blind Sheik” imprisoned for plotting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing?
That’s one of the provocative explanations for the administration’s puzzling actions before, during and after [...] Read more...
MLK Jr. – The Uncomfortable Truths History Books Won’t Touch »»
For many, the words “I have a dream” are the only thing they associate with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.Dr. King’s legacy is mostly depicted in the context of civil rights, with history books lauding his noble achievements of the Civil and Voting Rights Acts being passed. But Dr. King gave hundreds of unpopular and controversial speeches ranging from the … Read More Read more...
The Official Rwanda Story Unravels »»
For twenty years, Western elites have spun a tale of how Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame heroically ended the 1994 genocide in that country. That narrative has persisted despite the fact that a great deal of evidence shows that Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) did much of the killing and has committed extraordinary levels of violence in neighboring Congo since invading … Read More Read more...
Media Roots Radio – Charlie Hebdo & 9/11 Islamophobia Flashbacks »»
Robbie and Abby Martin discuss the hypocritical and deceptive nature of mainstream and alternative media coverage of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in France and why framing the event as a ‘freedom of speech’ issue is an opportunistic attempt to hijack the narrative into “the terrorists hate us for of our freedoms”. The intense global wave of Islamophobia following the attacks … Read More Read more...
Detroit’s Bankruptcy Dictatorship: Extinguishing the Homeless & Shutting Down Human Rights »»
Six years ago, Congress passed a bailout to the tune of 80 billions dollars funded by American taxpayers to rescue the bankrupt auto industry, mostly based in Detroit. But when the Motor City itself needed help and retirees were on the brink of losing everything, the money was nowhere to be found, apparently to avoid “meddling” in the bankruptcy process. Fast forward to today, where … Read More Read more...
‘Black on Black’ Violence: The Ultimate Red-Herring »»
In the wake of the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, many mainstream media outlets featured guests who shifted the focus from police brutality to “black-on-black” violence. FBI statistics show that intra-racial homicide is high for both blacks (90%) and whites (83%), so it’s puzzling when people bring up black-on-black homicide as if it’s a pathology endemic to black people. … Read More Read more...
American Free Press
Is a Race War Coming to America? Has it Already Begun? »»
A new book from AMERICAN FREE PRESS exposes the most incendiary problem facing the United States today—one that will blow America apart at the seams if not addressed. America’s Racial Powder Keg How a Violent Dependency State Has Been Created Within the Black Community After being promised a Read more...
Israel Fears ICC Prosecution; Arms Terror; Swindles Millions »»
• Day of reckoning may be nearing for Israeli leaders if charges are leveled in International Criminal Court. By Richard Walker — Economic and political blackmail by Israel and its backers in Washington has failed to prevent the one thing Israel has always feared: being branded a war Read more...
Report Details CIA, Military Barbarity »»
• Gruesome torture practices reveal U.S. government as massive criminal enterprise. WARNING: This report is not for the fainthearted. Readers who might be easily disturbed by descriptions of savage cruelty are asked to proceed with caution. By Ronald L. Ray — Diabolical. That is the only word to Read more...
AFP INTERVIEW: Will Duke Name Names? »»
• David Duke says his stance on Israel earns ire of mainstream. • Says he’s rubbed shoulders with many politicians over the years. By Victor Thorn — On December 30, 2014, Louisiana writer Lamar White, Jr. posted to his own website that Representative Steve Scalise (R-La.) spoke at a Read more...
By Pete Papaherakles — The mass school shootings in Pakistan on December 16 have generated controversy about media coverage of the story and rekindled accusations that the mainstream media lied about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings two years ago. One of the alleged victims in Pakistan seems Read more...
Strategic Culture Foundation
Russia In The Cross Hairs - Paul Craig Roberts »»
Washington’s attack on Russia has moved beyond the boundary of the absurd into the realm of insanity. The New Chief of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors, Andrew Lack, has declared the Russian news service, RT, which broadcasts in multiple languages, to be a terrorist organization equivalent to Boko Haram and the Islamic State, and Standard and Poor’s just downgraded Russia’s credit rating to junk status. Read more...
Russia's Gazprom eyes first gas via new route to Turkey by 2017 »»
Greece: Meaningful Economic Reforms Could Come Through BRICS and Russia? »»
The sounds of champagne decorking and exuberant cheers among Syriza volunteers, supportive voters, and their struggling-but-comfortable socialist middle-class base within the intelligentsia and literati, could be heard across Athens’ cafes in the clean areas of town. Election results were finalized this evening in Greece, with a clear Syriza victory. Read more...
Ukrainians grow unwilling to serve in the army - media »»
Ukraine’s Government Is Losing Its War. Here Is Why: »»
Eric Zuesse On January 27th, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense headlined “Militants Continue to Suffer Losses,” and reported that four helicopters, and other weapons of the “militants,” were destroyed in battle, but no evidence was given to support the assertion. Just two days prior, the (also pro-Government) Kiev Post had, in fact, bannered “Ukraine Hides Devastating ... Read more...
UK Government Announces Plan to Remotely Control Vehicles »»
The UK government today announced a plan to remotely control vehicles on roads using wi-fi technology in order to reduce traffic and offset global warming, the latest manifestation of the ‘Internet of Things’ that will stir up concern amongst privacy advocates. A report released today by Ofcom, the government-controlled body which regulates communications in the ... Read more...
The Collapse of Europe? The European Union May Be on the Verge of Regime Collapse »»
Europe won the Cold War. Not long after the Berlin Wall fell a quarter of a century ago, the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States squandered its peace dividend in an attempt to maintain global dominance, and Europe quietly became more prosperous, more integrated, and more of a player in international affairs. Between 1989 and ... Read more...
NSA Began Warrantless Surveillance Without Congressional Approval »»
Newly declassified documents show intelligence agency spied on emails, phone calls before passage of surveillance act Nadia Prupis The National Security Agency began its warrantless surveillance program without Congressional approval, spying on emails and phone calls of foreign targets months before the passage of the Protect America Act in August 2007, newly declassified documents show. ... Read more...
Greece at the Crossroads: the Oligarchs Blew It »»
Reprinted with permission of Washingtons Blog Once one oligarchy falls, it will threaten to topple a long line of oligarch dominoes. A great many narratives invoking Greece are being tossed around, but only one really encapsulates the unvarnished truth: the Oligarchs blew it. The oligarchs in both Greece and the European Union/ECB had the opportunity ... Read more...
We Are Change
Modern Knowledge Using MMA As A Solution »»
Broken windows is a broken policy in US »»
The deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and others at the hands of police demonstrate that the “broken windows” theory of policing doesn’t work and should be eliminated. The theory that targeting low-level crimes will reduce major ones has led to the deaths of unarmed blacks by police over petty crime, mistaken identity, toy guns, bungled raids, and rash judgments based on stereotypes.
Russia, China force US 'de-dollarization' »»
A recent agreement between Russia and China to switch to domestic currencies in bilateral trading will pave the way for the “de-dollarization” of the global economy, a Finnish political economist says.
ISIS-linked group claims responsibility for deadly attack on Libyan hotel »»
By End the Lie At least 10 people are dead, including one American, after gunmen stormed a popular five-star hotel in the Libyan capital Tuesday. A group tied to the Islamic State has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, but some are blaming it on former Gaddafi loyalists. Read our latest: “European court approves class […]
Ukrainian MPs call on UN, NATO & PACE to recognize Russia as ‘aggressor state’ »»
RIA Novosti / Evgeny Kotenko The Ukrainian parliament has addressed UN, NATO and other international organizations as well as parliaments to recognize Russia as “an aggressor state” in the Ukrainian conflict. The majority of MPs voted in favor of the move. The initiative was supported by 271 out of 289 deputies present at the vote […]
Online privacy ‘a human right,’ European security body rules »»
Reuters / Toru Hanai A new paper from Europe’s top civil liberties body has declared online privacy to be a human right, while challenging the British government’s plans to introduce more surveillance on communications technology. Areportpublished by the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe on Tuesday states how the body is “deeply concerned” by […]
European court approves class action privacy lawsuit against Facebook »»
By End the Lie A landmark class action lawsuit filed over alleged privacy violations involving 25,000 plaintiffs is moving forward thanks to a ruling handed down by a Austrian court Monday. Read more: “Rocket attacks leave 30 dead, Ukrainian leader calls emergency meeting” and “US military to send trainers, heavy military equipment to Ukraine” This […]
Kremlin cries blackmail as West presses Russia to rein in rebels »»
Western governments stepped up pressure on Moscow to rein in Russian-backed separatists as the casualty toll mounted on January 26 after the rebels announced a new offensive in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin responded angrily to criticism from the United States and EU nations, blaming Kyiv for a flare-up that has killed some 300 people in […]
"One Person Can Make a Difference": Ava DuVernay Remembers Film Critic Roger Ebert's Early Support »»
As Ava DuVernay considers her next steps after "Selma," her first big budget feature film, she offers advice to aspiring filmmakers. "We have to work without permission. Especially as women in this industry. Who are we asking for permission to do what we want to do? That should be eradicated. You need to set a path and start walking." DuVernay discusses her next feature film, which will be a love story and murder mystery set in New Orleans amidst the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and recalls the impact acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert had on her life, who raved about one of her first projects, "I Will Follow." "He lifted that film from nowhere, and lifted me up with it," she says. Read more...
"Selma" Director Defends Film's Portrayal of LBJ-MLK Dispute on Voting Rights Legislation »»
As we continue our interview with "Selma" director Ava DuVernay, she responds to the controversy around her film's portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson and his relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The film depicts him as a reluctant, and even obstructionist, politician who had the FBI monitor and harass King. "I'm not here to rehabilitate anyone's image or be a custodian of anyone's legacy," DuVernay says. She expresses dismay that the debate has shifted attention from the film's focus on protest and resistance that continues today over police brutality. DuVernay also describes how she screened "Selma" at the White House for President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama 50 years after D.W. Griffith was there to screen the notoriously racist film "Birth of a Nation" for President Woodrow Wilson. Read more...
"The Power of the People": Selma Director Ava DuVernay on Fight for Civil Rights, Voting Equality »»
In our extended interview with "Selma" director Ava DuVernay, we broadcast excerpts from her Oscar-nominated film, which highlights both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership in Selma, as well as the grassroots civil rights movement's role in pushing President Lyndon Johnson to pass the Voting Rights Act, and Coretta Scott King's secret meeting with Malcolm X while King was in jail. DuVernay also explains her approach to showing police and vigilante aggression used against activists in the movement for civil and voting rights. "There is so much violence in this era that we're talking about, but I wanted the violence to be something that was reverential to the lives lost … these black lives that mattered," DuVernay says. Read more...
Selma Director Ava DuVernay on Hollywood's Lack of Diversity, Oscar Snub and #OscarsSoWhite Hashtag »»
Today we spend the hour with Ava DuVernay, the director of the acclaimed new civil rights film "Selma," which tells the story of the campaign led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to draw the nation's attention to the struggle for equal voting rights by marching from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in March of 1965. While the film has been nominated for an Oscar for best picture, to the shock of many, DuVernay was not nominated. She would have made history as the first African-American woman nominated for best director. At the Sundance Film Festival, DuVernay joins us to discuss the making of the film and the Academy Award nominations. "The question is why was 'Selma' the only film that was in the running with people of color for the award?" she asks. Read more...
Headlines for January 27, 2015 »»
Syriza Leader Alexis Tsipras Sworn In as Greek Prime Minister, New Greek Finance Minister Vows to Destroy Greek Oligarchy, Greece Considers Seeking Reparations from Germany over Nazi Crimes, States of Emergency Declared in Northeastern U.S. States Due to Heavy Winter Storm, Nine Ukrainian Soldiers Die; Putin Criticizes Ukraine's Ties to NATO, Obama, Kerry, Brennan Head Delegation to Meet New Saudi King, U.S. Drone Kills 12-Year-Old Yemeni Boy, Shiite Militias Accused of Executing 70 Unarmed Civilians, Eight Die in Attack on Libyan Hotel, DEA Builds National Database to Track Vehicles, CIA Officer Jeffrey Sterling Convicted for Leaking Information, Report: Koch Brothers-Linked Groups to Spend $900 Million on 2016 Race, Argentine President to Disband Nation's Intelligence Agency, Fidel Castro Lends Support to U.S. Talks, Thousands Protest in Mexico over Disappearance of Students, Costa Rican Judge Acquits Men for Killing Sea Turtle Conservationist, Obama to Open Atlantic Coast to Offshore Oil Drilling, 125 People Exonerated in 2014, Police Shoot Teenage Girl Dead in Denver Read more...
Big shakeup at RNC digital operation »»
Its top digital official is set to leave for a rival data operation tied to the Koch Brothers. Read more...
GOP lawmakers confront DeMint over ratings »»
Conservatives accuse his group of being too harsh on them. Read more...
Term limits for committee posts struggle to find Democratic support »»
"I was wondering where the supporters were," Rep. Jerry Nadler says. Read more...
Abby Martin talks to Dan Johnson, President of the Solutions Institute, about how they can help activists can turn words into tangible actions when it comes to many of the world’s most pressing issues.
While driving through the streets of many cities in America an eyesore is revealed that flies in the face of logic, mainstream medical literature, and law. If it wasn’t so sad, it would almost be comical to see massive metal cell phone towers casting shadows over elementary schools yards and hospital buildings like the Grim Reaper’s sickle.
Pathetic attempts to disguise them as palm trees, cactuses, and pine trees border on insulting. Make no mistake that each cell tower you see represents an utter lack of concern for generations of children, families, and communities as a whole. What many in the medical community warned of for years is now coming to the surface in scientific studies.
An epic study released last month chronicles why children absorb more microwave radiation than adults and list the dangerous consequences. In addition, children’s brains have a higher sensitivity to the accumulation of adverse effects of chronic exposure to EMF. Correlations have been made between radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF/EMF) exposure in children and disruption in memory, decline of attention, diminishing leaning and cognitive abilities, increased irritability, increased epileptic readiness and higher disease rates. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) rates RF/EMF as possible class 2B carcinogens. In a list of 2B carcinogens that contain lead, pesticides, DDT, gasoline fumes, and chloroform, cell towers are the only class 2B carcinogens to continuously bathe communities across the US and the world.
Here’s Your Check “Mate”
The way it works is that typically, each cell tower pays the landowner(s) either a lump sum or a monthly payment to build and operate a cell tower on their property. Perhaps a bigger question is, on school property bought with public dollars, why are we allowing private corporations to build hazardous carcinogenic emitters on top of our children’s heads? This would be comparable to allowing open-air waste dumping of DDT, pesticides, lead, gasoline, etc. on schoolyard playgrounds.
Do parents and communities know to who or where these monthly payments (or one-time lump sum) for the cell towers are going? Some people reading this may not understand the danger presented by not removing these towers and their EMF pollution from their children’s schools. The petition contained in this article represents a start down the path to reclaim our children’s health and grow awareness around radiofrequency electromagnetic pollution in communities and at home.
Sprint, You Are the Weakest Link
A quick survey of the major cell carriers in the United States shows that among the major corporations, Sprint is one of the moderate to higher emitters of RF/EMF by looking up their total coverage using OpenSignal.com. In addition, Sprint sticks out as one of the more vulnerable corporations, having a fraction of the employees compared to other cell carriers, reporting the lowest profit margin of any cell carrier (-0.05%), and having the lowest stock price of the major players. It all starts with a public petition; and depending on how Sprint wants to handle things, can easily move forward into a viral boycott. The purpose is to use Sprint, the financially weakest link in the multi-trillion dollar cell phone industry to send a message to them all.
What recently has been demonstrated with companies like Monsanto is that an educated public can not only affect an individual company’s market share/market cap but more importantly can shift an entire industry according to The People’s will. In the food sector, using GMO ingredients is now an immediate financial liability for companies. It is clear that smart phones, tablets, computers, and their runaway technology are here to stay and have given us communication and information capabilities like never before. However, through their actions, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and many others have crossed an inexcusable line by purposely putting profits over the health and lives of our children and communities.
The Sound of Silence
A petition could be viewed as a community and people’s collective voice asking nicely. In the event that Sprint (and other cell carriers) ignore or merely give public lip service to the people’s request there are next steps. Sprint reports a total of 38,000 employees as of 2014, while Twitter currently reports a total of 284 million active accounts users in over 35 languages and Facebook boasts an impressive 2.2 billion users. How long would it take to affect the total revenue and market cap for Sprint if a viral campaign kicked off spotlighting Sprint’s refusal to publicly remove their RF/EMF emitting devices from cell towers on school property? Their call center can’t be that big.
We the undersigned of this document strongly urge Sprint and its management to lead the wireless and cellular phone corporate sector in a public pledge to remove all cell towers from school property, playgrounds, and all other locations that children and kids commonly gather in communities. Perhaps graveyards will be more appropriate locations to place your towers. We The People are not as concerned about the health of the individuals who reside in those locations.
Jefferey Jaxen is an independent journalist, writer, and researcher. Focusing on personal empowerment and alternative health, his work reveals a sharp eye to capture the moment in these rapidly changing times. You can find his latest research, information, and personal writings at the following websites: www.jeffereyjaxen.com Contact him directly at http://www.jeffereyjaxen.com/contact.html
The average person realizes that shots hurt. There's a reason children scream and cry in anguish when they receive vaccinations. Apparently, this tidbit hasn't registered much among the medical community or else why would there be a need to widely publish EEG results of infants at the moment they get jabs? People tend to think babies will move on quickly and forget sooner....
Not only does the following study demonstrate the painful results of babies getting jabs, but is said to be the first time that recordings of brain activity have been conducted in response to real-life needle pain in infants.
It would seem like a study of this nature would have been performed eons ago, and on that note it is morbid that such a study is needed at all. Perhaps it is a growing distaste for vaccines that prompts a study like this with the aim of supporting future painless vaccines or some type of pain relief at the time of inoculation.
The pro-vaccine authors want the public and the health care providers to know that vaccines are the most common cause of procedural pain in children. That the pain is real and can lead to lifelong fear of needles, trauma and distrust.
As it happens, researchers from University College London, with their work published in the International Association for the Study of Pain's recent issue of PAIN®, want to focus on future pain-relieving measures.
"We have shown that inoculation evokes, from the time of the first needle contact, a clearly defined EEG response in infants up to at least one year of age," they say.
The researchers performed elecroencephalography (EEG) in 15 healthy babies receiving routine vaccinations. A noninvasive and painless procedure, EEG is done to measure electrical activity in the brain, using electrodes placed in specific locations on the scalp. Twelve infants were tested during vaccinations at age one to two months, and five at age 12 months.
Dr Verriotis and colleagues compared the EEG findings with behavioral pain responses: facial expression, crying, and movements. Such behavioral responses are the standard method for assessing pain in preverbal infants. The researchers filmed the procedures to identify the precise timing of EEG responses to vaccination pain.
The EEG recordings showed two clear waveforms, or "spikes," which appeared within milliseconds after the first contact of the needle with the infant's skin. Although the waveforms appeared in both age groups, they were significantly larger in one- to two-month-old infants than in one-year-olds.
In three infants studied at both ages, the EEG responses--particularly for the first waveform--appeared clearer and larger at age 12 months. The EEG patterns were also more reproducible in older infants. The researchers suggest that these age-related differences might reflect developmental changes in the brain during the first year of life: an increased number of neurons (nerve cells), a larger proportion of neurons being activated, or better synchronization of firing activity.
Then, vaguely, they suggest that behavioral pain perceived (maxing 8 on a 10-point scale) doesn't necessarily match the EEG, which does show the brain trying to process the pain. Does that mean the actual pain was less or worse than the behavioral signs? Not clear, but the point was to demonstrate the reality of vaccine pain despite behavior (although most children respond in the obvious way to vaccination).
The fact that the wave forms were larger in young infants versus one-year-olds despite the same obvious behavior from both says something about development. Is it really a great idea to experience that type of high-threshold trauma so early in life?
What also stands out when viewing this study is: society punishes parents who spank their children - but what are the implications of an authority figure taking her infant to another authority figure and handing them over for a painful injection, and again later on with implied promises of "you'll get better" or this is "for your own good (and society's)?" Where it's possible that neither party fully comprehends not only the ingredients' effects in the bloodstream, but the long-term biological impact.
After two rockets from the Syrian side of the border allegedly landed in the Israeli occupied territory of the Golan Heights on Tuesday, Israel has launched an immediate “response” of artillery fire into Syria.
The “exchange” comes only a week after an illegal Israeli military air assault inside Syria that resulted in the deaths of top Iranian and Hezbollah commanders who were in the country for the purposes of advising anti-ISIS forces as well as investigating the coordination taking place between ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Israel.
Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Tuesday's fire "appeared to be intentional." He declined to comment on whether the fire may have been connected to last week's airstrike.
A message on Lerner's Twitter account said that Israel "responded with artillery towards the positions that launched the attack."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel views the rockets "very seriously" and that it will retaliate to attacks.
"Those that play with fire will get fire," Netanyahu said at a memorial for International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The military said sirens sounded in communities in the Golan Heights earlier Tuesday. It said that it had evacuated and closed a popular ski resort following the strike. No injuries were reported.
Likewise, a video posted by AFP seems to suggest that Israel also downed a Syrian fighter jet over the Golan Heights, but that the fighters had ejected to safety. The Israelis claim that the plane had ventured across the ceasefire line and into Israeli territory.
This is by no means the first time that Israel has attacked Syria in support of the Western-backed terrorists or even the first time that it has done so in coordination with them.
It is also known that Israel launched attacks against Syrian forces and military convoys at least four times prior to the October 30 attack.
As recently as June, 2014, Israel launched a series of airstrikes against Syrian military positions under the pretext of retaliation for a cross-border attack which was almost certainly initiated by death squad fighters whose logistical inadequacy spilled over into Israeli occupied territory in the Golan Heights. Given the questionable circumstances surrounding the justifying incident – the killing of an Israeli teenager by an alleged anti-tank missile – one would be justified in questioning the Israeli story.
While the occasional attack on Syrian territory is bad enough, the fact is that Israel has apparently coordinated these attacks with the death squad directors on the ground so as to provide cover fire and diversions for death squad “swarming” and jihadist invasions.
For instance, in May 2013, WABC host and best-selling author Aaron Klein stated that an Israeli airstrike in Syria was closely coordinated with Turkey which, in turn, helped coordinate the death squad attacks to occur at the exact same time as the Israeli airstrikes. The sources speaking to Klein came from Jordanian and Egyptian intelligence agencies.
Israel’s air strike in Syria today was coordinated with Turkey, which in turn coordinated rebel attacks throughout Syria timed to coincide with the Israeli strike, according to Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence sources speaking to KleinOnline. The sources said the rebels did not know about the Israeli strike in advance but instead were given specific instructions for when to begin today’s major assaults against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. “Almost the moment the Israel Air Force departed was the moment the rebel advance began,” added the Egyptian intelligence source. Multiple reports have noted how the Syrian rebels consist in large part of al-Qaida-linked jihad groups. The Egyptian and Jordanian sources described how immediately after today’s Israeli air strike the jihadist rebels used access roads to advance toward Damascus and began heavy clashes with Syrian military forces throughout the country.
On Sunday December 7, 2014, Israel reportedly launched airstrikes inside Syria yet again, this time very close to Damascus in the area near Damascus International airport. Israeli airstrikes also took place in the town of Dimas which is located close to the Lebanese border.
Reuters reported that "Residents in Damascus said they heard loud explosions and opposition activists posted photos online of jet streams in the evening sky and fiery explosions. Syria's army general command said on state television that there were 'material losses in some facilities.' It said the strike benefited al Qaeda."
Further reports indicated that the targets of the Israeli jets were an agricultural airport in Dimas and an import-export warehouse in Damascus. Both of these locations were under control of the Syrian military and involve supplies and food greatly needed for the Syrian people.
Some have speculated that Israel’s continued incursions into Syrian territory is not only an attempt to weaken the military forces of the Syrian government and support the terrorists operating inside the country but to cause Syria’s air defense system to light up and give away its concealed positions.
In this video Luke Rudkowski sits down with former Canadian Minister of Defense and accomplished politician Paul Hellyer. Paul breaks down very important historical events that allowed the banker mafia to take over the Canadian monetary system using the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and other mechanisms.